Welcome City Resolution

I don’t profess to know all the political ramifications of supporting or not supporting the proposed welcome city resolution.

So I’m just going to speak from my heart. I feel better about this anyway, because if you ask me, how we treat other people is an issue of love and not politics.

And then you’ll see how and why I feel good about the resolution that was proposed at the May 16 city council meeting. And I give a huge kudos to Nathan Weller and Ann Parks for presenting it.

Read the proposed resolution

Outside my house, I have the same sign many folks have seen across Pullman:

Someone asked me the other day why I “jumped on that bandwagon” and got a sign. I didn’t jump on it. I was actually one of the first people in the city who had this sign. But I certainly don’t deride others from getting one, no matter how “flooded” they feel that market is. I celebrate it! Isn’t it a good thing folks are showing they care?

There are only three languages on the sign, but it’s meant to be a statement.

Some would say that Pullman is already a welcoming city, and that a sign like this is a redundancy.

And? So what! We build procedural redundancies all the time so that if something goes wrong, we have a backup. We can’t we outwardly show others exactly how we feel even if many already know? Yes, we can! And, if they don’t know, maybe they now will.

If we don’t grow up understanding what privilege is, that’s understandable. After all, common explanations of what this is has largely been made by academic folks. Many of my closest friends are higher education faculty members. Very smart folks. But a lot of times, I don’t understand a darned thing they’re saying, especially when they’re using a specific argot, and speaking in a manner that makes it seem like they’re reading a peer-reviewed journal article!

But more on privilege in a moment.

My views of our inter-connectedness and global community drastically changed when I lived in Argentina. If there was a continuum to show how I felt about things I wasn’t used to, it would be 1) Ignorance. 2) Awareness. 3) Experience. 4) Acceptance/Rejection. 5) Embracement.

Now, that’s pretty rudimentary, because at any point in our life, we could be at any area on that continuum, with any number of things. I know I sure was. Let me tell you about life back in the late 90s. My friends and I used to say everything was “gay” or “retarded.” We didn’t say this with any feeling of malice in our hearts. We certainly would never have actually made fun of or bullied any of our friends who were gay, or had intellectual or physical disabilities. Had I ever done that, my dad probably would have bullied me a little (he’s grown, too, because becoming physical is not what he is about, either). But we said these hurtful things nonetheless! While on one hand I’m mortified at the things we used to say, I also share this because it was part of my personal growth, and I think it’s important to help others understand that just because you say or do things one way, doesn’t mean you can’t change things that are sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, Islamophobic, etc., etc.

So, that was life in the late 90s. But from Dec. 10, 1999 until Sept. 8, 2001, my eyes were opened quite a bit, ranging from “Why do they do things this way here? That’s goofy!” to an understanding that even if I didn’t do things the same way… even if I didn’t embrace that, I embraced their right to do it that way.

Much of this personal growth came because of conversations, and the subsequent self-reflection… truly personal interactions. I got to know people, not just talk to people. I got to be with them during good times and bad. I was blessed to celebrate with them and humbled to mourn with them (seriously, I shed many tears). I heard them and sympathized with them when they talked about their struggles. They shared things with me that were personal and most precious. Many are still my closest friends (Hugo! Rosalia! Tamara! Matias! La familia Alvarado!), and I would imagine they’d all say they saw a huge change in me.

This time was transformative, in so many ways, because it helped me identify with them in a way that transcended culture and language (though yes, I do speak fluent Spanish). There really was a world outside the one I knew. There were other ways of doing things. And if I didn’t do those things the same way, I could at least show respect and allow them the privilege of doing according to their own conscience. I decided that it wasn’t simply “my way or the highway.”

So, when I start to understand these things, I open myself up to hearing other folks talk about their experiences. The one I heard recently was the member of Trinity Lutheran sharing that someone had told to her to go back to Africa because of her skin color. Or a co-worker who has told me about her son being attacked and racial slurs being used.

But, “Pullman is already a welcoming city.”

Well, sure. Especially when only seen through the lens of our immediate circle of friends, or influence. Or even more so, our experience. Because, until something happens to us personally, we can’t begin to empathize with others. And that’s privilege.

I was one time driving in Centralia, where I grew up. I got pulled over. Cop said I had my music up too loud. Guilty as charged. He then asked about my immigration status. Wha?!?!?!w

I was listening to Maná, a phenomenal group from Mexico, one of my all-time favorites. My skin was also a lot darker than it was now because of all the time I had spent out in the sun. He decided I was “an illegal.”

See, for me, this only helped me empathize. But for me, it was still only an experience. It wasn’t life. I don’t live in fear every single day. While I feel that Pullman’s Police Department is 1,000 times better and less racist than the one from my home town (especially toward Latinos), nonetheless, it doesn’t change the fact that someone here might always be living in fear. And again, that’s the privilege I hold. It’s a term I’m admittedly still learning, and will forever be learning.

“But Pullman is already a welcoming city.”

That’s correct. For most folks.

OK, now let me school you: This resolution wasn’t written for most folks! This resolution wasn’t written for folks who have the same privilege as I have. It’s written for those who live here and need to know they have allies. It’s written for those who don’t live here but may be considering this as their home… and also want to know they’ll have allies.

“This resolution is merely a redundancy.”

Just like the sign in my yard, and the proposed welcome sign coming into Pullman, I’m compelled to ask: And? So what! Again, we build procedural redundancies all the time. We can’t we outwardly show others exactly how we feel even if many already know? Yes we can! And, if they don’t know, maybe they now will.

What does the resolution say that is making some folks so up tight? Again, here it is:

Read the proposed resolution

Is it the police section? OK… let’s have a civil conversation about it and any proposed rewording. Let’s talk about the politics of it. If you have reservations about this, let’s chat about it. Seems to me that even Nathan and Ann had a slight disagreement about some proposed wording. And that’s OK. Disagreement isn’t always bad.

Is there really anything else that people are truly worried about? I don’t see it! It’s a proclamation! It’s our ensign that this is who we are committed to be, even if we don’t feel that we always currently meet this. It is a symbol, just like my yard sign, that we think human rights, human decency, and love are vital. Can’t we just see it for what it is?

As Christian scripture says, in Matthew 25:40: “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” The “least” in this is not to be read as “inferior,” but is read to mean anybody who is marginalized. That’s just the gospel according to Chappy I guess.

Tough to argue this resolution. I’ve only heard three real reasons:

  1. It’s redundant.
    I’ve answered this a few times. Redundancy. So what!
  2. This was done for purely political reasons.
    Seems to me that this is more of a human decency issue rather than a political one. Sorry if you align with a political party that doesn’t feel love and decency are worth the effort.
  3. By proposing this at city council meeting, it meant classified staff had to stay an extra hour or so, plus the lights had to stay on an extra hour or so, costing the city money.
    No matter what, I feel like folks making this argument would take “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free… ” and would add to the end: “… until 8 p.m. and then we gotta shut ‘er down.” Not even worth the time to justify a response!

Kudos, again, to Nathan and Ann for bringing this forward.

There are several other benefits to this, such as economic benefits. But again, for the same reason I’m not talking about this politically, I’m not talking about it economically. That’s not why I support this, though economics might very well be a benefit. I support this because it’s the right thing to do.

That’s how I feel. From my heart.

Para mi, no me importa de donde sos (si quisiera hablar como argentino :), o de donde venís. Sepas que conmigo tenés un amigo, o, por lo menos, alguien que te puede respetar… por lo que sos, no por lo que quiero que seas.

Find My City Councilor

“I’m not even sure who the city councilors are for my ward.”

That is not an unusual thing to hear.

Well, all the councilors are listed on the City of Pullman website. It tells you their name. It tells you what ward they serve.

But it doesn’t tell you what ward you live in! So you still don’t know which councilors are your elected councilors!

I’ve always thought this would be an easy fix. I mean, if I can go online and find my legislators through the online tool, it shouldn’t be too hard to make something like that for the city. But in the absence of the city making one, I’ve made one.

Seems like Step 1 in our plan for a more engaged constituency is to at least know who our city councilors are. Now we can.

Find My City Councilor

Summer 2017 arterial street resurfacing project

The City of Pullman will undertake a pretty substantial street resurfacing this summer. It will affect Merman Drive, Valley Road, B Street, and Colorado Street.

View Resurfacing Plan Map

As you’d hope, the City has a plan in place to deal with all the traffic (a “control plan”). Detours, detours, detours!!!

Warning: You may have to be a cartographer to understand these, but either way, they’re provided to you here as a public service.

Control Plan – Sheet 51

Control Plan – Sheet 52

Control Plan – Sheet 53

Control Plan – Sheet 54

It should be pointed out that, as a separate project, Washington state’s Department of Transportation will be resurfacing SR-270 from just beyond Bishop Blvd., all the way through downtown Pullman out to Hwy 195. More to follow!

A new hope

When I speak of a new hope, I’m not talking about Star Wars IV, I’m talking about our new city supervisor Adam Lincoln, with whom I’m impressed as all can be. Here’s the city’s news release.

For those who don’t really know what the city supervisor does, here’s a simplistic comparison I can make: the city council is like Congress, the mayor is like the president, and the city supervisor is essentially like the chief of staff. That’s a really rough explanation as the city supervisor doesn’t act as “gatekeeper” to the mayor or anything like that, which usually will happen with the chief of staff, but you get the idea: the city supervisor is in charge of the staff. He or she helps the mayor see to it that city code is followed, and other policies which have been enacted by city council are realized. He or she is basically your day-to-day operations individual.

At any point, when we talk about having hope in a new administration, or enacting positive change, it can be easily inferred that there was a problem with the old one. When I speak of a new hope, and with excitement for our new city supervisor, I mean no disrespect at all to our former city manager. I hold no ill will to him, and wish him the very best in retirement.

But that new hope I’m talking about is real. To start with, I feel comfortable with the glowing review Mayor Johnson gave Adam before he even came on board.

He’s only 32 years young, is ambitious, and while not from Pullman, is from the region. He’s up-to-date on current best practice as it relates to municipal practice.

And he’s respectful and willing to listen to good ideas!

Working through a current issue, Adam was willing to talk to my wife face-to-face, was very open to both her concerns and feedback, and she left his office feeling more comfortable with the possibility of city working with residents in a timely, transparent, and respectful fashion.

Fast forward a few weeks, and without needling, Adam emailed my wife and let her know that the issue at hand was going to be taken care of. This was incredibly respectful.

I didn’t know anything about Adam before he came to Pullman. But I can’t wait to work with him in the coming years.

On growth and change.

Nobody every wants to be the city equivalent of Blockbuster Video, a company too rigid and unwilling to adapt its business practices to a changing technological landscape. Netflix gave the initial punch to the gut when it began mailing out DVDs. Redbox came in and kicked the old video store chain while it was down. And then, when Netflix came in with its subscription-based streaming, it was game-set-match. Blockbuster tried to modify its business practices, but it was too little too late.

Change has to happen! We’re in a pro-growth phase and unless we’re willing to accept that, we will continue down a path of doing business as though we’re in the pre-growth era. And, while it may not spell the end of Pullman, it can dramatically alter the way we live our lives. No, we’re NOT going to become the next Washtucna. That’s too extreme. We actually can still keep our core values: small-town life, a sense of community, dedication to local business, etc.

Those core values are important, and it’s the reason I really want the mayor and city council to spearhead the city’s next vision and mission. This is part of the comprehensive plan. And with deference to our long-time city planner Pete Dickinson, who I like and feel is a good man, I have to say I don’t feel the vision and mission should be left to him. And definitely not a consultant! It should be our elected officials, with public input, with input from all department heads – including Pete – that craft a vision we can call get behind.  This is vital, because in this process, we identify what our core values are as a city.

For me, I don’t want Pullman to be run like Seattle. I don’t want large skyscrapers. That does not mean I like suburban sprawl. But we have to be reasonable about what that means. I feel like I have fundamental disagreements with one resident who often writes opinion pieces in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, and who equates subdivisions in Pullman as “suburbs.” Nope. Most of these are, mind you, less than two miles away from downtown, some even closer. Let’s look at it this way: if you’re living in Seattle, and are five miles from downtown, are you in the suburbs? Not even close! The idea that our best solution to everything is to take single-family homes away, and force everyone to live in high-rise apartment complexes downtown in order to minimize footprint and make public transportation easier, is ludicrous. If I wanted that, I would live in Seattle! Sometimes, I wonder if these folks that are so unhappy with small-town life wouldn’t be better off moving to Seattle, where apparently the grass is always greener (though not in the city… there is very little grass except for the occasional shared space).

So, how do we grow, and change, yet keep the same type of feel that drove us to Pullman in the first place? We have to be smart about it! That’s not exactly the same as “smart growth,” which Smart Growth America defines as “a way to build cities, towns, and neighborhoods that are economically prosperous, socially equitable, and environmentally sustainable.”

That, of course, is just one definition. In essence, it strives to have walkability, bikability, “complete streets,” mixed-use development, neighborhood schools, and transportation choices, among other things.

Obviously, specifics on how this is brought to pass can vary based on a number of variables. But the key, of course, is that it is a collective process that asks for community engagement in the planning process… throughout the whole life cycle. It means there is transparency in the process. It means residents are well informed of projects, have ample time to give input, review pertinent documents, etc.

More than just ideas

Arguably, the Neolithic Revolution was one of the greatest accomplishments to have ever occurred. An agriculture-heavy Palouse can appreciate that. It certainly changed the world, at the very least allowing hunter-gatherers to be permanent fixtures in a certain geographical location.

We’ve had other great ideas, when, brought to fruition, changed the world. Vaccination, the Internet, Relativity, Copernican Revolution.

It’s kind of cool sitting right on the edge of WSU, from where amazing ideas often come. In fact, for a while, WSU had a “Big Ideas” research campaign. But it wasn’t enough. In fact, outside the university, many feel a mere idea is a joke. Business doesn’t want ideas, it wants results. That means an idea that is developed and then taken to market. It’s probably the reason WSU set a much better goal of taking ideas and then actually solving some of our societal grand challenges.

To go with its low crime, good school, highly educated people, etc., etc., Pullman still has its fair share of challenges. For example, based on geography, to get from Sunnyside Hill or Military Hill to downtown, to the university, to Bishop Boulevard, you have to cross or go down Grand Avenue. It creates a choke-point. This is a small challenge within our public transportation network. I’m sure we can come up with several more, including our water use and reuse, improving our town-gown, and increasing our business downtown.

Previously, I wrote about engagement, and how important it is. I truly believe that we have folks in our city who will come up with ideas that may not change the world, but will change Pullman. We may not know who those people are right now, what’s on their mind, and how it will help, but they’re out there. If we have the right people in key elected positions, the right people in key city positions, and the right communication processes and mechanisms in place, we can take the best ideas in Pullman and apply them to the issues or challenges we face.

Increasing our Engagement

I’m an Eagle Scout. I continue to be actively involved as a merit badge councilor. One of these is the Citizenship in the Community merit badge.

In the introduction of this merit badge manual, it says “A community is a group of people living in a particular area who share common characteristics, interests, activities, or purposes.”

I believe this has some truth to it, but when speaking of a city, let’s be honest, the “community,” is often about people who don’t share common characteristics, interests, or activities, but who still work together to preserve their core values and realize the vision and mission of the city.

What is our city’s vision? Do you know? What is our city mission statement? If we are to be successful as a city, we need a shared vision. If nobody knows what the vision is, a shared vision isn’t possible. That leads to failure.

We must get more people involved, and care about, things pertaining to our community!

That starts with our elected officials.

Our city councilors do great work. My wife and I have had one councilor who hasn’t ever returned an email or gotten back to us on a few things. But apart from this non-responsive councilor, most are very open to talk, and will respond accordingly. I think this is great.

But, in preparing for this campaign, I’ve asked probably 200 people if they know who their city councilors are. Seriously, almost nobody knows! Most can pinpoint Glenn Johnson as our mayor. A few have pointed out some of our others, such as Eileen Macoll or Al Sorensen. But that’s as far as it goes. Seriously, most of our councilors are far less known than they probably realize. Heck, one resident, when I asked who his city councilor was, said, with a question in his inflection “Barney Waldrop?”

How does a new resident even figure out who their city councilor is? If you go to the city website, you can see a list of the seven councilors. One is at-large. The other six are listed and their respective wards are listed. But what isn’t there? Something that shows what ward you’re living in! So, you still don’t know which of the councilors listed are yours.

Aside from an easy website fix, kind of like a Washington state’s Find Your Legislator, the easy fix to all this would be having councilors themselves speak on an ongoing basis with their constituents.

Instead of going around every four years and knocking doors, how difficult would it be for an elected councilor to send a monthly email to their constituents in their ward, or a monthly e-newsletter, something like that?

When the city council sets its yearly goals, those are posted in the Community Update. But then are we to rely on the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, or KQQQ to give us the updates from there? Why?

A single city councilor is merely one of seven. So, there are few campaign promises I’m going to make. I will promise to work hard toward solving certain issues. But I can’t speak for the other elected officials, nor would it be appropriate.

The one campaign promise I will make, however, is a monthly e-newsletter or email to the Ward 3 constituents. Where does the city council sit on its goals set for the year? What are some of the challenges that we’ve met? What opportunities exist for our residents to get involved?

I don’t feel folks want to be unengaged. Why are there often more people on Sunnyside Hill who want to be part of the planning commission than, say, Pioneer Hill? Because that’s where a lot of building is going on! That’s where developers are coming in, building houses, and not building sidewalks. These things are not out of sight out of mind. They’re right in front of the residents’ faces. They care.

Folks also talk about issues on social media. This shows that they are looking around them at things. But they should know who their councilor is so they can reach out to them.

I think if a councilor sends the kind of information I’m going to make a central part of this councilorship, then we’ll all be the better for it.

Chapman for Council 2017

With Christmas now past, my family is looking toward the future. We’re never entirely sure what the future will hold for 2017, but we at least know it will be the year I run for City Council.

My wife and I have discussed this at length, and we have decided it’s the right thing to do. In the days that follow, I will express my thoughts and ideas, which the ultimate goal of having a more engaged Pullman, specifically for Ward 3, which is where we live.

As a courtesy, I have expressed this to the mayor, as well as to most of the city council members, including Jeff Hawbaker, against whom I would run if he chose to seek re-election.

The filing period for public office is in May. There will be plenty of information that will follow, but for now, I’ll be in a stage of setting the groundwork for the campaign, including website, social media, fundraising, etc.