Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"I'm going to need a new filing box..." & other reflections on the first meeting

I'm trying to get my paperwork ducks in a row down in my home office, because I can tell that all this service on Council is going to result in an avalanche of papers to file. The perenniel questions: What to file? What not to? What should I throw out of my old files into the recycling bin? (Can't face that decision! I think I'll just get a new box for the old files...stack 'em in the corner)

I'm going to be on the Planning Commission and the Environmental Commission, which will be a lot of work, but I am looking forward to it. And even more paperwork! (Must get the files in order. AND Pondering: can we use less paper?)

So, that's what I'm working on, thinking about this morning. And about our Wastewater Treatment facility, and how we really need to get that thing in compliance with EPA standards, even during heavy rains, which is our current problem.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Swearing-in on Monday; Party on Sunday!

<-This is a picture of Antiochian Eleanor Holmes Norton being sworn in as Chairwoman of the US Commission on Human Rights, March 8, 1974. Representative Shirley Chisholm and Antiochian Coretta Scott King are at left.

Well! It's a fast transition in this town! No time for lame ducks or cold feet! (Maybe just some cold duck?)

The new council will be sworn in on Monday evening at our first meeting; we'll elect a new council president and vice-president, appoint new members to the various commissions, committees, task-forces and boards that work for our village, and then move on with business--new and old.

So Sunday evening we're having a big, "Inauguration Eve" party, at Krista's, 7:30 pm. Please email me for address and directions!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Yellow Springs News Coverage

I just thought I'd share the News' coverage of the results, which should be soon posted here on the front page (as I write the front page is a very cute picture of the parade for Antioch from 10 days back, from the Nov. 1 edition--it's a weekly paper), and their Nov. 1 editorial endorsing my campaign.

The editor is a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop; it's an unusually well-written paper, and the layout work is done by a really wonderful man whom I've gotten to know from having work done on my ads, named Matt, whom I also hired through his independent design firm, MinDesign.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


We won!Thanks to everyone who made this thing . . . fly!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Election Eve! VOTE TOMORROW! Nov. 6

This is it! Election eve! The polls open 6:30 AM and close at 7:30 PM. Please remind everyone you know to vote in this off-year cycle. (Antioch professors / CGers: Please Remind Antioch Students to Vote!)
I will be standing outside the vote zone in the Presbyterian Church polling site, come rain snow or cold!, to watch the polls most of the day, with signs and information. (Wave at me when you bike, drive, or walk past! Or come join me for an hour!)

Tonight I'm at the Council meeting. One more push!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Antioch Lives!

Check out today's OFFICIAL press release!

The reports of its death HAVE been greatly exaggerated! Whoot!

More Ohio Wind Than We Thought!

Check out this new map of Ohio's Wind Resources! At 100 meters up there, rather than 50 meters (as many previous maps have been drawn from), there's considerably more areas suitable for wind power! (And scroll down and have a look at the map of states with real clean energy standards--my home state, Iowa, is doing quite well on that score, especially given its small population. Ohio, we have some catching up to do!)
Support the first steps being taken by Governor Strickland, which have gotten some UNANIMOUS support from the State Senate this week!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I'll Second That Emotion: A Note on Mutual Respect and Parliamentary Procedure

(the picture is "Roberts' Third Rule of Chaos" by an artist I found online named Dan Roberts)
Google's very specific search abilities make it amazingly easy to search documents for specific terms--even documents that are no longer online--and they helped me to document a precise shift, and, in my opinion, a misuse and misunderstanding of parliamentary procedures on Council that contribute to a culture of disrespect in Council meetings.

So bear with me while I explain. The minutes for Village Council Meetings for 2006-2007 are still "actively" archived online, and Google still has "cached" minutes going back even further, for a few years, till 2004, I think--even those years that are no longer "officially" kept online by our village website. So, even though the Village is not paying for the "bandwidth" or server space, which can be expensive, to continue archiving these important documents, you and I, or anyone, can use Google to get a sense of the longer history of any issue.

Here's how. Start by clicking on the words "advanced search" by the Google search bar on the Google home page, then type "fogg" by "Find results with all of the words." Look down the page and you see the word "domain," with a search bar where you can type in "yso.org/council." This means that you will have searched ONLY village council website for "fogg" and will come up only with documents and meetings archived there, or formerly archived there, related to the Fogg farm annexation debate in Yellow Springs--about 16 times. (By contrast, type "fogg" in, in regular Google search, and you get over 3 million hits!) Then, instead of clicking the title of the page, i.e., the first line of the entry, as you probably normally do, click on the word "cached" at the bottom of any entry. This will get you access to the pages that the Village no longer keeps AND the word "Fogg" will be highlighted in bright yellow so you can jump to just those portions of the minutes that focus on this issue.

Or, you can search for words like "motion died" or "no second," as I just did. In the meetings since Judith Hempfling was sworn in as the top vote-getter in the last Council election, those words have appeared repeatedly in the minutes. 7 times, to be exact, and only as a result of motions made by Judith Hempfling. These words never appear in relation to any other Council member. They typically appear when Judith is struggling to honor the democratic process--asking for Council to offer gestures of respect, sometimes big, sometimes small, for the wishes of people present. It happened during the Fogg debate, regarding the swimming pool closure, several times during the discussions of the Antioch situation, and other times.

I attended most Council meetings since the beginning of last summer, have read the minutes for all of the meetings over the last several years, and have watched Judith made three such motions that died for want of a second. I understand parliamentary procedure. Many of our village council members seem to be under the mistaken impression that to "second" a motion means that you are going to support it. It does not. It simply signals that you believe the point worthy of discussion.

If you refuse to second it, then you are essentially saying this point is unworthy of discussion. So if you read these minutes, it might look like Judith is making motions that are so unsupported, perhaps even ridiculous, that the Council did not even bother to discuss them.

However, in the situations I have witnesseded, that's not exactly what happened. Typically, Judith makes a motion, usually a motion that is designed to encourge the democratic participation of members of the community. Often there's wide support from the citizens in the room, which is sometimes packed, whose interests' and concerns the Council serves. However, although no one on Council seconds Judith's motion, the motion may be discussed nevertheless. Sometimes Judith has had to politely remind the council that she has a motion on the table with no second. Sometimes a member will explicitly explain why they are not seconding the motion. That's discussion.

All of that discussion is out of order, under Roberts Rules of Order, the rule book that Council uses to help do its work efficiently.

I say all this not because I'm generally a stickler for points of order and all that jazz; if the system is working, then it's not that important if it exactly follows to the letter some of the more arcane aspects of a Rule book that has to serve many different bodies. We mainly need the spirit of the procedures to be honored, which are designed to make discussion fair to all. (I'm aware that sometimes rule books can be used to create a kind of "priestly" feeling at meetings that effectively keeps "lay" people out, because they feel it's all too complicated and they must not be "smart enough" somehow to contribute. I'm opposed to that.)

I'm convinced things are not working well on our Council, and in these times it can be helpful to examine the ways we may not be honoring procedures to see if they offer some collective wisdom for us. If a Council member brings up an idea that is worthy of discussion, it must be seconded, even if that means the person who seconds the motion ultimately votes against it. To discuss a motion, without a second, is, quite simply, rude, uncollegial, and deeply disrespectful, as well as being against the procedures this body is supposed to be governed by. The fact that it only happens to one member, and that it seems to happen most often when that member is struggling to honor democratic processes, suggests problems on the Council.

Vote for a Change this Fall! Vote for Respect.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

"If you can't stand the heat, . . . "

I love the plain-spokenness, and bluntness of Harry S. Truman. I've been pondering the phrase I'm alluding to in my post title, about hot kitchens, which has stuck around because it's a brilliant little metaphor. Truman used to say to his cabinet appointees, "I'll stand by you, but if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen."--a perfect thought for the cut-throat environment of Washington DC presidential and national party politics. Kitchens get hot--& especially would his non-air conditioned, Southern world. Commercial kitchens tend to run the stove and ovens all day, so they can really get hot on a daily basis, even if there's a/c. Washington DC was and is today like a massive commercial kitchen in the most frantically busy restaurant in town.

I'm not a DC politician: I'm a mom and a former waitress and 4-H member who's spent a lot of time in kitchens, and a professor who's worked in a variety of professional environments. I can stand quite a bit of heat--I've been at the center of controversies in my own institution and come out fine--maybe stronger, even. And let me be clear: I'm not asking every session of Council to end in a group hug.

But I would like us to consider: We're a small kitchen. Do we have to run the stove and the oven all the time? Does our kitchen really have to be this hot, this unpleasant? Is the heat rising because it has to, in order to do the work we must do, or are we just pushing the heat up out of habit?

Maybe if we spend a little time focusing on how and why we are acting in the kitchen, we can save a little energy AND make it a better work place for everyone to be--Council, staff, and villagers from a variety of perspectives.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Diving in to the Pool Issue!

Until the last election, I think I had never voted against funding local services in my life. I believe that we need to pay for the services we use. Americans too often whine and complain about taxes, but then are left with dysfunctional public services which often cost all of us more in the end, anyway, and also tend to hit poor people hardest.

However, in the last election, I voted against the local property tax hike (Issue 21 on last November's ballot, which ultimately passed by just one vote) because, although I understood that the increased funds were needed, the Council was not clear about their priorities; I felt that vital human services, like the pool, were being essentially held for ransom in order to pressure the townspeople into accepting an agenda that did not have wide support or understanding in the village. The process was deeply flawed--pleas from villagers to work on creative ways to fund the pool for one or two weeks longer that summer were repeatedly ignored and stonily passed over. This made many of us very distrustful of the Council and their motives and values. I'm concerned that while we have thousands of square yards of new asphalt all over town, which is all well and good, the pool's future and accessibility has not been fully attended to, as a letter from a concerned resident in this week's YSNEWS suggested.

So let me be clear: I support the pool. When my children were living at home, we had a family membership that we regularly used. When people come to town to visit, especially my sister from Minnesota, with her small children, if it's a hot summer day, we often end up at the pool. I love watching the fire works from Gaunt Park. Go to the pool on a hot summer day, and you'll see families with young children, having a ball. It's a jam-packed, multigenerational, happening scene.

The public pool is a tremendous resource in our town, in an era when so many towns have lost their pools. If we want this town to grow, especially in terms of its younger population, so vital to our schools and our future, we must support services like the pool that reach out to them and make this village a vital and attractive location.

Human services will be a priority for my work on council.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Candidates' Forum This Thursday Evening, 7 pm, Mills Lawn

Each of the candidates for local offices--school board and village council--will be giving a short statement and then we'll all be open for questions from villagers at the Candidates' Forum (sponsored by the Men's Group) this Thursday, October 25th, 7 pm, Mills Lawn School. (Unfortunately, right now this runs at exactly the same time as the Antioch College Celebration Dinner, which I am very sad to miss. I will try to stop by afterwards if it is not too late!)

Here are my answers to the questions asked by the Men's Group, which will be published in their program:

1. Why have you decided to be a candidate for the office you seek? Yellow Springs is a living community. I love its feistiness and messiness, its quirkiness. I am running for Village Council for the same reason I have invested in a key downtown business site: I believe our village offers an attractive alternative to the homogenized, strip-mall world around us. The world needs our individual skills, our beautiful setting, our historical institutions, our vision.

2. What relevant experience do you have to fulfill the duties of this office? I grew up on a farm outside a tiny town in Iowa; with only 35 people in my public high school class, everyone had to be active in just about everything! As a professor of English and Director of the Women’s Studies program at Wittenberg University, I’ve brought that small-town, 4-H sense of responsibility to my leadership in University and departmental governance—while remaining a dedicated mom, teacher, scholar, writer. I recently edited and contributed key essays to a well-received reference book on the history of public policies for adoption and foster care. Over the years, I’ve sung in the Community Chorus and contributed to a variety of community groups in the village. This summer I was a leader in the ad-hoc group of residents seeking to keep Antioch College alive.

3. How will you balance the needs of your constituency with those of the entire community? Village Council seats are “at large”; each member’s constituency is the entire community. Council members must actively welcome the democratic participation of all citizens, regardless of politics.

4. What is your vision for the community you will serve if elected? What are the most important issues facing the community, how are they related to the office you seek, and how do you propose to address them? I envision a lively, diverse, arts-oriented, bike-friendly, walkable college town, embraced by a protected greenbelt. A place that is attractive to visit and affordable for a diverse array of residents. Challenges? The uncertain future of our largest employer, Antioch College; a lack of affordable housing for young families and persons on fixed incomes; and concerns about energy/environment. There’s no “silver bullet” for these problems. Democratic processes allow us to tap our collective wisdom and draw out the specialized skills of our residents for creative problem-solving. Council must facilitate this process; it’s our best hope.

5. In the face of declining population, declining jobs, declining revenues and increasing costs, how would you either reverse these trends and/or strike a balance between the ‘human’ and the ‘physical’ (infrastructure) services that bind us together? At our 10/1 Council meeting, Dan Young asserted that, realistically, 80% of economic development must come from local resources. To increase jobs / revenues we must build from what we have: I’d start with 1) our arts community and 2) the potential of a revitalized Antioch College. I’d look at Berea College’s development of sustainable entrepreneuriship in cooperation with the community. We have the resources and can do more to attract / develop smart, ecofriendly, local production within our village.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I Believe We, the Citizens of Yellow Springs, Can . . .

  • Build on and nurture our strengths as a community—our actively engaged citizenry, our rich history, our strong arts and educational institutions, our lively downtown, and our beautiful green spaces—to create a bright future.
  • Thoughtfully engage with one another on the serious challenges that face our village—and which even threaten to divide us—in a spirit of generous, active listening and respect. While we must create reasonable time frames for our decision-making, the quality and longevity of the decisions will be improved if we always insist on honoring the democratic process. Our collective wisdom can only emerge if we listen. While true consensus may not always be possible—and compromise may be inevitable for all of us—all citizens who care about our future should feel welcomed and heard by Council members.
  • Find better solutions for our future energy dilemmas by welcoming the perspectives of knowledgeable citizens, as well as local, regional, and national groups with serious concerns about the proposed 50-year contract with AMP-Ohio to build and support another pulverized coal plant in Southeast Ohio. We owe it to our neighbors and to our grandchildren, who will all live “downwind” of this plant and its dangerous emissions, to make this vital decision with great caution and care.
  • Keep Yellow Springs a diverse, inclusive, affordable, and walkable college town by looking for opportunities for economic development rooted in the arts, education, and green/eco-friendly businesses. Compact development and redevelopment within our current village “footprint” is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. Intelligent, socially and environmentally just growth that fits our community’s needs and values is a tall order, but we should aim to meet that high standard.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Signs are Popping Up All Over! Paint Again Wed. 10/10!

Email me, as usual, at lori[dot]
for more info! I 'll get a sign to you, and tell you how & where you can help make one! They're beautiful!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Ohio Must Diversify Energy, Faster To Stay Competitive

Two news articles from today's Dayton Daily News together make a pretty clear case for the economic need for Ohio to diversity its energy portfolio, faster. The first, entitled, "Global Warming's Impact Grows," explains some dire facts about Ohio:
  • 90 percent of Ohio's electricity comes from coal-fired power plants.

  • Nationwide, Ohio ranks fifth in overall energy consumption. [We're 7th in terms of population.]

  • Ohioans use more than 57 million tons of coal a year (largely for electricity).

  • Ohio ranks fourth overall when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide and methane, that contribute to global warming.
  • We ALREADY have 21 coal-fired power plants belching out 126 million tons of global-warming related emissions
From the second, "Without Diversifying, Consequences Loom"
  • Over the past two decades, Ohio has invested more than $175 million in trying to make coal cleaner [but AMP insists that some of the most promising technologies are "unreliable" and insists it cannot in any way slow its plans for this plant for the technology to catch up]

  • Even with absolutely no state incentives for renewables, a study unveiled at a national solar conference in Cleveland in July showed Ohio has 500,000 direct and indirect jobs tied to the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries.

  • That study predicts 1.2 million jobs in those sectors by 2030 if public policy changes favorable to renewables are embraced.

  • Even Republican Dave Hobson, having visited Greenland with Democratic congresspersons this summer, is now "adamant about the need to address global warming immediately," saying: "This is a problem for the day, and it's an even bigger problem for the future," Hobson said. "We should not leave it to the future to solve. We need to start down this path."

  • While our coal-rooted and friendly governor downplays the number of jobs that renewables could create, he admits that we need an assortment of energy — renewables, nuclear plants, and coal. Failing to diversify Ohio's energy portfolio could have dire consequences: "Ohio will be perceived as a status quo state," he said. "We will have lost the opportunity to create new industries and new jobs, and we will have seriously damaged Ohio's future. I think we've already lost potential investment and jobs for not having an energy standard."
The only thing that will make our leaders live up to their own awareness of just how dire our situation is, is pressure from "we, the people." We must start in our own backyards.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Sign Painting Fun!

We had a great turn out for the sign painting party today! 20 people!

Email me--
lori[dot]askeland AT
--if you're interested in our next one, which should take place sometime early next week!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

NY Times Today: "A Swiftly Melting Planet"

This article by Thomas Homer-Dixon from today's Op-Ed section of the New York Times is worth reading. The short story: The polar ice caps melted at an astronomical rate in the past month, "from 2.23 million square miles of ice remaining on Aug. 8 to 1.6 million square miles on Sept. 16, an astonishing drop from the previous low of 2.05 million square miles, reached in 2005." His conclusion:

"When warming becomes its own cause, we might not be able to stop extremely harmful climate change no matter how much we cut our greenhouse gas emissions. We need a far more aggressive global response to climate change. In the 1960s, mothers learned that the milk they were feeding their children was laced with radioactive material from atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons and that this contamination could increase the risk of childhood leukemia. Soon women organized themselves in the tens of thousands to demand that nuclear powers ban atmospheric testing. Their campaign largely succeeded.
In response to the new dangers of climate change, we need a similar mobilization — of mothers, of students and of everyone with a stake in the future — now.

As a mother, a teacher of students, and a candidate, I'm saying: let's do it.

If not us, who? If not now, when?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Should Yellow Springs Decide Right Now to Sign on to a 50-Year Commitment to a Pulverized Coal Power Plant?

THE SHORT ANSWER: No. The contract is of extremely long duration at this critical moment in our history, when the future costs of coal-fired power are virtually unknowable. It's the wrong time for more coal. But, most importantly, we have not had an adequate process to answer this vital question with democratic integrity.

What We've Done To Research This Issue So Far: We've invited three detailed lectures from Village Staff and AMP-OH Executives, all helpful, but all supporting the AMP-Ohio position
Important Things We Haven't Done Yet: Conclusion: We Need To Take More Time on This Question

WHAT WE'VE DONE TO RESEARCH THIS QUESTION: During the past month, I have listened carefully to three, helpful and extensive presentations sponsored by the Village Council, all of which have suggested that we have little choice but to support AMP-Ohio's plan to build another, new 1,000 MW pulverized-coal power plant in Meigs County, along the Ohio River. We've had two 45-minute powerpoint lectures by our village manager on the basics of baseload power, and he used his presentation to strongly advise the village to pursue the development of this plant and to do so without delay. Most recently, on Thursday the 27th, representatives of AMP-Ohio (the non-profit electric power cooperative that represents us and over a hundred other municipalities in our region) offered a nearly two-hour long powerpoint presentation aimed at building our support for the plant.

I have learned a great deal from these presentations. I appreciate the time and expertise involved in them. I do not claim to know everything yet that there is to know. From these presentations, and from doing my own research into the issues, I do understand that the issues are complex, and people of good will can and will disagree about them. We have to consider competing values of affordability and environmental responsibility, and the data are complex. I do not believe that the people who support this plant are all "bad" people or right-wingers.

But, I've sat on two juries in my life, and read a lot of complex arguments in my day. In court, especially, I've learned that prosecutors can make a very good case, making their client's view of things sound sound water-tight, a no-brainer! But then defense attorneys can still undermine that case by discussing things that the prosecutor may be deliberately avoiding. And vice versa. It's only by hearing advocates from at least two sides of any controversial issue that we really come to a decision that has integrity. Even if you "don't like lawyers," even if the narrow decision being focused on, e.g., whether to sign on to this contract, winds up being the same in the end, it's still the right thing to do. The learning process may help us shape better future policies, as we move to related issues.

We've heard from AMP-Ohio's attorneys, marketers, and engineers, and they are professionals. They've made a compelling case, and I believe them to be people of good will and fair intentions. It has been made quite clear that we may very well be dependent on coal for the next 15-20 years to provide some significant part of our baseload power needs. It is also clear that we will still be using coal-fired technology every time we switch the lights on or our furnaces or A/C units kick in whether we sign on or not, at least for awhile. I understand that we are a more vulnerable to market-pricing and profit-making companies when we are not buying direct from our non-profit electricity co-op, and that concerns me as we keep an eye on affordability. We also know there is no "pure" place in this debate, unless we work to get off the grid altogether, and we're not there yet as a people. We will always have some "footprint." All that is clear.


LET'S HEAR WHAT THE NRDC HAS TO SAY: As was noted in the Yellow Springs News, the Natural Resources Defense Council has offered to send environmental attorneys from its Chicago office to give a presention on the risks of this plant, yet the village council has not made time for them, or any comparable presentations from any of the people of good will who are opposed to this plan--including the local, state, regional and national environmental groups who are planning to fight this plant's construction, or from the local citizens in Meigs County who are concerned about the cumulative effects of having additional power plants constructed in their region.

WHY 50 YEARS?I am concerned that we are being pressured to commit to a 50-year contract to build and maintain a coal plant at this time, when we are every day coming to an awareness of just how calamitous human activities are becoming to our global environment. Even President Bush now finally accepts that human beings are changing the global climate in dramatic ways. We will be required to support this plant, even if it never gets built or it gets taken off line due early to new environmental policies that may develop as the situation becomes more chaotic. That could be very expensive, but we'll be stuck with a 50-year mortgage.

REGULATIONS ON COAL ARE IN A STATE OF FLUX: I am especially concerned that this is happening at a time when 1) laws and regulations around fossil-fuel energy are in a serious state of flux, and 2) our planet may, in fact, be reaching a crisis point in terms of its ability to sustain human life. AMP-Ohio admitted in its presentation that it hasn't done much, and could do a lot more to encourage conservation. Indeed, local resident Bob Brecha pointed out that California residents use 40% less energy per capita than do people in the rest of the United States, partly as a result of the devastating Enron scandal (see article and graph). This plant would provide only about 10% of our needs. We can do better. Imagine if AMP-Ohio invested $4 billion dollars into serious conservation measures? Would we still need such a huge, coal burning plant?

I and many other local residents are concerned about several issues that we feel have not been adequately explored, especially from perspectives besides those who are already committed to building the new plant. Residents of Yellow Springs deserve to hear directly from the environmental and citizens groups who are expressing legitimate concerns about the feasibility of the AMP-Ohio plan. We need to know whether its ultimate costs to ratepayers have been fully estimated, what its impact on the atmosphere at this critical juncture in our world's history will be (especially in terms of carbon emissions, which were basically simply not included in the otherwise very detailed discussion offered by AMP-Ohio), and whether alternatives for baseload power, coupled with serious conservation efforts, are really as unreliable and impractical as has been suggested for making up the difference that refusing to sign on for more coal would represent.

The presentations by both the village manager and AMP-Ohio all also seem to assume that the energy market will remain completely unregulated, when serious re-regulation efforts are clearly underway. While complex in the details, re-regulation is supported by virtually everyone on all sides of the question: Everyone in Ohio, Republicans and Democrats, environmentalists and industry leaders, all agree that energy deregulation has been a complete failure. The regulation landscape is going to change, and soon, and that will almost certainly take some of the pressures off our current exposure to the open market, as it will make the long-term contracts we're losing again desireable to energy vendors.

MEIGS COUNTY: Additionally, we have NOT been informed that there is opposition from at least some residents in Meigs County, where the plant is proposed. Yellow Springs residents should know that there are currently 4 major, coal-fired plants within a 20-mile radius of the Meigs sites being proposed for new coal plants by both AMP and AEP--the corporation that so contaminated the air, water, and soil of Cheshire, Ohio, that it was forced to buy out the homes of most of the residents there. And currently several more plants, including AMP-Ohio's, are now on the table for the same small area of Ohio/West Virginia, plus at least one new mining operation for Meigs County itself.

Immediately across the river from Meigs, in fact, are the scarred, dead landscapes left where West Virginia mountaintops used to be; mountaintops that have been blown off in the pursuit of the low-sulfur coal under them. The environmental devastation left behind has been incaculable. Currently, AMP-Ohio has admitted that it has no policy regarding Mountaintop coal. They are suggesting that by signing on, we could, as participants, be part of a process that might, or might not, demand that no mountaintop coal be used. But so far the process has been very focused on short-term economic cost analyses.

While, of course, some governmental officials and economic interests in the area of this proposed plant are clamouring for the jobs, other Meigs county residents like farmer Elisa Young (whose family has farmed in Meigs County for seven generations), point out that the cumulative effects and potentially devastating consequences of having so many coal plants and coal mining operations in and around Meigs County have not been fully explored or understood. Young says, "My view is if power plants create jobs, and we have four that you can throw a rock and hit, we should be rolling in prosperity." Instead, Meigs is one of the poorest counties in Ohio--with 26.30% of all children living below the poverty line and amongst the highest rates of asthma, heart disease, and lung diseases in the state. The people there are wiping grit off their windows every morning, and wondering if they're going to be the next Cheshire.

CONCLUSION: We cannot in good conscience decide to go forward with this project without taking the time to become fully aware of these issues, and facing head on the complex impact that such a plant may have on the lives of our neighbors and our grandchildren. We have not yet done so. We ourselves may not be directly "downwind" of this southeast Ohio plant and the 6-8 other coal related industries that may potentially be operating there in 10 years or so, but millions of other people are, and, because the gases in the atmosphere eventually spread to everyone, our grandchildren will all live "downwind" from these plants.

I cannot support the one-sided process we've seen so far. While clearly we must make a decision in a reasonably timely fashion, certainly before March 1, we have access to resources that can help us make a better decision by that time. At this point, those resources are not being adequately invited in. We can do better. We are small, but our decision still has global impact. We must be better informed than we currently are about our alternatives.

One thing that is clear to me, if these "cleaner" plants are built with or without our further support, it's clear that we have already been a part of that process and we have an obligation to remain aware of its developments. We are amongst those communities who supported AMP-Ohio's process of exploring and proposing this plant. At the bare minimum, then, it's our ethical duty to insist that the older and even dirtier plants are in fact actually shut down--which, despite promises, has not been the pattern that most coal-powered entities have followed. The process has, instead, been largely additive--with new plants simply adding their tons of carbon and their more carefully regulated but still significant emissions of NOx and SO2 to the mix, with very few of the older plants being really taken off-line. Our grandchildren deserve a liveable planet if it is in our power to provide it for them. We must do our best for them.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

My Vision for the Village: A Work in Progress

Conservative? Me? You? What?
In many ways I am "conservative." Ok, yes, I am different kind of conservative. What I mean by using this term is that, as a baseline for all my decisions, I will strive to conserve, nurture, and build on the resources that our village already has, here and now, including:
  • Our Human Resources: We must nurture the skills and abilities of all the individual members of our village. Obviously, this includes the work-related skills and talents that every village resident brings to our life together. Less obviously, these human resources include our local knowledge of the community as a specific place, our sense of our own history and traditions, and our knowledge of one another.
  1. It is in our best interests, as a village, to use our resources prudently, as we seek to discern and nurture these abilities, skills, and knowledges, in every one of us.
  2. It is in our best interests to facilitate the fullest expression of these abilities in all our residents--regardless of any "disability" that any one of us may have, and absolutely regardless of the stereotypes about race, gender, class, age, income or background, that too often distort our views of each other. These distortions keep us from noticing the skills that residents have, skills we may desperately need. As a teacher, I believe we must become aware of the distorting stereotypes and ideologies that often almost invisibly divide us, so we can be vigilant to their distortions, and learn to see around them. For our own good.
  • Our Social and Institutional Resources: We must do what we can to sustain the social organizations that have been developed over time, because they help develop the human resources of the community. These include the businesses located in Yellow Springs, both profit-based and non-profit businesses, as well as the educational, healing, spiritual, recreational, and other organizations that support our community's life.

    Over the years I have been active in the Community Choir, the Emporium, the Wednesday Morning Meditation/Writing Group at the Friends Meeting House, sent my children to Friends Music Camp and supported their annual concert, the drive to Save Whitehall Farm, and, most recently, the campaign to keep Antioch College alive. I am a supporting member of WYSO, the Tecumseh Land Trust, Home, Inc., and the Glen Helen Association. I value and believe my life benefits from the work of all these institutions, big and small.

  • Our Natural Resources: We must make thoughtful use of the land, energy sources, and natural beauty to which the Yellow Springs community and our social institutions are fortunate to have access, and over which we exercise some degree of control. Our continued existence depends upon our careful stewardship of these resources.

When I witness or, alas, participate in a process that unnecessarily wastes human, institutional, or natural resources,
it saddens me.
When institutions and infrastructure that we depend on in our daily lives make it nearly inevitable that any of these resources will be wasted or, worse yet, destroyed,
it frustrates me.
When such wastefulness happens consistently and avoidably--or, worst of all, deliberately--
it angers me.

This "conservativism," call it what you will, is what drives me.

Counting Our Blessings, Honoring Our Legacies
Yellow Springs faces serious concerns, problems, and even crises regarding our use and development of virtually all of these resources. Yet we must not lose sight of, or cease to honor and protect, the powerful resources that we do have. Only by regularly reminding ourselves of what we are blessed to have, will we be able to determine a responsible way forward.

We have a noble history of being a community that nurtures our landscape and faciliates the creative expression of local skills, talents, muscles, and different forms of knowledge. Our elders and ancestors--and all those who have worked in recent years to sustain the powerful visions that have shaped this place--have granted all of us rare gifts. Their work and vision and humor have made us heirs to a beautiful village, composed of diverse individuals drawn here from the furthest corners of the globe, all nestled in a lovely location.

We have been gifted excellent schools
(and the educators and young people who sustain them),
We have been gifted a vibrant artistic community
(and the artists and businesses who sustain that artistic life),
We have been gifted access to Glen Helen, with all its spiritual and environmental resources
(and the skilled staff that runs its educational outreach on a tight budget),
We have been gifted access to safe and healthful watershed, air that is not congested with visible smog, and land that is rich and fruitful
(and skilled people working to preserve these elements, and responsibly produce the food and other good things we need each day),
We have been gifted a wonderful public library
(and skilled librarians who keep it well-stocked and interesting),
We have been gifted to have in our presence a college founded by visionaries and dedicated to nurturing both practical skills and social justice
(and the energetic students, faculty, and staff who keep it running, even in hard times).
We have been gifted a thriving spiritual community
(and the leaders and deep wisdom that sustains them),
We have been gifted a lively downtown and business community with spaces for communal interactions and mutual growth
(and the creative entrepreneurs who sustain it)
We have been gifted a functioning democracy
(and those who direct their efforts to making it real by voting, attending meetings, protesting, petitioning, and running for office).
. . . and that's just the beginning.

We have the responsibility, and it can be a joyous one, to honor those gifts by carefully building on them.

We can only do this if we continually remind ourselves that these are gifts, they are vulnerable to being taken for granted and neglected. In such cases, it is easy for individuals motivated by greed and self-interest to steal them away from us.

Counting our blessings is not just patting ourselves on the back. It's a necessary practice for thoughtful growth and change.

The Seductions of the Big Boxes

Too many communities in the United States have been seduced or intimidated into a false economy, based on an ill-conceived sense of "efficiency," and by a spurious notion that it is only "practical" to put (quarterly) profitability before the needs and longterm interests of their residents.

That movement is deadly to places like Yellow Springs.

The harm from this process happens both on a global scale and on very subtle, individual levels every single day.

In this country, for example, we readily slip into calling ourselves "consumers," rather than seeing ourselves as, say, citizens, workers, or simply as human beings. When I hear that word, "consumer," I feel myself being reduced to an open mouth, taking in whatever is on offer. The "consumer" label offers no room for me to see myself as a creator. Or as a visionary. Certainly not as a grower of my own food, a creator of my own art, or even, really, a negotiator of my own business decisions.

At best I can only hope to be a "smart consumer"--someone who occassionally shuts her mouth, when what's on offer seems to be toxic. That is a poor wealth.

This is a very convenient and profitable way to perceive a human being, or it wouldn't be so prevalent. But it only works in the short term, and it primarily serves those who want to profit from other people as their first and foremost priority. It benefits exploiters.

That consumerist ideology is deeply resisted by the Yellow Springs I know and love. We know that this "consumer" view of ourselves deeply harms all of us, as surely as racism and sexism and age-discrimination do. My life is dedicated to resisting this and all other forms of dehumanization.

The very act of entering a political race, of putting myself forth as a candidate, is an act that reminds myself and other people that we are all so much more than mere consumers: we are citizens in a democracy. Democracy. Another hard-won human resource that I hate to see squandered and subsumed, as it surely is being squandered in our public life today. Corporate powers, and top-down decision-making structures in many human structures, have increasing control over human lives today, at the expense of democratic institutions and processes.

Top-down, non-democratic structures inevitably squander human, social, and natural resources, and they do so remorselessly.

We must teach ourselves and our children to see ourselves, instead, as fully human: as creative individuals with valuable skills that are needed by the world. We are not just consumers. We are creators. We are teachers and students of each other. We are citizens.

This I know: Our best hope for maintaining and sustaining and nurturing our village's resources will come from carefully attending to our marvellously quirky, individual capacities. If we do this with joy and humor, intelligence and moral seriousness, I know that our efforts will not be in vain.

I know, too, that these efforts will inevitably result in a little funky town that will not look like every other place.

Because, make no mistake, other communities are buying, wholesale, into this consumer-based vision, the vision I believe is killing us. They are doing so because it feels good, short-term. And they feel they "have to" buy this vision, to compete; that they'd be "stupid not to." And because they see few, or no, viable alternatives.

We Can Be An Alternative.

Shabby, Charming, Funky Yellow Springs. We love it.

Yellow Springs, as it is--warts and cracked streets and all--attracts and interests people. Tourists are drawn to our funky shops, our festivals, and fairs. Our houses are relatively expensive, even when some of them have peeling paint, and our property values are high for this region (if quite affordable by comparison to many college/arts towns and metropolitan zones), because many people, like me, move into the region and want to live here, and are willing to pay a bit more for the privilege. This creates opportunities, and challenges, particularly in creating affordable housing options.

And, yes, we are, and probably always will be, the butt of local, regional, and even national jokes as "that hippie town."

We will never attract all people--or even, perhaps, the majority of people in this region, at least not to live or spend significant portions of their weekly lives here. We are all swimming in, trained by, and at least superficially content in the current consumerist environment. It's difficult even for the most ardent of Yellow Springers to resist the siren calls of Sam's Club or Target. We do not exist completely apart from that world. But...

FACT 1: There are plenty of places that are designed to cater to the lowest-common denominator needs of a consumerist population.

FACT 2: We cannot compete with those places, even if we wanted to.

SO THEREFORE: We must not lose sight of the fact that, unlike many places, we still attract artists and educators, healers and experimenters, skateboarders and tennis players, lovers of trees and haters of "sprawl" . . . and all kinds of people who want to live in (and complain about and propose new visions for and argue about the future of) a walkable community that operates on a human scale.

These people want to live, and if they can, to work, in and for Yellow Springs. We should do our best to craft public policies to make it possible for people of all incomes who are attracted to Yellow Springs to live and work here.

It's my sense that these people who are attracted to Yellow Springs are, by and large, the kind of folks who will, if forced, choose to nuture their loved ones and the needs of the human spirit over keeping up a perfectly tidy house or maintaining an impeccably manicured lawn at all times. They'll fingerpaint a picture with a four-year old while dust bunnies form in their closets. They'll teach a bunch of kids to play T-Ball (and write joyously about it in the paper each week during the summer) before they kill the dandelions growing in the cracks of their driveway. They sing in the local choir, attend village meetings, dance in the Antioch amphitheater . . . and notice later that their socks don't match.

This is a powerful, active, and engaged constituency, in this village. They should be viewed as a strength. Not as a problem. Not as an annoyance. Not as cranky foot-draggers. This group believes we must, when push comes to shove, prioritize actions in the village that are key to sustaining a healthy and creative, inclusive human community in a healthful setting, first and foremost.

They are not mere "consumers."

This constituency will resist calls for repairs and ordinances that they perceive are being done more out of an effort to "market" Yellow Springs to fit the needs and interests of the wider consumerist culture, at the expense of the human beings who live here.

Bottom line, as they say: Yellow Springs will not be or look like Beavercreek, ever. And most of us don't want to.

That does NOT mean, however, that we are "anti-growth," or "stuck in the 60s."

Growth, Technology, Modernity: Not The Enemy.

Indeed, we insist on growth. We insist on staying alive--that's the whole point of all this nurturing and sustaining of resources! To be alive!

To be alive is to grow.

But, as I have argued, to be alive is not simply to be a "consumer," even simply a "smart consumer" of anything that comes along.

We have to be creators. We have to be, literally, creative.

We want intelligent, socially and environmentally just growth that fits our community. It's a tall order, but we should aim to meet that high standard. I believe we have or can access the resources to make it happen. We must attempt to develop a practical and attractive vision to make it so.

We understand that the kinds of businesses who are going to insist upon a Beavercreek-style location are never going to move their operations here--and we should not waste our precious resources by trying to lure them.

We must be more creative--not less--in attracting and supporting the viable businesses and organizations that will most help to sustain our community.

We must work harder and more creatively. If our labors are done with joy and humor and good will, it's a good thing.

Because of the dominance of the consumerist ideology in the broader world, there are fewer, perhaps no, pre-fabricated blue prints for a town that is truly putting the growth and sustenance of wholly-human beings first, in all our quirkiness, through generations.

We can and we must examine creative solutions developed by other municipalities in the U.S., particularly by other small college towns, in the face of dilemmas similar to those that we face.

We can and we must find ways of best utilizing our limited resources to achieve those goals.

Conflicts Can Generate Light as Well as Heat

OK. Let me be clear. This is not to say that there are not real and genuine conflicts that occasionally arise as our values collide. For instance, at a recent village council meeting it became quite clear that most of us love trees, and we do, truly, love our community members who confront limitations on their mobility in a world designed for those of us who are currently not disabled.

Those of us who use wheelchairs (and some of us do so dazzlingly) or who regularly need to push small children in strollers need really good, functional sidewalks.

Yet many of our lovely trees are cracking and deforming the sidewalks that our fellow citizens depend on in order to access the resources our village has to offer them, and to offer their own human resources back to us.

Many of us who understandably love our bikes and skateboards, thoughtlessly block wheelchair users from our downtown sidewalks.

We cannot afford NOT to address these problems. We are wasting needed human resources by delaying any effective response. We must keep our sidewalks in good repair so that those community members who most depend upon them feel welcome here. We must be thoughtful of the needs of everyone to move through the village, and keep the ways clear for them, even as we enjoy hanging out down town. Even as we preserve as much as we can of our "tree wealth," the green and growing legacy of generations of Yellow Springs tree planters. Likewise, if our cracked streets are in such bad repair that they become dangerous, particularly for emergency vehicles, then we need to attend to them--in ways that are fiscally responsible, cost-effective over the long-term.

We need to work to see these problems clearly--not to exaggerate the problems nor to minimize them--so that we can make frugal use of our funds, with an eye toward the long-term, whenever possible.

I believe we can make these hard decisions. I know we must make them in a spirit of mutual care and compromise--and with the patience to genuinely listen to citizens and to explain to citizens the challenges we are addressing. To make sure they have the opportunity to understand the value systems we are using to set our priorities.

Our other problems--e.g., the problems at Antioch, our rising energy costs and the dangers of global warming at a time when we must find alternative sources of electrical power to the village, the lack of really affordable housing for younger and older singles, couples, and families--are even more complex. They are already generating conflicts, and they will require even more of our sustained attention and consideration. We will not all think alike on these issues. We will need to listen to one another, and seek to learn even from those ideas and perspectives that make us angry--no matter what side of the various fences we are on.

We need leaders who will remain grounded in the "conservative" values I have here outlined, and who will use those values to wrestle with competing solutions to the challenging questions that we are facing now, and that we will continue to face in the years ahead. We need leaders who will explore these problems and implement "conservative" solutions with grace, generosity of spirit, fiscal sobreity, attentive research, ethical seriousness, joy, and good humor. Only by doing so, will we have a hope of preserving, sustaining, and growing all the miraculous human and natural resources that Yellow Springs has to offer.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Signed Nomination Petitions Submitted

Today I drove to the Greene County Board of Elections and submitted 72 signatures on nominating petitions for my candidacy for Council, paid the filing fee, and received information about campaign finances. So, assuming at least 35 of those signatures are valid, the campaign has begun!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Askeland Collects Signatures

I'm currently collecting signatures in my bid for Village Council. I'll be using this blog to explain my position on issues and to speak to interested villagers.