Monday, April 27, 2009

Visioning tonight, Regenesis/KKG withdrew, plus Art & Politics

The icon to the left belongs to popsicles+handgrenades, a blog by political artists, Jorge Arrieta and Dominique Arrieta.

Dear People:
Council will be meeting tonight in a joint meeting with the Miami Township trustees to begin the next steps of our visioning process with the finalist firm ACP, based in Columbus. The meeting will be tonight at 7 pm in the Bryan Center

Originally, this was to be a discussion to decide which of the two finalist firms we should hire to help us complete our visioning, but late last week, Regenesis/KKG wrote us a letter explaining that they were voluntarily withdrawing from consideration. They did not feel they could do the work we wanted given the constraints of our budget.

This may be a very short meeting, but the process is very important. Please plan to attend.

I have received a lot of useful feedback regarding the banner issue after the article from this week's Yellow Springs News. I am thankful we live in a town that attracts and nurtures serious artists (whose actual art may, of course, be whimsical!), and that there's passion to defend the arts, and freedom of artistic expression.

Thank you for keeping me mindful of this critical value, and for offering constructive help on how best to ensure that freedom.

Here's a poem about arts and politics, by the Polish Nobel Prize winner, Wislawa Szymborska:

"Children of Our Era"
by Wislawa Szymborska
Translated by Joanna Trzeciak

We are children of our era;
our era is political.

All affairs, day and night,
yours, ours, theirs,
are political affairs.

Like it or not,
your genes have a political past,
your skin a political cast,
your eyes a political aspect.

What you say has a resonance;
what you are silent about is telling.
Either way, it's political.

Even when you head for the hills
you're taking political steps
on political ground.

Even apolitical poems are political,
and above us shines the moon,
by now no longer lunar.
To be or not to be, that is the question.
Question? What question? Dear, here's a suggestion:
a political question.

You don't even have to be a human being
to gain political significance.
Crude oil will do,
or concentrated feed, or any raw material.

Or even a conference table whose shape
was disputed for months:
should we negotiate life and death
at a round table or a square one?

Meanwhile people were dying,
animals perishing,
houses burning,
and fields growing wild,
just as in times most remote
and less political.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Energy Task Force, LGBTQ rights, First Amendment rights...

The picture to the right is of a bronze sculpture, entitlted Continuum of a Dream, by 2008 Antioch College graduate MacLean Tiffany, commissioned by the Coretta Scott King Center for Intellectual and Cultural Freedom, located on the Antioch College campus (operations currently suspended). [Thanks to Alexandra for the corrections!]

Dear People: The agenda is pretty packed tomorrow night (Mon 4/20), but it's a lot of stuff that actually strikes at the core of my values: energy usage, human rights for all (especially focused on LGBTQ people) and questions about first amendment rights related to the banners on the poles downtown, employee blogging, and our policies regarding the Bryan Center. The meeting is at 7 pm in the Bryan Center; please come!

LEGISLATION: We have an ORDINANCE with some small changes to the budget to discuss; and then 5 RESOLUTIONS that would, if passed:
  • Establish an Energy Task Force--This task force would have as its goals: reducing our usage, developing an energy conservation program; investigating opportunities for renewable energy generation and businesses related to energy, research funding opportunities (esp. TARP) and develop a plan for adequate base power.
  • Release Maintenance Bond--Birch III
  • Enter into a cooperative paving plan with Greene County
  • Authorize the village manager to complete paperwork for engineering at the CBE (the Antioch-McGregor lot)
  • Allow a a tap-in, outside village limits, of two water lines to the Kahoe property south of town (on Hyde Road), per the request of the current owner. This would not cost us anything, and the owner is concerned about the capacity of the current well on that property; they suggest that some wells in the area have ground water contamination. The village solicitor warns that there's no evidence of environmental contamination, so this would be against current policy and strongly recommends against our so doing.
After we hear annual reports from Cable Advisory, Village Mediation, and the Library Commission, JOHN CHAMBERS, village solicitor will then address questions regarding both new and old business. He proposes for our consideration:
  • OLD BUSINESS: An analysis of Bryan Center guidelines with regard to religious services and non-profit status: can we honor the spirit of the original Bryan family deed, which requested that no worship services be performed on the premises, and still provide fair access to the space as a public forum? And, how do we make sure we treat all organizations equally?
  • New: Domestic partnership registry: Mr. Chambers has drafted an ordinance whereby YS would allow same-sex or opposite-sex couples to register as partners. This can be helpful for couples in ensuring that they can visit one another in hospital or attain partner benefits from their employers.
  • Updated language regarding 1) unlawful discrimination and 2) crimes of "intimidation" (i.e., "hate crimes"): these updated statutes would emphasize that all entities providing public accommodation--restaurants, apartments for rent, etc.--in YS cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, in addition to sex, race, color, religion, disability, national origin, etc., and making it unlawful to commit a crime against persons based on those characteristics, or perceived characteristics.
  • Banner policy: We've received a complaint about the "Superman Obama" banner on a village-owned lamp-post on short street. What should be our policy with regard to art that may have political content?
  • NEW BUSINESS: Village employee blogging policy: Someone purporting to be a village employee is reported to be anonymously posting on a social-network site "questionable and possibly obscene content." The solicitor has provided suggested language for a blogging policy. I am concerned that we protect free speech rights of employees--and make sure they understand their "whistleblower" rights.
Then there will be some brief discussion of liquor license renewals, the street-fair street closing request, and our Village Manager's request for an extension on the residency requirement, due to difficulties selling his home in Troy.

After standing reports from the Commission reps, we'll adjourn to EXECUTIVE SESSION where we'll be discussing:
  • The situation at the village property currently leased to Stutzman's Gardening
  • The Antioch Chiller agreement.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

No office hour / PC tomorrow night (Mon 4/13)

Dear People: I won't be in my 'office hour' at the Emporium tomorrow, but I'll stop by during "prime time," 9:30/10ish or so, on Wed. morning for a fabulous breakfast burrito, & as a makeup hour--I'd be happy to meet with you then.

Due to duties up at Wittenberg I will not be attending the Planning Commission meeting tonight (Mon 4/13), which will focus on finalizing the Comprehensive Plan (we hope) and exploring the Design Advisory Committee's recommendations for the green space along the bike path, amongst a few other items. Karen Wintrow will be substituting for me. She was on the committee that drafted the design recommendations, so this is a good meeting for her to attend on my behalf.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Budget, Pool Fees, Econ Dev, Energy, and the Skate Park

Dear People: We have a pretty heavy agenda to get through tonight on Village Council (7 pm, Bryan Center). The main item is our annual appropriations ordinance,, i.e., the budget for this year, 2009.

BUDGET: This is perhaps our most important discussion of the year. Please come! We are set to pass what I believe to be a solid, responsible budget tonight--one that should still slightly increase our reserves and that gives appropriate moneys to long term values of the Village. There are still many letters showing up in the YS News about the budget, some of which I would say have actual misinformation: for example, one letter this week alleges that we have not spent the money from the levy as promised to street improvements. Let me be clear: the levy, crafted by a previous Council and approved by a narrow vote of the citizenry, was not designed to go 100% to street improvements.

If you look at the table on the first page of the YS News this week, you'll see that the previous Council and ours has actually overspent the percentage set aside for streets, and underspent on other promised areas--sometimes for good reasons. (For example: since we haven't been sure what is the best way forward on economic development, it hasn't seemed prudent to simply spend money for the sake of spending it; the pool, also, did not need some of the suggested changes, but may be reaching the end of its useful life. We are planning to look at whether it might make sense to start setting money aside and working towards building a new pool.). However, we'll seek to bring that spending back into alignment as we move through Visioning and the final two years of the current levy.

Our investment in the green space fund, energy efficiency, and the modest budget request from the Human Rights Commission (which is also a separate discussion item--see below) to help with programming will likely be seriously questioned. It's a lot easier to defend those spending priorities if people who care about them show up. I'd love to see your smiling faces out there.

We'll also discuss three other items of legislation:
  • A new schedule of pool fees for residents and non-residents, already informally approved at an earlier meeting, including new, lower rates for seniors, and explicitly allowing for grandparents with live-in grandchildren over the summer to pay the resident rate for their family pass.
  • Budget transfers to cover the next month while this new budget is still pending.
  • A new, updated lease with the library (as recommended by the library commission and our village lawyer)
Special reports will be made:
  • Human Relations Commission will offer their annual report and explain why they are requesting a $9,000 budget line to help with programming that they believe will encourage inclusiveness and justice in our village.
  • Environmental Commission will make its annual report
Old business will include:
  • Economic Development task force/ next steps
  • Energy task force/next steps
  • Visioning/Planning consultant selection: next steps
  • The Skate Park--needs some repairs and there are suggestions that it needs some reconfiguring to avoid vandalism problems on nearby property. Please show up if you are concerned about youth recreation in our town!
New Business:
  • Appointments will be made to the Environmental Commission and the Cable Advisory Panel.
Then there'll be reports and agenda planning before we adjourn for the evening. Hope to see you there!