Tag Archives: censorship

My Thoughts on the Milo Yiannopoulos Speech at the University of Colorado at Boulder

 

By Dom Nozzi

January 26, 2017

I watched the livestream of the Milo Yiannopoulos speech on my laptop. I didn’t have a problem with much of what he said, despite my leftist political leanings and his reputation for being a racist, sexist, fascist.

He said a number of things I liked (attacking the Politically Correct police, for example). I thought he was a subpar speaker (nervous laughing was common, reading too much from downloadwritten notes, and an over-the-top ego, for example). I enjoyed his disdain for the many (not all) fun-hating, man-hating, sex-negative, attractivenss-shaming feminists.

I wish I could have chatted with him to ask about what seemed like enormous inconsistencies: has it not been the case that his conservative brethren almost single-mindedly attack sex-for-fun (sex only good for making babies), contraception, sex in the media, and gay rights? He attacked the Boulder sugar tax, despite his love for capitalism (taxes use capitalist price signals, in contrast to socialist command economy prohibitions). He repeatedly called for evidence-based argumentation, and frequently pointed out his dislike of obesity, yet did not acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that sugar taxes effectively reduce obesity. Despite the protests, I did not find his remarks to be in any way sexist or racist. He did not strike me as being particularly intellectual. I was thankful that he was allowed to speak at CU. And wish he spoke at Mackey Auditorium, where a larger audience could have attended.

I loved his putting down Boulder as a pathetic excuse for a real city (I’m sure he was at least partly referring to the sterile suburban character here).

Overall, I am enraged that the supposedly freedom- and speech-loving and diversity-loving political left in Boulder felt it necessary to engage in an effort to use fascist censorship to stop what they considered to be undesirable speech.

Is that not what the left has always (and rightfully) attacked the right for doing?

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Taking My Views to More Appreciative Audiences and Communities

By Dom Nozzi

In 2005 or thereabouts, the City of Gainesville FL – my employer at the time – started expressing serious concerns about the speeches I was giving about transportation and urban design (a “lessons learned” presentation about what I had learned in my many years as a town planner). It was becoming screamingly obvious that my views were too high-octane (read: controversial) for spineless Gainesville. My response was that I decided to rarely make a presentation in Gainesville anymore. At the time, I was on a crusade to let folks know what I had learned about urban design and transportation, since I believe I’ve come to realize some crucial things about what works and what does not regarding quality of life.

Frustratingly, I was not only strongly discouraged from providing this knowledge locally through speeches. I was ALSO not allowed to submit written comments for publication by the Sun any longer (according to the censorship board that arose at my office at the time).  This troubled me a great deal, as I have always had  a strong desire to share with others the critical things I’ve learned about transportation and land use. Because I was gagged locally, I resigned myself to the second best alternative: Speaking in OTHER cities. And trying to get a book published regarding my views. That way, even if Gainesville did not appreciate or want my views to be heard, maybe I could help other communities.

Gainesville was so terrified of offending ANYONE that my idea of having the City sponsor a James Howard Kunstler talk here was nixed immediately a few years earlier (Kunstler is internationally known for his provocative, important views regarding transportation). So I considered it a badge of honor that I’d also been severely restricted (and ultimately prohibited) from speaking in Gainesville.

At this time, I had given a presentation to the local Kiwanis Club.

Wow.

You would think that I was Hitler or something. In all my speeches around the state, that speech elicited the most negative reaction from the audience.

By far.

I increasingly questioned whether Gainesville should be re-considered as a place with “progressive” views. Given the reception I got at the Kiwanis Club event, I’d say Gainesville is, if anything, quite reactionary.

My speeches outside of Gainesville were generally happening through word-of-mouth advertising (primarily because Gainesville so severely restricted my ability to give presentations). When I gave a speech somewhere, there was almost always someone in the audience that enjoyed what I had to say and decided to invite me to THEIR town for a future speech.

“Progressive Gainesville”? I don’t think so.

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Being Gagged by Gainesville, Florida

As a town planner well aware of the detrimental impacts of a community that too systematically seeks to outlaw non-suburban (that is, more compact, walkable) development, I was quite frustrated working in the proudly suburban community of Gainesville, Florida. Indeed, my frustration often compelled me to have the local newspaper run columns and letters I’ve written about local issues pertaining to urban design and transportation. The result, too often, was that I enraged a number of citizens and most all of my supervisors. Because of what I had published in the newspaper, the City of Gainesville (my employer at the time) established a new policy that states that opinion pieces written by city staff cannot be submitted to the newspaper unless first approved and edited by the city manager or a supervisor.

About mid-way through my years as a town planner, I decided I wanted to share the lessons I had learned about quality of life, sustainability, and the threats to such objectives. I created a PowerPoint public presentation to describe sprawl and congestion, and started giving the presentation throughout the city. It was a strong indictment of conventional, car-oriented planning ideas.

But again, the presentation made citizens and supervisors uncomfortable. My supervisors soon began to strongly discourage my giving the presentation locally.

City planners are not allowed to have opinions in Gainesville, in other words.

A number of people who had heard the presentation, I am flattered to say, were very impressed by the presentation, and encouraged me to write a book based on the presentation. I eventually agreed to do so, and in 2004 had my first book published by Praeger Publishers – a leading academic publisher in the US.

The presentation became so popular (and I enjoyed giving it so thoroughly) that I ultimately made the presentation to well over 20 communities throughout the state of Florida.

Having the book published and giving the speeches outside of my city were the result of my concluding that I have an important message to convey.

If Gainesville was not interested in hearing my message or benefiting from it (but instead wanted to censor it), I felt compelled to nevertheless speak to other communities around the state and nation in the hopes that others could appreciate and benefit from my message.

Because of all of this, I came very close to running for city commission in Gainesville, largely because I wanted to share the wisdom I had acquired about town planning by being more strongly involved in the community decision-making process.  In the process of considering a run for local office, I assembled a long list of things that I thought the City needed to get done – things that I did not have the power to get done as a lowly city planner.

 

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Censoring Smart Growth Planners

By Dom Nozzi

On Tuesday night in the late 1990s, the Gainesville, Florida City Commission held a “workshop” on the draft long-range land use and transportation policies being considered for adoption by the City of Gainesville.

I witnessed something disturbing that I suspect happens rather often.

As the author of the policies that I had put into the draft land use plan (regarding the prohibition of gated subdivisions), I was disappointed to see that the language had been softened and watered down by my supervisors. Now, instead of prohibiting gated subdivisions (which planners know reduces transportation choice and an undesirable isolation from the larger community), the policy before the Commission now proposed that the City would “discourage” it.

This watering down of the policy language was done by my supervisors despite the fact that the City Plan Board, which is a board appointed by the Commission to advise them on community development issues, did not request such a weakening of this language in the meeting they held about the proposed land use policies.

In fact, I believe my supervisors wanted to remove the policy entirely — even in the watered down rendition.

Then, at the City Commission meeting, more than one commissioner wanted to STRENGTHEN the policy to (again) require prohibition (as I had earlier drafted the policy to state).

It took my breath away that our elected decision-makers (the City Commission) almost did not even have a chance to assess the gated subdivision policy option, had I not lobbied my supervisors to at least have even a watered down version of it retained.

One wonders how often local government planners and other staff restrict the options laid out for policy-making elected officials at the staff level — due, apparently, to fear that the official might “mistakenly” approve something staff does not personally like.

Is it legitimate and professional for STAFF to narrow the range of options presented to an elected body?

The fact that the City of Gainesville employs upper level supervisors and other administrators who are hostile to recognized Smart Growth planning principles ensures a bleak future for Gainesville. Not only is such a state of affairs demoralizing to Gainesville planning staff. A number of planners have left Gainesville, at least in part due to the administrative hostility to quality planning tactics.

Another highly detrimental outcome of an administrative staff which opposes Smart Growth planning is that such staff serves a critical “gatekeeper” role with regard to what planning documents and recommendations come from of the planning department, and in the longer run, which planners are hired (with such supervisors, new planners hired tend to share the hostility to Smart Growth ideas).

With such supervisors at the helm, the staff recommendation tend to be dumbed down, trivial, beside the point, irrelevant, counterproductive, unresponsive, and embarrassing.

In such an environment, planners such as myself who are supporters of a better community future through Smart Growth principles are reduced to simply doing what we are told. Which means that we do as little as possible to ensure a weekly paycheck, and never go the extra mile to prepare well-researched planning recommendations.

An important side note to this situation is that it hardly even matters who is on the elected City Commission, because in a “weak mayor” form of government which Gainesville has, the Commission has only very indirect control over what comes from staff. It hardly matters if the entire commission is composed of strong advocates of Smart Growth new urbanism, environmental conservation, or neighborhood protection.

Given this state of affairs back in my time as a planner for Gainesville, an enormous volume of draft plans and recommendations I had researched and prepared for the City never saw the light of day, despite obvious compatibility of nearly all such recommendations by the City long-range plan or by the relatively enlightened City Commission at the time.

The gatekeeper supervisors engaged in this form of staff censorship by deleting the Smart Growth recommendations before they even went to the elected City Commission – despite the majority of Commissioners (at the time) being supportive of Smart Growth.

The situation is stunning, and completely outside of the awareness of elected officials and citizens of the city.


______________________________

My memoir can be purchased here:

Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607

Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom@walkablestreets.com

Visit my other sites:

Road to Ruin can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

My Best-Ever Lists blog

http://dombestlist.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

http://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

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My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

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My Author spotlight

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