Monday, August 25, 2008

I Meet With Basic Rights Montgomery

Yesterday I posted a piece criticizing a presentation by Basic Rights Montgomery. Today I went to their office and had an interesting meeting with some of their managers. After some good discussion, I feel confident the organization will successfully manage the referendum campaign. Let me tell you about the meeting.

The Montgomery County Council passed a bill last year that prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity, and some extremists got up petitions for a referendum to rescind the law. There is a lawsuit, it's still under appeal, but at this point a referendum is in line for the elections in a little more than two months. Last night I attended a public presentation by Basic Rights Montgomery at a Unitarian Church in Rockville, where they were going to present their strategy for winning the referendum measure that will probably appear on the November ballot.

The meeting yesterday got off to a good enough start, there was some talk about how many votes we need to win, what kind of base we can count on, there was mention of some planned research to find out more about the voters and how to reach them, stuff about fund-raising and volunteering, it was all good.

But somewhere along the way the presentation ran off the rails. Pretty quickly, actually. People started asking questions and making comments -- there were about forty people in the room and at times it looked like most of them had their hands up. The presenters tried to play along but the meeting got disorganized, and a lot of things were said that they hadn't really intended to say. By the end of the meeting a lot of people were frustrated, including me.

I went home and blogged about it. There is no question where I stand here, I think the referendum is an embarrassment, our county needs to adopt the nondiscrimination law decisively and run the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever out of town on a rail. Basic Rights Montgomery is the group that will manage the campaign, and I want them to kick some butt. But ... you saw what I wrote.

I think stuff started happening this morning pretty early. The campaign staff at BRM started analyzing the presentation and what had gone wrong -- they didn't need me to tell them it had gone badly. They did see the blog and, not surprisingly, they weren't happy about it. A lot of phone calls were made, though interestingly none to me.

Eventually word got to me, and I decided to go down to their office to meet with the campaign managers, Opel Simmons and Eric Anthony, plus a couple other people. It's funny, I write about people on the blog but I usually don't have to deal with them afterwards. I knew they were unhappy with me, I was told that somebody had suggested taking the blog post down (not gonna happen), well I'm sure they didn't like what I said. My feeling about that is, if you don't want to have that kind of publicity, don't give that kind of presentation.

It turned out to be an amiable enough gathering. They explained to me some details of their strategy and activities so far, and things really are going well, especially when you consider they've been at it less than two weeks. Their fund-raising activities are indeed raising funds, they have plans for getting information to the community, the staff is coming together to support the campaign. They have clear plans about concrete things like mailings and phone banks, polls and message framing, and I have confidence that they will be successful in this. For them it's all something that builds up to election day, there are some activities that are important now, especially fund-raising, and there are other activities that will be more important as it comes down to the wire. They know how many votes they need, how many likely votes they have already, and their goal will be to reach those who will support the cause in the voting booth.

I told them that I want them to win and I am willing to cooperate with them toward that end but I'm not going to be a puppet. The credibility of this blog depends on us reporting the facts, warts and all. If you follow the comments here, you will see that I am called a liar once or twice a week for something or other, but if I really was a liar nobody would read this stuff. And the fact is, much as I agree with their aims, yesterday's presentation was not good, so that's what I wrote. I think by the end of the meeting we understood each other. I respect their abilities and professionalism and trust that they will run a winning campaign, and they know they have my support but I will criticize them if I think they are underperforming.

It appears to me that Basic Rights Montgomery is going to do everything right as far as getting people to vote Yes on C. Talking to them today without the distraction of people raising their hands and changing the subject every two or three minutes, you could see that these people are committed professionals who know what they're doing. The problem yesterday was really one of presenting themselves to the public. When you have a roomful of people who care passionately about a subject, they don't want to hear about polls you plan to conduct and problems with your web server. They want to talk about the issues, people want to talk about discrimination, gender identity, bigotry, the culture wars. Basic Rights Montgomery is fully prepared to fight the campaign we need here, and I'm afraid they simply didn't give enough thought to how they would present it to the public.

I know these guys weren't happy with me, but they were nice enough about it. I told them they were lucky it was me and not some reporter from one of the big newspapers. They understood before I got there that the problem was not my blogging, the problem was their meeting. Though, in fairness, they were not happy about my blogging. I asked them if I had any facts wrong and offered to fix them, but no.

I know that Basic Rights Montgomery managers are revising their approach to public presentations. It sounds like several things went wrong at this one, it was scheduled for too long, they were not permitted to bring in a speaker, a confluence of things resulted in an unsuccessful presentation and bad publicity. This is going to be a good campaign, it was just a presentation that got away from them. They are taking the lesson learned and making the best of it, and that's the most you can hope for.

23 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sen. Barack Obama may be the world's most famous person, but is he big enough, classic enough, or should we say "Boss" enough to command the stage at Mile High Stadium for the Democratic Convention finale?

Rumor has it that, during his Thursday acceptance speech, Obama will be joined on-stage by Bruce Springsteen. Apparently, the Boss is in the middle of a conveniently scheduled six-day tour gap. In addition, a local radio reporter announced that Springsteen's arrival later this week would create serious traffic problems. Darn, those traffic problems.

And if that weren't enough, the Las Vegas Journal says that Springsteen "will follow Obama with a solo acoustic performance on Thursday after Obama's acceptance speech." Meanwhile, the world prays that he doesn't do any Pete Seeger covers.

August 25, 2008 9:09 PM  
Blogger Zoe Brain said...

The thread derailment attempt failed.

The important thing is to have a process of continuous improvement. That means identifying the problems and dealing with them, as well as identifying the good things and amplifying them.

Putting one's head in the sand and pretending everything is fine doesn't help.

OK, it sounds as if the people concerned are professionals, and after a minor screw-up, can be trusted to do their job.

Now, how can we help?

August 25, 2008 9:19 PM  
Anonymous super-fly said...

"I feel confident the organization will successfully manage the referendum campaign"

Yeah. Me, too.

Ha ha ha ha!

Hee hee hee hee hee!

Ho ho ho!

Whoa, boy.

Let me get a holda meself here.

Nope, haha, I, hehehee, can't do it, hardy hohaheee!

Hee haw!

August 25, 2008 9:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

August 25, 2008 10:11 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

I don't usually delete comments, but that one was so long and so irrelevant, I let it go back into the ethers from whence it came.

JimK

August 25, 2008 10:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that's true

you don't usually do that

don't let that manipulative Zoe jerk you around like that

August 25, 2008 10:22 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

As KT and Shaneequa, BRM's field organizers, told us before the meeting derailed, supporters can make a monetary contribution.

Or supporters can come phone bank to identify the 220,000 voters BRM will need to turn out on election day. That's a lot of phone calls! Monday - Thursday 5-9PM, Saturday and Sunday 4-8PM at BRM Office, 1418 Fenwick Lane, Silver Spring, very near the Silver Spring Metro.

August 25, 2008 10:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"supporters can make a monetary contribution.

Or supporters can come phone bank to identify the 220,000 voters BRM will need to turn out on election day. That's a lot of phone calls!"

I'm sure everyone is going to spend whatever time and money is necessary to ensure that if a guy wants to wear a dress to work that his employer can't do anything about it.

You'll probably have to hold auditions to weed through the swarms clamoring to volunteer for this urgent mission.

August 26, 2008 4:15 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

There you go, lying again Anon. Bill 23-07 does not change the current law on bathrooms. In fact on Page 5 it states it "does not apply to accommodations that are distincely private or personal." What Bill 23-07 does do is stated right on Page 1 -- it is "An Act to: prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, cable television service and taxicab service, on the basis of gender identity," which is something the majority of MoCo citizens proudly support.

August 26, 2008 8:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess, technically, if someone is delusional, like Caunt Bea, they aren't lying.

23-07 does change bathroom laws but I didn't refer to that in my previous post.

As I've said before, it is TTF that wants the focus on bathrooms. This is more evidence of that. They talk about it even when it isn't brought up.

August 26, 2008 9:42 AM  
Anonymous svelte_brunette said...

Anonymous said:

“I'm sure everyone is going to spend whatever time and money is necessary to ensure that if a guy wants to wear a dress to work that his employer can't do anything about it.”

I was wondering about that too Anon, as I was sitting in the meeting on Sunday with a number of highly placed people from churches and various other organizations willing to support people you casually dismiss as a “guy (who) wants to wear a dress to work” like me. (By the way, the people where I work don’t refer to me as that.)

Talking with some of the folks after the meeting though I began to wonder if some of their motivation wasn’t so much helping out people like me (even though for many it was) but for others it seems they were very intent on making sure that the “Christian Taliban” we have springing up here in Montgomery County doesn’t get more traction for their views. Their big question was what are the CRC / CRG folks going to do next? Try to get creationism (a.k.a. “Intelligent Design”) into the sciences classes? That seems to be the next logical step for them. Fighting any gay marriage amendment is an obvious place for them as well, but after that, who knows? Will all men have to let their beards grow out? I’ve heard from a couple of different sources that Ruth Jacobs is a Mormon. I have no way to confirm or deny this, but it does bring up the question, if she is, is she going to try and get Montgomery County to ban caffeine as well? When will this stop?

Peace,

Cynthia

August 26, 2008 10:12 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

it is TTF that wants the focus on bathrooms.

Excuse me, which side in this debate has a website called "Not My Shower" thereby settling the question as to which side wants to focus on bathrooms? The showernuts, that's who!

23-07 does change bathroom laws

Show us the language where Bill 23-07 "does change bathroom laws." Tell us which page and which lines change the existing bathroom laws, and then show us the existing bathroom laws they supposedly change.

Good luck creating those fictions!

if a guy wants to wear a dress to work that his employer can't do anything about it.

Just like if a woman wants to wear pants to work, her employer can't do anything about it. You got a problem with that?

August 26, 2008 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Careful there, "Anonymous"...referring to Bea as "Caunt Bea" ("I guess, technically, if someone is delusional, like Caunt Bea, they aren't lying.")is treading perilously close to smut...but then, we expect that from you! You are an immoral egotist who thinks you can get away with these "cute" smarmy remarks (and don't try to cry "innocent remark") we've got your number and we know who you are!
Diogenes

August 26, 2008 10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"is treading perilously close to smut.."

As offensive as it is, I'm going to "cry 'innocent remark'" and ask you to explain what the heck you are referring to.

Has anyone ever been to Mount Airy, NC?

August 26, 2008 10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Show us the language where Bill 23-07 "does change bathroom laws." Tell us which page and which lines change the existing bathroom laws, and then show us the existing bathroom laws they supposedly change."

We've explained this to you ad infinitum. Do a search of the blog.

The nail in the coffin for your position is that your side didn't challenge this as deceptive in court.

You certainly tried every other bogus angle.

"Just like if a woman wants to wear pants to work, her employer can't do anything about it. You got a problem with that?"

Actually, yes. If an employer wants to require traditional dress is his place of business, that should be his perogative.

There are an ample supply of businesses that don't require this so woman who don't want to dress traditionally should have no trouble finding employment.

August 26, 2008 11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon, this is a fascinating twist -- do you think it's okay for an employer to fire a woman because she changes her hair style, say, she cuts it short?

August 26, 2008 11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"but for others it seems they were very intent on making sure that the “Christian Taliban” we have springing up here in Montgomery County doesn’t get more traction for their views. Their big question was what are the CRC / CRG folks going to do next? Try to get creationism (a.k.a. “Intelligent Design”) into the sciences classes? That seems to be the next logical step for them. Fighting any gay marriage amendment is an obvious place for them as well, but after that, who knows? Will all men have to let their beards grow out? I’ve heard from a couple of different sources that Ruth Jacobs is a Mormon. I have no way to confirm or deny this, but it does bring up the question, if she is, is she going to try and get Montgomery County to ban caffeine as well? When will this stop?"

You need to get a grip, Cynthia.

First of all, the slippery slope can be used to cover opposition to virtually anything so it's not much of an argument.

Secondly, CRG hasn't proposed banning anything so fears that they will try to ban something else are baseless. TTF, on the other hand, wants the government to tell people who they have to have dealings with. CRG represents freedom, TTF represents governmental encroachment on individual rights.

Thirdly, CRG represents a myriad of religious groups so there is little chance they would organize at some future point to impose the practices of any one religion on others. Catholics and Mormons, for example, are well-represented in CRG and neither group has pushed ID, as you rather ignorantly surmise. Catholic schools currently teach evolution, albeit without the atheist bias that many public schools do. Nor do I see Catholics working to ban coffee.

August 26, 2008 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous"
You ignorantly said: "CRG represents freedom; TTF represents governmental encroachment on individual rights."

CRG wants the freedom to discriminate against anyone of their choice (which they may, in their chosen bigotry and private behaviors, do.) What you obviously do not understand is that you may not use your bigotry and discrimination in the public arena, where your beliefs and practices may bring harm to others.
The issue is not your right to personal bigotry and discrimination or the so-called "encroachment" on those "rights", but the right of every citizen in Montgomery County to enjoy exactly the same rights you have and which are protected by law. After all, minority groups pay the same taxes for the same government services and protections that you have and are therefore entitled to the same benefits of citizenship that you have.
TTF stands forthrightly for the rights of identified minorities, and advocates government laws and institutions that gurantee and protect those rights.
I'm sure you are unable to understand the distinction.
RT

August 26, 2008 2:16 PM  
Blogger Emproph said...

“You need to get a grip, Cynthia.

First of all, the slippery slope can be used to cover opposition to virtually anything so it's not much of an argument.”


The bathroom/locker room “argument” IS a slippery slope argument, you nitwit. “Gee, if we let transgender people catch a cab or keep their jobs, next thing you know, we’ll have predators in the (women’s) bathrooms!”

“CRG hasn't proposed banning anything so fears that they will try to ban something else are baseless.”

Except for the fact that since they couldn’t get their demonizing-gays literature into the public school health curriculum, now they’re trying to ensure that people who are transgendered remain demonized in the public sphere. Secondly, CRG are known liars, so if anything’s “baseless,” it’s believing that they would actually announce a “proposed banning.” Based on previous behavior, it’s safe to assume that CRW will ban anything and everything it deems contrary to its dominionist will.

“CRG represents a myriad of religious groups so there is little chance they would organize at some future point to impose the practices of any one religion on others.”

You people would invite Osama Bin Laden on to your team if you thought he could help (and if you thought you could get away with it without the public knowing). So “myriad of religious groups” my derriere. You’ve already demonstrated that you believe the ends justifies the means-no matter what.

“Freedom of religion” for you types is a euphemism for freedom to take away the freedom of religion of others. If CRW ever gets their way, we’ll just see how gracious you are about other religions expressing themselves. After all, this is a “Christian Nation,” right? You’ll treat other religions and anyone not “Christian enough,” just like you say you want to treat gays now - they can be that way, I just don’t want to see or know about it. “Keep your religions in your synagogues and mosques, I don’t want my children exposed to your blasphemy.” And that’s the BEST case scenario!

You’re Dominionists at heart (emphases in original):

“Its most common form, Dominionism, represents one of the most extreme forms of Fundamentalist Christianity thought. Its followers, called Dominionists, are attempting to peacefully convert the laws of United States so that they match those of the Hebrew Scriptures. They intend to achieve this by using the freedom of religion in the US to train a generation of children in private Christian religious schools. Later, their graduates will be charged with the responsibility of creating a new Bible-based political, religious and social order. One of the first tasks of this order will be to eliminate religious choice and freedom. Their eventual goal is to achieve the "Kingdom of God" in which much of the world is converted to Christianity. They feel that the power of God's word will bring about this conversion. No armed force or insurrection will be needed; in fact, they believe that there will be little opposition to their plan. People will willingly accept it. All that needs to be done is to properly explain it to them.

All religious organizations, congregations etc. other than strictly Fundamentalist Christianity would be suppressed. Nonconforming Evangelical, main line and liberal Christian religious institutions would no longer be allowed to hold services, organize, proselytize, etc. Society would revert to the laws and punishments of the Hebrew Scriptures. Any person who advocated or practiced other religious beliefs outside of their home would be tried for idolatry and executed. Blasphemy, adultery and homosexual behavior would be criminalized; those found guilty would also be executed. At that time that this essay was originally written, this was the only religious movement in North America of which we were aware which advocates genocide for followers of minority religions and non-conforming members of their own religion. Since then, we have learned of two conservative Christian pastors in Texas who have advocated the execution of all Wiccans. Ralph Reed, the executive director of the conservative public policy group the Christian Coalition has criticized Reconstructionism as "an authoritarian ideology that threatens the most basic civil liberties of a free and democratic society."
----
You’re supremacists, masquerading as Christians - people who actually believe in the Golden Rule. Atheists who practice the golden rule are more Christian in nature than you people.

August 26, 2008 3:05 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Queer people are the ultimate force in ecumenism: we bring together fundamentalist protestants, muslims, catholics, mormons, jews, et.al. Dislike of an a desire to discriminate against (convert, criminalize, punish) lgbt people bring together religious groups that, in the past, would not even speak to one another, in fact would fight in the streets.

I myself am honored to be part of such a contribution to religious understanding.

August 26, 2008 3:30 PM  
Blogger Zoe Brain said...

Robert -
From Tom Lehrer - National Brotherhood Week

Oh, the white folks hate the black folks,
And the black folks hate the white folks.
To hate all but the right folks
Is an old established rule.

But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
Lena Horne and Sheriff Clarke are dancing cheek to cheek.
It's fun to eulogize
The people you despise,
As long as you don't let 'em in your school.

Oh, the poor folks hate the rich folks,
And the rich folks hate the poor folks.
All of my folks hate all of your folks,
It's American as apple pie.

But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
New Yorkers love the Puerto Ricans 'cause it's very chic.
Step up and shake the hand
Of someone you can't stand.
You can tolerate him if you try.

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Muslims,
And everybody hates the Jews.

But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
It's National Everyone-smile-at-one-another-hood Week.
Be nice to people who
Are inferior to you.
It's only for a week, so have no fear.
Be grateful that it doesn't last all year!

Link to Live Performance.

August 27, 2008 5:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm hoping Obama and Springsteen do a duet of this song tomorrow night when they're on stage together.

That would be a dream within a dream.

August 27, 2008 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the waning days of Britain's rule in India, Lord Louis Mountbatten turned to Mahatma Gandhi and said in exasperation, 'If we just leave, there will be chaos.' Gandhi replied, 'Yes, but it will be our chaos.'

August 27, 2008 2:02 PM  

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