Monday, February 18, 2008

Budget/ Pools Parks and Rec?/ Regenesis?

Council meeting: Tuesday Jan 19, 7 pm

Office Hours today: I will be in the Emporium today from 12-1.

3 things:

1) We had a budget meeting on Saturday, in which there was much confusion as to the actual state of the budget, but in which we did manage to increase Greenspace funding to $50,000 for this year, as opposed to the $35,000 that Eric had initially earmarked. I do not believe that $50K is sufficient. I am going to be pressing for a commitment closer to $125,000 and am working on creative methods to reach that goal. Continued community pressure will help me make that case.

2) There is a library commission, but there is no Pool, Parks, & Rec. Commission. This seems strange to me. The planning commission has bemoaned the lack of an up-to-date master plan for our parks and rec department, and constituents are writing me with legitimate concerns that the pool, in particular, seems to be too-readily sacrificed in times of financial crisis. I wonder if that would be less likely to happen if there was a Commission.

Here are my questions:
* Can anyone with longer history here explain to me why there's no Pool Parks and Rec Commission?
* I sense that we need one. Do you agree? Do you think this would be something worth my working toward this year?
* By the way, as I mentioned in our meeting on Saturday, there's also no equivalent organization to the "Friends of the Library" group for the Pool etc. This also seems strange to me. "Friends of the YS Pool and Parks" would seem to be a logical group to be formed by local residents who use and value our pool, parks, and recreation facilities. I spoke to Kathleen Boutis and I think there may be some interest out there in forming such a group.

3) About 70 of us heard from the Regenesis group yesterday. It was a very intriguing, intellectually stimulating discussion, but rather short on specifics as to how the group would interact with and work with the entire community, and what the process would be that could result in tangible results. My impression is that they are quite expensive. Ted Donnell will be making a presentation about the group and what they might offer YS at our meeting tomorrow night. I would very much appreciate your attendance and feedback.

Here's their website:


Saturday, February 9, 2008

Council Notes and Office Hours this week

1) OFFICE HOURS I have to move my office hours up an hour this week to accommodate meeting with my Wittenberg students Monday afternoon. So, Monday 10-11:30am is when I'll have coffee/brunch at the Emporium.

2) PLANNING COMM. MONDAY @ 7pm: We'll be considering, again, the Friends Care Center's proposal for the Barr property. In the Planning Commission packet there are several impassioned letters speaking against the current plan, largely but not exclusively from neighbors (we received none in favor of it this time). Also included in the package is a drawing indicating what looks to me like a fairly significant redesign. Please let me know your thoughts.

2) VISION / ECON DVPT: I've been reading Howard Zinn and several other historians today (see my new signature quotation below for a flavor!), and wrestling with the notion of a) what ARE the roots of our Council/manager form of government--both the truly progressive elements of its history and also its conservative, socialism-busting elements--and b) with envisioning our village's future. Basically, the conflicts we're experiencing today have long roots, and involve significant differences in political and economic philosophy.

I hope that you all had a chance to read the articles in the past two weeks of the Yellow Springs News about differing notions of economic development: first on the Shuman model adopted by St. Lawrence County NY, Ann Arbor MI, and Carborro NC and others (1/31), and, second, the vision being proposed by the YSA described in this past week's paper (2/7). Please do share your thoughts with Council on this important issue.

3) REGENESIS? The Regenesis group, from Santa Fe NM is another group that Ted Donnell and others have been working to bring to Yellow Springs:

"Ben Haggard of The Regenesis Group is visiting Yellow Springs next weekend. He will be giving a presentation to all interested community members on February 16 on the Regenesis approach to community planning. The specific time and location will be announced as soon as it is determined. Please share this with other community members you think might be interested.You might be interested in visiting their website"

4) REVIEW OF VILLAGE MANAGER: The Council will be doing an annual review of the work of manager Eric Swansen, and we invite public input. Many positive letters were in our packet last week.

5) BUDGET: HELP? If any one out there is good at reading complex budgets, I'd really love some help when I finally see ours, with examining it and thinking through how to make it fit our community's values. Let me know if you can assist!


Here's a fuller version of the quotation I'm now using as part of my email signature:

"There can be no doubt that democracy distrusts the expert . . . and there is no doubt also that much of this distrust is well grounded and thoroughly justified. This is due partly to the air of unwarranted superiority which the expert too frequently assumes and partly to the fact that history presents a long record of self-constituted experts who have been discredited. . . . In earlier times there was an expert class in theology that proposed to do the thinking for the human race in matters religious. There have been military castes, self-confessed experts who have succeeded more than once in imposing not only their professional but their class interests upon the civil population. The only kind of expert democracy ought to tolerate is the expert who admits his fallibility, retains an open mind, and is prepared to serve."

--Charles Beard, "Democracy and the Expert" 1916 (Charles Beard is one of the most respected historians of the early 20th century; he helped work out many progressive era public policy changes, including the development of the council-manager format. He went on to found the New School, in NYC).