Re: Big Deal Big Compromise -- LONG [by Jennafer Waggoner] FWD

Tom Boland (
Sun, 15 Feb 1998 21:36:12 -0800 (PST)

FWD  Sun, 15 Feb 1998  "nonmember submission" to HPN
Organization: MAKING CHANGE
To: Anitra Again <> [and many other addresses, snipped]

Weaving again:

> > And incidentally, you have not answered my question about whether the
> > allegations made by Jennafer, MC, and the homeless community in
> > Santa Monica are false or not.
> I am trying to sort out individual points and get them clarified one
> at a time, Shawn.  This doesn't mean that I am trying to put you
> off.  But there has been quite a lot of "talking at" in this thread, and
> very little "talking with".  I'm  willing to simplify the discussion
> to one or two points per post until we at least agree on what we are
> each saying. :)
> Would you be willing to list the allegations you refer to?
> > I admit that Robert's misquoting of Tim Harris
> > was wrong, and he is not helping MC or Jennafer by doing such
> > things.

Robert didn't misquote and Paul Murphy cleared it up a long time ago.
Has this information source been checked to include these posts, I still
have the copies of the apologies and the re-writes.
> > But Robert is not directly affected by this situation, whereas
> > Jennafer, MC, and the homeless population of Santa Monica is, and
> > I have not seen anyone attempt to discredit Jennafer's credibility in
> > this matter, with the exception of certain hysterical and unfounded
> > accusations against her.

Basically, that I am over reacting, that I am not in the same areas as
TBI, that this city is big enough for two papers and that I am somehow
jealous or unwilling to be open to change.  That we are just TBI
bashing.  I feel we have plenty of unanswered questions to promote the
fact that we have thought about this issue carefully.  If you don't get
a chance to be heard you'll end up like we did at the conference,
fighting for an opportunity we all should have to have certain issues
agendized in a forum where everyone can be there to participate and make
group decisions on.  I feel that Paul Murphy, Paul Boden and Terry
Mesman's articles are all fair critiques based on the information we
have been provided and how we are used to being treated by the big
corporations.  Perhaps TBI, if it had plans for a peaceful entry into
the US it could have made a peaceful move to agendize such a discussion
at the last conference and announce it's plans it had made, what did
they recently estimate at 18 months ago?  How can they say the critiques
are unfounded? I'll print their version of the story too in the next
issue, with Terry's article.

> I am not sure what hysterical and unfounded accusations you refer to.
> I certainly have the greatest respect for Jennafer's caring and
> zeal.  As I read her letters, they have often appeared confused and
> contradictory.  They appear to be getting clearer.  I am hoping to
> exchange mail with Jennafer directly sometime in the next few days,
> when we aren't both dashing in several differnt directions at once,
> and perhaps we can clear up each others confusions.  I know that she
> has some questions about my posts too.

My e-mail posts in the beginning were somewhat clear.  But remember that
the Big Issue thing started before Tim sent me the computer and Sharon
sent me the start up money.  Once I got on-line the shit had hit the
proverbial fan.

> You say of Tim Harris's letter to John Bird:
> > He apparently is satisfied with not looking deeper into the issues
> > raised, because:
> >
> > "I have closely examined your magazine, and have
> > found that, despite the emphasis on entertainment journalism, a
> > respectable proportion of the articles are advocacy related."
> >
> > I'd like to know what a respectable portion is, and exactly what the
> > term "advocacy related" means?

Advocacy, speaking for or about the concerns of the population served.
I tend to see two different types of agencies.  Agencies who maintain
homelessness through homeless maintenance which basically means, if we
don't have homeless people we will go out of business and we don't want
to go out of business attitude.  The other is into empowerment and
solutions.  Micro-Macro.  Yes you can trojan horse your way into
people's living rooms to let them feel that they are doing something for
the homeless.  But Making Change will not be someone else's pet, like my
radical performance art piece of an e-mail articulated.  We will not be
the "other" paper.  Or a "pity purchase" which is another quote.  Tim
could agree or disagree with me on this, but what I thought he meant by
the quote was that he was articulating the popular thought of critique
of Big Issue versus what he felt personally.  Meaning both needed
attention and answer to prove the validity that either have.

> Shawn, have you read The Big Issue yourself?  Several issues of it?

You can get copies from Cara Solomon LA Big Issue at 1316 Third Street
Promenade Santa Monica, I forget the suite.  Her number is (310)
> > Mr. Harris goes on:
> >
> > "I also, as you will remember, had the pleasure of visiting your
> > London office 2 years ago, and was impressed with both the quality of
> > services offered to vendors and the number of ground-level staff that
> > had been hired from among the vendors."
> >
> > What services were offered to the vendors? What positions were
> > "ground-level staff" promoted to?
> Are you familiar with the operation of the Chicago paper?  That is a
> primarily service-run paper, with a lot of support services for the
> vendors, that hires among the vendors for staff positions.  An
> accountant was a former vendor, for instance.  I attended a workshop
> that included a videotape of the Chicago operation and services, but I
> could not describe them in detail at this point.  Similarly, I have
> had a description of the services offered to vendors in London,
> talking informally with the London rep over lunch at the NASNA
> conference -- but I could not describe them in any detail now.  My
> impression at the time was that they were similar, except that the
> Chicago paper was run by a non-profit service agency.

John says there are an estimated 550,000 homeless people in London.
7,000 people have access to vendorship at the London Big Issue.
He is interested in starting micro enterprises like hostels for
non-passport people.
I asked about things like sick leave.  If someone gets sick they cannot
sell therefore they lose out on being able to feed themselves.  They do
have an emergency fund for certain basic needs expenditures.
Well, 543,000 people, hmmmmm.... what do we do about them?  I am
concerned about making an impression in the publics mind that if a
homeless person isn't at least selling a paper then they are somehow
less worthy than one who is.

> > He brushes aside the concern that there is no homeless involvement on
> > the decision-making level at the Big Issue, and the natural
> > expectation of such involvement by grassroots homeless paper
> > publishers, as being a problem of "identity politics"

Like identifying homeless people on their board of trustees or
directors, administrative staff positions, etc.  Why is 60c needed from
the vendor and how is it spent.  I did get some idea from John, but I
believe the group needs to see this in writing.  At this point homeless
people have not been invited to sculpt the paper and they are going to
print in April.  John has assured me that this will happen soon.
They've been around, according to more recent story change for 18 months
and they will invite homeless people in to create the April edition
now.  I see, process involvement.  Why do you think I was ranting and
raving?  So someone could articulate these points other than myself.

> Perhaps I can make this clearer.  There are some organizations I am
> involved with, like SHARE, where to have any vote on policy decisions
> you have to be a homeless or formerly homeless member and not on paid
> staff in any capacity.  At the Real Change, however, while the members
> of the editorial committee are all low-income and/or homeless and have
> primary control over content and the development of future content,
> Tim Harris makes business decisions along the lines of which printer
> we are going to use, who is going to do the admin work, what bills are
> going to get paid when.  At the Low Income Housing Institute,
> one-third of the board of directors are low-income and/or homeless,
> and the board of directors sets policy -- in actual fact, it is a
> constant struggle to get the voice of the homeless represented in the
> policies over the voice of the most persuasive and senior staff.
> In all of these environments, I have known some people who have never
> been homeless who are capable of respecting the dignity of all people,
> and recognizing the realities of the poor that they are working with.
> I have known some who never can.  And i have known some homeless
> people who have been able to respect the dignity of all people -- and
> some who never can.
> I, personally, am more willing to work with those who act on respect
> for all, including the homeless, than those who have a homeless
> "identity".

We have no identity of the Street Papers in Europe who have dealt with
the Big Issue for years and hear their side of the story.  We know some
exist, but no dialogue has been set up at this moment.  I am asking for
this dialogue before I agree to TBI LA.

> > As I see it, the real issues in this situation are:
> >
> > 1. Has the Big Issue tried to muscle out smaller street papers in the
> > past? What happened in New York?
> >From what I have read and been told, including by Tim Harris, The Big
> Issue did indeed try to muscle in on New York and stage a "hostile
> takeover" of the existing paper there.  They were trounced soundly.
> when I first heard of their actions in LA I was afraid they were
> attempting the same thing and I supported warning them off.

Thanks for that!  Again, why can they come to LA, isn't New York big
enough for two papers?
> I read John Bird's responses to our warnings as acknowledging his
> errors and being willing to work with local papers ("local" meaning
> all of North America) instead of in competition.  I am still waiting
> to see if that bears out.  I have seen no evidence yet that he is not
> going to keep to his promises this time, after being called to account
> for breaking them initially.  If he is going to break his promises,
> there is plenty of time to escalate action against him before April.
Will we, once they publish and how,  once they're established?  Why was
Indio able to keep them out, but I am not able to keep them out?
Because I'm a woman? Because we are young?  Because at the conference
Ruth made it plain and clear to everyone at the conference that TBI had
no plans for America, that they were not members, only attending
observers and they announced no future plans for Los Angeles.
> I do want to bring up the matter of the word "business".  This appears
> to be a loaded word here, but I did not intend it as such.  Jennafer
> is concetrned about The Big Issue taking traffic, support, readers
> away from Making Change -- that is "business". "Business" does not
> equal "corporate pinstripes."

No, not concerned about readership.  I believe they have an avenue for
prying open peoples tin cans to let us in.  Support has been a major
concern, donors, sponsors and otherwise.  I have some legal concerns
regarding the standards that the government will consider TBI and then
come to me and expect us to make the same dance with much fewer
resources.  Because no matter how TBI claims they are not a homeless
paper, most people will assume that we are the same thing, start
breathing down my neck with tax bull shit and non-profit "free speech
vending" and other bullshit legislation and permits etc.  I won't be
able to withstand that for sure.  I'm hoping that we won't have to
become corporate pinstripes to compete when we are just providing a
voice and a survival income.

But whatever decisions we make will have implications across the United
States, once the fire ball starts rolling, would we be able to stop it?