Monday, April 30, 2012

A Stewardship Credit On Taxes

Ironically, I recently found myself in a conference room at the headquarters of the National Historic Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington D.C. within 40 hours of having witnessed Durham, North Carolina's Annual Tribute Luncheon last week in Bay 7 of the incredible American Tobacco Complex.

While placemaking is about much more than buildings, using several metrics, arguably no place has taken better advantage than Durham of their share of the $90 billion in federal historic tax credits that have been injected into local economies over the last 32 years to help invigorate the built environment’s contribution to sense of place across the country.

Of course, the Trust which was established back when I was born, is about much more than buildings just as “protecting and preserving scenic character,” the purpose for which I was visiting Trust headquarters is about much more than preserving trees or fighting things like outdoor billboards that blight scenic character along roadways and destroy sense of place in communities.

The Brookings Institution which is located just one building further down Massachusetts Avenue from the Trust estimates that between the time when the American Tobacco factories reopened in 2004 as a creative class center and 2030, 82 billion square feet of existing buildings in this nation will be demolished and replaced with new construction, fully 25% of the nation’s current building stock.Commercial Energy Use By Vintage

The projections have been slowed slightly by the Great Recession, but there appears to be little or no evidence that we’ve learned our collective lesson from the burst of the housing and commercial real estate bubble.

Hopefully, the rapid and broad-based embrace of sustainability as an American value will be enough to slow the churn and transform the ways we see land use and respond to growth as we understand how to incorporate both negative and positive externalities into free market decisions.

But every year, approximately 1 billion square feet of buildings are demolished and replaced with new construction even though buildings built prior to 1945 are far more energy efficient.

A few years ago, a good friend of mine who lives down in Raleigh, North Carolina confided that Wake County which includes a dozen or so separate communities there was burning an acre an hour in development which seemed to me far too fast to enable good land use decisions.

By 2030 84% of the built landscape in the South will have been constructed or adaptively reused and, 54% will be new construction built since the year 2000.  If we insist that new construction carry the true cost, maybe we can make growth far more sustainable while being better stewards of historic structures.

Until new development carries its true cost, it is crucial that Congress level the playing field by passing the “Creating American Prosperity Through Preservation Act” CAPP) which was introduced in February by Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland and Senator Olympia Snowe, a Republican from Maine to invigorate tax credits.

The CAPP Act will:

  • Drive development and job creation into smaller “Main Street” communities by increasing the tax credit amount to 30% for projects under $5 million.
  • Promote energy-efficiency and cost-savings by encouraging the use of energy efficient technologies.
  • Enhance the impact of the historic tax credit in low-income areas by eliminating barriers to nonprofit community-based developers.
  • Expand the 10% credit for the rehabilitation of non-historic buildings to include structures “fifty years or older.”
  • Improve to efficiency of state tax credits by eliminating the federal taxation of the state credits.

Fast Company writing, in part, this month about Durham’s adaptive reuse of several million feet of the city’s historic tobacco and textile factories using historic tax credits notes:

“One hundred fifty years ago, Durham-based entrepreneurs Washington Duke and W.T. Blackwell battled for tobacco sovereignty...Today, Durham’s innovation scene is kindled by tech giants like IBM, Lenovo, and about 140 other companies with stakes in the ground at the 7,000-acre Research Triangle Park...

Though Big Tobacco’s heyday has come and gone, Durham, you could say, is still smoking!"

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Infographic - US Population by Ancestry

US Population by Ancestry

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tracking Down Happiness

I know it isn’t true but I like to believe that everyone’s memories of when they were the age of my grandsons, 6 and 8, are some of the happiest of their lives, as were mine.

The happiness about which I speak is more “what psychologists call a trait, not a state – a person’s typical emotional experience, not fleeting responses to events” as described by Dr. Richard J. Davidson in his new book The Emotional Life of Your Brain, co-authored with Sharon Begley.

Unfortunately, when I was the age of my grandsons back in the 1950s, happiness, as it has been scientifically measured from year to year across the entire population, peaked in America.  That’s a tidbit from The Politics of Happiness: What Government Can Learn from the New Research on Well-Being, by former Harvard University president Derek Bok.

In an effort to really put today’s headlines about disparity in context though, I go back 100 years.

During the declining years of President Theodore Roosevelt’s life, a statistician at the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Willford Isbell King published a fascinating retrospective entitled The Wealth and Income of the People of the United States.

In part, Dr. King analyzed statistics available in 1913.  This was the year after the “anti-trust-enforcing” President lost a third-party bid to regain the White House.  It was the latter part of what we now call The Progressive Era.

It was also in the wake of the Gilded Age of super-rich such as Rockefeller, Mellon, Carnegie, Flagler, Rogers, Morgan, Vanderbilt , Astor and Duke.  It also marked the end of a 60 year period of natural devastation in America including two-thirds of the deforestation that has taken place over the last 400 years.

Dr. King computed back then that the richest 1 percent accounted for 18 percent of the nation's income. Today, the richest 1 percent account for 24 percent of the nation's income, according to Timothy Noah, author of The Great Divergence.

Noah and Matt Yglesias have conducted a insightful multi-part virtual dialogue this week on Slate about why we should care about the divergence.

I’m intrigued by why we seemed happier in the 1950s according to scientific measures.  Coming out of the Great Depression and WWII, we shared a sense of common purpose and we didn’t mind paying higher taxes in exchange for the common good and policies not for the wealth and big business as they do today but out of determination to grow the middle class.

I get that. I also understand and agree with the TED speech Tuesday by Harvard conducted that reveal that money per se doesn’t bring happiness but it is closely associated with using it to help others.

We seem to have replaced the incessant debate about “nature” or “nurture” that was so prevalent back when I went to college in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s with one today about whether growing gaps in equality between groups are driven by “economics” or a break-down of “culture.”

It is hard to argue with author Richard Heinberg, who wrote The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality when he blogged about Bok’s book, wondering why our overall happiness has declined while:

“During the past 35 years, per capita income has grown almost 60 percent, the average new home has become 50 percent larger, the number of cars has ballooned by 120 million, and the proportion of families owning personal computers has gone from zero to 80 percent.”

I also understand and accept in part the premise of Charles Murray’s recent book Coming Apart which points to cultural issues.

But these two choices are far too blunt to provide a lens through which to understand what we do going forward.  I became a devote of the late  James Q. Wilson when asked in the mid-1990s by the Durham Crime Cabinet to  report on his then well-proven Broken Windows approach to reducing and curbing criminal behavior.

Today, nearly every community dabbles at an aspect or two of the Broken Windows theory, as Durham does, but those who have adopted it as an overarching strategy understand what Wilson grasped, that some social ills, such as crime, are not just individual choices but what columnist David Brooks terms as part of a “social psychology.”

I highly recommend a reading of Wilson’s 1985 14-page essay The Rediscovery of Character: Private Virtue and Public Policy.  Viewed through the retrospective of someone like Wilson who had passionately advocated for pieces of our social safety net provides a much clearer view that the solution is probably both/and not either/or.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Drilling Down Into The News Dilemma About The Environment

I find it odd that so many people believe that Southerners and Blacks in particular aren’t concerned about the environment.  This seems to be insinuated in news coverage of the current debate over whether or not to permit “fracking” in North Carolina.

By holding out the false promise of jobs, proponents demonstrate that they seem to believe that African Americans will automatically dismiss deep concern for clean air and drinking water.

I wouldn’t be so sure.  African Americans, particularly in the south, have been sensitized for more than 140 years to those who offer such a false choice.

Judging by the results of a recent national public opinion poll showing that 79% of Americans yearn for more and better news coverage of the environment, you can assume the concern is shared across all regions and ethnicities.

A closer look at the detailed results of this poll conducted for the Project For Improved Environmental Coverage by Opinion Research Corporation shows that Southerners at 83% and Blacks at 88% are even more likely to hold the view that news coverage of the environment should be improved.

All of this may be wishful thinking.

Journalism has shed more than 50,000 jobs in the US in recent years.  Newspaper newsroom staffing peaked more than two decades ago and has fallen to levels last seen in the 1970s during Watergate, back when concern for the environment had just entered its twenty-year era of “pollution control”.

News coverage of the environment dropped last year to 1% of all news stories, about what celebrities receive.  It was just a decade ago according to a 2008 study, Environment Reporters and U.S. Journalists: A Comparative Analysis, that 37% of daily newspapers and 10% of television stations had environmental reporters.

Over the last two decades the number of papers across the nation with even a science section fell 87% to fewer than 20 according to the San Jose Mercury News.  A 2010 George Mason poll of local television news directors reveals the disconnect with the public’s desire for more coverage of the environment:

  • 10% have a full-time science or environment reporter
  • Only half cover climate change one or more times a month
  • 6 out of 10 even cover air and water quality 1 or 2 times a month or less
  • More than 89% believe coverage must reflect balanced viewpoints (even if some are inaccurate or deliberately misleading)
  • Yet more than 7 out of 10 believe citizens should do more to address global warming
  • More than half believe they need little or no additional information in order to form an opinion
  • 73% were male, nearly 70% over the age of 40 and rounded 25% were conservative, 19% liberal and 57% moderate

I’m fortunate to live in a media viewing area with very competitive local television news, as “local” as you can call coverage spanning 22 counties.  Incredibly, WRAL, a station based in nearby Raleigh is owned and now managed by the fourth generation of its founding family.

Showing the Goodmon family’s commitment to local news and information as well as social justice and the public interest, the station’s management recently cancelled lucrative prime-time programming to air the documentary 6,149 days, the true story of Greg Taylor about the first person to be freed from prison after the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission became involved in his case.

Considering the fact that there are now 520 local television stations that air no local news at all makes WRAL’s stance and coverage where I live in general very unusual.  There are many other stations in this country that broadcast less than 30 minutes of news a day resulting in the fact that a full third of the country is without local television news.

Making it even more difficult for viewers to see through unreliable information in the guise of being “balanced coverage” is the fact that some stations are moving to “pay-to-play” models with no vetting of content for accuracy or agenda.

Only a third of the country receives local cable news or all-news local radio programming, as infuriating and obnoxious as it can be when it is so slanted as the 50,000 watt am station is that beams from Raleigh into Durham where I live.

Technology is unbundling traditional news models which will make it even more difficult for media to justify coverage of the environment especially even in the fewer of than 1% of cities such as Durham where I live which has both a local newspaper and competition-coverage from one based in a city nearby, neither independently owned.

In 1920 nearly 43% of all cities had dual press coverage but today the competition doesn’t result in better coverage, just dilution of resources.  Paid circulation of daily newspapers is less today than when I was born nearly 64 years ago, four years after publication of a book entitled The Disappearing Daily.

But when I moved to Durham in 1989, newspapers nationwide employed more newsroom journalists than at anytime since I was ten years old; and now we’ve seen annual editorial budgets slashed by nearly $2 billion just since 2006.

News today may be 24/7 but it is staffed by far fewer journalists so the reality is less diversity of stories, repetitive programming, little in-depth or investigative reporting, ubiquitous feeding frenzies and “hamsterized” newsrooms.

So the public may want and even deserve more news coverage of the environment, but it is going to have to get it from non-traditional sources.

In the meantime we live in an era where politicians at the state level are increasingly less transparent and working hard to eliminate not only local control of environmental decisions but to exempt critical information about the environment from public records laws.

The idea of “breaking news” or “news bulletins” or “news flashes” was codified by the Associated Press more than 106 years ago according to Slate journalist David Wigel.

Today and in the future, we may be more likely to sense breaking news about the environment more from the air we breathe, the rapidly changing climate and the water we drink.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Our Fortunate Mistake

Shortly after I arrived in North Carolina in 1989 for the concluding chapter in what would eventually be a 40-year career in community-destination marketing, Dana Clark’s six years in that field was just ending.

After earning an MBA at the University of Georgia, he had gone to work in group sales for the destination marketing organization in Charlotte, but over that span of six years he came to realize he was a mismatch, classifying himself as an “introverted marketing guy in a position that called for an extroverted politician.”

He was very good at booking business but he was soon to learn that destinations that fail to insulate their community marketing from cutthroat politics, as far too many do, can find their good work trumped by as little as two or three relentless and self-serving “enemies,” usually fronting for special interests.ASU

An excuse came along, thanks in my opinion to a borderline breach of ethics by another DMO, and Dana was fired.

That mistake turned out to be extremely fortunate for tourism in North Carolina including destination marketing!

Clark continued his education at Virginia Tech and, while successfully completing a dissertation for a PhD, he started teaching at Appalachian State University in 1991 where he has remained ever since while consulting and assisting many professionals across the state including me.

With roots going back to the end of the 19th century, Appalachian State with a student enrollment of ore than 17,000 is located in the spectacular nook of northwest North Carolina framed by Tennessee and Virginia and a stones throw from Kentucky and West Virginia.

You can climb to the top of Beech Mountain near the campus and, if the atmosphere permitted, you would be able to see clear to the Rocky Mountains.

Dr. Clark, as Dana became known in 1993, has helped shape and direct what is arguably one of the most dynamic hospitality and tourism programs in the country as part of the Walker College of Business at ASU.

App’s was one of the original three programs of this type in North Carolina but that number has mushroomed to eight, including one in Durham where I live, as tourism has exploded into one of the state’s largest economic sectors over the last 20 plus years, the majority now driven by tourism drawn by communities.

Programs such as Dana’s are rigorous and many students wash out. But key to the incredible popularity of North Carolina and its cities, towns and counties has been the simultaneous evolution of a talented and educated workforce as well as a corps of entrepreneurs.

They thrive not only in destination marketing organizations but in tourism-related industries such as events, attractions, retail, lodging, restaurants and transportation.  I came across or worked with many ASU alumni during my now concluded career.

Dr. Clark could run any DMO in the land, but we’re all much improved and far better off because he found his passion in education.

Monday, April 23, 2012

It Doesn’t Have To Be This Controversial

To make the best decisions regarding a special tax levy to fund projects as proposed by and for Downtown Durham Inc., all the Durham City Council needs to do is ask the right people and take steps first to establish a baseline.  It is that uncomplicated.

The right people are not only property owners but tenants and residents including apartment dwellers.  Lobbying and special interests, even those with a legacy of playing win/lose hard ball politics, may be useful resources but biased by nature and rarely are their opinions  generalizable.Seattle

A simple but scientifically randomized intercept survey can quickly and easily inform the best possible decision, possibly coupled with a carefully controlled online survey and could quickly implemented by using City staff and volunteers such as Durham Wayfinders.  Any incidental costs could be reimbursed if/when the special levy is activated.

Even better, questions on the survey could drill down about how to help cut or prioritize costs, e.g. how many are willing to pay extra for sidewalk scrubbing and clean up vs. lobbying and marketing etc.  Many communities such as Seattle, for example, use scientific intercepts to gauge the needs of districts including, but never limited to, just their downtown areas.BID Map

Such a survey could also help identify preferences for how the use of the special assessment should be governed.

For example, should this be done by a completely private organization with a self-appointed board as DDI has traditionally operated or by a quasi-independent authority possibly staffed by DDI but with publicly-appointed seats balanced to represent property owners, tenants and residents or perhaps even a conversion of the DDI model into a hybrid, etc.

Whatever is decided even if it isn’t based on an independent survey of stakeholders, I agree with DDI exec Bill Kalkhof who reportedly believes that general taxpayers should not be put on the hook -- any more than they already have been to fund special services or special treatment for just Downtown.

Regardless of what is decided about a special levy on Downtown, it won’t make a dent in overall resident perceptions of community aesthetics in general, one of three top drivers of community attachment.

While Durham residents rate the community much higher than the benchmarks overall, they rate it four times lower than the benchmark for aesthetics. This includes giving current maintenance of roadsides and medians a failing grade by three to one.

This discontent isn’t just about the presence of litter as some more interested in hardscape claim as they dismiss this negative ratings.  Neglect such as this is linked in study after study to crime, property values, public health outcomes, economic development decisions, intolerance and abuse and more. 

Durham officials need look no further than southeast Durham encompassing Research Triangle Park or the adjacent airport which is jointly-owned with Raleigh and Wake County to rediscover the best practices for overall aesthetics.

In fact, it might allay some of the widespread and growing opposition to the special levy on Downtown if the affected parties could first see overall Durham maintenance restored to appropriate levels as a guarantee that the special assessment on Downtown would truly provide services only above and beyond.

Hopefully officials will soon take a broader view of aesthetics and will address neglect in Downtown as well as community-wide.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Infographic – If Walmart Was A Country


If clicking on the image didn’t open to the story with the full series of charts, click here to open see them on Mother Jones .

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Infographic – US Population Growth 2010 to 2050

Population Growth

Click here to download the Nielsen Report, State of the Hispanic Consumer.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Growing Up Environmental

Growing up just a half dozen clicks from Yellowstone Park in the shadow of the Idaho side of Grand Tetons wasn't enough to fully awaken my sensitivity for the environment.

That didn’t truly happen until the Christmas Eve of my 20th year when the first images of Earth were beamed back from Apollo 8, the first manned mission to reach and then orbit the Moon.

As the three astronauts aboard that Apollo spacecraft reappeared from the dark side of the Moon, Bill Anders captured the first image of planet Earth taken from Space.

Six and a half months after that Earthrise image was viewed around the world and just a week after I turned 21, Apollo 11 landed on the Moon.  The memories all flood back to me this time each year because it was only eight months later that Americans celebrated the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.

It was more a demonstration than the festival it has become today, but back then demonstrations were very much like festivals.  The event where I live now in Durham NC, will be in the Downtown Central Park District this coming Sunday, but you can click here to find events where you live.

Fittingly, the day before marks the beginning of National Park Week which will be commemorated in part by the re-airing of the phenomenal Ken Burns documentary series beginning the night of the 21st on public television where I live.  This is a must-see!

I experienced a revelation last summer during a 6000-mile cross-country trip that renewed my acquaintance with six national parks, Roosevelt, Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain and Great Smoky, in that order.

The images of Glacier National Park in the video at this link  provide a glimpse into why a visit there for an SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious) like me is such a powerful confirmation of the existence of a Greater Power and our responsibility of stewardship to this planet.

These images also kindle an outrage at many things happening today.  But outrage over the environment during my lifetime didn’t begin with the first Earth Day.Fish Dam  The trajectory of that outrage can be traced as follows:

Legislation was passed a week before I was born to set the first national water quality standards in 1948.

Lethal smog episodes first received media attention that fall and by the week after I turned seven air quality standards were first established.

As astronaut Alan Shepard arched briefly into space on May 5th 1961 aboard Freedom 7 during my 7th grade school lunch break, the health effects of nationwide carbon dioxide and other vehicle emissions were becoming a serious concern.  Thirty months later the first clean air act was passed.

During my first year of high school, weeks after a multi-state tour to highlight the importance of conservation and the environment, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

My last year of high school was bookended by the first emission standards for cars and recognition of the nation’s symbol, the American Bald Eagle, as endangered.

Ironically, that summer before entering college, when many of us headed up into the Targhee National Forest to assist crews fighting to save towering Lodgepole Pines from a massive outbreak of mountain pine beetles, we were spraying DDT which would be banned six years later as science revealed it as a culprit in killing those Eagles.

Today, just as they were at the first-ever event 42 years ago, many Earth Day attendees will be as outraged at current efforts at the state and federal level to dismiss or undermine what they distrustfully label as “regulatory science” and roll back or gut environmental protections and the agencies that safeguard them.

Many celebrating Earth Day here in Durham may be also outraged if made aware of how lukewarm efforts are to properly fund maintenance of roadsides and parks and other open spaces or to restore, protect and expand urban forests -- all vital elements of scenic character so critical to sense-of-place and quality of life.

The outrage was personal for the 190 volunteers during the recent Creek Week in Durham who witnessed the inadequacies of year-round maintenance efforts as they pulled nearly 12 tons of trash accumulated along just 18 miles of streambeds and shoreline, much of it the result of illegal commercial dumping, though there were also examples of household cast offs.

Any official who still dares to underestimate or dismiss the inadequacies of Durham’s year-round maintenance of the community  will become equally outraged to see the extent of illegal dumping as captured in the image shown above in this blog or by clicking here.

The images were taken in the weeks running up to Earth Day during clean ups undertaken by Durham County General Services waste reduction crews often working with Keep Durham Beautiful.

What is captured in these images are not isolated instances and far outstrip the resources of valiant teams such as these and the City’s Neighborhood Services Rapid Response Impact Team.

Any state or local official tempted to disregard or undermine concerns for the environment should be required to wade through this pollution and I guarantee they will share the outrage and sense of stewardship we should all renew during Earth Day along with a revived regard for “regulatory science.”

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Calling The Wrong People To Testify

Savvy meeting planners know that the wrong individuals are being pilloried in recent hearings and news coverage about the excesses of some Government Services Administration (GSA) training events.

Anyone with a background in tourism knows that, as the proportion of that sector related to meetings and conventions continues to shrink well below 10%, overly reliant facilities, many subsidized by communities yet to diversify to more lucrative segments, continue to spawn.

So the potential for scandals like this is more likely to be fueled by the desperation of too many facilities and communities chasing too few events than it is by co-dependent meeting planner misconduct.

Maybe it is tourism facilities and experts who should be called to testify and then, instead of whining that the fall-out is unfair, sector-leaders might be more motivated to take responsibility for their part and look internally to create more transparency and to self-regulate far better free market solutions.

Pressure to meet facility revenue targets by juggling guest room rates, food and beverage expenditures, incidentals, programming, meeting room rental, not to mention per diems, is enough to conspire poor decisions.

But then add in pressure to inspire and inform and juice up productivity so that attendees can do more and more with fewer and fewer resources, including those who plan the events themselves, and it is no wonder poor decisions result.

I am not privy to the details of the GSA fiasco, but based on a now-concluded forty-year career on the economic development side of tourism my bet is that some private sector facilities and service providers and possibly some incentivized but unwitting individuals may have been just as complicit, if not more so, than government employees or contractors.

As with any problem, it won’t be rectified by destroying however many to clear away careers and lives or by sating the lust for sensational headlines among far too many news outlets chasing far too few stories or by election-year political jockeying or grandstanding.  Nor can it be rectified by piously fingering a handful of bad-actor businesses.

The problem is truly systemic and it will require less whining and more introspection and self-regulation by all of the various industries and organizations involved in tourism including feasibility study enablers and those that represent facilities and communities .

Face-to-face meetings and events play an important role but, due to a variety of factors, they are and have been in inevitable decline for decades.  It is time for less denial and more attention to where this small but important segment of tourism will find equilibrium.

Most crucial is that community subsidies including the holding hostage of community-destination marketing along with booster-driven overbuilding need to be cleared away so that full transparency and free market forces are able to salvage what remains of the conventions and meetings segment of tourism.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Stroll With Friends Through Sense Of Place

Last Saturday I took the annual three-mile curated and narrated walk led by John Schelp through several different neighborhoods including his beloved Old West Durham as well as Watts-Hillandale, Walltown, Trinity Heights and Trinity Park.

It served as a prelude to Preservation Durham’s 16th annual old home tour Saturday after next in Forest Hills.  I live in Rockwood on the cusp of Forest Hills and experience the best each neighborhood has to offer.

Both drain into park bottomland along tributaries of Third Fork Creek.  Forest Hills Park was first a golf course in the 1920s, often an alternative use for bottomlands which are below flood plains.

Today, both Rockwood and Forest Hills parks serve not only as forested respites and forums for family recreation but as invaluable tools to purify storm water run-off.

During John’s walk the historic yet thriving neighborhoods along the Ellerbe Creek side of the ridgeline dissecting Durham take center stage as a lens through which he weaves the rich history, archeology and geology of Durham while the homes and buildings along the way form a backdrop.

With the annual Preservation Durham old home tours, such as the one in Forest Hills on the 28th, the homes and their interiors, exteriors and grounds take center stage with the neighborhood as a backdrop.  Each perspective is invaluable.

Both Schelp’s neighborhood walks and PD’s old home tours give an extraordinary view into part of what makes Durham residents so passionate about their community and both are highly recommended for newcomers and tenured Durham residents alike.

John Schelp and I worked in tandem long before we ever actually met.  He’s an admitted extrovert but not the kind who has to be the center of every group’s attention.  John is proof again that the impact some people have on our lives greatly transcends how often we see them or how much or often we talk.

We moved to North Carolina about the same year more than two decades ago and he joined me in Durham a few years later.  We share a communications background and we both love and fiercely defend Durham.

We became acquainted by more than reputation and mutual causes less than a decade before last Saturday morning’s walk when he outed-me to his substantial community listserv.

Back then we both frequented Charlie’s Pub & Grille, viewed by some as a biker bar on Ninth Street only because so many incredible motorcycles often line each side of the street there, part of the eclectic, organic charm of that uniquely Durham District.

Who knows, maybe that was the spark that encouraged me to finally move motorcycles up from a curiosity on my list of interests to a passion, learning to ride a few years later at age 61, and continuing to ride now several years into my retirement.

I also owe John a debt of gratitude for igniting my current issue-based passion to protect, promote and restore the scenic character of North Carolina and its communities through teamwork with other like-passioned individuals and groups across the state via Scenic North Carolina.

John has a keen awareness of unique sense of place, one shared by Durham’s official community-destination marketing organization (DMO), but which unfortunately escapes far too many DMO executives in other communities who are entrusted with its defense and promotion.

Similarly our friendship and mutual respect occasionally serves as a bridge between a diverse number of organizations, groups, factions and individuals who may risk becoming far too prematurely estranged into “fur or agin” alignments.

Friendships such as ours are not an uncommon attribute of life in Durham and part of what makes this community both so incredibly activist at heart and so dearly held in the hearts of residents and organizations of every stripe.

I recommend that you mark your calendar now for the first or second Saturday of April 2013, probably the 13th starting at 10 am, usually near Ninth and Green and take this incredible walk through Durham with my friend John.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The New Era of Stewardship

American concern for the environment isn’t static.  At its roots in the years before 1850, life was breathed into the movement as much by artists such as Henry David Thoreau and my favorite landscape painter, Albert Bierstadt, as from science.  The term ecology wasn't even coined until 1866.Bierstadt

Experts break our concern for stewardship of our environment down into three eras and perhaps now a fourth:

  • Pre-1970, environment was more about natural conservation
  • Post-1970, environment was more about pollution control
  • Post-1990, environment was more about pollution prevention
  • Post-2010, environment is more about sustainability

As I was making my home in Durham, North Carolina in the late 1980s, a global conference was defining sustainability simply as “an activity that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (1987 UN Conference on Environment and Development).

I’m persuaded that “sustainable resilience” is a better term as proposed by Professor Emeritus Dr. Roger Caldwell of the University of Arizona because in his view lots of experimentation is required to achieve or maintain sustainability and also because it transcends just the environment.

Caldwell even suggests that sustainability may be the next great era after technology, but not in my mind, if conservatives have their way.  According to researchers working at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Sheps Center, which just 10 miles from my house in Durham, conservatives are much more likely to distrust what they stigmatize as “regulatory science” because it doesn’t support their world view prejudices.

What do I know?  The study by Dr, Gordon Gauchat, released just a little over two weeks ago, illustrates that conservatives’ trust in science has been declining since 1974, especially among the higher educated.  But maybe as capitalist George Soros suggests what new really need is to “move from the Age of Reason to the Age of Fallibility in order to have a proper understanding of the problems.”

Gauchat’s UNC-CH study also reveals that moderates like me tend to be less educated than conservatives and especially liberals, but we’re definitely not stupid.  Quibble about degrees here or there but who can argue that we don’t owe it to future generations to be better stewards of this planet? Really!

The study rules out some long-held theories about the long gradual decline in trust for science among conservatives settling on politicization.  The study is particularly enlightening for those of us living in Durham, home to two major research universities, world-renowned Research Triangle Park and scores of major corporate and government research facilities.

Duke University in Durham is also the gold standard for sustainability, both in policy and practice.  Next month when I go to Duke Eye Center for my annual exam, I will park in a green parking deck with living green walls, cisterns, a retention rain garden and a clematis covered rooftop level.

Adjacent buildings sport an award-winning green roof and heliport and across the street is an area where University Trustees have approved construction of a new tree lined 6-acre reclamation pond that alone will save 100 million gallons of Durham drinking water each year.

The 23-million-gallon pond will collect and retain rainwater and storm run off from more than a fifth of Duke West Campus to be recycled for other uses such as cooling towers.

Any organization, private, public or non-profit would do well to study and emulate both the Duke policy and the extensiveness and intensity with which it is being put in practice, much of it driven by my friend Dr. Tallman Trask III.

There are obvious contradictions such as the outdoor billboard messages either bought by marketers or enabled as donations for Duke Medicine Marketing.  While sacrificing roadside forests and undermining community values they are easily corrected anomalies and understood given the difficulty of entrenching sustainability in every nook and cranny of such a large enterprise.

Those who distrust science as an objective means of making and informing democratic decisions, public or private, are well advised to suggest anything better.  While they may thwart or retard government sustainability initiatives, this is a movement now so pervasive as to make such obstinacy anything more than a speed bump.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Culture Of Start-Up

While Bob Bowman and I share the same last name, even the same initials, we’re not related, that I know of, but we sure could be kindred spirits.

My favorite of Bob’s quotes is “If there’s no tension, you’re not going to get better” which many felt was my motto during a now-concluded forty-year career spanning four different start-ups in destination marketing, one for a university and three for different city-county pairs.

The term “start-up” has as much to do with an organization’s innate culture or personality as it does with size or duration.  As I retired from destination marketing several years ago, a Durham official who had known me for more than two decades told me that the organization I had jumpstarted and led over that period always had the unrelenting sense of urgency of a start-up.

I took that as a compliment and friends accuse me now of bringing start-up intensity to my numerous passions in retirement, albeit in terms that are a bit less “life and death.”  Yup! I won’t deny it!

Twelve years ago, Bob Bowman jumpstarted what I think is the future of television as the CEO of a limited partnership made up of the club owners of Major League Baseball teams called Baseball Advanced Media (BAM.)

It is the vanguard not just for every other sports but for every type of cord-cutting video programming (forecast to reach 3.58 million by year-end 2012.)

Bowman is famous for saying that in a start-up bred culture, “You’re king of the hill one day and on the wrong mountain the next.”  The quote reminds me of a book published as a preface to the new millennium entitled 500-Year Delta: What Happens after What Comes Next.”

I recall that the authors of this book argued that to maintain a leading-edge on competitors, you may occasionally find what you’ve climbed is actually a foothill requiring a backtrack to reach the real mountain.

The slower paced alternative is to be a follower.  Bob Bowman is not a follower.  He famously remarked years ago in the midst of the boom in large-screen televisions that paradoxically the screens we’ll watch in the future were going to be much smaller, not larger.

While many of us still remember serving as the manual remote control to aid our families in switching back and forth on the three channels then available, viewing with family or friends today involves individuals viewing four or five small screens on various hand-held devices with their large screen television serving more like what Bowman terms as Muzak in the background (elevator music.)

Last year I was one of 2.2 million people who bought one of BAM’s apps and often find myself watching programs this way.

Within months of the millennium’s turn and the subsequent bust, long before Hulu and at a time when it wasn’t even clear whether websites would pay off, Bowman led Major League Baseball into what many experts call the biggest leap forward since the National Football League’s first deal to televise games in 1960.

In his incredible book On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not neuroscientist Dr. Robert A Burton explains that at the minimum it takes 200 milliseconds to react to the typical MLB pitch traveling between 80-100 miles per hour which will cross home plate in approximately .380 to .460 milliseconds.

That professional baseball pitch travels nine feet before your retina can transmit and your brain process that the ball has left the pitcher’s hand.  Once it is in flight it is too late for detailed deliberations by any batter.  The reaction and swing time alone equal the travel time.  Hitting one of those pitches is an astonishing feat.

Equally miraculous is that I will see the same pitch and the the batter’s end result within 25 seconds of its being thrown no matter where I am on the planet according to a great summary about BAM by senior writer Chuck Salter in the April issue of Fast Company.

It is definitely time to retire that old saying that “Baseball is the only thing beside the paper clip that hasn’t changed!”

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Infographic – Local News & Community Activists

Local News

Click Here for the full Pew Research Center Report on Local News Enthusiasts.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Infographic – Black Digital Consumers & Mobile Advertising

Black Consumer

For more insights on black consumers, download Nielsen’s State of the African-American Consumer report.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Insights From A 40-Year-Old Paranoia

During my nearly 64-year lifetime I’ve lived in eight states, 5 red, 3 blue, based on overall ideology.  My exposure has been 77% red and 23% blue until you factor in the time living in spots that are uncharacteristic of the state they are in and then it is more like 61% red and 39% blue.

But my understanding of why red state residents seem to hate government while taking more government benefits goes back to a research project with which I was involved just before graduating from an extremely conservative college in a very conservative state the year after presidential-hopeful Mitt Romney, whom I knew also graduated.Benefit

I researched and documented a seven to nine month period from the Fall of 1969 through the Spring of 1970 when many Christians of the Mormon faith became rampantly paranoid about the ideas that Salt Lake City was going to be invaded and sacked by large groups of African Americans.

Part of the research was undercover and part was through collecting and analyzing documents such as interviews, transcripts of speeches, news clippings, pamphlets distributed by neighborhood vigilante groups, anti-Communist propaganda etc.

The intensity of that paranoia is still palpable today when re-reading the chilling details provided by many of the informants.  Official statements by church and political leaders intended to quell the rumors during that short span of time did little to dampen the spread of the presumed fear which was fueled by stories that included:

  • rumors of people being threatened or beaten for having the wrong license plates or school sticker as they passed through nearby states.


  • rumors of beatings and threats to school children of Mormons living in other states and plots to assassinate church leaders


  • rumors of internal plots and coups to take over leadership of the church because they were too lenient and of the Civil Rights movement marketing the “Last Days”


  • rumors of threats and revenge including supposed plots to poison reservoirs and food supplies and blow up or burn sacred and political facilities


  • rumors and writings about the counter-culture (hippies) and Black Panthers being a front for a communist take-over and the down-throw of American cultural ideals.

Change some of the labels and today such folklore is now the stuff of shock-jock talk radio.  Reflecting back to that time puts a whole new perspective on today when an African American is President of the United States and Mormons are more mainstream and this requires looking through the lens of that time.

It wouldn’t be for another 10 years before the Mormon Church would change its policy of banning Black members from holding priesthood.  That change came in 1978, much too late for some like me who lapsed from that culture over that issue 39 years ago while remaining accepting of, but shamed by, that part of my heritage.

The struggle among members of the church on both sides of this issue may have been cathartic but just as that issue was justly resolved, members of that church began a hard turn to the right making it today the most conservative of all faiths while during the same period, some say, purging the college I attended from the academic freedom enjoyed when I was there.

Today Mormons definitely are not racists per se but some may share the same low regard for minorities and immigrants that researches such as the authors of American Grace have found defining among individuals now defined as Tea Party members, both before and after that movement came into existence.

The Freudian explanation for what was happening during that season of paranoia that gripped Mormons in late 1969 and early 1970 is called “inversed projection.”  This condition is described as when individuals or groups subconsciously rationalize a contradiction by painting themselves as the victim instead.

In folklore terms this is what researcher William Hugh Jansen coined a decade before I conducted my research as the “Esoteric-Exoteric” factor. Esoteric refers to the mystical, subjective conception we have of ourselves vs. the exoteric or objective, external conception we have of others.

Contradictions in our own self-conception often fuel an interpretive conception of others based on fear, bias and prejudice.  This to me also explains the apparent hypocrisy among residents of red states when they bash government while being the highest beneficiaries.

The pejoratives about government programs often asserted by conservatives and other red state residents aren’t based on personal experience with others more distant who they may stereotype as dependent on a so-called “nanny-state,” but on an inversed projection.

The source of their fear is more personal because they see and often encourage their adult children to fraudulently take advantage of tax loop holes or maintain poor credit then take advantage of bankruptcy laws or use Medicaid for more prevalent teenage pregnancies or to start a family while in college while they themselves get far more back in benefits than they pay in taxes.

As a political Independent or unaffiliated/lapsed, as ardent Republicans and Democrats, like to term us, this may not make my choices any easier in the election this Fall, but it will help cut through the rhetoric and avalanche of negative campaign ads.

Communication like this will say more about those who utter or sponsor the attacks than it will about their intended targets.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Trees And Patriots

At the time of the Revolutionary War there were still a billion acres of forestland carpeting what would become the United States of America. Symbolically, Patriots met under the “Liberty Tree” in Boston before heading to the docks to witness the original tea party protest.

In 1775, as an anti-Patriot object lesson, the British viciously chopped down the 129-year-old Liberty Tree, making it even more ironic that a modern-day Tea Partier is drawing support from the outdoor billboard industry in an attempt to try to unseat a Hendersonville NC Republican State House member who dares to side with the 9 out of 10 North Carolinians who object to the destruction of any more trees along roadsides.

Fourteen turbulent years after that Liberty Tree was mutilated, North Carolina, where I now live, was finally ratifying the new Constitution of the United States of America and broke off the part west of the Appalachian Mountains in December of 1789 to cede it to the newly created federal government in exchange for covering its Revolutionary War debts.

Six years later that territory was accepted into the Union as the 16th state, Tennessee.  And just less than two hundreds years after the British desecration of the Liberty Tree, North Carolina voters embedded protection of forests and trees into the State Constitution.

Over the last several months, I have taken four different road trips across different parts of Tennessee and among my favorites was a detour off I 40 down to Shiloh, the site of a pivotal Civil War battle in which two future US presidents fought to resolve some unfinished business and preserve the Union.

Four months after that trip, I had another unexpected pleasure as I dropped down from Kentucky along a stretch of I 24 through north central Tennessee and the Land Between The Lakes region on my way back from another 6,000-mile cross-country trip.

Today, North Carolina and Tennessee each retains nearly the same overall tree canopy, 60% to 57% respectively but with 30% more land area, North Carolina has 18.6 million acres of non-urban forestland which is about a third more than Tennessee.

While North Carolina also has 50% more population, the two states  have preserved or reforested virtually the same number of acres of urban trees at 1.4 and 1.3 million respectively.

But Tennessee just got a much better handle on its urban forest area thanks to a newly released study by the National Forest Service that may also provide some insight to North Carolina.

Tennessee has an estimated 284 million urban trees broken down as follows:

  • 66.4% in forest
  • 15.5% along streets and other transportation corridors
  • 13.2% on residential land
  • 7.7% on “other” land uses
  • 5% on agricultural lands and
  • 2.2% on commercial or industrial lands.

Studies such as this one done by the National Forest Service for Tennessee have yet to measure the greatest value of urban trees which is as an invaluable contribution to sense of place and economic development, both to demand-side tourism and to the more traditional and more land intensive supply-side.

The Tennessee study does benchmark the structural or “replacement value” of the state’s urban trees at $80 billion.  It also measures another $639 million of annual value generated from these urban trees in the form of carbon storage and sequestration, pollution removal and energy reduction.

But it fails to build on the work of other Forest Service researchers who have linked urban trees to better health outcomes, reductions in domestic violence and increased private property values to name a few.

In addition to the blight of outdoor billboards, the threats undermining the value of these trees include disease, poor development practices including those related to parking lots, utility lines and vegetation screens, disrespectful state highway maintenance practices as well as ignorance of this sort of information which is prevalent among local and state elected officials.

As noted so eloquently at the end of an excellent article that appeared last week in Urban Land magazine entitled The Distinctive City, planning veteran Edward T. McMahon asks the question: “Do you want the character of your city to shape the new development, or do you want the new development to shape the character of the city?”

Especially for anyone who views trees only through the lens of dollars and cents, studies by the U.S. Forest Service such as the one documenting the value of urban forests in Tennessee are invaluable.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Bellwether Mayor And A Chamber In Sync

It is a positive sign for Durham’s continued economic prosperity that 60% of adult residents believe the community is a good place for gay and lesbian people to live compared to 27% who disagree.  Most telling perhaps, is that a full third feel strongly on this matter according to the annual scientific poll commissioned by the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB.)

Further evidence appeared last week when the Board of the Durham Chamber of Commerce, an advocacy organization for business voted unanimously to oppose Amendment One, a ballot proposition to insert a ban on same-sex marriages in the State Constitution.chamber logo

The Chamber was on safe footing.  By my count among friends who own businesses, the reaction has been overwhelmingly in favor of opposition and a statewide opinion poll taken during the time of the Chamber’s deliberations revealed that 6 out of 10 North Carolinians also oppose the amendment.

Wily proponents of the ban pushed it onto a primary election ballot next month so it will all come down to voter turnout, but I agree with House Speaker Thom Tillis that even if approved, such an amendment will be repealed by the demographic and psychographic shifts already well under way in North Carolina where nearly 4 in 10 residents already support the rights of gay citizens to be married.

Sentiment wasn’t always so clear to read.  When I moved to Durham, one of the state’s most progressive communities, in 1989, Mayor Wib Gulley had barely survived an effort a few months earlier to have him recalled when a petition requiring 13,000 signatures fell short by a thousand.

Issuing an “Anti-Discrimination Week” proclamation while speaking highly of gay citizens had also resulted in Gulley being black-balled from membership in the big Downtown Rotary Club.  Much of the uproar had been fueled by the organization of a former WRAL broadcaster down in Raleigh, then US Senator Jesse Helms.

For several years I avoided rejoining Rotary until it was clear that the organization’s sentiment had become more reflective of Durham values and I eventually served as that club’s president.  Wib Gulley was overwhelmingly re-elected to a second term as mayor and went on to serve several terms as a State Senator.

Coincidentally, he is the current chair of the governing board of the organization that I came here to lead as the spearhead for visitor centric (demand-side) economic and cultural development organization and from which I retired several years ago.  Wib was mayor  back when DCVB was first chartered as a provision to state legislation.

The Durham Chamber works the supply-side of economic development, thanks in part to a grant from Durham County.  While I continue to give it grief for a regressive stand it took and still promotes that undermines Durham’s popular ordinance banning billboards, that stands out as an anomaly and probably would have never happened today.

The Durham Chamber in my experience has always been one of the most progressive organizations of that type. By the time I moved to Durham, it had been responsible for populating Research Triangle Park here in partnership with the Research Triangle Foundation.

After acceding to the Durham ban on outdoor billboards in ‘84, according to public documents, the Chamber openly supported a zoning overlay turning the portion of I 40 that passes through through Durham into a sense of place best practice.

In 1987, in another forward-thinking move, the Chamber supported creation of an independent, official community-destination marketing organization for Durham for which I was recruited as chief executive.  A decade later, it joined with DCVB to jointly create a best practice collaboration for placed-driven communication.

It isn’t always easy for any chamber to reflect its community’s values.  Who can ever forget Marvin Barnes’ impassioned support here for school merger when he was board chair of the Chamber.

I also recall being in the room when the Chamber’s board, then, as often the case, laden with non-residents, came very close to opposing bonds for affordable housing until word arrived just prior to the vote that Bob Ingram, then-head of GlaxoSmithKline supported the bonds.

Some at the Chamber groused when Durham established its vaunted school of the arts magnet school, an elaboration on the nationally-acclaimed NC School of Science and Math that had already been established in Durham in 1980 with Chamber support.

But the Chamber quickly acceded when it was revealed how much better many students at every socio-economic level do, even in subjects such as science and math, with art as a lens, something demonstrated over and over by the legendary Joe Liles when he taught art classes at the NCSSM for 28 years.

And the Chamber’s progressiveness isn’t limited to its positions on issues. Examples are the joint official publication created with DCVB to tell Durham’s story and aid both visitors including those who become  newcomers.

I spotted another Chamber innovation being created in the storefront nook of Beyu, the downtown cafe where I often buy bulk coffee beans, a collaboration with DDI, our downtown advocacy organization called The Smoffice.

Overall I’ve always been impressed by our community’s Chamber, but at no time more than with its opposition last week to Amendment One.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bending The Rules

One of the inspirations I’ve gleaned from attending student concerts at Durham NC’s Riverside High School comes from witnessing the joyful inclusion of participants who have Down syndrome, many of them older in age than their peers.  It is a life lesson as important as any other this incredible student body is learning.

It crossed my mind as I read this week’s Sports Illustrated and came to the column that award-winning journalist Phil Taylor writes for the end of each issue aptly named for anyone who follows American football, The Point After.

The column is about Eric Dompierre, a sub with Down syndrome who plays on the Ishpeming (Mich.) High basketball team and who, under current state rules, will not be allowed to play during his senior year.  Ishpeming is in that slice of Michigan that stretches over on top of Wisconsin and under Lake Superior.

Eric's father, Dean Dompierre, is spearheading a campaign designed to get the state athletic association that governs Ishpeming High to bend the rules so that eligibility can be extended under certain circumstances such as his son's.  Almost 80,000 people have signed Mr. Dompierre's petition which can be accessed at the end of this blog.

Maximum-age rules are there for good reason as evidenced by a segment on 60 Minutes recently about parents who try to red shirt (hold back) their kindergarten-age children a year not so they can catch up but so they can seem smarter than peers when they enter primary school and outperform peers in sports.

Back when I was in high school in the mid-1960s, I remember when we played teams from Pocatello (ID) High and Garfield (WA) High how huge they were and how many had full face beard stubble when we played them.  We swore they must be 25, honest!

Rules by their nature should be designed to create fairness and prevent abuse, but they are also meant to bend where exceptions are clearly warranted such as Mr. Dompierre’s case.  About two dozen states grant exceptions to the maximum-age rule and I hope Michigan is added to that list soon.

I remember my first conversation with now-retired human relations consultant David Camner of Performance Management Inc. in 1999.  After auditing with high praise the personnel manual and policies used by the organization for which I was then chief executive, he suggested I read a newly published book entitled First Break All The Rules.

The book isn’t an argument against rules but about how and when to make exceptions.  I share a mentor with the authors, the late Dr. Donald O. Clifton, the father of “strengths psychology” and founder of Selection Research Inc. which acquired Gallup Research just as I was recruited to Durham in the late 1980s.

People afraid of bending rules sometimes just hide behind them to avoid thinking or risks.  But more often they’ve just witnessed too many people, as I have, who seem amoral or unethical and who base all of their decisions and actions on “who’s asking” or get their way by bullying or manipulating others.

Rules and data-based decision making can help mount a defense against such people, such as this but it does no good to fortress off a world based on these jerks.  They go only by their own rules which are usually based on win/lose.

A better way to deal with them is eloquently described in How Full Is Your Bucket a book by Clifton co-wrote with Tom Rath, his grandson and published the year after his death.

The book describes much better ways to deal with people who abuse or disrespect rules and who are constantly looking for ways to dip into the buckets of others by gaming the system.

Click here to sign the petition for Eric.  Go Hematites!

Monday, April 09, 2012

Arts and At-Risk Youth

As Durham, just three days hence, once again becomes the center of worldwide attention for documentary filmmaking, I’m reminded of a research finding I reported last year that after involvement with this art form 91% of at-risk youth became more interested in continuing their education beyond high school.

Coincidentally this past last week, the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) distributed a study published last month showing the dramatic associations between arts involvement and a wide range of positive outcomes among students of low socio-economic status (SES.)Low SES - Careers

The analysis for NEA was conducted by James S. Catterall at UCLA with Susan Dumas at LSU and Gillian Hampton- Thompson at the UK’s University of York.  Entitled The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth #55R looks at four long-term studies.

The 28-page report, including charts and graphs, is well worth the read and illustrates achievement levels associated with both low and high arts involvement (top 12.5%.)

It is an expansion on Dr. Catterall’s 2009 book entitled Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art: The Effects of Education in the Visual and Performing Arts on Achievements and Values of Young Adults.

The analysis correlates outcomes which are far beyond secondary education such as the image shows in this blog from page 22 of the report which illustrates the percentages of young adults from low socio-economic households who anticipate serving in various professions by age 30.

Anyone who is serious about closing achievement gaps or who might be temped to cut or fail to restore funding for any arts in schools programs should click here and read the report.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Infographic – Is U.S. More Religious Than Iran?

Weekly Attendance

Source: Pew Presentation – American Grace

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Infographic – Who’s Reading What and Where

Who Is Reading










If interactive map doesn’t open, click here.  Many thanks to Rosemarie Kitchin for the heads up.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Recalling Mentors Like Charlie and Bob

Next month will mark the 38th year since I first met two of my early and most influential mentors in community-destination marketing as they stepped down from Great Northern Railway’s historic Empire Builder which had become part of the newly-established Amtrak three years earlier.

They arrived to help celebrate the May opening of the 6-month Expo 74 in Spokane, Washington, the smallest city ever to be awarded a World’s Fair.

Charlie Gillette and Bob Sullivan were part of a contingent of national tourism leaders arriving that day and and they immediately took me under their tutelage. They also kiddingly defended my “Welcome Back Kotter” hair length from one or two local people who mentioned that they felt it was disrespectful to Republican-President Richard Nixon who was also flying in for the event which was held just 40 months after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was established.

Ten years into his 24-year stint as head of the community-destination marketing organization (DMO) for New York City, Charlie had just re-launched “The Big Apple” nickname, taken from a reference by Damon Runyon and others including many Jazz musicians in the 1920s.

Charlie knew a thing or two about turning community image around and passed it along to me.  When he was 44 he had gone to work in destination marketing from the earned media or “publicity” side becoming DMO president just as New York was hosting its 1964 World’s Fair.

Bob was head of the DMO in San Francisco and had famously just opened the first official visitor information center there. Even that city had to be weaned from over-reliance on just the 10% of visitors who travel for conventions and meetings.

At the time Charlie was just a few years younger than I am now. Bob looked much older than his 46 years at the time having come of age as a Marine while fighting during WWII on Tarawa, Guam and Iwo Jima and then escaping imprisonment during the Korean War after first enlisting at age 13.

Bob had cut his teeth running the DMO in Reno in the ‘50s before returning to his native San Francisco in 1964 to run their marketing organization. He understood community sense-of-place and loved what Spokane had done as a prelude to hosting the “environmentally-themed World’s Fair.”

Mining interests and others had been persuaded to stop discharging pollutants upstream in the Spokane River and the community had worked hand-in-hand with industry to restore two blighted downtown islands dividing the dramatic falls of that river so they could be used to stage Expo ‘74 and then be transformed into a legacy Riverfront Park.

Both men had just led the charge to have the word “visitor” incorporated into the mission and name of DMOs and welcomed me into the newly renamed International Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus (now Destination Marketing Association International) less than 20 months after we met and the year before Bob would serve as chairman.

While many DMO execs seem even today still stuck in 1950s and 1960s sales-dominated-marketing, Charlie and Bob were already leading the way back in the 1970s to customer-driven Marketing 1.0 and were they alive today, they would be fully embracing values-based Marketing 3.0.

What set them apart from so many DMO execs even today is that they put the community in destination marketing rather than just fronting for facilities such as hotels, meeting, sports or theatrical facilities or even dining and shopping outlets which even then harvested a greater share of visitor activity than any of these facilities.

Charlie and Bob were passionate about their destination communities and tapped into the passion of residents in their communities because they understood that the overall destination community is the context that draws visitors and they realized even then that destination marketing is in essence “movement marketing” with a community as the “cause.”

They were always accessible by phone as my career took me from Spokane to Anchorage, and both retired just before I came to Durham in 1989 to jump-start the DMO here and from which I retired a few years ago. Charlie passed away in Great Neck in 1995 and Bob in Australia in 2008, both age 80.

Charlie and Bob are each proof that the impact some people have on our lives greatly transcends how often we see them or how much or often we talk. They are also the reason I caught the eye of peers from whom I would learn so much and share about community image-turn-arounds and sense of place.

One such individual is the late George Kirkland.

George had cut his destination marketing teeth for a few months at the chamber of commerce in Oakland, two years before I would do the same at the chamber in Spokane before being tapped to help that DMO fully evolve by achieving the independence that nearly all but a very few have today.

He moved on to Anaheim and honed his skills on the group sales side, as I did when I first began in Spokane and back then we would visit while waiting our turns to make competing presentations to host large conventions choosing between our respective communities. George did a brief stint in Hawaii before we reconnected as CEOs when he became the exec in Kansas City in 1977.

I went on to head the DMO in Anchorage, but George and I stayed in touch as he replaced Bob Sullivan in San Francisco. He then laid the extremely difficult groundwork to form a DMO in Miami just as I came to Durham and he moved on to Los Angeles where we would both face and overcome challenging community image turn-arounds.

Charlie learned from the World’s Fair in NYC as George did from LA’s hosting of the Olympics what I would learn in all three cities in which I served, especially Durham.  Turning community image around takes a much deeper, sustained and more systemic approach than mega-facilities or events can affect.

George was only three years younger than I am now when he passed away in 2003 just months after learning of a terminal disease.

I am well aware of the fact that much of any success with which I have ever been credited is the result of my having met and connected with people like these three gentlemen from whom I gleaned advance understanding of challenges I would face.