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Unread 04-15-2018, 07:03 AM
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FIRST in Michigan and Questions

I'm all for leaving politics out of FIRST as much is reasonable. I'm happy to set partisanship aside for FIRST. But sometimes, FIRST's interests align with the interests of those in government, so sometimes it's unavoidable.

When a sponsor wants to support FIRST, they get something in return. They speak at an event or their name goes on an award. Since it's an implicit endorsement of that individual or sponsor, FIRST can't do it for just anyone. I think we can all agree that there are people FIRST should not be giving a stage.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is one of those people.

For those who are unaware, Michigan's state government is responsible for the exposure of around 5 to 10 thousand children to leaded water. A few of the folks charged with crimes (still in court) were two Flint emergency managers (appointed by & directly reported to Snyder) and the Director of the Dept of Health and Human Services (appointed by & directly reported to Snyder). Additionally, the Director of the Dept of Environmental Quality (appointed by & directly reported to Snyder) resigned in December 2015, 5 months after the DEQ stated "Anyone who is concerned about lead in the drinking water in Flint can relax," and two months after they finally confirmed numerous studies that showed high lead levels in the water.*

Can you a imagine a situation where three people, all reporting to the same manager, are fired for the same cause, but the manager was not at fault and was not held accountable? Many are surprised Snyder has not resigned, was not charged, and is not currently in a cell.

So you can imagine my surprise when Rick Snyder speaking is the cause of a long break between divisional quarters and semis.
When Rick Snyder hands out a number of awards, right then and there.
When FIRST in Michigan sends out Michigan's foremost MC (and a WFA), and he tells the crowd that Rick Snyder should be President of the United States.

Wow. Right in front of no small number of Flint-area teams. That is despicable.

I do not understand how someone who has spent so much time and energy in a program for students could make such an abhorrent comment. Clean water does more for kids than FIRST ever could.

I do not understand how an organization—its president and board of directors—could allow and abide by a statement like that.

FIRST in Michigan did not keep that from happening.
FIRST in Michigan did not get on the microphone right afterwards and say that's not their opinion.
FIRST in Michigan did not write up a press release clarifying their position.

So maybe we do understand. FIRST in Michigan fills its pockets through moral bankruptcy.



*For additional info, some links:
https://www.cnn.com/2016/03/04/us/fl...cts/index.html
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/08/u...r-bottles.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flint_water_crisis
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Unread 04-15-2018, 09:10 AM
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Re: FIRST in Michigan and Moral Bankruptcy

Does FIRST in Michigan have 500 FRC teams without Rick Snyder? Within the confines of the program (from an outsider's perspective) it seems like Rick Snyder has done a lot of good for FIRST in Michigan. FIRST, as an organization that seems to make an effort to remain politically neutral for the most part, is honoring somebody who has done great things within the confines of their arena.

I'm not about to get into a political flame war about who should and shouldn't be honored and recognized by FIRST, but at least to me it makes sense that FIRST would give the governor of Michigan a platform at the State Championship in order to maintain relationships with the the Michigan state government through a transition of power.

I think there are very few cases where FIRST would not invite a high ranking government official in to speak at an event. There are always going to be people in the crowd that disagree with the political views of the government official who is speaking. I think it's more about the political office than the actual politician that holds significance to most people.
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Unread 04-15-2018, 09:11 AM
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Re: FIRST in Michigan and Moral Bankruptcy

Basel,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Basel A View Post
I'm all for leaving politics out of FIRST as much is reasonable. I'm happy to set partisanship aside for FIRST. But sometimes, FIRST's interests align with the interests of those in government, so sometimes it's unavoidable.
Governor Rick Snyder has been a big supporter of FIRST since 2013, investing millions of dollars in state funds to support STEM education, specifically funding FTC and FRC teams. Michigan has over 500 FRC teams and his efforts are but one reason for this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Basel A View Post
Can you a imagine a situation where three people, all reporting to the same manager, are fired for the same cause, but the manager was not at fault and was not held accountable? Many are surprised Snyder has not resigned, was not charged, and is not currently in a cell.
While I don't disagree with your characterization of his involvement with the Flint water crisis, suggesting that because the individuals that were directly involved in the poor decisions should require his removal, that is up to the voters and their elected legislators.

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Originally Posted by Basel A View Post
So maybe we do understand. FIRST in Michigan fills its pockets through moral bankruptcy.
This is a very strong and inflammatory statement.
I think your brushstrokes are too broad.

In my opinion, FiM has done more to improve the viability of FIRST than any other organization.

This criteria could apply to many of the sponsors of FIRST that work with the government and may have involvement in the Military/Industrial complex regarding ones thoughts on profiting through "moral bankruptcy".

Maybe we each make bargains with our devils in order to achieve what many of us believe is a worthy goal.
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Unread 04-15-2018, 10:32 AM
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Re: FIRST in Michigan and Moral Bankruptcy

Basel,

I want to thank you for putting this out there. It is, in my opinion, a critically important point that is all too easily overlooked most of the time.

One of FIRST's strengths is its ability to remain above the fray of the cruder political environment and bring people together around common causes. As a general rule, FIRST should not be promoting favoritism of one political party over another when it comes to whom they feature at their events. However, I believe, as it seems you do as well, that Rick Snyder is a special case and not deserving of FIRST or FiM's admiration for reasons far greater than mere partisanship. The next governor will have the chance to start with a clean slate next year.

I deeply believe in the work FiM does, but none of it is worth endorsing what the Michigan state government has done to its own people over the last four years. People are greater than robots.
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Unread 04-15-2018, 10:33 AM
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Re: FIRST in Michigan and Moral Bankruptcy

I don't know if Rick Snyder has personally donated to the support of First Robotics, like the FIM Mentors and Volunteers have. It does not take much effort to spend MI tax payer dollars for a fast track education tool. That is just a no brainer. But someone taking credit, while standing on the shoulders of the MI tax payers, is just plain wrong. I believe we should be respected for our own personal contributions.

People should understand that while the citizens in Flint were drinking lead tainted water, the pipes in East Lansing were already being replaced. The Congress is by East Lansing. They were not likely to drink Flint water. Gov. Synder did promise to drink Flint water and then promptly flew off to Europe....

Side note- I was at the MI State Championships. Visitors from out of the region leave early in the morning, because they don't know the typical travel timings and because parking closer in foul weather would help to keep them dry and healthy. FIRST disappointed me. Caring people do not leave their friends out in a cold nasty rain. But then, I am driven by Christian principals. It would be easy to let the people into the building and to request that they not go to the Pits. I have found the Teams of FIRST to be worthy of trust.
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Unread 04-15-2018, 10:45 AM
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It’s rather ironic that the FLL theme this year was clean water... In any event, what were the First PR people thinking? (Or not)


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Unread 04-15-2018, 11:42 AM
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Re: FIRST in Michigan and Moral Bankruptcy

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Originally Posted by Ginger Power View Post
I think there are very few cases where FIRST would not invite a high ranking government official in to speak at an event. There are always going to be people in the crowd that disagree with the political views of the government official who is speaking. I think it's more about the political office than the actual politician that holds significance to most people.
Let's be clear, Rick Snyder has spoken at MSC before, and even personally given out awards. I did not post a thread like this one. I bit my tongue.

We're talking about the explicit endorsement of this politician, by an MC volunteering for FiM at a FiM event. And we're talking about FiM taking zero steps to indicate that they don't share the same view.
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Unread 04-15-2018, 11:47 AM
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Re: FIRST in Michigan and Moral Bankruptcy

I agree with everything you've said in this post, Basel. I will say, however, I do remember the MC saying during opening ceremonies that he had not gotten what he was about to say approved by FiM or by FIRST HQ, so I will reserve judgement on FiM in general for that statement until we find out whether they put out a statement regarding what the MC said. However, I do agree with the statement to be tone deaf and very insensitive, and continuing to invite Snyder to MSC to speak is abhorrent. In the grand scope of things, yes, FIRST is important, but human rights are much more important. I hope in 2019, Snyder is not allowed anywhere near an opening ceremony.
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Unread 04-15-2018, 11:50 AM
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Re: FIRST in Michigan and Moral Bankruptcy

I'm in FiM, and while I appreciate what Gov. Snyder has done for FRC, I don't think he should have been given the stage he was.

I do believe that FIRST should try to remain apolitical as much as it is possible to do so. It's possible to recognize the positive contributions of Snyder to FiM without giving him the amount of recognition that happened at MSC. Personally, I believe it would be appropriate to do something like offer him a VIP field side pass. I don't think we need to designate special awards for him to give out, or have the long honorary speech about how wonderful he is.

This is just my personal opinion as someone who really doesn't agree with his politics, and thinks his treatment of the Flint situation has been pretty heinous. I understand that FiM probably feels to some degree obligated to honor the major progress that Snyder has helped facilitate, but he's also a problematic figure to many people in Michigan and elsewhere, and the level of recognition he receives should reflect that, in my opinion. Fortunately, we're about to have a new governor here, hopefully someone that can promote STEM and also do a good job governing the state of Michigan as a whole.

Edit: Someone mentioned something about the MC saying that what they said was not approved by FiM(I happened to be working on my robot at this event, so I didn't catch every bit). If nothing else, this is a sign that the monologues should be approved. Speeches as a part of official ceremonies at an event give the impression that they represent the opinion of FiM, and FiM ought to take care that what is said is deemed appropriate by them.
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Unread 04-15-2018, 11:53 AM
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Re: FIRST in Michigan and Moral Bankruptcy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Basel A View Post
We're talking about the explicit endorsement of this politician, by an MC volunteering for FiM at a FiM event. And we're talking about FiM taking zero steps to indicate that they don't share the same view.
Gotcha. That makes way more sense. I'm not in favor of any endorsement of any political candidate at a FIRST event. I don't think it's the time or place for a volunteer to express their views. I completely understand your frustration with the situation.
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Unread 04-15-2018, 12:03 PM
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Re: FIRST in Michigan and Moral Bankruptcy

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Originally Posted by MooreteP View Post
Governor Rick Snyder has been a big supporter of FIRST since 2013, investing millions of dollars in state funds to support STEM education, specifically funding FTC and FRC teams. Michigan has over 500 FRC teams and his efforts are but one reason for this.
As it turns out, FRC isn't the most important thing in the world. There's a town where people are dying because they can't get clean water (which recently had its supply of bottled water cut off by the MI government) and a robotics competition (which, by the way, is in the system that was specifically created to need less funding) is more important?
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Unread 04-15-2018, 12:37 PM
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Re: FIRST in Michigan and Moral Bankruptcy

Governors, Senators, Congressmen, Mayors the list goes on. These people speak at almost all FIRST events. How is FIRST or more precisely the local faction of FIRST going to set the bar? Anyone who speaks at an event will probably offend someone. If Donald Trump was speaking at an event 1/2 the country would be outraged. If Xi Jinping did many people would be upset too.
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Unread 04-15-2018, 01:34 PM
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Re: FIRST in Michigan and Moral Bankruptcy

Quote:
Originally Posted by snoman View Post
Governors, Senators, Congressmen, Mayors the list goes on. These people speak at almost all FIRST events. How is FIRST or more precisely the local faction of FIRST going to set the bar? Anyone who speaks at an event will probably offend someone. If Donald Trump was speaking at an event 1/2 the country would be outraged. If Xi Jinping did many people would be upset too.
There are both different levels of abhorrent people and different levels of recognition. When a video of Donald Trump giving a congratulatory message was played at the FoC, I didn't like it, but I found it reasonable and acceptable. I certainly didn't start a thread about it. This situation is not even comparable. Snyder was explicitly endorsed for higher office.
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Unread 04-15-2018, 02:18 PM
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Re: FIRST in Michigan and Moral Bankruptcy

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Originally Posted by Basel A View Post
For those who are unaware, Michigan's state government is responsible for the exposure of around 5 to 10 thousand children to leaded water. A few of the folks charged with crimes (still in court) were two Flint emergency managers (appointed by & directly reported to Snyder) and the Director of the Dept of Health and Human Services (appointed by & directly reported to Snyder). Additionally, the Director of the Dept of Environmental Quality (appointed by & directly reported to Snyder) resigned in December 2015, 5 months after the DEQ stated "Anyone who is concerned about lead in the drinking water in Flint can relax," and two months after they finally confirmed numerous studies that showed high lead levels in the water.*
A few things here, firstly, to place all the blame on the state government is a mischaracterization of the facts. The switch to the Flint River water source (the cause of the lead problem) was approved by the Flint City Council both before the Emergency Manager and again during his tenure. The previous water source (Detroit City water) had been constantly raising its prices, and with the City going bankrupt they needed a hold-over solution until a new water source could be built (currently still in progress). I suspect even if there had not been an emergency manager appointed and the city had simply been allowed to go into bankruptcy, a bankruptcy judge likely would have ordered the same thing, since at the time given available information, it was an obvious cost cutting solution with no visible (again, at the time) down-sides.

It should be further noted that the governor could have appointed anyone, but he chose to appoint a Democrat as Flints emergency manager who he felt would be more in-line with the local populations view points, which suggests he may not have chosen the best person for the job, simply in order to avoid political repercussions (make of this what you will).

Also, though it doesn't lessen the issues in Flint, subsequent studies have shown similar (or even higher) lead levels in a number of cities across the state with no emergency managers (do some research, your state might have this problem too). This is actually a fairly common problem as keeping ALL lead out of the water of old homes that still have lead pipes in them is pretty difficult to do. Personally, my opinion is that people should have had their own pipes updated at some point in the 50+ years we've known about the issues with Lead (and most of these places are not or have not been in poverty for this entire period, Flint included), it's not the state governments job to keep your personal property up to code.


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Can you a imagine a situation where three people, all reporting to the same manager, are fired for the same cause, but the manager was not at fault and was not held accountable? Many are surprised Snyder has not resigned, was not charged, and is not currently in a cell.
Yes actually, it happens all the time. Just because people report to the same manager doesn't mean they told said manager the intricate details of their current work, or that said manager can be expected to regularly micromanage the thousands of people who report to him. You prosecute people who knew and were negligent, but there's no evidence that's been presented that the governor was aware of the issue in advance and chose not to act anyways.

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So you can imagine my surprise when Rick Snyder speaking is the cause of a long break between divisional quarters and semis.
When Rick Snyder hands out a number of awards, right then and there.
When FIRST in Michigan sends out Michigan's foremost MC (and a WFA), and he tells the crowd that Rick Snyder should be President of the United States.
Wow. Right in front of no small number of Flint-area teams. That is despicable.

I do not understand how someone who has spent so much time and energy in a program for students could make such an abhorrent comment. Clean water does more for kids than FIRST ever could.

I do not understand how an organization—its president and board of directors—could allow and abide by a statement like that.

FIRST in Michigan did not keep that from happening.
FIRST in Michigan did not get on the microphone right afterwards and say that's not their opinion.
FIRST in Michigan did not write up a press release clarifying their position.

So maybe we do understand. FIRST in Michigan fills its pockets through moral bankruptcy.
A large number of teams in that room owe their existence to the legislation pushed by the governor that funded their creation, and in some cases, supplements them currently, including many of the teams in Flint.

The objective of FIRST in Michigan is to expand the reach of FIRST programs within the state, to that end, it makes sense to support someone who's made it possible to grow the FIRST program in the state by something like a factor of 10 in only a few years. While the events in Flint over the past few years have been unfortunate, they are outside the scope of FiMs activities and do not directly impact FiMs mission.

Imagine if every non-profit worried about every single issue, related to their goals or not. Is an environmental non-profit going to stop taking federal money if the government starts a war? Is a refugee support non-profit going to stop taking government funding because the government opens up oil drilling? Of course not, the issues are unrelated. I would love to see even a single instance where a non-profit organization turned down government funding, or the support of a politician responsible for said funding, over a completely unrelated issue, especially when that funding was a large part of their budget.

How many teams are sponsored by NASA, or military arms companies, or the military themselves? Are they supposed to shun their sponsors because of their activities or the activities of the people running them?

In fact, glancing down your own teams sponsor list, I suspect I could come up with a number of "deplorable" activities a few of them have/do engage in. I wonder if you apply your moral standards to the people giving you money, or just to others. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone".


Quote:
Originally Posted by bobbysq View Post
...There's a town where people are dying because they can't get clean water (which recently had its supply of bottled water cut off by the MI government)...
This is simply not true, both the City and the State have been distributing water filters to residents since the issue began, which is a far more practical and less expensive solution than bottled water, the issue is that there are a number of superstitious residents that don't trust the water filters, even after their water is independently tested and comes back clean. There is also currently ZERO evidence to support the claim that anyone has died as a result of the Flint water crisis.
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Last edited by cbale2000 : 04-15-2018 at 02:27 PM.
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Unread 04-15-2018, 02:37 PM
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Re: FIRST in Michigan and Moral Bankruptcy

If anything, comments here show that this is a contentious issue with strong opinions on either side. Gven that, any decision to disinvite the Governor would be seen as a political statement.

When an apolitical nonprofit makes political statements, it risks alienating people who disagree with it. Worse, that alienation does nothing to further its purpose and, in fact, detracts from it.

In other words, First HQ should stick to its knitting.
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