Carbondale Spring

Required Listening #4: Dust Bowls of Empire

“The conditions that we are confronting are extreme, and anyone suggesting that we should basically live with those conditions because it costs too much to some people for us to change course, or suggest that a slightly greener version of what we have now is acceptable — those are extreme arguments. They’re leading us down a very extreme and destructive path. And in the face of that we have to argue for something wildly different. We just can’t continue down this course, and I don’t think we need to apologize for wanting something radically different.”

Hannah Holleman has written a book re-examining the history of the dust bowl within a global context of colonialism and ecological destruction in the face of capitalist agriculture. It is well worth a listen, and emphasizes the humbling fact that the issues we face are not new. They have been known about for at least a hundred years, and the industries that profit from ecologically destructive modes of production have simply continued in the face of them.

We suggest folks in Carbondale listen to this interview with Hannah Holleman about her book, Dust Bowls of Empire: Imperialism, Environmental Politics, and the Injustice of ‘Green’ Capitalism, (Yale Univ. Press, 2018).

Listen to the podcast here.

 

[Required Listening is a series of blog posts pointing to podcasts and interviews that are inspiring the Carbondale Spring. We believe that the problems outlined and approaches described by these scholars and activists need to be heard by people in Carbondale to seriously address the challenges we are facing. Check out our previous posts: #1, #2, #3]

The Cooperative Business Fund

We are pleased to announce that the Cooperative Business Fund section of our website has been updated. Many people were excited about this initiative, and we’ve spent the last six months trying to figure out the best way to make it a reality. This updated description of our progress puts forward the mechanism by which we think we can do it. It also discusses our recent project to reopen Fat Patties as a worker-owned cooperative — with your support, it will be the first of many.

If you haven’t yet seen our fundraising video and made a donation, you can do so here.

Read our updated vision of the Cooperative Business Fund here.

More updates will be coming in the next few weeks. And do please mark your calendars for our presentation of our progress to the Carbondale community: September 8, 6-8pm, at the Varsity Theater.

Thank you!

Our first Worker-Owned Coop needs you!

fat-patties

As you may have noticed, a lot of local businesses are up for sale. PK’s, Hangar 9, Thai Taste, Pagliai’s…

One of the initiatives of the Carbondale Spring is the Cooperative Business Fund — a city-supported fund that can allow workers at various Carbondale businesses to purchase their workplaces and transform them into worker-owned coops.

But why would the city provide money to such a crazy thing when there aren’t even any worker-owned coops in town? What the heck is a ‘worker-owned coop’, anyway? Well, we can provide all sorts of links about that, but nothing convinces like the real thing.

So we are going to build one. We are pleased to announce that the Carbondale Spring has initiated a fundraiser to reopen Fat Patties as a worker-cooperative. With your help, the best burgers in southern Illinois will be back — and a demonstration project will be on the ground.

Not only that, but the money you donate will be treated as a loan by us at Fat Patties. We’ll be paying it back into the Cooperative Business Fund — a “revolving loan fund” (RLF) that will be paid forward to other workers who want to purchase their businesses. We will, of course, still be looking for other funds to add to this RLF. But we think the likelihood of that happening will be greatly increased by having the fund up and running already.

Thanks to everyone for your support for the Carbondale Spring so far. In the coming weeks, you’ll see updates to the website outlining our more developed versions of the four initiatives. And on September 8th, from 6-8pm at the Varsity Theater, we will be giving a presentation to the Carbondale community about our progress and how we can make this vision for the future of Carbondale a reality.

Thanks to everyone who has donated so far! If you haven’t, please donate to the Fat Patties Cooperative by clicking here.

We are just getting started…

Carbondale Summer

Dear friends and supporters of the Carbondale Spring,

We’ve been quiet, but we’ve been working hard.

Last March, the stage was set for the elections in Carbondale to ignore the deep problems of our time. The candidates were prepared to continue the illusion that a narrow concept of “economic development” is the only path forward. We all expected that the election would sideline our knowledge that as a town and as a species, we are facing crises that those in power have no intention of resolving.

We’re proud that our contribution defied expectations. We said what residents of Carbondale know to be true: the town is dying, and the current understanding of economic development does not have the tools to save it. We need to rethink what a city can be.

We proposed a place where the city was overspending — the police force — and a way to redirect those funds to create a place that breaks away from the current trend of development. We outlined a path for building a compassionate, resilient Carbondale. For transforming our town into an oasis from a world gone mad.

It didn’t shock us that our neighbors loved the idea. We knew they would — that’s why we did it. What has been surprising has been the flood of support and interest from beyond Carbondale, as well as the support from local political figures. It turns out that no one actually has a decent plan for the future of this town, and the folks who are making money off its collapse understand that they can jump ship whenever they need to. So people who care about the town are willing to entertain ideas that previously they may have dismissed. This is an amazing opportunity.

This summer, our aim is to deepen and broaden our vision. We put forward a sketch that captured the imagination. Now we have to fill that in to make a real plan. And we need all the help we can get.

We need your research skills, your listening skills, your dreaming skills, your making skills. We need your time and your energy and your commitment. This is not something that a small group can accomplish. It is something that has to ignite the imagination of the whole town, and we have to build it together and struggle for it together.

Of course, almost everything in the world is stacked against us. That goes without saying. The most likely futures are the awful ones each of us are fully capable of imagining. But if you are reading this, you are among the lucky few to live in a town where a sliver of hope has punctured through. We have a real chance to transform things.

This summer, let’s work like our lives depend on it. Let’s be our best to each other: listen, reflect, question our assumptions, and think together about the city we deserve.

Please send us an email if you want to get involved: carbondalespring@gmail.com

Thank you for your support and trust thus far,

Carbondale Spring

Interview about Violence Workers and Care Workers

Last week, a Carbondale Spring organizer conducted an interview with Professor Micol Siegel, author of Violence Work: State Power and the Limits of Police. They discussed some of the myths about municipal police forces, the concept of violence workers, the incessant call for “more training,” and places without police at all. The interview is about 45 minutes, and well worth a listen:

Mike Henry Should Resign

As everyone who followed the recent election knows, the Carbondale Spring made the case that the current Carbondale Police budget is double what it needs to be, and that the police pension costs are too large for the city to manage in the near and long term. Mayor Mike Henry was opposed to this idea, a staunch defender of the current size and cost of the police.

On the evening before the April 2nd election, a police press release published in the local papers shocked the town. Officers on foot patrol had responded to a woman screaming. Upon following the sound, they ended up at the Mayor’s house. No arrests were made, and the incident was turned over to SIU police. The police statement contained one ambiguous phrase that stuck out to some: “there were no injuries requiring medical attention.” Did that mean there were no injuries at all? Or just that they weren’t serious enough for medical attention?

Later that evening, Mayor Mike Henry released a statement assuring the people of Carbondale that it was just a heated argument under stressful circumstances, and that “there was never any violence, or threat of violence.”

The next day, he won the election by about 200 votes.

The following week, Mayor Henry continued his staunch public support of the Carbondale Police Department’s current budget at the public hearing on the proposed FY2020 budget, in the face of tough questions from the audience. He insisted that, while he may have to apologize after being scolded by citizens for his obvious disdain for speakers at the public hearing, he would “never apologize for supporting the Carbondale Police Department.”

On April 10, a story in the Southern Illinoisan revealed that the SIU Police report directly contradicted the Mayor’s public statement on the eve of the election. In fact, there had been a physical struggle. The Mayor’s spouse, Terri Henry, reported being “struck” by the Mayor — in non-archaic language: he hit her. The Mayor had a bite wound and scratch marks. Terri had blood on her clothing.

Those are the only physical facts that have been made public about the incident, and we don’t want to pretend that we know what happened exactly — who started it, etc. There is apparently much more information, since the document received through the Freedom of Information Act was heavily redacted.

But what has come out already is enough to confirm one, very important fact:

Mayor Mike Henry publicly lied to us all the night before the election. He said it was just a verbal dispute, but it was not.

We should add that its pretty obvious why he lied. Because if the truth came out — however complicated or strange it was — then that would likely have influenced the vote on April 2nd.

That is one important fact, and one obvious inference. There is another important inference we could make:

Mike Henry very likely knew that the Carbondale Police Department, and the SIU Police Department, wouldn’t publicly contradict his lie. He knew the police were the only other people who knew it was a lie, and he knew his secret was safe with them. After all, he’s their biggest supporter.

Incidentally, if a human bite wound draws blood, it does require some kind of medical attention. Human saliva has a lot of bacteria that can cause infection. Was it the Mayor’s blood on Terri’s clothes? Was it Terri’s? Either way, first aid — a form of medical attention — is definitely required. So we can add that the Carbondale Police Department’s statement contained, at best, an ambiguity designed to steer us from the truth of the situation, and at worse, an outright lie.

Recall again that the stakes of this past Mayoral election were quite high for the police. The Mayor’s challenger, Nathan Colombo, had publicly advocated for the Carbondale Spring plan to cut the police budget by as much as half. The police, in other words, stood to gain quite a bit by keeping silent about what happened at the Mayor’s house.

To sum up:

  1. Mike Henry lied to the public on the eve of the Carbondale election.
  2. He did this because if the truth came out, it very likely would have lost him the election.
  3. He did this assuming that the police would allow his lie to have its effect.
  4. The police had a strong incentive to let him lie to us, since their budget was at stake.

 

Without knowing any further details of what happened that night, we know all that. And all that is enough to justify his immediate resignation. It calls into question the legitimacy of his status as Mayor, as well as his ethical fitness as figurehead of the city.

Now, you might be thinking: all politicians lie all the time. Who cares?

In which case, we invite to you let everything remain exactly as it is, forever, without any hope of things ever getting better. Enjoy.

For those of you who still have the capacity for ethical judgement, and who care about the present and future of this city, we invite you to join us in calling for Mike Henry’s immediate resignation.

 

 

 

 

Elections over – time to organize!

On April 2nd, 20 percent of the Carbondale population cast its votes for mayor, city council, and other elected offices. The Carbondale Spring had been vigorously campaigning on behalf of four candidates who supported, in full or in part, our plan to transform the city from its current identity as a dying college town into the most ambitious city in the country tackling the social and ecological problems of our time. Two out of the four candidates we were campaigning for won; two out of the four candidates we were campaigning for lost. The two candidates who won were incumbents, and while our efforts may have helped, we can’t take too much credit for it.

Throughout our organizing, we’ve been very clear: the Carbondale Spring is a community-led, grassroots initiative that will continue regardless of who wins the election. We stand by this, and expected that our campaign to re-prioritize city spending would encounter obstacles no matter who was in office. So while its sad to see some of our candidates lose, we aren’t slowing down.

In the coming months, we aim to deepen and broaden our organizing, continuing to go door to door, to conduct meetings and public education events to develop our initiatives, and to build a broad coalition of groups from all sides of town to make the Carbondale Spring a reality. We invite you and any community groups you are involved in to continue to spread the word, publicly endorse the initiative, and invite us to come give a presentation. There will be film screenings, workshops, visiting speakers, and a host of other events that aim to build a movement for transforming our town into one of the most unique, compassionate, and ecologically restorative places in the country. A city people will want to stay in, visit, and believe in.

Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard over the past month, to everyone who has invited us into their homes and meetings, and to everyone who has allowed this vision to take hold in their hearts. We have a lot of work to do; but that’s nothing new. What is new is that we’ve taken a first step out of our isolation and out of the paralysis that comes from mere criticism of the world. We’ve taken a step toward a positive vision of a future worth living in. All we have to do is continue stepping. The road is made by walking.

Elections are tomorrow! It kind of matters!

Carbondale municipal elections are tomorrow April 2nd. It matters — kind of. Over the past couple weeks, volunteers with the Carbondale Spring have been out knocking on doors, talking with our neighbors about our proposals to build food autonomy, cooperative businesses, renewable energy, and a team of care workers, and to fund all this by reducing the Carbondale police budget to a size in line with the national average.

And we’ve been encouraging people to vote for Nathan Colombo for mayor, and Jerrold Hennrich, Adam Loos, and Tom Grant for City Council. But all along we’ve been clear: this is a community project that will proceed no matter who gets elected.

Door knocking has been strangely satisfying. We’ve had surprisingly deep conversations with people throughout Carbondale, speaking with hundreds of people who support the Carbondale Spring. We’ve stood on porches in the sun and the rain; been invited into homes for tea; we’ve given our pitch standing on milk crates, sitting on bar stools, and of course, over community air waves.

And pretty much everyone has been like, “hell yeah.”

So we want all the folks we’ve had the pleasure to speak with over the previous month to know: we hear you, we’re doing this, and we won’t let an election get in the way of it one way or the other.

If some or all the candidates we have been supporting lose, then we promise we’ll continue organizing for this vision. And we’ll need your help to develop our initiatives and pressure elected officials to redirect city funds.

If all the candidates we have been supporting win, then we promise we won’t assume that we’ve won and slow down. We’ll keep organizing for this visions, and we’ll need your help to develop the initiatives and pressure those elected officials to redirect city funds.

Either way, we’ve all got our work cut out for us. And either way, we’re convinced that this is what Carbondale needs.

So please: vote tomorrow. Having Nathan, Jerrold, Adam, and Tom on City council will help us in our efforts.

Former Police Chief Confirms our analysis: Carbondale is Over-Policed

The Carbondale Police Department is manipulating the statistics around calls for service in order to justify their excessively large police budget. We are over-policed, they know it, and they are stretching the definition of “calls for service” to justify their numbers and budget. And it is killing the town.

3/28/19: [This blog post has been updated to correct an error. A description of the correction can be found at the end.]

We have argued at length that Carbondale is over-policed for a city of its size. In response, Mayor Henry argued that the number of police in Carbondale is based not on population, but on ‘calls-for-service.’ We responded to that argument in detail, noting that the definition of “calls for service” used by the Carbondale police department includes all sorts of things one would not normally expect: car-washing, paperwork, and other administrative activities.*

Now we’ve received confirmation of our analysis from former Carbondale police chief, Jody O’Guinn. We’ll quote O’Guinn below, but a quick disclaimer: O’Guinn left Carbondale amidst numerous scandals. Our citing him here is not praise of his actions as a police chief. Further, O’Guinn may not agree with our full diagnosis and proposed solutions. It does help, however, to have our analysis regarding the CPD’s statistical manipulation confirmed by someone on the other side of the so-called “thin-blue-line.”

In an email forwarded to us, O’Guinn begins by clarifying that most police departments make a distinction between “contacts” (police-initiated encounters like pulling someone over) and “calls-for-service” (police services initiated by a call from citizens). He explains:

“If there is no mention of contacts, then all of the interactions are being lumped into the calls for service category, which will overinflate the calls for service. Some police administrators like doing it this way because it creates the illusion that the police are really busier than they actually are, which helps in convincing council members and the public that the police are overworked and understaffed, and that crime is running rampant.  That is how the CPD gets their numbers.”


O’Guinn goes on to describe how he began to suspect that the Carbondale Police Department was over-staffed:

“I found out by breaking down the calls for service and the contacts, I was able to drive down the numbers and show that officers were not as busy as they liked to publicize that they were.  Additionally, the time that the officers were actually tied up on a call for service was much less than the total hours of unencumbered time during their shift.   This meant that at least 60% of the time, officers were not on a call for service, and basically doing nothing.”

He notes that the statistical fudging in question — the blurring of “contacts” and “calls-for-service” — was the responsibility of then Assistant Chief Grubbs. He adds a word of caution about the situation:

“Grubbs is a master manipulator of statistical data. If he has any hand in it, you will most likely never get a true snapshot of the numbers, as he will finagle them to meet his needs.”

This is from the former police chief. You don’t need to think he did a great job to agree with what he’s laid out here. It is entirely clear from the Novak Report that the definition of “calls for service” has been expanded beyond recognition.

We’ll just make our allegation perfectly clear: the Carbondale Police Department is manipulating the statistics around calls for service in order to justify their excessively large police budget. We are over-policed, they know it, and they are stretching the definition of “calls for service” to justify their numbers and budget. And it is killing the town.

In a recent mailer, Mike Henry asserted that the police department should be “fully-staffed.” He doesn’t seem to understand the criticisms being leveled. No one is saying the police department shouldn’t be “fully-staffed,” we are saying that currently the police department is double-staffed. It should be “fully-staffed” by reducing its size by 50%, freeing up $5 million to transform Carbondale into a national leader tackling climate change, building an urban food system, and foregrounding compassionate solutions to social problems.

 

*CORRECTION: The first paragraph of this post originally ended with this line: “Also, each individual officer responding to a call counts as a distinct ‘call for service.’ For example, if three Carbondale police officers arrive on a scene to shoot a dog, that will be written up as 3 distinct calls for service — even if no one called for them to show up.”
This is false, and we offer our apologies for getting it wrong. Upon a closer read of the Novak report (pg. 58), the CPD distinguishes between “events” and “calls for service.” “Events” are recorded for each individual officer; “calls for service” are not.

The confusion arose from the fact that the Novak report filtered the ‘call for service’ data supplied by the CPD into “events,” and then broke those events down into “administrative,” “proactive,” and “reactive” events. It is difficult to discern how the number of events maps onto the ‘call for service’ numbers, since in the CPD’s reporting, many events classified by the Novak report as “administrative events” are included as “calls for service.”

Required Listening for Carbondaliens #3: Carbondale Spring featured on Ashes Ashes Podcast

Well, this is an honor. Ashes Ashes is one of the best educational podcasts on the ecological, social, medical, and other crises of our time. It is a strangely hopeful show about the end of the world, and we’re very excited that their most recent episode features the Carbondale Spring!

Check it out: https://ashesashes.org/blog/episode-65-above-the-paving-stones-the-desert

(p.s. just a note, like many people looking up Carbondale on the internet, they think we’re in Colorado….)

Response to Mayor Henry regarding Police “Calls for Service”

The Carbondale Spring has helped shape the current mayoral election debate. At the most recent Mayoral forum, hosted by Women 4 Change, numerous questions were posed to the candidates regarding the size of the police budget. We have argued that Carbondale is significantly over-policed, based on a comparison between Carbondale and the national average, as well as similarly sized college towns in Illinois. Our argument is based on the ratio of police to residents, and we use statistics from the FBI, which apparently believes that is a relevant comparison.

Mayor Mike Henry, however, dismissed population as a relevant factor in evaluating the size of the police department. During the forum, he said that the city of Carbondale paid a “handsome fee” to get an outside consulting firm to evaluate the police department, and that firm concluded that they were understaffed. The basis of their evaluation was, first, the amount of “community policing” the city wanted, and second, the number of “calls for service.”

We’ll leave “community policing” for a later post, but for now we want to focus in on this concept of “calls for service.”

When you think of “calls for service,” what comes to mind? Very likely, you imagine a 911 call, right? And it makes sense that you would imagine that, because, according to the Police Data Initiative (“a law enforcement community of practice that includes leading law enforcement agencies, technologists, and researchers”),

Calls for service to law enforcement agencies generally include calls to “911” for emergency assistance and may also include calls to non-emergency numbers.

So, calls for service usually includes not only 911 calls, but also things that might be solved by people who aren’t police. As we’ve suggested in our Care Worker initiative, many 911 calls may also be better handled by people who aren’t police. But that’s not what we want to point out here.

The Carbondale Police Department seems to have, let’s say, a very expansive definition of “calls for service.” According to the Novak Consulting Group’s report (pg 59), referenced by Mayor Henry,

Typically, calls for service could be distilled based on priority, since higher priority calls (Priority 1 and Priority 2) are reactive in nature, but that is not the case in Carbondale. Some report writing, car wash, and other administrative and proactive activities are categorized as Priority 1 in the system

That is, not only do activities like “car washing” and administrative tasks count, according to the Carbondale Police Department, as “calls for service,” but in fact they count as Priority 1! The Novak Consulting Group even notes that this is not in line with how things are typically measured.

But let’s take a step back, shall we.

In 2008, the Carbondale Police Department recorded 33,589 total “calls for service.”

In 2015, the Carbondale Police Department recorded 77,032 total “calls for service,” as cited by the Novak Report — which used “calls for service” as one of the major components for evaluating the size of the police department.

Isn’t it interesting that in the years leading up to this evaluation, the number of “calls for service” more than doubled. Those were also years, of course, during which the population of the town was very likely declining.

We’ve been told — but can’t confirm — that the Carbondale Police Department actually greatly expanded its interpretation of the concept of “calls for service” during these years. Why? That would be a good question for Mayor Henry, who seems to have not looked very closely at the consulting report he commissioned, and for which the city paid a “handsome fee.”

For what its worth, Nathan Colombo has admitted that the police department is way too big, and endorsed the Carbondale Spring as a way to right-size the police force while finding creative and compassionate ways to improve quality of life in the city.