Saturday, September 27, 2008

You Can't Register A Complaint Here

One of the things about being a political activist, who by definition is tilting windmills at the establishment, is that you occasionally run into one of those delicious moments right out of the books 1984 or Catch-22.
Nickelsville opened Monday at 4am in Seattle, a new shantytown/homeless camp, named after our beloved mayor Greg Nickels. A hard-working group of homeless who don't have anything else had their pink fuscia tents set up (thanks go out to the Girl Scouts for those) by evening. Then the cops showed up and put up a sign giving the campers 72 hours to evacuate.
I work at an activist organization on Wednesday and my boss thought it would be a good idea that instead of writing the events calendar like I usually do, I should round up some people in the office to call the Mayor and register complaints about Nickelsville closing. Many people around the city were doing the same thing.
While I sent out an e-mail to the Mayors office and wrote a few letters, three women made calls. One couldn't get through, another had her name taken by the main reception who said the Mayor's office would call back (she's still waiting for that call) but a third women hit the jackpot.
She talked to the City Hall receptionist who was quite friendly and got transferred to one of the Mayor's aides. By the way, the Mayor is getting new aides all the time, he could solve the homeless problem just by hiring the people at Nicklelsville as aides.
Su wisely asked the aide if the Mayor was still planning to close Nickelsville. When the female aide, not as friendly as the receptionist, said he was, Su said she wanted to register a complaint. The aide replied, "you can't register a complaint here, you can only leave a message."
Several people I've told that story too have responded with various degrees of amusement. But there's no missing that it shows just how arrogant the Mayor's office has become. Sadly, not unlike other politicians, Nickels has gone more-and-more to putting policy pronouncements on his web site so he doesn't have to deal with the media directly. So much for accountability.
Hopefully, the electorate will hold Nickels accountable in the next election. And if his aide winds up living in a pink tent in Nickelsville - don't complain, just leave a message.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Beware of Hockey Moms

Last week at the Republican National Convention the GOP’s nominee for vice-president, Sarah Palin, identified herself as a ``hockey mom.’’ In a lot of the country, people just shook their heads knowingly trying to pretend they knew what a hockey mom was. But outside of the upper Midwest, New England, and apparently Alaska, most people really don’t.

At one time in my life I was primarily a hockey writer. The hockey team in the town I worked was ranked the number one high school team in the country. Several of their players went on to the National Hockey League. I wrote about college hockey, minor league hockey, even a couple of articles on women’s hockey. And I heard from the hockey moms.

Hockey parents are unique. It’s the only sport where parents have to drive their kids to practice before school because of rink availability. There are also hockey tournaments; so parents have to drive their kids hundreds of miles in the cold winters to get to all of their games. You can imagine what it’s like if parents have two or three kids playing at different age levels. I also imagine that Sarah Palin buys her kids new hockey equipment every year.

Those may be some of the factors that make hockey parents and hockey moms, shall we say, a little on the feisty side. Besides the berating of coaches, referees, other players and other parents, they sometimes get in a little snit with the local paper. I took calls from hockey moms about spelling their kids names wrong; a legitimate complaint even though the kid had a name like Tzulowinowski or something likes that. And you’d try to explain that the coach, or worse, a high school girl calling in the score to the paper, didn’t know (or care) how to spell the name.

There were some hockey moms who weren’t even subtle. People I know, especially those who don’t consider high school sports a life or death, are surprised when I tell them that there were parents who would call the paper and say we weren’t writng about their little Johnny enough. Parents had it in their minds that how often we mentioned their kid would affect whether they’d get a college hockey scholarship to a good school. The rest of their lives was in our hands. Of course, there were scouts who went to the game who knew far better than me whether a player was a college or pro prospect.

Some of the hockey moms (and dads) really were barracudas and I’m kinda glad I’m not dealing with them anymore.