Archive for July, 2013

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July 29, 2013

THE VIKES AND THE TAILGATERS

Why of course, we should preserve the blight in East Downtown so obnoxious fans can tailgate 10 days a year….NOT!

What about the fact that “empty lots  on income-generating propositions for the city do not make” do these idiots not understand?  We are all supporting your habits by paying for the space for your team.  Are you willing to pay for a game-day ticket to tailgate that equates to the income generated for the city if those lots are developed?

We know you can party and make noise – and some of you do not even go to the game- but watch from outside.  Are you also willing to do your own cleanup and trash hauling, and sanitation hauling to take care of the many messes you leave?

Are you willing to take your turn patrolling those empty lots so that for the other 350+ days of the year, responsible residents remain safe?

GOP MADNESS and OBAMA

I am intrigued with Obama’s latest approach to this GOP madness.

I keep reminding myself that watching the Republicans is much like watching the cornered wild animal with rabies; on its way to a “horrible” but inevitable death, it strikes out….speeding up the inevitable, but occasionally wounding its pursuer.

I like the approach of calling out the deadbeats…a financial accounting of what the Republican Rabies is costing us would be eye-opening to their loyal constituents, I am sure. The most egregious symptom is covering their own prejudice against Obama by trying to make him into the monster.

In the end, I know that their prejudice and unwillingness to understand the new world I which we all live will topple them; but despite the eventual demise, this is PAINFUL for the country.

That said, a BIG YES to Obama for finally cutting to the chase and telling it like it is:  DEADBEATS and ROADBLOCKS…

“Shutting down the government because I’m keeping it open – that’s not an economic plan” said Obama a day or so ago as he launched the campaign to push them out of the way. 

Yes, it’s time to fight back – but I’m still concerned this could backfire for Obama.  Then I remind myself – if he is wiling to take the personal risk for the good of the country, then I am all for it.

THERE IS ONLY ONE WORD FOR THE WEINER …

NO and NO and NO.  I do not care whether his wife forgives him.  Carlos Danger AINT mayoral material.

 

8000 YEARS AGO…

That’s a long time before the first white man stepped foot in North America, wouldn’t you say? Think about that as those of you who continue to try to block immigration reform waste all of our time! That is a lot longer investment in our land than any white man can claim whether you descend from a Viking, a white sailor that accompanied Columbus in 1492 or a pilgrim arriving in 1620!

So exciting to read about the artifacts find along the Minnesota River dating back 8000 years and providing evidence that natives people populated this space a LONG,  LONG time ago!

The artifacts found in Chanhassen are another reminder of all to history we’ve destroyed unknowingly  as we came, we saw, we conquered and we built without any understanding of the role of Minnesota in ancient times – “Minnesota, the Crossroads of North America.”

I’m sad, but understand that the Archaic Period cannot take precedence over today’s need for replacing the 101 bridge.  But I am also hopeful a fall dig will tell us much more.

The initial examination of the find shows tools similar to those used in the Dakotas and Wisconsin and so my mind immediately jumped to the Prairie Island site…now believed to be the gathering point from all over North America – an ancient North American/Pan Am United Nations!

Wouldn’t it be cool to discover evidence that indeed this camp tells more of that story: these ancient folks  perhaps were headed down the river to Prairie Island/Red Wing to participate in a gathering of an ancient North American United Nations?

I so want to learn how these people communicated and traveled great distances (from Alaska and Florida/Caribbean; from Mexico and Newfoundland) to come together at Prairie Island-all with different cultures, languages and needs.  And especially, how did they know it was time to start off on that journey – which surely for most, was a once in a lifetime event!

IT AND CORPORATIONS

A shortage of skills may not be the problem at all as corporations search for tech help; and finally, the STRIB this morning positioned that corporations may just be creating their own problems.

Specific job descriptions, salaries that don’t match results needed; misunderstanding of what entices IT folks and a misunderstanding of what the IT world is, does today, and how quickly it is morphing into something else-over and over and over again.

Reminds me of a past life at the BEGINNING of automation and a digital world; but why should we expect corporations to have changed or why should we be surprised they are not magnets for available talent anymore?

 Some continue to be driven by ”antiquated thinking; locked in a mind-set that [doesn’t] understand real needs of the developer or marketplace, completing task-tickets; not guiding strategy; “ -most of the HR folks looking for people are preservationists, not futurists.

The articled I was reading reported that “in 1998 only 150 million people used the Internet.  The first smart phone was not available until 2007.  Now 2.8 billion people use the internet”…and some suggest that number will increase to 5 billion shortly and continue growth exponentially as time moves forward.

Saturn Systems , a Duluth based software development form put it pretty succinctly:  “we can adjust”.

I have no doubt the tech companies get it but I am also quite certain most corporations outside the tech industry do not. 

Most are hanging on for dear life, using bloated profits they’ve accumulated as “takers” to influence their favorite state and federal legislative personnel  and eureka, those angry old birds in Congress grasping for their own last breath are continuing to sing the same old song….you recall it, although its not a catchy tune:  “Taxes and  21st Century thinking together will destroy American business.

No it won’t, folks.  It will only destroy teetering old businesses. You know, rather than keeping up with the times and needs, have reverted to 19th century robber barons and are intent on stopping the progression to the future.

I’d say from the statistics included in the article, of the TOP five non-business services of Information, Finance and Administration, Public Administration and Educational Services may be on the right track, but only Healthcare seems to have made the commitment wholeheartedly to not only today’s world, but to what lies ahead for us all.

AND FINALLY, POPE FRANCIS

This Pope seems to be exactly what the Catholic Church needed!

From urging today’s youth to pursue social justice, to acknowledging that the Catholic Church is a “prisoner of its own rigidity” to urging youth to go back home and “make a mess” – his message rang loud and clear.

“I want to see the Church in the street.  I want to get rid of the mundane, the comforts, clericalism, this closing ourselves off in the parishes, the schools and institutions…”

AMEN BROTHER!  There is no doubt its long past time for another “cleansing of the temple” and we  may  just have the means before us to do just that!

 

With that, I drop the last post-it into the trash and will call it a month for this blog!  Talk again in August.

 

 

 

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July 29, 2013

BLOGGING CATCH-UP

Yes, I blog; no I am not looking to make a name for myself – so I generally groan when I see articles like that which appeared in today’s STRIB  with marketing tips on how to get more followers.  For me, it’s an exercise to sort through what I think about what’s happening around me.  It’s somewhat like a diary – my tool for self-expression.

If over time, I have gained a few followers or gave readers another perspective around which to view an issue, or weeded out a few folks who don’t think like me-or at least do not like how I think on issues – so be it.

The whole world is NOT on a mission to gather likes or followers…some of us are merely trying to make sense of our world…just “because” it helps to sort out the ever-increasing  sound-bites.…and once in a while it leads to a good conversation, a good debate, or a new good friend…”birds of a feather” you know. And sometimes, it takes the place of many friends I no longer see (or debate with) anymore.  J

So if you like what you read – follow and you will get more.  If you don’t, “unfollow” and I will be good with that as well.  And if my thoughts make you pause, stop and think or merely just put a smile on your face for some reason—then I have done more than I set out to do, and I will be pleased! 

Just don’t tell me how to do it better!

MINNEAPOLIS TREES

Good for Minneapolis; they are studying why trees fall in storms. Since most loss comes to boulevards, some evidence points to more loss when recent street or sidewalk repairs have occurred.  That combined with snowplow-caused damage probably signals an urban design change…sidewalks adjacent to streets?…elimination of tree-lined streets?…the return to eliminating sidewalks themselves?  I hope we put community-building as a MUST in that study.  I neither want to see the sidewalks disappear, or be totally adjacent to the street for fear of driver/pedestrian accidents.  Surely we can’t eliminate the plows but could we make them “tree-root/trunk   sensitive”?   And please, we have done enough of ignoring needed street and sidewalk repair to last TWO lifetimes.  No easy answer pops up; maybe this is a good topic for some collaborative thinking from all parties involved.

XCEL and the CITY

I am no expert on the topic but I do wonder whether the city is either.  Perhaps what we really need is a conversation between the two partners.  Perhaps when the national mediators are in town to help with the Minnesota Orchestra dispute, they could spend an extra day having a chat with the city and Xcel  – again, collaboration rather than more confrontation may be the key!

Along with that, I have a question for Mary Weber of Minneapolis who is willing to take chances on government running electrical services because Xcel Energy costs this past year are 51% higher than for the same period seven years ago. Have we asked why costs have accelerated?  I’d say what we have seen is a bargain compared to the increase in national debt from Jan 2001 to 2009.  I am not so sure I’d put my faith in government over Xcel on this one – although I am open to “listening”.

I don’t know what impact our rapid use of technology has on electrical costs, if any.  I cannot imagine the City of Minneapolis handling customer service, maintenance and storm and emergency response activities to my satisfaction.  I wonder if they could have rallied like Xcel did in our recent storms AND get the help from other providers across the country that we received.  I wonder what would happen to renewable energy efforts and conservation and clean energy and wind energy and, and, and….

That’s not to say we should not review, question, and evaluate.  We should.  And perhaps because my personal dealings with Xcel along the Central Riverfront have for the most part been positive experiences, I think weighing all points one against the other, I prefer to have the city govern, and Xcel make electricity – but I could be wrong.  Sometimes I just don’t like change… I still miss Mr. Readi-watt. :-0

MID EAST TALKS

Last week when I was reminded that the first peace talks between Israel and Palestine were due to start this week, I thought to myself:

Can we make it through them this time around with some sort of consensus?  Surely this is one of the most wasteful conflicts in our world today with both parties sharing the blames.  Somehow we HAVE to find a manageable solution and it is NOT more tantrums; more killing; nor more Self-Righteousness from either side.

And now the day has come.  The first Mideast peace talks in years begin today in Washington.  Thank you, John Kerry, for believing this could be done….and sticking to it until they all at least agreed to meet.

Should we expect a new treaty to emerge?  Probably not at this juncture but civility, understanding, and commitment to finding the way seem to be worthy goals.  Amazing what can be done when we just “start the conversation”…AND, listen!

With that thought, came a glimmer of remorse about our recent past.  “What if” John Kerry had been elected President in 2004?  Would fewer people have died around the world?  Would less US money have followed after bad?

But reality tells me it was the election mess in 2000 followed by 2002 that committed us to the length of the wars and the economic problems.  Kerry probably “won” when he lost the 2004 election as he would have been stuck in the muck of George W/neo-cons do-do of those first 4 years. 

So perhaps the powers that be saved him for bigger problems/issues…and now the time has come. After the US led by the Texas cowboy Bush did its very best to contribute to the Mideast troubles for 8 years; and Obama has slowly maneuvered us out of the wars at least, now we need the thoughtful diplomat working with the Obama administration, to help bring the world through to the other side.

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MORNING MUSINGS

July 25, 2013

THE NEW DIGITAL AGE

The NSA phone monitoring unusual “split” yesterday in Congress is only  the beginning of a new time that none of us really understand nor do we know what to do about…the conflicts between the virtual world and the physical world.

I have been blogging about this as I continue to read “The New Digital Age…Reshaping the Future of People, Nations, and Business.”

Yesterday, House Leadership joined with the Obama Administration supporters to defeat conservative Republicans teamed with liberal Democrats on a NRA bill.  The result was close 217 to 205. (Don’t know what happened to that hard fast rule of no bill passed without “majority of majority” – did this meet the criteria or not?)

I am still pondering the whole issue myself, as the 20th century “knee jerk” responses we are all experiencing and voicing seem not to fit.  The traditional Old Boomer  in me cries “Foul” while the inquisitive me trying to understand  the new 21st century world is torn between excitement over new possibilities and total fear of what we all so innocently have wrought.

RESIST THE PULL OF POWER & MONEY

And the new Pope continues his crusade to change (at least part of) his Church.  Yesterday he warned against the pull and power of money for which I applaud him.  He works hard to stay in touch with the people, and then at times he becomes very “officially traditional”.  I think this is a man working through  many a conflicting tradition and varying views of what a Pope is or should be in this very different world of ours. He has become an interesting study.

THE PRESIDENT’S CHALLENGE

I may be conflicted about a lot of today’s world, but I am 100% behind Obama’s message yesterday that politics is undermining the nation’s economic recovery.

“Our focus must be on the basic economic issues that matter most to you-the people we represent.”

And with that, he recommitted to develop new energy (yes, I agree); rebuild manufacturing (yes I agree with qualifications – I prefer we think of it as reinventing manufacturing to meet future needs); invest in infrastructure (yes, I agree- with some new parameters.  Those states that vote NO go to bottom of list and should not expect federal help in infrastructure disasters…at least until they remove their  dissenting congressional  leaders from office);  expand education and pre-school to four year olds ( a hearty yes!  I started school at 4 and benefitted greatly for it); raising minimum wage (yes); and other similar steps.

With that, Obama offered a challenge:

“I am laying out my ideas to give the middle class a better shot.  Now it’s time for you (Republican leaders) to lay out yours!”

Unfortunately, Republican leaders, as usual, missed the point and cried this is old news; but I am betting on Obama, however.

Yesterday he set the stage…similar to announcing one is going to run for office; now let’s watch the campaign rollout while the naysayers  lose interest and go back to business as usual as they have defined it since 2009…one more time.

And as they do, Obama, who does not play by their rules, but the rules of much more savvy generation, will move right past them.

Yes, I know there are those that want to ignore the facts Obama laid out- particularly that the change in income distribution in the last 10 years has pooled at the top 1% whose incomes have increased 40% while the average American earns less than they did in 1999. But together we can watch and see if the new approach to governing after Congress has refused to cooperate or collaborate will yield results.  The approach is mimicking a political campaign that has proven to mow down Republicans that stood in his way.  We shall see how it works in running the government.

 

 

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July 23, 2013

A TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY PRESIDENT

For some time now, America has been very critical of Obama for one reason or another.  He is either not going to war and killing people like the Republicans want; or not handling things the way Democrats want-based at least on what Democrats who came before him have done.

And over and over, I question – is that a bad thing?  I was comfortable that he was not predictable; he did not tout party lines but thought in terms of what is best for each individual situation.  Nevertheless, the continual outcries sometimes made me doubt because I certainly seemed to be in the minority!  But I continued to listen, understand, and support his reasoning for any given action… despite thinking  perhaps I was out of step with America.

And then, Steve Chapman’s column this morning entitled “If Obama is a wimp, hail to the wimp” gave me hope.  Finally, a columnist who succinctly and honestly assessed each situation in question and told it like it is – as it relates to Obama and his foreign policy in Egypt…Syria…and, Afghanistan.

“None of these situations is working out in a way that is pleasing to us.  So it must be his responsibility to fix them, right?”

“Well, no.  The beginning of wisdom about the international realm is that those are not our countries.  We don’t have the responsibility to dictate what direction they take and we don’t have the means to impose our preferences.  When we get deeply involved, we’re apt to produce results very different from what we hope…the path to wise policy does not run through a field of daisies.”

So to all the naysayers – Stop and think for a minute folks!  Almost half our country thinks our OWN government which was elected by the majority of us has no right to tell us as individual citizens what to do.  Think of the outcries we’d voice if China – disagreeing with the way we operate as a country, dropped in, took charge, and dictated what we do. 

We would not like it one bit; so why do we think citizens of other countries would welcome manipulation and interference from us- whom they often see as the “Ugly American”?  To think differently brings to mind the term “hubris” a trait that always creates conflicts!

Look at the three examples in Egypt, Syria, and Afghanistan and tell me why one size fits all and US interference is the “size” they all should buy!

From my persective, Obama has looked at each unique situation carefully, getting input from all sides before he wades in, then makes a unique decision best suited for that situation.

Is it consistent?  If you mean the same proposed solution over and over whether it will yield results or not – no, it is not consistent.  If you think consistent is spelled WAR as the last adminsitration did, then no, it is not consistent.  If you think, yes the process is the same:  he looks at each instance as unique, follows the same process to get input and then determines the best option for that situation… then, YES, he is consistent.

And I am especially happy that he is not consistently applying a favorite outdated 20th century single solution to  every circumstance.  What he has done is what he TOLD us he would do when he ran for President.  That is what gave me and a lot of other people hope; and that is why he was elected –a new way of thinking for new situations in a new time.

As Steve Chapman said so well this morning:

“For now, at least, Obama is carrrying out a foreign policy that errs on the side of caution, patience, restraint and economy.  As for the critics, you know what?  We tried their way.”

RIGHT ON, STEVE (and Obama)…I’M WITH YOU ON THAT THOUGHT FOR SURE!

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PORTLAND AND PARK

July 23, 2013

I was beginning to think I was wrong about my concern over closing Portland and Park as proposed (and apparently approved by City, at least) in the East Downtown Ryan Plan….

Then, Tom Borrup’s  Letter to the Editor this am renewed my faith that this indeed is cause for concern – with examples tried “from Thunder Bay to Tulsa – along with Minneapolis- [which} produced disastrous results.”

One meeting I attended, I heard the closing approval will be a country decision…Is there any hope they will say NO?

We already have a major traffic “cluster—“ caused by recent changes that impact Hennepin and First Avenue, as well as several cross streets  that are impossible to navigate most of the day and certainly from 3:30PM-6:30PM.  Are we creating more chaos?

We are in process of major changes on several streets and roads from Washington Ave to adding new northbound access to 35W from 4th Street, closing 5th street exit from freeway and adding a new exit pathway .

One HOPES these are carefully thought-through and coordinated remedies to existing problems but I fear we could be trading one mess for another.  How does one ensure that city/county/state and federal are all in sync on this?

Senator Klobachar just was here showing off collaborative efforts resulting  in the 35W bridge rebuild…was that an anomaly, or can it be a model?

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THE “OHH-AHHS” and MORE

July 22, 2013

Great conversation and catch-up as a few friends gathered at my house for the traditional viewing of the Aquatennial Fireworks Saturday night…and for the first time in several years, I did not help out with a USACE open house at the St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam in the afternoon so I had sufficient energy to prepare a meal and then sit back and enjoy some good conversation and catch-up.

And then at 10, there we were on the kitchen balcony for another spectacular show to close out the ten-day Aquatennial celebration in Minneapolis-a nice way to spend an evening with friends- being “awed”.

MN RACE FOR GOVERNOR

Friday night, I listened to three potential candidates on Almanac who are all currently contemplating running for Governor of Minnesota.  Today I can’t remember any of their names nor who said what as they all blended together without an original thought among them. They seemed like nice guys but what I do remember is that I felt like I was in a time warp that took me back to the 1980s.  The questions from Kathy and the milk toast answers may have been appropriate to that time gone by, but seemed to lack a touch of reality in today’s world.

Frankly, I was dismayed with their position on infrastructure and extreme negativity towards the Met Council.  I know it does little good for this discussion to take place wrapped in Republican vs. Democrat posturing for votes in an election, so I won’t even go there.

Instead, I channel  my thoughts to creative city-making, current theories of urban revitalization, and ALL projections of population mix and values by 2040 and one more time, recognize “THRIVE MSP 2040” seemed simply to be incompressible to these guys because they are still clinging to 40 year old ideas for comfort and perhaps because they do not like the reality before us.

 2040 is only 25 years away, folks.  That’s why posturing around 1960-1990 theories and examples and holding fast to what worked in 1988 is so foolish.  Think of the changes from then until today; recognize in the digital world that the rate of change in next 25 years will increase exponentially.  Remember the IBM first computers and the brash relatively new start-up Apple; or better yet, the cumbersome “car phones” that some carried in their cars?  We are not going back-so you all need to come forward!

The only way we as individuals, cities, states or a country will be prepared for the world around us in 2040 is to put aside the political discussions, compile the facts and projections, listen to experts imagine what that will mean to all of us and participate in bipartisan collaborative sharing of that scenario.

In the words of the president of the Kresge Foundation, recently here in Minneapolis : 

“…in these wickedly difficult and complicated times, creative placemaking is a clarion call for a creativity that is rooted in place and engaged with community to actively engage the defining issues of our time. It is also a call for a different way of working… [we} will occasionally need to leave the safe and secure moorings our institutions have come to know.  Sometimes, we will pivot just a bit, and get it right.  Atother times, however, we’ll have to expand our range of motion to embrace a level of risk and uncertainty commensurate with the magnitude of the challenges we face.”

ONLY THEN can we solicit potential solutions and ideas; ONLY THEN should opposing political viewpoints come into play.

MAYBE by then, both parties will recognize that to move forward, we must share ideas and collaborate on developing equitable potential solutions that can be monitored and adjusted along the way.

Not to do this leads us along an oft-repeated path prevalent long before the rise and fall of ancient civilizations, or the Holy Roman Empire of the Middle  Ages, the British in the 18- 19th centururies and the Third Reich and the Soviet Union in the 20th century.

Let’s remember what made the US unique and able to rise to world leadership is not just personal freedoms protected in our Constitution but a system designed for discussion of opposing viewpoints that allowed for bipartisan consensus. 

In the Olden Days, that was called compromise-which conjures up an image of each side “giving up” something for the good of the whole.  In today’s world to survive, we must learn to listen to all sides and build a solution that is better than any single perspective…that is called collaboration!

AND SPEAKING OF CHANGE; WHAT ABOUT THE CHANGING WORLD OF BUSINESS?

I am not sure what I think about the current trend of increased temp and contract work in the business world today.  Sometimes I I react negatively thinking we are seeing business “take advantage” because they “can” in a time of economic uncertainty; and sometimes I see it only as one more example of a changing world that is impacting businesses as well as individuals- a change that could be very positive.

I am reminded of my own career path.  After 25 years of increasing success in the corporate world and with no burning desire to OWN MY OWN business, I did just that:  I left Corporate America recognizing some things about myself.

 I was not motivated by a specific industry; I relished the exposure to all industries and perspectives that I had known in my life at BI/CMG.  I was also tired of traveling – even though much of it was to be envied as that travel took me around the world.  At the time, I wanted to be responsible for one person only – me- and not an unwieldy number of employees.  To select an opportunity in any one industry would be far too confining; and so what choice did I have but to pick what I liked BEST about that 25 year history of a diverse business life?

 And so, I narrowed in on events that deliver desired outcomes which  primarily take place locally so I never had to get on another airplane; spend hours in that awful world of airports; nor spend another night in a hotel room – unless I wanted to! 

At the time, that seemed to indicate I become an independent consultant or start my own business. I chose to open a small business and have been the principle of Creative Events by Kranz with no permanent employees ever since – with hopes I will continue until I reach another 25 year milestone.

And so I read the pros-cons of the Strib article the other day about the “surge in temp jobs in Minnesota” with some mixed feelings.

I understand the motivation of business to hire temps-both because of a slow economy and the healthcare cost impact. 

I understand and- in a past life-participated in the practice of using contract workers/temps to ultimately hire better employees for organizations I represented.

SoI am not sure that although most likely motivated by thoughts of Obamacare, that this trend today is a negative.  Perhaps it is a sign of corporations thinking smarter and managing fluctuating need and costs more efficiently.  It certainly also reflects current trends in flextime and flex office space-depending on current needs.

Most importantly, it allows savvy organizations to match needs to skills rather than “make do” with skills and talents already being harbored within a business organization.

If we look at the Great Recession as a wake up call and opportunity to “reset” for a more sustainable future, this all makes much more sense.  But what is still needed as we observe this trend is to understand the pros/cons and monitor the business world as they transition.

I fear they may be getting more benefits from this approach, but are still thinking “take advantage” financially as their loyalty to stockholders trumps loyalty to those that create their success.  I sense there is still a bit of the ‘robber baron” influence of personal greed lurking in the background – not to mention a loyalty to those that have never been loyal to them – their funding source-the stockholders.

As I think about my past life in the corporate world, our guideline way back then was to budget each new FTE at 1.5 times the salary paid to cover not only “employee benefits” but also the cost of space, supplies, equipment and all those other overhead expenses that increase as each new employee is added.

Personally, I lean toward the theory that ten years from now, corporations will transition to workforce strategies based on usage of a more flexible workforce.  That will be a good thing as long as we don’t forget that extra 50% of expense that is potentially being eliminated. 

Salaries should not be based on “temp” models of the 20th century but on some model that adjusts for elimination of overhead expense as well. 

For instance, using the old 1980s formula I used, a $50,000 base pay plus 50% results not in $24 per hour but $36 per hour.  We cannot sit by and idly watch corporations pocket that additional $12 an hour (or est. $25K annually per person) they just saved  by using contractors.

Companies that succeed in the future will understand that and adjust.  Those that don’t may flounder due to lack of talent…until all the Boomer executives retire and a new generation takes over running the corporate world.   Unfortunately right now, we are too heavily influenced by Boomers with 20th century attitudes but the world…it is a changin’…one more time.

 

 

 

 

 

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YEAHHH! IT’S FRIDAY!

July 19, 2013

I’m blaming it on the Kranz Family Reunion!  After several days in Rochester, I’m really having a hard time getting back in sync with my life this week so with no appointments today, I am not only celebrating, but also determined to clean up my desk of half-completed TO DO lists, newspaper clippings and post-it note reminders –and still have a bit of time for the cleaning/cooking in prep for the annual Aquatennial  gathering here Saturday nite….

After meetings yesterday morning, I started to wind-down with late lunch with Beth Hildebrand and JJ Jeska. Good to see old friends and catch up a little, even if I was a half hour late and everyone was on a tight schedule.  What a hard, hard thing JJ is tackling with the care of her mother – I admire her so and certainly can empathize, although in my case, I was one of several siblings shouldering the burden and my mother was not living in my house 24-7.  Nevertheless, in true JJ form, she was thinking of me as she ordered mo-mos to share with me at Gorka Palace. 

A few minutes to chill out and then we were all off again – me to get groceries, and return the hour car by 3 so I could walk home drenched to change clothes before I was off to Solera and Crave rooftops for a little ISES mixing.  What was I thinking when I changed into a gauze dress for comfort in the heat – never a thought to  the wind I would fight all the way down Hennepin Avenue? 

I’ve been an infrequent visitor this year to ISES meetings so it was great to hear Jean and Susan are ON IT in the preliminary plans for the ISES Star Awards next year….looking at sites, getting committee chairs in place and certainly from my perspective at least – thinking about the event as a way to celebrate the work of chapter members rather than a theme party.    A short discussion on the 15th anniversary of the chapter took me back in time to endless meetings of the original five “founders”   that pushed and planned to start a chapter in Minneapolis, the early rallies to get support and finally the chartering event at Goodfellows.

RESOURCES RESTORED; LIVES SAVED…a WIN-WIN- Indeed!

Modeled after 1933 Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, the Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa conducts a series of 4-week summer programs where kids 15-18 years old have been improving parks, trails and public land for $190 week pay…but that’s not all.

According to Director Cindy Green, it is also a youth development program where they learn to “write a resume, interview and manage finances.  They learn teamwork.  They end up with stronger work ethic, self- esteem, communication skills, and job-searching skills.

And equally important, they have fun while they connect to the outdoor, camp in tents at the worksites, and give up cellphones and all other electronics for the 4 weeks!

18-25 year olds in the program lead the youth crews, build retaining walls, docks and structures; do prescribed burns, fight fires and respond to disasters. (More than 100 helped in Superstorm Sandy).

The older group is funded under the Federal AmeriCorps, the Legacy Amendment and donations which cover a $5,500 education award for full year of service and a $1200 monthly stipend.

And the good news?  They get FOUR applications for every opening they have.  The bad news – they get four applications for every opening that is funded.

A total $7 million dollars last year delivered: 851 miles of improved trails; 34 miles of new trails; 848 campsites built or repaired; 32,000 acres burned; 296 miles of river obstructions removed; 4352 acres cleaned of unwanted vegetation; and 150,000 trees planted.

Not a bad return on investment, I’d say.

“RECOVERY DOESN’T MEAN NEW RECORDS”

Thank you to Lee Schafer for addressing a particular concern of mine in the STRIB ths morning.

If you follow this blog even occasionally since the economic meltdown that began in 2006 reached “meltdown “ status in the summer of 2008, you know I’m fairly fixated on the “RESEST”, “NEW NORMAL” and 8-10 year prediction for economic recovery from this Great Recession.

The spin on what was actually happening seemed to be heavily influenced by criticism of slowness and comparisons to 2006 “high marks”. And often, I’ve remarked that we have obviously forgotten what caused the meltdown in the first place – the over-valued housing market and Wall Street greed.,

Frankly, as it all continued unabashedly along with recent celebrations of the highest stock market “ever”, I had almost convinced myself I must be wrong and misunderstood the experts and their predictions of severity and recovery when it occurred.

Shafer asked the question this morning…”why is ‘recovery” the word just about everybody uses when discussing the housing market?”  He claims it’s “batty” to do this when the old high reflected prices that were fundamentally flawed.

In fact, he offers a perspective from Zillow Inc that indicates if we measure median house value as a multiple of median household income, the market may ALREADY be over-valued and we could be on our way to yet another boom/bust.

The quarterly price-income ratio of 2.4 remained fairly constant from 1985 to 1999…then started increasing in 2000-2005 to a peak of 4 and then started back down again (with a slight bump of hope in 2009) through 2011 when it was slightly higher than 2.5.

Since then, it has started to climb…one more time.  Is this a short bump or the beginning of a second bubble?

Thomas Reuters consumer surveys seem to indicate the general consumer continues to be totally unaware of what reality should be as the highest number of people since 2007 think house values will continue to increase and the fewest number of people in ten years believe it’s a bad time to buy.  Does this scenario sound familiar?

This leads me to wonder…just what WERE the lessons learned in the collapse and the beginning of the Great Recession.  To crash out of control twice in under 80 years tells me we ought to take a second look at expectations and change our thinking!

AS DETOIT GOES, SO GOES THE NATION

Back in February, 2012, I wrote a blog about “As Detroit Goes, So Goes the Nation”.  In it, I explained that through-out my career in the performance improvement business, the automobile industry  referred to by the euphemism “Detroit” was always a point of contention with me.  Their sheer size meant they made demands , were always right, and always got their way. And I was always reminded by someone in the industry….”As Detroit goes, so goes the nation.”

At the time I wrote the blog, it appeared the Auto Bailout was working and “Detroit” would be okay so I conceded in my post that perhaps it was ok that they were bailed out.

And this week “Detroit” the city proved me wrong…one more time.  They filed bankruptcy.  We can only hope that “As Detroit goes, so goes the nation” does NOT apply in this situation!