where are all the people?

There are several big things floating around, a lot of great achievements and some things to watch out for on the horizon, occluded by various rumors. I am going to try to keep this positive but not in the warm-fuzzy-feelings kind of way, but rather in the look-at-what-we-can-accomplish-together kind of way.

First off, I have to give a big huge shout out to the Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice (CUCPJ); they had a very significant victory over Champaign County’s plans to dump a ton of tax money into new jails. Instead, they have successfully argued for alternative approaches like new re-entry programs and services to keep folks out of jail in the first place. In my own personal experience, I have observed have fundamentally critical these two approaches are, and how severely they are lacking in our “modern” view of criminal justice. The folks at CUCPJ had an amazing uphill fight, but they carried the day. Perhaps what stands out to me is that CUCPJ operated within the confines of a hairy bureaucratic machine, which is no easy task in and of itself, but they did so with aplomb and perseverance.

On the topic of community citizens banding together for the good of the community, a reader forwarded the following story to me as an inspiration for what determined people can do:

http://youpower.democracyforamerica.com/petitions/northbrook-say-no-to-wal-mart

What these two stories tell me is that when people unite together for a shared central belief, they can be powerful. Granted, in both cases you have passionate visionaries who do not waver at the sight at lawyers and persist through obstinate challenges.

With that in mind, Read the rest of this entry »

"tentative contract" – woot!

Just received an update from Stephanie Stuart:

The Board of Education is pleased with the progress of tonight’s bargaining session. At this time, the Board understands that the Champaign Federation of Teachers will be taking information from tonight’s meeting to its membership. The District is committed to bringing resolution to these negotiations in a way that is fair to all parties and does not disrupt the educational program for our students.

 

Be watching for an article from Meg Dickinson (who is at the Mellon Center, probably interviewing people at this late hour *grin*). Here is her “author” link on NG:

http://www.news-gazette.com/author/meg-dickinson

Oh, just saw her update:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2013-10-08/champaign-school-district-teachers-union-have-tentative-contract.html

They have a tentative contract! Excellent! Wow, that was a long, hard-fought battle. I hope both sides have laid ground to build a better relationship upon.

 

 

Also, the CFT will probably put something on their FB page, but not sure when:

https://www.facebook.com/CFTlocal1925

Sounds like the membership has not voted (obviously), so everyone is keeping pretty tight lips until the teachers can mull it over. More to follow later, surely.

School "town hall" meeting, September 30th, 6pm, Mellon Center

The school board and the PTA Council are co-sponsoring what I believe is the very first Unit 4 Town Hall meeting. It will be September 30, 6:00 pm at the Mellon Center. During the September 9th regular board meeting, Dr. Wiegand described this as an opportunity for the community to weigh in on the issue of where to put a new high school and a future referendum (ala, Dejong-Richter). If I heard correctly, I think she specifically said that the board members will be in the audience, as opposed to sitting “up front”.

 

If you have further concerns about how the plans for Central and/or a new high school location are panning out or even about the expected referendum, this would be an excellent opportunity for you to voice your thoughts in a public setting and engage with others in dialog and deliberation (hopefully). Unit 4 has procured the services of a moderator, and the event will be “live streamed” (Channel 5?) as well as taking email questions (Stephanie Stuart?).

 

Be looking for ads around town (radio spots, maybe?). Meg Dickinson tweeted last night that she intends to write an article about this, so keep your eyes open for that as well.

 

I believe the PTA Council is hoping to sponsor future Unit 4 town hall meetings, perhaps in other locations/venues and focusing on different topics. Your feedback after the September 30th town hall meeting would be greatly appreciated.

"Democracy in action"

Last week, Meg Dickinson got the public wondering about a mysterious person who urged some board members to support one of their own as president. I don’t know how many hits the NG article got, but my own post had over 300 hits, which is on the high end for me. I also had a number of folks contact me privately asking questions and opining thoughts.

This morning, Jim Dey has an editorial (not online as of this writing). I do not always agree with Mr. Dey, but he does make a very convincing point; why all the secrecy? I have quoted one of his statements as the topic for this blog because I think, in general, most of us do not even know what democracy looks like. We have too few role models to follow that can show us what being participatory is all about. Having said that, pointing fingers is not helpful at all, either. All the people mentioned in the editorial have stories to tell. Perhaps they don’t want to tell the NG – and for that I do not fault them. It is frustrating when you want to tell a story, only to have it rehashed at the whim of someone else. Also, I have heard that the “requests for comment” was a bit of s stretch, says those who are “reticent.”

So here is my Monday morning challenge; show me more democracy in action. What does it look like when taxpayers and voters are involved, informed, educated and given a space to deliberate? What does it look like when elected officials are not cagey with knowledge? What does it look like when the newspaper editor talks to all the people involved? What does it look like when a thousand people are letting board members know what they think?

Show me what democracy is.

 

UPDATE: Editorial now online (no comments, yet?!?)

http://www.news-gazette.com/opinion/editorials/2013-06-03/era-openness-ends-hurry.html

News-Gazette article about the Board

re: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2013-05-31/board-officers-vote-may-have-had-outside-influence.html

Also, the results of the FOIA: http://www.news-gazette.com/sites/all/files/pdf/2013/05/30/FOIA_request.pdf

Text searchable version (has errors due to conversion): https://thecitizen4blog.wordpress.com/misc/may-31st-ng-foia-request-pdf-converted-to-text/

This is one of the rumors I hinted at earlier. I have a number of issues with this, but I fear I have not fully gelled my thoughts coherently, yet. So, in a sense, right now I am merely hopping on the news bandwagon since a number of readers already alerted me to the article – figure I might as well at least say something about it.

From my own personal conversations with those involved, I know there is more going on than what is being said publicly. What I struggle with is “what is really important here?” I mean, I can see folks getting all worked up about “he said she said” kinda thing. But what do we want to fall out from this? Of course, everyone is going to always be wondering who this mystery 3rd party is, what their motives are, etc etc. Does it really matter? Does it really have to be a big bad secret? What about all this talk of transparency? Or is transparency only to be applied when conveinent?

I don’t know all the answers. I am still chewing on this myself.

Read the emails. Form your own opinion.

PS – I am going to convert the FOIA pdf to searchable text. (now done)

May 13th board meeting, taxes

I have uploaded the video of the May 13th board meeting:

http://www.cb-pta.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/board_meetings/2013-05-13-regular-board-meeting.mp4

And Meg Dickinson has her article from Monday night:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2013-05-13/board-asks-administration-plan-finding-site-new-central.html

There are several other sources around I have stumbled upon that I cannot link;

  • Saturday NG Meg Dickinson article (print-only) about the taxes from a possible referendum (similar to the Monday night wrap-up but with much more detail)
  • Today’s WDWS talk with Stephanie Stuart (for some reason, I can’t find any recent podcasts between Moline and Stuart, even from last month)
  • Fox News aired a clip about taxes (how does one look for local news on Fox’s website?)

Whirlwinds, bees and cornucopias

There is a lot going on in Unit 4 and I can only scratch the surface. For starters, Meg Dickinson at the News-Gazette has been doing an awesome job covering most of the highlights – the following is the NG aggregation of Meg’s articles:

http://www.news-gazette.com/author/meg-dickinson

You will see that we not only have 3 brand new board members, but a fascinating change in board officers as well; Bonnett is president, Brown is the VP, Saveley is the Secretary and Stuckey is the Parliamentarian. Next Monday’s regular board meeting (May 13th) will be interesting to say the least. 🙂

Among other interesting things to read, Meg also has a nice Sunday article about the “Newcomer Academy” (not to be confused with the Novak Academy). This is a basically an intermediate transitioning service to help those who are struggling with English. Apparently, we have a lot of foreign nationals (especially from DR Congo and Mexico) and this is the solution Unit 4 has arrived at to meet those needs head on.

Stephanie Stuart of Unit 4 has also been hard at work populating their facebook page with lots of little goodies:

https://www.facebook.com/unit4schools?fref=ts?sk=h_chr

In addition to highlighting several awesome events and achievements, she also canvasses several opportunities like the annual Garden Hill’s “Resource Day” and the PTA Council’s push for the Summer Reading program, both excellent outlets that reach out to help those in need.

There is also the Unit 4 newsletter which is surprisingly not now on the Unit 4 website. Dr. Wiegand covers the NAACP ACT-SO Awards, a special recognition for achievements of African-Americans excelling in our schools. Several students are heading to Florida with hopes to squash the competition in mid July.

In other news, taxes are going up while at the same time many employees are having to fork over more money for benefits and pensions. Don’t get me wrong, it is not my goal to throw a pity party for myself. Rather, we as a whole community need to be aware that there are those who are already hurting, and it looks like more people will be slipping below the various poverty lines. We have a ton of kids who are homeless and/or living in less-than-ideal situations. Hence stories about various initiatives to provide assistance to these groups are not only “nice” and “feel good”, but in my opinion they are essential, fundamental and critical for the health of us all. In fact, we need to do more. Get involved.

Why the weird thread subject? I just have lots of thoughts swirling around my head and hard to bring them into focus; not updating the blog that much means I have been missing a lot. 🙂