Kittelson’s Corner: Going to City College

Posted on January 21, 2017

Welcome back to Kittelson’s Corner my (now) weekly musings on things I think are interesting or important, especially in local government nerd-dom.

If you’re a little down after the events of yesterday, take it from me, looking up Joe Biden GIFs will make you feel better. Here’s one of my many, many favorites. (Also Biden rode Amtrak home to Delaware after the inauguration and it was adorable.)

Alright, let’s go.

What I Read

So Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and I committed myself to finally reading and finishing a book that’s been sitting on my shelf for way too long: Bearing the Cross by David Garrow. It’s a Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Martin Luther King Jr. and I’m about 80 pages in and it’s really good, definitely check it out.

Also in celebration of the holiday I read some writing of MLK’s that I was surprised I had never read before, the Letter from Birmingham Jail. I looked it up and printed it out because I had seen several tweets like this:

So I thought I’d look up the letter because it’s one of his most famous writings and it’s a short read. As I read I noticed that a lot of MLK’s most famous quotes come from that document but I was surprised at the things he wrote that don’t often come up. For example:

You may well ask, “Why direct action, why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are exactly right in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.

The above excerpt explains the importance and purpose of protests, when I read that I thought back to the marches we’ve seen in the last few years for the Black Lives Matter movement and how those efforts are forcing that conversation, just as King said. Then there’s the below quote:

I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice

This letter and the work of the Civil Rights movement is something that we should keep in mind as local government administrators. Much of what the movement worked against was backwards local policies. From bus service in Montgomery to sanitation worker conditions in Memphis, MLK and others shone the light on problematic policy and demanded equal treatment. These changes needed to be made and were made on the local level, and that’s worth remembering. There’s more in the letter worth exploring, so you should check it out and let me know what you think.

What I Listened To

Podcast: I have a two for one for you this week, sort of. So lately I’ve been listening to 1A which is a new-ish daily show from NPR. They take a portion of their show and put it out as a podcast and I have enjoyed it immensely. Just this week they talked about environmental justice, feminism and the women’s march on Washington and how diplomats from other countries view our new government. So hit subscribe! You’ll stay both informed about current events and learn new stuff.

But the episode that really got me was this one: The Green Book, A Catalogue of Refuge and Tolerance. The host of 1A talked with the creator of a BBC audio documentary that explored the “Green Book,” a book that existed during Jim Crow to help African-Americans safely travel through the South.

Everyone should take the 36 minutes and listen to this BBC production, especially in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The show is heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time, and is informative about an era that we can so easily forget. It’s a reminder that African-Americans were often risking their personal safety just to travel in the South, and this discrimination and violence is what the Civil Rights movement ended (or did it? At the end, the narrator makes a case that a version of the Green Book may still be needed).  Check it out here or search “BBC Seriously” in your podcast app.

Tweet of the Week

Shout out to Matt Yager for Retweeting this initially. I literally laughed out loud when this came through on my timeline. I don’t know about you but I make this face at least once a day.


City College

This week I had the first day of Durham’s “City College,” which is this cool educational program to teach employees about all of the different City departments. It’s a day-long class, once a month for five months and we cover it all from Finance and City Attorney to Police and Water. I live Tweeted the first day and compiled my takeaways into this “moment” to give you an overview of what the day was like.

Personally, I am looking forward to the months were we get out of City Hall and tour some of the operational departments, like Solid Waste and Fire. It will be fun to get out of the office and see the work first hand.

Wait! One more thing…

You should listen to the latest GovLove Podcast episode. Kent talked with one of the most inspiring, humorous and wise people that I’ve come across in local government. Hyong Yi is the Assistant City Manager of Charlotte, NC and before that was the Budget Director of Mecklenburg County, NC for 10 years. But what’s inspiring about Hyong has nothing to do with his work, he dealt with a crushing tragedy and has come out on the other side with this passion and commitment to love and community. It’s well worth the listen and have some tissues handy, just in case. Trust me.

Close window