Archive for June, 2012

h1

90…93…96…93…94…97…93

June 30, 2012

That combination of numbers in this morning’s paper truly freaks me out…especially when it is combined with high dew points and descriptors like steamy, hazy, humid, sweaty, and is it over yet .

No, I am not one that will be rejoicing today as we look towards the first week of July and the forecasted weather.

Even as a child, I did not like it HOT…but when I complained, the response was always to quit complaining…this is nothing compared to the summer of 1931-– the year my parents used as the one that was REALLY hot (why, it was an oven!) – sometime during that dark time called the Great Depression of Big Dust Bowls. Sometime long ago (probably 20-25 years prior) that I was sure was not that bad, and would never happen again.  After all, I never understood why they did not just stop filling that big bowl with dirt and putting it in the oven anyway!  Why didn’t they keep it in the freezer?

So, I recognize when one is looking for a sympathetic ear, one does NOT want to hear that “this is nothing; you should have experienced x”. 

Nevertheless, those awful numbers above were accompanied by the Paul Douglas blog that referred to the Summer of 1988 with 44 days above 90 degrees.  Oh yes, the year of the Carlson Companies 50th Anniversary, the year the air conditioning in my house was not working, and the year I wanted to move to Alaska! 

By then, I already knew I had a sun allergy, with scars on my arms to prove it from the sun “bumps” that often erupted into sores…so I was already sentenced to always being “covered up”.  By then, I knew I had inherited yet another miserable thing from my mother – humidity created “elephantitis “in feet, legs and hands – for which there was no relief except a temporary ice wrap.  So I viewed my workload of three sales meetings involving about 1600 CMG/CPG people “feeding” into the weekend of the 8000 person gathering of the Carlson corporate celebration almost a relief.  At least I was in my office 12-14 hours a day…followed by another hour or two at Mulligan’s after work…before I had to face going home.

I was so looking forward to checking into the Downtown Marriott for ten days …and cannot even  describe the glee I felt when on my arrival day, shortly after I checked in – it started to RAIN. YES!  I headed for the elevator, and simply stood out on 7th street and got soakedIt was wonderful. 

All in all, we had 44 days that summer that were over 90 degrees.  It was really an awful summer. Douglas is projecting only 30 days of misery this summer, so I guess we should quit complaining.  And yes, I know what you are thinking. …that bad summer I remember was 24 years ago…it couldn’t be as bad as what we are facing now.  Let’s talk again in September…I will agree with you if we end up with 45-50 days over 90!

 

 

Advertisements
h1

THE GREAT RESET – A NEW WAY OF LIFE

June 30, 2012

Except for some exceptional boom periods, housing has never been a good financial investment.”  Richard Florida; The Great Reset

                                                                                                                                                                                                       

It used to be the business of America was business.  Now the business of America is homeownership.  To recover and grow again, America needs to get over its ‘house passion’. “  Edmund Phelps, Economist

                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Among people of similar financial status, those who chose to rent in 2004 had more wealth in 2009 than those who bought their homes.”  Wendell Cox, Suburbs and Cities:  The Unexpected Truth

                                                                                                                                                          

                                                                                                                                                                      

 

The Strib’s “Big US Cities Boom as Young Adults Shun ‘Burbs’ “ headline caught my attention this morning. The accompanying  AT A GLANCE Box reported:

  • Primary cities in large metro areas over time grew more than surrounding suburbs.
  • City growth in 2011 surpassed or equaled suburbs in 33 of the nation’s top 51 metro areas, compared to only 5 in 2000-2010.
  • 52 of 73 cities over 250,000 showed faster annual growth in 2011 than their average growth in the last decade.

 I assumed, hopefully, that the article was reporting evidence that the Reset that has to come from grass roots had begun and now had been noticed by the press.   I should have known better.  The press are, of course, still back in the 20th century with the politicians.

The story reported that young adults were “spurning homeownership in the suburbs for shorter-term no-strings-attached apartment living, public transit, and proximity to potential jobs in larger cities “– not as a part of the Reset, or the New Normal, but because nothing has been done about the weak job market, high unemployment, delayed careers, a college debt burden and availability of only lower-wage positions.

The authors assured the audience however, that economists believed this city boom was only temporary,  because, after all, the last time people moved to the cities was prior to 1920.  Ah yes, that was the spatial fix caused by the Long Depression of 1873, wasn’t it?  Then we got out of control again; crashed in 1929, headed into the Great Depression of the 30s; experienced a second reset and spatial fix as people moved to the suburbs that lasted well into the 60s.

And here we are again.  Another crash in 2008 and we are now looking for the spatial fix to slowly end the Great Recession. 

I hope I am right and the Strib is wrong.  I hope this spatial fix does not peter out; we need it to become a grassroots happening so we can move forward.    If the stats are correct, I could be right and we could be moving in the right direction.  If we are, do you think the Press and Pols will come along with us, or will they prefer to stay in the safe world of the 20th century?

 

h1

SPORTS and the CATHOLIC CHURCH

June 26, 2012

Ask yourself WHY these two  institutions are currently (and again) in the midst of pedophile national scandals.

The Press coverage and guilty verdicts last week of Sandusky and the Monsignor have had my brain churning.  What is it about sports and religion – both of whom purport to help children as one of their objectives- that fuels these awful nightmares?

Do they naturally attract pedophiles because that is where they find vulnerable children looking for a caring adult role model?

Or is the answer not in the pedophiles themselves, but in the institutions to which such individuals are attracted?

Why does it seem the institutions “cover up” or ignore as their first priority?  It’s getting hard to continue to accept that those who could step in and stop the atrocities “didn’t know” or “couldn’t believe it”.  After all, how many times over the last 50 years has it happened?

And yet, it is equally as hard to believe that either institution could with good conscience put their institution’s reputation, desire to win, fame, money, or whatever the motivator of the day is above the very audience they proclaim they serve.

Do they believe their championing of a “greater good” can ever be an excuse for the evil within their ranks?

I have no answers; I wrestle with this each time another horrendous occurrence surfaces. So I was encouraged to see the Monsignor found guilty. The Church may not think they have an issue, but the citizens that judged them found them guilty; perhaps that is signal that we need to look deeper for the source.

A Letter to the Editor in the Strib today presented the argument this is an abuse of power – and that when protection of power is pitted against the protection of disadvantaged and vulnerable people, “power will do whatever it has to do to protect itself”.   That may be so, but it does not make it right; so how do we make those responsible accountable?

The author of the Letter to the Editor suggests that we each individually now have a choice to make:  Do we pretend Sandusky and Penn State did not happen or do we learn from it no matter how painful?

And of course, that leads my brain to larger questions… Is it a reflection of OUR values that allows this to continue?  Why do we not routinely question responsible sources for cover up and hold them accountable? 

For me, there is no logical pathway to the answers.  The only thing I know for sure is that it is not enough to find the pedophile himself guilty; we have to fix the systems that value a win or power or whatever  more than we value the victim….even if it means a major RETHINK should be applied to both as we now know them.   Both the sports world and the Catholic Church need to understand the end does not justify the mean.

 

h1

SPATIAL FIXES for Ecomonic Recovery

June 24, 2012

According to Richard Florida, one of the key things that has to happen to recover from a generational GREAT RESET comes not from top-down policies and programs  (see Blog of June 18) but does come gradually as millions and millions of people respond  to challenging economic  times  by changing the very way they live.   

This is called a spatial fix.  It happened in the Long Depression when movement was from farms to cities; it happened in the Great Depression when people moved from dense cities to inner ring suburbs.

And then as the economic bloat began, we moved to poorly-built McMansions in outer ring cities, and then we created the exurbs and demanded infastructure to follow.  Florida postulates that when the people determine this is not sustainable and begin on their own to migrate once again to smaller spaces, to consolidate along transit lines and turn their backs on exurbs and unsustainable and expensive super highways, we will have begun the real start of the economic recovery to move us out of the Great Recession of the 21st century.

So the STRIB’s headlines” Housing’s comeback spurs new building”/”House construction sees modest, focused comeback”caught my attention and infused a little hope into my day.

It seems builders are putting new emphasis on areas close to jobs and existing highways.  And even more important:

,,,the developments have a different flavor than those that boomed before the Great Recession:  Smaller and concentrated in places where jobs, transit and major highways are already nearby…in contrast to the rural cornfields that became subdivisions in the mid-2000s.

And the flip side, says the Strib, is stagnation in the exurbs.

YES!  That’s a good sign…and maybe there is even hope that the Minnesota snowbirds – who mostly are upside-down in their winter palaces- will not have ready cash to negatively influence this natural adjustment of the people.  Although what some will do without elevators in their garages, I just don’t know.

So, I am not holding my breath, but I will be keeping an eye out for additional signs that support the spatial fix.  I can only hope that it will “trickle-down” and things like buying a soup bone for $1.59 a pound that yielded less than 2 ounces of meat (read: equivalent of $23 per pound) will also slowly be adjusted.  Until then, I guess I will buy a small sirloin when I make  my soup – it is cheaper!

 

 

 

h1

1934 A NEW DEAL FOR ARTISTS

June 23, 2012

One of the things I missed so much when I was temporarily transplanted to Edina-land for five years was my frequent “drop-in” visits to the History Center on a Friday afternoon- by myself so I could go, see, interact, and reflect on the exhibit I was visiting in silence, with no conversation with or worry about whether a companion was reacting positively or negatively to the exhibit.

 Now that I have been back in the city for six months, it was time to re-institute the tradition, and off I went to view 1934: A New Deal for Artists.   

En route to the exhibit, I passed by “We The People” a visiting exhibit that closes July 4, so took a short  detour for  a quick peak….yes,  both the U.S. Constitution and the draft of Bill of Rights looked exactly like the pictures and I was about to leave without actually reading them when I overheard  a young boy in a school group explaining  in awe to his friend “these are the directions for making the United State”.    I needed to hear that I guess, to appreciate what I was seeing…so few sheets of paper for such a big country!

And then there they were – 56 paintings created under federal New Deal programs that employed artists during the Great Depression.  Some were fun; some were somber; and so many depicted an every- day scene…in the city; in the country; through-out the US – but many were noteworthy for the absence of any animals or people in them. Topics/Subjects included Immigration, Native Traditions, CCC projects, bleak Japanese American scenes from Seattle, street festivals that became vital social events to survive the stresses of the depression, Central Park depicting mothers with children at one end but avoiding “Hooverville” of the homeless at the other.  And as the description said, one was aware of an under-lying question “What do you do for a living” that remained an unanswered question.

And yet, amongst some of the bleakness were hope-filled images of the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, and the Cathedral of Learning- all demonstrating the Depresssion “could not stop Americans from accomplishing great things.”

I think amidst all the RESET ideas floating around in my head, there is a 21st century lesson in this exhibit…but I will have to wait for it to gel, I guess.

Driving home with a detour through University Grove, reinforced I was was right to re-instate this old Friday afternoon habit.  And I surely will be back several times over the summer to  visit the exhibit  THE US -DAKOTA WAR OF 1862 and I might just take in the SENIORS IN MIND: WOODY REFLECTED  100th birthday musical tribute to Woody – inspired by the paintings of 1934: A New Deal for Artists and presented by Pop Wagner, Tony Glover and Charlie Maguire.

And maybe I will break my rule and see if a friend or two would liketo join me on the trolley for the Food Crawl, Home Tour or one of the Pub Crawls- they look well worth it as well! 

 

h1

IMMIGRATION TRENDS

June 20, 2012

It always amazes me that once one becomes interested in a topic- for whatever reason-every place you look or go, you see evidence of it.  It’s been there all along, but to quote a friend in her book about Marcy Holmes neighborhood, – it’s been “Hiding in Plain Sight”.  That certainly is what is happening to me!

Over the last four months, my thinking transformed from multiculturalism to interculturalism – thanks mostly to the week- long residency of Charles Landry and my involvement of that through Plan-It Hennepin. Intermittently, there have been headlines that drew attention to 2011 as the first year in which more minority babies were born than white babies.  In the past week, Obama offered the first “make sense” step to address children of immigrants in the United States.   And yesterday, although I had no intention of talking about it, I was having lunch with a friend and something sparked my thought-process and I was off on Minneapolis as a world-class city and the role of interculturalism in that dream.

Today, the front page of the STRIB again brings our attention to immigration with its headline “State immigration shift mirrors national trend”.  For the first time, both US and MN new immigrants are coming from Asian countries than anywhere else in the world.   Yes, I know, most think “bad border control” with Mexico has led to an influx of illegal Hispanics and that is the biggest immigration situation we have.  Nope, six months after I first mentioned this phenomenon, PEW Research Center has confirmed that the net immigration from Mexico is ZERO. (See January Blog).  It seems confirmed that a declining birthrate creating a smaller labor pool, combined with an improved economy in Mexico and better immigration efforts at the border since 2009 have indeed moved this issue well down the list of priorities.  One would think that the facts would change the political dialog, but I am learning that hard lesson one more time- facts don’t matter in politics. I am hopeful, however, this means we can begin to take an honest look at the changes before us and how to positively respond and integrate them into our existing world.

Statistics in the STRIB for Minnesota show that 44% of our foreign-born population in Minnesota arrived since 2000.  Only 11% of those were white.  That means over 88% were Asian, Hispanic/Latino and Black or African/American.  36% of all immigrants in US were Asian; 30% of MN immigrants were likewise from Asian countries.   Two trends are seen in both statistics:  the slowdown of Mexican immigration combined with the US DEMAND for high-skilled workers in specialized fields.  [And yes, I think it is fair to read that as businesses cannot get high-skilled workers in specialized fields from the existing white population available to them – but that is another topic of discussion!]

And then, the editorial reflecting on St. Anthony and the two religious groups that have been denied access also chimed in this morning.  We already have a minority population of 30% in children under five years old in this state.  It closed the editorial with a thought-provoking statement:

The United States was founded by people who wanted the freedom to practice their faith.  That is the dream of diverse communities seeking to establish local houses of worship.  We should embrace them, not fear them.

All this, and we have not even gotten to the list of things we need to address to accommodate the broader shift to INTERCULTURALISM needed for us to emerge as a world class city.

 

h1

ECONOMIC ‘RESETS”

June 18, 2012

It is only June and already, I am tired of the political discourses that fill the news about the economy.  One day Chicken Little is forecasting the “Sky is Falling” and the next day, we read about economic optimism as Neal Anthony reported this morning. 

 And in the back of my mind, there is a nagging thought about our response when it happened….dimly I remember the honest dialogs that shared the viewpoint that this should have been expected; the prosperity of the previous decade was unsustainable and we were in a historical adjustment that we should have expected and planned for. Terms like “A New Economy” and “Economic Reset” filled the news and many of us agreed that the first decade of the 21st century was reminiscent of the “Roaring Twenties” – our thinking was flawed, it was not sustainable, and we needed to adjust.

For all of us, I think, that message has faded.  For some, It’s a childish battle between the political parties driven by the single goal of Republicans to oust Obama and regain power at all costs, paired with  Democrats  who foolishly cling to the idea that this new generation of leadership should be able to walk on water and accomplish dreams  despite the absence of collaboration.  In either case, it is finger-pointing of children.  It’s George Bush and the Republicans fault; It’s Barack Obama’s fault – he said he would fix it and it’s not fixed. 

 As for me, I have continued to focus on the uniqueness of the changes we are going through due to the rapid arrival of the digital age, and have lost sight of the historical perspective that indeed, this is a reset-  created because we as a country have gotten off track.

Richard Florida’s the GREAT RESET, kept coming to mind, and after a thorough search of my library so I could refresh my memory, I realized the book must have suffered the fate of so many others when I moved….it was in my office, not my library, and so did not make the cut when I packed last October.   So recently, when I saw the paperback copy at B&N, I grabbed it, and yesterday, sat down to re-read, and discovered a new preface written last year for the paperback edition.  Those few pages brought it all back….

It will take many years to replace the jobs that were eliminated by the crisis and its aftershocks.  The deep economic and financial trauma that hit America represents a crisis of epochal proportions that reflects a deep structural transformation of the economy…

Florida then went on to categorize our “Great Recession” as a Great Reset similar in characteristics to the Long Depression of 1873 and the Great Depression of the 1930s, and together he named them “generational events”.   It took 30 years to recover from the Crash of 1929; adjustments of this nature cannot be fixed overnight, but more important, lasting recovery hinges on four key factors:

  •         Technological Innovation:  Crises reset the innovative engine of the economy
  •          New Systems of Innovations:  Crises create the impetus for building of broad systems of innovation and infrastructure that undergird long-run growth
  •         Educational Changes:  Crises lead to substantial upgrades in our educational system in ways that increase worker’s skills and improve the human capital that powers the economy.  [They] make us better at using our most precious and critical economic resource – human talent.
  •          A Spatial Fix:  Real recovery hinges on major changes in the very way we live (Move from farm to the city; move from city to suburbs, etc.)

 

Basically, Florida maintains that these changes are not initiated by top-down policies and programs from either political party in power, but happen gradually as millions of people respond by changing the way they live.   The lessons of this crisis should remind us that we need to live within our means, reject defining ourselves in terms of material goods and strive for a more meaningful and sustainable way of life.

Yes! This aligns with my own thinking but I mistakenly have attributed it to a perspective based on age. 

Not so, says Florida:

Individual Americans of all ages have already begun resetting their lives and changing the way they live and spend but our political and business leaders have utterly failed to appreciate and engage this economic transformation.  They continue to look backward, with futile attempts to resuscitate the dysfunctional system of banks, sprawl, and the inefficient and energy-wasting way of life that was the underlying cause of the crisis.

Our leaders just aren’t getting it; their mental models are so determined by the old order that they can’t acknowledge that [that order] has already passed.

We need to break with the past and engage the future that is already upon us.

From my own perspective, let’s also add the PRESS to the list of culprits and then try to move forward together in the LONG FIGHT BACK, recognizing we need to address the underlying problems we created that caused this…and neither Romney nor Obama can provide a quick fix.   But as Florida indicated, if we break with the past and engage the future, there is hope we can speed up the recovery so it does not take the 20-30 years of past Resets of a similar nature. We as the people need to fix this; the politicians cannot-no matter whom we vote into office in November.