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Saturday, 21 August 2010

Jobs

Niko, our Greek tutor, records Ithaca for us. Slowly
One more Greek lesson before we leave for Corfu. The other evening Nikos continued helping us with the structuring of Greek sentences as well as practising numbers, writing, reading, pronunciation, prepositions, and verbs. To help with learning Ithaca he's recorded the poem via Garageband so we could practise with a version read more slowly, and so this poem, instead of losing its strength by repetition, is becoming a route into the language I'd so like to be able to speak, through hearing and speaking and understanding what Cavafy actually wrote.
Τοὺς Λαιστρυγόνας καὶ τοὺς Κύκλωπας, τὸν ἂγριο Ποσειδῶνα δὲν θὰ συναντήσεις, ἄν δὲν τοὺς κουβανεῖς μὲς στὴν ψυχή σου, ἄν ὴ ψυχή σου δὲν τοὺς στήνει ἐμπρός σου.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes, the fierce Poseidon you'll not encounter, unless you carry them along within your soul, unless your soul raises them before you.
Next lesson we'll go through the poem and other Greek passages word-by-word to help grasp how the grammar works. Greek syntax still teases our poor brains.
The predominant word order in Greek is SVO (Subject-Verb-Object), but word order is quite freely variable, with VSO and other orders as frequent alternatives. Within the noun phrase, adjectives precede the noun (for example, το μεγάλο σπίτι, [to meˈɣalo ˈspiti], 'the big house'), while possessors follow it (for example, το σπίτι μου, [to ˈspiti mu], 'my house').
Many people pick up a language without subjecting it to this analysis, relying on the company of Greeks. I wonder if we'll find we are any better at conversation in Greek by the time we get back from Corfu, or if the lessons we've had in England will enable us to be any more intelligible when in Greece. I so hope.
** ** **
Cycled to campus to see Andrew Coulson earlier in the week to plan more work on scrutiny and make arrangements to work with John Cade, recently retired as Head of Scrutiny at Birmingham City Council. On a fallen branch on the opposite side of the Soho Loop canal just after I'd passed under the Dudley Road bridge I saw a heron fishing unworried by my passing, concentrating.
I've continued preparing our plot. We'll plant potatoes before the end of the month. I've managed to make at least the southern half of our plot manageable. I've made up shed foundations and must now fill in the space created by the levelled wood. Lin and I, having discovered an offer on Freecycle, went to Perry Bar to dig up someone's patio, carting off slabs for our home garden and for at least part of the allotment. I've got to a point on this where I'd like to avoid cash payments for anything on the plot, relying instead on sharing and recycling. The other day, unasked, a neighbouring plot holder whose name I don't know, helped me carry the slabs so far collected from the top, where I'd unloaded them from Lin's car, to the bottom of the plot where they're needed. "I'd like to ask you to come and sit in my shed and have a cup of tea. Maybe by winter we'll have one," "You will, you will."
Alec Bristow's famous book How to Run an Allotment
I'm just finishing fixing the last yardage of book and file shelves in my new study here, struggling to make holes with cheap ceramic drills in very hard bricks. The idea being that if I want to use my laptop, compress and edit films, and do work that involves not wanting to be interrupted the habit spreads."Because you're sitting doing nothing useful to the household while you sit there at the kitchen table on your laptop, it takes all my motivation away from doing anything to do with the house and so I start fiddling about doing useless things on my laptop..." I've been keen on fudging work and play - 19th century industrial constructs that have outlived their function, but Lin finds the division useful and my claim to be 'working' or 'playing' all the time can be bloody irritating. I actually quite like being interrupted. I'm not sure how much I want to spend time alone with myself in my own 'study'.
** ** **
The first polls close at 6 p.m. (0800 GMT) in the big, populous states of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, which are expected to decide the election.
Saturday night in Australia - 9.00am here - we'll get an east coast exit poll that will convey some idea of the progress of the Australian general election; whether Australia will elect its first women Prime Minister, and whether there's popular support for her party - Labour - on serious investment in sustainability. Julia Gillard's opponent, Tony Abbott, gained the leadership of the opposition Liberal Party from Malcolm Turnbull, while I was in Melbourne last November, after Turnbull had agreed not to oppose Kevin Rudd's policies on carbon emissions. The climate research e-mail scandal occurred almost simultaneously boosting Abbott's strongly avowed scepticism that climate change has anything to do with burning fossil fuels. The 2010 Australian General Election is the first national election in the world where climate change, though in the puzzling way of politics this has been a 'watch my lips' issue in the campaign. Neither of the principals has led on the issue, swapping punch and counter-punch on capacity to govern, while Gillard's vexed many Labour supporters because of the way she ousted Kevin Rudd, her predecessor, only a few months ago. Australia's missed out on recession, its banks being less reckless; not needing to be rescued by government.
[22 August '10: My interest lie with how well the Greens will negotiate their aspirations into the policies of a hung parliament]
** **
I've been invited to lead a seminar on political-management leadership in Wellington, New Zealand, between working in Australia in November.
Political Management Leadership: Negotiating the Overlap
Good government occurs when the best of politics and management combine.
Simon Baddeley has made a 30 year study of the relationship between elected members and their officials.
This one-day programme for managers & senior staff from local government will focus on the skills, codes and values that strengthen trust between elected members and officers. Enhance your skills in a crucial area under the guidance of an internationally recognised specialist.
FACILITATOR
Simon Baddeley, Institute of Local Government Studies, University of Birmingham, UK.
OBJECTIVES OF THE WORKSHOP
To further enhance your appreciation of techniques, processes and procedures that can be used by those leading in a political environment; build a deeper understanding of how the roles of political and managerial leaders are changing and how this will apply in your council.
WORKSHOP STYLE
The day will be participative, using a mix of discussion, handouts, real case studies and video to stimulate analysis and reflection on best practice.
WHO SHOULD ATTEND THIS WORKSHOP?
Anyone working at the political management interface and those who have dealings with elected politicians
REGISTRATION DESK
The workshop registration desk will be open from 8.30am Friday 16 November in the pre-function area on level 16 at the James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor.
KEY INFORMATION
Workshop Date & Time:
Tuesday 16 November 2010 Registration Workshop
9.00 - 9.30 am 9.30 - 4.30 pm
Venue: • James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor, 147 The Terrace, Wellington Attendance fee: Attendance fee:
• •
SOLGM Members $400.00 (plus GST) Non-SOLGM Members $500.00 (plus GST)
My contact in NZ asks for help answering a local query about the event set for 16 November
I wonder if you can give me a bit more information about the Political Management Leadership: Negotiating the Overlap course in November please. In particular I wonder if you could advise whether the content of the course would be applicable to Local Government in New Zealand. I note that Simon Baddeley is UK based and has predominantly worked and trained in a UK context ...there are very stark differences between the political environment in the UK compared to New Zealand. We wondered here whether the course would be too focused on the politics of local government rather than the relationship building between officers and politicians that is perhaps more relevant to local government here.I would like to know if Simon has offered the course in New Zealand before. I note he has worked in Australia – has he adapted material from the Australian model of local government or from the UK?
My reply:
Dear C. The questions are understandable and, with your additional briefing, stimulating and helpful. Early August - and I’ve probably read over 10,000 words on the New Zealand context, been in communication with Dr Andrew Asquith at Massey who I plan to meet for further briefing before the seminar and I’ve also been briefed by Chris Game, a close colleague over many years and an expert in comparative local government including New Zealand’s. Knowing what’s going on in NZ, isn’t that new for us at Inlogov. We’ve been alert to and interested, especially since the great changes of the late 80s, in local government reform in NZ and picked up the sense of a return to governance following your Local Government Act 2002, and, as you say, ‘boning up’ on the impact of the 2009 review, especially the potential for shifts in political-management balance, and in some cases the strong probability of a higher profile for the importance of that relationship.
In the case of ‘Super-Auckland’ I concur with your observations. I’ve been attached, since it was published, to Mouritzen and Svara’s work on Leadership at the Apex, including their collaborative work on NZ local government. There can be delegates who will use the uniqueness of their own council to argue the irrelevance of examples from other places – and that’s just between authorities in UK! Sometimes they may be right. I’m not going to argue about this. This is the first time I’ve come to New Zealand. I come, honoured to be invited, to engage in informed discussion with practitioners, sharing, with stimulating illustrations, what Ive learned from thirty years experience studying many ‘political-management’ conversations. I believe that whether in England, Wales, Scotland, Australia or New Zealand, I can impart unique and useful insights, illustrated by film, about the role of the personal in the making of government. There are generic dynamics; principles that are, as you say, universal, but I take nothing for granted; always testing whether what I’m seeing is unique and what elements reflect cross-organisational and even cross-cultural principles. As the CEO who communicated with you notes, I’ve been working in Australia (two years running and a third tour coming up). I found I could ground myself, after briefing, in a widely varying range of councils there, and more than satisfy their staff and councillors about the relevance of my research to their varying situations. I know NZ to be different and I will be learning more as the weeks pass. I’m used to difference, especially as my focus gives places such emphasis on interpersonal dynamics. I’ve worked in Scotland, N.Ireland, Ireland, Sweden and Canada and took my second degree in organisational development at the University of Michigan, and while at Birmingham have worked over a long period with students from India, Pakistan, Japan and China, where an understanding of their local experience is important in helping them understand our approaches. I hope this is helpful. Your final suggestion* is especially helpful and presents me with a most practical challenge. Kind regards, Simon [note: further reading]
*This suggestion came at the end of my contact's email:
It seems inevitable the creation of 'Super-Auckland' will result in at least one local authority where formal ‘politics’ and party politics come to be far more part of the environment than has been the case to date...There will undoubtedly be a knock-on effect elsewhere in the country, even if there are no further super-amalgamations. It will probably be worth your while to give some thought to the implications of this change so that you can talk about, (a) its likely implications for super-Auckland and the authorities that will be on its periphery, and (b) how you might see the transition occurring from the essentially apolitical local government environment that NZ has hitherto enjoyed to this new state of affairs (not in terms of formal ‘process’ but in terms of attitudinal shifts)...this could be an interesting element of the day...exactly the sort of grey area that the audience will want to explore.
It's good to have this early chance to prepare. Given changes in NZ local government and local elections on 9 October 2010, my seminar is wisely timed. My thoughts on the second of these questions...How you might see the transition occurring from the essentially apolitical local government environment...to this new state of affairs?
The generic dynamics go...something like this, though personalities and events can confound prediction and I’m reducing a messy multi-staged process to four neatly discernible stages. You start, especially in smaller councils, with separation between political and managerial spheres – though not necessarily between actual officers and members all of who may know each other quite well...even socialising in the same community. I’m referring to the separation of political and managerial understanding of the world. Even between these spheres there’s seldom no interaction, but it’s usually on a limited number of specific issues between as few as two people – lead manager and lead politician - talking the budget. Arguments stay inside that relationship. Any potential for wider tension between elected and appointed is avoided by mutual ignorance of each other’s worlds. That often suits the small number of those engaged in an occluded political-management conversation, but, in a changing world, hardly makes for a council fit to address ‘wicked’ problems and exercise influence and advocacy in its area. The small conduit between politics and management in such councils precludes learning. The organisation’s staff and most elected members are left out of the loop. Because the tiny loop that does exist has no roots in a wider political-management accord, the system’s running blind...
Reform initiatives pressing for greater capacity in local government will lead, at least initially, to one of two ultimately unsatisfactory responses. In the first, a larger number of officers led by an enthusiastic CEO, become involved in leading the authority in a way that’s more attuned to the broader class of problems they’re being required to address, through influence rather than statutory authority – strategies for local regeneration, community well-being, place-shaping, connectivity via partnerships, not to mention more sophisticated budgetary procedures, performance management and project control. They refine language and techniques that leave councillors in the cold, unable to do what politicians are for, which is to be able to debate, campaign for, and seek consensus for policy, especially as these policies haven’t even been part of a conversation between members and officers inside the organisation, let alone in the community. There’s no connect.
The second of these unsatisfactory alternatives is for members, in frustration, to stage a take-over and attempt to run things themselves, but without the level of knowledge and skill they need to be managers – especially when it comes to handling finance or evolving and driving strategic imperatives. In a solely member-led council, even if members don’t initiate this themselves, there’s likely to be a haemorrhaging of managerial talent from what they feel has become a politicised organisation, and it become difficult to recruit managers with the experience needed to carry on council business, let alone sustain the creativity and dynamism that makes for good government.
Out of these messy situations you may hope there will emerge a far more effective understanding of the need to negotiate a mutually respectful overlap of political-managerial responsibilities. The style and attitude of particular individuals – lead politician and lead manager – is crucial in modelling and diffusing the joint managerial and political leadership crucial to governance.** (There's more detail and links to visual evidence in my 2008 book chapter on political-management leadership)
**Robin Hambleton's 2008 report in Civic Leadership for Auckland: Briefing Paper prepared for the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance describes a brief...
...to consider what governance and representation arrangements will best provide leadership for the Auckland region and its communities, while facilitating appropriate participation by citizens and other groups and stakeholders in decision-making processes.
** ** **
Richard and Amy in Steelhouse Lane
Amy turned up unexpectedly as I was working this morning, writing a simplified analysis of how local councils in which there was minimal communication between politicians and officers evolved under pressure to be fit for purpose to ones where the work of politicians and managers overlap. "I was going to take you out for lunch, Dad" "Let me just finish this" Richard joined us and Amy drove us into town and we ate at Must in Newhall Street, a place crowded in the week but one we had to ourselves, for a leisurely afternoon Dim Sum and soft drink cocktails. Then we strolled through the city centre and down to the Dogs Home and back to Steelhouse Lane where Amy'd left her car.
** ** ** The green energy company ENOVA Hellas has been studying three more locations for the construction of wind and solar parks in north-west Greece - one of these is Corfu, where there's opposition being expressed to windfarms being placed around and amid the Diapontian Islands - Othoni, Erikoussa, Mathraki and rocky islets off the northern east coast of Corfu - with a petition being collected under the local leadership of Spyros A. Salvanos against them (English translation) by an impressively detailed Greek website (see the plans), a Facebook page, and regular articles over recent months in Corfu Press, while there are forum discussions going back to January this year among ex-pats and holiday visitors with useful links on ww.agnitravel.com (where people are not wholly oppositional, aware of the urgent need for green energy, even enjoying the 'majestic' scale of wind turbines). GreenCorfu blog opposes. I've also seen reference to additional proposals for windfarms on Trompetta near Mount Pantokrator mentioned on the Ano Korakiana website on 19 August, with a report of proposals for electrical transmission lines on a north to south line between Skripero and Ano Korakiana.
I would like to hear a grown-up debate about this rather than knee-jerk opposition given that continuing to rely on fossil fuel energy, let along arguing the case for its long-term future, is marginally insane, edging on criminality. In a century people not yet born will say of us "You had the sun; you had geo-thermal heat; you had wind and waves and still you clung to coal and oil. continued to rip it from open-cast mines in the earth's remaining wildernesses and from the depths of fragile oceans, and then in panic left us and generations to come with the residues of atomic fusion, resisting over and over again attempts to adopt the technologies of sustainable energy, taking our future for your present."

3 comments:

  1. excellent EXCELLENT piece(s). i meant just to toss a bouquet for the opening, nikos/larnin' grik/cavafy bit but i read on (silly moi) and on and the whole thing flowed and riveted and i caught myself musing 'now that's what i call blogging' - caught meself in time, mind you.

    good photos and that amy et ricardo snap will end up on an LP cover one day. bravo.

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  2. Good to hear from you. V.Good. Thanks for the compliments which I'll pass on to A & R

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  3. Hi Simon!

    A grown-up debate about "green" energy is certainly what is needed, I totally agree with you! And the key matter that is being overlooked in all discussions is STORAGE. Electrical energy cannot be (easily) stored. As a result, energy that is produced by windmills and photovoltaic cells and that fluctuates strongly according to the wind or sunshine is problematic.
    One solution would be to use hydroelectric plants with two huge reservoirs, one high and one low. When you have a surplus of energy from wind or sun you could pump water to the high reservoir and then release it when it is needed. Of course, to be able to support the gigawatts of sun and wind energy that are planned we would need enormous such plants which are not even in the planning (maybe because there are no subsidies for such infrastructure...?). And then there are also environmental concerns about such huge hydroelectric plants.
    Another solution would be to have a very high level of interconnection between electrical systems around Europe and beyond, so that e.g. when it's windy in Greece we could sell energy to say the UK and vice versa. Such interconnection is also many years away and also raises other questions (self-sufficiency is gone and you see what happened when Russia had problems with the Ukraine and decided to cut off gas supply to Europe).
    The best solution any way you look at it would be hydrogen. Hydrogen can be used as a fuel for almost anything (prototypes from cars to cellphones have been built that run on hydrogen cells). Burning hydrogen produces only water, so it's really the only fuel with ZERO environmental impact. Hydrogen is also very easy to produce. You just use electric energy to hydrolyse water into hydrogen and oxygen. Oxygen goes back into the atmopsphere and the hydrogen is stored for later use. Of course we would need to adjust all our energy-consuming machines and devices to burn hydrogen, but the technical ability has been there for more than two decades. What's missing is the will to push through with hydrogen because it would mean that oil is no longer needed, EVERYONE would be able to produce their own energy, maybe even on a house level! I am sure you understand what the social and geopolitical implications would be!
    The bottom line is that all those people talking about "green energy" are not in the least concerned about saving the planet. Their only goal is to make more money from the destruction of the planet!

    Hope this can start off a grown-up debate!

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