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what's happened to city repair

I've been going to and helping out at City Repair events for a long time but my experiences at this years VBC were just plain UNCOMFORTABLE
I beleive very much in the cause of increased community participation and i also feel very strongly about natural building materials. I have gone to the VBC since it's inception and found it a valuable, worthwhile event. This week, though I went to the VBC and found the whole thing seemed as though a group of new age ravers took over the event and kicked out the community activists.

rather then being in a school or at least somewhere close to the communities involved, the main event space is a warehouse on 3rd and Burnside. When I got there, I got in line and started talking with the folks who were waiting. After waiting for a half of an hour after start time, all of the organizers came out of the back of the building and came around, surrounded the line, and started having a meeting, they then piled through us back through the front gate we thought that it was time to go in, but were barred from entering. eventually we were alowed in, and it turned out the price was $20 a night. This is way too much for me but I support city repair and felt I could manage if I only went to a few of the nights. the person in front of me was unemployed and was on disability. the folks at the door wouldn't take any less. she offered to do worktrade and they said okay if she worked 4 hours THAT NIGHT she could get in for one night at a maximum of three nights.

after walking in to the (very beautifully decorcated) space I was barred again by a dude with a tuning fork who wouldn't let any of us enter until he had "tuned our aura." i didn't want my aura tuned, but it was either leave or go thourgh with it. I think it is rediculus for this organization that tried to be outward reaching into the community to put this extremely woo-woo barier to getting in. I'm sure that any non-new age community member who was used to the extremely level of diversity at previous events would have to work through a lot to decide to come back.

I figured, for $20, i was paying for dinner and the presentation as well as putting money towards the VBC's expert builders who come and teach all over town. Well, those builders are there, and the show the first night was great, but the food was uncooked rice and pinto beans. The food has been so good in the past, I don't mean to complain but what the hell were they thinking? If they want us to be strong to help build for them the next day and we are paying to do it, at least give us nourishment! there was better food available but it cost extra.

The talk was good. Mark gave the same talk he has given since the day I first saw him in 1999, but it's a classic and it always reminds you of something you hadn't thought of for a while. There was a good skit that someone gave about community initiatives that reminded me how much I like what City Repair is trying to do. and the talk From Malik from Common Ground in New Orleans was good too.

Most of the speakers this year are not like speakers from previous years. there are empowerment workshops and Naka-Ima and cocounseling "sustainable hedonism" "New Paradigm Consciousness" The next couple of nights were horrible! Nothing about being effective and tangable in our rebuilding of our community, only new age power games disguised as liberation.

I know that this is trivial, but I'm also very annoyed by the use of madeup words and the constant use of expressions like Wow! Hyper Nowwow, power of now (from Naka-Ima if I'm not mistaken) and Village of Nowwow. What the hell does all this mean, it make me feel like i'm dealing with a wall-mart greeter on acid. The filers and literature is writen like the intro to rave rather then an event my community activist mom would go to. (She took one look and said- "Twenty Bucks a Night for this Mind-Fucking Bullshit?!")

anyway, I'm disappointed. I read the upset dialog between former organizers and current organizers that happened a week ago and i didn't know WHAT the dissenters were talking about. Now i do and I don't think that the current people will listen.

Oh, gotta go, have to get my aura tuned...
sorry you had a bad time 23.May.2006 10:15


I haven't participated in the past so I can't compare like you can. The first night at disjecta was quite chaotic but I think they wanted to clear the space of the afternoon workshop participants before dinner. Then they let all the kitchen help and staff back in first. I saw the aura guy but was under the impression that he was doing it on his own. The food I had that night was bland but cooked but maybe there were batches that weren't. The food since then has been very tasty and dinner was more organized. Most of the speakers have not been woowoo although a few have. There are advantages to having the venue in a warehouse where the set-up can be left overnight and no neighbors are bothered. I think the poster may be mistaken about the fee schedule.

Having said that I have to agree that the crowd there is predominately the same age, race (although no worse than most of pdx events), political bent, etc, at this venue. I was hoping to meet some older activists because I know they're in Portland but other than some of the speakers they weren't to be found. I saw KBOO bumper stickers but no presence, also no indymedia reporting other than this posting (maybe I'll have to do it). There is indeed an intense amount of new age blahblah and not a lot to counter it. Didn't we already do this before?
I'm happy that VBC is happening but it would be great to have more outreach to organizations of elders, people of color, people doing radical but not necessarily pretty, artistic or totally peaceful community work.

New Age? 23.May.2006 10:28


How about cluing the rest of us in about what is meant by New Age, and why you find it necessary to speak so derisively about this.

Sad but true 23.May.2006 10:32


I'm aware of a lot of people who are turned off by the VBC this year and City Repair Project in general. The problem is, people getting together and working on little art projects is great, but it was just a small step towards transitioning Portland into an ecocity, with many other far more important and pressing aspects of "city repair" consistently ignored. CR began as and has unfortunately remained a subculture clique: a certain age group, certain lifestyle, certain mindset, and not reaching out to all segments of the populace with any real vision beyond decorating street intersections and building little things out of mud. The experience of greater community is great, but that is also honestly very hard to find among CR people for some strange reason, including Mark Lakeman. I hope these folks are listening and will think about this and allow other voices to be heard.

. 23.May.2006 11:46


I did not attend so am making no comment about the vbc itself

New Age, is modern pop psychology with a spiritual facade that is mostly a feel good exercise in denial, with the occassional bit of authenticity popping up from time to time. Not everyone lives under that umbrella.

not what i'm getting at 23.May.2006 12:04

portlander (who posted first)

I have to say that I was not intending to diss City Repair. I have a great amount of respect for the organization but have seen it move more and more to the kind of event. I want to remind them to be more inclusive, please, and to continue the great and important work that they are doing.

iluv 23.May.2006 15:12


City Repair is doing good work. Just needs more of it but that means more organizations (not just city repair), more volunteers and more vision. I don't think City Repair deserves the heated criticism it has received on this site lately. Many people, feeling the pressure of our social breakdown/environmental problems etc just get too harsh in expressing criticism which itself breaks down good will and community spirit. I believe more patience in expressing differences and observations is productive.

fear any system that blocks criticism 23.May.2006 15:20


"you can't criticize us or you're with the terrorists"
"you can't criticize us or you're against 'good will and community spirit'"

it's called FEEDBACK. maybe you never learned that feedback is how we grow. it's not all criticism.

I can support the troops and be against war.
I can support city repair and find this years VBC alienating and against the ideals that CR stands for.

hyperbole and strawmen do not impress me 23.May.2006 16:00


If you do not like what VBC is doing then you should consider stepping up and doing some projects the way you want them done. Our culture is quick to criticize and slow to take action; I suspect if that was reversed people would be much happier. It's a win for all involved if those who want more community involvement take action and do so and let those happy with VBC continue to do their thing. Those who have good ideas lead by example and inspire others. Those who only criticize rarely find their ideas adopted by others. People don't like to be told what to do, but they are willing to do things differently if they can see the value in doing so for themselves.

to "." 23.May.2006 16:24

portlander (who posted first)

I'm not using hyperbole, I'm using examples of a handful of things that I found difficult. The problem I have had after many years of being loosly connected with City Repair (since the end of 1999) and helping with things like Earth Day, is that any concerns are taken as attacks to the org. Those at the center, seriously can't hear them. They seem to think that people who dissent are the problem. I was happy to let things happen, but when I see a brillient and useful organization go to peices and then start running a bit of a new age racket. I have concerns. I say that I am "patriotic" about city repair and I feel like the organization has grown elitist and conservative in it's behavior.

Gotta say 23.May.2006 16:59


That Jan Semenza, of City Repair, came out to Astoria in November and did a fabulous talk, attracting a big group of people from the area, young and old. We were all inspired, and are now working on cob-building and local eating projects in our own towns.

Critique is necessary, and hopefully, City Repair people are reading these comments, and will correct that which needs to be corrected--getting the kinks worked out about serving food, selling tickets, etc(most of the work is volunteer, which adds to the challenge), that sort of thing. But opining that "small art projects" can't build community is not helpful(also not based in reality), and ad hominum dissing isn't either. And we could all learn a lesson about attitude-copping.

I really appreciate the inspiration City Repair has provided, and trust we can work together to help it grow to be even more effective.

Also to "." 23.May.2006 17:16

just me

You might want to catch that some of this criticism is coming from people who have been involved with CR and have stepped up to the plate over the years and yet experience frustration that there is a lack of responses to greater vision because the lead organizers aren't for some reason able to hear other voices of what is involved in "city repair." A lot more than mud structures, holding hands, shared meals, and sitting around on pillows, as fun as those can be. A lot of people around the country and the world and in Portland have been working on economic, industrial, agricultural, political, and physical structures to transform the city into a place harmonious with the earth, but CR leaders don't seem to know about them and don't seem to want to know when informed. Each year it's the same thing: little mud structures and decorating intersections, but nothing to introduce whole systems transformation, when understanding and action in this regard has been in the works since the 70s. You do get a big jaded when time and time again numerous, positively-made suggestions aren't responded to.

"If you do not like what VBC is doing then you should consider stepping up and doing some projects the way you want them done. Our culture is quick to criticize and slow to take action; I suspect if that was reversed people would be much happier. It's a win for all involved if those who want more community involvement take action and do so and let those happy with VBC continue to do their thing. Those who have good ideas lead by example and inspire others. Those who only criticize rarely find their ideas adopted by others. People don't like to be told what to do, but they are willing to do things differently if they can see the value in doing so for themselves."

criticism only seems effective at creating change under specific circumstances 23.May.2006 18:06


Consider that this may not be one of them.

>> I'm not using hyperbole

I didn't claim you were. I assumed it was obvious where my comments where directed, if not feel free to ask.

>> Those at the center, seriously can't hear them. They seem to think that people who dissent are the problem.

Then why try to change them if they aren't listening? Doesn't that seem like an ineffective plan? Have you considered what courses of action might be most effective in seeing the changes you desire?

>> You might want to catch that some of this criticism is coming from people who have been involved with CR...

Yes, I found that quite obvious thanks.

>> You do get a big jaded when time and time again numerous, positively-made suggestions aren't responded to.

Yes, but again, why waste time feeling jaded unless that is what you want. If you don't like the CR leaders then don't follow them. Is there are reason why they should be the only game in town? Is there a reason why we shouldn't have a dozen such organizations each with their own vision trying to improve the quality of live for the people of this city? Can the people disaffected by CR and the VBC start organizing something new? That is something I would love to see and it seems like a far more effective solution than trying to control what other people are doing through criticism, especially on the internet.

It's 10:25 and I'd rather be at the VBC 23.May.2006 22:32


i wish i could partake in VBC action. I wish I could attend the evening events as I did in years past. The fact of the matter is that I just cannot afford $15.00 to attend the talks, hear the music and feed off the human interactions as I have done in the past. I am saddened by the fact that those who are willing to work on the ground to create the change that city repair/vbc supports are alienated from attending the events that nourish their beings due to the tune of $15 a night. We need to work to create a way to fund this organization so costs are minimal and accessability is maximized for all.

the criticism is totally legitimate, and here's why 23.May.2006 23:50


One of the most important flaws with City Repair is the inability to accept criticism and adapt. To every critical suggestion, it is always "life is not perfect" or "we are not perfect" or "you can't expect everything to be perfect"... in the meantime, volunteers who may be capable and responsible usually won't return, leaving the same flaky and irresponsible people. I once showed up to help with a sign-painting party for Earth Day Celebration of Localization, but the person who called together the work party hadn't bothered to make sure that paint and brushes would be at the location. We were all left waiting for a person to return from a hardware store. It seems every volunteer event is this way. CRP should be much too experienced by now to not have their poop in a group for things like an event that costs money to attend. I feel that CRP could be doing ten times more in this city, but so few volunteers will return once they've had the CRP experience, unless they are someone who gravitates toward chaos and disorganization in which case the organization gets more and more chaotic and disorganized by filtration. A competent organization should embrace suggestions and continuously improve. The Bicycle Tranportation Alliance is an example of this. Volunteering for them for the Alice B. Toeclips awards dinner was a joy for me, and I would enthusiastically return next year. Both the setup and the event were well-organized. The event started on time and adhered to a schedule so that everyone attending felt like they were getting their money's worth.

In my opinion, Portland Peak Oil and the Portland Permaculture Guild are doing far more to promote the types of localization and community resources that will be important for life in the near-future, post-shopping-mall America. I enjoy the cob benches, but rarely use them and would be more likely to gather with neighbors to operate an urban garden or to brew locally-made veggie fuel. The mission of CRP is to promote localization and create community spaces, why not do more that is practical and promotes localizing life essentials like fresh water and food?

I make these comments because I appreciate City Repair and am very fond of the people and the mission, but think it can be so much more. As to the commenters who always are ready with a "why don't you participate and make the change you wish to see rather than just complain?"... I have participated many times as a volunteer with CRP, and have given between 100 and 200 hours of unpaid time to CRP. I will probably not volunteer much or at all in the future because of the disorganization, recalcitrance and disrespect of volunteer feedback that I've mentioned here.

The person who did not know what New Age means... are you serious? It's a very common phrase, and the reason for using it derisively should be obvious to any cynical, practical activist type person (most of the audience of Indymedia), but if you REALLY don't know then here you go:

FINALLY... it would be real inspiring if some more CRP organizers could lead by example, and not for example DRIVE everywhere. I've been to an organizing mtg. this year where I was the only person who arrived by bike, and there were about a dozen people there! Didn't see many biodiesel vehicles... using fuel from foreign countries does not embody the Localization that is CRP's mission.

City Repair Rant 24.May.2006 11:10


This is wonderful discussion. It's heartening to read so many opinions about City Repair! I truly hope the lead organizers are reading this.

as someone involved with vbc this year, my rant is the fucking hypocrisy!! it's all about community building, yet as someone pointed out, city repair many times feels like a clique you need to break into. and i know humans aren't perfect. but i also know how to make people feel comfortable when it's obvious they don't know anyone but really want to help.

And then there's the hierarchy/patriarchy hypocrisy. Despite all the talk by Lakeman and others about "participatory democracy" and transcending the problems of gender, race, and class, white upper middle class men are still making all of the major decisions regarding city repair. yes, there are a few white female counterparts with power there too, but for the most part it's a 2 or 3 white guys "visioning" and controlling it -- often passive aggressively but the gist is always the same: "You don't like our vision? You have a counterparadigm?" That's when the anger emanates from their voices, you feel the deep freeze, and don't hear about the next meeting.

But all and all, i love what city repair is trying to do, and i still love those white guys at the top because their intention is good. we all have our foibles, the hard part is dealing with our own issues and learning to just take it as it comes. it's too bad about the high ticket prices, but you can do work trade (which is fun!) to get in for free. and the space looks like it was decorated by a legion of fairy goddesses -- so go city repair and keep on striving, but remember that other opinions are just as valid as your own, and when it comes right down to it, it's all for the same vision of unity, love, and beauty that we're struggling so hard to attain.

so peace and blessings and i am looking forward to the spiral dance with starhawk on thursday!

Me too on the spiral dance 24.May.2006 14:31


We are circling, circling Together
We are singing, singing our Heart Song
This is Family
This is Unity
This is Celebration
This is Sacred

comment on VBC6 25.May.2006 14:14

micheal sunanda michealspun@yahoo.com

aloha - am glad to see such critical comments. i pray it sinks into heart. Its testing the honest feedback encouraged by Naka Ima/Heart of Now feeling sharing?! Sometimes 'being positive' seems fake if its expected, required or programmed. I attented, presented PERMACULTURE in Hawaii & Australia slide show at 2 VBCs, a few attended. This year i offered to present workshop of "instant superfertile composting process" at someones garden in PDX. But got no responce. Similarly last year i offered to present a workshop in instant garden making with super soil growing veggies for salads. As i do both at home now *& elsewhere for 12 years. As an old hippy Chi-kunger & yogi i love Mother Nature & feel stuffed into buildings of concret, even if meetings are enthusiastic, well planned & positive. Meeting out in nature is more energizing & even around fire, flowing water & open sky. I wonder if anyone camped out this spring while preparing or attending VBC6? Did manyh folks bike to VBC? Living with Nature is empowering up with energy to do cooperatate projects of sustainable living so needed for Organic Health awareness using our instincts, inspiring learning & reversing the programing from decades of media brainwashing into true loving trust. sounds like natural growing awareness or sykobabble?! naturalove micheal

hey Michael 25.May.2006 16:33


I'm open to criticism and feedback myself, having given and received it at VBC's past and present.

However, Michael, here's some feedback for you: are you aware that we worked our asses off last year trying to keep you away from underage participants? do you realize that your behavior in the past made people so uncomfortable as to leave the VBC last year. promoting sex with children is NOT OKAY in the permaculture and alternative communities and until you learn the concept of "age of concent" you will be a constant parriah. i can't BELEIVE how many times i've seen you at some event where the organizers have to go into full time work to balance the desire to be "inclusive" with the need to keep people safe FROM YOU. If I had a cob of clay and straw for every time I've met someone who was a child when you brainwashed them into going on a trip with you or being hypnotized by you until they realized that they were in over their head, then I could rebuild Babylon

previous dialog? 26.May.2006 17:11


portlander wrote:

"anyway, I'm disappointed. I read the upset dialog between former organizers and current organizers that happened a week ago and i didn't know WHAT the dissenters were talking about. Now i do and I don't think that the current people will listen."

Where was this discussion? I couldn't find it in a search.

$$$$$ 27.May.2006 04:22


Ya I work during the day and wanted to go to the nightly events but it was to expensive. I have helped out City Repair in the past but they didn't help me out this time around with the door fee. Change that and I will be there next year.

WoW WOW Anger fits with this comment 27.May.2006 11:58


Reading your comments about VBC sound like you are angry and City Repair has been your TARGET. May be Non-violent communication could help find what your needs are. Becausey you cannot find your needs in everything you want in an event. I agree was expensive and has things that are not perfect but are you perfect? Could you as a volunteer make everything perfect so everyone likes it and no one critizices it?
About the food, I have help before making food for 100's of people it is not an easy task, remember this is done by volunteers with a tight budget and donations. I challenge you to try that and If you can do it, then volunteer next time and organize the food part.

You are commenting that you did not like the workshops because they are hedonistic. I think many people do their activism by healing them self, learning better communication skills so they make their points across better in conflic situations (I tell you this as a minority). Also when I heard you say hedonistic I hear in my head then a Shaman's work in the spiritual realm is selfish and does not make any changes in the world. I think That is not true that we need changes within our self to be able to help others and change the world as well as do external changes. I believe that it is important to acknowledge the different ways people do activism. And what you do is not for everyone, what I do neither, what citty repair neither. I think it is important to acknoledge that what City Repair is doing (their volunteers) is in the best intention and that they have their challenges and remmember THEY ARE VOLUNTEERS WORKING TYING TO DO THE BEST THEY CAN> THEY ARE HUMANS NOT GOD TO BE PERFECT AND PLEASE EVERYONE.

There is a difference betwen critisism and observations of what is causing some emotional reaction because we do not agree with it. For me is important to not criticize because the other side would react and then there will come conflict and misunderstandings. Then nothing will solve or change. Remember how you feel when someone criticized you?


thanks for all the feedback... 27.May.2006 16:08


Thanks to you all for expressing yourselves. Speaking from a viewpoint of a core organizer, I would agree with a lot of the comments made in this thread. There are also some comments that I do not agree with, yet recognize as valid. I'd invite you to participate and make a difference in what you see as could be better. The culture of any organization is comprised of the people who invest their time and energy. City Repair as an organization could always use more help, more leadership and more wisdom. If any of you have issues around the door, to better accomodate those with limited funds, we have a sliding scale of $25 to 15 for entry. To those who are challenged by a $15 admission fee, there are bountiful opportunities to volunteer to help produce the event in exchange for a discount in admission. It's a great way to connect and meet other like minded people who's heart is in the spirit of service. If free is what you want, then stay tuned for the T-bike, T-horse and She-Horse. It is by portlander's generosity in this year's VBC by which we will be able to fund these free experiences and continue doing the work that is city repair.
"whatever you put attention on, expands"

CR Needs Healing, True Dialog, and a Wholistic Perspective 28.May.2006 16:33

Former CR Core Member

A lot has already been said here, but I will agree with:

1. It's hard to break into the core of this group.
2. I agree that many good well-organized folks left because CR is too chaotic and has some major personality issues within the core group.
3. It's true if you try to suggest change or reform in CR that you generally get attacked for your efforts (or seen as less wise as the longer-running core members).
4. That said, a number of others and I tried change/reform from within but were attacked or not listened to and all eventually left or became mostly inactive (including myself). So believe me it was not for lack of trying to reform CR...
5. $15 venue + $5 for food at VBC this year was quite expensive. I believe it was 1/2 that for both two years ago???

I feel I need to add:

1. Over time, more and more of the core organizers have been paid for at least some of their hours at CR, so the argument that they're doing the best they can as VOLUNTEERS is BULL.
2. As more have become paid staff, it has created a new power dynamic within CR of the haves (paid staff) and have nots (the rest of us). The haves usually eventually force out (or make people uncomfortable enough to leave) anyone who don't like this attitude.
3. A signifiant number of the core members pressure or guilt trip people who drop by the space (who may just want to visit to see what's going on with the art/construction for instance) into volunteering more or at least attempt it. Volunteer help could be sought in a more positive manner...
4. Some core group members in the last couple of years have been very much control freaks and then had to leave the group (at least temporarily) due to burnout. STRUGGLE has been their theme, sapping their energy and that of volunteers around them.
5. A more democratic spokescouncil structure was tried last year and failed mainly because of such key core group member control issues.
6. It would seem to be better to keep things like venue participant costs lower/affordable and paid staff overhead (pay) lower at least until more funds (grants) can stablize the group's (and VBC's) recent growth.

I sat through meetings and even retreats trying to figure out how to help with these issues, but my efforts were consistently attacked, ignored, tabled at meetings, or buried in CR's bureaucracy (which has grown with the organization as well). Eventually I left for greener pastures after deciding my energy was better spent elsewhere. Also, the above mentioned problems became so entrenched that struggles over power and money resulted in core members of the VBC meetings seriously considering pulling the VBC out of CR this winter (and running it from another organization or stand-alone).

It is really sad that I've personally observerd so many well-organized and kind-hearted folks revolve in and out of CR over these issues when the organization has so much more potential it could realize towards community organization as noted in other posts. It is far past time that the core of CR face up to these criticisms (most of them are not new ones), open a real dialog without the fear stemming from all the negative emotions generated around control, sincerely accept feedback, be more inclusive of those that could seriously help build the stability of the organization, and move forward from a wholistic perspective.

Thank you.

City Repair Hijacked 30.May.2006 13:13


It seems to me that CR has been hijacked by the former organizers of the now defunct Centerring. (talk about overpriced events! the centerring was notorious -- 20 bucks to listen to a dj??) The Centerring was also a yoga/healing space, which I think explains a lot of the "woo-woo" "now-wow" programming at this year's vbc. The organizers are quite young, which is great, but results I think in a very myopic view, not to mention a drug-soaked vibe/aesthetic that is alienating to most people outside of this 20-something group of well-intentioned but naive organizers.

Mark Lakeman will Respond Soon 03.Jun.2006 01:09

Mark Lakeman

To All Folks Who Care About Their City-

I can see the perspective of some of the writers above. Some are right on, while some are needing more information or direct experience with CR, some are coming from an abstract and distant place, and some are even hostile and trying to appear "concerned", while some are flat out wrong and even dishonest.

We're almost done breaking down the VBC6 venue after the end of VBC6. It would be great to have more help if any of you can spare the time. We've been working continuously since last October to help make VBC6 happen and we're needing to rest soon. Those who have been engaged and have followed through in core organizing are all quite tired and there has been a great deal of good will generated across the culture of the entire event, beginning with the twenty six communities which were involved this year, from across the geography of this city, every single one that asked for help. We have many, many ways of evaluating the success of the VBC this year. By almost every measure it has surprised us at how well it came together, from direct feedback that has been expressed by people in the flesh, with real names.

I've read over some of comments above. It would help if the writers could be real people rather than fictional names. It does not mean enough when a person's voice comes without a context. Words can mean anything and nothing.

I'll write more later, but for now I'll just say that some of the more skewed items above are:

1- That the VBC core is paid. That comment, and many of the other's this voice made, reflects little actual understanding of VBC. In fact, only one core organizer of VBC is paid at all, and even then we can only pay her part time. The rest of all organizers work literally hundreds of hours a year to propell VBC through the next cycles and do it while gaining tons of social capital, but not money.

2- Another item which I should like to comment on is the degree of openness and accessability of CR and VBC, and also whether we listen, don't listen, whether we are elitist, exclusive, criticize, insult...
- I don't think that the people who are writing these words have actually been very engaged in City Repair. The facts begin with the way that literally anyone who has an idea can bring it into the stream of what City Repair is doing and find other people to create with. No person who has ever wanted to create, and really given their idea energy and focus, has ever been unable to engage in CR. In fact, the way it has always worked has been that people just come with different levels of energy and confidence and make the opportunity their own. However, people who are dominators or who are not able to listen as well as speak tend to get less interest in what they want to do.

3- As for criticizing the constructive ideas of others, this kind of thing has never, ever happened within the context of CR, ever. As a floater, I am personally connected to nearly every level and dimension of CR and VBC. Part of my role is to help resources and help flow to people to are asking for help, so I am able to hear stories broadly, from all over the place, and for many years now. These words are not only innaccurate, they are untrue. In fact, we are 24/7 encouraging any and all ideas. If we do have problems in this respect it's that we work our personal selves way too hard in facilitating virtually every idea that any community or focused individual has ever proposed in the city of Portland, since City Repair began, and many other cities now across the whole continent.

4- "elitists"... the person who says this may know my name, but they do not know anything of me, what my friends feel about me, how I live the time of my day, what I do, what I am dedicated to, nor do they know the quality of my relationships. This is a wasted thing to say, or even to read. What an awful and sad way to be towards people who do such great and wonderful work as the core of City Repair. If you actually knew any of us, or had real experience in CR you would apologize for making such strange comments. I find it illuminating that you hide your identity.

As someone who has been in CR a very long time, I am glad to say that we always encourage feedback, especially from people who care to care to help in some tangible way. In that interaction we are able to better understand each other and then create something directly. We also like to hear ideas if only in word form, even if it is not delivered in person. Real feedback is great help, especially from real people with real names. I'm sure that we'll read the ideas above and take many seriously, but some will certainly be perplexing.

My final thought, before I head home to bed, is that I am probably one of the core people that are being referred to in some comments above. Though I may not share in your perceptions of me, I am willing to accept and absorb any observation you wish to make or share. I will, however, ask you to form your impressions of me based upon your own, direct experience with me. As always, if anyone wishes to speak with me they are able to simply call and set up a time to meet. I meet with people of all walks of life every week of the year, many who I have never met, some old friends and family, and many who are friends and co-creators. I am not surprised when people who don't communicate their needs or feelings directly become frustrated, especially when they carry unexpressed expectations and don't permit others to have their own opinion.

If any of you nameless people are actually people who have been involved in CR over time, then I say hello to you. I'll read through the comments above for any helful thought or idea that I can find. Whoever you are, I probably would be very pleased to see you again. If you have actually been involved before at any level of follow-through then you'll know that whatever you wish to say will be heard. If what you say respects the ideas and energies of others then I'm sure you can find a way to help make City Repair even more amazing than it has certainly become, as a collection of individuals and as a community.

I hope to write again when I'm able.
Ps- Go ahead, applaude or attack City Repair if you want. Remember the old saying though, about how "when the political left creates a firing squad it always forms a circle..."

Ah 04.Jun.2006 03:04


Mark Lakeman, despite knowing as little about some of the posters as they know about you, you have decided to spend your post 100% discounting most if not all of the comments.

How then are you not standing in said circular firing squad?

I thought reality was co-experienced and created. Under that philosophy, I can't imagine that you are more of an expert on everything relevant than all the other posters are, enough to be qulalified to discount.

I am grateful you chose to respond, AND would you PLEASE learn how to do a better job of meeting my (and I'm guessing others') needs for an elicitive, honoring, open approach?

This does not mean agreeing w/what is said, and does mean far more than a response.

Each person on this page has only expressed. Expression is different than communication. Communication is a consensual two-way process. In my way of understanding, people do NOT come to understand one another by expressing AT one another.

I'm guessing you feel burned, Mark, that folks have chosen to express on this page rather than communicate thru involved face-to-face interaction, after you and many others put so much work and passion in? Am I right?

How can you be the change you wish to see? If you feel stymied, confused, or overrighteous doing it sometimes, and take short cuts that hurt others' feelings (even though you are also, in some ways, right to do so), perhaps you can admit that at least some of us might be in similar situations?

ML Again 05.Jun.2006 16:53

Mark Lakeman

To the previous writer,

Interesting that you also don't sign your name. You make many projections. If you would like a real, human interaction - as I said before I would be glad to meet with you. Then you'd be able to shift beyond misunderstanding and projection into real, live speaking, and hopefully also listening. Then you might discover that you are actually heard, and you'd be able to find out that I and others in CR are real people who are doing great, collaborative work with amazingly little in the way of resources.

By the way, I am surprised that I 100% discounted the people who had emailed above me. Did you not see that I began with crediting whatever constructive comments were also made?

I did'nt even begin to address several other odd comments though, such as the weird idea that City Repair people don't use bikes or biodiesel vehicles as primary transport. I've discussed these Indy threads with others in VBC and CR and the sense I get is that Indy Media remains a very powerful tool for news, information, and community building of many kinds. However, it's kind of ironic that such an amazing and visionary project as Indy Media can also be used to attack other, equally amazing and visionary community projects such as City Repair. To be sure, many of these comments constitute attacks rather than informed discourse.

Some of it is informed, but without being direct, face to face conversation in which people are able to sort out the difference between projection and actual concerns, I question the value of much of what has been said.

As I said above, by all City Repair's own measurements, this VBC was far and above the best one yet. The criticisms of content might be fair, except that the schedule contained more depth and breadth for hands-on direct activism than ever.

To say that the project was not diverse enough is getting very, very old and tired. Believe it: Ever single community of any discription that has ever so much as asked for help has received as much assistance as they have needed to do the work which they themselves have imagined. CR has facilitated and supported ever community in this city which has asked for help, period. That means that the door is wide open, even for people who only enjoy our work but never help.

Also, some have said that there seems to be a New Age feel to VBC. It's true that some people in the "natural time" and rave communities have always been a part of CR, attracted to it's constructive culture. Those people remain involved and have taken on a more active role in programming the central venue's evening events. What you saw was a mix, a reflection of participation in the creation of the event. Whoever has a problem with the evening schedule should simply ask to be involved next year. However, the slur against "New Age" people is ugly and not welcome in my ears because it sounds xenophobic. Which "old age" would you prefer anyway?

Mark Lakeman

to the future 06.Jun.2006 00:41


I think Lakeman's comments in his two last posts are generally well, good and accurate, except that they perhaps fail to address one of the key issues related to the VBC events: Who gets in, and under what conditions? This primary concept of participation, how it relates to the evolved state that may be said to characterize todays CR or VBC, and how it may be said to stand as a departure from participation in CR of the past, seems to be a continuing problem.

If there is an over-riding need to have pay to participate events, perhaps negative aspects of this practice can be balanced by allowing greater participation opportunities to those without money to trade, or decline to use money to participate. Clearly defined conditions of participation in lieu of cash, through in kind donations of labor, or through the availability of scholarships could improve relations in situations that can otherwise kindle resentment.

People have a lot to give. A lot of the time what they have to give, is not money in the form of plastic, checks, bills and coins. Participation in exchange for labor is often welcome when it's not derived from some form of coersion. I believe those involved in CR event organization have respect for labor, skills, and talent that people are prepared to offer in lieu of participation fees, but it's very important to be certain that feeling gets across. Comments people have made in this series of Indy articles regarding CR, suggests this may not have been happening.

The Blues festival may offer an example of how to handle entry, where the need to generate cash exists. They're kind of heavy handed about the donation, but you can of course walk right in if you don't have the money, no questions asked. At the festival, looking around, obviously, many people gladly give at least something, a fact readily aparrent by the modest but visible stickers people get when they kick down cash.

A lot of people seem to have a really good time standing at the gate, wearing their t-shirts, listening to the music, handing out brochures, collecting cash, picking up trash, etc., etc.. I don't hear any bitching and whining there about not being able to get in, or who has to do this, or that, or who gets to do this or that. They kind of go with the flow. If they can do it, they do it, if not....oh well.

I think in any organization, there's a potential for a war of wills. People have different strengths...by nature, some are quicker thinking and moving. Even though their ideas might be just as good, or even better, more slowly operating people can find themselves being run over by those faster. Especially in something like CR, it's stupid to let something like this happen. Averting it may involve a little sacrifice of the hoped for growth timeline, but is likely worth it in the long run.

Faster people should stop thinking thinking about themselves off and on and once in awhile, even as they imagine they're only thinking about everyone else, stop and listen to the other folks. Slower people should work a little bit to counter their naturally laid back pace, respectfully put their foot down and say "stop right there".

Regarding Indy and anonymity, I think there's a tendency on the part of those being critized, to overact to anonymous criticism. Being criticized can be painful, but the value that indy supposedly provides as a medium for making hopefully constructive, but sometimes painfully critical points, who may not feel able to make them under other circumstances, would hopefully over-ride that unpleasantness.

Indy's editors are pretty good at eliminating the worst examples of baseless, slanderous criticism, so what you have left, is something people should be capable of confronting.

I prefer anonymity, in part, just because I don't particularly want any ideas I express here to be identified with a particular person. Just throwing them into the pot is what seems important in this forum.

ML Checking In 07.Jun.2006 03:33

Mark Lakeman

Ok, back again. Though, I'm so tired my eyes are ready to pop.

Checking back into this virtual conversation is a little strange for me. I really like to hear people's thoughts and feelings. Personally though, I'm working with so many people these days that I am already swimming in a continous and exhilarating creative experience, with incalcuable amounts of communication and feedback flows. This electronic forum is way too limited and I probably won't be continuing with it compared to direct, creative collaborations which are characterized more by mutual understanding and direct interaction. That said, I do want to say a little something about City Repair economic accessability.

First, the VBC has now become an astounding prototype for bioregional economics. The social web of localized, self-reinforcing individuals and organizations that supports the VBC is rooted so broad and deep now that the actual economic costs for the total impact of the VBC are minute compared to it's money-numbers express. In fact, the amount of giving and sharing is really the foundation and true currency of what is making it all go. I'm really pooped, so I can't explain everything, but here's a bit about costs and free access.

* The VBC builds and coordinates the capacity to create and learn from rock-star ecological building teachers at 26 sites, all happening simultaneously. Every Portlander can attend these events across the city for free, and even the lunches are free. This conversation on Indy Media has at least motivated me to add up all that we are generating for free for our huge and widespread Portland culture.
Look at these numbers:

Natural Building Sites:
- 16 sites x 25 people/day = 400
400 x $900(average long workshop cost) = $360,000

- Unique project Sites:
10 sites x 25 people = 250
250 x $200(average workshop cost) = $50,000
Total $ Value to Community = $410,000

So, this number is the total of all site value in purely money terms. What the community gets is total, free access to ten continuous days of that much, creative engagement with 26 community leaders from across the country and Portland. These people are all able to facilitate and lead self-building creative, ecologically cultural projects. These free costs also include ten days of lunch, with innumerable local small businesses and restaurants supporting each community initiative. This is all free.

The evening venue is it's own economic entity, though with strong ties to the community web where the 26 projects are underway for ten days. For the first time, this year the central venue actually covered it's own costs. This means a great deal for us to have accomplished, and we are grateful to everyone who has helped this happen by cumulatively giving litterally thousands of hours of time to dream, wrestle and dance the VBC through another cycle to become what it is now. Someone above has made the incorrect statement that VBC coordinators are paid, and that we are elitists. This is so completely wrong that it sounds like Lars Larson is in the mix. Actually, the costs of the venue can average as little as $16 per night. Yes, "as little". Please, as activists remember that the VBC is not some simple evening on the town, seeing Michael Frante or some other well-publicized event. Unlike such productions, where money goes straight into pockets, in the VBC people are able to give $16 to directly support their own experience at the venue, of the speakers, performers and musicians, all of who are getting paid for being artists. This is support for our own creative culture, and it's not merely diversion- it's truely celebration.
Some of the funds which come in at night support community project work, so VBC feeds people, educates and entertains, and supports 26 simultaneous direct democracy place-rooted initiatives- every single initiative that has come forth this year, from every quarter of the city, and all for $16 or so a night. I think that the number is amazing, and I know that almost everyone has been more than glad to help support all that CR does for them, and the rest of the city. Being financially challenged too, we know that it's important to make everything we do as accessable as possible, so we do. Besides being able to use all of the public VBC sites for free, forever after each VBC, pretty much anyone can get into VBC by simply helping out a bit. Sometimes it helps to set this up in advance. Please know that the people who have been volunteering 10 months of their lives to bring you the VBC work with great attention to accessability. Too, we need everyone's help to make it all work. If anyone has new ideas, as many people do when they arrive to get involved each autumn, anyone is able to contribute. This is how City Repair continues to build itself. The democratic anarchism of City Repair works through making friends and sharing creative, revolutionary experiences at the most local levels.

Whoa, my eyes are wobbling I's so tired. How come none of these critical types who write innaccurate stuff never show up to help?
I spent a good chunk of today doing things that anyone could help with.

I wish people would inquire rather begin with possible projections. It wastes life and time, in my opinion. Inquire, then if you listen you may get a new idea of a person or a situation.

The truth is that City Repair is way stronger now than ever. Each spring it hits new measures of depth and growth, and VBC is one aspect of how this is happening. The most important indicator is it's big coordinator culture, made up of very powerful and humble people. CR is in a phase of renewal, has become very fresh with a new generation of leadership with deep, continuous relations with ongoing leaders who are actively engaged at every level of CR as well as with leaders across the continent and oceans. It's very significant that there are multiple generations of leadership in CR, even as attrition normally moves most people in activism along too quickly. I am totally inspired by the people who propell City Repair in Portland, and in many other cities now.

About whether our "core" is accessable, I appreciate that anyone's perception is valid. I've heard people say that for years, and for years just about anyone who has the motivation has been able to walk right in, say hello and become as involved as they want to be and have time for. If anyone wishes to learn more about CR or get involved there are many, many ways to start. www.cityrepair.org works.

I am now sleep typing....
Mark Lakeman