Thursday, April 13, 2017

"Heads I win. Tails, who's your Daddy now" | #becauserochester

"Heads I Win, Tails You Lose" 
A device whereby, if things turn out one way, your system accounts for them - and if they turn out another way, your system accounts for them. 
- Kenneth Burke, Attitudes Toward History

You are a Shit Spotter. It's satisfying work. … We have observed that most of the trouble in the world has been caused by ten to twenty percent of folks who can't mind their own business, because they have no business of their own to mind, any more than a smallpox virus. Now your virus is an obligate cellular parasite and my contention is that evil is quite literally a virus parasite occupying a certain brain area which we may term the RIGHT center. The mark of a basic shit is that he has to be right. And right here we must make a diagnostic distinction between the hard-core virus-occupied shit and a plain, ordinary, mean no-good son of a bitch. Some of these sons of bitches don't cause any trouble at all, just want to be left alone. 
- William S. Burroughs, The Place of Dead Roads

It appears the City will take up it's botched social media policy without fixing what botched it or holding any hearings regarding it. But it will have its way. Check the agenda packet [pp. 300 -338] for Monday's [04.17.2017] council meeting.

The City attorney attaches a court ruling [pp. 337 - 338] that addresses public employees (which was not a point of contention) but nothing that address appointees to boards and commissions - which was a point of contention. Of course, the City has every right and the responsibility to oversee the use of its own social media. The City can also hold its public employees accountable for their personal social media conduct - though with protections not afforded to persons in private employment. The cited case is mute with regard to appointees to boards and commissions who, as unpaid volunteers, can hardly be regarded as public employee.

But wait for the coin toss:

"There are numerous references within these Organizational Polices to the term 'employees.' To the extent possible and in light of the fact that members of City boards, commissions, and committees are unpaid volunteers rather than employees in the strict definition of that term, the term “employees” does include unpaid volunteer members of City boards, commissions, and committees."

How does that sentence even make sense? Since members are "unpaid volunteers rather than employees" we will include them as "employees".

So: "unpaid volunteer members of City boards, commissions, and committees" are "employees".

The city then returns to its peculiar use of the category "City representative". Apparently not realizing that this bit of doublespeak is no longer necessary. It was used in the prior draft to introduce a new category the City would employ to encompass the unpaid volunteers whose personal speech it so desperately wants to restrain. This device is no longer required since the City has now simply asserted that "unpaid volunteers" are "employees" of the City.

Anyway here it is:
This policy applies to any existing or proposed social media websites sponsored, established, registered or authorized by the City. This policy also covers the private use of the City’s social media accounts by all City Representatives. For purposes of this policy, the term “City Representatives” includes all City employees, agents (i.e. independent contractors), Council members, and appointed board or commission members and all volunteers

So: since appointed board and commission members are "unpaid volunteers" and thus "employees" of the City. Therefore, the City can treat them as it can "employees" and subject them to constraints and sanctions upon their use of personal social media.

I believe this is known as "heads I win, tails who's your daddy now.'"

Also it doesn't pass unnoticed that striking of "the City's" from social media now extends the scope to - one presumes - any and all social media.

'Some people are shits, darling.' - William S. Burroughs


How about this as a policy for appointed members to City boards, etc.:

First of all, the City thanks you for your service and the important contribution you make to the civic life of our community. Regarding the City's social media policy, please note the following: 
When you make use of the City's social media, you are subject to the City's social media guidelines. 
Additionally, the city suggests that during your tenure of voluntary service to the City and its residents, if you have identified yourself as a member of a City board, etc. on your personal social media sites, it is good practice to also include this statement: “These are my own opinions and do not represent those of the City.” We encourage you to follow this practice. 
Thank you again for your service.

Oh yeah, one more thing.

Dear Mr/Mrs./Ms. Mayor:

If ever I apply for appointment to a City board, commission, or committee: "These are my own opinions and do not represent those of the City." Obviously.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Armory Redux

KROC- AM News: So, the idea of the arts and cultural collaborative is not dead and buried?
Mayor Brede: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. 
                                                                               - interview, 9/15/16 

"Mayor Opposed to Selling Armory Building," interview KROC-AM News, 09/15/2016

Memo to Mayor and City Council from Steven Kvenvold, City Administrator regarding Armory Reuse Matters, 09/13/2016
The Armory building has served as a community resource for a number of decades and I would prefer that it continues to serve as a community resource for the future. A community is enhanced by a vibrant arts scene and an affordable gathering and work space is needed for individuals to explore and implement their artistic endeavors. In many cities, an artistic quarter often thrives in a low rent area of the city, frequently resulting in making such an area more attractive to investors, ultimately increasing rents which drives the artists out of the area. With a community owned facility, an "artistic quarter" could exist for many years without a loss of space due to the increasing costs of such a space. The proposal from the Arts and Cultural Initiative would also serve the needs of Rochester's diverse cultural groups by providing a space for the groups to meet and interact.

 "The Armory arts and culture re-use proposal: How much? Who agrees? Now what?," A Life and the Times, 09/05/2016

          Who agrees?
Over 100 organizations, groups, and individuals
The proposal submission includes commitments from 103 arts and cultural organizations, groups, and individuals to monthly rental of ACI Armory facilities; periodic use of the ACI Armory facilities; and, other support for the ACI Armory facilities project. The arts and culture organizations included among others: the Rochester Art Center, Rochester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale, Rochester Choral Arts Ensemble, Rochester Civic Music, Alliance of Chicanos, Hispanics and Latin Americans, and the Cambodian Association of Rochester Minnesota.  Dozens of letters of support were provided for review with the proposal submission.
Rochester Art Center 
In a letter included in the March 2016 ACI proposal submission, the Rochester Art Center (RAC) shared its own intentions to “guide and encourage thoughtful re-alignment between arts and cultural organizations in Rochester” and shared its believe that the ACI proposal was “a strong move to solidify an artists-led space.” RAC committed in its letter to provide “professional advice and support” to ACI as needed; rent space as for artists working with RAC; serve as “a foundational organization along with other arts organizations, museums and community groups“; and, provide “concrete professional art administrative support via governance, finance, grants, collaborative projects, etc…” 
Greater Rochester Arts and Cultural Trust
Subsequent to the ACI proposal submission, and based on an update it received regarding that proposal, the Board of the Greater Rochester Arts and Cultural Trust at its quarterly meeting in April 2016 passed a resolution on “The Re-use of the Rochester Armory Building”. Citing the “a longstanding desire within the arts and cultural community of a multi-use facility” and the benefits to the general public “from the potential for new educational, retail, and social artistic-related offerings,” the Trust recommended that the city of Rochester strongly consider “the arts, culture, and humanities re-use” of the Armory. 
Chateau Theatre Re-use Study 
Last month, August 2016, the Chateau Theatre Re-use Study commissioned from Webb Management Services, Inc by the Chateau Re-use Task Force included in its report references to the ACI Armory re-use proposal.  The study found “multiple arts groups, artists, and ethnic cultural communities, all struggling for funds and space (but mostly space).” The study noted that space was not only needed as places to “to work and produce,” but also “crucial” to receive grant dollars.
The study also observed the city has “a very large cultural community that has significant need for affordable gathering space.” For both groups the study noted that rising property values resulting from DMC have resulted in “rents that many can no longer afford.”  The study found “many art and cultural community representatives feel that, if the ACI’s proposal is unsuccessful, Rochester’s independent arts and culture community will be completely displaced”
Based on these and other findings, the study included this recommendation:
“In addition to making it the heart of the ‘Heart of the City’, make the Chateau the anchor facility of an arts and culture district or trail, one that includes the Armory as a home for Rochester’s small arts and cultural groups and independent artists. There is an acute need for small organization support in Rochester. The Chateau will be able to meet the needs of some of the community’s arts groups, but not all of them. We would recommend that the City give RACC’s Armory proposal significant thought, particularly within context of developing an arts and cultural district in downtown Rochester and the DMC.”

Observation 1:

Do not sell the Armory.

Observation 2:

Accept the Arts and Culture Initiative proposal for Re-use of the Armory with Addendum.

Observation 3:

Before 3:30pm this Wednesday (01/18/2017), let the people who will make this decision know that: (1) the Armory should not be sold; and, (2) the Arts and Culture Initiative proposal for Re-use of the Armory with Addendum should be accepted. Those people would be:

Randy Staver, City Council President Ed Hruska, City Council Member, 1st Ward Michael Wojcik, City Council Member, 2nd Ward Nick Campion, City Council Member, 3rd Ward Mark Bilderback, City Council Member, 4th Ward Mark Hickey, City Council Member, 5th Ward Annalissa Johnson, City Council Member, 6th Ward
Observation 4:

It's not complicated.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Rochester Politics | Chicago Style w/a Slice of Turkey

Campaign mailer prepared and paid for by the National Association of REALTORS Fund*

At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. - Justice John Paul Stevens (dissenting), Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

So, first off, this is not about the incumbent city council president - not mostly anyway. It's not like he asked the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) to spend $16,184 on behalf of his re-election campaign. But, they did and the campaign lit has started to drop in some local mail boxes.

The view from Chicago

From 350 miles away the NAR offers us three reasons to re-elect the incumbent city council president.

(1) "Implementing a new public transportation system and completing the Transit Operations Center $4 million dollars under budget." (emphasis in the original)

First, can we reach a “civil consensus” that very few of us know what the heck the NAR is talking about here? If we have a “new public transportation system," then the city government transparency problem is far more serious than we thought.

Secondly, I’m supposing the other achievement refers to the Public Works and Transit Center. According to reports in the Post Bulletin the center was a project that was approved in Spring 2009 and opened in Fall 2011 and completed sometime in 2012. What's interesting about those dates is that the incumbent city council president first joined the council in 2011 and became its president in May 2013. So, I am not sure to what part of the project he is being credited with completing or how it is he saved the city "$4 million dollars." Perhaps someone might risk checking with the NAR. I say risk because these days contacting business HQ's is regarded as bullying in some quarters and earns you a sternly worded letter threatening lawsuits.

(2) "Supporting entrepreneurs who want to bring new housing, restaurants and business to Rochester." (emphasis in the original)

It was nice to see that what has shown up so far is not an attack piece on the candidate's opponent. So, points for civility. Indeed, since this statement includes a healthy bit of the challenger's resume, one might even read it as a tacit - albeit unlikely - endorsement of Mr. Allen.

A less generous reading might recall the incumbent's leadership on food trucks and his recent lone dissenting vote on bringing Uber and such to town. Or a long overdue comprehensive plan that's now a year longer and overdue under his watch. Or...well, like I said, it's not about the incumbent - mostly. Anyway, and finally:

(3) Improving our infrastructure, walking paths, public spaces, and developing our business district. (emphasis in the original)

This reads to me like a bit of filler. Certainly not a strong close for a campaign appeal, but then not a very strong campaign message anyway.

Frankly, mailers like this are pretty much yard signs that show up in your mailbox. Maybe you notice the bold-face type, maybe you don't. The hope is you catch the name as you are tossing the glossy card stock into the trash. Of course, I have offered to extend the messaging by posting the photo above. That helps too.

Oh, that slice of Turkey

A local resident** has tracked down the two stock images used in the layout. It seems those three young urban professionals pictured waiting to use the "new public transportation system" are doing so somewhere in Turkey. Also, those notably not very diverse folks pictured enjoying the improved walking paths and public spaces are doing so from an undisclosed location, presumably not Turkey.

Of course you should,


*     image by Jessica Schmidt.
**   research by Abe Sauer. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Mayo Clinic wants me dead

"...who would these fardels bear...?" - Wm Shakespeare

Mayo Clinic wants me dead.

As you might imagine that is quite the thing to have Mayo Clinic want of you. But there it is. And, yes I have proof. Documentation on our kitchen table that leaves no room for doubt. I would not make so bold a claim were it not true. Nor would I do so had I not the proof. Mayo Clinic wants me dead and therein too lies a great regret of things unsaid. The undone of my undoing. Who bears this fardel? I, of course, for it is my death they want.

Why does Mayo Clinic want me dead? Because I am not dead yet. Truly they do not mind so much I am alive, but their keen interest comes from me not yet being dead. Even more so that I have not yet been dead for all my life - so far and this far. It makes them curious. What’s up with that? They wonder. What could he be thinking after a lifetime of not yet being dead? Or even capable of thinking?

And so it begins. Doing my bit for Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer's Disease research starting with a series of humiliations of cruel design. Playing out on an I Pad, images from a deck of cards appear. If you have not seen that card before, hit this key. If it is a card you have seen before, hit that key. Again. Again. Faster this time and more cards. Faster and more cards. The I Pad beeps when I hit the wrong key. It knows what I have seen even if I don’t. “It’s OK,” she says, “ it’s supposed to be hard.” But, she should have asked if I had ceased to care. Because: I had ceased to care. I got your beep right here, I’m thinking. Besides I get grumpy when I am hungry and you know Mayo Clinic, they never want to see you fed.

As you might expect, next they draw blood. Lots of it. Drained into little vials. More vials than I had ever seen - even when dire surgery loomed I had not seen so may little vials. The final one she kneels to fill. Really? "This one goes to Atlanta," she offers by way of explanation sensing that a kneeling phlebotomist might be unnerving. "They need it drawn below the plane of the needle." Why? "Something about the blood cells." she shrugs. I can only conclude she is probably right. I'm sure she knows much more. I'm sure it's complicated. It is going to Atlanta.

Then the snack. An assortment of juices or water or coffee. Fruit and breakfast bars. I feast. I am in a better mood. It won't last. Down the hall there are more tests.

No I Pad here. Pieces of paper. Dog-eared and stained little flip books of images. Bits of cardboard cut-outs - circles and triangles. Puzzle pieces. All very low tech. All will be deployed in the next thirty minutes to gauge what I can gauge of words and shapes and small, simple pictures of this and that. Then this:

I had been identifying objects. Common objects. Everyday objects. Well, everyday for me. When I asked how the study accounted for cultural bias - well, let's just say the kneeling phlebotomist was more helpful. I'd think being shown a picture of something and being asked what's missing assumes a lot about what you've been seeing all those not dead yet years you've accumulated. But hey, it's not my rodeo. Anyway among the series of everyday objects these two turn up. A protractor and a compass or is it a compass and a protractor. I tell the guy - it's a guy now - I know the two words associated with these two things but you know what: All my life. All those not dead yet years, honestly, I could never keep the names straight. Dunno why. One of those things. Never could. Can't today. Even with the juice and the breakfast bar I got nothin'. "I can't write that down," he says. "Guess." How about this one's either a protractor or a compass and the other is what the first one isn't? "Guess." Well,  it seems to me you want to know what I know and I'm telling you what I know. That's a protractor or a compass and that's a compass or a protractor. "How about you just guess."

I believe in science. I have some appreciation for the scientific method, experimental protocols and such. But there in that room, on that day, science was letting us down. At Mayo Clinic. Millions in grant money. Blood heading to Atlanta. The fella says, "Guess." So, I do. I guess. Did I get it right? Can't recall. See. Told you.

Is this what I regret? Guessing. No. Not my data. Besides I am no scientist. I am a rhetorician. I have a rhetorician's regrets. Such regrets are rarely about data per se. Well, at any rate, it depends. Besides, at this point I have yet to learn that Mayo Clinic wants me dead. That comes next when I am ushered in to see: the doctor.

I figure right quick that this is a doctor who sees subjects not patients. He has been practicing "interacting" but it's clearly new to him. Nice enough guy, just not in his element. First thing he asks me is "how's your blood pressure?" I don't know you all took it this morning when I got here. How was it? "No, I want to know how you think your blood pressure is." Well, the best I can do is say you folks have me taking pills for it, so there's that. Not much otherwise. So....awkwardly.... We move on. He explains how he's now going to be doing things to me. Bit of an examination. I stand and he puts his hands on my shoulders and moves me just a little to the left, then back a step or two. Not sure why. Next it is mostly tapping me here and there with metal objects. Reflexes. Muscle tone. No turning my head and coughing. No gloves. So, not bad and he's done.

Back down we sit. He pauses. Looks at me. Rolls his chair back a bit. Smiles and says, "Well, you know, we're with you to all the way now." Now, I pause. Not sure yet what he means. With me all the way? Oh. Ooooohhh. You mean, to the end? "Yes," he says relieved that I got it. Ok. " So. You're going to die, right?" Yeah. "Well, can we do an autopsy?" he asks. Cupping his hands, he offers them up in a gesture as if cradling something "Because we're going to want to look at your brain." He's now miming holding my brain in his hands. Showing it to me. Then he offers me instead some forms and a brochure.

You want me to tell you now? "No, no. You think it over. Talk it over. Your wife will need to sign this. I mean she really needs to agree to do this because, well, you know...." Right. I won't be around. "Yes, right." How soon do you need to know? "Well, you're one of our younger, there's time. Yesterday I was talking with a man 102 years old." Right, so you need to know from him much sooner probably. "Yeah" he nods pleased that I seemed to have connected the right dots.

So, Mayo Clinic wants me dead. And, if my wife wouldn't mind, enrolled in their Alzheimer's Disease Research Autopsy Program. And herein lies my great regret. A regret not born of some somber thanatopsis contemplating wrapping the drapery of my couch about me or raging against the dying of the light. No, it is a rhetorician's sort of regret.

It might help to read this:
The dictum of the sophists is strange and beautiful: Say the right thing at the right time. What is so odd is that it at once proffers an absolute (the right thing) and a locality (the right time). While rhetoric is often accused of being without standards: the opposite is true. It has as many standards as there are circumstances. For the rhetor it is not that there is no propriety, it's that propriety can never be known for sure beforehand. Propriety emerges - here, there, and everywhere, all the time. 
Whenever a rhetor is asked about what's right, his response is usually the same: it depends. Circumstance is local and so is propriety. And, to make things even stranger there is no propriety to a circumstance per se as the circumstance itself is a network of circumstance and perspectives. And each perspective is a network of trajectories of history, memory, desire, need. Nothing is more mysterious and difficult than doing the right thing at the right time.*
A rhetorician's regret comes with not saying the right thing at the right time. Not seeing the opportunity. The greater the opportunity missed, the greater the regret.

I get home. I toss the brochure and "Permission for Postmortem Examination" form on the kitchen table. And too late it comes to me.

"Well, can we do an autopsy?"

Over my dead body. Why didn't I say: Over my dead body.

Some fardel that.


* Daniel Coffeen, Reading the Way of Things: Towards a New Technology of Making Sense