Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Running water and some Carnival images

The city power company stopped operating on Saturday. Thankfully, I have batteries where I live. So I had power until Monday. But then my luck ran out. Aside from the difficulties related to my online classes, it's not that big of a deal to me. If it was, I would never have come to Haiti. But it is interesting to be reminded of all the ways in which I'm "power-dependent."

For example, I generally have running water at my place. But the running water is based on gravity. And I have to get the water to the roof from the cistern in the ground. That's much easier with an electric pump. And with limited electricity -- lights only -- for a few days, the tank on the roof ran dry. So when I awoke this morning... it was back to my backpacker days for cleaning up.

It was the ole bucket-o-water, over-the-shoulder shower for me. :) Anyway... I don't consider myself a particularly fussy person, but it did make me remember how much I appreciate running water. It really is nice.

And on an entirely different topic... since I finally have a functioning web connection, here are a few images from Carnival. Here are a couple pix of the nighttime "processions" or impromptu parades:And of course, here's one of the many masked merrymakers:

Tim White

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Carnival 2011 -- the procession

I finally got my computer setup for pix. Yay!

These pix are from about a month ago. It was one of the weekly pre-Carnival "processions" that passed my place every Sunday afternoon. Impromptu groups of people would just march around town. The groups usually included a band of sorts with drums and horns. And there were usually lots of masked young men covered in used motor oil. As for why they use old motor oil... I'm guessing that when you're short on money, you tend to recycle quite a bit.

Tim White

Life continues

Rodny’s services and funeral were on Saturday afternoon. I wasn’t sure if I should attend. I wanted to attend, but also wanted to be respectful.

I spoke with my boss. She’s American, but has lived in Jeremie for nearly 25 years. She told me to wear formal black and white. (I actually suspected that already as people here wear black and white for a year after the death of a loved one.) However, I couldn’t because I didn’t have any black or white. So she suggested I wear something more formal. I wore my work clothes. She said that I should wear a necktie. That made sense to me and I brought one with me, so that was good. Then she told me to avoid anything red. Well, there went the red necktie. In the end, I dressed the same as I do for work and headed downtown.

The walk there was ok. I maintained my composure.

As I approached, I was asked to pin a black sash across my chest. It had white painted letters on it and I understood that it was intended as a sign of respect. I immediately pinned it to my shirt.

I reached the Methodist Church. It was so sad to see how many people were there… obviously a very popular fellow… and only 33.

I saw some of my coworkers. I nodded, but had no interest in speaking with anyone. For the first fifteen minutes or so, I kept getting glassy-eyed. I managed to push it back though. No one was going to see me cry. I’m not sure why I felt that way. I think it didn’t seem appropriate for me… a near stranger who only knew him for a few months. I thought he was great, but it still seemed inappropriate. So I kept pushing back the tears.

The services started around 3pm. It was interesting. His casket was at the front of the church and I avoided it. I was already feeling terrible. I preferred fond memories with Rodny.

Not only was the church packed, the area in front of the church was too. So as the services began I found my way outside and listened from the porch.

There were several eulogies by family members. There was a brass band near the middle of the services. There were several choirs and our own organization led a song. Surprising to me was how vocal some women were. They were screaming and I understood why. But they also were throwing their bodies around in violent fashion. I’d never seen that before, but was told it’s traditional for women close to the lost loved one.

As 5:30pm was approaching, the services came to a close and people began exiting the church. I was told that this was the beginning of the walk to the cemetery. Pallbearers carry the casket for the mile-long walk there.

During the service I continued welling up, but still beat back the tears. The tough part for me was when I saw his brother, Max, walking down the front stairs with the casket draped in yellow and blue silk flowers. I was standing across the street and had a clear view as they descended.

I started bawling. I still tried to fight back the tears, but I couldn’t. A lady said something to me and grabbed my arm. I tried to ignore her. I was in no mood to talk. And though I couldn’t understood the words she spoke, I knew she was telling me to “let it out.” She rubbed my arm, telling me it’d be ok.

As Rodny’s casket descended further, the tears became falls and my new found friend consoled me. With no tissues around, she started wiping away the tears with her already moist hands. Rodny passed and moved up the street toward his final resting ground. As he moved out of sight, the downpour turned to a drizzle and into something of a dreary fog. She wiped the final tears away and let my arm go.

I could see now. I turned to see her face. I have no recollection if I said “mesi,” but I’m sure I managed as much of a smile as I could and moved toward the walking procession.

As I approached the tail of the line I saw some coworkers. They saw that I was barely composed. I couldn’t hide it, as much as I wanted to. One man looked at me with a smile on his face and outstretched hand saying “vie continuer.”

Tim White

Friday, March 18, 2011

Subverting the Charter is unacceptable

UPDATE: I retract this post. Not in full, but in part. There's no subversion here. Special appropriatons in excess of $350,000 do not require a referendum, if they are related to a grant. I was wrong and I sincerely apologize for that. Nonetheless, I still assert that this is not a "legal" question at all. It's a political question that should be framed as such. Again, I apologize.

Over on TPL, Tony is telling us about a recent Council / BOE meeting at which the Council Budget Committee indicated their willingness to bypass the Charter and spend $367,000 without going to referendum. This is unacceptable because the Charter requires this special appropriation – and anything in excess of $350,000 – to go to referendum.

If this happens, it will be a subversion of the Charter and should not be tolerated by those who care about good government. But I'm confident that if anyone tries to thwart their efforts, the Council will have all sorts of straw men arguments to defend their subversion of the Charter. So I offer here some explanation to good government advocates who are compelled to stop this subversion. Specifically, I'm explaining:

1) The likely reason they appear poised to subvert the Charter; and

2) The straw men they’ll likely use to defend their actions and achieve their true goal.

Why is the Council intent on subverting the Charter?


It’s an election year. There are potential political downsides to not expeditiously forwarding this money to the BOE.

What are those downsides?

Again, simple.

The Council has been quite favorable to spending money this year on all sort of things… the turf, the trail, sidewalks, etc. And I understand that two GOP Council members are quietly advocating that the Council spend money to replace the bubble. How would it look to the voters if, after all of that, they oppose spending money on education?

The GOP Council has created a potential repeat of the November 2005 election in which the GOP lost the Council majority and every other elected body. That happened largely because the Council passed the “zero budget,” but pushed for the linear trail. Effectively, many voters concluded that the former GOP Council did not have the right priorities. It was “recreation before education.” That didn’t fly with the voters in 2005… and the current GOP Council has the same concern. They hope that by voting in favor of this special appropriation, they’ll avoid a repeat of the 2005 general election. But if that’s the case, you may ask:

Why don’t they simply vote in favor of this $367,000 special appropriation and be done with it?

Yet again, simple.

The concern about “recreation before education” is a political concern about infuriating Democrats and losing independents in the November general election. But if -- in an attempt to address the concerns of these voters -- they simply vote on this special appropriation, they face another challenge.

Incumbent Republicans face the distinct possibility of being outflanked on their right and face defeat via primary elections. And yes, that absolutely could happen. I’ve been actively following local politics for a decade. The past few months have been the first time I’ve ever heard anyone talking about local primaries… and those comments have come from a number of different people. They are people who vote, but generally have not been involved… and have now become incensed with all of the aforementioned votes on spending.

These potential primaries are also a reason for the quick vote that bypasses the Charter. The Council wants as little visibility on this issue as possible. They don’t want repeated headlines on additional spending that will further infuriate fiscal conservatives. And a special referendum would generate many additional headlines.

In my opinion, that’s the real explanation for why the Council is moving fast to move this money to the BOE.

However, the Council argues that they are legally required to transfer this money. On the surface, their explanation “It’s the law” is entirely plausible. So some additional questions must be asked to determine if their plausible explanation is a valid explanation. In other words:

Is this really about the law or is this a straw man?


It is a straw man.

Based on reading Tony’s post, it is obvious that the Council is framing this as a legal issue. But this isn’t their primary concern. It is only a concern where it suits their purposes.

What do I mean?


If the law is the concern, then:

1) Why are they only addressing this year’s budget? Why not prior years?


2) Why are they only addressing state funding for special ed? Why not ECS or other education-related state funding sources?

To these points… based on memory, I’m fairly certain that there are similar laws for other education-related state funding sources. So if this is truly about the law, then they must be consistent about all funding sources (that are similarly mandated) and vote on funding retroactively.

But it seems to me that this is not about “the law.”

And another important question… if this is about the law, then what is the enforcement mechanism? And what are the penalties? If there is no enforcement mechanism and there are no legal penalties, then couching this as a “legal” issue is a red herring.

This is a public policy question… some may call it a “political” question. Regardless, however you look at it, this is not a “legal” question. The Council is simply framing it as a “legal” question because, as I explained above, they want to get reelected. And they view this as the most politically expedient path to their reelection.

This brings me to the most critical part of this issue: the “cover” for their straw man.

Now please understand, this is fairly speculative on my part. But it is based on my seven years of Council experience. This is how I’ve seen Council majorities act in the past… and it’s done with the complicity of their political appointees.

If a voter attempts to ask “tough” questions, either the Council – or their political appointees – will often tell the truth, but not necessarily the whole truth. For example, responses are often given as a “double negative” with wiggle room:

Voter: Do you agree?
Town official: I don’t disagree.

Town officials must be pressed for crystal clear answers, not partial truths.

Now here’s where I foresee the possible “truth, but not the whole truth” come into play.

The Council will ask legal counsel (perhaps via the TM) “Is the Council legally required to transfer these special ed funds to the BOE?”

I expect that the answer will be “yes.”

But back to my previous questions...

If the law is the concern, then:

1) Why are they only addressing this year’s budget? Why not prior years? and

2) Why are they only addressing state funding for special ed? What about ECS funding? What about other sources of state funds?

Those are some of the questions that should be asked of Council members. Unfortunately, this is a situation where email is irrelevant. I’ve already tried and gotten crickets, thus far.

This is the classic situation where the bully pulpit and high visibility are required. These are questions best asked during a televised Council meeting. And the questioner must be prepared to extemporaneously parse the explanations being given. And if the “3 minute” rule is invoked, it may be necessary to have multiple voters standing ready to continue the questioning. It’s not easy, but I’d be thrilled if it happened. The Council needs to be publicly challenged on this.

But back to the title of this post… my concern is not about sending these funds to the BOE. Heck, education should always be a higher priority than recreation. That’s a no-brainer. And transferring the volatility of the state’s annual budget to the BOE is also a no-brainer.

My concern is the subversion of the Charter.

Fundamentally, this is not a legal issue. This is a Council vote like any other. And this appropriation must be sent to referendum. Failure to do so will be an intentional subversion of the Charter.

I encourage the voters to step forward and demand answers. The risk here is great. If what I’ve laid out is correct, this will be setting a precedent from which there is no return. This Council will have demonstrated that it feels it is above the law and accountable to no one.

Subverting the Charter is unacceptable, but it may still be possible to convince the Council to change course. There is still time to act.

Tim White

Monday, March 14, 2011

It was because of a protest

From the Haiti Observer:

A Bus in direction to Jeremy, overturned as the bus slammed into a roadblock made by protesters. According to Police, these protesters were upset because they were not hired for a job to which they had applied for.

9 people were pronounced dead on impact and 24 injured were transported to a Hospital in Les Cayes.

Three people were immediately arrested for this accident.

My friend died because of some stupid protesters... coupled with a bus driver who was obviously speeding. But equally horrible is that the police decided to take action after the accident. Nine people are dead and their lives could've been saved... but that's par for the course here.

Soon after I arrived last fall, I asked for the number to call if I needed the police. I wondered if it was 911. Instead I learned I should dial G-O-D. I was told "don't bother, they don't show up until you give them money for gas."

Tim White

Saturday, March 12, 2011

God bless your soul, Rodny St. Clair

Isn’t God wonderful ?!
Isn’t He good to you,
to each one of you, and to me?
Turn to God each day--
put your faith, your trust, your hope
and your life in His hands.
He’ll take care of you
and you’ll have a good life.

- Father Mychal Judge

My boss, Sister Maryann, just told me that one of the guys who works for me died today in a bus crash. I'm so upset. I only knew him a few months, but I really did like him. He was such a nice guy. This is so upsetting. And it reminds me of the dangers that lie everywhere on Earth, but tend to be more pronounced and visible in the developing the world.

Tim White

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Lockerbie and Cheshire

Yes, Qaddafi was behind it. And yes, Qaddafi should die for it... among other reasons. But I'm thinking about Cheshire's two murderers, Komisarjevsky and Hayes.

Some legislators like to claim that their DP repeal won't impact the two murderers. I disagree. Not only could that legislation be used for an appeal on prior DP sentences, but even worse... if they live, they may eventually get their freedom.

I don't know if that's what Lawlor actually wants -- for Komisarjevsky and Hayes to eventually be "reformed" and freed -- but when you look at the Lockerbie bomber getting out over a year ago because he was "going to die in six weeks," then it should be plain as day that the DP should stand. And Joshua and Steven should receive their penalties in an expeditious manner.

Tim White

Carnival... a.k.a. Mardi Gras!

I know it’s been a while. I’ve been busy. Between work and online school, I haven’t had much time for blogging… other than a few posts on Tony’s blog where I felt compelled to elevate the dialogue a bit.

Anyway, the past year has been rough on the Haitian people.

The earthquake, cholera, political violence and general poverty have defined a difficult year for Haitians. So I was pleased this weekend to see Carnival – Mardi Gras – in full swing. The Bourbon Street style overflow crowds were more than I enjoy, but it was good to see a lightened atmosphere.

I’ll try to post more frequently, but find it doubtful for the next month or two. I just have so much going on here… and when you couple that with an internet connection that’s slower and drops more often than AOL circa the mid-90s… and city power that’s been averaging about three hours per week for the past few weeks… it’s tough to get online and publish.

At least my internet connection may improve though. As I was walking down the street a week ago, I noticed an asian working on the cell tower that’s being installed near my office. And although I don’t speak Creole yet, I do speak a bit of Vietnamese. And the asian guy was Vietnamese. I was in luck! I now understand that the cell tower will include internet service. So I’m intending to spend some time this weekend finding more details… and hopefully getting a better web connection. And hope springs eternal when it comes to daily city power… who knows, maybe someday I’ll get both on a consistent, daily, uninterrupted basis??

If, and when, that day comes… I’ll be sure to start uploading pix. I’ve gotten some good ones since I arrived. But with my web speed… it’s a hopeless battle that times out every time.

K… now going to sit down with the litter of seven baby puppies that recently arrived. The guard dogs had them about two weeks ago. They’re adorable… just getting past the floppy stage where their four legs work at the same time and they no longer move around like baby sea turtles… pushing their hands out in front, then pulling their bodies along… priceless.

As for the local stuff… the Patch is reporting that the Council is actually considering replacing the bubble. That would be a mistake. I hope they don’t go down that path… although it’s obvious the TM is pushing more spending on the pool… and it’s also obvious that this Council takes his advice when they shouldn’t. Regardless, I’m sure the voters will remember some pretty staunch GOP opposition to spending more money on fixing the bubble as recently as August 2009. So it may not matter what Council members remember. What matters is what the voters remember.

Tim White