I’m an Old Brooklyn Social Media Ambassador

Thursday, 28 April 2016

I met with some neigh­bors at the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation tonight to learn about their #what­sy­ourold­brook­lyn so­cial me­dia cam­paign. I signed up to be one of their lo­cal so­cial me­dia am­bas­sadors, was se­lected, and have now been ori­ented.

Having spent 4 years (mostly thank­less) pro­mot­ing Tremont out of good­will via Tremonter (I have no idea what the hell it is now, or who owns the do­main), I’m glad to be out of the driver’s seat and happy to help out do­ing — quite frankly — ex­actly what I’d be do­ing any­way. I also have more pow­er­ful tools in my pocket than were avail­able from 2004 – 2008.

I’ve only lived in Old Brooklyn since August 2015, but I like it here. It’s too big to be­come $450k con­dos sur­round­ing a street of $40-per-plate restau­rants like Tremont — and if there are fac­tions fight­ing over what “Old Brooklyn” means or should be, I am com­pletely obliv­i­ous to them. People keep their yards tidy, shop lo­cal, and chat with each other. I don’t feel like this neigh­bor­hood is try­ing to be a des­ti­na­tion. I feel, rather, as if it wants to be the place you come home to.

What I value in a neigh­bor­hood has changed, es­pe­cially now that I’m a dad. There’s a lot of au­then­tic­ity in this part of Cleveland, and a lot of his­tory, and I look for­ward to help­ing peo­ple dis­cover it. For the next 6 months, I’ll be do­ing so via Twitter (& Periscope), Instagram, Google+, and to a lesser ex­tent, Facebook and Snapchat (sci­u­rus). There might even be a lit­tle Poetry 4 Free ac­tion as well. And, of course, post­ing here on my weblog.

Feeling kind of nos­tal­gic. Should be good.


Saturday, 6 June 2015

I cre­ated a Twitter bot named @CLEHelperBot. It retweets the hash­tag #WhereInCleveland. That’s all it does. What’s the point?

My thought process:

  1. I fre­quently don’t know where to find stuff in Cleveland. Stuff like gaffer’s tape, a de­cent tai­lor, an old-school bar­ber­shop, a date.
  2. How do I find peo­ple who know the an­swers to these ques­tions?
  3. How can I make this use­ful for other folks?

For the bot to be use­ful, two things need to hap­pen:

  1. Many Cleveland folks need to fol­low @CLEHelperBot and re­ply with an­swers to the #WhereInCleveland tweets it retweets.
  2. People need to use #WhereInCleveland when they want to find some­thing around here.

I’m try­ing to crowd­source lo­cal knowl­edge to help out vis­i­tors & res­i­dents alike. If you use Twitter & live in Cleveland, I’d ap­pre­ci­ate your help get­ting this off the ground.

Everybody wants to be the van­guard

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

I kib­itzed a bit of on­line spill-over of an ar­gu­ment be­tween an­ar­chists, Occupiers, ac­tivists, & sundry in­ter­ested par­ties re­gard­ing or­ga­niz­ing & protest­ing around the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. The dis­cus­sion was about or­ga­niz­ing & ac­tivist method­olo­gies & the ar­gu­ment (whose prove­nance is in dis­pute) was about “di­ver­sity of tac­tics” which, as far as I can tell, is just spin for “we’ll join y’all if all y’all let us do what­ever we want”, which de­feats the pur­pose of or­ga­niz­ing in the first place.

I don’t re­ally have any thoughts worth voic­ing about the specifics of that argument/​discussion, but it got me think­ing.

One of the things I’ve learned over the past decade I’ve spent in­volv­ing my­self in var­i­ous civic or­ga­niz­ing ini­tia­tives is that most peo­ple want to do some­thing big and flashy that will get them rec­og­nized. Everybody wants to be the van­guard.

I’ve also learned that the van­guard gets wiped out first.

The thing that no one wants to do is the leg­work. You can have a badass army, but if you don’t have com­pe­tent folks bring­ing bread and cheese and wa­ter in on trucks, your sol­diers get turned into sausage. 

There’s noth­ing flashy about the work of be­ing a Congress-crit­ter. They’re all sausage-mak­ers. The power lies in the will­ing­ness to do the te­dious prepa­ra­tion and un­sung heavy lift­ing to achieve your goal, what­ever it may be. That’s the way it works with any great process. That’s the great test of com­mit­ment. People who show up to do the bor­ing shit are the ones you want around, be­cause they know how to make sausage.

There will be plenty of peo­ple com­ing in to town to protest the 2016 RNC, and even more folks com­ing to par­tic­i­pate in it. The folks in Cleveland prepar­ing to protest might con­sider (if they haven’t al­ready, like I said, I’m only tan­gen­tially aware of their dis­cus­sion) whether they’d rather be 1 of nu­mer­ous un­co­or­di­nated & ques­tion­ably trust­wor­thy van­guards, or the un­sung ground crew that keeps it all to­gether.

Poetry 4 Free Update

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Today I wrote my 50th poem in my Poetry 4 Free project. It’s been great fun so far; de­spite the heavy mock­ing from my cowork­ers and the ob­vi­ous & un­spo­ken doubt­ful­ness from cer­tain folks I know, it has ful­filled, at least in part, all of the goals I had in mind when I started this back in April.

I’m def­i­nitely less afraid to write. I have be­come much bet­ter at tak­ing a topic and start­ing to write on it im­me­di­ately. I think the po­ems I pro­duce in 5 – 10 min­utes could be deemed fair for that time frame. I’ve got­ten into a few ruts though, and have been try­ing to change up my meth­ods in or­der to keep things fresh. I don’t want to be a poem fac­tory, so the rep­e­ti­tion is a bad from which I am at­tempt­ing to draw some good.

I re­ceived open-armed per­mis­sion from the won­der­ful folks at the Cleveland Public Library to set up every Friday in the Eastman Reading Garden, and post-facto bene­dic­tion from the lady who man­ages Star Plaza for Playhouse Square Development. I didn’t re­al­ize it wasn’t a pub­lic park.

Lots of peo­ple give the side-eye, fewer stop for a poem, and, it seems, a large ma­jor­ity of the folks that do stop are in­ter­ested in telling a story about the dude with the hand-painted sign and a type­writer. The first was a post on Captured Cleveland. Dan Moulthrop from Civic Commons stopped by for a poem and tweeted about it. A fel­low writ­ing for Edible Cleveland wanted to put a blurb about me in an ar­ti­cle on Walnut Wednesdays. A col­lage artist asked to use my poem & photo in one of her works. My friend David Jurca even stopped by and took some video one day. Another day, an­other fel­low did so.


I’ve had sev­eral folks ask for po­ems as gifts, and a few re­turn to tell me how much the poem was ap­pre­ci­ated. I’ve had sad and poignant re­quests from es­tranged hus­bands, sweet re­quests from lov­ing wives, silly re­quests and chal­leng­ing ones. I’ve writ­ten about every­thing from mor­tal­ity to anal bleach­ing. I once ac­cepted a sil­ver dime as a tip, and I still feel vaguely guilty about that.

I’m hav­ing a blast, even on days when I get skunked. But I’m also start­ing to sense that the cur­rent sta­tus quo isn’t as ful­fill­ing as it once was. I may need fresh ground to cover (I plan on set­ting up shop in Lincoln Park dur­ing the Arts in August events), or I may just be feel­ing too at ease with the par­a­digm. I’m open to sug­ges­tions about how to shuf­fle the project in dif­fer­ent ways, and I’m very in­ter­ested in fur­ther ways that I can make it less about me. One thing I need to do is write po­etry out­side of this project. I’ve been very pro­lific for me, but the prac­tice has re­sulted in lit­tle ac­tual po­etry game time. Another change to be con­scious of.

You can fol­low this project on Twitter @Poetry4Free; find out where I’ll be and stop by for a poem. I hope you will.

Poetry 4 Free

Thursday, 19 April 2012

This sum­mer, at the very least, I’ll be er­rat­i­cally plant­ing my­self in var­i­ous semi-pop­u­lated places around Cleveland where there is foot traf­fic with a sign that says “Poetry 4 FREE” and a type­writer. I’m hop­ing that folks will stop and ask me for a poem. They give me the sub­ject and I write it for them, right then. They walk away with the poem, and hope­fully I’ve got­ten a bit bet­ter at writ­ing them. If this sounds in­trigu­ing to you, you can fol­low @Poetry4Free on Twitter to find out where I’ll be.

Many years ago, I read an ar­ti­cle about a pro­fes­sor who ran a sum­mer po­etry pro­gram for high school stu­dents. One of the things they ended up do­ing was camp­ing out in the town and writ­ing im­promptu po­ems for strangers/​passerby. I wish I could find the ar­ti­cle. I’m sure it took place on the East Coast, and I keep think­ing Jersey. (Help.) I told my friend RA Washington about ap­pro­pri­at­ing this idea around the same time, and, true to form, he’d al­ready been there. Chopping out po­ems for fivers in Public Square. (My de­tails may be a bit hazy here as well.) When I de­cided to fi­nally get rolling with it, quite re­cently, I men­tioned the project to my friend Kevin and he im­me­di­ately brought up Abigail Mott, who has, and per­haps still is, do­ing ba­si­cally the same thing.

So this idea isn’t even re­motely orig­i­nal, but I’m do­ing it and here’s why.

Because I’m ar­ro­gant

I have ex­tremely high self-es­teem. I think that folks might ac­tu­ally be in­ter­ested in hav­ing a com­plete stranger write them a poem, on the spot. I think that I can do it, and be good at it.

To prac­tice hu­mil­ity

I need to keep my ego reined, so I am giv­ing the po­etry away; the only copy. If it’s the best poem I’ll ever write, I’ll be let­ting it go with whomever re­quested it. I’ll be let­ting go of con­trol for a change. I’m not ask­ing for money, I’m not even pro­mot­ing my­self. I’m still go­ing back and forth on putting my name on the po­ems I pro­duce.

Because I’m a cow­ard

I rarely do any thing pub­licly be­cause I’m afraid of suck­ing, be­ing ig­nored, or be­ing dis­missed. This should help me sack up a bit.

To prac­tice writ­ing

I need to write more, and hav­ing some­one else give me a topic means that I get to prac­tice with­out feel­ing the guilt that I’m just ego trip­ping. Even though, in most ways, I still think I am.

Hopefully I’ll see you out there.


Stop, Collaborate and Listen: EfficientGovNetwork Regional Collaboration Conference

Saturday, 15 October 2011

On Thursday 13 October 2011, I used a va­ca­tion day to at­tend the EfficientGovNetwork Regional Collaboration Conference on be­half of the Cleveland Coalition/​Transparency Action Plan Summit. I met up with Pepper Pike coun­cil­woman Jill Miller Zimon and we car­pooled down to Akron. Jill was there on be­half of The Civic Commons; they are help­ing with outreach/​education for #EGNetwork.

This con­fer­ence was de­signed to help lo­cal gov­ern­ments learn how they can work to­gether to save money. If you need more back­ground or con­text, click the links. A bit of note tran­scrip­tion with eli­sions and par­tially pol­ished spots is what you get next, with a bit of com­men­tary at the end.


Brad Whitehead from the Fund for Our Economic Future had the open­ing re­marks. He said that the Fund’s pur­pose for spon­sor­ing this con­fer­ence is to help the eco­nomic health of the re­gion. His main points were:

  1. Regional Government col­lab­o­ra­tion is im­por­tant;
  2. Successes will be cu­mu­la­tive (no such thing as a big fix), and;
  3. It’s go­ing to be hard work.

He men­tioned that the com­bined eco­nomic power of our gov­ern­ments is around $20 bil­lion, which trans­lates to 10% of the region’s to­tal econ­omy. He con­ceded that this kind of col­lab­o­ra­tion & ef­fi­ciency is harder for gov­ern­ments to ac­com­plish than it is for busi­nesses, and men­tioned that it takes a com­bi­na­tion of will and skill to be suc­cess­ful in these types of en­deav­ors. He tasked the at­ten­dees to learn from each other.

His re­marks were fol­lowed by a ple­nary ses­sion that pro­vided the con­fer­ence at­ten­dees with some food for thought re­gard­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Tom Pascarella, the Administrative Director of Tallmadge, OH spoke about how his town dealt with a 10% drop in their rev­enue by con­sol­i­dat­ing their dis­patch­ers with Stow and by join­ing the Regional Income Tax Authority. This saves them $880,000 per year.

John Hoornbeek, Director of Kent State’s Center for Public Administration and Public Policy told us about 4 good things and two chal­lenges about re­gional col­lab­o­ra­tion.

  1. This con­fer­ence and other con­ver­sa­tions are good, as are;
  2. The ap­plic­a­bil­ity of col­lab­o­ra­tion across many dif­fer­ent pol­icy ar­eas;
  3. The statewide at­ten­tion the col­lab­o­ra­tion is gar­ner­ing, and;
  4. The de­vel­op­ment of net­works for col­lab­o­ra­tion.

This re­mains chal­leng­ing, how­ever, be­cause col­lab­o­ra­tion is hard and the re­gion isn’t well or­ga­nized right now.

Ed Jerse, Regional Collaboration Director for Cuyahoga County, spoke about the ways to get com­mu­ni­ties to work to­gether, specif­i­cally, by do­ing what we al­ready know works. He spoke of the need to rec­og­nize that col­lab­o­ra­tion is an evo­lu­tion­ary process, and there will be dead ends as a re­sult of this. He said that it is very easy to have an idea, but it is even eas­ier to kill one, and that it takes courage to try new things in the face of that chal­lenge.

Dave Kaminski from the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce spoke briefly re­gard­ing the dif­fer­ences be­tween gov­ern­ment and busi­ness ef­fi­ciency. His main points were that busi­nesses think that gov­ern­ment should be run like a busi­ness, but they need to un­der­stand that gov­ern­ments are re­quired to provide ser­vices, even if they im­pact the bot­tom line. He got a lot of laughs with his on-point line that you can’t lay­off  the 3rd grade.

The ques­tion & an­swer pe­riod re­sulted in the fol­low­ing points:

  1. Top-down pres­sure (or buy-in) is needed to force col­lab­o­ra­tion & good net­work­ing.
  2. It’s eas­ier to col­lab­o­rate if you’re not an elected of­fi­cial.
  3. Building trust be­fore col­lab­o­rat­ing is im­per­a­tive.
  4. Collaboration should be re­de­fined to ex­tend be­yond work­ing with “whomever looks like us.”
  5. Forming a col­lab­o­ra­tion habit makes fur­ther col­lab­o­ra­tion eas­ier.

Breakout ses­sions fol­lowed. I at­tended the IT col­lab­o­ra­tion break­out. Much of the dis­cus­sion cen­tered around col­lab­o­ra­tion that had al­ready been im­ple­mented and the lessons learned dur­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tions. Let me know if you’d like fur­ther de­tails. For the most part, the break­out ses­sions were some­what in­side baseball/​hyper-​specific, so I’m not go­ing to say much about them here.

During lunch a fist­fight broke out and while every­one was dis­tracted at my ta­ble, I ate their desserts. Paying at­ten­tion again? Good. Actually, dur­ing lunch Randy Cole from the State of Ohio spoke about the ways that the Kasich ad­min­is­tra­tion has made it eas­ier for lo­cal gov­ern­ments to deal with the huge cuts in State fund­ing. Afterwards, I got the sense from a few dif­fer­ent peo­ple that it seemed more like a press con­fer­ence than any­thing par­tic­u­larly use­ful for the gov­ern­ment folks there. There’s a $45 mil­lion state fund for col­lab­o­ra­tive projects, but the com­mit­tee isn’t fully as­signed and they haven’t met yet, so there are no de­tails re­gard­ing what would qual­ify for the fund­ing. Mr. Cole men­tioned the State Auditor’s Shared Services por­tal, which is some­thing I hadn’t been pre­vi­ously aware of.

After lunch I di­vided my time be­tween the Economic Development break­out and the Mergers break­out. In the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ses­sion I learned a bit about Joint Economic Development Districts (JEDDs) but, as im­por­tant as Economic Development is, I still find it hard to keep at­ten­tion fo­cused when they get to the nitty-gritty. Dan Mamula spoke about his work with the Mahoning River Corridor Initiative and how they’ve man­aged to get com­mu­ni­ties 40+ miles apart to col­lab­o­rate on eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment is­sues. I re­ally en­joyed lis­ten­ing to him speak about the work they’ve done.

By the time I got to the Mergers break­out ses­sion, they were deep into the de­tails about the pro­posed #burb­merger of 4 com­mu­ni­ties in the east­ern part of Cuyahoga County. This seemed like the per­fect ex­am­ple of what the theme for the day was: “Collaboration is Hard”.


I thought this con­fer­ence was a de­cent start. I think there needs to be a well-turned-out fol­low-up meet­ing (The fol­low-up meet­ing is on November 10th at 9am at the Richfield Town Hall) and some sort of tech­ni­cal sup­port per­sons to wran­gle and fa­cil­i­tate con­tin­u­ing con­ver­sa­tion about col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the col­lab­o­ra­tors. I didn’t get the sense that any of that was in place.

While there were many great ex­am­ples of money-sav­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties, most of them were fairly an­ti­quated. I don’t know how many ex­am­ples I heard about com­mu­ni­ties who had com­bined their dis­patch­ers. Both of the IT ini­tia­tives that I heard about were a decade old, and it ap­pears that there aren’t any par­tic­u­lar lead­ers push­ing for new and in­no­v­a­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties. To re­frame us­ing the watch-phrases from the con­fer­ence: “Collaboration is hard, so do what al­ready works first.” I agree with this. However, it needed an ad­di­tion that wasn’t present. The theme should have been more like: “Collaboration is hard. Do what al­ready works first, but make sure you seek out other op­por­tu­ni­ties at the same time.”  As some­one com­mented in the IT ses­sion, all of the col­lab­o­ra­tion men­tioned was at the net­work layer, and noth­ing at the ap­pli­ca­tion layer.

Three fi­nal thoughts:

  • I felt that lunch would have been bet­ter if there hadn’t been a speaker. Quite a few fruit­ful net­work­ing dis­cus­sions were cut short.
  • I thought there should have been a dis­cus­sion or some speak­ers specif­i­cally ad­dress­ing the rea­sons these com­mu­ni­ties haven’t felt the need to col­lab­o­rate un­til now. The rea­son they are col­lab­o­rat­ing now is ob­vi­ous. The money ran out. If they’d been col­lab­o­rat­ing be­fore­hand, this pickle wouldn’t be such a big dill. (NO APOLOGIES).
  • I thought there should have been some sort of ac­tion item or um­brella goal for the par­tic­i­pants to leave with other than the su­per vague “col­lab­o­rate”. Is the Fund for our Economic Future go­ing to act as a li­aison or net­work­ing and tech­ni­cal sup­port source for this ini­tia­tive, or is the ex­pec­ta­tion that ad hoc col­lab­o­ra­tions will be the norm. I feel that if there is an ex­pec­ta­tion for re­gional col­lab­o­ra­tion, there should be a group wholly ded­i­cated  to pro­mot­ing that.

Someone at the con­fer­ence said that col­lab­o­ra­tion isn’t some­thing you can do part time. I com­pletely agree and think that ap­plies to trans­parency as well. These are the hot new par­a­digms, and if you can’t give them the ef­fort they de­serve, you shouldn’t try them at all.