Thursday, February 28, 2008

Officials Should Give Air Cover

I heard Lynn Singleton, President of PFM, give a great analogy today. He intimated that it is the role of local officials to give air cover to public servants as they work through very complicated problems.

I hadn’t thought of that analogy before, but it rings true. That is when local government functions at its best. And most elected officials over the years have done just that, provide air cover. Anything they had to say in the way of coaching or reprimands was done in private, as it’s done in most organizations.

But a few folks, and I consider them friends of mine, have taken the now-prevalent approach at the federal level. Rather than air cover, at the federal level, it seems officials are more likely to take pot shots at public servants with zingers, eye-rolling, sarcasm and one-liners designed to feed the voracious appetite of an ever-inflated number of media outlets, eager for conflict.

Others seem to have an ax to grind, seizing on every opportunity to make someone else look stupid. Others seem to believe that everyone can be an expert at everything, and that makes them one, so they constantly second guess.

The result at the federal level sure hasn’t been better government. The result has been demoralization, stigmatization of public service and bumper-sticker politics.

I think we all need to step back and think about Lynn’s comment. I think everyone would be better served by working in collaboration.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Durham Is Loyal to Duke

Funny how people get an impression Durham isn’t loyal to itself and its assets. Some of it is that half the people working in Durham commute here, and we can’t hear ourselves think sometimes. Some of it is because Durham is activist by nature and not only encourages a wide range of opinions but also debates both sides of various arguments.

But I’ve never been in a community more loyal, and that includes Duke. Sometimes the students there, especially writing for The Chronicle seem to get “fortress-it is” and bemoan that Durham doesn’t like them.

That notion has been here as long as Duke, but it isn’t true, not even when it comes to basketball. Some people assume, because the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is in the next city over and has a student body more than double that of Duke, that most of Durham would be Tar Heel fans.

Not so. Scientific polling has demonstrated over and over that the majority of Durham residents are Duke fans. Makes sense. Duke is well-known worldwide, and people come to live in Durham from all over the world. And, those from here or elsewhere in the State do not make up the majority of residents nor the majority of college graduates.

So, what do the surveys show? Of the ACC teams, Durham fans break down as 56% Duke, 20% UNC (in Chapel Hill), 7% NC State (in Raleigh). And the real shocker: 48% of the fans in Orange County, where Chapel Hill is located, cheer for Duke, and 45% of the fans in Raleigh cheer for Duke.

So Dukies and Crazies… feel the love.

P.S. And before I get calls that this just can’t be, regardless of how scientific the polling is--based on UNC input, UNC grads equal 4% of Durham’s population or 5.4% of its adult population.

Destination Development - The Roles of DCVB and Its Stakeholders

Karl Albrecht is a futurist who has done and is doing some good work on behalf of DMOs (destination marketing organizations, like DCVB) and Destination Marketing Association International.

Karl came up with a good way to convey the various roles of a DMO. DCVB did some significant adaptation, and he encouraged us to share it with colleagues as a tool to help all community stakeholders better understand respective roles.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Annual Tribute Luncheon - Bull Durham

April 30th, 11am to 1pm, right on Coach K Court at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Durham Annual Tribute Luncheon (ATL) will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the greatest sports movie of all time, Bull Durham, and of course, the filmmakers and the movie’s contribution to Durham’s unique sense of place.

Coach K is not only a past honoree, but also he has been a great supporter of the ATL over the years, and permitting the luncheon to be in this storied location shows just how much…. It helps that The Special Event Company, which is co-sponsoring the luncheon, has a track record of events there without any damage to the surface.

I was asked recently, why “Cameron.” Must have been a Carolina fan is all I can say. But seriously, the ATL not only celebrates unique sense of place, but also DCVB tries to make sure it is held in places that reflect that. The past two years it was in the American Tobacco Campus.

But beyond that Cameron is a historic location, where Durham is often showcased on national television, it was just ranked one of the “10 best places to see an NCAA basketball game” by USA Today. Need I say more?

Tickets are going fast. To make reservations, visit or contact Paul Phipps at (919) 680-8314 or

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sticky Products

I’m still surprised at what ideas gain traction immediately vs. those that take some time to incubate. I guess the buzz word now is “sticky.”

DCVB just launched a week or two ago. It permits organizations to log in and, in real time, update information on both the organization and individual contacts in DCVB’s database. This means that anytime something changes, it can be rapidly reported and update the website the next day and publications as they are produced. In just a few days, nearly 150 organizations have already logged on and provided updates.

Reminds me of Durham Image Watch when it was launched a year ago. Immediately nearly 200 Durham residents or people who work in Durham enlisted to help spot communications that erode Durham’s image.

BTW, people often ask how to enlist. The site is

Thursday, February 14, 2008

2.3 Million People Attend MiLB in NC

Minor League Baseball is a real economic force in North Carolina. Nearly 2.3 million people attend games in the state annually.

That’s enough to fill the gigantic Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, NC, 12 times over, or about double the attendance at NASCAR races in North Carolina if every seat is sold.

The nine teams in North Carolina are relatively small businesses with a collective wallop to the state economy across all regions.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Connecting Neighborhoods

Ed Best, the USPS mail carrier for my neighborhood, is sharp. I believe he is the first carrier to register for the listservs for both of the neighborhoods he serves. Ed sees it as a way to both convey and receive information from his customers. Although active on many listservs, it had never occurred to me how useful this would be for people who serve neighbors in this way. Way to go, Ed.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Don't Believe Everything You Read - or, 10 Ways to Enjoy the News

We’d save a lot time and money if we all weren’t so gullible when it comes to the news. As my grandfather, a third-generation homestead rancher in Idaho, without formal education, used to say, “Don’t believe everything you read.”

For example, to read the news, especially the Raleigh paper, you would have believed Durham had fewer days of water remaining compared to Raleigh and had reacted much more slowly. In truth, Durham does have, and has always had during the drought, more water on hand than Raleigh and moved to restrictions much more quickly.

Durham has about 4½ months’ reserve and Raleigh 100 days and change. Doesn’t mean we’re better, by the way; it means we have different water systems. Durham owns its own lakes. The two communities also rely on totally different watersheds, and their underlying geology is very different.

I find that usually the facts are in news stories but sometimes blurred by hyperbole, editorializing, bias, controversy, front loading etc.

Here are 10 things I use to enjoy the news but not lose sleep or get agitated:
  • Not everything bad happens in Durham first, then Raleigh.
  • Not everything that happens in one community is important to the other. We’re family, not attached at the hip.
  • Everything brilliant is not Raleigh, nor is everything stupid, Durham.
  • Not everything is “zero-sum.”
  • Communities are rarely predatory; that is a private sector, free market thing.
  • Businesses may be dog-eat-dog, but communities are just rivals, and that doesn’t mean they don’t cooperate.
  • Just 'cause you don’t discern action from news reports doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
  • People who appear to be in conflict may just be answering two different questions.
  • Durham gets twice the news coverage: it doesn’t have twice the news. Density equals weight, not importance. Dilute what you read at least in half.
  • To be “world class” a place doesn’t need to be cosmopolitan. It needs to be “real.”