The Dark Side

I moved to Aberdeen, Washington about 4.5 years ago in September 2017 to get myself back into housing after nearly six years of homelessness. I soon began attending meetings open to the public related to my interest in community development work.

That December, I tripped across a job listing online and, on a lark -- having been up all night with terrible insomnia -- I applied for it with a decade-old resume that I couldn't figure out how to update. In spite of applying several days after the close, they followed up with me and I made it through to the next stage and was asked to submit an essay or something but did not make it to the interview stage.

So I didn't get the job but I live in this town and I hoped to make connections and yadda. I continued to attend meetings in hopes of contributing in a good faith fashion and networking and thereby establishing an income on the ground in addition to the freelance writing and blogging I do online.

Three months after they hired someone else, the person who did get the job told me one day in exasperation "If I QUIT, I will recommend you as my replacement. You could totally do this job." (That's a TLDR of a longer conversation.) Around the same time, I began hearing from other sources that movers and shakers in this town were not satisfied with his performance and I "might have another shot at the job."

Such rumors dragged on for something like two years before I decided to email the organization in question and let them know that I was no longer interested in the job.

On the one hand, Eclogiselle is a very old idea. I owned this same domain name once before years ago and then my life took a long detour before trying to get back to my career plans to do urban planning type stuff. On the other hand, this incarnation of the idea grew out of me imagining I would get this job because I kept being told I might.

I initially imagined I would do that job Monday-Friday and then provide regional planning services part-time on the weekends to address some local issues that I don't think can be addressed if you only deal with them locally.

When I was a volunteer, I had been feeding the local organization ideas and they had been using them but not giving me credit. After I walked away and began doing my own thing, I had reason to believe they continued to follow what I was doing online and when I wrote up Project Bike Rack, bike racks immediately began popping up like magic in downtown Aberdeen, as if someone were hanging on my every word and eager to use my ideas.

But I still got no credit, which was a problem because I can't build a viable business and an income if I can't get credit for my work. The bike racks were also poorly placed and not really what I had envisioned, among other issues.

Some months ago, I walked past the office of the organization in question and it was empty. However, their website is still up and still lists the same address. Since then, I haven't noticed any new bike racks either.

I have as yet been unable to find any affirmative verification that they have shut down, though I did see a recent article indicating the city is allocating funds for a city administrator which makes me feel like maybe some of those funds are available because the city has yanked funding on the organization in question.

My hopes that my past volunteer work and local organizations being familiar with me would lead to me being promoted via word of mouth and we would have some kind of healthy working relationship seem to be dead. I am no closer to figuring out a viable path forward on turning this into a real business than I was two nearly two years ago when I bought the domain name again.

If you live in a small town or unincorporated community, I am confident some of what I have already written is useful info that can help you address some local issues. But I am personally stymied as to where to go with this desire to do community development work as a business.

Most urban planning work is done either by government organizations or non-profits. When I was an active participant on Cyburbia years ago, the for-profit sector of urban planning was called The Dark Side.

From what I gather, most such businesses make their money doing stuff for local governments when they need to outsource help for their projects for some reason. That's mostly not really what I have in mind here and perhaps I'm just wrong.

Two years ago, as I was stepping away from attending local meethings, I took over r/aberdeenwa. At the time, it had like 10 members. It currently has 242 and has the most activity of any local subreddit in this area, so superficially "successful."

But it's been drama since day one in a way that none of my other reddits are. It continues to be ridiculous levels of drama for no apparent reason that I can really tell.

My best guess is that it is related to this backstory where I did attend meetings, people used my ideas but did not give me credit and did not help me establish an income even though local economic development was their stated mission.

Locals seem to have crazy expectations of what I can or "should" do. When I was a volunteer, they seemed to expect me to save this town without being paid for it -- though I was routinely the poorest person in the room by a wide margin -- and my feeling is that expectation persists and is still being hung on me though I walked away from my volunteer work.

I'm not making money doing things like running the local subreddit, yet people seem crazy invested in what I am doing and also openly hostile to me like I owe them something -- as if their tax dollars were supporting me when they aren't.

Eclogiselle is probably not dead but most past ideas of where this might go and how it might support me probably are dead. I have some new half-baked plans for what it might mean to do community development work as a for-profit business and those need time to be fleshed out.

Though given that I seem to have no local contacts but appear to have local enemies and to be generally hated by the membership of the local forum I run, perhaps Eclogiselle is dead -- at least in Aberdeen.

If I come up with some brilliant means to adequately support myself doing something else, I would be happy to do that. This is absolutely not paying my bills and I have an urgent need for a better income.

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