A Better Way to Deal with the Bloomington Farmers Market Controversy

 A Better Way to Deal with the Bloomington Farmers Market Controversy
By Tim J. Clark
Updated Oct 8, 2019.

The effects of the controversy involving the Bloomington Farmers Market (BFM) identify an opportunity to take a fresh look at the methods and strategies for how the community addresses challenging issues.

The methods applied so far to address the BFM situation have resulted in a reduction in market attendance in July from 40,000 to 16,000. They have also resulted in unflattering local and national attention, which attracted the interest of what is perceived to be far-right and far-left groups. These groups’ involvement contributed to the perceived need to shut down the market for two weeks. This shutdown had an adverse economic impact on almost all the vendors.

To help prevent actions that can lead to violence within a community, the Department of Homeland Security proposes applying a whole-of-society approach that would have to be supported at the local level of government. The CIty of Bloomington has recently enlisted a mediator to help address the issues.

The controversy does not appear to be ending anytime soon, so a better process is needed to resolve the BFM issue as well as any other problems that arise in the future.  Along with mediation, the development of an enhanced capability for problem resolution and decision making will have practical benefits within the community, Indiana, and the nation.

Inspiration for this better problem-solving approach can be found in the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. system of government is designed to enable “We the People” to continually work together toward the ideal of “a more perfect Union.”   This requires continually improving the strategies and methods that will result in achieving outcomes where everyone benefits or at least is not any worse off in the long-term. This requires addressing a few questions, including:

  1. As a community, how do “We the People” describe and define “more perfect” — that is, what is the ideal?
  2. What feedback will need to be collected to assess progress in working toward the ideal in the near-, mid-, and long-term?
  3. What methods will be applied to assess whether the changes made to the system are resulting in improvement?

Indiana University (IU) could prove to be an important resource when addressing the first question, as it has gone through the process of defining its ideal. IU’s strategic plan identifies its ideal as being “one of the great research universities of the twenty-first century.” This vision includes “Engaging in the economic, social, civic, and cultural development of Indiana, the nation, and the world by building on the base of excellence in research and education.”

IU could also be a good resource when answering the second question. Its research strategy could be reviewed and assessed to get an idea of the types of feedback that could be collected and where to get it. This feedback would need to include qualitative and quantitative data.

Finally, Walter A. Shewhart and W. Edwards Deming have developed methods that should be used to determine whether changes are resulting in improvement for everyone. Shewhart developed methods that can be used to close the gap between the actual situation and the ideal. These improvement methods have been integrated within the International Organization for Standardization standards.

Deming developed a philosophy that supports Shewhart’s methods. Deming estimated in 1986 that it would be another 50 years (2036) until the new philosophy and methods were more commonly acknowledged in liberal education, science, and industry.

Reducing the gap between the current situation and the ideal requires the continual application of better methods for making changes that “We the People” will conclude result in systemic improvements. The controversy with the BFM provides an opportunity to experiment with a new philosophy and methods.

More Information.  Terms such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and white privilege are often used as accusations and are ill-defined.  The following articles provide an example of defining a term- “white privilege”  in this case and using empirical evidence to conclude that one variable does not account for differences in group outcomes.

October 7, 2018.  Indianapolis Star, Sunday Edition – Faith and values:  Guest Column: “People working together can make a more perfect union

BCRSD Board Meeting – Notes

Brown County Regional Sewer District (BCRSD) Meeting
Tues, Oct 8, 2019.

o. BUDGET. The BCRSD was given $270K from the county council. After current invoices are paid, the remaining balance will be $174, 670. A plant location has not been determined (See RAP below).
o. FUTURE FUNDING APPROVALS FOR A PLANT IN BEAN BLOSSOM. List of potential customers. Two main requirements for funding (estimated at $7.3 million) include a validated NEED and EASEMENTS.
oo. As has been pointed out by the past two BCRSD Board presidents, there is no documented evidence of failed systems. The Health Department’s policy has been to resolve septic system issues as they emerge. As was pointed out at the Septic Summit, the life of a system is “indefinite” and is determined by many factors. oo. Easements. Property owners have the right to negotiate fair market value (FMV). FMV for homeowners affected by the Salt Creek Trail received significantly more in compensation than what was originally offered.
o. LIST OF POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS. I obtained the list (provided within the link below) of potential customers of the “proposed” Bean Blossom Sewer project. State law limits RSDs to just providing names but more detailed information is available through the county’s GIS system (brownin.wthgis.com).
o. HISTORY. The desire for sewers in Bean Blossom goes back 20 years. Initiatives to obtain service from Helmsburg were not successful in the past. Bean Blossom did not have enough customers to obtain state funding for their own plant so the BCRSD extended the service area to include Freeman Ridge, Woodland Lake, and the Little Fox Lake areas. I also provide a link below to a timeline on the Bean Blossom project – “For the Record.”
oo. The initial plan of the current BCRSD board was to run a line to the Nashville Plant but Nashville no longer supports the option so they opted to build a new plant in the Bean Blossom area. Running a line from Bean Blossom to Helmsburg would require upgrades and expansion of the HRSD plant.
o. RAP. Regional Assistance Program (RAP) Grant. Given the needs of the Helmsburg RSD to support more customers and to lower rates from the current $92.50, the State intervened and the Helmsburg RSD and BCRSD agreed to support the development of a study that would help determine the best solutions for the area (region). Study due to be completed by the end of the year. oo. The study may identify options that include support for two plants or a main hub in either Helmsburg or Bean Blossom. The study is estimated to be completed by the end of this year. Note that unlike the BCRSD, the Helmsburg RSD’s policy was to “not” force customers to hook-up to the sewer.
o. TIMELINES. “Assuming” that a plant in Bean Blossom is determined to be a valid option, a need is documented and accepted by the State and Feds, and Easements can be obtained in a timely manner, construction can begin in summer/fall of 2020 with hook-ups beginning in Spring 2021. Note customers will be charged a monthly fee to support construction costs. (Fee is TBD). If Helmsburg is selected as a hub, costs could be less and timelines could be much shorter.
o. ROI/108K Grant for a County-wide Wastewater Treatment study. No decision yet.
o. WEBSITE. The county agreed to host the BCRSD website. The need for the website was identified at the June 2018 meeting.

MORE INFO: Regional Sewer Board – Bean Blossom Sewer Project – For the Record

Bloomington Farmers’ Market – What’s Next?

Bloomington Farmers’ Market – What’s Next? 
By Tim J. Clark

Submitted on Oct 8, 2019 (submission id 171) as a Guest Column for the Bloomington Herald-Times.  Has yet to be published.

Protestors initiated a petition in June that alleged that the owners of Schooner Creek Farm (SCF) are white supremacists and should be removed as a vendor from the Bloomington Farmers’ Market (BFM).

The City has acknowledged that SCF (who has been successfully participating in the market for nine years and have denied the allegations) has treated customers with respect and have followed the rules of the BFM.  The City has also acknowledged that the First Amendment prohibits them from discriminating against someone because of their belief system.

Regarding the allegations of white supremacy, Laura Lane in her Aug 3, 2019 (Bloomington) Herald-Times article “Commentary: Don’t forget the First Amendment,” stated the following: “We have done our own research. We have reviewed court documents, emails, videos and recordings that so many claim is proof that the owners of Schooner Creek Farm are white supremacists. Direct evidence, it isn’t there.”

Despite the lack of proof of the allegations and lack of relevance to the BFM, the mayor has made statements perceived to be in support of the protests and broadened his criticisms of the situation. His statements have included identifying constraints posed on his administration by the Second Amendment and Indiana’s policies on gun control. The Mayor has also alleged that the policies of the current presidential administration have contributed to the controversy. Market attendance dropped from 40,000 visitors last July compared to 19,000 this year.

Although the city cannot remove SCF as a vendor, current policies may be providing a work-around on the constraints posed on the city by the First Amendment.  The policy regarding protests create conditions that imply an intent to make it untenable for SCF to remain at the market. For instance, although not allowed by the BFM to “carry” protest signs, protestors can wear their signs by printing their message (Boycott Schooner Creek, Defund White Supremacy) on a t-shirt. Protestors can then roam the market with frequent passes by the SCF table. The protesters also carry a little blank sign that they call a “fan” to show their opposition to the rules.

The mayor’s leadership on this issue does provide a new opportunity for the community by allowing the BFM to serve as a rallying point for protests and boycotts on just about any topic.  Protestors just need to “wear” their message.  And, if a market vendor has been alleged to be in support of any issues that a protestor (s) may not like, the “message” could include an appeal to boycott this vendor to punish them for their beliefs and associations.

Consequently, the BFM can now serve as a “market” for protests. The topics would be unlimited and can start by building on current themes. This could include protests supporting the Second Amendment and Indiana’s gun policies to include concealed carry.  Additional protest topics could include political support (and opposition?) to the Trump Administration, anti-abortion, planned parenthood, climate change, immigration, et.al.

The controversy at the market will likely continue to escalate and raises a few questions:  Is it possible to extend the rules against protest signs to include the other ways a protest message can be conveyed?  Is allowing the market to be a place for community protests – especially against vendors with a perspective and an association that someone may not like, a good thing? What are the conditions that will lead the city to disband the BFM?

Additional Information

The controversy with the BFM first started with the Nashville Farmers Market.

Part 2 – Discord in the community – better strategies needed?

Part 2:  Discord in the community – better strategies needed?
By Tim J. Clark
Updated Oct 4, 2019

 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,
Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”   –
– Declaration of Independence

Preface. This post introduces a method that can be adapted as needed, to address some of the issues associated with the controversies surrounding the Bloomington Farmers’ Market.

One page summary Bloomington Farmers’ Market – Summary of Issues

The United States system of government was designed to be continually improved with the local government being the catalyst for needed change.  Working together to make progress towards “a more perfect Unionand community can be supported through applying a better method for problem identification, resolution and decision-making.

Regarding political systems, from a global perspective, adversaries have always worked to undermine each other’s systems.  Digital technology including social media enables the communication of challenges worldwide to include coverage of a community’s successes or failures in addressing the opportunities that the challenges present.

Application of better problem identification, resolution and decision-making processes can lead to stronger and more resilient communities. This, in turn, provides positive examples that are needed to reinforce that self-government is still a principle worth fighting for and application of better methods can lead to “a more perfection Union.

Two Key Issues

The controversies with the markets in Nashville and Bloomington revolve around two issues: (1) A person’s right to express beliefs that are protected by the First Amendment, and (2) being associated with a group (s) that others find offensive.  In this case, this includes allegations that an association with AIM is synonymous with promoting white supremacy and/or white nationalism and hate.

On the first issue, this was summarized in the post (Part 1) ” Discord in the community – better strategies needed?”  Background information and a  timeline of the issues is provided in the post:  “Wanted: Tolerance, Understanding, Collaboration, Progress.”

Individuals and private entities can exercise their right to free speech that includes protests and boycotts.  The protestors also accept the risk that they, in turn, can attract protests and boycotts for their beliefs and actions.  An action (boycotts), leads to a reaction (the boycotters can become the boycotted), and counteractions (community taking sides) leads to an escalation of the conflict.

Group Associations

The remainder of this post deals with “group” association – specifically the American Identify Movement (AIM) with the intent to clarify the scope and substance of the issues.

A problem identification, resolution and decision-making framework can provide a “start” in developing a common understanding of the situation to include acknowledging the diversity in individual perspectives.  An ideal end state is to develop a solution where everyone benefits or at least, are not any worse off in the long-term.

The focus for a way ahead incorporates more of a moral than a legal perspective.  On a legal perspective, actions that are taken to support or oppose a position are guided by the legal system.  The FBI investigates and the Justice Department prosecutes violations of federal laws. The local police and courts get involved with criminal offenses and individuals can pursue civil action (defamation, libel, slander, harassment) that violate their individual rights.

What does “right” look like?

The term “moral” is defined ” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior: ethical.”    Taking action that results in “a more perfect” Union and community requires that you ask the effected stakeholders how they define “more perfect”, e.g., what “right” looks like. A follow-up question is to identify the feedback that will be used to determine if a change resulted in improvement.

A Problem Identification, Resolution, Decision Making Process 

  • Phase 1 – Understand the situation, identify and define the problem.
  • Phase II – Identify causes and/or solution (s) to include identifying the advantages and disadvantages of each proposed option or course of action.  What feedback will be used to determine a change resulted in improvement?
  • Phase III – Select and implement a solution (s)
  • Phase IV – Assess the effectiveness of the solution. What is working and what is not? Repeat the cycle as needed.

Example:  Local community (county) Decision-Making Process.   

Phase 1 – Understand the situation – identify and define the problem

American Identity Movement (AIM)

The AIM website identifies the purpose of the organization, principles, and activities.  The site states that AIM “prohibits the advocacy of or participation in supremacy, violence, or illegal activity.  We reject extremism of any stripe.

Given the communication technologies that are available in today’s world, it is easier to compare actions with rhetoric. It is also more difficult to keep anything “secret.”  The challenge is separating fact from allegations when determining the truth.

“WHO WE ARE:  AIM is a growing, active movement defending our nation against mass immigration and the scourge of globalism.” Source – AIM website.

For Supporters of AIM

QUESTIONS:

  • What specifically is the problem e.g., how do you describe and define “mass immigration” and the effects of the “scourge of globalism”?
  • What do you identify as “America’s historical demographics”?
  • Are you proposing new legislation?
  • What legislation in this area are you supporting?

History – U.S. Immigration Policy since 1965.

For Non-Supporters of AIM

QUESTIONS:

  • If AIM and its members and/or supporters are “the problem”, what specific beliefs, statements, and positions do you disagree with and why?
  • How do you define the key terms involving this issue? Members and/or supporters of AIM have been accused of being white supremacists,  racists, white nationalists,  fascists, Nazis. What criteria and facts are applied to render this opinion?
  • What do you propose as a solution (s)?   What action should be taken?  What does success look like in the immediate and long-term?
  • How will you determine what strategies will be effective in the long-term and will not do more harm than good?

For Supporters and non-supporters of AIM

QUESTION:  What do you see as the root cause for those that have a different belief than you?

A technique for helping to identify a root cause is called The Five Why’s:

  • Start by identifying a problem that you’re having.
  • Ask “why” that problem is occurring. Make sure that your answer is grounded in fact. You should be able to state the proof or evidence that you’re relying on for your assertion of the reason why the problem is occurring.
  • Once you have an answer, ask “why” again.
  • Continue the process until you reach the root cause of the problem. Usually, you’ll be able to identify the root cause of a problem after asking “why” five times.
  • Once you’ve identified the root cause of the problem, come up with a countermeasure that prevents it from recurring.

Conflict and Violence

QUESTIONS:

  • Do you believe violence is justified in support of your respective goals?  (Violence defined as an action that violates the law.)
  • Do you believe any action short of being considered criminal, is appropriate? If yes can you provide examples?

Prejudice, Bigotry, Bigot

Humans are imperfect.  The definition of prejudice includes “harm caused by the adverse preconceptions of others.”  “The word is often used to refer to a preconceived, usually unfavorable, evaluation of another person based on that person’s political affiliation, sex, gender, beliefs, values, social class, age, disability, religion, sexuality, race/ethnicity, language, nationality, beauty, occupation, education, criminality, sport team affiliation or other personal characteristics.” (Wikipedia)

Webster’s New World College Dictionary states that: “The definition of bigotry is prejudice and the state of being intolerant” and a bigot  is a person who is prejudiced, or intolerant of those who are different.”   Reference: OneLook Dictionary.

The “So what?” Human beings are imperfect – we have prejudices and we can all be bigots. The first step in resolving a problem is to recognize you may have one.

QUESTIONS:

  • What have been successful strategies in addressing bigotry that has resulted in positive changes in the immediate and long-term?
  • What are examples of strategies that have not worked?

Examples of success stories – Confronting bigotry – Changing Minds 

  • Megan Phelps-Roper TED Talk:  Four suggestions supporting dialogue: (1) Don’t assume bad intent; (2) Ask Questions; (3) Stay Calm; (4) Make the argument.

Part 3:  Discord in the community – better strategies needed? 

 

Local Government – Checks and Balances on Power

Headline: The Hill.  Virginia county’s entire board of supervisors indicted

Interesting article about local government. It reinforces the important role of citizen involvement in their local government and the responsibility of elected officials over those they appoint.

There is a strong correlation between corruption (legal and moral) and a lack of check and balances on power.

I googled the “Warren County Coalition” and found the article on their 2019-2020 budget process.  The 2020 Brown County budget hearings had some similarities with the Warren County 2019/20 budget hearings regarding citizen opposition to tax increases.

Warren County had 50 citizens speak out against tax increases and 10 citizens spoke at the hearing last year.  In Brown County, we had 2 citizens speak out last year and four this year.

Virginia has a little different system where their Board of Supervisors can approve education budgets.  Indiana gives this responsibility to local school boards. (Warren County, VA has a population of 40K, our is 15k).

 

 

Update: Sep 24, 2019 Bloomington Farmers Market Discord

Update: Bloomington Farmers Market Discord
by Tim J. Clark
Updated Sep 25, 2019.

Background. The controversy with the Bloomington Farmers Market started in Nashville. A summary of the issues provided in my post: Discord in the Community

Indiana Public Media WTIU/WFIUOfficials: We Changed Demonstration Rules Because Of Farmers’ Market Protests by Emma Atkinson., Sept 24, 2019.

Facebook post of the article

The article includes misleading statements.  It associates Sarah Dye – an owner of Schooner Creek Farms, with the American Identity Movement (AIM), which has been labeled a white supremacist organization. The AIM website includes the following statement: “AIM prohibits the advocacy of or participation in supremacy, violence, or illegal activity. We reject extremism of any stripe.”  Where is the proof that the AIM statement is false?

 The article also references an article by NBC News and included the following statement: “This week, the Department of Homeland Security added white supremacy to its list of priority threats.”  The complete reference included the following statement:  “For the first time since it was formed after the 9/11 attacks, the Department of Homeland Security is adding white supremacist violence  (emphasis mine) to its list of priority threats in a revised counterterrorism strategy issued Friday.”

Acts of violence are a criminal violation.   Does the article lead readers to infer that the owners of SCF are involved in or are likely to be involved in criminal activities?

Where are the facts that the owners of SCF have successfully participated in the market for 9 years, have followed the rules and have treated customers with respect?  Where is the story that vendors at the Market can be now discriminated against (with the support of the city) for exercising their first amendment rights?

  1. Protester and local reverend Forrest Gilmore says the group was asked to move and refused.
  2. “We were asked to stop, yes,” he says. “We were not informed of any rules that we were violating, but we were asked to stop, and we politely said no.”
  3. Market Coordinator Marcia Veldman says, despite the rules, she made the decision to not involve the police on Saturday.References:

Another perspective on journalistic standards described by Laura Lane, (Bloomington) Herald-Times in her Aug 3, 2019 Commentary: “Don’t forget the First Amendment.”

  • We have reviewed court documents, emails, videos and recordings that so many claim is proof that the owners of Schooner Creek Farm are white supremacists. Direct evidence, it isn’t there.
  • When a news organization publishes a false statement that damages a person’s reputation, that’s libel. I make sure, just about every day, to not libel anyone. Not just because I could be sued, but because it’s important that the information we report be accurate. We cannot and do not print accusations that can’t backed up with tangible stand-up-in-court proof.

IU SPEA/MPA – 2019 – 2020 Project

History of the partnership and projects – County Financial Decision Support 

 

Link to the above graphic –Overall Concept County Financial Decision Support

Project Context – Regional Support and Partnerships:

  • Regional Opportunity Initiatives  – Upland Region. Brown County is in the “Uplands Region” and has received ROI grants to support housing studies, Ready Communities, and Ready Schools.
    • Given an assessment by Michael Hicks of Ball State that “54 of Indiana’s 92 counties are in absolute population decline,”  support for “Financially Sustainable Counties” may be of help to the region.
  • IU Center for Rural Engagement

Project Update – meeting notes below: Follow-Up Video Conference – 9/20/2019.  Roger Morris, Jomar Floyd

Data Warehouse and Examples.  A data warehouse can be used to store the information provided to the State from the Counties to support analysis and decision making.  Information from the State is available to download and can be transferred to a data warehouse.

Data Warehousing > Concepts > Data Modeling – Conceptual, Logical, And Physical Data Models  – 2018 County Financial Decision Support Model Data Sets

Application Examples:

Example – Current Situation (Status Quo).  Analysis of property assessment trends with data available through the Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF).  Data had to be downloaded one year at a time to manually develop a consolidated spreadsheet.

  •  Property Assessments and Taxes 2012-2019  with follow-up support and analysis provided by DLGF.  (Assessments correlate to revenue)
  • Article on the topic Brown County Democrat – April 9, 2019. BCD, Property tax bills are in the mail by Sara Clifford.  A property’s assessed value is one of the figures used to calculate a tax bill. … Overall, the net assessed value of property across all of Brown County — the taxable value after exemptions are subtracted — has grown by $35.5 million since tax year 2017.
  • “First-Ever – County Financial Plan (2019-2021). The intent is to update the plan every year after the annual budget has been approved by the State.  (This plan does not include a capital improvement plan).
    • The 2020 County Budget Process — example of “pulling it out of the air” when it comes to making decisions resulting in increased property taxes.
  • The County GIS System (https://brownin.wthgis.com/) provides five years of data on assessments and tax trends that can be stratified by type of property (commercial, residential, farm) as well as by areas such as neighborhoods and township.
    • The auditor, treasurer, and assessor provide files to the GIS vendor to update the GIS-based maps.
      • G-UTS is used to manage property
      • LOW Associates LLC software will be used by the end of the year for financial information associated with the assessments and payments.

Support for County Financial Decisions Support – the Concept – (See above graphic)

    1. Revenues – Can include “total revenues and expenses” which can be from all sources or just one account or subaccount.
    2. Tax Increases (or transfers) can include income, property, other OR can include revenue from “Transfers.” For example, money from a Rainy Day Fund is transferred to cover a deficit in another account or expense such as health insurance.
    3. Historical and Trend Data  is critical for timely and effective decision making.
    4. An understanding of tax policy another needed knowledge area.
    5. What-if analysis.  If data easily available, projections can be made to anticipate economic impacts, assess the effects of any policy changes (such as on taxes) or any economic development-related strategies.

 History – IU SPEA/MPA Support for Brown Country


Other Projects Indiana
Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA). Community Vitality Indicators (CVI) that could be supported through a data warehouse and analytic support.

  • Data indicates that 54 of Indiana’s 92 counties are in absolute population decline. This means that the outward migration exceeds the inward migration by margins significant enough that the net gain between annual births and deaths is insufficient to make up the difference. In some counties the deaths already exceed births. In addition, 24 counties are growing at a rate slower than the country as a whole and are classified as being in relative decline. At best the current growth rate casts them as neutral.
  • Healthy communities share certain characteristics and these characteristics provide CVIs that Indiana communities can benchmark to gauge their vibrancy. These characteristics should guide community discussions and plans should be developed to encourage them.
  • 2016 Assessment – Community Performance Indicators (CPI).  The CPIs are supplemented with data from The Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University. (Note the term “Performance” was replaced with “Vitality” in 2017.
  •   Purdue Support – CVIs