County Executive Officer Recommends Library Option A

According to the agenda and related memos posted today to the county website for the February 23rd meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Richard Haffey, the County Executive Officer, is recommending that the Board approve Library “Option A,” the management plan developed jointly by the Truckee Friends of the Library and county staff.

This effectively ends any consideration of outsourcing library management to LSSI.

Strictly speaking, the Board could reject Haffey’s recommendation, but such an outcome is difficult to imagine, given the widespread opposition in the community to the outsourcing scheme, and the widespread support for keeping the county library public.



Nevada County Ranks Well in Health Survey

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation conducted a nationwide survey of  “health factors” by county, and you can see the rankings on this map, which gives a relative number for each county within each state.

For instance, surprisingly — considering its known air quality problems — Nevada County ranked relatively well at 14th among the 56 of California’s 58 counties that were ranked (where number 1, Marin, is best and Del Norte, number 56, is worst). Sierra and Alpine counties were not ranked.

The San Jose Mercury News reports it this way:

The least-healthy place to live in California is Del Norte County and other sparsely populated, rural areas in the northernmost reaches of the state.

The rankings enable residents to compare how their county stacks up against others within each state based on how long people live, how healthy they are, the quality of medical care, access to healthy food, air pollution, percentage of residents who smoke or are obese and numerous other categories.

Researchers analyzed 56 of the 58 California counties. San Mateo County was fifth in the rankings. Other Bay Area counties placing in the top half were Contra Costa (19th), Alameda (23rd) and Solano (28th).

Many of the lowest-ranked counties had premature death rates two to three times higher than other counties. The deaths often were caused by preventable conditions.

Some highlights for Nevada County include:

Adult Obesity: 21%
Binge Drinking: 14%
Teen Birth Rate: 20 (per 1000 aged 15-19)
Primary Care Provider Rate: 135 (per 100,000 population)
Uninsured Adults: 19% (under age 65)
Children in Poverty: 12% (under age 18)
Air Pollution Ozone Days: 42 (per year)

See a detailed profile for Nevada County here.

Nevada County Outsourcing Controversy Featured in the Library Journal

The current issue of the 133 year-old Library Journal (published in New York, NY), theoldest and most respected publication covering the library field,” features as its top story an article about Nevada County’s library outsourcing controversy, “In Nevada County, CA, an Outsourcing Proposal Stirs Controversy.” The article is accompanied by a replica of the flyer advertising the upcoming NCTV telethon.

Here’s a snapshot of the Library Journal’s front page:

Why a Pro-LSSI Op-Ed in The Union on the Eve of the Library Decision?

Why is a Jackson County, Oregon administrator taking such an interest in Nevada County’s consideration of LSSI, and why did the The Union publish his “Other Voices” Op-Ed (“Public-private library partnership a win-win“) just days before the Nevada County Board of Supervisors is likely to vote for or against LSSI’s proposal?

I sent an email this morning to Danny Jordan, Jackson County Oregon Administrator, and asked him if he submitted his “Other Voices” Op-Ed at LSSI’s request, and — if not — how did he happen to take such an interest in the library management issue in Nevada County?

He replied immediately:

Greetings Mr. Pelton,

Sometime around the beginning of December, 2008, I heard about the issue from a Library staff member. I then went to www.theunion.com and ran a search on LSSi. The subject returned results from the search and I read the results, and as more material was and has been added over time, I read it. My interest isn’t in Nevada County, but rather in sharing some facts about our experience with LSSi. I submitted Op-Ed because I believe it is important to speak to Jackson County’s factual experience in our personal dealings with LSSI. They had a tremendous positive effect on our ability to deliver service. From our experience, I wanted to make certain that factual information was shared about how they went about working with us to open our libraries and create an opportunity for us to operate at a reduced cost, with tremendous service and with employees that appear to be happy with the transition. I didn’t do it because of any other reason than I thought it was important to provide facts.

Sincerely,

Danny Jordan
County Administrator
10 South Oakdale, Room 214
Medford, Oregon 97501
jordandl@jacksoncounty.org

I replied to his reply, pointing out that  the LSSI issue first came up here last year, in 2009 (not 2008 … so perhaps he mis-spoke), and asked him about the reports we’ve heard that some Jackson County, Oregon librarians are unhappy because they no longer have a viable retirement program. He has not yet responded to this question.

The title of Jordan’s recent Union Op-Ed, “Public-private partnership a win-win,” is nearly identical to the title of an essay he wrote in May of 2008 for the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), which was soon thereafter critiqued by Francine Fialkoff, Editor-in-Chief of the Library Journal:

Certainly, Jackson County faced dire times. It had lost its federal timber subsidies in 2006, two library tax levies failed at the polls, and the libraries were closed and staff furloughed. Yet, one of the two proposals submitted to the county came from a local union representing the library employees, which county officials were required by the collective bargaining agreement to help the union prepare. Nevertheless, the county chose to give the contract for providing library services to private company LSSI, which had a much lower bid.

I wonder, however, how hard the county worked with the union to make the bid competitive—and how much of the impetus to go private came from knowing that, under LSSI, staff would be employed by the company, saving the county from paying money into the state pension plan and on other benefits.

Jordan noted that privatization “strengthened the stakeholder role of each of the local governments.” As a result, local libraries can increase their operating hours by “purchasing” additional hours—paying for them themselves—“in four-hour blocks of time.” That solution and other instances of cost-sharing could have been implemented as readily under county governance, too.

It is widely expected that the Nevada County Board of Supervisors will approve one of the two public plans which were endorsed by the joint county-citizens’ committees.

Keep your eye on this county webpage for the appearance of the agenda for the meeting on February 23rd. It usually gets posted a few days before the meeting.

Update: Danny Jordan wrote back and confirmed that he meant to write “2009” not “2008.” But his reply did not include a response to my question to him about the pension/retirement issue.

Education is the Husband That Will Never Let You Down

Here’s a nice clip from a New Scientist story about the TED2010 Conference:

Wishes do come true – as evidenced by Daphney Singo, an African nuclear physicist who took the stage in colourful African garb to talk about her experience at AIMS, the African Institute for Mathematics and Science, one of many such schools founded by physicist Neil Turok after he won the TED Prize in 2008. As a woman from a small village in South Africa, Singo never thought she could make a career for herself in physics. “But my mother told me, education is the husband that will never let you down.”

What is TED?

Check it out here.

Building Cultures of Peace

Published by Yes! Magazine on February 11, 2010

If we are to build cultures of peace we have to start talking about something that still makes many people uncomfortable: gender.

by Rianne Eisler

We stand at a critical point in human cultural evolution. Going back to the old normal where peace is just an interval between wars is not an option; what we need is a fundamental cultural transformation.

As Einstein said, we cannot solve problems with the same thinking that created them. If we think only in terms of the conventional cultural and economic categories—right vs. left, religious vs. secular, Eastern vs. Western, capitalist vs. socialist, and so on—we cannot move forward. What we need is to look at social systems from a new perspective that can help us build not only a nuclear-free world but also the better world we so urgently want and need. I believe we must change our underlying social configuration: We must transition from a system of domination to one of partnership.

My Passion and My Work

I was born in Europe, in Vienna, at a time of massive regression to the domination side of the partnership/domination continuum: the rise of the Nazis, first in Germany and then in my native Austria. So from one day to the next, my whole world was rent asunder. My parents and I became hunted, with license to kill. I watched with horror on Crystal Night—so called because of all the glass that was shattered in Jewish homes, businesses, synagogues—as a gang of Gestapo men broke into out home and dragged my father away. As a little girl, I witnessed brutality and violence.

But I also witnessed something else that night that made an equally profound impression on me: what I today call spiritual courage. We’ve been taught to think of courage as the courage to go out and kill the enemy. But spiritual courage is a much more deeply human courage. It’s the courage to stand up against injustice out of love. My mother could have been killed for demanding that my father be given back to her; many people were killed that night. But by a miracle she did obtain my father’s release—yes, some money eventually passed hands, but it would not have happened had she not stood up to the Nazis. So we were able to escape to Cuba, and I grew up in the industrial slums of Havana, because the Nazis confiscated everything my parents owned. And it was there that I learned that most of my family—aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents—were murdered by the Nazis.

These traumatic experiences led me to questions most of us have asked at some time in our lives: Does it have to be this way? Why is there so much injustice, cruelty, violence, and destructiveness, when we humans also have such a great capacity, as I saw in my mother, for caring, for courage, for love? Is it, as we’re often told, inevitable, just human nature? Or are there alternatives—and if so, what are they?

These questions eventually led to my research. I found very early I simply could not find answers to them in terms of the old social categories (right vs. left, religious vs. secular, Eastern vs. Western, capitalist vs. socialist, and so forth). These categories just look at this or that aspect of a social system, never its fundamental configuration. None of them answer the most critical question for our future: the question of what kinds of beliefs, values, and institutions support our enormous human capacities for caring, for consciousness, for creativity, for sensitivity—the capacities that are most developed in our species, that make us uniquely human—and which promote capacities we also have for cruelty, selfishness, and violence. Neuroscience teaches us that we humans are genetically capable of many different kinds of behaviors, but our experiences profoundly affect which of those genetic possibilities are expressed.

Connecting the Dots

I look for patterns, drawing from a large set of data that cuts across cultures and periods of history. It then becomes possible to see social configurations that had not been visible looking at only a part of social systems—configurations that kept repeating themselves. There were no names for them, so I called one the Domination System and the other the Partnership System.

It is in our primary human relations—within our families and friendships, the relations that are still not taken into account in most analyses of society—that people first learn (on the most basic neural level, as we today know from neuroscience) what is considered normal or abnormal, moral or immoral, possible or impossible.

If children grow up in cultures or subcultures where violence in families is accepted as normal, even moral, what do they learn? The lesson is simple, isn’t it? It’s that it’s OK to use violence to impose one’s will on others, both in intimate relationships and international ones.

I want to illustrate this with two cultures. One is Western, the other is Eastern; one is secular, the other religious; one is technologically developed, the other isn’t: the Nazis in Germany and the Taliban in Afghanistan. From a conventional perspective, they are totally different. But if you look at these two cultures from the perspective of the partnership/domination continuum, you see a configuration. Both are extremely warlike and authoritarian. And for both, a top priority is returning to a traditional family—their code word for a rigidly male-dominated, authoritarian, highly punitive family.

Now, this is not coincidental. Nor is it coincidental that these kinds of societies idealize warfare, even consider it holy. Neither is it coincidental that in these kinds of cultures masculinity is equated with domination and violence at the same time that women and anything stereotypically considered feminine, such as caring and nonviolence, are devalued.

I want to emphasize that this has nothing to do with anything inherent in women or men, as we can see today when more and more men are fathering in the nurturing way mothering is supposed to be done, and women are entering what were once considered strictly male preserves. But these are dominator gender stereotypes that many of us—both men and women—are trying to leave behind.

If we are to build cultures of peace, we have to start talking about something that still makes many people uncomfortable: gender. We might as well put that on the table; people don’t want to talk about gender, do they? But let’s also remember what the great sociologist Louis Wirth said: that the most important things about a society are those that people are uncomfortable talking about. We saw that with race: Only as we started to talk about it did we begin to move forward. We’re beginning to talk more about gender, and starting to move forward, but much too slowly.

This is important for many reasons, including the fact that it is through dominator norms for gender that children learn another important lesson: to equate difference (beginning with the most fundamental difference in our species between female and male) with superiority or inferiority, with dominating or being dominated, with being served or serving. And they acquire this mental and emotional map before their brains are fully developed (we know today that our brains don’t fully develop until our twenties), so they then can automatically apply it to any other difference, be it a different race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

The Economics of Domination and Partnership

The roles and relations of the two halves of humanity can no longer be considered “just a women’s issue” (though we’re half of humanity, that phrase again shows how we’ve been conditioned to devalue women and anything associated with women). In reality, gender roles and relations affect everything about a society from its institutions (for example, whether families are more democratic or authoritarian) to its guiding system of values.

Let me give you an example from economics. Most of us would never think economics has anything to do with gender. At most, we think this refers to the workplace gender discrimination we’re finally beginning to talk about. But actually it goes much, much deeper. Economics has huge systemic effects.

Have you ever wondered, for instance, why it is that so many politicians always find money for weapons, for wars, and for prisons, but when it comes to funding health care, child care, and other “soft” or caring activities, they have no money? Nor do they have money for keeping a clean and healthy natural environment—rather like the “women’s work” of keeping a clean and healthy home environment.

Underlying these seemingly irrational priorities is a gendered system of valuations we’ve inherited from earlier, more domination-oriented times. To meet the challenges we face, we must make this visible.

Neoliberalism is actually a regression to dominator economics: to a top-down economic system where trickle down economics is really a continuation of dominator traditions, where those on the bottom are socialized to content themselves with the scraps dropping from the opulent tables of those on top.

This is an ancient economics of domination, which transcends labels like capitalism and socialism. Indeed, the two large-scale applications of socialism, the USSR and China, also turned into domination systems, highly authoritarian and violent, with horrendous environmental problems, because the underlying social system did not shift from domination to partnership.

That’s not to say we should discard everything from capitalism and socialism. We need to retain and strengthen the partnership elements in both the market and government economies and leave the domination elements behind. But we need to go further to what I have called a “caring economics.”

Now, isn’t it interesting that when we put “caring” and “economics” in the same sentence, people tend to do a double take? We’ve been told that caring policies and practices may sound good, but they’re just not economically effective. In reality, study after study shows that investing in caring for people and nature is extremely effective—not only in human and environmental terms, but in purely financial terms.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Finland suffered from poverty and famine. Today, these nations are invariably in the highest ranks not only of United Nations Human Development Reports but of the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Competitiveness reports. This is largely due to the fact that their norm became a more caring economics, a more caring society.

These nations have government-supported childcare, universal healthcare, stipends to help families care for children, elder care with dignity, generous paid parental leave. In short, they economically support caring work in both the market and the household. As a result, they have very long life spans, very low poverty rates, very low crime rates, and a generally high standard of living for all. They are also in the forefront of moving toward sustainable energy and invest a larger proportion of their GDP in helping people in the developing world than other nations.

They are not ideal nations, but they have moved farther than most contemporary nations to the partnership side of the partnership-domination continuum. They have more democracy and equality in both the family and the state. They have been in the forefront of trying to leave behind traditions of violence inherent in domination systems. For example, they pioneered the first peace studies and the first laws prohibiting physical discipline of children in families. And, in contrast to domination systems that subordinate the female half of humanity to the male half, they have a much more equal partnership between women and men. For example, approximately 40 percent of their national legislators are female.

As the status of women rises, men no longer find it such a threat to their status, to their masculinity, to also embrace more caring practices and policies. These nations also have a strong movement to disentangle masculinity from its dominator equation with conquest and violence, including a strong movement for men to take responsibility for violence against women and children.

Between child-battering, wife-beating, sexual abuse of children, rape, bride burnings sexual mutilation of girls and women, so-called honor killings, and other horrors, the number of lives taken and blighted by intimate violence worldwide are much greater than those taken by armed conflict. And yet this violence is still largely invisible.

Our job is to make it visible. If we really want a more peaceful world, we can’t just tack that on to a system that idealizes violence as “masculine” and devalues caring and nonviolence as “feminine.”

Building Cultures of Equity and Peace

Let’s join together and move into that second phase of the peace movement: that  integrated phase that takes into account the whole of human relations, from intimate to international. Let us muster the spiritual courage to challenge traditions of domination and violence in our primary human relations – the formative relations between women and men and parents and children.

Let us work for systemic change, for the new norms that will enable a future where all children, both girls and boys, can realize their enormous human potentials for consciousness, creativity, and caring.

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons License

Riane Eisler adapted this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions, from the speech she gave while accepting the Distinguished Peace Leadership Award from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Dr. Eisler is a social scientist, attorney, and social activist best known as author of the international bestseller The Chalice and The Blade: Our History, Our Future and The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics. She is president of the Center for Partnership Studies and is included in the award-winning book Great Peacemakers, as one of 20 leaders for world peace, along with Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King. Her website is www.rianeeisler.com.

Are Men Now Permanently Less Employable Than Women?

Kevin Drum, writing in Mother Jones (“Men Without Work“), argues that we may be “entering not merely a slow recovery in general, but an era in which the male employment ratio hovers permanently around 80% even for those in their prime working years.”

Here’s how he arrives at that speculation. First, he cites a book called Edge City by Joel Garreau, who explains why 1978 was such a pivotal year in the development of suburbs and in the transformation of the gender aspects of employment:

… 1978 was the peak year in all of American history for women entering the work force. In the second half of the 1970s, unprecedentedly, more than eight million hitherto non-wage-earning women went out and found jobs. The spike year was 1978.

That same year, a multitude of developers independently decided to start putting up big office buildings out beyond the traditional male-dominated downtown….The new advantage was proximity to the emerging work force … A decade later, developers viewed it as a truism that office buildings had an indisputable advantage if they were located near the best-educated, most conscientious, most stable workers — underemployed females living in middle class communities on the fringes of the old urban areas.

Drum also cites Don Peck in The Atlantic (“How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America“):

The weight of this recession has fallen most heavily upon men, who’ve suffered roughly three-quarters of the 8 million job losses since the beginning of 2008. Male-dominated industries (construction, finance, manufacturing) have been particularly hard-hit, while sectors that disproportionately employ women (education, health care) have held up relatively well.

….According to W. Bradford Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, the gender imbalance of the job losses in this recession is particularly noteworthy, and — when combined with the depth and duration of the jobs crisis — poses “a profound challenge to marriage,” especially in lower-income communities. It may sound harsh, but in general, he says, “if men can’t make a contribution financially, they don’t have much to offer.”

Will Supreme Court Radicals Gut the Commerce Clause?

Now that the radical majority on the Supreme Court — the activist conservative judges — have overturned a century of precedent and settled law with their decision in Citizens United v FEC, they may soon have an opportunity to overturn the longstanding use of the Commerce Clause as the basis for federal environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act.

Author Ray Ring, writing in the High Country News (“Supreme beings: After gutting campaign finance, the high court may go after the Commerce Clause“), explains it this way [with hyperlink references added by me]:

… there are signs that Chief Justice Roberts might rule that the Commerce Clause cannot be the basis for federal environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act. While serving on an appeals court in 2003, Roberts wrote a dissenting opinion, saying that the Commerce Clause did not allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to impose regulations on a California developer to protect habitat for an endangered toad. Roberts said the case was not about interstate commerce; it merely concerned “a hapless toad, that for reasons of its own, lives its entire life in California.”

Libertarian and rightwing groups are arguing against the Commerce Clause in environmental cases in lower courts, hoping to push it to Roberts’ Supreme Court. The leading green law firm, Earthjustice, has warned that Roberts seems to have “an ideological agenda” for overturning environmental laws based on the Commerce Clause.

Read the full article here.

Constitutionally Illiterate

First Published in The Baltimore Sun

When even politicians are ignorant of the founding documents, our system is in trouble

by Christopher Dreisbach

On Nov. 5, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the House minority leader, took the podium at a Republican rally, waved a document defiantly and declared:”This is my copy of the Constitution, and I’m going to stand here with the Founding Fathers who wrote in the Preamble, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness …” Mr. Boehner was encouraging participants to protest the pending House vote for health care reform by demanding their constitutional right to make medical decisions.

Pop quiz: What’s wrong with this picture?

If you said that there is no explicit constitutional right to make medical decisions, you score some points. If you said that the passage Mr. Boehner quotes is from the Declaration of Independence you get an A. If you also noted that the quotation is not even from the Declaration’s preamble, you earn extra credit.

Mr. Boehner is not the first opinion leader to confuse the Constitution with the Declaration, nor is he apt to be the last. Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell, for example, said, “As our Constitution declares, we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights …” Of course, Mr. Boehner, unlike Mr. Falwell, entered the profession by promising to protect the Constitution.

Mr. Boehner noted his 19 years of public service, yet how could he protect the Constitution when he can’t distinguish it from the Declaration? Indeed, how many public servants, for whom an oath to the Constitution is an entrance requirement, know the document well enough to protect it? Judging from the foregoing, from political rhetoric in media and from many anecdotes, one suspects that constitutional literacy is too low. This is a problem for sworn professionals who cannot protect what they don’t know, and it is a problem for the ordinary citizen who, in a democracy, is supposed to be running the country through informed voting and participation in public conversations.

The value of constitutional literacy and the lack of it are obvious, the nature of it less so. What are the minimum conditions for constitutional literacy? This should be the topic of public conversation and consensus. To that end, here are some preliminary suggestions that distinguish eight levels of constitutional literacy. At each level, one should know:

* The basic difference between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. One establishes a government, the other doesn’t. One rests on man-made law, the other on natural law; one posits only conferred rights, the other posits inalienable rights.

* The age and basic anatomy of the Constitution. When was it ratified? (1788.) How many articles are there? (Seven.) How many Amendments? (27.) What, in general, is each about?

* Certain significant details from the articles and the amendments, such as the basic requirements for being elected to, appointed to, or removed from federal office.

* Most details of each article and amendment and the history surrounding its creation and ratification, including the history of democracy and republicanism.

* The more important arguments for the various elements of the Constitution, such as those found in the Federalist Papers.

* The more famous court cases and their implications for public policy, such as Marbury v. Madison (1803), Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and Roe v. Wade (1973).

* Key disagreements about the nature of law, rights and justice, and which theories about each are reflected in the Constitution as opposed to the Declaration or other important American documents — such as Marbury v. Madison, which has led some to conclude that judges make law.

* The history of and theories about constitutional interpretation. At this level, disagreement may be due to philosophical or political differences, rather than constitutional illiteracy. Thus, it is fair to call both JusticeAntonin Scalia and Justice Stephen Breyer constitutional scholars, yet they frequently disagree on the meaning of key constitutional passages or of their application to a specific court case.

From the opening of the constitutional convention to the present, political conversation in the U.S. has been raucous, robust and often significant in its impact on public policy and on individuals’ lives. How much better would things be if a majority of the participants in this conversation were constitutionally literate?

Christopher Dreisbach is chairman of the Department of Applied Ethics and Humanities in the Division of Public Safety Leadership at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education. His e-mail is cdreisbach@jhu.edu.

Pro-LSSI Website Disappears

The apparently pro-LSSI website which I stumbled on and wrote about several weeks ago has now disappeared. Here’s what its banner looked like while it was still alive:

I was unaware that it had disappeared until I received this email today from Norman Oder, News Editor for the Library Journal:

“Mr. Pelton,

I’m writing an article for Library Journal about the outsourcing controversy. I’ve read a bunch on Sierra Voices and elsewhere and wanted to ask you if you have any more info on the provenance of the web site Save Nevada County Libraries (which has disappeared, though pages are available via Google cache).

Could you give me a call–I’m here til about 5:30 EST today–or let me know how to reach you today or tomorrow.

Thanks,
Norman”

I called and left Mr. Oder a voice mail explaining that I have no further information about this website. I also asked him to let me know when he publishes his article on outsourcing.

If any of you have information about this now defunct website, leave your comments here and I’ll relay them back to Mr. Oder.

For what it’s worth, you can see Google’s cache remains of the website here.

Update: Mr Oder replies to my voicemail:

My article should be online Fri or Mon.

Btw, here’s a piece I did in 2004 about LSSI:
www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA456252.htm
Letter in response: http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA485744.html

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