Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Motorless City: @AFT Convention

As I got closer to one massive beautiful brick building that in most cities would be a high-priced condo, it was clear that it was a building for cars. Maybe it is a condo of sorts where people get a parking spot and live in their cars.
Thursday, July 26, 10AM, revised 11PM

All I can say is "Detroit seems to be trying."

Parking lots, parking garages seem to be the major industry. I don't get it. Some of the newest and best built buildings are parking garages. Is this the post-post industrial age of a city in its last days - like a white dwarf about to be snuffed? One big parking lot? And who are the people driving all these cars? Actually, where are these people? I see empty streets, mainly devoid of cars. Well, it is the Motor City, but with so few cars on the streets do we call it The Motorless City? But maybe I'm not in the right area of the city. I hope.

I went to dinner. As I got closer to one massive beautiful brick building that in most cities would be a high-priced condo, it was clear that it was a building for cars. Maybe it is a condo of sorts where people get a parking spot and live in their cars. Think of it. You sleep in your car and there are bathroom and food services and maybe even lounges with TVs. You get all the amenities but just sleep in your car. You get to own that spot. And pay more for parking spots in "better" areas -- like with a view. What a great idea for an entremanure. Go to it you TFAers looking for a post-teaching gig.

When I went out to look for a place to eat I decided to walk over to Greektown, where guess what -- lots of Greek restaurants. I saw relatively few people in the streets. I found what looked like a reasonable place but didn't care much for the food -- but I did order some dumb stuff, given that my wife wasn't there to watch me. The area, which also has casinos, was livelier but still there wasn't a lot of action in the streets. Walking back I was certainly cautious, given the pretty much deserted streets. And still few cars.

First impressions of Detroit: Oy vey!

The convention doesn't really start until Friday. Today is for registration and preliminary stuff. I decided to head to Detroit on Weds. to get acclimated – at my age I like to take things slow. Actually, I was like that at any age. I get too flustered when I have too many things to do. So let me tell you about my day yesterday.

My wife drove me to the airport at 7AM (yes, I owe her big for getting up hours before usual) and we landed at 10:40. So how come I didn't get to my hotel until almost 2PM? Don't ask. I took an AFT arranged bus for $30 which saved me about $20 but cost me about 3 hours. I'm taking a cab when I head back Sunday night.

But there were perks for being on that looooong bus ride that hit every hotel until getting to ours. Some of you may remember Kombiz Lavasany who used to work for the UFT in 2005 and set up Edwize. He left to work for the Democratic National Committee and worked on the Obama 2008 campaign. He got hired by the AFT just this week and we sat together on the bus. I don't remember anyone who didn't like him and find him very helpful in navigating blogging in those early years. I know I asked him for advice in those years as did many others. He will be working in the communications department along with former blogger Sabrina Shupe-Stevens who I ran into.

There was one retired UFT/Unity Caucus woman on the bus and the rest were AFT staffers and we had some very interesting conversations regarding charters and organizing teachers in charters. My opinions always get somewhat adjusted coming out of these dialogues. (I really have nothing to share about the content other than seeing that people who you may not agree with on many points have no less a passion or commitment to the work they are doing than the rest of us.) I did learn that the 2014 AFT convention will be in Los Angeles, the true motor city.

After arriving at the hotel, checking in and doing housekeeping to get ready for the rest of the MORE/GEM crew who are coming in today and tomorrow - we have a suite of sorts but no kitchen like we had in Seattle in 2010 and Chicago in 2011 – I headed over to Cobo Hall to check out the convention site, then took the People Mover -- a monorail that does a loop around downtown. I got off at the Renaissance Center where Marriott HQ for many of the delegates will be staying (yes and the 800 Unity people too). A bit fancier than the Doubletree where we are staying.

Then I did the Riverwalk from Renaissance back to Cobo, one of the highlights where a Detroiter can see across the Detroit River and say "Oh Canada, why can't I have universal health care like you." Nice walk.

At  Cobo hall I walked back to the hotel through a back route that led around a Wayne State University outpost. A few hours of hanging out before heading out for dinner over the Greektown, a walk across town on empty streets.

Heading over the Cobo now to see about registering.

I wouldn't miss Diane Ravitch's speech on Saturday for anything. Last time in the same slot we heard Bill Gates. Let's see now, Gates-Ravitch-Gates-Ravitch. (I'll write some stuff about some of the shifts and turns I detect in this fairly late choice to have Diane address the convention -- when people used to ask her whether she was, her response was, "I haven't been asked." Didn't she address the NEA? Is this Randi's "me too" moment? Remember, Diane has been increasingly vocal (and what seems to be at odds) about the collaborationist aspects of Randi and the AFT. So her speech should be interesting and worth the price.

Unlike Unity Caucus we are paying our own way on this trip to Detroit, leading people like my wife to say, "Are you f---ing crazy?" Now in a democratic world, given that ICE/TJC got about 10% of the vote in the last UFT election, we would have had about 80 delegates and I could get meal tickets too. A few thousand people voted for us and their voices are totally shut out here in Detroit. (That would be a major reform in democratizing the UFT.)

NYC Educator has more than a few thoughts on this situation.

To Be an Activist

A Strong Union Embraces Diversity

The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.

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