The “Talking Transition” project, organized to coincide with the Bloomberg-to-de Blasio changeover in New York City, is clearly designed to appropriate a bit of the Occupy Wall Street flavor that sprang up just two autumns ago — with its “tent” and its all-invited, bring-your-own agenda motif set in lower Manhattan.
But let’s not convince ourselves this "happening" holds the same unexpected qualities as the previous one — or more importantly, let's not imagine that, as open as it seems to be, it lacks any connection to organized elected and financial powers.
On the very same site near Canal Street and Sixth Avenue where OWS demonstrators massed for a short time in 2011, in a spillover from Zuccotti Park, “Talking Transition” has a tastefully-constructed, electrically-outfitted, well-staffed pavilion where, for example, John Podesta, Bill Clinton’s last White House chief of staff, last night took part in a panel discussion on transitions with other prominent figures. Foundation money is known to be supporting the enterprise, but there’s more to the mechanics. Said one Democratic de Blasio skeptic: “It’s nice, it’s a good thing, but it’s not really grass roots. It’s AstroTurf roots.”
Go to the website of HR&A Advisors, consultant to many big real estate firms and government authorities around the United States. If you click here, you’ll find this proclamation:
HR&A is proud serve as the program manager leading the design and implementation of this innovative civic engagement initiative on behalf of a coalition of ten New York City foundations, including the Open Society Foundation, Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and others. Talking Transition aims to foster New York City’s first “open” transition by providing thousands of New Yorkers the opportunity to participate in public conversations about policy issues, ideas and questions that affect their communities.
One of the partners at HR&A is Carl Weisbrod (click here), the well-known civic development guru who’s also one of the four appointed leaders of the official de Blasio transition advisory team.
Some activists, by the way, declared in recent days that labor unions should raise their voices in the “Talking Transition” events. So at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, says an announcement just received, “A Labor Town Hall will be hosted by veteran labor journalist Bob Hennelly, co-host of Haskins and Hennelly, a pro-labor morning drive program on WBAI, 99.5 Pacifica. Confirmed guests include CWA's Bob Masters.”
In short, an interesting assemblage. What specific impact it might have on the incoming administration remains to be seen.