Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chasing sunset & inept public relations

I'm not sure what combination of circumstances produced yesterday's dramatic sunset, but it was a stunner and, I'm hoping, widely appreciated.

Preparedness is not necessarily my middle name, so I was uptown without a camera when Kris and I stepped out a west-side front door about 4:30 after completing a mission and discovered a royal blue sky and the courthouse clock tower, top floor of the Charitone and other high points bathed in amazing light as Christmas lights flicked on around the darkening square below.

Then I had to run an errand, pick up something at the church before five and finally go home and grab a camera --- as the fire in the western sky died down to embers.

Mad dash later, caught some of the dying light over the Chariton River valley from a high point in the cemetery just before it vanished. I need to hone my sunset skills.


I think I'm ready to award the city administration of my old hometown, Mason City, this year's best-of-Iowa award for public relations ineptitude. Mayor Eric Bookmeyer heads up that operation and since I don't pay much attention to North Iowa these days, the award is based entirely on perception.

Manipulating perception, however, is what public relations are all about. It could be the whole affair is as clownish and disciminatory as it appears to be from a distance, or perhaps there's more to it, but I really can't say.

Anyhow, what appears from a distance to have been fulfillment of a long-standing goal to gut the city's Human Rights Commission moved forward there earlier when mayor and council cut the agency's budget from $134,000 to $15,000, thereby eliminating its veteran director, staff and other operating essentials.

This week, the mayor announced that he would not reappoint my old friend Dean Genth to another term on the commission, in effect firing him. Dean apparently has been a major player in continuing the commission's work, despite the cuts.

Mason City officials have argued that its Human Rights Commission was too influential and too well-funded when compared with those of similar-sized cities, and that anyone who wanted to file a discrimination complaint still has the option of doing so with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission down in Des Moines and turning the case over to its staff.

But you've got to shake your head a little when you realize that the deposed commission director, Lionel Foster, is black; that his age is 75; and that Dean is gay. So far as I know neither has physical handicaps and both are male, but you've got to give Mason City credit for scoring on three of the five discriminatory big ones in its zeal to streamline operations and discourage pesky complainers. Foster already has filed a discrimination complaint, by the way.

You can learn more about Lionel Foster and his twin brother, Leonard, here.

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