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?