Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cody Lyon is moving to Austin: a note to NYC and a farewell to boot

Dear Friends and Associates,

After a 84.99 years in NYC, this Birmingham, Shelby County Alabama native has landed a Real Estate reporter position in Austin Texas. So, he is up and moving to this progressive, economically viable oasis located right near Texas hill country. I'm excited about the challenges that await in the state capital, Austin. After all, this is a city that has always been on my mind as a place I'd consider living and working. Further, from what I can tell at this early hour, Austin is at something I'd call a crossroads when it comes to the direction of its growth and development over the coming years. I can think of no other beat to cover that's more exciting than the business of bricks and mortar as well as entrepreneurial spirit taking place within this town's real estate community.

But before I head down to the Austin City Limits, my friends and I are planning a get together (hopefully a bash for those that can stay late) for Tuesday 4/5 beginning at 8:30 lasting til, who knows when. Bring one, bring all.

The party basics: BEDLAM BAR is at 40 Avenue C between 3rd and 4th st in Manhattan's East Village on this next TUESDAY 4/5 beginning at 8:30

That said; since I love parties and sweet lullaby notes on my adventures, here's a little love to NYC;
Please spread the word because any real 'guest list' is to impossible to organize fully when one's moving, but, it should include all those I've worked with, for or even those I happened to say hello to more than once. The hundreds I met on a progressively more expensive bar crawl beginning in the early 90's at Holiday Cocktail lounge then on to other places along clubs, dances and events, all filled with kindred souls at places like Sound Factory, Tunnel, Pier Dances, Allegria,Body n Soul, Pyramid or maybe a house party or even in some field someplace upstate or in Nevada. Also, hope to see a rep from the hundreds I met while working on causes,campaigns or other volunteer events where we thought we could make the world a bit better. And of course, those like me, who came here from all across this big old world and found the survival money makers at NY treasures like Bright Food Shop where I might have served you a quesadilla or Tostada or some bar but still, along the way, grew close to co workers or made friends with customers, even if they happened to be a music legend, writer or movie star, maybe even Bill's Attorney General......over the years I made many a drink at various venues mostly on the east side where debauchery rained down from the sky and as NYC goes, I carved out homes in a village of buildings, some nice, some spooky, all mostly sharing NYC experiences with roomates or those special someones who through the grace of God, along the way, became and remained friends to this day.

To those I overcharged for obviously marked up expensive wine at Gemma, sorry, To the masses I checked coats for at Bedlam or Eastern Bloc, sorry for being disorganized, I was never good with fabric. To the fashion crowd I spent time with simply hanging out or while assisting my set designer friend, thanks for the window into that glamorous world, I never realized that clothing, something lots of people consider frivolous was one of New York's most vital economic engines producing more jobs and salary than steel mills in this country. And, more beautiful, I never realized fashion is truly a portrait of our moments, a reflection of our collective moods and that my friends, is power. I also hope that all those I learned with and from at Hunter College along with my comrades of truth and narratives as well as those prophets of fact checking who I had the privilege of learning from at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism can make it to my little gathering. This invite is also for anyone that I may have accidentally almost run over while on my bike getting from point A to B. Truth be told, I've secretly waged a personal campaign to make this town more bike friendly: a place where the most obvious, fastest way to move around in NYC does not require the burning of petrol and at the same time, makes us a healthier people. And, for those who I tossed a knowing (wink) look at, say at the eagle, the cock, Allegria, or even online or my most favorite, the pier perhaps on one hot summer Sunday, please come by next Tuesday. Those looks were always from an honest place of affection, a sincere interest in knowing who you were. To those who allowed that ' look' to go that just one step further, regardless of where things arrived, glad it happened, please be there.

Albeit less acknowledged than it should as far as its impact on the direction my life took from then on out..... for those I shared a tear, a hug or a cry; for those who like me changed after seeing, then smelling that putrid smoke of depression in those weeks after that event, a moment we never thought possible in 'our' own back yards, I hope you'll stop by. After all, it was that heartbreaking day and the months that followed when many were simply scared away; fortunately, as NYC's magnetic pull often commands, most of us were left here, and many of us processed and found comfort in the therapeutic power of detailed story telling about where we were that morning, that night and the days that followed 9/11. To you, I hope you'll come by.

But, closer to the ground of my current reality, if you've ever read, or been happy, interested or repulsed with my writing, reporting or opinions in a publication, blog letter or conversation, please stop by, I need you there. I've learned, much like a preacher telling the gospel, no matter what your beat is, Journalism in its purest non sensational form is a sacred tool that can inform people of facts that change the world we live in. Obviously, in this profit driven world, being pure can get tough, but, I will always try.

But...Enough of my rambling...the.point is, I love this city, it's in my soul. I can always come back. That said, it would be an understatement to say that this has been an 'eventful' year for me. I've known pain and loss that I never thought possible. I'm glad to be going away for what sounds like a fantastic journalistic career opportunity in a city that, Lord have Mercy has 300 days of sunshine and bike lanes because it's the peoples desire to have them there. There's rivers, lakes and for my reporting beat, stories of transformation, lots of real estate development activity, interesting politics and all that in a tradition filled with plenty of weirdness backed up by a kick butt economy that's been further driven by the spirit of innovation and an eye to the future. I'm excited.

And, with that note, I hope all of you that can, will stop by Tuesday night, that's this upcoming April 5 beginning at 8:30. Bring all your Austin advice, sources, story ideas and your love and best wishes because I need them!!!, I'm just a tad nervous!!!.....BEDLAM BAR Ave C bet 3-4 st ph 212-228-1049

Monday, March 07, 2011

Once again, 60 Minutes holds up a Mirror to the Nation

by Cody Lyon

On March 6, 2011, CBS News’ 60 Minutes demonstrated yet again why it’s often viewed as the gold standard of broadcast journalism. This time, reporter Scott Pelley along with producers Robert G. Anderson, Nicole Young and Daniel Rutenick took viewers to Seminole County Florida, an area right near Disney World, to show us how this Great Recession is so much more than a river of mind numbing numbers and policy speeches. Instead, the economic events of the past few years have led to a tsunami of chaos and upheaval for millions of lives, wreaking hardship and havoc on some of the most vulnerable, in this report, children. 60 Minutes noted that the government considers a family of four to be impoverished if it brings home less than $22,000 a year. And as Pelley reports, with unemployment numbers expected to remain largely stagnant in the coming years, a staggering 25%, or one out four kids will soon reach the poverty level.
Link to 60 Minutes story:

Perhaps the most moving moments in the report came from interviews with the children themselves, victims of economy who played no role in this meltdown or any other circumstances that may have led to their current misfortune. Pelley gently asks questions that produce details of unimaginable upheaval and now chronic insecurity. Some of the kids in the piece are now classified as homeless with many now staying in rundown motels. One brother and sister talk about the days following both parent’s job layoffs and the resulting loss of their home to foreclosure. For a short while, the family slept in a van parked at a Wal Mart parking lot, where morning routines included what they described as embarrassing trips into the store’s restroom to wash off before school.

No doubt, Americans recognize this recession as more than a wonkish word. In fact, the economic collapse that officially began in 2008 has meant, and is probably going to lead to even more dramatic economic readjustment in the coming years. But, far to often, the news we watch or read detailing what some call an economic remap of society, gets left just at that, official terms and numbers. In fact, far to often those numbers or 'indicators' get simplified and sometimes, they get picked up as political armor to further unrelated agendas and reactionary policy. But, perhaps most dangerous, simply citing numbers or arguing about them in partisan TV chat fests doesn't respect the public's intelligence, and in some cases, drives many citizens to simply tune out. But, when a major news organization like 60 Minutes, takes the time to translate the figures into a measured, non partisan real life piece of journalism, a mirror is held up to the place and people we as a nation have become. And, often times, that leads to some collective pause, discussion and hopefully more informed decisions about the direction our nation heads into. That’s one of the beauties of quality journalism in a free society during times of serious challenge.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Labor Misinformation and Union Slap-Downs in America

The Public and the Importance of Unions

OPINION- by Cody Lyon

On February 28, “The New York Times” published the article ‘Public Unions Debate How to Save Bargaining. ’ Inadvertently, the story raises deeper and very fundamental questions about the evolution of American attitudes towards work, compensation and the concept of job security. In particular, an assertion, that several new Republican leaders say they feel strong constituent support for taking on public sector unions, since private sector workers no longer enjoy the job protection, health benefits and, especially, pension plans that many state and local workers still have.

While some private sector resentment of public sector job security maybe understandable in this era of economic uncertainty, high unemployment and an increasingly less solvent Federal safety net for old age, one could argue that a lot of the ill feelings directed towards unions are misdirected, perhaps based on misinformation and collective short memory, due in part to the lack of solid, full reporting on union history. There are telling facts and statistics behind this story that Americans may want to keep in mind. Besides that, while many new Republican leaders may claim that much of their constituency is anti-union, there are many among the same community who would probably beg to differ.

Regardless, an exception to any real or perceived dearth of information was “The New Yorker’s” Hendrik Hertzberg who noted in a dramatic March 7 Talk of the Town piece called "Union Blues" that ‘organized labor’s catastrophic decline has paralleled-and, to a disputed but indisputably substantial degree, precipitated-an equally dramatic rise in economic inequality. “ He points out that back in 1980, ‘the best off one tenth of American families collected about a third of the nation’s income. The top one percent is getting a full fifth, double what it got in 1980. A quick look at data from the United States Department of Commerce and the IRS appears to confirm much of Hetzberg’s statistical assertions. Hertzberg also points out that these days, more union members are government workers than private employees.

Now on to the other current reality. While there’s no doubt that many city and state public service unions are going to have to deal with new, in some cases, grim economic realities, there are more realistic sacrifices members can make and government leaders might consider, rather than the radical dismantling of the negotiating tool. For whatever reasons, a number of states and cities are dangerously teetering on the brink of broke. And, there's no doubt that the generous compensatory benefit, say a teacher or cop gets to work 20 years, and then gets full retirement benefits, well, that seems a bit 'far fetched' and generous to many taxpayers today in this new economic atmospher. And, it would be unrealistic to sugar coat or romanticize the often checkered past of private sector union culture and its rashes of corruption throughout American history. It hasn't all just been one big Norma Rae story at the Cotton Mill.

Still though, it might also serve Americans to call upon the greater spirits of worker history in this nation and remember too, that it wasn’t unions who over time stripped private sector workers of any sense of collective bargaining power over the years, it was the company hunger for a better bottom line on Wall Street. Although they've been blamed for it, unions didn’t decimate entire cities and regions of the nation when they closed up shop for cheaper, some might say, less than moral working pools of cheap labor in lands across the sea. And it was not unions, who began to dilute and destroy the dignity of the bargaining tool, those fundamental negotiations between a company and its workers who all, in the end, had a vested interest in that company’s product quality and its financial well being. Not to be to simplistic, but after-all, it was those negotiations that created many an American dream, those countless stories of job security, health benefits and allowed entire swaths of Americans living less worrisome and more dignified ‘golden’ years. The hope is that the private sector American worker lucky enough to be employed is not simply settling on contentment with a system that takes it for granted.