[nfbmi-talk] : Decentralization of the Commission (the long version)

Mark Smith mark.smithyman60 at gmail.com
Sun Feb 26 11:09:11 CST 2012

Hello Fred,
	Thank you for your service to our community, and again for taking a
critical look at the situation and developing a very substantive  response
to my comments.  Not all of us choose to affect change in the manor that you
have done over the years.  Sometimes though when ones mouth gets too full
you have to spit it out, I guess this is the point that I reached when I
made my first post.  Perhaps after this message I will sink back into the
weeds and you may never hear from me again.  Unfortunately I am very busy
and do not get to monitor the list very often, however I feel that I made
comments to good folks who are asking passionate questions that I feel
compelled to respond to.  I accept your apology and enjoy a spirited dialog
that has substance and well reasoned responses.  Life is too short to worry
about the rest.
	You provide a lot of great historical content, clearly you have been
around the block once or twice.  State boards are not created with the
intent of managing the executive directors though.  Yes, I agree that the
MCB director was far from stellar in both actions, as well as upholding
ethical standards.  The board though is not the place where he is micro
managed.  The board should have the ear of the governor and that is where
the pressure should be applied.  Again I understand that this was not
effective.  This in my humble opinion does not give consumers and board
members free license to demonstrate childish and juvenile antics in meetings
or in public.  People who are managing state agencies, and business concerns
quickly close down when they hear demands and saber rattling and look for a
loophole so that they do not need to deal with the annoyance.  I fear that
this is what has happened to a very important asset for blind people in
	I completely agree with you when you say that it is a communication
and marketing problem.  Perhaps your product could be even bolstered more
with a few more of those facts that the board was requesting.  In any case
The image problem.  Do you remember back more than a year ago when the group
was picketing in Lansing and in Kalamazoo?  I certainly do, because the
comments that my colleagues made about that group really disturbed me on
many levels.  The First comment was that "They look like a bunch of homeless
people mad at the system.  The second was that the spokes people did not
have a well rehearsed script that came across in a positive professional
manor.  I understand that there are reasons and that ultimately the goal was
achieved, furthermore I was one of the people trying to explain away the bad
visual image.  The intent of this was to illustrate the point using it as a
learning example for improvement, not a criticism.  I have a bag full of
additional examples however I do not feel that this is the proper venue for
dragging them all out.
	The core of my suggestion for a solution would be a multi-tiered
approach.  First develop a script with positive bullet points that are clear
and concise that everyone in the community agrees with.  The message must be
positive but firm, including facts and figures that provide a wow factor,
another words a well measured amount not information over load.  Utilize all
tools in this approach, flash mob, face book, twitter, and an iPad or
equivalent device  with the multimedia presentation that is short and sweet.

	Next Take the message to the people of Michigan, including the state
representatives.      Pull together a bipartisan group of articulate
individuals willing to get the message out.  These people must look, speak
and act like professionals.  They cannot get angry in the face of
opposition, nor can they waver from their message.  The core message is what
you hit on Fred, by operating these programs you are empowering taxpaying
citizens, these programs change lives and make our state stronger.  We are
not handicapped we just do things in a different way.
	The third prong is perhaps a letter and phone campaigned, that would
include advertisements, radio and public awareness.  This would all require
funding and resources, along with a dedicated group of people.  Which I know
that The NFB has, at least the dedicated people.  I would continue the
transparency pressure, however I would eliminate the rhetoric, derogatory
comments, and harsh language that is currently used.  Another words
everything that is uttered from the community is vetted through the lens of
best business practices and what is adopted by all professional
institutions.  We want to cultivate a positive message that everyone wants
to adopt, everyone knows someone who is either blind or is going blind, this
is a fact that no one can deny.  We can use this disturbing fact in a
positive way, however you would not want to throw it in their face.  Phrase
it in a manner that we garner their support not turn them against us,
because we come across as an angry blind person mad at the system.
	I truly do not want to be kicking the hornets' nest so to say.  I
have certainly struck a nerve, my intend was in the effort to, provide
reflection and perhaps let people within the Michigan NFB understand that
there are a group of blind professionals who do not feel that the current
direction is working in a positive way.  With this said many of the comments
that I have read in response to my prior message are the perfect example why
we stay silent.  They squelch the more subtle approach and do not want to
listen to another perspective.  This is the other reason that I will sink
back into the weeds and just look and listen.  In solidarity we are strong,
divided we are weak, these  are only suggestions and a beginning to a
direction.  This plan can be strengthened only by others adding their ideas
to the wall, I feel that perhaps this is only one brick in our wall of
	  Sent: Saturday, February 25, 2012 10:50 PM

To: 'NFB of Michigan Internet Mailing List'
Subject: Re: [nfbmi-talk] Decentralization of the Commission (the long

Hello Mark,

Thank you for the measured reply to my pointed response to your message.  I
have been involved with this issue since the mid '70's.  I was there when
Governor Milliken signed P.A. 260.  I believe P.A. 260 was a pretty good
piece of legislation given the constitutional constraints here in Michigan.
I was annoyed that someone who, to my knowledge, has never worked with
others to make changes was so confidently telling us all what we had done
wrong and how we had created the problem.  I apologize if I overreacted and
wish to explain, probably in too lengthy a post, my perspective on the
matter.  It is easy to Monday-morning quarterback.  Not so easy to work
nearly every day to do one's best to create an agency that will create jobs
and opportunities for first-class citizenship for blind people, even if
mistakes were made.

I have been away from the computer all afternoon.  It seems there is a lot
of interest in this topic and you have certainly raised some points that
have struck some nerves.  This is good.  Until we can all have some
consensus about what happened, Why it happened we will not be able to set a
direction in which to proceed.

First, are we, the consumers, the cause or the victims here.  My opinion is
clear.  We, the consumers did not cause this to happen.  In my view 2
unfortunate forces converged within MCB.  First, generally speaking the
field of rehabilitation of blind people is arcane and thus not well
understood by the vast majority of public administrators.  It is the job of
the agency administrator and other influential parties to articulate this to
decision-makers in order to direct public policy in favor of positive
rehabilitation outcomes.  Second, 

Second, unfortunately, MCB was directed by an inept, uneducated and
self-promoting director.  I almost said ineffective.  This would have been
wrong.  When he had a personal goal he was quite effective in attaining it.
It even appears that he used some of this effectiveness to make positive
changes.  He orchestrated the move of MCB from the welfare agency to the
Labor department.  Second and even more important, he was able to acquire a
better split of federal funding between MRS and MCB.  Tragically, Larry Best
died about that time and there wer no more such beneficial outcomes for MCB
within state government.  It was Larry Best who managed the budget and was
liason among various departments including between the Labor finance people
and MCB.  The MCB Director has no financial acumen and ceded all authority
to the Department finance people following Larry's death.

I have my view of the appropriate role for the MCB Board.  I agree with
those who argue that the Board is not to micro-manage life on a daily basis
for MCB staff.  The board , clearly to me, has a role to set good policy
based on sound management practices and sound rehabilitation principles.
The board needs to see to it that the director is the conduit between these
2 segments of the agency. This is where the constraints of the Michigan
Constitution get in the way.  P.A. 260 was  a little too ambiguous on the
ability of the board to manage the Director.  

The Director inappropriately acquired too much power over the board by
manipulating the appointment process and then emasculated the board by
controlling the agendas, the information they received and partitioning them
from training about the budget, the laws and their role.

You characterized the board as amateurish.  I do not see it that way.The
most recent board was demanding data.  Data like the costs for closing cases
either successful or unsuccessful.  The numbers of intakes and training
information about the agency's clientele.  They were demanding apropriate
legal counsel on those arcane points of law that they were responsible to
carry out.  To me, this is very professional and appropriate.  It was also
not in the interest of the Director who wished to keep the Board out of the
loop on what is happening.

On 1 major point, the board was pushing hard to improve the training of the
rehabilitation staff.  Again, even in the general field of rehabilitation,
blindness rehabilitation is specialized and different from the general
agency.  Most of MCB's new-hires were from MRS or did not have much if any
blindness training or experience.  This was leading to poor services and the
proposal of poor  and even illegal policies for the agency.  To me it is
totally appropriate for the board to advocate for quality and targeted

Now come a whole batch of new administrators with the new administration.
They see the tension and even hostility created by the Director's inability
to manage the agency and immediately, as if following an ages-old script of
paternalistic knee-jerk reactions.  The blame the clientele for being
dissatisfied instead of grateful that anyone would throw them a few crumbs.
They, despite much evidence, were unwilling or unable to directly manage the
Director.  They followed, quite logically, but very wrongly the course as
you described.  They said well these people are unhappy.  We'll show them
how it is going to be because we know about administration and never mind
the purpose of the agency.  We'll figure out a better way and tell those
amateurish ungrateful poor blind incapable children how it is going to be.
It was an unprofessional, imature and emotional reaction, but here we are.

now what to do.  Assuming, and I have no reason except my initial reaction
to your earler post, to believe you have only good intentions.  You point
out our major weakness.  It is a communication and marketing problem. We
have a great product.  We want good-paying jobs for lots of successful blind
people.  Blind people who can live independetly, contribute to the
community, support their families, pay taxes and be good citizens.  This
seems like a great product and an easy sell.  Now, our task is to create a
mechanism to make the product.  This process is nuanced and has it's own
technology which has been proven, but is mainly unknown to the ordinary
citizen, administrator or policy maker.  How do we insert such a system into
state government in a way to get our outcomes and meet the needs of the
political system?  To me, an astute politician would jump at the chance to
create such an agency given the positive benefits of success.  We need to
figure out how to sell such a process to the decision makers.  

This is where we all are.  We, the NFB, are a civil rights movement.  We
view events and actions through this lens.  We are flexible, but in the end,
to us it is all about equality and equal opportunity.  Any solution or
course of action will need to take this perspective into account.  Among our
goals is the means of acquisition of jobs and full participation in society.
A government agency cannot fully accomplish these goals, but it can create
opportunities and conditions to make it happen.  I hope you and others can
come together with us to figure this out.  It will not be easy.  The only
people who like to be changed are wet babies.  Our governor has created
change.  It is now up to us to reassert ourselves and retake the change
process for blind people.  I, for 1 am confident we can do it.  I also
believe it will take some time and a lot of hard work in the halls of the
legislature and on the streets.

If you made it this far, thank you for your attention.  I look forward to a
spirited and productive conversation about how to deal with what seems a
tragic turn of events.

Best Regards,

-----Original Message-----
From: nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org]
On Behalf of Mark Smith
Sent: Saturday, February 25, 2012 1:14 PM
To: 'NFB of Michigan Internet Mailing List'
Subject: Re: [nfbmi-talk] Decentralization of the Commission

Hello Fred,
	I am not gloating nor am I being smug, I apologize if this is how my
Previous message came across.  I am seeing the forest for the trees, calling
the cards as they have fallen.  Frankly as a advocate for persons with
disabilities and a person with a visual impairment myself it pains me deeply
to see the mantel of authority for a esteemed agency be passed to a
department that is not solely vested to do the work for our community.  The
fact is that the group who is the most vocal in our state has not chosen to
come to the table so to say like adults.
	When someone who is not deeply vested or has immersed themselves in
Michigan blind  politics views the situation,  What they see is  a group of
squabbling children. When an outside elected official views the situation
along with the  dialog from the consumer groups, finally mixing the recent
reports the facts do not mesh.  As with any good parent you fire the baby
sitter and hire a new one.  This is what is happening now.
	The primary purpose of MCB is to empower persons who are blind or
have a visual impairment so that they can become taxpaying citizens.  Please
do not forget this fact,  do not cloak it in pretty words.  The old analogy
is to, give a person a fish they eat for a day.  Teach a person to fish and
they can eat for the rest of their life.  How many times do some people need
to be re-taught to fish?  I had once heard a quote from  Einstein he  said
that "to do the same experiment over and over, expecting a different result
is insanity."  So things needed to be changed, with the lack of a productive
plan our governor provided one.  I certainly do  not feel that this was a
proper course of action or positive development for our community.  However
I am capable of reading the table as it is set right now.
	I choose to see this as an opportunity to make a break from the old
ways.  The castle building that you describe is always going to be in our
government, this will only change when the fundamental system is altered.
You are not keeping in mind though that the government is being shrunk and
only the strong nobles will remain standing after the hammer stops swinging.
Consolidation and making the system as cost effective as possible is the
mantra today.  This move as I mentioned in my previous message is the most
logical for the government now.  The thought of your destruction of civil
liberties was never part of the decision process.  You are making it
personal when it is not so. Come to the table in the frame of mind to make
things work for the community, solidarity is the answer and the point of
power right now.
-----Original Message-----
From: nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org]
On Behalf Of Fred Wurtzel
Sent: Saturday, February 25, 2012 11:52 AM
To: 'NFB of Michigan Internet Mailing List'
Subject: Re: [nfbmi-talk] Decentralization of the Commission

Hello Mark,

I do not know who you are.  You sure sound smug and a little gloating.  I
guess we ought to expect this from people who do not understand the nature
of why there is an agency for the blind.  It is not simply a conduit to
spread federal money to self-interested bureaucrats for their agrandizement
and empire building.  This money is to empower people who have little or no
power.  It is exactly this lack of power that allows the faint
acknowledgement of people's goals for first-class citizenship to be so
casually disposed of.  This is 1 more insult and insult to blind people in a
landscape of centuries of similar insults.  We have dignity and we will not
accept this as our fate.  We have fought this fight before and we will fight
it again.  We may suffer other setbacks, but we will not ever give up on
recognition of our right to first-class citizenship.



-----Original Message-----
From: nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org]
On Behalf Of Mark Smith
Sent: Saturday, February 25, 2012 11:14 AM
To: 'NFB of Michigan Internet Mailing List'
Subject: Re: [nfbmi-talk] Decentralization of the Commission

Hello Larry,
	Both groups advocated this move by proxy.  If no one provides a
positive critically thought out solution, you are part of the problem.  I
have more than 500 messages from this list from the past few months that
absolutely unequivocally call for the destruction of MCB in its current
incarnation.  I do not see one positive critically thought out solution.  I
see only the rare call by Christine boone providing a bit of well thought
out clarification or if necessary admonishment of a member in a gentle and
kind way.
	Coming from the business world this move that the Governor is taking
appears to be a  solid one.  He is taking what appears publically to be two
agencies that are not functioning in an efficient manor, moving them to the
most logical place where they will leverage the assets of one another along
with enhancing their own already established organizations.  In addition the
removal of a program that has smelled of nepotism and insider trading  is
being placed where it makes the most logical sense, the department who
handles the states ways and means.
	Only a short sighted person would or could say that the MCB board is
NOT the most dysfunctional group that has ever existed.  One only has to sit
in a meeting for about two minutes to realize that it is run by amateurs and
attended by a group of circus clowns.  The lack of human dignity and respect
alone calls for its destruction.  The most eloquent and efficient way to do
this is to dismantle the entire organization.  Take what is working, give it
to a different management team,, then eliminate the parts that are
disfunctioning , establish a new legally appointed board to satisfy the law,
and move on.
	So you got your wish, the change that you have been calling for is
here.  The bureaucrats in this state are currently hunkering under their
desks right now just wondering where the next hammer blow is going to come
from.  The word on the street is that no one has seen this many laws fly
through the legislature this fast  in a very long time.  Go lawyer up and
bring up a case.  Before it gets anywhere , you will see the law change.
The most interesting evidence for the promotion of that change  will be your
own words and arguments that you have been lodging against MCB for oh about
the last ten years or so.
	The only question left is; is this going to be good for the blind
and persons with visual impairment community in our state?  This is a very
treacherous and mine field ridden question.  On one hand if it is business
as usual I think that it is going to be very bad for our community.  I feel
that the credibility is in the toilet bowl and the voice is horse, people
are sick of hearing the bitching and griping without any real answers that
call for bringing the community together.  On the other hand it could be
something that rises like a phoenix from the fires of destruction welding
our community together in a positive way.  Power is in solidarity not in
division.  Stop the juvenile antics and come to the table like professionals
with critically thought out questions and possible reasonable solutions,
ready to negotiate and give and take a little.  Sound a lot like what our
federal government should do as well. Lol Mark  

-----Original Message-----
From: nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org]
On Behalf Of Larry D. Keeler
Sent: Saturday, February 25, 2012 8:01 AM
To: NFB of Michigan Internet Mailing List
Subject: [nfbmi-talk] Decentralization of the Commission

It is my oppinion that none of us from iether organization of blind
comsumers advocates this shocking move by our estemed Governor.  I didn't
nor will ever vote for him.  That aside, to my knowledge, NFB never
advocated the abolishment of the Commission.  We constantly called for
reform in order to serv its clients, blind folks the way it waas meant to.
I am stunned that this is happening!  I am not really sorry about its
director being out of a job but otherwise, I think this is appalling!  How
can us blind folks fight for ourselves when our services will be devided
across the board?  If our Board of Commissioners is abolished, how can we
continue having a real say in how our tazx dollars get spent on blindness?
I also know many folks in the Commission who are decent folks and truely
want to better our lot.  Having dealt with DHS in a semiproffessional and
personal capacity, I truely don't have a clue how they plan to have access
to the services they are supposed to be providing.  And what of BEP?  For
all its faults, it has provided many blind folks iether with a means to make
a living or as a start to move up and really be able to contribute to the
tax pool.  Again, I want to make it clear that in my perception, us in NFB
never!! called for decentralization!!  I believe we will always fight
against coruption and abuse of the system whereever it occurs!  Dhis
decentralization is disastrous for all of us!  
Intelligence is always claimed but rarely proven!
nfbmi-talk mailing list
nfbmi-talk at nfbnet.org
To unsubscribe, change your list options or get your account info for

nfbmi-talk mailing list
nfbmi-talk at nfbnet.org
To unsubscribe, change your list options or get your account info for

nfbmi-talk mailing list
nfbmi-talk at nfbnet.org
To unsubscribe, change your list options or get your account info for

nfbmi-talk mailing list
nfbmi-talk at nfbnet.org
To unsubscribe, change your list options or get your account info for

nfbmi-talk mailing list
nfbmi-talk at nfbnet.org
To unsubscribe, change your list options or get your account info for

More information about the nfbmi-talk mailing list