Monthly Archives: January 2012

Softball Questions for E-470

Marsha Williams of E-470 happy at today's briefing

I have spoken to numerous people who have felt devastated and at a loss of control after receiving massive collection notices from the E-470 tolling system.

I’ve seen some collection notices as high as $13,000.

One single mother cried on the phone a couple of months ago asking me what I could do as she worried about filing for bankruptcy with a $10,000 bill.  She claimed E-470 sent notices to the wrong address for months.

So with the power of the Colorado Open Records Act, I decided to look into E-470’s budget and spending habits considering it’s constantly raising toll rates and sending extraordinary large collection notices to people.

Last November I highlighted how toll money covered massages for E-470 employees, and stays at luxury hotels for board members. 

So today I half-way expected some hard, direct questions from the Senate Transportation Committee as E-470 executives appeared before lawmakers.

The exchange was more like a chummy, friendly chat at an Applebee’s dining booth.

At one moment, I wondered if this was a planning committee for a company picnic.

Before the meeting, I even overheard two senators on the committee say they had no clue the E-470 administrators were showing up to testify today.

Perhaps I expected too much out of this hearing.

While Chairwoman Senator Evie Hudak (who should be credited for calling for the briefing) asked some direct questions, other lawmakers lobbed some pretty easy softballs that my two year old niece could have smacked out of a park.

One lawmaker asked  when E-470  was going to get a smartphone app.

Eventually, the issues of  large collection notices and massages expenses were discussed during the meeting, but quite passively.

When Senator Hudak asked E-470 Executive Director John McCuskey about the massage expenses, he scoffed at my report report while I received a middle-school smirk from Marsha Williams, another E-470 official.

I haven’t received a smirk like that since I was put in time-out by my 6th grade P.E. teacher for nailing a female classmate in the face during dodge ball (below the waist only….I should have known).

Senator Linda Newell chimed in and agreed that the massages were a legit government expense.

I left the committee meeting after watching the glad-handing between the E-470 executives and lawmakers.

It’s quite clear E-470 can afford such expenses because its revenue model is not based on taxes, but rather on tolls and fees we pay when we register our cars.

This is the argument E-470 uses when it defends its spending on things that most government agencies can’t afford.

So perhaps the quasi-public agency should be free from scrutiny from professional gadflies like myself.

Nah, just kidding.

In the end, if you drive E-470 it is still your money and if you pay registration fees, it is your money.

In the mean time, expect toll rates to rise every year.

As for E-470, no dodge balls to the face today.

I’m going to Applebee’s if they’re still open………

Whoa! What’s that in my food?!

Photo sent in by viewer: Pipe in bag of food?

This past week I received an interesting photo from a woman who claimed she found a small pipe in a bag of popcorn chicken she bought at a local store.

Have you ever found something wicked in your food at a restaurant or in some packaging?

I’ve seen numerous emails over my time as a reporter from viewers who claim they found foreign objects like:

-Maggots in milk

-Tooth in a burrito

-Rat carcass in bag of dog food

-A ball of hair in a can of soup.

They may all be true or maybe some of them could be hoaxes.  I don’t know.

(Personal story:  One time I bit into a sandwich at a restaurant in Albuquerque.   The cook forgot to remove paper that was wrapped around the turkey.  I thought it tasted funny……. Cool story, bro.)

Generally I stay away from such stories for broadcast because it’s so hard to prove the company or business is actually responsible.

It’s not my intent to immediately cast doubt on such claims….I just have to be mindful there are people out there who may set up such scenarios for attention or to extort money from a business.

It’s happened before.

Like the woman who claimed there was a human finger in her chili from Wendy’s. She got arrested.

And the Pepsi Syringe scare back in the early 1990’s. Several people got arrested too.

The original Pepsi syringe claim turned out to be false and several other people were hit with fraud charges.

Unfortunately many media outlets across the country bought these stories and ran with them, fueling even more lying opportunists with an easy story.

If you do encounter food in an item or packaging, it’s best to file a complaint with the store and/or company behind the product.

At a restaurant, you can file a complaint with the local health department if something really grosses you out.

iPhone 4S video proves itself worthy for impromptu news video

The iPhone 4s shoots in 1080p. Awesome.

On Wednesday I showed up to a court hearing in which I didn’t expect a high-profile defendant to be there.

I had a big news camera in my car, but I didn’t get it down because dealing with security at this particular courthouse is a red-tape nightmare and I wouldn’t have been able to enter the courtroom with it.

I was confident if the guy  I was looking for was at his hearing, I could exploit the HD video camera on my iPhone 4s.  The battery life is excellent and the software is stable.

I do have an Evo droid-based cell phone.  I tried playing with the video on the phone before I arrived at court, but the battery life on this device is unreliable and the video kept freezing during recording.

Turns out the defendant I was looking for was there.

Take a look at  my story from Wednesday in which I used an iPhone 4s to record a walking-shot of former sheriff Patrick Sullivan:

While the video I shot at the courthouse isn’t perfect, it’s pretty good coming from a 5 ounce device.

The quality is 1080p.  Can’t complaint about that.

We mentioned on air at 11, 12 and 4pm that my video was coming from a cell phone.  But at 6pm I decided it wasn’t even necessary….the video was that clean and crisp.

One of the few drawbacks from using my iPhone 4s is the slightly jittery video, but I gotta say even that’s forgivable.   Perhaps down the line, Apple may be able to upgrade the software to something similar like Sony’s SteatyShot feature.

For those of you who know me, I’ve supported mobile technology for news gathering.

While there are a lot of naysayers in my industry, it’s hard to ignore the fact the technology is moving forward.  Such devices like the iPhone will be conventional TV news gathering tools.

Here’s some video I shot at DIA a few weeks ago using the iPhone 4s.  I even used iMovie to edit on the phone itself.