Pelham Schools Survey: Somewhat Disagree

Join me as I take the Pelham Public Schools survey. Pelham, New York is a suburb just north of New York City. The Board of Education and the District Strategic Planning Committee would like input to inform a new strategic plan. The survey is wide open to all, and you can take it as many times as you would like.

The instructions say, “…please feel free to take as many of these surveys that apply to you or take them multiple times for each child. “

While the survey is a genuine gesture toward community engagement, the method and the questions themselves make me wonder if the results will be, well, worthless.

Clearly, some people worked very hard on this, and I’ll assume goodwill. What’s most troubling is the consumerization of a public resource. The questions are framed as if public school is a product, and the deliverable is customer satisfaction. As if a district strategic plan is like a software feature release.

Public education has many purposes – preparing people to participate in society, preserving class structure, and you can fill a library with more objectives. In any event, the verdict on whether it’s working is impossible to capture on a Likert scale, and the jury should not comprise all people with a keyboard, regardless.

For those of you in the “Well, what is your suggestion?” crowd, I have a few:
1/ A single survey, not 9 surveys.
2/ Require authentication, and select a random sample.
3/ Max 7 to 10 questions, not 58.

Podcast | Kamala Harris: President, Prosecutor, Progressive

Here’s the podcast link, in case the player doesn’t work right.
Also on YouTube, if you prefer.
Who is Senator Harris? Prosecutor, progressive or vapid ’90’s political hack? We’re about to find out.

US Senator Kamala Harris (D) of California announced this week she will run for President.  In this podcast I share a few clips and quotes to suggest this is a serious candidate, with experience and depth, worthy of public trust.  She will need to bridge her credentials as California’s top cop with her positioning as a political progressive. Harris has a controversial criminal justice record, but that will make perfect sense if she can avoid vapid campaign dribble.

Attribution

VOX Article by German Lopez
Kamala Harris’s controversial record on criminal justice, explained


Senator Kamala Harris On Education, Criminal Justice Reform & Why Debating Is Important
Interview from The Breakfast Club, With DJ Envy, Angela Yee And Charlamagne Tha God!

Thebreakfastclub.iheart.com

Podcast | First Family, featuring Vaughan Meader

Podcast link, in case the embedded player isn’t working for you.

The First Family featuring Vaughan Meader was a blockbuster album from 1962 that was a parody of the Kennedy family.  
Amazon has it: https://amzn.to/2W8uG4j

Mo Rocca is a correspondent for CBS This Morning.  He has a new podcast called MOBITUARIES, the very first episode really caught my attention.  He talks about a very famous comedy album from 1962 called The First Family, and I have a personal connection to that record.  Check out mobituaries.com

Before I explain all that, let me just say, as a vlogger and podcaster, I really look up to the Mo Rocca’s of the world.  His work is polished and beautifully written and produced. There’s a team of pros involved, and he leverages everything CBS News has to offer.  It’s first class, and I recommend you check it out at mobituaries.com, and on every podcast platform you could possibly have.

Now, about The First Family.  I have no firsthand recollection of John F. Kennedy.  I wasn’t born until two years after he was assassinated.  But I was the youngest of 4 children, and my nearest sibling is 8 years older than me, so I missed an experience they all had.  I had my own record player and a small collection of records that I was allowed to play myself, as opposed to the grownup collection that contained my father’s Broadway show soundtracks, and my mother’s collection of classical music in which I had no interest.  There was a whole separate collection for my brothers containing contemporary artists, but it was off limits to me.

So my child safe collection consisted of relics from earlier childhoods –  a Mickey Mouse Club album, a kids album by Groucho Marx, a Peter and the Wolf album, and in 1970 I got my first new record that was mine alone – The Sesame Street Album.  I played them over and over and over. Playing these records was something I could do myself, and it was tons of fun.

There was one album in the kid collection, “The First Family”.  I never question why it was in the kid collection, I just played it over and over like all the others.  It was a political parody of President Kennedy and the First Family. I liked it because the cover had a picture of a family including the kids, and balloons, so it seemed like it was for kids, and there were kids in the album too.

The question is “Why was The First Family” even a part of my playlist as a kid?  I have no idea. I learned from the Mo Rocca podcast that this album was a blow out success in 1962 – It won Album of the Year, it was one of the best selling albums in history.  Why wasn’t it protected in one of the grownup collections? Did my parents not like Kennedy? Why did they buy it in the first place? Who knows?

Then, watching Rocca made me think about my own direct connection to the album?  Why did I love it so much? The jokes were over my head. I had no idea who Barry Goldwater was, or Albert Schweitzer.  To this day I don’t get a lot of the political references. So what was it that made me love it so much?

The answer is that it was funny, AND because if you listen to it carefully, Vaughan Meader, the guy who plays Kennedy, gets applause and adoration at the end of every cut.  And as a kid all I wanted was attention like that. And third, because The First Family on that album seemed like a fun family, one that spends time together and has fun. Listen to this:

So I ran around my house at the age of 5, 6 and 7 talking like Jack Kennedy, with a kid’s ear version of a New England accent, saying “Ask not what your country can do for you…”   But what I was really doing was imitating Vaughan Meader impersonating Jack Kennedy. It didn’t matter. I killed it, and the grownups loved it. It never failed to get a laugh from relatives and friends that came over.  I didn’t know what I was doing, or why they were so amused by it.

Coincidentally, I found The First Family album in my basement a few week ago.  I don’t even have a record player to play it on now. I was inbetween my Sesame Street album and the Mickey Mouse Club album.  I still have them, but now I would have to play it back on Spotify if I want to hear it.

The Mo Rocca podcast, Mobituaries looks like it’s going to be a winner.  I strongly recommend this first episode. He has interviews with Vaughan Meader’s wife, one of the producers of the album, and clips from a 1998 interview that CBS did with Vaughan Meader.  A lot of the podcast is about how Meader’s career basically ended with the assassination, and how Meader himself never fully recovered from the trajedy. But there’s a jawdropping surprise ending.  It’s very hard for a podcast to pull off a stunt like that, but Mo managed to do it. I listened to the entire 52 minutes and you should too.

RedBlueTalk is all about how politics and government impact peoples lives. I would be tickled if you would subscribe to the channel on whatever platform you prefer.  

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Podcast | Citizen Journalism in a Small City

A’tif Khalil is a citizen journalist focused on Mount Vernon, New York.  In this episode we discuss the challenges of covering stories about City Hall when you know the people inside, personally.    We also discuss a recent incident involving Mount Vernon’s Mayor along with Internet celebrity Fatboy SSE.  The two visited the local high school on Friday, January 12, unannounced, resulting in a disruption of the school day and suspensions. Khalil publishes local news stories in Black Westchester Magazine and on WBAI radio.

Podcast | Geopolitics and the Suburban Housing Market 2018

So you’ve got the financial stuff to make it in New York’s expensive suburban housing market, but the loss of the SALT deduction, stock market volatility and possibly the end of the world have you thinking twice. If you are fearing more than fear itself, apparently you are not alone. One real estate broker published an annual survey for his territory, Pelham, New York, including this striking remark:

“People want to live below their means.”

PODCAST LINK (in case the embedded player is not working)

Licensed Real Estate Broker Maurice Owen-Michaane talks about his “Pelham 2018 Market Report“.  Michaane sees a trend in buyers seeking homes that are LESS costly than they can actually afford, even in New York’s affluent suburbs.  We discuss the market psychology and geo-politics driving this new trend.

Hit your favorite podcast app, and search for REDBLUETALK,
and I’d love it if you would review the show, too. – Charlie
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Mount Vernon: Comptroller v. Mayor, Recap

Twas the Sunday before Christmas…December 23, 2018. AJ Woodson, Producer and Host of Black Westchester / People Before Politics asked me to be a guest on his show. Why? He happened to notice that I attended an annual report conference held by the Comptroller of Mount Vernon, NY the prior Thursday, December 20, 2018 at Mount Vernon City Hall. Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas posted an excerpt of the meeting on Facebook, and there I was in the second row, seated next to A’tif Khalil, who reported on the session for Black Westchester. Small world.

The meeting was a public briefing by Deborah Reynolds, Comptroller for the City of Mount Vernon, to explain the status of the budget. Her remarks were centered on the draft 2019 fiscal budget, which at that point had not been presented to the Board of Estimate.

There were also charged political accusations against the Mayor, including allegations that she is unable to perform her duties because of an administrative lockout from the City’s general ledger software, MUNIS. Missed filings. Unauthorized purchases. More.

When I was asked to be a guest on BW, I dusted off my meeting notes, and then began to parse through several key documents that provide the backstory to this intriguing he-said-she-said matter. In September 2018, the Mayor filed an Article 78 lawsuit to compel the Comptroller to pay over $1 million dollars in unpaid bills, including $278,000 for the attorneys representing the City in the lawsuit itself. In October 2018, Mayor Thomas petitioned Governor Andrew Cuomo to remove Comptroller Reynolds from her position. There are more clues about the current state in Reynold’s response document.

In short, it’s a complicated mess, but in this episode of People Before Politics, I was given a generous amount of time to break it down, to the best of my ability, based on the publicly available reports and filings.

Many thanks to the Black Westchester team, for this opportunity to parse it out and try to make sense of the matter. People Before Politics is a great show. I look forward to it every Sunday at 6:00 PM at inthemixxradio.com.

I’d appreciate any feedback you may have to offer. @redbluetalk

Instagram Politics In New York

Congress and social media are coming together.

Instagram politicians reach way beyond election district boundaries. I created a list of all 27 US Representatives from New York showing a real-time update of Instagram follower counts. [Note: This list pulls in a lot of data from Instagram, so it takes like 8 seconds to load. Please be patient.] Tech notes at the end.

There was a point during the Thanksgiving weekend when Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio Cortez was gaining over 500 new Instagram followers per hour. She now has more followers on Instagram than constituents in the Bronx and Queens, New York. I’ll discuss her specific case further, but this article is focused upon the whole phenomenon of IG politicians and how we experience them.

I once saw a PBS documentary about Henry Ford. In it a woman said that before the Model T came along America was a mostly poor, agrarian country with muddy roads. By her account people didn’t know each other very well because they didn’t have an easy way to meet. Instagram, and the rest of the socials, are like a political accelerator pedal for candidates and electeds who figure out how to step on it just right.

So I decided to look at the Instagram feed for each member of the New York delegation to the 116th US Congress (session starts in January 2019), and see if I could discern any sort of patterns.

Representative-Elect Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is in an Instagram class of one.

As of this writing, Rep-Elect Ocasio Cortez has more than 50 times more Instagram followers (880k and climbing hourly) than the second most IG popular New York member of Congress – Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn, with 18k followers. She has 11 times more Instagram followers than the other 26 New York Representatives, combined. Excluding Cortez, the average New York Representative has just under 3k followers. Rep-elect Ocasio Cortez has 300 times more Instagram visibility than the entire rest of the New York delegation. And the job starts in January 2019.

Rep. Eliot Engel is social media savvy, but not on Instagram.

In the next Congressional District north of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’ , where I live, our dear friend Rep. Eliot Engel just won an uncontested re-election in CD-16. He is the ONLY member of the New York Congressional Delegation with no Instagram account. I checked over and over. He is genuinely active on Twitter, and he has a well curated Facebook page with 62k followers, but Instagram is not his thing. Engel has been connecting with voters using a flat-out honest narrative for over 30 years. I would argue he has been doing the same thing as his neighbor in the 14th Congressional District for decades, reaching out to voters on their exact level, successfully.  If you can’t speak social media like a native, maybe there’s some wisdom to choosing your venue carefully.

Boring Instagram photos will not get you a political following.

In between these Instagram fame extremities (Ocasio Cortez v Engel), there is a middle 25 members of Congress from New York that have Instagram feeds loaded with smiling photos – Me with so-and-so. Me giving a trophy to so-and-so. Me with the head of the union. Me with the cops. Me at the dedication ceremony. And so on. Here’s a bit of advice to the politicos and their consultants. If you’re going to use Instagram at all, put some interesting photos up there, please. Don’t just hand your iPhone to your aid and say “get a picture of this”. In other words, don’t be boring. Use Facebook for that. Even a selfie is better than a staged “me-with” photo shot by an aid from 10 feet away.  They have a place, but don’t over-rotate on photos like this one:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Rep. John Katko (@repjohnkatko) on

Successful politicians on Instagram mix it up.

Antonio Delgado is on the right track. He’s using Instagram to explain who HE is. He’s got photos HE took, including some family photos, and you get to see what HE sees. Yes, there are a few schlocky “me with so-and-so” pictures, but even those support the deeper story he’s ‘Gramming up. There is also some professionally produced content in there, but in the main, you will learn something about this person’s world view by subscribing to his Instagram feed, and that’s the whole idea.  Sample:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Antonio Delgado (@delgadoforcongress) on

People can’t take their eyes off politicians that use Instagram Stories, but very few “Story”.

The golden nugget of Instagram is Instagram Stories. In case you’re not Insta-inclined, that means photos and videos that vanish after 24 hours by default, and show up on your phone with a notification, so you feel like you’ve got an inside track on the very latest thing from the person who is IG-Storying. It’s loaded with kitchy emojis, logos and other software gimmicks. People get a dopamine hit when they watch Stories, and then they want more. The politician that figures out how to use Stories can win the war for attention on the Internet. Reps Meeks, Delgado and Clarke are Story-ers. Rep.-Elect Ocasio Cortez is all over IG-Story, of course.

More Instagram followers does not equal electoral victory, but it’s a financial gateway.

Beto O’Rourke had 3x the followers of Ted Cruz. Beto lost the race for Senator from Texas. However, it means something that Antonio Delgado (8702 followers) beat incumbent Rep Jon Faso (682 followers). Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY22) (1050 followers) was ousted by Anthony Brindisi (2171 followers). My theory is that they have larger followings because of an interconnectedness within their districts AND through awareness within the national political affinity groups. For Democrats this means Indivisible groups, National Democratic Committee members and so on. If your message catches fire, the out of district attention allows you to use the rest of the country like an ATM machine, to raise money to take back home into your election race.  The financial implications of a massive Instagram subscriber base are profound.

BONUS OBSERVATION: “Live on Instagram” can make politicians into people magnets.

Back to my Ford analogy. Instagram allows us to engage politicians in a way we seldom did before, just like the Model T gave Americans a way to know their non-adjacent neighbors over 100 years ago. If Instagram is a vehicle, and IG-Stories is an accelerant, then IG-Live is a jet engine. While I was developing this blog article, and the companion IG locator page, on the eve of Thankgiving Alexandria Ocasio Cortez launched a live broadcast. She and a campaign aid were cooking and talking about politics and whatever, with an audience of over 2500 Instagram followers. In the hours afterward her follower count was soaring.

There are approximately 711k human beings residing in each US Congressional District. With nearly 900k Instagram followers and climbing, it’s clear Ms. Ocasio Cortez is being heard on an international stage. Only Facebook itself could know exactly how many of her Instagram followers are constituents of New York’s 14th Congressional District. As people get to know their elected officials better through the Internet, those political subdivision lines won’t mean exactly what they do today.

NET-HEADS:
If you’re a Web development person, this is for you. I created the list using a PHP call that I found on Stack OverFlow. It pulls in data from Instagram, scrapes it and displays the number of IG followers. The only problem is there are 27 members of Congress, and the 27 PHP calls slow down the page load.   To drive the load time to an barely acceptable 7 seconds, I used the PHP on about half of the rows in the table, and for the rest I use estimates.  The members with small very IG followings aren’t changing very fast anyway.   If you know a less resource intensive way to fetch the Instagram statistics, I would love to hear from you. Here’s the code:

$raw = file_get_contents(‘https://www.instagram.com/redbluetalk’); //replace with user
preg_match(‘/\”edge_followed_by\”\:\s?\{\”count\”\:\s?([0-9]+)/’,$raw,$m);
print intval($m[1]);

Capitol Photo
By Martin Falbisoner – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28359031

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