Won’t you be my neighbor?

Katrina doesn’t worry about money. She budgets and stays within her means, but decisions about going to a movie, eating at a nice restaurant, where to shop for an office party, and which brand of cereal to buy are all based on her preferences rather than her bank balance. When Katrina’s parents pass away, she will inherit a sizeable amount of money and property from assets earned by her father during his successful legal career and from multiple generations of his relatives who owned coal mills in western Pennsylvania. In addition to this monetary inheritance, Katrina will inherit the valuable social elite status of her mother’s upper class family who have passed along huge fortunes and important community connections through seven generations. Katrina’s family knows all the right people and throughout her life she has benefitted from all the right moves.[1]

Diane’s phone rings as much as 20 times a day and sometimes the only peace she gets from collection agencies comes when she stashes her phone in the dishwasher for an hour. Only a few months ago Diane was a dream customer for lenders. A steady income allowed Diane to manage two mortgages, a car loan, and a few credit cards. To maintain her two-bedroom ranch house, keep up maintenance on her Kia, and treat herself to the handbags and knickknacks that brought her joy, Diane was willing to take on a second job. She knows that luxury items require extra commitment and she worked hard. Overtime? No problem. Holiday time? Sure. Then, last year, back-to-back medical emergencies depleted Diane’s emergency savings and her absence from work cost her the jobs she depended on to make ends meet. Now her home is in foreclosure, her credit profile is in ruins, her car was repossessed, and the phone just keeps ringing.[2]

Katrina and Diane are not from Charlestown, but they could be. If they were…

Where would they live?

      How would people talk about them?

            Who would be the role model for our children?

                  Who would be the product of poor life choices?

As Charlestown faces the growth that is projected to come to our area with new development we must pay careful attention to what happens to the Dianes of our community. Why? Because it is the morally right thing to do.

Our community health depends upon the social bonds we maintain.

You see, there is a big difference between wealth and income.

Katrina has both. She benefits from the economic capital of her family fortune, the social capital that makes her career path a little easier, and the intellectual and cultural capital of a quality education and access to good health-care.

Diane’s situation is more tenuous. She had income, but without wealth reserves, one serious life event has set her back in ways from which she might not recover without assistance.

People have a tendency to believe that if others just work hard enough they will be fine. This meritocracy mindset fails to account for economic disadvantage, social inequities, and challenges experienced by people with disabilities or those who are pushed to the margins as they age.[3]

Who hasn’t fallen down and needed a hand up?

So what can we do to help make sure that our Dianes don’t get pushed aside?

love-your-neighborFirst, we can recognize the constraints of working class citizens and stop shaming and blaming them for every hardship they face. Instead of turning to examples of people who represent the worst case scenario, we can see that each person’s story is different and we can begin to listen when people share with us.

After we stop judging, we can develop sympathy for working-class issues. When we see people being pushed around or treated unfairly we have to stop looking the other way and we have to turn toward their distress. But that requires giving up control. We can’t come into challenged neighborhoods with our super hero suits on and tell them how they need to get their acts together. We have to listen. We have to ask questions such as,

“What resources do you need to recover?”

Finally, we have to act. We need to honor one another and support the cause of those in need. Maybe it means a financial contribution, or maybe it means helping clean up garbage in the neighborhood or offering to babysit, or attending a meeting or rally.

It’s easy to think about the personal obstacles we might have overcome and hold ourselves up as model citizens because…well…I found a way out so you can too! The greater challenge is to own up to the ways that society keeps some people on the fringes, then to turn and walk out to them so they’re not out there all alone.

Equity-vs-Equality-blog

Equality vs. Equity

[1] Karen Pittelman and Resource Generation, “How To Stop Hiding Your Privilege and Use It For Social Change,” in Readings for Diversity and Social Justice 3rd edition, New York: Routledge, 2013, 205-207.
[2] Gretchen Morgenson, “The Debt Trap,” in Readings for Diversity and Social Justice 3rd edition, New York: Routledge, 2013, 207-211.
[3] Maurianne Adams, “Coming to Classism Awareness During the 2007-2012 Economic Recession,” in Readings for Diversity and Social Justice 3rd edition, New York: Routledge, 2013, 141-149.

The Golden Rule

Charlestown has a problem. No, I’m not talking about brown water or economic development (this time). Charlestown has a political problem.

When a woman must consider carefully who she sits beside at council meetings because her friendship with a Democrat marks her as an “enemy” to the Republicans she has always supported…

…when a concerned Democrat pulls a man aside after a meeting to warn him that laughing along with a Republican will make him look like “a Bob Hall supporter”…

…when citizens are afraid to attend council meetings or voice their concerns over new resolutions because they don’t want to face retribution…

…when we can no longer see past someone’s political affiliation to recognize the person within…

We have a problem.

The bi-partisan divide in Charlestown is hurting our community, our friendships, and our families. And we’ve been here before…

Around the time Charlestown was founded, legendary citizen Jonathan Jennings found himself at the center of a vicious and contentious political debate.[i] Jennings, who spoke against slavery in Indiana, found himself positioned against our first territorial governor, William Henry Harrison, who advocated for the politics and economic system of the plantation south. So intense was the hatred between these two sides that Jennings eventually challenged Harrison supporter and court clerk, Henry Hurst to a duel over an issue of slander and disagreements between the two parties sometimes resorted to physical blows.[ii] Although Hurst demurred and the duel never happened, this extreme reaction over political disagreement serves as an example of a system gone horribly wrong.

We need not continue in this path.

mahatmagandhi1We need to remember that civil disagreement is not a precursor for ending a relationship. In fact, disagreement and debate are a healthy part of our political process! We need to re-frame the purpose of disagreement. Instead of thinking that disagreement is a personal attack we should consider how healthy and respectful disagreement allows us to “define our individuality, give us our freedom, enjoin our tolerance, enlarge our perspectives, seize our attention, energize our progress, make our democracies real, and give hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere.”[iii] Engaging in disagreement in a respectful way allows me to speak out against policies that our mayor and council implement, while still greeting them with a cheerful smile when we pass in the produce section of the Jay C store. After all, there’s not a Republican Rite Aid or Democrat Dollar General…

This Friday, November 24, 2017, The City of Charlestown will Light Up for the yearly Christmas display. I’m asking everyone who can to come out in support of our city. Despite who you vote for, regardless of how you feel about city business, without regard to any of the things that divide us, come out! Let’s all come enjoy an evening of Thanksgiving for the blessings we have and for the hope of a future in which we can discuss our different opinions without name calling, hate, or personal attacks. Because I believe we can do it.

Golden-Rule-1I’ll be there. And if you come and find me, I’ll have a few small favors to pass out to serve as a token of cheer. For as we all know, a house divided against itself cannot stand so we should try, as much as we can, to do unto others the way we would have them do unto us.

Sources: 
[i] Wiki commons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Jennings
[ii] John Northcutt, “Tippecanoe and Slavery Too: Jonathan Jennings, William Henry Harrison, and the Battle for Free Labor in Indiana, August 2017.
[iii] Bret Stephens, “The Dying Art of Disagreement,” The New York Times, September 24, 2017: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/24/opinion/dying-art-of-disagreement.html

Extra! Extra!

This morning I heard the familiar chime of my sister’s text tone and watched a video of her cat stealing Halloween candy out of her daughter’s bucket all the way in Alabama. A few minutes ago I received a notice from Facebook that a friend in Mississippi needs someone to take an old desk off her hands. I can make two clicks on my computer and get news from across the world. Technology in the 21st century puts information of all kinds at our fingertips with speed and efficiency.

Why is it so difficult, then, to access relevant information about the daily goings on in my city? 

In order to learn when our public meetings are scheduled (or cancelled) citizens either have to make a personal visit to City Hall or call the office. 

What of other news that might be useful, or just exciting?

Like the reopening of the local hospital. 

This week I drove by the old Saint Catherine hospital building that closed a few years ago. Imagine my surprise when I saw that the spray-painted-over sign out front was replaced with a new name, the North Clark Community Hospital.

Wait, is the hospital reopening?!? I came home and checked the regular sources for news…City website, Facebook…no news. Nothing to tell me the status of the hospital. I remember that the hospital is in Charlestown’s Comprehensive Plan for redevelopment, so why are we not hearing any news of its reopening?

image1-3

Tonight on my Facebook news feed a notice from the Charlestown Chamber of Commerce asked me to take a survey for the “new North Clark Community Hospital.” 

I Googled it.

Yep! Looks like our hospital is reopening and will offer “multidisciplinary diagnostic and treatment mental health services to patients requiring the safety, security, and shelter of the inpatient or partial hospitalization settings.”

I wish I had more details to share, but I don’t.

It’s sad that in an age of instant communication possibilities people in Charlestown have to work so hard to find out what’s happening in our community.

In the mean time, here’s the link to the only web source I could find: http://npino.com/hospital/1174043293-north-clark-community-hospital/

P.S. Go to the Charlestown Chamber of Commerce Facebook page and complete the very short survey on the hospital for a chance to win $100! 

 

 

525,600 Minutes to Keep your Word

How do you measure a year? In school days? In seasons? In council meetings?

At the most recent meeting of the common council for the City of Charlestown, held on Monday, November 6, Council Member Tina Barnes made a motion for the City to send a letter to Pleasant Ridge Redevelopment, LLC to request that all boarded up and vacant properties owned by the company in the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood be removed. Ms. Barnes based her motion on a letter sent from PRR partner, John Hampton. In this letter, dated October 24, 2016, the company lists their responsibilities for 104 homes previously subjected to fines for violating the City’s recently revised property codes. Item #5 on Mr. Hampton’s list states:

“Upon the City giving PRR a sixty (60) day notice, all vacant and boarded up properties will be razed and removed.”

This letter and the proposed responsibilities were approved by the Board of Public Works on November 7, 2016 in a 3-0 vote.

Tina Barnes asked her fellow Council Members to support her in holding Pleasant Ridge Redevelopment, LLC accountable for the responsibilities they placed on themselves for properties they have purchased. 

Yet her motion died without support from even one other council member. 

You can hear the awkward silence following her motion here (skip to 17:15 to go right there): 

 

We can speculate all day about why no one else, not Mike Vaughn, not Ted Little, not Brian Hester, nor Eric Vaughn would second Tina’s motion…but that isn’t the purpose of this post. The purpose of this post is to draw your attention to the fact that the City and Pleasant Ridge Redevelopment, LLC reached an agreement over one year ago…525,600 minutes ago...to tear these homes down…yet our City refuses to hold their partner to the agreement. Instead the homes look worse every day. They attract squatters, provide haven for rats and stray animals, and become more of a safety hazard.

If you live in Charlestown, you should be angry that your council members are placing the financial interests of an outside business entity over the needs, safety, and interests of their own residents. You don’t have to be a resident of Pleasant Ridge to take action on this. Many people in Charlestown voted for these council members because they wanted some action on Pleasant Ridge…well now what? Hold them accountable, that’s what.

Contact your council person today. Let them know you want them to do their jobs and put Charlestown First. There is no reason why, ONE YEAR after the agreement was reached that the City should not hold Pleasant Ridge Redevelopment, LLC (aka John Hampton and John Neace) to their agreement.

District 1 – Mike Vaughn – (502) 558-9567 – mikervaughnsr@gmail.com

District 2 – Tina Barnes – (502) 598-9403 – tinamdean1@yahoo.com

District 3 – Ted Little – (502) 396-0603 – ted.little7217@aol.com

District 4 – Brian Hester – (502) 643-6878 – chscoach24@gmail.com

At Large – Eric Vaughn – (502) 773-7296 – vaughnatlargectown@gmail.com

Copy of full letter here: Agreement with PRR, LLC and City

 

City Council Meeting 11/06/2017

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City Council Meeting 11/06/2017 

 

  • Call to Order/Pledge of Allegiance: Led by Sophia Adams from the Charlestown High School Varsity Cheerleaders – they competed and received 4th place in Indiana State competition
  • Invocation: led by Kate Muhlbaier of Frist United Methodist Church, Charlestown
  • Determination of a Quorum and Roll Call:
    • Ted Little – Present
    • Brian Hester – Present
    • Mike Vaughn – Present
    • Tina Barnes – Present
    • Eric Vaughn – Present
    • City attorney Mike Gillenwater not present
  • Approval of Agenda:
    • Add ordinance 2017-OR-15 for transfer of funds be added to agenda
    • Motion to approve made by Ted Little
    • Seconded by Eric Vaughn
    • No discussion
    • Motion passed unanimously
  • Approval of Minutes: 10/02/2017 meeting
    • Motion to approve made by Brian Hester
    • Second by Mike Vaughn
    • No Discussion
    • Motion Passed unanimously
  • Claims:
    • Motion to approve made by Eric Vaughn
    • Second by Brian Hester
    • No Discussion
    • Motion passed unanimously
  • Payroll Allowance Docket: 10/01/2017 to 11/04/2017
    • Motion to approve made by Ted Little
    • Second by Mike Vaughn
    • No Discussion
    • Motion passed unanimously
  • Public Comment: by Claude Rottet
    • Rottet asked for extra time and was denied.
    • Rottet confirmed that council members received a copy of a handout he prepared. He spoke directly to the council members about their lack of discussion or objection to any issue presented to the council. He stated that the city is entering into higher debt and raised questions about the possibility of a sports complex in town. He pointed out that complexes exist in Indianapolis and will be built soon in Louisville. He asked the council why they believe that Charlestown can support such a complex. He requested that tax payer funds not be used to fund such a project. He discussed the debt that the city of Louisville has used to pay for their facilities and asked the council not to make the same mistakes. He asked that the council consider the needs of the entire town. He pointed out the involvement of John Nease.
    • Mayor Hall response: He confirmed that all members of the council received the handout and asked if he needed to address the issue. He said that the information in the handout is incorrect. He confirmed that the city has taken out the $2.5 million for Springville Manor
    • Ted Little asked for Mayor for clarification on the proposed sports complex. Mayor Hall stated that Klipsch-Card is going to put the money up for construction and that they will pay for it. He was unsure if they were going to buy the land.
    • Ted Little asked for clarification on other properties that the city has purchased and they Mayor stated that those properties were purchased without debt, with available funds. He confirmed that they borrowed $2.5 million for Springville Manor and an $800,000 charge listed is a duplicate within that amount. He said that the city applied for a $2 million grant for the sports complex and were denied. He said that most of the charges were paid for in cash.
    • Ted Little remarked that he hopes most people want a police station and said that we will find a way to fund it. He said that the lack of discussion in the meetings is a matter of efficiency. He went on to say that, while the Mayor is not permitted by law to meet with more than two council members at a time in private, they have been meeting frequently in private in meetings that happen when the public are not aware of them. He pointed out that these issues are brought up in Board of Public Works and Redevelopment meetings. He said that these meetings occur in private so that the public Council Meetings will remain short and efficient. He said that council members receive meeting agendas and minutes days before the meetings and know what is going on as a way of justifying the lack of discussion in meetings. He thanked Mr. Rotett for his time.
  • Ordinances and Resolutions:
    • Rescind Resolution 2017-R-7 – originally gave permission for the Mayor to seek a $2.2 million loan from New Washington State Bank but the money was obtained through the $2.5 BAN in a separate resolution
      • Motion made by Eric Vaughn
      • Second by Ted Little
      • No Discussion
      • Motion Passed Unanimously
    • Approval of ordinance 2017-OR-15 to approve transfer appropriation for city departments
      • 1st reading Motion made by Ted Little
      • Second by Brian Hester
      • No Discussion
      • Motion Passed unanimously
      • Mayor proposed suspending rules to advance to second and final reading of this ordinance
        • Motion made by Eric Vaughn
        • Second by Mike Vaughn
        • No discussion
        • Motion passed unanimously
      • 2nd reading of 2017-OR-15
        • motion made by Brian Hester
        • second by Eric Vaughn
        • no discussion
        • Motion passed
      • New Business:
        • Tina Barnes made a motion that the City draft a letter to Pleasant Ridge Redevelopment, LLC to have all boarded up and vacant homes owned by the organization scheduled for demolition within 60 days of receipt of said letter according to number 5 of the letter agreement signed 11/11/2016.
          • Mayor said that comes from the Board of Public Works
          • Tina Barnes pointed out that in the letter it refers to “The City”
          • Mayor asked for a second – none made
          • In the absence of a second the motion failed
        • Adjournment:
          • Motion made by Eric Vaughn
          • Second by Ted Little
          • Motion passed unanimously

 

Meeting duration 18:35

Audio of meeting available here: