City rejects bid for water, sewer line replacement

Shawn Napier

Shawn Napier

The Paris City Council has rejected the only bid it received for replacement of water and sewer lines in west Paris.

The bid of $7.4 million came from Speiss Construction Co. for 54,000 feet (about 10 miles) of water and sewer line replacement. Consulting firm AECOM recommended rejecting the bid because the firm did not seem to have sufficient experience in this kind of project.

The next step, according to Engineering Director Shawn Napier, is to break the job up into smaller pieces.

Market research shows the “sweet spot” in getting competing bids right now seems to be the $3.5 million to $4.5 million range, he said. Larger projects have higher overhead and fewer companies want to bid on them. The idea would be to stagger the jobs so the timeline would remain the same.

Councilman AJ Hashmi suggested going the other way and combining this phase with the next one to make a larger project.
The council is expected to discuss the matter at its next meeting.

In other business, the City Council:

  • Tabled action on an agreement with First United Methodist Church on the proposed spray park.
  • Directed Godwin to continue working with the Valley of the Caddo Museum as it tries to open in the old depot in October, but to bring any major changes to the council. Of particular concern is a set of structural changes that would move a restroom and widen up work space.

City attorney retains job by one vote

City Attorney Kent McIlyar

City Attorney Kent McIlyar

City Attorney Kent McIlyar came within one vote of losing his job Monday.

“I’m not very happy with the performance of the city attorney in the last few months. I have multiple concerns, which include not representing the council as a whole and not giving documents to council members,” Councilman AJ Hashmi said after a 35-minute closed session for McIlyar’s performance review. “I would like to make a motion that the services of the city attorney be terminated.”

Councilwoman Sue Lancaster seconded the motion. Councilman Aaron Jenkins joined them, but Mayor Matt Frierson, Mayor Pro-Tem Richard Grossnickle and councilmen Benny Plata and Edwin Pickle voted against.

“I have received no performance evaluation for the last year, so I think that’s a highly unusual motion to make,” McIlyar said.

Hashmi said he asked for the evaluation as a public discussion item, but Frierson had it changed to a closed session. That sort of decision should be left up to the council, he said. Hashmi said Frierson called for transparency and unity when he became mayor, but has acted to the contrary, and the council has become “broken.”

“Hopefully at some point, we get over this and we quit arguing and move forward,” he said. “I feel you’re running it like a dictatorship and not like a democracy.”

At the time, Frierson had no comment other than to call the closed session. After the meeting he would only say, “I will not dignify that with a response.”

The evening started with Lancaster’s request for McIlyar to give his duties and responsibilities. He read the job description, which includes preparation of legal documents, contracts and ordinances; legal advice and representation; and interpretation and review of documents.

Lancaster said McIlyar failed in his job when he refused to turn over a preliminary report from Defenbaugh & Associates regarding the Paris Economic Development Corp. investigation.

District 2 City Councilwoman Sue Lancaster

District 2 City Councilwoman Sue Lancaster

Frierson said that might be beyond the scope of the agenda item. Lancaster accused him of trying to gag her.

“I’m not going to be shut up,” she said. “Do I need to be shut up?”

Audience members said, “No.”

Lancaster said she had a right to the preliminary report as a council member. McIlyar said he could not because the report was not a city document.

“That is a draft report from a third party investigator hired by the Paris Economic Development Corp.,” he said. “I am not at liberty to release that to you or anyone without approval from the council.”

When Hashmi started on his dissatisfaction with the city attorney’s performance, McIlyar objected. He said any problems the council had with him as an employee should be done in closed session.

“As a city employee, you cannot ask for a closed session,” Hashmi said. “You can ask for an open session, but a closed session is a City Council decision.”

“It’s inappropriate, sir,” McIlyar replied. “It’s also unethical and unprofessional.”

Frierson said once again the discussion was venturing beyond the posted agenda. Hashmi said he was wrong, which led to a brief, tense exchange.

“You’re asking for it,” Hashmi replied, laughing.

McIlyar said the matter was a council decision, but he felt both Defenbaugh and PEDC needed to give their OK to releasing the information to council members due to confidentially clauses in their contract.

“I have not shared it with anyone outside my staff in the city attorney’s office,” he said. “It’s the council’s pleasure. If you want be to burn it, I’ll burn it tonight. I’m just saying I need direction from the council.”

Plata said he could “see his point, myself” and made a motion for McIlyar to hand it over after PEDC and Defenbaugh sign off on it. His motion died for lack of a second. After further discussion, Lancaster made largely the same motion, adding that she wanted it within two weeks. Hashmi seconded the motion, which passed unanimously – including several “ayes” from the audience.

‘Conflict Resolution’ by Ayesha Shafiq

“Bringing a problem to resolution and closure through continued discussion and compromise is an honorable act as it shows respect for the needs of both partners.”   – Lynne Namka.

Ayesha Shafiq, eParisExtra columnist

Ayesha Shafiq, eParisExtra columnist

Conflict is a situation created in almost everyday life. Not all people are alike and not every situation in life is guided by one person’s values, motivations, perceptions, ideas or desires. There will always be two sides to every story and every situation.

When conflict triggers strong feelings, a deep personal need is often at the core of the problem. This need can be a need for security, identity, recognition, importance or merely a need to survive.

Hence, the needs of both parties play important roles in the long-term success of most relationships and each deserves respect and consideration.

If one can acquire the ability to examine the conflicting needs of both parties with compassion and understanding, it will lead to creative problem solving, team building and improved relationships.

When people are upset, the words they use rarely convey the issues and needs at the heart of the problem. When we listen to what is felt,

We connect more deeply to the needs of others and understand the emotions behind such needs.

Listening informs us of the true need behind any conflict and makes it easier for us to understand others and their needs and also ourselves and our needs.

However, one’s ability to read another person’s need depends on one’s own emotional awareness as well. The more you are aware of your own emotions; the more you can associate and connect with other people and their feelings.

Your ability to manage all your feelings properly is the basis of a communication process that can resolve conflicts.

Emotional awareness helps you to:

  • Understand yourself, which means, what is actually bothering you.
  • Understand what is troubling other people.
  • Communicate the needs of both parties effectively and clearly.
  • Attract and influence others towards a resolution.
  • Stay motivated till the end when the conflict could be resolved.

Conflict resolution means the ability to quickly reduce stress and bring your emotions and the emotions of others into balance by resolving a matter that threatens the needs of either party.

You can resolve a conflict quickly and efficiently if you stick to the steps mentioned below.

  1. Focus on the present situation: If you are holding grudges based on past experiences, it will impair your vision to see the current situation clearly. Rather than looking to the past and assigning blame, focus on what you can do in the present to solve the problem.
  2. Listen to what is said and what is felt: Listening connects us more deeply to our needs and the needs of others. It makes it easier for others to listen to us when it is our turn to speak. In the middle of a conflict, pay close attention to the other person’s non-verbal signals. It will make you respond in a way that builds trust and get you to the root of the problem. A calm tone of voice, an interested or concerned facial expression can go a long way towards relaxing a stressful situation.
  3. Introducing humor into a stressful situation: You can resolve many arguments and disagreements if you introduce humor into your communication. Humor can let you say things that might otherwise be difficult to express without offending someone. In this way you can laugh with them and not at them.
  4. Do not focus on winning, focus on conflict resolution: The goal should be strengthening the relationship, rather than winning the argument. Be respectful of each other’s needs.
  5. Pick your battles wisely to win the war: Choose your battles wisely. Since battles are time consuming and draining. It will take your focus from resolving the WAR. Focus your energies towards the resolution of your goal, which is ending the war.
  6. Know when to let go: If you cannot come to an agreement, agree to disagree. It takes two people to keep an argument. You can choose to disengage and move on.

The key to resolving conflicts is to not feel threatened by them but to accept them as means of communication to understand each other’s needs. Rather than avoiding a conflict, one must be brave to face the conflict head on with the capacity to respond to the things that matter to each party and should have the readiness to compromise, forgive and forget without holding resentment.

This ability to recognize and respond to the things that matter to either party, without having angry, hurtful and resentful reactions strengthens a relationship bond and increases one’s understanding of another while building trust at the same time towards a long lasting relationship.

By Ayesha Shafiq, eParisExtra columnist  

Ayesha Shafiq is Director of Paris Cardiology Center, wife of Khalid Shafiq M.D. and mother of their 2 children. She’s been the director of Paris Cardiology Center for 11 years. She holds a Masters in International Relations and runs management with the help of 22 employees.

Apple granted patent for “iTime” smartwatch

With companies like Samsung and Google hopping aboard the “wearable” train, people have been wondering when Apple will get a ticket to ride, too.

itimeRumors of an Apple “iWatch” go as far back as February of last year when Bloomberg reported that Apple had a team of 100 designers working on a “wristwatch-like device” with the functionality of an iPhone and iPad.

Last Sunday, the fervor for the idea resurfaced with the approval of a smartwatch patent originally filed by Apple on July 20, 2011. The patent includes multiple details on the potential wrist-bound product, including SMS, media playback, and connectivity with the iPhone and Mac for messages and alerts. Possible hardware specifications include an accelerometer and gyroscope, which when attached to an arm open up a myriad of possibilities for unique gestures and input. One example noted is shaking your wrist to dismiss or accept a call. GPS and NFC functionality is also mentioned.

As with most device patents, some of the most exciting stuff comes from the various illustrations of potential product designs. While the name “iTime” doesn’t seem to appear anywhere in the text, one illustration shows the name on the watch’s display. One drawing shows the display as being detachable. Removing it from the wrist band yields a functioning iPod nano-like device, possibly hinting at some modular connectivity.

While a 3-year-old patent is not concrete proof of an actual product release, its evidence that Apple’s got part of their mind on wearables. Many hope the timing of the patent’s recent reveal is no coincidence and that Apple will be revealing their wearable product line somewhere in the near future. Apple traditionally has an event in September to show off new mobile hardware, but it remains to be seen if the “iTime” will be among the line-up of new iPhones and iPads.

By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra

Journalist’s experiment to prove that passwords are dying goes horribly wrong

twitter_breakWall Street Journal journalist Christopher Mims attempted to prove the dwindling importance of passwords by giving out his Twitter password to the public. The results were not what he expected.

Mims claimed that passwords as a form of authentication were becoming obsolete by heralding device-based authentication as a true means of keeping accounts secure. Device-based authentication uses a personal device, such as a smartphone, instead of a text-based password to access sensitive information. He argued that hackers can obtain a password, but a physical device can be disabled if lost and is further secured via PIN or biometric data, such as a fingerprint.

Mims also emphasized the power of two-factor authentication, which most online services offer, including Google, Yahoo, Steam and Facebook. Two-factor authentication requires you to prove your identity with both a password and another form of verification, which usually a randomly generated numerical code that is sent as a text message to your phone number for you to enter as verification on the website or service you’re trying to access. The idea is that only you yourself would have that phone number in your possession, and therefore only you could gain access to the code. Two-factor verification is certainly a valid and powerful tool in keeping your accounts safe, and Mims’ experiment proved it at the expense of some unfortunate consequences.

As soon as his password was posted to the public, Mim’s phone was constantly buzzing with verification requests at a frequency of 2 text messages per minute. Each text indicated someone other than him was trying to access his Twitter account. Eventually, Mims decided to switch from text-based verifications to app-based ones through Twitter’s official iPhone app. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), this exposed a glaring flaw in Twitter’s two-factor authentication process. When sending verification requests to the user’s phone, Twitter would reveal that user’s phone number to those attempting to access the account.

So while Mims’ Twitter account was never actually hacked, his phone number had been compromised. This opened him up to a number of attacks and pranks, as one can imagine.

Mims’ stunt attracted the criticism of other journalists, accusing him of writing a “click bait” article and simply vying for attention. New York Magazine tech writer Kevin Roose even mocked the experiment on Twitter, posting “Cool contest: mug @mims for his phone, and you get his twitter account too!”

Following the barrage of texts and phone calls Mims received as a result of his experiment gone awry, his overworked phone disconnected from service, and he was eventually forced to change his phone number altogether.

Two days after his initial article, Mims wrote a follow-up piece containing a modicum of regret. Mims still believes that passwords are no longer a viable form of protection, which is true to a point. He uses the rest of the piece to offer general security tips and focuses on the flaw in Twitter’s security system that exposed his phone number in the first place. The revelation of this weakness is probably the best thing to come out of this ordeal.

In the end, Mims Twitter account remained uncompromised, proving the security of two-factor authentication. This embarrassing experiment, however, shows that you can’t just rely on a single element to keep your data safe. You have to be more knowledgeable, use a password manager, never use the same password on multiple accounts, be careful of who you share your data with, and always be on your guard. And, please, never challenge a hacker, no matter how secure your data may seem. If they’re determined, they’ll find a way in.

By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra