Friday, October 19, 2007

Actual Voice Mail from Sandy Brown

On my voice mail this morning, and promptly followed by a legalistic email that stops just short of threatening legal action.

Tim, this is Sandy Brown calling from the Church Council of Greater Seattle. Hey, I , you know, was verrryy surprised to see our logo on a mock announcement for Unite to Extend Homelessness, and I just wonder if you generated this, and if so, how you're going to disconnect us from what is obviously a spoof to those of us involved in it, but maybe not a spoof to the people that are going to be confused by this. So, we really do not want to have our name connected with this, uh, mock, uh, publicity, and would like you to remove us from it, and make a retraction that we have nothing to do with it. So please give a me a call at my office to explain to me what's going on here if you indeed are the source of this, and I'm anxious to be removed from any participation in it because it obviously goes contrary to what our viewpoint is, and our logo should not be on it. So my telephone number Tim is 206-525-1213 x3911 Thanks much, Bye now.

Here's a link to a page on political satire (including use of branding) as first amendment protected free speech.


Dr. Wes Browning said...

Huge over-reaction from Sandy Brown. The spoof flier is buried on a dormant university class site.

When people over-react like this, it makes me think a nerve's been struck. He should have just pulled his hand out of the box, said, "I see the truth of it," and carried on.

Sorry for the Dune reference, I couldn't resist.

Anonymous said...

Wow - remind me to never call Tim Harris to express a comment or concern about anything. what a total lack of publish someone's phone message. A private phone message from one individual to another. What a dick!

katia said...

See it's things like this that make me want to back the hell away from aligning with you. Good god man, what possible good could come from this approach of divisiveness? Yea, yea, a satire. To what benefit? And posting his phone message? To me, in this case, you come out looking immature and asinine. And the thing is I really WANT to align with you. But a good Leader this does not make.

Tim Harris said...

The whole "we're all one big happy family" thing isn't working for me anymore, and I don't know that it's ever worked in terms of being an authentic poor people's activist.

I'm well aware that this is not the Seattle style, but I'm tired of people patting themselves on the back for "ending homelessness" when we're doing nothing of the sort.

When people push back on a satire this hard, I think it says something. Thus the decision to go public with that. And Sandy's work phone is public information. No foul there.

The message I've been getting from powerful organizations today is clear: keep your political critique to yourself or suffer the consequences. Other than to say that's not going to happen, I'm not offering any more details on that front.

S. P. Miskowski said...

If you Google the phone number in this post you'll find it brings up "Church Council." It's a public number, available to all.

A message left on voice mail becomes the recipient's property. Spalding Gray used voice messages in performance. Controversial, but not necessarily unethical. Depends on context and purpose.

Naturally enough, the person whose org is tweaked by parody will not find it amusing. But let's imagine this post appeared in one of our local weeklies. Do you think they would care that the tweaked is upset? Would readers care, in that context? I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

I'm done. It is time that someone holds Tim accountable for his words and his actions. Maybe then the boardd members of this non-profit will realize that it is a time to change "leadership" (and I use that terms very loosely in the case of the current director). I've been a supporter of Real Change for years - both as an individual donor and as a reader. I will no longer support this organization and I will encoourage my friends, co-workers and colleagues to direct their support elsewhere as well. Prehaps my dollars will be better spent supporting someone who is not so determined to divide the community but rather an organization working to unite the community under a common vision of ending homelessness. Someone like the Committee to End Homelessness.

donna said...

The bald truth hurts the Principalities and Powers, so they are coming after you to scold or worse. You hit a big naked raw nerve, meaning you are right on the money. Sometimes, we just can't take the hypocrisy anymore and we must speak the truth as we see it, no matter who gets upset or offended. Hold firm, brother.

I'm from the NYC metro area originally. Speaking truth to alleged power is a way of life. Seattle is a lovely place to live, but the nicey-nice approach is not necessarily more civilized--it's just subterfuge.

Mike said...

There's an inherent conflict of interest between the role of advocacy and the the role of provider. A true advocate will eventually step on the toes of those in a position to dispense and distribute resources - what we'd call providers. The biggest part of providers' efforts are devoted to sustaining cooperation in the providers' community. The biggest part of advocates' efforts is to demand more. That's not a very friendly position when you're surrounded by providers who are dividing up the inadequate resources that they've been given.

If the truth be told, the current program to end homelessness is a sham. And participating in it makes you part of that sham. There's a place for someone to tell the truth and that's what Tim has done.

Tim is an extraordinary advocate. If he doesn't step on toes occasionally, he's not doing his job. Go Tim.

Mike Smith and Revel Smith

Anonymous said...

I can't quite believe that someone who can obviously write coherently, and therefore presumably, has a brain, could actually come up with this statement:

"Prehaps my dollars will be better spent supporting someone who is not so determined to divide the community but rather an organization working to unite the community under a common vision of ending homelessness. Someone like the Committee to End Homelessness."

The Committee to End Homelessness???? You're going to DONATE to the CEH? Do you understand what the CEH is? Last I heard, it wasn't a charity or a housing provider, and it certainly isn't an advocacy organization. It's a bureaucracy, for Pete's sake! The Governing Council consists of people like Blake Nordstrom. Do you think he needs your donation?

Anonymous said...

At best Tim’s comments and actions on this issue are on par with the rhetoric he criticizes. Where is the substance?

Further, we see this as evidence that Tim continues to suffer from "founder's disease." We suggest to the board of Real Change to help him find the cure.

Gail said...

I find it interesting that Mr. Harris hides behind the last refuge of legal privilege to justify a humorless and immature attack on organization and leaders who are actually accomplishing progress in ending homelessness. Sure, it's legally protected. But how will he answer if even one donor or volunteer confused by his egotistical tripe fails to contribute under the mistaken impression that he actually knows anything or cares? Homelessness is not a joke to someone needing shelter, and these organizations are their lifelines. Harris clearly does not have the brains to understand the difference between intelligent and useful political satire, and simple egotistical meanness. Great job, Tim! Got get 'em! You're really cleaning up the problem! Wahoo!

Tim Harris said...

Don't criticize because it hurts homeless people? What a load of crap.

Some feedback I've received today on the flier that was posted, much of it by advocates and activists whose names you might recognize:


2.) I love it!

3.) Because you send these crazy things, I am able to laugh instead of continuing to journal in anger over the frustration of this whole mess!


5.) [sound of heart-felt, bitter laughter] You’re killing me, man.

6.) Sent your flyer out far and wide. So far: "hilareous" "marvelous"

So, I guess humor and political aptness are in the eye of the beholder.

One homeless woman told me today that she was "ready to go to war." I'm pretty much right there with her, but I don't expect everyone to share that perspective.

Anonymous said...

This is like the old game of telling a story around a circle of people and seeing how the story changes by the time it gets told to the last person.

To my eyes, Tim was not critizing organizations that provide services. He was critizing the hypocrisy of organizations which claim that providing services will END HOMELESSNESS. And especially, in the case of the Faith Symposia that he parodied in his redone flyer, organizations which are trying to kick what should be a total community responsibility to the religious community. I don't think what he's said or done is going to convince anyone not to give to United Way, nor has he endangered the Church Council programs which provide great services to low-income and homeless people. He's criticizing hypocrisy.

He probably shouldn't have published Sandy Brown's voicemail. That's kind of rude, if not unethical. However, that was a lapse in taste, at worst. The federal government's abandonment of the poor is a sin of a considerably different magnitude. SOMEBODY has to point that out.

Jared said...

I suppose any conversation that addresses the all to easy to fall into condition of homelessness is a good thing...I just don't see how this stunt was in the least productive. I hope it doesn't hinder your organizations ability to affect change.

Good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

I just read Tim's "satire" on the November conferences and don't get it. Is he really criticizing the Church Council for not addressing the systemic issues of homelessness and focusing on charity instead of real solutions? The Church Council????

The Church Council I know and love has been involved in anti-homelessness work longer than just about anyone else in this town. Isn't it one of the founders of the DESC? Didn't it help start the Displacement Coalition? Didn't David Bloom spend a career at the Church Council advocating for systemic solutions to homelessness? Didn't the Church Council defend churches who've hosted TC3 and TC4? Didn't the Church Council fight to defend Lora Lake? Doesn't the Church Council provide housing services for over 150 individuals with something like a 90% success rate at keeping them in permanent housing? Doesn't the Church Council provide the county's only furniture bank that provides free furniture to people leaving homelessness? Didn't Sandy Brown co-chair the Veteran's and Human Services levy that is the largest source of new $s for ending homelessness? Didn't the Church Council help create the Committee to End Homelessness? Didn't Sandy Brown successfully lead the legislative advocacy efforts of CEHKC that've helped bring millions of additional $s to the Housing Trust Fund among other important programs that're responsible for the modest increase in housing efforts we're seeing? Isn't this conference Tim is "satirizing" actually designed to help congregations build even more housing in order to put an end to homelessness for even more individuals and families? Doesn't the Church Council include the ITFH which hosts a conference every year on the very topics Tim is accusing the Church Council of avoiding? Wasn't it the keynote speech at the most recent of these conferences that Tim quoted verbatim in this blog because it so captured the essence of the problem?

If all that is true, which it is, why is Tim Harris picking a fight with the Church Council of all organizations? Notice how many people who disagree with him choose anonymous or semi-anonymous posts on this blog. Maybe it's because Tim can't be trusted to be fair even to his friends since he's obviously got it out for one of the orgs that's doing the most locally to end homelessness.

Our homeless advocacy communitty doesn't have to worry about being picked apart by the anti-homeless crowd. With Tim on our side, we can destroy ourselves.

Anitra L. Freeman said...

Tim, does this mean you've changed your attitude toward Scott and Michele? :)

Tim Harris said...

I've always admired their commitment and what they've do with the Tent Cities, and say so frequently. Although I'm starting to understand what they find so appealing about keeping to themselves.

What's remarkable to me about this whole thing is how strongly some folks have reacted to a flier that was emailed to around fifty people and posted on a personal blog that gets an average of a hundred visitors a day. This was not exactly a high profile sort of thing.

Some of the people who got it were people who loved it, and others were enraged. Whatever life the thing has from that point on is pretty much a function of how people react. The reactions are revealing. This, frankly, is why conflict is valuable. It reveals a good deal that otherwise remains hidden.

I didn't say anything in this flier that I haven't said before. There were numerous posts about the churches event, and my thoughts on Project Connect haven't exactly been private either.

The Church Council is a fine organization, and CEHKC and United Way, obviously, do much good work. But they're not perfect. And they're not above criticism. Obviously, neither am I.

I'm not creating the divisions on this issue that exist in the Seattle or the national landscape. I'm simply expressing them. If there wasn't anything there, no one would give a crap.

These people who think they're going to try and convict me in the comments section of my blog really need to get a grip.

Part of my evolution recently has been to have the courage of my convictions and put what I'm seeing right out there for everyone to look at. Some people think that's terrible. But lots of people tell me they see the same things, but haven't felt like they can say it.

I'm a pretty strong person and don't need everyone to like me. I'm OK with that. Really.

Anonymous said...

Why were some people enraged? Are you really that naive? Perhaps treating your friends with cynicism and sarcasm for the purpose of humiliation (like publicizing their voicemail messages for instance) seems less like criticism and more like betrayal.

It's great you're being more open about your "convictions," Tim, but perhaps a little tact and common courtesy might make that less offensive. Why not start with an apology to Sandy Brown?

Tim Harris said...

Sandy is both a big boy and a public person and his voice message is what it is. If he needs people who read my blog to understand that the Church Council doesn't stand behind the mock flier, his purpose has been accomplished. Now they know.

It's interesting that the most personalized attacks (ie, "you're still a dick" on my bio post last night) have been anonymous. Makes it easy, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

What a dick.

capitol hillbilly said...

George Bush could take a lesson from you: never admit a mistake and never apologize. Oops, he already does that.

Anitra Freeman said...

IMNHO*, if Sandy Brown doesn't want to look like he supports something like 'United to Extend Homelessness,' then he should stop supporting it.

* In My Never Humble Opinion

Word on the Street

Anonymous said...

Could it be that Tim's REAL problem is that he has not been able to make any REAL CHANGE in the rate of homelessness, so when someone else actually accomplishes something, he feels the need to try and tear it down? I think it is Tim that is "patting himself on the back..." a good way maybe to break your own arm, but not very helpful when it comes to building relationships with the organizations that are actually out there, spending time and money and effort to get something done. Easy to sit back on your ass, isn't it Tim, and provide "satirical comment" without coming up with any real solutions. Don't fool yourself. Your so-called political satire hasn't taken a single person off the streets, provided a single meal, or accomplished a single thing, except to show how useless you are. And that lame comment "I'm tired of people patting themselves on the back for "ending homelessness" when we're doing nothing of the sort." What crap! At least they're out there doing something, and not blabbing away on some obscure and self-serving blog-o-thon. Congratulations again for sitting back, taking the low road, and blasting off bombs against those who really work to make a difference. We need more folks like you in the same way we need more holes in our tents.

Darwin said...

Your "evolution"? So this flyer puts you somewhere just below a troglodyte now right? Way to evolve.

There is a distinct difference between sparking change and dousing those who advocate it with gasoline. Leave it to someone like you to burn down the building to change the wallpaper.

uta urban said...

(I smell a disruptor, Anonymous)

What do you think we're up against, people? Catch-up.

Seattle has been co-opted by large scale financial powers that dwarf nearly every helpful agency ever mentioned here. They will put us on our knees in horror over our losses.

I suggest that shaking-things-up with this little piece of agitprop on a BLOG is not about stroking friends, it's about elucidating who are collaborators, for better or worse, intentional or unintentional during an emergency.

But this is where Seattle liberals lose their steam and disappoint. They emotionalize, personalize, lick their wounds and retreat when a methodology either brilliant or ham-handed doesn't jibe with their hopes.

This is a pretty good blog, and it's obviously set-up to encourage discourse. It's not an organization. It is, however, working.

Bill Kirlin-Hackett said...

Well, I happen to work for the Church Council, and the ITFH, so that makes me anything but anonymous. Good jousting on this topic, but what alarms me is that too many probably think an anonymous comment here ends homelessness. By the way, the vet and Human Service levy happened thanks to Pete Lewis (Auburn), John Wise (Enunclaw), both kinda red-staters as we'd say, and Larry Gossett in a small room off the County Council floor with two leaders of the King County Alliance for Human Services and myself. Sandy's doen some good things; that wasn't one of them. Bob ferguson also deserves lots of credit. Truth be told we are all failing, uniquely by the way. The one truth that holds is the 8,000+ homeless every night, the 10,000 units lost since '05 to nothing-short-of-free-market-greed, and that unless we stop trying to make ending homelessness a pure journey, we will sink, sink, sink. Try Leonard Cohen, "Ring the bell that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. there is a crack, a crack, in everything, that's how the light gets in." We're all out of high school, aren't we? No organization's integrity matters with 8,000+ homeless, no blog assumes a position higher than that fact nor will any blog get that number under 7,500,, and if we'd reasonably say (better, SHOUT) that Fannie Mae and HUD ought not have us all by the throats and the homeless by the _______, then maybe we'd have far fewer grains of and to toss about here as if somehow this moves us anywhere nearer toward getting homes where "the light gets in" for those lastnighttonighttomorrownight having to live in the dark. Try using your whole names, please. Or at least stand up somewhere and be counted.

Sally Kinney said...

Ok, let's all get back to work and quit sniping at Tim and Sandy and United Way and each other. While we've all been busy on this blog, I'll bet that at least one more apartment house has been sold to a developer, at least one more family has fallen into homelessness, at least one more homeless person has probably died outside, and the Seattle City Council is trying to figure out what to do with that $35 million extra and we need to TELL THEM WHAT WE WANT, not tell each other why we're right and everyone else is wrong.

Lisa said...

I'm wondering about the timing of Tim's attack on the Unite event. Right before he has the city, county, Church Council AND United Way to breakfast???? Not a very smart move - how can alienating funders help the very people RC says they support??? I for one won't be breaking bread...

Dr. Wes Browning said...

In hindsight Tim may have over estimated human nature. He probably didn't expect someone, like you Lisa, to come up with an argument as twisted as, "Since you have displayed what I consider a disregard for the people you serve, I will show my disapproval by disregarding the people you serve."

Anonymous said...

I think Tim is doing great work here. Keep after 'em Sonny!

George P. Hickey said...

Someone sent me the flier last week. I read it as a satire and an act of frustration and forgot about it. Of course Tim Harris is a dick! Dicks get things done. Gee, if Anitra and Wes weren't posting here this would be the most insightful comment so far. Oh,oh! God wants me to tell anonymous: 1)Life is unfair. 2) The world is full of assholes 3) Don't sweat the small shit.

Dutch Denooyer said...

This whole thing is becoming a psychotic quagmire which serves no purpose.

Bill Kirlin-Hackett said...

a psychoyic quagmire!! bark! bark! good one, dutch! hey, only another dozen or so fundraisers to go,... but alas, my earlier point still stands. Feel-good progressive, liberal, whatever exchanges, gotchas, and so on, are all dogs that don't hunt. Hence the "bark! bark!" Here I sit, roof over head and bed, heading shortly to be under warm dry covers. I don't need to remind y'all of this but then again it seems someone has to remind us between the fundraisers. As Sam Keen said, "Sign on the muddy road in Tennessee: Choose your rut carefully, You'll be in it the next ten miles." Our orgs very quickly become ruts, like the mule attached to the grinding wheel, or maybe the TN road heading off to who knows where. It is good-- and thank you to those posting with names -- to not be anonymous, and at the same time it is better to not make making a name for ourselves be our end, because that will make us ends in ourselves. Humility seems our most absent gift and expression,...from bottom to top, and from top to bottom.

Tim Harris said...

Historic Note: The Real Change annual breakfast that followed this event in the Westin Ballroom, despite the fact that out of three United Way and United Way employee tables just one person showed, attracted more people (450) than any previous fundraiser. We also raised twice as much money as the year before. As one of our fund raisers used to say, "scared money don't make none."