When we walk down to the lake, Guide Poodle isn't anxious to get into the water (contrary to common belief, Poodles are not water dogs: they were bred to chase down poultry) but she does enjoy the place, its people, the climate. As do I, But then, she and I like all our 'homes' - our "Three Castles" (I've always liked the fancy tobacco company's tin: it's such a posh idea to have three castles, even if, as is true for us, ours are cottages rather than mansions) and she manages very well the travel it takes to get from one to the other.
Thank goodness for that, because it's a heck of a long walk between them. Miles and miles and more miles. Thousands of miles, even more kilometers. Which means it takes attentive planning to travel between them, especially if money is a consideration, as it usually is. (Whenever I start to get into any kind of self-pitying mode about my having kids at opposite ends of the continent, I remind myself of a gentle woman I met in Montreal, Tibetan by birth, whose children, if memory serves me right, live in Nepal, South America, California, and Montreal. My self-pity vanishes almost instantly when I come to grips with that kind of geography: It's one thing to have to get across a continent to see people you care about, another thing entirely to have to cross an ocean or two. If you had to, you could walk between BC, NY and AZ. It would take a while but ultimately, it's doable. Walking across the briny deep - much, much trickier.)
Because Guide Poodle has been on an educational retreat with the Guide Dog Foundation since I splintered my femur, her journey back to me will sooner or later be abetted by that remarkable organization. For me, no horse and wagon for the trip coming up; nor will I have to portage any canoes. Since I had to shelve my original plan (to go by train from Flagstaff to Vancouver, stopping over in CA, OR, WA, and BC to interview Arconauts along the way for the Brunner research pilot study), I've got myself a piece of paper that'll let me board an airplane in Phoenix, sit for a few hours as that pressurized steel tube soars through the air many thousands of feet up above the earth. I'll swallow hard and sigh hard, as it descends back down to the ground and comes to halt in Spokane. (Miracles, you see, come in many forms, including some that IMO many humans often make the mistake of not recognizing as miraculous, of taking for granted.)
Had weather permitted, the GDF would have been able to arrange for Guide Poodle to get to the airport in Phoenix to travel with me but they are so snow-bound back east, the roads are so icy, all travel is dangerous. Still, this trip is special: I had, I thought, arranged to meet up with a gal pal from our village who's gone to see family in the USA, who drove to Spokane from New Denver, left her truck parked at Spokane airport, whose return flight to Spokane happens to require a 2-hour Phoenix layover. The plan was to have gotten a seat on the very same plane that is her return flight so we'd get to share stories, marvel at how the combined efforts of myriads of strangers has made it possible for us to travel together. After the plane landed, the plan was to gather up selves and stuff, retrieve her truck, hoist stuff and selves therein; she'd point the nose of her truck northerly, drive us to the international border where diligent Canada Customs and Immigration folk would ask where we've been, why we went where we did, what have we brought back with us?
Then, dollars to doughnuts, when we showed our papers, accounted for our travels, attested to the fact that the total value of our shopping did not amount to more than the allowed $500, asserted truthfully that we transported neither firearms, tobacco, alcohol, nor contraband, I have little doubt whoever was in the booth would have smiled and said, "Welcome home." With which sentiment, my galpal and I would have heartily agreed. Hospitality, as Miss Manners (columnist and author Judith Martin <http://www.missmanners.com/>) says, is a "wonderful, indeed a sacred thing."
Unfortunately, however, the best laid plans of mice and women gang off astray: we got our dates mixed up, she flew the day before I thought we were going to meet. (Isn't it interesting how life surprises us?!) Younger son, bless his heart, drove to Spokane to meet the plane; and Yes, we did sail through the border just fine...
But from the moment I first began mulling about the trip, I found myself provoked to reflect upon similarities and differences between New Denver and Arcosanti, and their most distinct respective communities. Not the first time I've pondered them in relation to one another, but I hadn't known until recently that New Denver and Mayer (Arcosanti's postal mail goes to Mayer, zip code 86333) have a sordid piece of history in common. Both Mayer and New Denver were the sites of internment camps in which Issei and Nissei (first and second generation Japanese-Americans/Japanese-Canadians) were forced to live during World War II.
Some 245 of the thousands of Issei (Americans born in Japan) and their Nissei children (born in the USA) who were rounded up (mostly on the West Coast), stripped of their property by the American government and relocated to prison camps, were sent to Mayer. Some 1500 of the thousands of Issei and Nissei who were rounded up at the BC coast, stripped of their property by the Canadian government, were sent to New Denver.
One significant difference between the two internment camp sites is that there is no notice at all in Mayer relating this painful chapter in its history; while New Denver, in The Orchard, the area of the village in which its internment camp was located, has a thoughtfully designed, carefully built, well-maintained, amply staffed memorial center that has been designated as a Canadian national historic site <http://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=15382>.
Another difference is that attention paid to provisioning for disability, about which I've written before on this blog <http://www.arcologycentral.net/blog/disability-consciousness-raising-101-the-crash-course-version> has been more immediate in New Denver than at Arcosanti. Evidence of this is <http://bctvkootenays.com/2016/01/17/guide-dog-and-service-dog-act-takes-effect/>, which a friend in New Denver recently brought to my attention.
Here's a sidebar: The population of New Denver is only 6 (six) times greater than that of Arcosanti currently, a number of people small enough for New Denver to be deemed "remote" rather than "rural" by the Province of BC. (To be designated a "city," BC requires a community to have a population of at least 10,000.) If the population of Arcosanti were only slightly smaller than the population of New Denver, the State of AZ could OK an application from Arcosanti to declare itself a "city" because Arcosanti is situated within 10 miles of a national monument <http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/blm_special_areas/natmon/afria.html>.
All this leads me again to wonder what Arcosanti is doing, what it can do, to better articulate and promote the purpose and value of its mission. As the internationally known project of a duly-registered 501-3C educational nonprofit, it has enormous potential. Despite the contributions of over 7000 people during the course of over forty years of construction, why is its population today fewer in number than that of a "remote" Canadian mountain village? What has been retarding Arcosanti's growth, holding it back from "growing up"? What does it want for itself?
In the course of the research for my pilot study, a number of Arconauts have commented on what they believe to be most problematic: the administration of Arcosanti by Cosanti Foundation. Visitors who've questioned Arcosanti tour guides (docents) about the makeup of the Foundation have expressed astonishment at its composition. Arconauts further articulate how troubled they are by an ongoing, long-term conflation of administration and management at Arcosanti. Both visitors and Arconauts point out that those Cosanti Foundation Trustees who work for Cosanti Originals, Arcosanti, or Cosanti Foundation itself cannot help but have conflict of interest issues: It is a well-known, major no-no in the world of non-profit organizations for any employee of the non-profit to have a place on its Board.
It is a no-no that exists globally because what ensues is predictable: A tendency to micromanage will couple with failure to delegate. "Hire to your weakness" - the core of good organizational management - means that you have to identify and acknowledge your weaknesses. This is very difficult, if not impossible to achieve without objective oversight.
Nepotism, appearances of favoritism, or even fraud will ensue if administration and management are not kept separate. The organization will evince a consistent lack of transparency, inconsistent policy and procedure, irrational decision-making; et al. All those maladies, many Arconauts feel, have been evident at Arcosanti. All are the consequences of the conflation of administration and management.
Inevitably such an engendered "conflict of interest" decision-making style cannot help but serve to perpetuate the "company town" mentality that was quite naturally bestowed by Paolo Soleri upon Arcosanti. That mentality, Arconauts have said, has somehow become entrenched, stifling Arcosanti's growth and development.
To respond to that critique, which I can well understand (partly because I've been involved in the non-profit sector for decades and have gotten to observe at close range a broad gamut of non-profit organizations from the practically dysfunctional to the superbly managed), I will venture now to offer my own observations and report some opinions:
First and foremost: Paolo Soleri's design genius did not make him a sophisticated administrator. For Cosanti Foundation to replicate his mistakes is not a rational way to assure that his genuine talents will receive the recognition they might well deserve. While it is heartening to witness positive, constructive change in the air, there has been both concern as well as ambiguity about how successful changes will be brought about, how they can and will be accomplished.
The Steering Committee has decided it is time to seek outside professional help to assist with development of Arcosanti. An RFQ has been put out; members of the Steering Committee, together with some of Cosanti Foundation's Trustees, have begun to interview some first responders. The RFQ itself can be downloaded from this page by those who'd like to have more information about what's involved.
Visitors as well as Arconauts will be curious to see how any professional planning team will help Cosanti Foundation's Board of Trustees effectively resolve noticeable conflict-of-interest issues, how hired professional planners will help the Foundation's Board to expand its membership and readily abet the "frugal but prosperous" growth of Arcosanti; how professional planners will make it possible for Cosanti Foundation Trustees to concentrate solely on how to best perform the basic consequential tasks of any non-profit's Board:
- Set policy;
- Raise money;
- Contract with independent personnel (a CEO, a Community Cooperative, a corporation acting as "principled partner," an LLC, or the like) to carry out the policy and manage/invest the money.
May the search for a professional consultant team bring empowerment to Arcosanti. And to all Arconauts, everywhere they are!
As I look through a telescopic lens focused on New Denver beside Arcosanti, what I notice is that although each of them functions rationally as a community despite the absence of any comprehensive development plan, New Denver makes much broader use of a full spectrum of available resources. Within an area not much larger than the "Old Town" of Arcosanti, New Denver has a nursery school, an esteemed K-12 school; excellent local medical care (hospital and adjacent long-term care facility); various not-for-profit organizations which manage art gallery exhibitions, local museums, music, drama and dance concerts/programs, sports and athletic activities, a farmers' market for local producers and local artisans, et al. Its commercial sector (originally resource-extraction based, now primarily tourism-related) is thriving. All of that has been/is being accomplished by a relatively small number of people.
Cosanti Foundation's Board of Trustees certainly should be much commended for their efforts to maintain Arcosanti, which has also accomplished much. It is nationally and internationally recognized. It is viewed by thousands of visitors. Its workshop program attracts participants from all over the world. Performances take place on a regular basis. Conferences are hosted from time to time. Recycling is valued. Its crafted products are a significant industrial contributor to its annual income.
Some of those who presently serve on the Cosanti Foundation Board of Trustees have done so for many years - for decades; in fact, for more than half their lives. Their dedication is admirable; Paolo Soleri was lucky to have had them, as are Arconauts. There can be no doubt whatsoever that Arcosanti has benefited from their energies, their talents and efforts, their loyalty.
But what is not yet clear, iin light of the questioning comments made by visitors and the reports by Arconauts about their experience of Arcosanti, is whether all those who have longest and most faithfully served The Cosanti Foundation are fully aware that people are remembered for what they have not done as well as what they have done. That sort of self-assessment has not been a topic open to discussion; thus I do not know what its dear gang of self-appointed "executives" believe their legacy will be. Nor am I exactly clear what each of those people wants his/her legacy to be.
Contemplating this dilemma which Arcosanti has willy-nilly managed to have fallen into, what are some alternatives? One alternative course of action that could be considered is that the Cosanti Foundation might reorganize, turn itself into a legally incorporated non-profit Cooperative. Rewriting its By-Laws and its Constitution could accomplish this relatively simply, a clever trick its legal counsel is undoubtedly quite capable of performing. In AZ, a Cooperative requires a minimum of five (5) founding members. As of now, there are at least that many Arconauts on site who've been involved with co-operatives, who have work experience in the co-operative sector.
Was it not the assertive management of Arcosanti by its constituents that was in Paolo Soleri's mind when he envisioned it in design? Paolo's articulation of that idea was not exhaustively explained or self-evident in his writing, nor was he able to spell out precisely how a member-driven Cosanti Community Cooperative composed of Arconauts at large, all focused on applying themselves to organizational development, would accomplish the goals it sets for itself, for Arcosanti. Neverthless it does seem to me that the basic premises of arcology, as Paolo Soleri had initially envisioned it, does substantiate a co-operative approach.
Indeed, the Cosanti Foundation's Board of Trustees has already taken a step in that direction: the four members of the Executive Committee are now "Co-Presidents" who are somehow equally involved with making management decisions. What if they took that cooperative decision-making a step further? Identify Arcosanti as a cooperative, a process-wise model, turn all the management and development processes in their entirety into cooperative ones, in which Arcosanti's entire constituency can participate?
Why not, indeed?
To further that transformation, given the notable long-standing connection which architects of Japanese descent or from Japan have had with Paolo Soleri at Cosanti and Arcosanti, why not focus Arconaut attention on that sad chapter in Mayer's history by architecturally honoring the experience of the Issei and Nissei so ignominiously interned there?
One thing of which I am certain is that for any critique to be worthwhile, it is better to frame it conscientiously and constructively. I hope/believe I'm doing that now by presenting here, in a personal context, the concerns of visitors and Arconauts who've confided in me as well as other docents.
May this be of benefit.