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.


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.


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!


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!

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