Archive for July, 2012



July 29, 2012

A PERSONAL LESSON- Look before you leap! 

A personal passion for the river led me into a bit of a mess. 

Having been totally engaged in the revitalization of the Central Riverfront for 15 years, and currently functioning as the facilitator of the Visitor’s Experience, a year ago I willingly volunteered to take part in the Above the Falls focus of the Minneapolis Riverfront Corporation.

My involvement got off to a slow start – I attended a big kickoff meeting at RSP; I went to a board meeting at the Wilde Roast that became somewhat uncomfortable as I sat with the Director and a couple other volunteers for over an hour, after we had been asked to leave the meeting so the board could hold a private discussion; I became a volunteer on the Communications Committee, despite never quite getting a description of what that committee was to do.

I attended a few meetings, a few more Board Meetings, and tried my best to embrace the cause.

But at every turn, I sensed issues of concern.   “Central Riverfront” representatives that I  did not know with a very different focus;  and  little knowledge of East Bank, East Channel Plans, revitalization of Hennepin Island, and similar actions that came from the Power of the Falls study and recommendations. When they recommended ignoring the Gateway I thought it strange, but it was not real a red flag…yet.

I was more concerned about a continually complaining member of the Above the Falls group that took every opportunity to whine that they have been visualizing Above the Falls for ten years, and nothing has been done about it yet.  Since the visualization of the Central Riverfront can be traced back to 1973, ten years did not seem a tragedy considering the overlapping governing agencies involved combined with 4-5 years of the Great Recession,  and a lot of agency repositioning of priorities, but what did I know? 

So I continued on, trying to understand the issues and concerns and what seemed to me as an outsider, as in-fighting.  I volunteered to spend 8-10 hours a week to help the Executive Director administratively this past Jan –Feb when I was not busy with events of my own.  My goal was to learn how to better relate to what they wanted, and how they expected to accomplish  what they sought using the model they had in place.

Then, one board member shared she, too, did events, and invited me for coffee to “get to know each other”.  Unsuspecting, I went.  And was totally unprepared when I sensed she was surreptitiously trying to manipulate me into FIXING some issues WITHIN THE BOARD (of which I was not a member, but just a willing volunteer).  I was totally amazed, but again, I just could not visualize how this group could be this childish and dysfunctional.  However, now my antennae were up, for sure.

One of the last meetings I attended, we were brain-storming  the event that eventually emerged as that which was held last week- on River Vitality.  I suggested that perhaps we should reach out to Don Shelby  as the MC for the event. I shared the history of his involvement in Grand Excursion, relationship with St. Paul Riverfront Corp, and his role as narrator of several pieces for the National Park Service.  He seemed to have an affinity for the river.  I also shared that Bill at Segway had mentioned in a Central Riverfront  Meeting that he had had a conversation with Don who indicated he was interested in staying involved with the river.  The group agreed, Don became the spokesman/facilitator/MC ,  and I retreated to my own space feeling that I had done my part in sharing connections and a good idea.

I had decided it did not matter why, I was better served to remove myself and continue to focus on the area I love and am committed to – the Central River Front.  And I felt justified, as after all, I gave them the idea for the “hook” they needed to lend legitimacy to what they were doing at their event.

The event was last week and went well, I understand – I could not attend.  And this weekend, finally, I have the incentive to act on cutting those ties.  Petty as it is, I feel I was dissed when praise for the idea of using Shelby was directed elsewhere…childish reaction, I know, but it what I needed to take action.

It was a long swim to shore after I so unwittingly leaped in, but I am there now, and it’s done.


Reading that the King David was being used for a Romney fund-raiser seemed sacrilegious to me, as it immediately conjured up images of “gambling in the temple” but I guess if CMG used it for a Goalmaker Award night, I should get over my sensitivity and just admit that what bothers me is simply using that elegant wonderful old hotel for US Republican gain is more than just a little irritating to me.

Besides, my REAL issue is that holding a “public” event and excluding the press is a bit of an oxymoron.  If you make exclusions, then it is not public, right? 


Can “temporal illusions” the inaccurate perceptions of reality that can occur due to lags in neural processing become a good excuse for all that we do that we should not?


RETHINIKING is good!  Hats off to Glen Taylor for not accepting declining print needs; recognizing communications as his broader business focus; and re-inventing Taylor Corp in order to grow!  That’s 21st century thinking and something we all might consider doing!


Here’s hoping the naysayers and doubters are wrong!  I’m thinking the RE-INVENTION of the Geek Squad at Best Buy could be a huge WIN.    It is more comfortable to pass judgment based on past experience gained in an out-dated century, but scary or not, the world has changed.

Best Buy recognized a need not being filled in the MAJORITY of the digital market.   They saw an application of something Apple has done as a way to fix it.  Good for them to see the connection.

So, congrats and best luck for rethinking, re-inventing and hopefully an eventual healthy re-birth!


Thumbs down to Romney…or should I show compassion?   Maybe the differing positions when asked about his draft status in the 1960s are symptoms of  dementia but if not, the changing “story” on Vietnam is reprehensible.  In either case, THIS man as commander-in-chief?!!  Not so much.







July 29, 2012


Sorry to see this man retire!

I first heard the name a decade ago when Bush and the neo-cons were hatching their Iraq War Plans/  Crocker was co-author of “The Perfect Storm” – a memorandum defining risk of a U.S. Invasion of Iraq.  Yes, the ignored analysis that predicted accurately the disintegration of Iraqi society that did, indeed, take place!

Five years later, the Bushies with no other option, had to call on him for help to “fix the deadly situation.”

As ambassador, first in Iraq and then in Afghanistan, he worked to build trust with local leaders, understood intimidation would not work, and showed compassion towards the ordinary citizens caught in the life-threatening and political power struggles.  That was a rarity for Bush and Neo-cons –which  I repeatedly point out is reflected when we recite the cost of war and only mention deaths of AMERICAN soldiers, and not who we killed, or were killed by others because of our presence.

He suggests we need to learn the lessons of our recent past as we weigh military options for the future- including plans for Syria and Iran.

We’re a superpower, we don’t fight on our territory, but that means you are in somebody else’s stadium, playing by somebody else’s ground rules, and you have to understand the environment, the history, the politics of the country you wish to intervene in.

Good advice.  I THINK Obama gets this; I KNOW the neo-cons advising Romney do not.  And where those that support Romney stand, I have no idea.

In any case, I think it worthwhile to repeat three thoughts from Crocker as found in the Strib:

  1.        Remember the law of unintended consequences
  2.        Recognize the limits of the United States actual capabilities
  3.        Understand getting out of a conflict once you are in can often be dangerous and as destructive for the country as the original conflict.

And to those I would add: If you don’t have money to pay for it, you can’t just charge ten plus years of war, residual damage, and long-term impacts on the US soldiers and families involved to your successor. 

You fooled us once…I hope we learned not to trust you again.



July 29, 2012


Yesterday afternoon I smiled all the way from N. Second Street, up West Broadway to Penn, as I chose to take in FLOWnorthside.  How have I missed this for the last six years?

Of course, I know the area; I visit the Capri Theatre; I recommend Lundstrom’s and occasionally take in a performance there; through the RiverCurrent, I know what’s happening at the Minneapolis Photo Center-but until now, I have never visited it;  sadly, I’ve been to the West Broadway Indian Center for a wake of a small child; and when it fits, I use the product from the Cookie Cart in my events not only because it’s a great cause; but because it’s so fun to see those kids pride in the great product they bake there.

All that in addition to the  fact that since I first moved downtown in the mid 90s, Plymouth Avenue from Washington to Wirth Parkway and Broadway north out of the city have been two well-frequented paths to visit friends in the burbs.

But I had never been aware enough of what I was passing through nor was I really registering  the transformation that was taking place day after day after day.

This spring, as I’ve written of in an earlier blog, I attended a Charles Landry discussion at the Capri that became the impetus to look at this area differently.  No one could have missed the message Landry was conveying when he put up the birds-eye view of the area and pointed out the interstate “fences” that kept the northside separated from Minneapolis.

Then, a week or so ago, I watched a TPR Special  “Cornerstones: A History of North Minneapolis” that told its story and positioned the Jewish influence in the area in a way I had never noticed before.  And sadly, it brought back the visions of Plymouth Avenue “riots” of 1965, 1966 which sadly, have been engrained in the brains of whites ever since.

So  yesterday I was determined to participate in the celebration of the Northside today, as I was beginning to see it as a good example of the interculturalism I often refer to as we look to the future and what we want for the MSP metropolitan area.

 I started at Lundstrom’s for a great dance performance; then on to find not only the Mpls Photo Center, but the Two Tigers Gallery as well.  Great art, and two fabulous photo installations…with more food for thought than one can possibly absorb in a single afternoon!   Just don’t look out the windows toward the river….or you will be reminded how unsightly the “business” of the river can be!

As I got in my car to head over the interstate, I sighted one of the things that motivated me to stop in the  N2nd cluster in the first place….the PEDAL STAGE!  We love our bikes; we love our bike trails; we love our pedal cabs and we love our pedal pubs in Minneapolis, but now we have a new innovation to pedal.  Sure enough, there it was, pedaled by hearty volunteers as they towed the mobile stage AND the band playing on its deck!  And by the smiles on the faces of all in the street, it was a hit.

Running out of time, I raced up to the Capri to see for a second time, the TPT footage being shown in the theatre at 3PM.  WOW!  Little did I know, the video producer was the host.  Little did I expect the impact of a second viewing.  And little did I expect the engaging impassioned discussion of whites and Asians, Hispanics and African Americans, asking questions, sharing memories, and coming together as one people, all originally immigrants to MN,  with a common love– the history and culture of the north side! (Along with a great love for Asuncion and for North High, I might add).

No one got up and exited; all of us wanting it to continue.  But alas, Taiko Drumming was scheduled for 5PM so we had to vacate. 

The beer garden  and the KMOJ Stage beckoned, but  I wanted to get on down to the Knox intersection  for the Soul Train Dance Line gathering…you may have seen the picture of same in the Sunday Strib this morning – YES!  The people gathered here were definitely into “Boogyin’ Down Broadway – and I was into witnessing them do it!

By the time I got to the KFAI Summer Festival stage, I had missed the Minnesota Lynx, a West African drum and dance, Matt the Magician, “If Eye May”, and an Asian ethnic dance so only caught a bit of hip hop and Les Jolies Petites – all on stage behind the Cookie Cart.

Yes, of course, this was my last stop of the day….it’s been so long ago, I don’t even remember when I first heard of the Cookie Cart and the good work they are doing building life skills in the neighborhood and much much more.  But I do remember several events that gave me an opportunity to use their product, and one in particular, when the kids came along with the purchase, to serve up cookies and coffee under a Target branded tent inside the warehouse at Skyway!  They were a pleasure to work with then, and they were absolutely delightful in the midst of crowds of people wanting a cookie, or a dozen or big box, as a whole lot of folks FLOWed into their storefront yesterday!

I left before I found the Open Eye’s tandem bicycle pulling “the city’s smallest theatre  to present impromptu five-minute performances”; and although I was excited to hear I could still catch the  West Broadway Historic Walking Tour on Sunday at 10:30, I did not make it back.  Bummer!  The tour used footprints layered on the sidewalk, and your own smartphone to share through augmented reality, historic photos of how various places looked in the past. 

What an absolutely GREAT AFTERNOON!



July 28, 2012

Like the rest of the world, I look forward to the Opening Ceremonies of each of the Olympic Games. 

I look forward to how each host country captures its own essence and tells its story to the world.  Sometimes I can relate, because I have been there; sometimes, I am looking for the story of WHO they are.

And because of my chosen occupation in the Events World, I also look forward to identifying the tools used to tell that story.  I keep an eye out for new technologies and tools used to communicate the story of the hosting nation.  What can be adapted? What techniques used contribute to a memorable moment in the Ceremonies themselves?  What might be setting a new trend and adaptable in my own world…and what are the “lessons learned”?

And I admit, along with anticipation of the opening and the lighting of the cauldron, I dread the middle…so I plan what I can do as the Parade of Athletes begins.  I understand why it is included and what it means to the athletes, but as a long-distance viewer , it cannot keep my attention, no matter what.  It is as boring to me as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the Rose Bowl Parade.  Over the years, I have come to believe you have to BE THERE- It can only  be appreciated as a live event.  No way is it transferable.

Last night, as I settled in, I, too, had some apprehension.  I’d heard nothing from the Press coverage, but questions of how was Britain going to top Beijing.  Over and over I heard that economically, Britain is struggling.  How could they beat the magnificence of the 2008 Opening Ceremonies?

 Beijing was awesome minute by minute but troubling, at the same time.  I loved the spectacle, but not what I perceived to be the message and story.

(I admit, I have trouble with China.  My memories reflect the one time 30 years ago that I visited.  I was moved by the antiquities, encouraged by small growing signs of modernism in the cities, but appalled by the squalor, bad sanitation, and fear that permeated the countryside.  Masses of Chinese in gray “pajamas” on bicycles jammed city streets, and country lanes where harvesting was still being done by hand.)

Without the personal experience of witnessing the new emerging China, the Olympics there for me was a façade….spend money needed to take care of the people to create a spectacle that broadcast a message I read as WATCH OUT!  The sleeping giant has awakened.  Pay tribute or we will use our might and our disregard for human life against you. (Ok, I admit, most of the world did not see it that way: I am just trying to explain my own perspective and why I felt the way I did.)

Add to that the incongruence of comparing a spectacle in a time of unsupportable opulence worldwide  that was about to crash into the worst downfall the world had seen since 1929, and a time four years later, when not only Britain, but all of Europe and the US are struggling, and one can understand where we were headed when comparing the spectacle of Beijing to the story shared by the Brits.

 So, I was encouraged to hear the producer, when asked by US press,” how ya gonna top it” say.. We cannot top it and that is a good thing as it allows us to wipe the slate clean, reset, and focus on telling OUR story.

And for me, that’s what they did.  

From my perspective, based on a love of history that included a year-long course at the U about the European Theatre of World War Two, and a love of literature, I had a good platform to understand the story of Britain as a country; and in my past corporate life, I learned to appreciate them as people…strong, understated, and with a sense of humor that always catches one unaware.  So, those were my expectations.

As I watched and listened, I was flooded with good memories…not just of a second grade class watching the Coronation of the Queen, but of a wonderful week in Bermuda at a Baxter Labs Symposium, where I made friends with Sir Hans and Lady Krebs of Great Britain.  Sir Hans Krebs “discovered” the Theory of Metabolism and was invited as a guest speaker.  They were traveling from Britain a little early, to give themselves time to adjust to the “jet lag”, so I, too, flew in to Bermuda early to greet them and get them settled in.  As we met for dinner, with tears in his eyes, the elderly Krebs shared how honored they were to be given the VERY suite that had been used as the meeting place of Roosevelt and Churchill during WWII.  They truly felt they did not deserve the honor.   Likewise, I was amazed at Lady Krebs, who at 80+ years old did not think she would risk the moped tour…but not to worry, on her own, she had researched the bus schedules, and she thought she could make each stop we were making…so keep her in the counts for lunch and tea!  In those 10 days, that awesome couple became my friends.

And certainly great times in Britain when I was at Carlson….including  a Goalmakers trip in 1980, many client trips, and certainly wonderful  experiences with the Brits that made up the CMG London Office… not only on their home turf, but around the world with Goalmakers, and in Minneapolis in 1988.

So, for me, my expectations were met; I enjoyed the many subtleties in the story; I enjoyed to a return to telling the story of the host country in hopes we as a world will learn to understand each other…and in keeping with the goals of the Olympics in the first place…hope and peace.  I so appreciated that although it did not shout opulence, a big investment was made judiciously…the location picked to stimulate some badly urban renewal,  the parade of countries became an interactive experience as every nation represented helped build the Olympic cauldron- one leaf by one leaf… the lighting of the cauldron itself continued the story as it paid tribute to the laborers, and a new generation of Brits to “carry on” – as they always have.

For me that was the message to the world. Woven into the Brit story, I definitely heard….hang in there; we will get through this economic reset, we and the world have done it before but it takes some grit and a little humor…keep your eye on innovation and the promise of the upcoming generations.  To me, it was a message we needed – good advice and actions from the elder statesman.

So I was a bit taken aback this morning to see several friends on Faceback were so disappointed.  That certainly has given me some food for thought. 

Was I wrong?  Is this ritual not about telling the story, and commitment to hope and peace, but instead is about TOPPING what came before in a like manner?  Was I wrong to think “spectacle“ for spectacle’s sake would be in poor taste? 

Was I wrong to adjust my expectations when I learned the producer was a film-maker?  I was intrigued with some of the projection techniques he experimented with, and saw several examples of rethinking how to engage the audience in creating the experience.  Was that just wishful thinking on my part? Was that just a reaction that at LEAST it was not a talking head and powerpoint…a different communication medium was used that told a story?

Could the event have benefitted from what most of our own events need…a bit more engagement pre-event to mold the expectations to the event?  I do see that as a lesson to be learned for all of us.

 I need to noodle all this a bit, but for now, I’m feeling good about London meeting my own expectations – but disappointed and sorry it did not meet those of my friends.



July 26, 2012

Normally, you can find me in my office early in the morning as I generally work from 4 or 5am to early afternoon when my brain functions best.  But today, when I saw it was only 70 degrees with low humidity at 8:30AM, I had to take advantage of the break in the heat wave.  So by 9, I was off to the Heritage Trail.

As I headed over the Stone Arch, I realized it has been a while since I’ve come this direction…today, the river is almost calm, although not down to the level we normally see this time of year; no water pouring off Hennepin Island by the SAF Water Lab; and the secret falls on the East Channel, while still audible, have shrunk back to a small stream and will, most likely, soon disappear.   I dawdled a bit, leaning on the rail to imagine a Hennepin Island thinned of some of its trees and encircled with a walking path, and then continued on my way.

Residents and visitors to East Bank must have had the same thought as I did- get out and enjoy it while you can – for the trail and parkland were full….St. Anthony Main itself was not quite awake yet, but folks were walking all over, and there were no vacant outdoor tables or benches at Wilde Roast.

Eventually, I found a spot and started through a white paper on Empowered Organizations and Social Maturity I had stuffed in my bag at the last minute – so I would not feel too guilty about being out and about this early in the workday-but seven pages were all I could absorb with so many welcome distractions around me.  So I soon headed across the grass for Nicollet Island.

The chain of orange floats on the East Channel near the Merriam Street Bridge is still broken, I see, or was it allowed to float free because of high water under the low bridge?   

Heading off the bridge, I chose to delete my favorite “loop” – the walk around Nicollet Island- because busloads of people were descending on Nicollet Island Pavilion – with squads and foot police directing traffic.  That and a look at my watch to see I had already been out and about for an hour,  sent me up the hill and onto Hennepin Avenue  and those wonderful cooling breezes as I headed into the home stretch.

Off the Heritage Trail now, these last couple blocks are my least favorite.  I smiled to see mothers with strollers headed towards the fountain in Gateway Park, but my side of First along the Post Office Parking Ramp is always a downer.  Sometime SOON, we have to do something about that!

Returning to my office, I see it is 11AM and 79 degrees.  I’ve managed to use up 2 good hours of thinking time and before long, I’ll need to close out the sounds of the city and put the AC back on.  But no matter how many times I’ve been on that trail, it always works its magic.  It’s as invigorating as a mini-vacation!






July 26, 2012

This week, Senator John Howe, Republican, from Red Wing called for an environmental impact study regarding the frac-sand mines.  Instigated by witnessing the negative impact of what is happening on the Wisconsin side of the river, this is a powerful enough problem, to get Republican attention and bring them on board to protect the environment. 

Howe is emphasizing the economic impact on existing businesses and schools in Minnesota towns along the river; but I suggest we expand the impact study to include the Mississippi River itself.

We already know Lake Pepin is endangered by the run-off upriver and is not-so-slowly contracting; we already know the dead spot in the Gulf of Mexico  continues to grow; helped along by poisonous run offs from Minnesota farmlands.  Let’s not leave it to future generations to lament the further demise of the river and the growth of the dead spot – because we raced to incorporate a last-ditch effort via frac sand mines to maintain our dependency on oil deposits.  Especially when we see the auto industry moving more and move to hybrid and electric vehicles.

What will the impact be?  Can it be reduced in any way by understanding now and employing better methods?  And more important, are all the states bordering the Mississippi from Minnesota to Louisiana in agreement  that any potential long term damage to the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico is offset by the short term gains upriver? 

This is a chance to THINK COLLABORATIVELY AND ACT RESPONSIBLY.  Please take the time needed to ensure we know the risks and what will be gained for taking them!




July 25, 2012

Another tragedy to add to our list of growing incidents of major proportions…with no recourse except to lower flags, attend funerals and mourn the innocent dead.   The Press immediately scream Gun Control; the Pols in election year do not lead, but instead remain silent.  Over…and over…and over…this is a scene we recognize.

Since last week, I keep thinking…is there NOTHING the world can do?  Are we really all just sentenced to ‘making do” and not taking any action?

As I step back and try to envision action(s) that might move us forward, I realize this is a difficult challenge with no easy answers.

Those who value life more than the right to bear arms, call for more gun controls.  Those that value the right to bear arms above all else, scream government is over stepping their guaranteed rights to even discuss Gun Controls.   Does one value really “trump” the other, or are there differences only because different backgrounds and experiences yield different points of view?

 Most of us can agree that the world of 1776-1791 would generate far different viewpoints than the world we live in today.

Most of us understand our religious beliefs command “Thou Shall Not Kill”; and our Declaration of Independence states that we have been “endowed by… Creator with certain unalienable Rights….Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

And yet, immediately after we approved the Constitution of the United States, we recognized the need for a Bill of Rights.  We listed twelve; ten were initially ratified by the states in that new union of United States.  And one of those rights in 1791 gave us the rights to bear arms.

It is interesting to note that our US Bill of Rights was based on the English Bill of Rights of 1689.  Our founding fathers made one significant change to the existing right ”to bear arms”.  They recognized we now had people of Catholic faith in this new country, and they updated the right by striking out the word “Protestant”.  Can we agree, then, that they set a precedent for updating that key value?

In any case, there are questions.  Does “arms” mean all arms as known to man in 1791?  Or does that mean all arms known to mankind today and two hundred years from now?  Would that include assault weapons,  or what about a nuclear-armed missile?  Or perhaps it means arms that enabled the Militia to be called up when needed to protect the citizens of the United States-based on the existence of the muskets and simple rifles known to man at the time.  Or perhaps to some it means, all weapons described today and in the future in any sci-fi story are included in one man’s right to hunt and protect his person and his home – even if the use of such “arms” might threaten the existence of the very earth itself.

Over the past 200 plus years, we have argued and argued the point….and in the last 25 years, it seems we have reason after reason to declare that NOW IS THE TIME to clarify what is meant by these two freedoms…at least in today’s world.

Perhaps we need a new approach.  We know screaming at each other, hoping that he who is loudest, wins, has not worked. 

(To simplify this, I chose to skip the fact that a voluntary militia to protect the state/country has been replaced by the  Armed Forces and National Guard who define weapon type…and also chose to overlook the issue of “hunting”-I’d like to believe that the eventual results of the Florida case where a “suspicious” person in the neighborhood was hunted and killed might make this “sport” illegal).

I have a little hope that now might be the time to evaluate.  After all if the NCAA can adjust and put children before a game, perhaps the nation would be open to to discuss right to life vs right to arms – if arms were better defined.

We call upon Congressional Committees to recommend action on issues FAR LESS important and impactful than this one.  Perhaps it is time for a new Congressional Committee, with a few non-partisans historians and futurists thrown to the mix to help us define the basics.  All they need to do is make a list of existing “arms” in 1791; a similar list of existing “arms” for 2012; and finally, based on the imagination of all of today’s sci-fi writers and futurists, a list of “arms” that might be in existence in  2300 AD.  Then, with the evidence before them, redefine what is meant by “arms” in 2012, and present a possible amendment to the Constitution to clarify what we measure against when reviewing situations like Aurora, Colorado. 

With that, the citizens can decide, state by state, what we mean by LIFE” and “ARMS”.  And perhaps this recurring tragedy and discussion can disappear from our history…or it could remain in limbo like the 12th of the rights included in the original US Bill of Rights…the one that has not yet been ratified by the states as worthy of Constitutional Amendment.  In either case, we could move forward with an understood definition of what we means by “arms”!



July 23, 2012

Readers of this blog are aware that over the last seven months, I have become absorbed in a new way of thinking-initially because of my introduction to Charles Landry’s “The Art of City Making”.  Landry did a residency here in Minneapolis/St. Paul in early May which I participated in as part of the Plan-It Hennepin project.

It was an eye-opener for me in many ways…and once that happens, one sees signs and applications everywhere one looks.  And sometimes I forget that everyone in my world does not see it the same way I do.  That was evident earlier this week, when a friend of some thirty years and I had a discussion on immigrants in Minnesota.  Our perspectives, coming from different directions and viewpoints clashed resoundingly.  We survived the discussion of conflicting ideas, and I resolved to keep in mind that not everyone is celebrating the changes I see.

So, as I glanced at the STRIB headline on  Sunday  “A Changing Landscape” and realized it was a story of Somali immigration and impact in outstate towns such as Willmar, Rochester, and Faribault, I reminded myself that friends and family in those three towns might indeed view this very differently than I do. It will be painful to some and encouraging to others, and for all, a bit of a cultural shock.  Not everyone in my world has the benefit of learning and beginning to understand the importance of interculturalism in our 21st century world of globilization as presented by Landry, nor the Richard Florida theory of economic reset we are now experiencing.

Nonetheless, as I took in the message, I thought it should be a welcome change – if understood.  The “reset” after the Great Depression created the move to the suburbs…as we ”recorrected” once again, and the excesses of the late 20th century pushed that migration further and further into the surrounding countryside as exurbs developed.  And with that came suburban malls and big box stores, and more and more super highways…and that left empty buildings and department stores in the core, and eventually, the central city blight so many of our cities have experienced.

The article began by recounting that Main Streets in many smaller Minnesota communities have not fared so well in the last 25-30 years, and the growth of immigrant populations and business are …a shot in the arm…an economic development program.  But for long-time residents, it’s a big change, and the old community they long for will never be again.

It is hard for those residents to see strangers they know nothing about move into their towns…and for the most part, judging from family discussions, I understand they see them as “different”, “troublesome in schools” and a little bit scary.

 It is easy to miss that immigrants of any color most likely have the same qualities our own immigrant forefathers had….otherwise they would not have risked the move.  They are entrepreneurs, they create businesses and therefore jobs; they resurrect stores and services needed in the core;  and over time their businesses include law offices, insurance agencies, and real estate offices…all services needed in a community; they pay taxes;  and yes, they bring a different look and perspective to disrupt our comfort level.  

I was encouraged to read the perspective of Royal Ross, director of a program called Faribault Main Street.   He understands that it is a hard adjustment for residents in a small town….”it is a cultural shock to us a little bit…it’s neither good nor bad.  It’s just different.”

And his example of differences is one that we all can understand.  Large groups of Somali men tend to congregate at day’s end, on Faribault sidewalks, a common way to get together and exchange information.  But they are speaking Somali and not moving out of the way for others walking by.

Ross mentions that the white locals are not used to seeing large groups congregating in public areas like that…and that we need to get used to how each other operate.

 So, of course , I understand:  because it is different, and since the group is “not like us- white and speaking English” –it becomes intimidating.  We forget that through much of our own US history, citizens, like citizens of countries all over the world, did/do that in the Town Square …which disappeared from our own cities in the last 50 years, along with the downtowns.  It is why discussions in city-making in MSP continue to focus on creating “intercultural gathering spaces”. 

 Losing that face-to-face interaction has not been good for our country. Somehow, the staged networking events in a sterile indoor gathering space, complete with speakers and name tags and mixer games and superficial conversation exchanges do not accomplish the same thing.  We should learn from those Somali gathering, not fear them!

So despite the misunderstanding, I will continue to advocate for the move to intercultural planning and understanding, and will view the separate article reporting on racing camels and ostriches at Canterbury  as a little “intercultural creep” as we experiment and try “new” things as a baby step in the right direction!





July 23, 2012

“If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon.  And if you elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not have a nuclear weapon.”                                        – Mitt Romney, 2011


Every time I hear Mitt Romney declare “I have a plan”….I can’t help it, I wonder if this is his version of the “I have a dream” metaphor and that is why he expects we will just pick up and follow…without knowing any details.

The Empty Suit is heading to Israel to meet with the fire-cracker, Netanyahu.  And, of course, they will commiserate about how everyone else in the world is wrong on the approach to Iran, and together, the “birds-of-a-feather” will formulate a plan.  I have no doubt it will be one that puts “our greatest enemy- the USSR” in its place!

Please WORLD, do not let us go there again unless we can see the battle plan, and it includes how they will handle:

  • The Cost of War…on a credit card once more with the first payment due the day the next Democrat takes the Office of the President and has to clean up the damage?
  • The Costs of Lives Lost…and how this time, we won’t just count the Americans, but we will include the “collateral damage” – all the dead in other countries coerced to help us, and all the soldiers and innocent citizens of Iran and especially how we will compensate Iran for killing their future when we kill and traumatize their children.
  • The Costs of Rebuilding Iran…the infrastructure, the government, and how we can help with the innocents maimed (physically and mentally) and orphaned in this next land in which we choose to show off our might and stage our war games.
  • The Cost of Israeli Residual Damage…because surely, we do not think we will- with one strike- end this plan so there will be no losses in Israel – life, or infrastructure, or artifacts,
  • The Cost of Protecting the Antiquities…After lives lost in a unfinanced war, this is one of the greatest shames of Iraq…that we as Americans, put the glory of war ahead of preserving the stories and artifacts protected over thousands of years in this Cradle of Civilization.  During the Crusades, we secreted them away to the north; once we became more “sophisticated”, we simply deemed them not worth planning to preserve.

And then there are the costs to the United States ourselves. Before we go to war, we need a plan and verifiable budget to handle:

  • Support for the U.S. soldiers’ families left at home without much financial support;
  • How we offset the tax revenues lost when we pull men and women from jobs at home and send them off to war…perhaps to never return;
  • Support  returning veterans needs…medical, mental,  educational;
  • How we as a country replace those of the first generation of 21st century who will be impacted;
  • And, what is the plan to fill the gap with thinking that comprehends we live in a new world now where solutions of the past century should be regarded with mistrust…as most likely, there is a better way to solve the problems we encounter?   

“Father Knows Best” is not a convincing mantra today , especially when it appears most of those “fathers” are trying to preserve a bygone industrial world that will not return.

As a citizen of the United States, I would support an elected President Romney war campaign and “Support the Troops” as long as as that new Commander-in-Chief could lay out the strategy, tactics, associated costs, and a firm timeline from inception to successful conclusion.

And one last thing, that I am sure the “successful businessman of the 70-90s” can relate to:  I’d like to have a REAL/WIN/WORTH/RISK Analysis supporting this caper attached to the above documentation.   Then, as a woman business executive from the same era, I will have what I need to evaluate whether it’s a viable plan, or merely a plan of an empty suit, being supported on the hanger held by the neo-cons…one more time.





BACHMAN & McCARTHY: The Witchhunters

July 22, 2012

I don’t like Michelle Bachmann – nor her husband, for that matter.  I admit, before I really realized what a kook she was, I was appalled to learn of her philosophy re women’s roles in marriage today, and since I cannot match that with her aggressive persona as a politician, I don’t trust her.   So I put her in the category of the snake oil salesman of days gone by, and waited for her to disappear.

Much to my chagrin; I was wrong.  Not only did she not disappear, she became a nationally-recognized figure, and then a candidate for president.  She lost, and for a short time, we had a respite from the insanity she represents.   And I celebrated her demise.  But now, like a cornered animal, wounded and hurt, she has attacked again.

In high school, I wrote a term paper on McCarthyism.  With all the innocence and optimism of youth, I could not understand how the American public let him and his antics disrupt our republic for as long as it did.  Surely they were not fooled by these cries of Communists in our midst, plotting against us in global scheme to take over the world? Anyone could see that was a fantasy.  Why didn’t they ignore him, or arrest him or something!  Obviously, I had not yet learned the lesson of hindsight being 20-20, had I?

And here we are, some fifty years later, and Joe McCarthy has been reincarnated in Michelle Bachman…proving that high school student of long ago, to be wrong one more time!   Now I have even more reasons to dislike her.

 But seriously, friends, just like McCarthy, we cannot let this continue, as she just gets bolder and bolder with more slurs and insults – desperately trying to grasp for one last stand. I bit my tongue when the Swiss Citizenship was made known, but this time,  I sent my appeal to Boehner to remove her from the Intelligence Committee…heaven knows we need some protection from what she might concoct next.

This past May, the Dowling Studio at the Guthrie presented “Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been” – the haunting story of how, in 1953, as McCarthy’s fears and accusations overflowed the political arena and impacted the arts, Langston Hughes battled accusations from McCarthy that he was a communist.  It was a powerful play, that amongst the horror, still seemed to be surreal, and could not be happening… despite the fact history shows how deeply the creative world was negatively impacted.

My lesson learned from attending – we so want to believe in the good of man, that even when we know the outcome of an evil persecution, we hope until the end, that all will turn out ok.  We need to move past this.  What Michelle Bachmann is doing is a REAL and THREATENING menace to our world- particularly in this time of mistrust and accusatory politicking.

But accolades should go to John McCain to make the connection and to instill the rallying call of Edward R. Murrow:  “We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends on evidence and due process of law.  We will not walk in fear, one of another.” 

Press coverage and dialog of the new Bachmann poison seems to indicate that times are such that she will NOT be censured, although she should be.  But indeed, we all must pull together to take every chance we are offered to refute her before she creates the damage to a fragile United States that McCarthy was able to do.

I commend John McCain, our own Dave Durenberger, and others that have put country before party and called for action.  Particularly as Minnesotans, we all need to do whatever it takes to remove her from public life and safely away from the limelight she so craves.