6 things worth learning at Greentopia.

I used to run Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here.

I took a stroll through Greentopia the other day. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Despite its name, Delta Laboratories, inc, is a local nonprofit that has 2 main functions: organizing thousands of people to clean up streams on Earth Day, and providing environmental education to kids in nearby schools.
  2. The new high-stakes testing model adopted in New York this year is already having adverse effects. Teachers are afraid to let their students skip class to go on environmental field trips, because low attendance lowers their stats.
  3. The local Sierra Club has 3000 dues-paying members. That’s a ton of people! I had no idea.
  4., a local anti-fracking email newsletter and website, is maintained through 2 women who use a vanilla gmail account to send mail to 2000 people every week. I tipped them off to the existence of free tools like Action Network. Hopefully that’ll make a big difference.
  5. I always knew that Small World Food was a delicious worker-run bakery, but I didn’t know it was so small – there are just 3-4 full time worker/owners and a smattering of interns.
  6. ReConnect Rochester (a pro-public transit volunteer group) is run by the same guy, Mike, who writes Rochester Subway is well-worth your time, by the way.

On a personal note, I also ran into one of my favorite cousins, made some art with little kids, tasted local apples from a CSA booth, drank a flight of beer at the Genesee Brewery, and we were all treated to a a “guerrilla musical performance” by a bunch of volunteers at Greentopia. Festivals are fun!


EVENT ALERT: Metro Justice flexes old and new muscles to oppose war in Syria

I used to run Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here. (Here’s the wayback link to the original)

When: 5pm – 6:30 Thursday
Where: 100 State St
What: Petition dropoff to both Senators opposing war in Syria. Then a strategy meeting about what to do next afterwards.

Metro Justice has spent the last couple of months or so setting up their swanky new website and organizing tool. Tomorrow, they’ll have their first test to try it out. First, they’ll drop off a petition they’ve gathered opposing attacking Syria. Then, they’ll convene a strategy meeting to figure out their next steps.

This move is unusual for Metro Justice.

The group, Rochester’s premier broad-left organization, has a history of anti-war activism in Rochester. While it was founded as an allied group to FIGHT, it’s more recently known for its anti-war work. Membership shot up during the run-up to the Iraq War, and for many years Iraq was *the* primary focus for Metro Justice. Over the past few years, however, they’ve taken a new tack.

The new Metro Justice is both more member-driven and domestically focused. In fact, the two are entwined: Back in 2011, they engaged in an intensive internal discussion about values and strategy which ultimately culminated in their 7-point platform: Fight For Economic Justice.

Since then, Metro Justice has mainly taken on campaigns around housing justice, dignified retirement, and health care for all. More recently, they’ve switched to a wholly new integrated database/website/online organizing system. They used that system to blast their membership yesterday, asking them to sign a petition against war in Syria, and then signers were asked to commit to attending a rally scheduled for tomorrow. These are Metro Justice’s new muscles, and they’re flexing them for the first time.

They aren’t just relying on fancy online tools, however. As I type this, members across the city are calling other members and asking them to commit to the rally. These old-school organizing techniques aren’t going to be dropped any time soon.

While the rally and petition dropoff are the headline event, some are more interested in the meeting that will follow. Colin O’Malley, their organizing director, told me in a statement:

The most empowering part of this is that we’re not simply rallying and then dispersing, but committing to building a more thoughtful and dynamic anti-war movement in Rochester. The strategy meeting after the rally is a first important step.

We’ll see how it goes!


The new train station will be labor-friendly. Right?

I used to run Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here. (Here’s the wayback link to the original)

The D&C reported in today’s paper that the new Intermodal Train Station will use a project-labor agreement. That means, among other things, unionized construction. Or does it?

The long-awaited “intermodal” station is set to begin this winter, Cuomo’s office said, and the labor agreement will detail eligibility for unions and non-union shops to work on the job.

I’ve sent out a few emails to learn more about the non-union clauses in the PLA. Louise Slaughter, who is generally solid on labor, praised the agreement, so it must not be that bad. Or is it?

As far as I know, project labor agreements are one of the few bright spots for the Rochester-area labor movement. The county (under Republican Maggie Brooks) has historically used PLA’s over the last decade, whereas the city (under a succession of Democrats) only started them under the Richards administration.

I have no idea how common it is for state-funded construction to be under a PLA. Do you?

Yeah, when it comes to labor, Rochester politics don’t quite map the same way that they do nationally.

The fact that he’s actually using project-labor agreements, along with the reality that Lovely Warren wants to dismantle public education, is why I support Richards in the election today.


Election Reax & liveblog: WOW. Lovely Warren won the Democratic Primary for mayor.

I used to run Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here. Here’s the wayback link

Wow. Wow. Warren won the primary, 58% to 42% with all precincts reporting.

What does this mean?

I wonder if the big Warren boost came in part from the growing unrest over awful police practices? The large local rallies and news stories these days regard the police – Benny WarrEmily GoodBrenda Hardaway, even the Trayvon Martin case led to a march against racist policing.

More thoughts:

This is a defeat both for the institutional left and institutional Democratic party. The Working Families Party and labor unions partnered with the Joe Morrelle / establishment wing of the Dems to take on Lovely Warren.

This is a win for David Gantt.

This is a win for the corporate education privatization lobby.

This is a showcase of the power of an organized African-American community.

Does Richards still run on the Working Families Party and Independence line?

Update 1:

Council Races and School Board: Seems like the incumbents all won.

City News has its take up. It’s a good one.

Brian Sharp (D&C reporter) on twitter says: “Richards spox says tonight likely not the night for Richards decision on staying in the race for Nov #voteroc

Update 2:

Did I hear someone on WXXI say that Joe Morelle should resign? I can’t see that happening. Not that I saw Warren winning this race either.

Just heard Richard’s concession speech. Nothing about whether he would run again or not – but I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t.

Will there be pressure on Alex White to bow out of the race now, so that Richards has a better shot at winning?

There was an upset in the Henrietta Republican supervisor primary. The winner was the one *not* endorsed by the Conservative or Independence lines. Good?

Update 3:

WXXI has the Lovely Warren victory speech:

Update 4:

The D&C has their quick reaction article up. It doesn’t seem to say anything we don’t already know.

Commenter Alicia O has a nuanced take: (slightly edited for clarity)

I’m feeling torn about this. I want to see changes and new leadership and it is exciting to see people come together to take a stance against the status quo.

There is a lot to say about it all, but I’m most concerned with education. I’m VERY opposed to many aspects of Warren’s stated position/plan to “improve” city schools. She says in the plan that she supports recruit corporate charters and wants to attract Teach for America to the area. Rochester has plenty of highly qualified teachers in the area. The failure of city schools to prepare students does not have to do with finding teachers, rather, it’s about systemic inequality and disenfranchisement. She is extremely misguided if she thinks more Charters and TFA are the solutions.

However, she also has mentioned great ideas like partnering with Historically Black Colleges and expanding a school’s community. I hope that more informed people can steer her in the right direction and make her realize that supporting privatization is actually at odds with her vision.

Then again…politicians say stuff to get elected, so maybe she was just trying to appeal to everyone in the document. (Vouchers and charters are what supposedly lures more affluent families into sticking around in the city…but what about the promise of public ed.?) Lots to think about.

People can read her education document here. [pdf]

Meanwhile commenter Zora has a more straightforward take:

Alex White should step out of the race for the general election so he doesn’t take votes away from Richards….

Update 5:

Seth Voorhees of YNN (but in a personal capacity) tweets: ”Richards says he’ll take a few days to consider next move, after losing Dem primary to Lovely Warren.”

Meaghan M. McDermott at the D&C has a nice roundup of the suburban races.

I think it’s time to pack it in. What an upset! Definitely a shakeup in the perceived and real power for different factions within the Democratic party of the city. I’m sure we’ll know more in the following few days. Night night everyone.


Election Day: Organizational Endorsements and Personal Speculation

I used to run Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here. (Here’s the wayback link to this post)

Today’s primary election day. What races are you watching closely?

I’ve collated a roundup of endorsements from generally left-of-center groups around town. You’ll see it below. If you find others, please send them my way.

Warning: thinly-sourced speculation ahead!

Looking at these endorsements, the two candidates that noticeably escape a consensus are Marlowe Washington and Liz Hallmark.

I don’t know why lefties are split on Washington. With Hallmark, however, I do have a theory.

Rumor has it that Liz Hallmark started her campaign late. So late that she wasn’t able to even apply for an endorsement from the Working Families Party in time. That probably holds true for other endorsement-making bodies as well.

While the Working Families Party has a broad slate of endorsements, it seems that their main push is for the mayor’s race. I’ve run into a few friends who tell me about a joint Democrat/Working Families Party paid canvass for Richards, and I haven’t heard anything about jobs canvassing for the other candidates endorsed on the WFP line.

Word on the street, too, is that Warren, while being happy to win the primary outright, is setting herself up to run again, and stronger, in 2017. Others think she might run on a new ballot line against Richards in the general. I’m skeptical of the latter claim – I doubt she’ll do so notably well in the primary that the addition of Alex White in the race would siphon enough votes from Richards to get her the crown.

I guess we’ll see soon enough!

End thinly-sourced speculation.

Here are the local endorsements:

Working Families Party:

Tom Richards, Mayor
Matt Haag, Rochester City Council
Jackie Ortiz, Rochester City Council
Marlowe Washington, Rochester City Council
Jose Cruz, School Board
Candice Lucas, School Board
Van White, School Board

Rochester Labor Council:

Tom Richards, Mayor
Marlowe Washington, Rochester City Council
Jackie Ortiz, Rochester City Council
Loretta Scott, Rochester City Council
Dana Miller, Rochester City Council
Matt Haag, Rochester City Council
Jose Cruz, School Board
Candice Lucas, School Board

City Paper:

Tom Richards, Mayor
Matt Haag, Rochester City Council
Jackie Ortiz, Rochester City Council
Dana Miller, Rochester City Council
Loretta Scott, Rochester City Council
Carolee Conklin, Rochester City Council
Jose Cruz, School Board
Candice Lucas, School Board
Van White, School Board

Coalition for Justice in Education:

Liz Hallmark, School Board

Diane Ravitch:

Liz Hallmark, School Board


Is TED progressive? No. Should you go? Definitely.

I used to run Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here. (Here’s the link to the original)

The TED brand of conference is resolutely “apolitical”, to its great demerit. Robber barons rub shoulders with scientists and marvel at technocratic attempts to fix the problems that they themselves caused. Tales of people-powered organizing are only entertained once in a while, and only when the countries affected are safely exotic and far away.

There’s one in Rochester soon. You should go.

Seriously! Here’s an application form.

Here’s why:

The short version:  There will be smart, passionate, and powerful people there. You want to meet them, befriend them, and build alliances. After all, TEDxRochester is quite a different beast from the flagship event.

The longer version:

The speakers at TEDx aren’t the point – instead, you want to mingle with the attendees. Luckily for you, the organizers have spent hours and hours cultivating a guest list of interesting, driven, or powerful people. Young professionals, entrepreneurs, hip young pastors, etc. You want to meet those people. You want to meet them because they’re the competent, passionate people that make amazing members or allies.

As organizers and activists, we fail when we live solely in our own bubble. That’s a fairly anodyne, even boring statement. Let’s take it a step further, though: “As organizers, we need to be engaged in – and even help build – local civic society.”

There are a few reasons why organizers should have a stake in building even apolitical civic society:

  1. As citizens organize any kind of group, including neighborhood or charity groups, they become comfortable with participating, funding, and leading. You’ll benefit from those skills and assumptions becoming the norm.
  2. Already existing local groups make your life as an organizer so much easier – you can partner with them on projects, or engage with them to try to convince them of your values.
  3. A strong civic society broadens the pool of engaged citizens. Engaged citizens are exactly the sort of people you want to recruit.

In short, a civic society is a society in which you can participate. It’s a framework to work in and generates organizations worth partnering with.

So apply!

More info:

There are, confusingly, two separate TED-branded conferences in Rochester every year – TEDxRochester and TEDxFlourCity. TEDxRochester is the one I’m discussing at the moment – it’s the one with the application up.

TED is the flagship conference in California. It was so successful that local volunteers organize TED-branded events across the country.


About People-Powered Rochester

I used to run Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here. Below is the text of the about page.

The situation:
The progressive/populist/people-powered movement in Rochester is stronger than many know, but weaker than it can be.

All too often, liberal reformists don’t talk to radical organizers. Electoral-focused progressives are unaware of grassroots associations. Enthusiastic newcomers aren’t matched with experienced activists looking for new blood. All the while, the great bulk of the city is woefully unaware of our presence. The silos of tactics, nominal ideology, and issue area divide and diminish us.

There’s a flourishing ecosystem of different grassroots groups in our neighborhoods. Dedicated and smart people are experimenting with new tactics and organizing models every day. However, these groups often aren’t aware of each other, can’t learn from each other, and don’t work together. There’s a real lack of movement communication and movement consciousness. We’ll need much more of both if we want to succeed.

Our mission in short:
We want the best parts of the political left in Rochester to grow. We want them to strengthen. And we want them to win.

Our initial strategy:
We’re going to build a community online that consists of the broad left in Monroe County. Organizers and onlookers, center-left and radical left, electoral and direct action. As the community grows in numbers and coherence, so will our power. Specifically, as the community grows, we’ll draw more people to get involved in “meatspace”, connect disparate parts of the movement together, and push existing organizations towards excellence and accountability.

Don’t forget applauding great projects as they happen. That’s also really important.

Our proposed tactics:

  • Breaking news
  • Introducing readers to the exciting and positive world of people-powered organizations in Rochester
  • Asking critical questions from a position of respect and kindness
  • Provoking intra-movement discussion and debate
  • Explaining or exploring the context of the different news of the day
  • Sharing best practices

In short, we will be curious, we will be opinionated, and we will be passionate. Enjoy!



I used to run Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here. Below is the first post on the site


Over the last few weeks, I’ve had an idea kicking around my head that just won’t go away.

We need a lefty media/community/discussionspace … thing in Rochester.

It would need to appeal to:

  • Onlookers, and then start getting them involved in local organizing
  • Organizers, and push them towards excellence (and being good to each other)
  • Legacy media and thought leaders, and showcase the strength (and newsworthiness!) of our different efforts

A bloggy/newsy site seems to be the best way to go about it.

The sort of site you pull up in the morning as you drink your coffee. The sort of site you mention to your political friends because you never seem to stop reading it. The site where dedicated organizers hang out, shoot the shit, and interact with enthusiastic newcomers.

But why?

Because we as a broad left won’t win in Rochester until we become stronger. We can become stronger by:

  • Building relationships between leaders of strikingly different organizations.
  • Making sure to celebrate our smaller victories along the way.
  • Recruiting more members and donors.
  • Reaching outside our normal circles.
  • Building a culture of collaboration and respectful questioning.

What is this broad left? It’s composed of groups of different tactics, ideology, and issue focus. They often don’t work well together. That division is bad. It leads to weakness and blind spots. Part of the mission of this site should be to restore the broader flag of “broad left” or “people-powered movement”.

This site can help with all that. Or possibly it will fulfill a different function entirely. The best plan is just to do quality work, and see where it leads.

It’s time.


What to do if you’re trying to run Heroes 3 on Wine and the screen flickers

Do this!

  • Run regedit
  • Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER -> Software -> Wine
  • Then use Edit -> New Key to make a new folder called Direct3D
  • Inside that folder, make a new String value: DirectDrawRenderer. Set the value to gdi.
  • Voila.

National Day of Civic Hacking at RIT was well worth going to

National Day of Civic Hacking at RIT was well worth going to


Children’s stories are kind of dark. And that’s a good thing.

Listening to a podcast about Tolkien, I really have to agree with him regarding children. So many adults have this need to shelter children from the evils of the world. Everything light. Nothing more dangerous than a rabbit running away from the mean farmer who won’t let him eat carrots.

This is almost hilariously wrong. Think of all the popular kid stories, and all the popular fairy tales too. They all have dark parts. That’s a good thing.

Living as a child, you’re awash in darkness. Realizing you can lie to your parents – and that means they aren’t omnipotent enough to stave off death. Living in a world where you have few rights. The bullying. The fact that you’re simply just new to life! 

A world where you’re surrounded by giants who order you around.

That isn’t to say we should hand them Nabokov. But look at an example of how Tolkien manages it in the Hobbit. The dwarves think Smaug might’ve found a secret passage, and Gandalf says:

“…it is too small. ‘Five feet high the door and three may walk abreast’ say the runes, but Smaug could not creep into a hole that size, not even when he was a young dragon, certainly not after devouring so many of the dwarves and men of Dale.”


We aren’t lying to children. Never lie to children. It’s an abuse of power and an abuse of trust. Plus, you have no guarantee that as they age you’ll remember to correct yourself and tell them the truth. Smaug did eat all those dwarves and men of Dale. It was a legitimately horrifying experience! 

But, of course, it doesn’t stop at the horror. It’s contained in the mildly amusing image of a big fat dragon. The children are shown a glimpse of horror – and then whisked away before they can dwell on it. The seeds are there, however. The seeds that will grow into maturity.


Removing packages installed in Rstudio

I recently switched from Macports to Homebrew. That meant using a new, ‘homebrewed’ version of R, rather than a ‘macported’ one. 

I had problems, and couldn’t find anything too helpful online, so hopefully this will serve as a guide to the next person who runs across this it.

RStudio kept giving me errors about outdated packages, but I couldn’t uninstall them. I followed these instructions, but Rstudio kept saying that the relevant packages couldn’t be found.

Here’s why : Rstudio installs packages in a completely separate place than where “normal R” packages are saved. Crazy, right?

So, if you’re trying to uninstall Rstudio packages on a Mac, try this:


Will show you the different places your library is. Note the last parameter. It might look something like this: ’/Applications/’

ip <- installed.packages() <- ip[!(ip[,“Priority”] %in% c(“base”, “recommended”)), 1]

sapply(, remove.packages, ’/Applications/’)

Or replace ’/Applications/’ with whatever isn’t the first result from .libPaths().

You might have to repeat steps 2-4 a few times. Enjoy!


Visiting the French Road Elementary School Library

The other day I visited my old elementary school’s library.

It. Was. Magical.

Shout out to the public school employees (librarians, teachers, custodians, everyone) who worked so hard to make places like a small library in the outskirts of Rochester a magical place to be.


Brighton High School and Sacco and Vanzetti

Now this is just impressive. The AP Art History class at Brighton High School did projects on, among other things, the Sacco and Vanzetti Trial.

Suburban, high-achieving students writing about the injustices done to early 20th-century anarchists.

I love it.


The Pittsford Library is kind of ridiculously nice

The Pittsford Library is kind of ridiculously nice. You can’t see it, but they actually have a chandelier!

And anyone, not just Pittsford residents, can go. The best, quietest, and fastest-wifi places are also tables that are meant to be shared. This means they’re great for running into old and new friends, as I learned when I visited last Wednesday and ran into an old high school buddy of mine.

The library is also right next to a great garbage plate place. It doesn’t just do gross hot dogs – you can get chicken breast, real fish, etc. I got chicken breast, finely chopped lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and all sorts of sauces, then ate my picnic in the shade by the Erie Canal.

A wonderful day. Definitely recommended.