I’m going to camp this weekend, and I’m as fair-skinned as they come, but sunblock is the last thing I’ll need.
That’s because I’m going to the Sunlight Foundation’s Transparency Camp in Washington, D.C. Tcamp, as many call it (you can follow it on Twitter via the hashtag, #tcamp13 and its handle, @tcampDC). And while the goal of shining light where it’s darkest or most obscured is a main function of the foundation, the last thing campers want is for people – and government – to start slathering on the block.
A couple of summers ago, Sunlight helped bring the Transparency Action Plan Summit to Cleveland and many of the folks involved in that effort continue to be good government stewards. They got a special shout-out at the 2012 TCamp.
This year, I’ve been asked to participate in a variety of ways (okay, okay, they’ve been trying to get me there for a few years now in part because there simply aren’t that many elected officials whose day jobs are also in the world of civic engagement, good government and transparency – but we’re trying to change that!). In particular, Sunlight has doubled-down on looking into what’s happening on the local government scene – what’s being done, what’s not being done, what’s needed and how does it happen or get made to happen. I’m just a wee bit excited.
So what am I packing? Well, for sure I’ll be packing links that highlight how the Civic Commons has become a tool through which citizens as well as government entities can dialogue and deliberate on tough subjects and can not only increase awareness about those subjects, but also can out the variety of views people hold. For example, in today’s Plain Dealer, the very front page, very top of the fold article’s headline has the word, “transparency” in it. But beyond that? The article is in regard to proposals by County Prosecutor Tim McGinty who participated vigorously in the Commons’ three-day online debate with the other four primary candidates for that office last year – an online discourse that was used to help the Citizens League of Greater Cleveland make an endorsement in that race.
And then there’s the example of the skywalk – a topic that’s gained big attention at the Commons and is also featured today in the PD as we learn that Dan Gilbert is willing to pay nearly $80 million dollars to buy a building so he can put a skywalk in it. I’m assuming he knows he can’t count on Joe Baur and company to cheer him on. But the question isn’t only what will they do next to make their feelings known – what can they do next if they want to stop the skywalk? What would you do? My mind goes to the ill-will this is creating in the community. What price will Gilbert pay because of that – what price will we all pay because of that?
With social media being what it is, you can follow me and the other campers (check out the attendee list here) on Twitter and Facebook, but also look for my What I Did Last Summer post next week when I report back on smores and more.
Cross-posted from the Civic Commons.
From the Civic Commons blog:
The Civic Commons’ tagline is “Turning Talk Into Action.” But how do we even begin to talk about an issue as complex, life-threatening and, frankly, frightening as teen abuse of prescription drugs?
Your Teen Media believes that performance can open up roads to dialogue, making it then possible for parents and teens to explore the topic and progress toward healthy behavior. Courtesy of Your Teen and numerous sponsors, “LEGALLY ADDICTED: Prescription Drug Abuse,” a play from Recovery Resources, will be presented at the Westlake Performing Arts Center in Westlake on Monday, April 15 from 7:00pm – 8:30pm and again at the John Carroll Annex in University Heights on Monday, April 22 also from 7:00pm-8:30pm. (You can see the flyer with the exact address and other information here.) The expectation is that, through performance and a discussion that will be moderated by Kim Wheeler, WKYC News Anchor, we can start a conversation in a little less threatening a way than it otherwise might get started.
Please read the rest of the post, spread the word, share this information with everyone and anyone you think could benefit. It is easy to turn our heads but families and individuals are hurting because of this epidemic. Many thanks to the good people at Your Teen for taking on this topic and helping us learn how we can engage parents and kids and community.
I used to think that when someone called me, or in fact to be called an idealist, was some kind of a slight. But somehow, just now, 30 plus years into adulthood, I realize that in fact making the ideal real is all an idealist is about. And it’s a pretty powerful thing – to me, it means I never give up (okay, well, I rarely give up) – especially on really big picture things. Here’s a bit of what I’m talking about:
School district superintendents at your neighborhood coffee? Entire city councils, state elected officials and big city mayors tweeting themselves? What’s coming over people? Could it be that a critical mass of content finally has piled up (in no small part here on the Civic Commons: Dan’s blog post, his and Luke Frazier’s radio show on the subject of school board meetings, and this conversation started by a local resident) and folks are taking the hint that this is exactly what they should be doing, especially if they’re elected people in charge of taxpayer dollars?
The Internet and many other varieties of technological innovations multiply the ways in which we can engage with each other. My Civic Commons work often makes me think about how our platform makes saying “no” to engagement an impossibility, because it is so safe and easy here.
And yet the safe and easy isn’t even what the folks reaching out in any of those examples to which I’ve hyperlinked have in mind. If it was, you wouldn’t read about a superintendent who goes knocking on doors to get input and have conversations.
Read the rest here.
Has anyone ever called you an idealist, or have you ever called someone an idealist, especially in a pejorative way? Maybe you need to think again.
There’s a classic Saturday Night Live skit in which Steve Martin and then Bill Murray are staring at something. And we don’t know what they’re looking at, and they don’t know what they’re looking at. And they just keep asking, “What the hell is that thing?” How much of social media and journalism might be viewed that way right now when not so long ago no one would even be asking the question?
This question is not one that has any implicit value statement. Rather, it reflects the extent to which we no longer see “Journalism” with a capital “J” looking like it did ten years ago (I still remember when I first noticed reporter-written narratives in the New York Times magazine using the first-person and thinking, “But I thought you’re never supposed to put yourself, the writer, in the story you are telling!”) and, likewise, the extent to which we no longer see “social media” as solely navel-gazing tools of procrastination and distraction.
Check them out at the full post here.
When we’re talking public bodies, who gets to say, “enough’s enough” and then ban public dialogue at a public meeting?
This being the United States, intuition might tell you that no one does. If it’s a public body and a public meeting, then the public gets to talk. But, for starters, you’d be wrong here in Ohio where the law provides for a right to attend public meetings, but it does not provide for the public to have a right to participate or comment.
Punctuating the (perceived mis)use of a similar power, but in this case in New York, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy have sued the town of Sanford’s board for its September 2012 resolution that bans public comment on fracking:
The resolution said: “It is the determination of this Board that hereafter no further comment will be received during the public participation portion of this or any future meeting regarding natural gas development,” until the state’s environmental review was done.
Not so unreasonable?
Read the rest and start a conversation about it. Should electeds get to ban the public from what they can discuss?
Amazing awesomeness for any day of the week. You go girl.
Very very unfortunate for everyone that Debe Terhar did not take the advice of the Anti-Defamation League when it explicitly wrote:
As a public figure she should know better. We hope that Ms. Terhar will retract the comparison and apologize. She should make clear that Holocaust comparisons are inappropriate and a terrible distortion of the history of World War II.
Thanks to reporter Matt Bruning’s tweet from this morning’s Ohio Board of Education meeting, you can read precisely what Ms. Terhar had to say – and you will not see the words “Hitler” “Holocaust” “history” or “World War II” in it:
This is incredibly unfortunate – that in a state of 11 million people, and at least 3 million children in public school, the person who is the president of our public government body charged specifically with improving public education in Ohio (I read the ORC on their duties last night), Debe Terhar continues to refuse to see or perhaps just lacks the competency to see how the content of her Facebook posting is the problem, not her “mistake” for sharing it somewhere where the public might see it. Her characterizing the Facebook posting as “hasty” contradicts her prior statements that said she was only trying to get people to be thinking.
This is incredibly bad precedent to set. How on earth will Debe Terhar have the ability now to lead the board to a “healthy consensus” for kids’ best interests, let alone judge with any credibility what far lower level education system people do given that she’s suffered zero consequences?
Although I absolutely do not question the integrity of a number of individual members of the State Board of Education and in fact am grateful for their speaking out and stepping up, I have no faith in the entity’s credibility so long as Debe Terhar is its leader. This is not what Ohio needs or deserves if it wants to play the game of attracting people here. Education is almost always the first thing many people look at when considering where to live. Her inability to recognize the wrongness of referencing Hitler as she did, whether the public sees it or not but simply as a matter of what educated people should not do, chills me to the bone and I know it affects many, many people the exact same way.
Scary, scary stuff at the top of education system.
Due to travel and illness, I’m very sorry to be unable to attend this morning’s Ohio Board of Education meeting. I have emailed this statement to every board member, Governor Kasich, J.C. Benton (the Board’s communications person) and both the State House and Senate Education committee leaders. I hope it will be read into the record.
Statement of Jill Miller Zimon, resident of Pepper Pike, Ohio
Ohio Board of Education meeting
Monday, February 11, 2013
In the matter of Board President’s use of a photograph of Adolph Hitler
I know what it is to be an elected official who took an oath to faithfully perform duties in a non-partisan seat. As a city council member, I constantly contemplate how all my constituents, regardless of whether they voted for me or not, rely on and expect me to act with their best interests in mind. However, today, I speak as a parent, taxpayer and resident of Ohio.
The current president of the Ohio Board of Education, an elected official whose constituents include literally millions of children who have no vote, has irreparably compromised faith in her ability to perform her duties, as she has sworn an oath to do, on behalf of this nonpartisan, public, government body and all Ohioans. This lack of faith is a direct result of her intransigence in refusing to recognize and publicly express how wrong she was to offer up a photograph of Adolf Hitler, allegedly to provoke thought on gun policy. In the absence of this faith, the Board president must step down or be removed as leader of this Board.
As the Anti-Defamation League has stated specifically in regard to the Board president’s inflammatory posting,
“Whatever one’s position on the gun control issue, analogies – whether direct or implied — to Hitler and the Holocaust have absolutely no place in the debate over gun control,” said Martin H. Belsky, ADL Cleveland Board Chair, and Nina Sundell, ADL Regional Director. “While one can disagree with the Obama Administration’s position on gun control, comparisons of his proposals to Hitler’s trivialize the memory of the six million Jews and the millions of other who perished in the Holocaust and are deeply offensive to Holocaust survivors.
“Clearly Ms. Terhar needs an education about the history of the Holocaust,” added Mr. Belsky and Ms. Sundell. “As a public figure she should know better. We hope that Ms. Terhar will retract the comparison and apologize. She should make clear that Holocaust comparisons are inappropriate and a terrible distortion of the history of World War II.”
The social media aspect of this incident has served primarily as a costly distraction to the critical work of this Board. It has also exposed an unacceptable lack of sophistication on the part of the Board president in regard to how social media work and demands implementation of Board social media policies and training.
I thank you for your time and attention and respectfully urge you to act in the best interests of all Ohioans: Please either remove Debe Terhar as Ohio Board of Education president or, I say to Ms. Terhar directly, step down now as Board president and give this public body a chance to rebuild and earn the credibility your presence as Board president keeps in doubt.
No, really. I said it and the Sun News is reporting it. Tell me all your problems!
Still haven’t heard back from the governor but I did get a distinctively unprofessional email from State Board of Education member, C. Todd Jones, one of the governor’s appointees (apparently he has a predilection for writing unprofessional emails to constituents) and a mostly formulaic email from Debe Terhar saying that notice requirements related to a public meeting would keep her from saying anything before the February 11th board of ed meeting a week from today. I respectfully responded to her that she certainly doesn’t need to wait for a special or regular meeting to take action.
Feel free to comment there as well.
Thought for the weekend: Maybe we’re hearing people drop literary equivalents of bombs – shiny distracting explosive objects – in the midst of debates about complicated issues precisely because the issues are so complicated. And isn’t it easier to follow the shiny object and debate that? But if anything, we should note those explosions as red flags that tell us 1) just how critical it is to keep our focus on the issue and 2) just how critical it is that we hear each other, work toward and achieve solutions. Dropping shiny explosive objects into tough discussions is a tell about a lack of interest in getting to a solution. Know it, call it out and get back to the discussion that needs to be had. I just so happen to know a place where that’s exactly the mission.
As if we needed any more evidence as to why the Civic Commons wants its users to agree to be “civil” before engaging online, a Columbus Dispatch editorial declared last week, in regard to a social media incident involving the state Board of Education president, “This H-bomb is a dud: Invoking Hitler is unlikely to be a winning political strategy” and a highly regarded expert on online politicking likewise wrote of the same incident, “…dropping the H-bomb pretty much destroys the intellectual credibility of the dropper…”. That H-bomb, and many other words and utterances of name-calling, are the nuclear bomb equivalents of destroying any chance for meaningful, useful dialogue. And that is the opposite of what the Civic Commons seeks to promote.
Of course, linguistic laziness in unpacking and examining controversial topics isn’t committed solely by people in the poltiical arena. Last year, a food industry CEO apologized for comparing President Obama’s health care reform efforts to fascism because, as he admitted, the word “fascism” has “…so much baggage attached to it.” He went on to say that he thinks we need a new word to describe what he sees as the country, “…no longer hav[ing] free-enterprise capitalism in health care…[because t]he government is directing it.
Read the full post here.
By the way, did people realize that the originating incident came at the beginning of National No-Name Calling Week (my emphasis):
No Name-Calling Week is an annual week of educational activities aimed at ending name-calling of all kinds and providing schools with the tools and inspiration to launch an on-going dialogue about ways to eliminate bullying in their communities.
No Name-Calling Week was inspired by a young adult novel entitled “The Misfits” by popular author, James Howe. The book tells the story of four best friends trying to survive the seventh grade in the face of all too frequent taunts based on their weight, height, intelligence, and sexual orientation/gender expression. Motivated by the inequities they see around them, the “Gang of Five” (as they are known) creates a new political party during student council elections and run on a platform aimed at wiping out name-calling of all kinds. Though they lose the election, they win the support of the school’s principal for their cause and their idea for a “No Name-Calling Day” at school.
Motivated by this simple, yet powerful, idea, the No Name-Calling Week Coalition, created by GLSEN and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, and consisting of over 40 national partner organizations, organized an actual No Name-Calling Week in schools across the nation during the week of March 1-5, 2004.
What an interesting twist of fate is that?
I’ve sent this letter or a very near version of it to every member of the State Board of Education of Ohio, to Governor Kasich and to State Senator Lehner and State Rep. Stebelton who are Ex Officio members of the state board. I’ve had phone calls with both Mary Rose Oakar and with Ann Jacobs, both board members (Mary Rose is my state rep for the board and originally I only sent the letter to her). I’ve received a more or less pro forma email from Ms. Terhar stating that there’s not enough time to give notice for a special meeting so she says that she will speak on February 11. I wrote her back to assure her that she has a right to speak before that if she wanted to tell us she’s stepping aside as the board president and going for sensitivity training and social media bootcamp, rather than hide behind a rule. No meeting of the board is needed for her to announce a decision. Maybe for a vote on it, maybe, but certainly not if she wants to tell us all about it. In any case, my letter pretty much says it all. Also, if you are able, the next regular meeting is Monday, February 11 at 8:30am. It is a public meeting – please try to attend. They’re at the School for the Deaf in Columbus, 500 Morse Road.
Dear Board Member Oakar,
My name is Jill Miller Zimon and I’m a resident of Pepper Pike and therefore in your School Board district. My three children have attended the Orange schools, and two are still there (oldest is now in college). I’ve been dedicated to public education my entire life and find wholly unsatisfactory Ms. Terhar’s inability to comprehend that her actions this week have been inappropriate, offensive, inaccurate and unworthy of someone whom you and your colleagues have placed in the position as the nominal and actual leader of our state’s top public body related to the education of millions of Ohio children.
I realize that unless you were absent, you must have voted to affirm Ms. Terhar’s place as president of the Board (my understanding is she was re-elected to being president unanimously), but clearly the Board must possess better alternatives among the remaining 17 of you (I note that there is one at-large vacancy at this time). For if there is not a better option at this time than Ms. Terhar, we should all be questioning the fate of our state’s education system. I am asking you to do everything within your power to remove Ms. Terhar as president of the Board and install a member who can appreciate the wholly inappropriate actions and reactions of Ms. Terhar.
In addition, I would urge that the following steps also be taken:
1. Social media policy for the Board members be reviewed, modified and adopted as necessary.
2. Social media training for the Board members be designed, implemented and required for all Board members.
3. Sensitivity training be procured and implemented with all the Board members. Facing History and Ourselves is an outstanding, award-winning program that could be contacted, but groups like the Anti-Defamation League as well as the NAACP and I’m certain many others (we have the Diversity Center here in Cleveland) could also handle such an assignment. Read more
I’ve been thinking on this situation for three days now and I’ve had many, many thoughts. (Basic recap: Ohio’s State Board of Ed prez, Debe Terhar, shared on her Facebook page a photo of Hitler that is accompanied by this quote, “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.” This quote has been debunked. Since its posting a few days ago, she’s taken down her Facebook page but is refusing to step down from the board or from the position of president of the board.)
Here are a few thoughts:
1. I work on a daily basis to get public officials to engage with, you know, the public. I don’t want less engagement between those two sets of stakeholders. I’m also an elected official, so I live this as well.
2. Engagement, like democracy, can be dangerous for public officials who do not comprehend that online engagement in particular wants to be public and, like heat seeking the highest points, engagement seeks out public forums.
4. I’m in my ninth year of engaging online and I trust its self-correcting nature, for me and for others. It’s why I don’t demonize it. But it requires humility and acceptance as well as confidence to stand up for what you’ve placed online, however you placed it there (including your original words or *just* sharing a photo or quote from another source, which then is open to being scrutinized, for that’s part of what social networking is all about – scrutinizing the networks of people or organizations we view online in order to understand the otherwise one-dimensional representations of themselves that they’ve placed online with their name attached to or affiliated with it) or apologize for it and explain yourself. If you are not prepared to do any of that, then get training before you engage online. If you are not capable of or don’t agree in doing any of that, please do not enter public office. Public office in the 21st century demands people who accept the public part and the public part, in the 21st century, includes the online public.
Now, here’s a little free advice Read more
By Jill Miller Zimon at 12:29 pm January 24th, 2013 in Politics | Comments Off
From the inbox:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
John O’Brien: 216.698.2099 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Nicole Dailey Jones: 216.263.4602, 216.338.0863 or email@example.com
MERGER STUDY KICK-OFF, COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION DESIRED
Cuyahoga County – The Shared Services/Merger Study for Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike, and Woodmere, Ohio is being launched through a series of public meetings on Thursday, February 7, and Friday, February 8, 2013.
These meetings will provide the community with an opportunity to learn about the study process and to join the conversation around both merger and shared services for these communities. Each meeting will include an overview of the project, information about some of the key characteristics of the four communities, an interactive live survey and a roundtable discussion of challenges and opportunities. The meetings will be moderated by the project consultant, the Center for Governmental Research of Rochester, New York.
Each of the meetings will follow the same format so attendance is only necessary at one of the four options listed below:
Public Meeting Information
Thursday, February 7th
- 1:30 pm – Woodmere Village Hall at 27899 Chagrin Boulevard
- 4:00 pm – Orange Village Hall at 4600 Lander Road
- 7:00 pm – Moreland Hills Village Hall at 4350 SOM. Center Road
Friday, February 8th
- 8:30 am – Pepper Pike City Hall at 28000 Shaker Boulevard
About the Center for Governmental Research:
CGR is a 98-year-old independent nonprofit strategic consulting and decision support organization with significant expertise conducting local government merger and shared service studies and developing implementation plans across New York and the Northeast. CGR is headquartered in Rochester, NY and was engaged by Cuyahoga County and the involved municipalities to serve as study consultant in December, 2012.
The latest NBC poll offers a nice recognition for today’s milestone reached by Roe:
According to the poll, 54 percent of adults say that abortion should be legal either always or most of the time, while a combined 44 percent said it should be illegal – either with or without exceptions.
That’s the first time since this poll question was first asked in 2003 that a majority maintained that abortion should be legal. Previously (with just one exception in 2008), majorities said abortion should be illegal.
In addition, a whopping 70 percent of Americans oppose the Roe v. Wade decision being overturned, including 57 percent who feel strongly about this.
There are many excellent pieces of writing reflecting on Roe to be found around the interwebz but here are a few I came across today:
Interactive: The Geography of Abortion Access (The Daily Beast)
Roe at 40: Judging a Mother’s Choice (NYT’s The MotherLode) but then be sure to read
Posts from young feminists (h/t to Sam Meier):
Pinterest has not category for political subdivisions or federal agencies, but that’s not stopping government entities from joining the newest social media darling, and a tool used by a very desirable segment of the electorate – women. From my post:
The Obama White House is no stranger to the tools of civic engagement. Its social media hub page, titled “Engage and Connect,” offers easy access to its Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Scribd, Flickr, Slideshare, LinkedIn, FourSquare and even GitHub accounts.
But the new kid on the block, Pinterest, is so new to the White House that it doesn’t yet have a space or icon there even though the White House started pinning a month ago. Reportedly, they started with this very visual tool because they see themselves as wanting to “make this the most open White House in history.” Let’s hope they remedy the absence of the “P” icon soon since, as you’ll see below, Pinterest appears to be 2013′s black for the public sector. There’s even hope that the Pinners That Be might be forced to include a “Politics” category, currently still absent from its pre-set list from which subscribers can choose.
Read the full post here.
Many political candidates don’t just have a fear of commitment. They have a fear of engagement. But with 2013 being a local government election year, voters should pull no punches in putting the question about committing to public engagement to the people who want their votes. Contrary to the immortal words of the ultimate Meatloaf song, we can’t just sleep on it. We want to know: what’s it gonna be, yes or no?
So often, we clamor to know how a candidate will vote on an issue he or she hasn’t yet faced. We provide hypothetical circumstances that we want them to imagine are real. Sure, plenty of politicians pick and choose issues about which they will shake their fist and blurt out a reliable yes or no (consider how few elected folks waffled on the Affordable Care Act; most knew what they wanted, the issue was whether they’d vote for what came before them). But mostly, we’ve come to accept as routine a refusal to comply with such a demand. It’s truly rare to see courage rear it’s head and and expose itself through the voice of a political wannabe as he or she, instead, silently calculates the local vote count that can be earned by resisting commitment.
Now, with the fear of engagement, there is hope. At least, I have hope.
Read about why I have hope here and add you thoughts in the accompanying conversation.