January 21st, 2004

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City Council Tonight

City Council was intense tonight.

The mayor's sister and father came out opposed to the mayor's and the council's stance. Council members had close friends and supporters coming out against their stance. Council members believed that their hands were tied by the law, that even if they opposed Walmart that they had to approve this preliminary plat because everything was up to code. My favorite council member left the chamber yelling at the folks who worked on her campaign but now opposed her stance (including me) and in tears. The meeting ran from 7:30pm until nearly midnight. Of the 40 people that expressed an opinion, 2 were in favor of Walmart.

One thing became clear. This is what the one council member was yelling at us about, and she was right. We need to make this into a movement. We can't come to one council meeting and demand change and then go home and do nothing. We have to organize picketting. We have to organize behind specific laws that we want council to pass and advocate for those. We have to educate the public about places they can shop other than Walmart. We have to educate the council on ways they can creatively oppose the Walmart.

I still think tonight's vote didn't have to be a done deal. I still think the council could have been (and can still be) more proactive in preventing Walmart from coming to town. But I do feel bad for the council members that are taking the brunt of the criticism. I remember when I was the Chair of a committee that was dealing with a very divisive issue and people accused me of being unjust and lacking social consciousness about the issue and it brought me to tears because I was doing my level best to be a fair mediator. I can imagine that same pressure but magnified by thousands and thousands of people telling you you are a bad person for doing the thing that you think is the best thing among a nest of bad options.

In other news the same council passed a Domestic Partner benefit tonight that extends the right to take bereavement and sick and family emergency medical leave to same-sex couples with a declared domestic partnership. That was cool.
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News: Walmart

Here's my more "newsy" account of the Walmart story:

Tonight 4 city council members (Patt, Wyman, Chynoweth, Hayes) voted unanimously to approve the Preliminary Subdivision Plat for Walmart in East Urbana at the corner of route 130 and route 150. Council members Huth and Whelan were absent and Otto recused himself due to a conflict of interest. Over 40 members of the public submitted comments all but two of which were opposed to the Walmart development.

The mayor and council members explained that because Walmart's proposal did not include any requests for incentives from the City that the law gave Walmart an absolute private property right to develop on that land which has been zoned B3 for several months. The only choice for council this evening would be to determine that the development plan wasn't up to city code and to give Walmart a chance to come up to code.

Members of the public expressed many concerns about the impact of Walmart on local businesses and the environment, questioned the reality of the $700,000 tax revenue that some claimed Walmart would bring in, and expressed general frustration with the process in which they were constantly told that any given meeting was not the right place to discuss whether or not Walmart should build in Urbana. Those opposed to Walmart hoped that Council members would table tonight's vote or find a reason to vote against it.
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Psychic Livejournal Dating Dream

In my dream I'm standing at some kind of counter (at first it is an ATM but later it is a restraunt) with 2 friends, one of whom I'm slightly interested in but don't know her feelings about me. The other friend walks off to get something and this girl just casually touches the top of my hand. I get those sparks of the sudden realization that I'm being flirted with. I turn my hand over and hold hers. Seconds pass and I finally screw up the courage to actually look up and make eye contact. We both giggle nervously and then smile comfortably. Then she gets up and leads me over to the other side of the counter and leans in for a kiss. I follow and lean in to the kiss. After a very nice tentative kiss I say something. I don't remember what it was it was just a few words about the moment and she leaned back in and we started kissing intensely. Our friend wanders back at this point and kind of smiles embarrassed and when we ignore her and keep kissing more and more passionately the other friend shrugs and wanders off, amused.

When we finally break the kiss after getting to the point where we were nearly disrobing each other and suddenly realizing we're in open public, I say something else nice about the moment and she says something about how it was like I could read her mind because a couple times I'd said exactly what she was thinking.

Suddenly my vision of the dream is superimposed transparent page of text pver the actual reality. I tell her, "of course I can read your mind NOW, because right now is after the fact and I'm reading your LiveJournal entry about these events and you wrote what you were thinking". Suddenly the comfortable bliss of the moment grinds to a complete halt as everyone in the area turns and looks at me like I'm completely insane and a little bit scary. I've violated the linearity of time. I try to explain that it isn't a violation of the linearity of time because this scene is only happening in my mind's eye later that day while I am reading the LiveJournal. And then I start to think I've gone completely insane because why would my remembrance of the day have that sort of psychic insight that could only be gleaned from reading the LiveJournal account and this sort of meta-dialog justifying the situation. Those things didn't happen the "first" time. But if they didn't happen, then why did she write that I understood her thoughts so well? Temporal loop. Oops. Core Dump. Wake up.
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The Greens Day In Court

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Court is always an interesting experience for me. I'm intrigued by the whole process. Since this was a general civil court the many cases that happened before the Greens case had nothing to do with election law. Every single one of them was regarding back rent and eviction. It was kind of tragic to see all these people being evicted over one or two months worth of rent. To see the judge asking these folks who had no lawyer "how they wanted to proceed" and watching them squirm as they had no options. There were several people who simply agreed to pay (the smart thing to do if you don't have a case against your landlord). There were a few who believed the landlord's request dollar amount to be in error and who asked for a trial (good to stand up for their rights but I hope they have a lawyer at the trial because the landlords sure did). Finally there were several who said they just wanted to pay, the judge said that didn't concern him all he wanted to know is if they wanted a trial or simply agreed to the claims of the landlords. These few asked for a a trial. I think that they thought "great this gives me another week to come up with the money or to move out before I get evicted". What I don't think they realized was that it would increase the legal fees they would be required to pay to the landlords for the plaintiff's lawyer. I wished I could go up and tell these folks, who were ready to pay their debt, that they were screwing themselves into paying more money.

Of note was the fact that of the dozen or more people that were being evicted this morning, every single one of them was Black. That seemed pretty odd to me. Indicative of some institutional racism among landlords? Would I have ever met the threat of eviction for being $385 behind on my rent?

During the Greens trial there was a total change of pace. Two lawyers and a lot of VERY technical questions about "common law construction" versus "constitutionality", whether "severability" applied because of the unconstitutional loyalty clause, whether we could assume that the legislature acted "rationally and constitutionally" and what could be solved through the "writ of mandamus" and what had to go back to remanded back to some electoral or administrative review board. I think I followed it all (I never heard of a "writ of mandamus" before but I assume from context that is the name of the order that the court issues with it's final judgement?) by listening very closely.

The judge really seemed to understand the Green Party's argument which seemed positive. The Green's lawyer walked a very impressive line between strong impassioned speech about the constitutional rights of the party members and very technical presentation of the case.
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Is that my jaw on the floor?

This article confirms our worst paranoid fears. The government really must be completely overstepping the bounds of rationality in it's overzealous hunt for "terrorists".
U.S. security agents have a master list of five million people worldwide thought to be potential terrorists or criminals, officials say. "The U.S. lookout index contains some five million names of known terrorists and other persons representing a potential problem," Brian Davis, a senior Canadian immigration official in Paris, said in a confidential document obtained by the Sun.

Names on the list are compared against those applying for visas or on flights travelling to the U.S.

Anyone whose name is on the list is questioned or banned from entering the U.S. -- as passengers were on two British Airways flights to Los Angeles two weeks ago.
Five. Million. Terrorists. One in every thousand people ON THE EARTH is suspected by the US government of being so dangerous that they deserve to be arbitrarily questioned and possibly banned from entering the country. How did they build this list? What are the criteria for being on this list? What safeguards do they have to ensure the accuracy of the list? Can anyone believe that the government REALLY has the resources to build an accurate list of 5 million world wide suspected dangerous people?