Hypothetical Question: Would a community organization ever deliberately suggest a more open forum than intended in order to boost attendance to impress a visiting politician?
Certainly not accusing anyone but quite a few people outside last Monday night’s EFCC meeting were fired up, and feeling yanked around.
The EFCC’s meeting agenda included the dog park (so there was that crew), plus about three rows of people came out for the Midvale/Penn wall issue, as well. Expectations seemed high for… something.
The atmosphere on the way in was almost carnival-like, with the EFCC members waving pink voting tickets, and barking out, “FOR MEMBERS IN GOOD STANDING ONLY!” while a cashier on the other side of the entrance took names & money.
The meeting quickly moved to the community council’s newspaper, the Fallser, which was teetering on the edge of extinction earlier this Fall when owner Julie Camburn announced she was retiring and the paper was up for sale. EFCC is working hard to continue a printed forum for zoning, parking, and traffic information as well as Town Watch and other neighborhood associations.
And good for them! Yet when president Barnaby Wittels stood up after John Gillespie spoke, he seemed to call us out in the middle of some kinda manifesto-slash-advertisement for their paper:
“In the beginning there were a lot of doubters. People wanted to go off and do their own thing. We’ll have the East Falls… whatever you call it. It’s gonna be just online, we’ll start our own newspaper.
This community and this council said we’re gonna move forward, we’re gonna have a transition, from Julie to the new entity as yet to be created. And will be independent!
Because the East Falls… the… the Fallser will continue to be what it has always been, the independent voice of the community.”
EFCC clearly believes in one voice for its paper — a voice determined by group consensus of all the members of the Fallser’s editorial board, as elected or appointed by EFCC. They dismiss us as outsiders when we’re trying to help, when we’re offering our resources, when we’re willing and able to provide the neighborhood with local news, photos, and commentary.
But no. As evidenced in Barnaby’s video, our efforts are pooh-poohed as “doing our own thing” — well, hey, at least we’re trying. We ran into a similar mindset earlier this year in three different Fallser meetings we were invited to. Since we had been writing about East Falls almost a year anyway, it seemed a natural fit to collaborate on a newspaper, right?
Except, in order to work together, EFCC required complete control over all East Falls Local’s content: print, online, social media. Text, photos, videos. Everything.
While we appreciate the point of “branding,” there’s NO WAY such a committee-run publication could fully represent a community as rich and diverse as East Falls. No. Way. A truly free press doesn’t walk in lockstep. We were willing to collaborate, but we needed some wiggle room that Council absolutely refused to allow.
As writers, we’re interested in the little voices, the back story, the characters. We’re not trying to be “THE” voice — just “a” voice. Power to EFCC’s efforts, but we’ve got our own focus that doesn’t include towing a party line. We’re not reporting to announce stuff so much as start conversations. The more voices, the better.
But whatever; the Midvale-Penn wall issue‘s another story. See for yourself, this is the only time the EFCC really addressed the subject at Monday’s meeting (our community council president’s five-minute long introduction for Curtis Jones):
GOTTA PAY TO PLAY! At 03:20, Barnaby addresses all the neighbors who’ve come about the Wall between Midvale & Penn, essentially to pitch memberships at ten bucks a pop:
“There may come a time down the road when you want to vote on a proposal before the council about your particular problem…”
Wait, what? Is our community council actually attempting to capitalize on neighborhood disagreement? Our pencils were poised for information about the wall, and instead we got a 50-second sales pitch and then a hand-off to Curtis Jones.
Curtis spoke, they announced the end of dog park plans for the land behind Trolley Car Cafe, and that was pretty much it. During his talk, Curtis mentioned the necessity of Midvale & Penn neighbors working together on the wall, but offered no new details or developments. There was just time for three questions, and no “It’s Your Turn” at all. We’ve heard plenty of feedback from folks leaving — and we’d love some more.
Sound off below, or on our Facebook page. Thanks for your input. Also, it’s worth noting that we’re posting these videos because our local politics is, well, interesting and we’re trying to generate discussion.
So we’re going in for a closer look. Let’s figure out how to make the best East Falls possible, for everyone.