Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy XMas

Infographic: Gaming The System

Click here to view this info graphic full-size

Friday, December 23, 2011

Predictors For Littering Behavior

Over the years I’ve learned through scientific research how a very few people can drive a significant problem, so I wasn't surprised when I read some new research on the behavior of littering.

For instance, during my now-concluded career in community marketing, only a little more than 11% of the residents of Wake County where Raleigh, the state’s second largest city is located have a negative or very negative image of Durham, where I live.

But those 1 in 10 who are negative generate enough noise to make nearly 30% of the population in that adjacent county believe that, based on the way people talk, they would expect a negative experience in Durham. They also create apprehension in another 30% and tranfer those impressions to businesses seeking to relocate to Durham and to visitors to Durham arriving through the jointly-owned airport and even via news reports.

Similarly with litter, a very small percentage of people can drive a problem that has serious consequences.littering study

During 2008, for a report published in 2009, Action Research used observations, intercepts and telephone interviews to help Keep America Beautiful unwrap and target the behaviors behind littering.  In one segment researchers observed nearly 10,000 individuals across 130 different locations divided across 10 different states evenly split between rural, urban and suburban settings, including 30 different cities, and nine different types of locations including fast food, recreation, gas stations, city centers, rest stops, medical/hospital, restaurants/bars, retail, etc.

Even though more than 90% of the locations had trash receptacles located in plain view, 81% of the littering occurred with notable intent.  Four percent of the individuals observed were litterers and another 17% disposed but improperly.  Overwhelmingly individuals held the view that littering is wrong, even those who had just been observed littering.

Only two variables emerged in the findings as statistically significant predictors of littering, 1) availability of disposal receptacles and 2) the amount of litter already present.  The second of these is a wake-up call for officials in Durham, North Carolina, where I live.

Possibly lulled at some point in the past by the incredible levels of Durham resident pride, satisfaction, and image of their community, officials began to neglect general upkeep of roadsides and medians and public buildings and spaces.  In time the neglect became a standard operating procedure betrayed only by how well maintained the southeast part of the community encompassing Research Triangle Park and the nearby jointly-owned airport remained.

However, officials back then and since may have failed to account that litter is not just generated by residents, but also by 3 out of 5 people working in Durham, who are nonresidents and there are another 6.9 million visitors to Durham each year.  It is widely known that even individuals who are diligent about litter at home can be much less so when away from home, especially when litter begets more littering.

But most importantly, this now institutionalized permissiveness of neglect failed to reckon that neglect such as litter leads to other problems such as signaling to petty criminals that no one's in charge and even providing a screen behind which major crime can fester.

The lesson is that a very small part of the population can generate a  problem which has serious consequences such as litter, if not addressed. One of the nicest presents officials can give the residents of Durham in the new year is the resumption to best practices of the general upkeep of roadsides and public spaces to best practices.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gaming The System

Fortunately, I was able to read the EPA news release yesterday about new standards for coal-fired plants before I read some of the reactions in news reports, many of them knee-jerk.

In North Carolina, about 67% of our electricity is still generated from coal-fired plants. One plant located in another county an hour’s drive north of Durham where I live and operated by a company based in nearby Raleigh is fed by about 150-200 train cars of coal brought to that one plant from West Virginia each day.

There are approximately 600 coal-fired plants across the nation.

The new and long overdue EPA standards brought to mind two reports I read earlier this year, with interviews with two retiring utility executives. In one interview in the Wall Street Journal with John Rowe, who headed the third-largest utility in the nation caught my attention with this quote about coal-fired plants gaming the system:

“…people with the old coal plants are gaming the system."

Mr. Rowe likens these plants to a "'49 Chevy" and explains that "there's been a big game of chicken in the industry because utilities have known these rules were coming for more than a decade" under the Clean Air Act, "and most of the utilities actually spent the money to get their plants somewhere close to compliance. We think about 60% of the coal fleet is. But some just decided to gamble. They just made one very big bet that these rules weren't gonna ever happen."

Mr. Rowe continues that "We object to their continuing to keep the market price down with plants that they're not going to clean up at all. We object to people running the plants just so they can trade shutting them down to some politician for building a new plant somewhere else."

The "real enemy here," Mr. Rowe continues, “isn't the EPA.”

Another interview a few months earlier on with Dick Kelly as he retired as CEO of Xcel, another large utility was equally insightful, especially when he said something the interviewer noted “would get him booted from the utility country club:”

"I'd be OK if there were never any more coal."

Both utility execs are optimistic about short-term and long-term alternatives to coal. As we bring now obsolete-coal to an end, we need to learn from two pivotal mistakes the Reagan Administration made in the 1980s and the ramifications of which we are still living with today.

They eliminated energy research, which had been implemented during the energy crisis of the 1970s and would by now have yielded energy independence.  In their zeal to downsize government they also failed to grasp at the dawn of globalization, the crucial importance of increasing government funding to reeducate people working in declining industries.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Strengths and Threats to Resident Attachment to Durham

(Reposted from Durham News Service)

For nearly two decades DCVB has used scientific polling to annually track things like community pride and satisfaction among residents. It has provided indisputable confirmation of the passion Durham residents feel about their community.  This is important to destination marketing because residents make emotional connections with visitors, and their engagement is key to delivering a successful Durham experience.

Durham was an early pioneer of this type of assessment as a means to monitor the resident attachment and engagement which is so important to the strength of a community.  In fact, there were no benchmarks to compare to except on the few occasions DCVB would sample opinions about similar communities in North Carolina.

Recently, though, the Knight Foundation and the Gallup Poll conducted a similar series surveys of 26 areas of varying sizes across the nation over a three-year period ending last year.

  • Passion and loyalty turn out to be the most important indicators of resident attachment to their communities or connectedness which correlates with economic health.
  • Compared to the overall passion benchmark of barely 1 to1 nationwide and in North Carolina, Durham passion among residents for the community is nearly 15 to 1.
  • In the measure of loyalty to community, which includes how likely residents are to stay and recommend it to others and the outlook for the future, Durham residents are three times higher than the benchmark. Overall attachment to Durham was more than double the next highest community in the benchmark.

The Knight/Gallup analysis also revealed something that threatens to erode resident attachment to Durham if not remedied. With only one glaring exception, among the dozen or so attributes that drive attachment, Durham was above or at the benchmark.

The three most important drivers for the benchmark were identified as 1) social offerings, which includes nightlife, restaurants, arts and culture, and caring about one another etc. 2) openness to different groups and 3) aesthetics, in that order.

  • In the area of social offerings Durham residents ranked the community 2.3 times higher than the benchmark.
  • In the area of openness Durham residents also ranked the community 2.3 times higher than the benchmark.
  • However, in the area of aesthetics, which by 4 to 1 Durham residents rank a as a high community priority, Durham ranks more than 4 times lower than the benchmark.

While by a ratio of 5 to 1 Durham residents rank the community high for availability of parks, playgrounds and trails, by 3 to 1 they disagree that roadsides and public areas are attractive and litter free. By 2.5 to 1 they disagree that Durham has good signs and way-finding to help people get around. And the longer people live in the community, the more they disagree with Durham’s standing on these last two measures.

Clearly Durham residents believe that if officials want to protect and improve the attachment and connectedness among residents then the element they most need to improve is the overall upkeep and aesthetics of the community.

Improving aesthetics will also help improve other drivers of attachment. Experts conducting regression analysis predict that if officials can engage in activities that improve resident perception of aesthetics from the current 2.45 on a scale of 1 to 5 or to 3.45, it will also improve the perception of education by 25% and the perception of overall basic services by 51%.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Embedding The Importance of Appearance

A few years ago when a former Durham city manager asked my opinion about resurrecting Keep Durham Beautiful my initial reaction was that it couldn't hurt but I also thought to myself “here we go again”… taking an anecdotal or project approach versus a strategic and holistic approach to restoring aesthetics to its rightful status.

Under my breath I may have muttered “why don't we make it beautiful and then we can worry about keeping it beautiful.”  However, one aspect, caught my attention. KDB was resurrected as a hybrid with its staff embedded in City General Services, now so ably headed by Joel Reitzer and the agency most responsible for general upkeep of the community, while working with and at the direction of a public-private Board of Directors and deploying both public and private funds.

To me the resurrected KDB further evolved the genius of the formula that has made Downtown Durham, Inc. a success.  DDI is a nonprofit almost wholly funded by the City and County to then turn around and lobby the City and County to do what has been needed to rehabilitate and revitalize downtown Durham.  One of the most important contributions of DDI was that it incessantly kept Downtown in the focus of every public agency.

DDI was able to help close gaps created by the natural tendency of agencies to become silos, something common as well in large corporations. Being embedded in General Services KDB had the potential to be even more effective at closing gaps and advocating in general for upkeep and beautification across every agency, both City and County.

KDB has now completed the bumpy road every start up must successfully navigate.  It is poised for new leadership for this next phase. While the organization has been successful at a range of anecdotal projects it has also helped close some gaps between agencies and programs and to begin to restore the overall profile of general community appearance within Durham's local governments.

Now, together with allies that also grasp the overarching significance of appearance to a community such as the Durham Appearance Advocacy Group, Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau, Scenic North Carolina, and the Durham Appearance Commission, KDB is poised to help the City and County reestablish a strategic approach to the mutual obligation of scenic preservation, restoration and maintenance.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Making Recycling Inclusive

Durham, North Carolina is having great success with the larger capacity rollout recycling carts but other than a experiment in the city manager's office, I'm not sure when we will move to reverse recycling.  I saw this in action during a visit to my daughter and grandsons in Salt Lake City, Utah where they now have the same large recycling cart, but a very small cart for garbage.

The other day I asked a recycling executive with the City of Durham why it is that I see businesses like dry cleaners collecting plastic wrapping for recycling but that our curbside recycling does not accept that same content like many other cities do. I didn't get an answer or even an acknowledgment that this doesn't make sense or that this will be remedied in the near future.

It isn't just dry cleaners. The same is true with recycling electronics.  It isn't enough to just ask people to take those items back to the store where they purchased them or to keep track of periodic recycling days held in store parking lots.  If communities want households to efficiently recycle, they need to make far more frequent and timely adjustments to the types of items they accept  at curbside.

In the meantime it never hurts to communicate with residents why it is the City can't take something curbside and how long it will be before that will be remedied.  Once people are educated to recycle it is natural for them to expect that everything that is recyclable will be included.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Infographic: Almost Accurate

There are several things to note when clicking through to see the full infographic below created by Newsweek magazine about airports:

  • It illustrates why deregulation has resulted in cheaper fares, but also problems with airline profitability that has resulted in a decrease in service to many smaller communities.  Instead of tweaking the system, we went from one extreme to the other.  Deregulation is not a silver bullet.


  • Different than many charts of this type graphic artists attempted to truly list airports in about half of the instances but substituted the names of cities in the others to step in the right direction.  The names of airports and cities are rarely synonymous.


  • Makes one wonder if the list of popular destinations is a list of destinations or just a list of airports.  Airports never serve just one community, either outbound or inbound. Their catchment areas always include dozens if not dozens of dozens of distinct community destinations. No one has  an airport as a final destination except the airline.

airports infographics by Newsweek magazineInfographic by Newsweek magazine

Friday, December 16, 2011

Just What Happened Anyway?

Many people who have been kind enough to follow this blog noticed that I resumed posting yesterday after an absence of six weeks or so. Other than occasional family history blogs, I'm not really that comfortable talking about myself. But it would be selfish not to share an update.

Six weeks ago, in an instant, I stepped backwards off a landing and fell down a flight of stairs. I must've twisted in the air and somehow came down on my hand and wrist. Miraculously, I didn't hurt my back. But I did some serious damage to a knee and split my scalp along one brow deep enough to require 15 stitches and also shattered my wrist and broke off to of the bones in my arm the two bones in my arm just above the wrist.

The break didn't penetrate the skin but as I felt something to stop the bleeding on my forehead, I noticed that my arm and wrist were grossly misshapen. I'm 63 years old and this is my first broken bone. There wasn't much pain until, as explained in the ambulance, the muscles in my arm tried to move the two broken bones from just under the little finger back closer to the my thumb where they belonged.

In a flash I was in the suite in the Duke University Hospital emergency room where I would stay for nine hours while teams of doctors followed by medical residents and fourth year medical students and nurses sewed me back up, made certain with scans that nothing else was damaged that wasn't visible and moved my arm and wrist back into place while I watched in real time on a monitor and then finally, they immobilized everything with a giant cast.

Images of the break were immediately sent to Dr. Allen at Duke who skipped the usual consult and squeezed me into the schedule for surgery five days later. She skillfully inserted what looked like seven of the screws up into the wrist and another seven down the bones in the arm along with a plate and sent me home with a much smaller cast.

I took myself off the heavy painkillers within three days. Within a week of the surgery I was back in to see Dr. Allen where I got a cast I could remove when needed such as showering and began physical therapy therapy. I was also cleared to fly out west over Thanksgiving to meet my daughter and two grandsons, and mother at my sister and brother-in-law's house in Mill Creek, Washington.

Four weeks after the surgery I was given permission to eliminate the cast and put on even more difficult physical therapy and given a glove to compress swelling. In another week, or so the bones should've hardened around the screws and plates.

Still don't have enough mobility in the wrist or enough feeling in the last two fingers to be able to type so I am using Dragon premier which turns my natural speaking voice into text. I've been using a keyboard to compose since I was a sophomore in high school and people have often kidded me that when I write something, it seems I always need a keyboard between my brain and the creation of the document so this is a new experience.

I took out really good health insurance when I retired, but even so, the accident has cost me $7000 so far in out-of-pocket expenses, not to mention an incredibly heavy dose of humility. I've also gained a deep respect for people who really do have serious and prolonged injuries and unending pain.

As my doctors noted I've gone about healing with the same intense drive that I do everything but nothing but time will determine if the nerve damage will heal. I live alone and I'm forever indebted to a friend who cared for my English Bulldog Mugsy, and who came by each day to leave a series of plastic cups with all of my medication sorted so that all I had to was come downstairs and take them at the required intervals. Several neighbors also kept a close eye on me as I began to amble down in get the newspaper pick up the mail.

I read even more incessantly and got acquainted with Dr. Phil pretty good, but I've really missed the six hours I typically spend researching and writing this blog each day. I also missed riding the Harley Crossbones through what has been spectacular long fall. But I am so blessed to be healing and to know that an instant of carelessness didn't result in something worse.

I can't say enough about the efficiency, customer service and level of medical expertise here in Durham at Duke University. I have a long way to go before the wrist with all the hardware is as nimble and mobile and flexible as my other wrist but it's good to be back.

The facetious story about the accident occurring during a bar fight, which I posted in this blog in mid-November once it became clear how long the recovery would take came from a surgeon in the operating room who, after hearing me repeatedly asked to explain what happened leaned down and whispered that I should tell them it was a bar fight and that there were three of them and they would stop asking me questions. He was right. :-)

Can We Really Learn Online?

Re-post by Cathy Davidson

Can We Really Learn Online? Response to NYTimes on Wall Street's Digital Learning Enterprises | HASTAC

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Link Between Neglect And Burglary

Possibly reacting to headlines versus statistics, the Durham City Council was characterized recently as berating the police chief regarding the type of crime for which Durham is below average. But the angst was focused on the wrong type of crime and the wrong department.

The annual comparison of crime in 11 communities in the Southeast compU.S. and 28 nationwide that are similar in size and make-up reveals once again that overall Durham crime is below or near average, with the exception of one type of crime - burglary.

Hopefully the Durham Police Department is deploying or will soon deploy best practices in what has come to be called “predictive policing” including algorithms and statistical linkages.  But there is reason to believe other departments should be held as much or more responsible for reducing burglary.

While Durham is rapidly catching up on long-overdue street maintenance, it wasn't just street surfaces that had been neglected. Durham has long overlooked and some residents think neglected the overall maintenance of roadsides, medians, parks and other public infrastructure including maintenance and upkeep around the public’s buildings and property.

If the City Council wants to ask some tough questions in pursuit of solutions to burglary, the only type of crime where Durham is above average, it needs to drill down into why the operating maintenance related to the community’s overall curb appeal has been similarly permitted to degrade.

For example, an analysis in Arlington, Texas has revealed that for every one unit of physical decay or neglect in or near neighborhoods there are six burglaries in that same area.  In fact, physical neglect is a means to identify at-risk neighborhoods for burglary.

One neglected building or home can put a block at risk but when public infrastructure, including roadsides and medians, are neglected as well then the risk for crime must be even greater. The City of Durham’s elected officials and senior management must come to grips with the fact that failing to maintain the community's overall curb appeal has ramifications far beyond just appearance.

As we eventually did to to overcome our denial about the importance of overall street maintenance, it is time to restore operating maintenance budgets for roadsides, medians , and other areas of visual neglect that are degrading the community's curb appeal and putting residents at risk.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


My apologies for not explaining why I haven’t been posting.  I shattered a wrist badly in a fall 13 days ago and I’m still not able to keystroke.

A great Duke surgeon, a plate and 13 titanium screws and soon I’ll be good as knew.  More later but no it wasn’t off my Harley.

In fact if you must know it was in a bar fight down in Raleigh defending Durham’s reputation – if there hadn’t been three of them I would have been okay…right Harvey?

More later…

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

For Some Marketers It Is All About You!

For some marketers it is about you, the consumer and for others it is only about their company or the irrelevant names of huge, multi-county areas media outlets use for measurement.

Ann TaylorHere are two examples.  First is a postcard Ann Taylor is using to announce a new store in Durham.  “The Ann (heart’s) Durham!” direct mail advertisement is an example of how a company demonstrates that it understands how important the identity of a community is to those who live there.

For all I know, although the location is in Durham, the company mailed similar announcements to residents of other communities in that celebrated mall’s catchment area, covering much of the state.  Equally smart for those outside Durham would have been “Ann (heart’s) North Carolina!”

According to a survey by the organization representing chief marketing officer, 49% believe localized marketing such as this is essential to business growth and profitability and another 21% believe it is key to differentiation and competitiveness.Custom Link

Arriving in my mail on the same day was an example of a business that isn’t as marketing savvy as Ann Taylor.  It uses the name of the jointly-owned airport, Raleigh-Durham which isn’t located in either Durham or Raleigh but midway between.

Most likely though, using the airport name was a substitute for the name of a huge, obsolete media-measurement designation, Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville spanning 22 counties dozens of communities and parts of three states.

Durham and Raleigh co-own a great airport but there is simply no such place named Raleigh-Durham.  Some use it to mask their geographic uncertainty and others out of careless disregard for how important specific locations are to businesses and consumers.

The 22-county media designation, stretched to drive the price of advertising as high as possible, may be relevant to the owners of media outlets but it has absolutely no relevance to consumers.  In fact, surveys show that it is irritating.

Located in Downtown Durham, the parent company of The Arts Institute of Raleigh-Durham made the same mistake.  Unfortunately marketers at Education Management Corporation based in Pittsburgh, PA may have failed to take advertising courses taught at the for-profit chain’s forty-five campuses.  While proud to be home to an AI campus, the mistaken nomenclature is a source of irritation and an insult to Durham residents, not to mention confusing to potential students.

Demonstrate the propensity of some marketers to dig themselves into a hole and then keep on digging when it comes to their ego and in this case to the embarrassment of people who work there, the parent company plastered the errant name on the side of a building facing fans at Durham Bulls Athletic Park and search engines often bring up a paid result that is even worse, “Raleigh Art School.”

While some marketers like those for Ann Taylor make their advertising all about customers, for others it is all about them and once they step in the bucket, they pretend they did it on purpose.  Now, there’s an approach that will endear your product to consumers!

Marketers need to grasp the fact that Nearly 8 out of 10 residents prefer to characterize where they live by the name of a specific city, town or country.  The next most popular category is a specific neighborhood.  Only a tiny sliver prefer a general area or region and no one uses the name of an airport or a designation for media measurement.

Potential shoppers and the general public also appreciate knowing specific and accurate locations.  No one likes being tricked by confusing references.

Using the name of a community on marketing materials will appeal to residents there. Using the name of an area designated by media outlets may endear a marketer to the owners of the outlet but no one else.

If marketer gets it right, impressing customers with the name of their community is a great way to show that the are all about their customers.  If they want to show they don’t care, just substitute the name of a jointly owned airport or a media market designation or a general area.

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Return On Luck (And Access To Opportunity)

Republicans appear to oppose “class warfare,” unless they are waging it!

Representative Paul Ryan, Republican from Wisconsin, titled his speech to the Heritage Foundation last week in part as “Rejecting Fear, Envy and the Politics of Division.”  While there is much for which to recommend reading or listening to the speech at that link, I couldn’t help but remember a line on page 25 of the budget proposal he authored stating that it will:

“…ensure that America’s safety net does not become a hammock that lulls able-bodied citizens into lives of complacency and dependency.”

As David Stockman noted as a former senior official in President Reagan’s very conservative Republican administration and also a former Republican member of the House of Representatives, wronte in an April op-ed in the New York Times:Which Group Got How Much - New York Times October 30 2001

“Trapped between the religion of low taxes and the reality of huge deficits, the Ryan plan appears to be an attack on the poor in order to coddle the rich.

To the Democrats’ invitation to class war, the Republicans have seemingly sent an R.S.V.P.”

Ryan’s seeming hypocrisy aside, a line caught my eye in an excellent essay published in the same newspaper last Sunday by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen co-authors of the new book published in October entitled Great By Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck – Why Some Thrive Despite Them All:

“The difference between Mr. Gates [Bill Gates] and similarly advantaged people is not luck. Mr. Gates went further, taking a confluence of lucky circumstances and creating a huge return on his luck. And this is the important difference.”

Calling it a “Return On Luck” (ROL, the authors make a good point that people like Gates “zoom out to recognize when a luck event has happened and to consider whether they should let it disrupt their plans.”  But it isn’t that simple and fortunately Gates is very articulate about the dramatic need to improve education and to reinvigorate upward mobility.

People in their 30s tell me horror stories of friends and older relatives, many even from very conservative, values-based cultures such as Mormonism, who do just what Ryan was describing in that line above from his budge proposal.  Some phony business expenses to cheat on taxes, others go on Medicaid while going to college, others milk unemployment benefits until they are dry before looking for work and some cavalierly recommend foreclosure to friends as an easy way to game the system.

Maybe the safety-nets have become too complex and instead of simplifying them to root out fraud, bureaucrats unwittingly add layers of complexity that make them harder to detect.  However, starving fraud out of the system through the draconian budget cuts Republicans seek are far more likely to thwart only the innocent, the hard-working, those legitimately pursuing the American dream.

There are just as many stories of people using forms of “corporate welfare” to achieve a phony upward mobility, many documented by Pulitzer-prize winning investigative journalist David Cay Johnson in his book Free Lunch including the insanity around the prescription drug benefit passed during the last Republican-era that was not only un-funded, fueling much the current deficit, but grossly inflated healthcare costs by prohibiting government from seeking bids from companies to provide drugs for the program.

Where in Ryan’s plan is the effort to address that end of the so-called “class-warfare” spectrum?

I’m not sure staying “lost in the 1960s” as many Democrats seem to recommend is the answer.  And the chart shown as an image in this blog definitely confirms that retaining the Republican zero-sum policies of the 1980s would be worse.

Occupy Wall Street is more than a talking point and much more than metaphorically using the greed of the financial services industry, unbridled by deregulation.  From those I’ve met and talked to, I am convinced that the movement is about the need to dramatically overhaul the tax code and reinvigorate the post-WWII policies which were focused on growing the middle class as well as the cultural values as the heart of the American dream.

Exploring ways to do this is anything but “class warfare.”

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Infographic : Black Is The New Red

Click on to view at sourceBlack Is The New Red -

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Infographic: Top LGBT-Inclusive Advertisers

LGBT-Inclusive Ad Spending

Friday, November 04, 2011

My Near Connection To Johnny Appleseed

Some may trace my reverence for trees to Lewis Neeley, a great-great-great grandparent who was just six-turning-seven years old when his father, John, died as a prisoner-of-war during the early months of the War of 1812.

Migrating west after the war with his mother and siblings, Lewis partially traced the same route from his New York birthplace up and over the Alleghenies and down the Ohio River that had been used less than two decades earlier by John Chapman, who, by then was already being mythologized as Johnnie Appleseed.

In fact, they may have even passed Appleseed on the river during one of his frequent returns upriver to restock with seeds at two cider mills just south of Pittsburgh before heading out again into three of the states newly-carved from the “Old” Northwest Territory (north and west of the Ohio River) and in whose settlement he played the role of bellwether.

Lewis didn’t stop long near Cincinnati where his mother remarried and where the population was already quadrupling over that decade to 9,642, just two decades after the entire “Old” Northwest Territory had barely reached the required population of 5,000 free male settlers to warrant a legislature.

Instead he cut up across Indiana to help settle Vermilion County in Illinois, mid-way up the border with the Hoosier state and where he married Elizabeth Miller in 1828.  Reflecting the varied history of that area, Vermilion County, Illinois adopted the English spelling with only one “l” while the Vermillion across the border in Indiana adopted the two-“l” French spelling.

It’s possible Lewis found one of John Chapman’s nurseries waiting for him there.  A new book published seven months ago that separates Chapman, the man, from Johnny Appleseed the myth, demonstrates how, from the early days of the “Old” North West Territory, settlers were required to plant fifty acres of apples trees and twenty acres of peach trees within three years in order to get 100 acres of free land.

As revealed by the book’s author and former journalist Howard Means, a reality about the man affectionately called Johnny Appleseed is that Chapman had the uncanny ability to forecast the direction of new settlement and moving in advance would plant small nurseries protected from deer by brush fences to await the arrival of settlers.

Vermilion County, Illinois, is along the Appleseed-belt stretching through the central counties of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.  After marriage, Lewis and Elizabeth migrated north to help settle Dane County, Wisconsin, several years before Madison was founded.  The Neeleys, however, were driven back to Vermilion, Illinois in 1833 following two early Black Hawk War attacks on Fort Blue Mounds, leaving two children buried there.

Lewis and Elizabeth converted to Mormonism in 1839 just as the then-Church of Christ was renamed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints and three years before the future-President Abraham Lincoln arrived in Vermilion County to practice law.  Lincoln had already met another Neely, Mary with no “e” before the “y” whose progeny would later unite with those of Lewis and Elizabeth making them each my great-great and great-great-great grandparents.

Lewis Neeley and John Chapman were already abolitionists, each with roots in the Second Great Awakening at a time when the “Great Emancipator's” views were still forming.  Lewis was the same age as Mormon Church-founder Joseph Smith but had left the “Burned-Over District” of New York by the time Smith relocated there from his birthplace in Vermont.

Chapman, aka Appleseed, was a life-long missionary for the Swedenborgian New Church, also one of several formed during the Second Great Awakening.  Resembling “John The Baptist,” in dress and personal hygiene, Chapman’s missionary zeal had already been felt across central Ohio by the time Smith led his fledgling church across that terrain from Kirtland, Ohio, first to Missouri then driven by persecution and threat of “extermination” back across and up the Mississippi River to Commerce, Illinois, which was renamed Nauvoo.

Recently converted, the Neeleys relocated from Vermilion across Illinois to join other Mormons at Nauvoo.  They were moving west again by 1847 when Elizabeth died near Florence (Winter Quarters,) Nebraska just two years before John Chapman would die in Fort Wayne, Indiana, both after sudden illnesses.

Lewis remarried and with his son by Elizabeth, Armenius Miller Neeley, retreated back across the Missouri to Council Bluffs, Iowa where in the summer of 1850 they joined a train of 104 wagons headed for the Rocky Mountains and following a trail blazed three years earlier by another of my great-great-grandparents, Charles Alfred Harper, a Quaker-turned-Mormon from Upper Providence, Pennsylvania.

I was born onto yet another homestead just a hundred years after the soon-to-be widowed Lewis left Nauvoo.  It was settled at the turn of the 19th century in part by the great-granddaughter of Lewis and Elizabeth, Adah Rae Neeley Bowman who, while visiting from her birthplace of Franklin, Idaho, met and then married my grandfather Ernest Melvin Bowman while she was her sister up in that Yellowstone-Teton nook between Montana and Wyoming.00113_n_aaeuyfyqe0552

My grandparents Adah and Mel first lived in what they called a “12’ x 14’ shack,” built on a 160-acre homestead while they “proved up” (a term meaning to live on and cultivate the land) a requirement to homestead in the Pacific Northwest that didn’t specifically involve planting orchards like those required in the “Old” Northwest Territory a hundred years before.

After that, they bought an adjacent 80 acres and moved into the larger log house which was inherited 36 years later by my parents when they began to operate what by then had become more than 1,100 acres of ranch and related-feed cropland and where I spent the formative years of my life.

It is hard to believe it has only been 92 years since the events of that two month period documented in Adah’s personal history occurred and which provide a glimpse into the unpretentious strength of my grandmother:

“During the flu epidemic of 1919-20, all our family was down with the flu. My brother Elmer came and stayed two months with us, cared for stock, feeding, milking, fed and nursed five of us; Mel and I and our three children. Mel’s Mother died in October. In January, I lost my Mother, Brother Parley, Mother’s brother Uncle Jim Shumway, all in two months time.”

Adah was a tall, thin, angular woman who was always reading and I’m certain stimulated my love of reading and learning.  She and Mel boarded a series of school teachers for the nearby one-room school while my father attended in part because she loved the intellectually stimulating conversation.

I vividly remember the frequent Sunday dinners at their house in Saint Anthony, Idaho, where they retired 13 miles south and west of the ranch they had homesteaded as Adah led her four children and their spouses including my parents in a lively and passionate debate of current events while Mel quietly watched and occasionally nodded in agreement or disagreement preferring to be out “breaking in” a horse.

When I was in college, my grandmother’s frequent telephone calls to check on how I was doing always abruptly and humorously began without even a “hello” and ended when she was finished without a goodbye.  That abrupt click of the receiver that terminated each call reminded me of how far technology had come during her lifetime.

I was fortunate to often see and visit with Adah until she passed away near my 28th birthday and just six days before the 1976 Bicentennial celebration of the Declaration of Independence.

I think of her often, especially while researching and writing posts for this blog.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

“THE PUBLIC is what makes THE PRIVATE possible!”

The first email was sent at MIT back when I was busy earning money over that summer between my junior and senior year in high school and pre-occupied with just released rock and roll hits such as “Satisfaction,” “Like A Rolling Stone,” “Help,” “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Wooly Bully.”

It was a hell of a summer for hits that still endure today, but just as 1965 was not only filled with news about the war, including the first bombing of North Vietnam and protests and Civil Rights marches, it was also when experimentation launched into innovations such as Head Start, Gatorade, and hybrid power systems for vehicles.

The point of this observation is that while those 46-year-old songs are even more ubiquitous today, good research often takes as much as two generations to incubate into something feasible in the marketplace.

People who see the Occupy Wall Street Movement (OWS) as only the means to make a point fail to grasp that it is really about a 30-year span of “winner-take-all” economics fueled by lobbyist-rigged initiatives that intentionally or not have dramatically diminished the middle class and undermined the American Dream.

Just as it takes an average of two generations for research to incubate into many products and services, it has taken the same amount of time for people to finally hear warnings about extreme income and wealth disparity that has put America at the level of some third-world countries.

Professor George Lakoff conducts research into the application of cognitive and neural linguistics on everything from morality to politics to mathematics at the University of California – Berkley.  He suggests that OWS is a moral movement not just a policy movement.

He also notes that it is “The Public that makes the private possible,” something often lost on ultra-conservative “haves” when they lecture “have-nots” about how they made it on their own.  In reality none of it would have been possible without a foundation provided by we “The Public” cooperating to provide infrastructure and framework and research and much more.

As a moderate Independent, I follow Lakoff on the progressive end of the spectrum just as I do David Brooks on the conservative end.  I highly recommend both. They are both extremely articulate and you know what, to me they agree on many things.

Like many conservatives, Brooks tends to be dismissive of OWS, stereotyping them around a policy vs. morality.  But Brooks makes an excellent point in an essay about the nature of Blue Inequality and Red Inequality and he’s not just talking about politics.

I think Brooks and Lakoff would agree that the solution is to worry not just about the inequality of incomes but about inequality of opportunity.  To put one above the other as Brooks does seems a false choice to me.  Both must be resolved and for both we “The Public” must be part of the solution.

Oh, and that first-ever email in 1965 – it was funded by we “The Public” through Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA,) the entity credited by CEOs for laying the groundwork over the last 50 years for the technological innovations that are driving the economy today.

A clone, the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) is now doing the same so we “The Public” do our part to help secure energy independence based on a report requested by Congress entitled Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Future from the National Academies.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

My Uncle Albert’s Link To OWS And The World Series

My uncle Albert Schaat owned a parts and hardware store in the small town of Saint Anthony only a dozen miles south of the ranch where I was born and both are situated along the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in the Yellowstone-Teton nook of Idaho.

On one side he had set up a sporting goods section that was my favorite place to visit during my frequent trips down to see my paternal grandparents who had relocated there after my Dad returned from Europe at the end of WWII and my parents had assumed operation of the ranch his parents had homesteaded half a century earlier.

In my memory it was as filled with balls and bats and gloves and guns and fishing and hunting gear as any of the mega-stores such as Gander Mountain, Bass Pro Shop or Cabelas, which are typically nearly twice the size of the average convention center.  In reality it was the type of small, Main-Street operation these huge stores have driven out of business across the country.

Going into a Harley dealership or a sporting goods store is like visiting a museum for my two grandsons, ages 6 and 8.  In fact, the now publicly-traded Cabelas may still gain a public subsidy at each of its stores by claiming a significant portion as a museum.

On my way back home a year ago during a 6,000-mile cross-country road trip that included a visit with my grandsons, as Mugsy, my English Bulldog and I were dropping down out of Wyoming across a corner of the panhandle of Nebraska created by the nook Kansas makes out of nowhere there appeared the tiny town of Chappell, home of the Cabela brothers and the catalogue operation they launched in the 1960s before starting retail operations in 1987.Free Lunch

If you ever wonder why Cabelas stores are located where they are, read the best selling, prescient 2008 book Free Lunch – How The Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You With The Bill) by Pulitzer-winning investigative journalist David Cay Johnson.

Written well before Occupy Wall Street (OWS) existed, Johnson describes why such a movement is about much more than making a point and it is protesting much more than the financial industry.  Just ask Scott Olsen, a veteran of two combat tours in Iraq as an American Marine.

Johnson's book includes a chapter on Cabelas, in which he uses words taken directly from the company's annual report to explain how they exploit IRS rules for non-profits as well as a system that rigs the economy and legally extorts land, huge monetary grants and the recapture of sales, property and other taxes from local and state governments.

Johnson’s investigation found that Cabelas demanded for a store in Pennsylvania “tribute that amounted to $8,000 for each man, woman and child in that town” at the time while promising in return that Cabelas would draw 6 million visitors a year, “as big a draw as Universal Studios in Orlando,” Florida.

To its credit, according to Johnson, the company that owns Gander Mtn stores opposes and fights this type of tribute.

An independent analysis confirmed a year after the Pennsylvania store opened that the number of actual visitors was closer to 2.5 million and the average visitation at 17 others stores opened at about the same time was around 1.5 million.

So what does all of this have to do with the World Series?  According to Johnson’s book that spectacular stadium in Arlington, Texas that we viewed over the last few weeks as the Rangers battled the Cardinals was built for some very wealthy owners using local tax dollars and then sold back to the team as a rent-to-own with every dollar of rent counted toward the purchase price which was just a third what it cost to build.

Along with 200 acres around it, obtained by government for surrounding development, it was then leveraged as pure profit in a sale by the owners decades before, if ever, taxpayers will see a return on investment.  The team at the time was part-owned by a soon-to-be and now former President and the transaction is what Johnson calls a type of “government-sponsored transfer of wealth,” in a system now being protested by OWS.

Johnson is an equal opportunity researcher in the book singling out offending supporters of Democrats as well as Republications.  Each of the 26 chapters provides a compelling example of why some parts of the economy, such as utilities and healthcare, perform miserably when privatized and how a doubling of lobbyists in Washington over the first half of the last decade helped rig the economy with government rules that benefit the wealthy and put the middle class at risk.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

An Artist’s Wisdom Could Save America

One of the most articulate voices about the global transformation of organizations, institutions and business models including today’s political gridlock just happens be, not a scientist or economist or political expert or business leader but one of the 2.1 million artists and arts workers in the United States, a number documented by a new study just released.

This artist is becoming known for something coined by Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor for Wired magazine as the Shirky Principle:

"Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution."


This principle explains why so many organizations (private, public and not-for-profit) prefer life-support and mission-creep to what Nancy Lublin calls “death by success” once they have become obsolete or completed their mission, ignoring “systematic abandonment,” one of guru Peter Drucker’s four responsibilities of management.

The far-too-infrequent essay-posts by art professor Clay Shirky on his blog found at this link are always a must read for me including one in 2009 that is still the most insightful explanation I’ve read yet about what’s happening to newspapers and now threatening television as we’ve known them.  Remember that pesky issue of “stranded costs” so prominent in the downfall of Enron?

Shirky’s incredible book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age, published a year ago about the time this snippet was taped as a TED presentation on the topic is a must read for anyone seeking a glimpse into the future.

One of Shirky’s posts reminded me of a chilling book entitled The Collapse of Complex Societies by anthropologist and historian Joseph Tainter, which was published and already going into reprint as I relocated to Durham a little more than two decades ago.

Unfortunately, until recently I had skipped over Tainter’s prescient-book because back then I had just finished a far longer book but more narrowly focused book called The Rise And Fall Of The Great Powers, published a year earlier by British historian Paul Kennedy and dealing predominantly with only economic and military factors.

I was reminded of the importance of an anthropological perspective while reading another blog-essay by Shirky posted last year entitled The Collapse Of Complex Business Models with an excellent introduction to Tainter’s analysis and applying it to issues and events in the news today.

In the post, Shirky summarizes Tainter’s conclusions which indicate that in the past complex societies such as ours today “hadn’t collapsed despite their cultural sophistication, they’d collapsed because of it:”

“Complex societies collapse because, when some stress comes, those societies have become too inflexible to respond. In retrospect, this can seem mystifying. Why didn’t these societies just re-tool in less complex ways? The answer Tainter gives is the simplest one: When societies fail to respond to reduced circumstances through orderly downsizing, it isn’t because they don’t want to, it’s because they can’t.

In such systems, there is no way to make things a little bit simpler – the whole edifice becomes a huge, interlocking system not readily amenable to change. Tainter doesn’t regard the sudden decoherence of these societies as either a tragedy or a mistake — ‘Under a situation of declining marginal returns collapse may be the most appropriate response’, to use his pitiless phrase. Furthermore, even when moderate adjustments could be made, they tend to be resisted, because any simplification discomfits elites.’

When the value of complexity turns negative, a society plagued by an inability to react remains as complex as ever, right up to the moment where it becomes suddenly and dramatically simpler, which is to say right up to the moment of collapse. Collapse is simply the last remaining method of simplification.”

Shirky summarizes Tainter in a way that helps explain the double-dog-dare-standoff over the debt ceiling last summer and among members of the Super Committee with one side beholden to one unelected individual with a self-defeating pledge of no new taxes even when it makes sense and helps explain the resonance of Occupy Wall Street movement when he writes:

“One of the interesting questions about Tainter’s thesis is whether markets and democracy, the core mechanisms of the modern world, will let us avoid complexity-driven collapse, by keeping any one group of elites from seizing unbroken control.

This is, as Tainter notes in his book, an open question.  There is, however, one element of a complex society into which neither markets nor democracy reach – bureaucracy.

Bureaucracies [and here I believe Shirky’s use of the term applies to corporations as well as government] temporarily suspend the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  In a bureaucracy, it’s easier to make a process more complex than it is to make it simpler, and easier to create a new burden than kill off an old one.

it is people who figure out how to work simply in the present, rather than the people who mastered the complexities of the past, who get to say what happens in the future.”

To me the great danger to our society comes from both the extremes of the right and the left, one, defending self-interest but excluding social responsibility while obsessed with personal responsibility and the other defending what hasn’t worked and bureaucratic complexity over common-sense and simplification.

Can the moderate center save America?  I hope so but remember another Shirky-ism, “A revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new tools.  It happens when society adopts new behaviors.”

I still believe that regardless of ideology we all have what Shirky names as one of the two elements helping fuel today’s “cognitive surplus” and that is “generosity of human spirit.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Core Competency At The Heart Of Any Organization

It occurred to me that neither the core competency at the center of today’s community/destination marketing organizations (DMOs) nor even its terminology existed 40 years ago even in terminology when I began my recently-concluded career in that field.

Some DMOs, even though the concept has been evolving for over 11 decades now, are still obsessed with convention sales and yet even they require more than a smidgeon of this competency so critical to much more holistic and contemporary DMOs, especially those such as the one in Durham, NC, that have led the way in  accreditation to the highest standards and best practices.

Unfortunately, this core competency receives far too little, if any, emphasis in most business degree programs including schools specializing in hospitality degrees and very rarely does it appear in continuing education programs or on the agenda for annual meetings of related associations.

Graduate schools that teach this core competency exist in only 52 universities in the nation and one of these is is an historical black university where it first appeared in the name in 1984, at North Carolina Central University.  This, coincidentally occurred shortly after it was put at the center of the strategic direction at the DMO I then managed in Anchorage, Alaska.

This core competency that can make or break the success of any DMO today is the ability to:

  • Create databases to store information
  • Perpetually populate and update these databases in real time
  • Make this information readily accessible on any platform including the worldwide web
  • Make this information retrievable on demand and
  • Make it retrievable as infographics.

Having skills such as these enables people with degrees in library and information sciences to have such a wide range of career choices today including in DMOs.

For information on how folks from the academic side are training people in this core competency, click here and wait for the Fall Issue of NCCU Now to download, then go to page 37.

Located where I live in Durham, North Carolina, NCCU is a hundred-year-old institution, one of the 17 campuses in University of North Carolina System and the first publicly-funded liberal arts college for African Americans in the nation.  Library studies, later to include information sciences, began there in 1939, second as a professional school behind the law.

Today it the study of library and information sciences thrives as essential part of the curriculum even to those in NCCU’s new doctorate program in integrated Biosciences but to none is it more essential than to those pursuing a career in community/destination marketing and visitor-centric cultural and economic development.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Infograpic Turned Lectographic by Giulia Forsythe

Giulia Forsythe

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pass Me That Barf Bag!

Oh my, after nickel and diming passengers with an endless levy of new “taxes” of its own on everything from checked bags to meals and now even certain seats, the airline industry’s association is suddenly “sticking up for us passengers,” using air sickness bags for a campaign to lobby passengers to oppose a user fee to in part pay for airline security.

What hypocrites!  It is nauseating enough for me to need one of those barf bags.

Apparently the airline association believes it is absurd that flyers are charged a user fee to pay for special security, but that it makes perfect sense for airlines to “tax” passengers with scores of special fees of their own, for which absolutely no additional value-added is received.

So-called “hidden taxes” on airline fares pay for airports, airline facilities, airport security, air-traffic control etc.  What’s so unfair about a user fee rather than having non-airline and non-airport users shoulder the burden?  Nothing, because it makes absolute perfect sense.

Tourism-sector industries such as many restaurants are notorious for asking customers to shoulder extra costs but then objecting when asked to carry their fair share of related public costs.  For that matter other tourism-sector industries such as hotels, sports and entertainment businesses, retail businesses and other industries need a dose of humility but none more than airlines.  The majority of these businesses seek or accept public subsidies in one way or another.

Maybe there was a time fifty or sixty years ago when some people flew for the novelty of flying, but today absolutely no one travels on an airline except as a means of transportation.  The reasons for which their “customers” use them are provided not by the airlines but by the communities/destinations that draw them including friends, relatives, businesses and visitor features to which people are drawn.

It may be a valid concern that the new fee will in part be used to reduce the federal deficit but the public has already voiced support for shared pain in that regard.  To complain that the new fee which is only applied after the fare will somehow reduce demand for air travel may be accurate in some very small degree; but it is hypocritical for the airlines to levy new fees of their own without any such concern.

Associations for visitor-related businesses often whine that their members don’t get any respect and whining about the user fees from which they so dearly benefit is one good reason why.

Ugh, pass me that barf bag again!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Fire That Ignited Environmentalism!

Heading west on a cross-country trip a few months ago, Mugs (my English Bulldog) and I took our first drive on historic turnpikes beginning with a slice up through western Pennsylvania and then across Ohio and Indiana.  These roads seemed refreshingly free of the blight of outdoor billboards.

Even though our trip was routed to include National Parks such as Theodore Roosevelt, Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton, for some reason it hadn’t dawned on me until I was there on the Ohio Turnpike  that I would first cross through the tiny but sixth most visited Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) which embraces 22 spectacular miles of that famous river once traversed by Johnny Appleseed.

Crossing the Cuyahoga River that day, as it winds between Akron and Cleveland on its way to emptying into Lake Erie, brought back memories of when it caught on fire further downstream in 1969, the ninth time it had done in the previous hundred years dating back to 1868.

The news media latched onto the 1969 event as though it were the first occurrence, just as the news media mistakenly identified a Civil Rights event nine years earlier in Greensboro NC as the first sit-in when many had been held years earlier, such as the many held in Durham where I have lived since 1989.

However, while far from the first, the 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga River as it passed through Cleveland, a city known for its parks and open spaces, served to reignite nation-wide concern about protecting the environment and spawned guardians such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a host of other environmental protections defamed today by hundreds of attempts to roll them back by Republican-led votes in Congress and state legislatures across the country.

Efforts to establish the Cuyahoga Valley National Park date back to 1910. While it gained some Federal protection just five years after the infamous pollution-fueled fire just downstream, CVNP didn’t become a complete reality until 2000.  However, plans were intensified by the shame of the river being branded in the news and by late-night-talk-show comics by references to the 1969 fire in the river as it passed through Cleveland.

Belying the fact that a Republican President spawned the conservation movement more than a hundred years ago and another the EPA only 17 months after that emblematic fire on the Cuyahoga, ultra-conservative members of that party have long-loathed parks and open spaces as well as environmental protection and dismissed them as “nature socialism.”

In his now-prescient 2007 book Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill,) investigative journalist David Cay Johnson notes that advisors to 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater lobbied for elimination of all national parks.

He also notes that in 1981, the libertarian-ultra-conservative think-tank Cato Institute argued for eliminating all public parks and in 2007 an institute named for the mentor to Republican-Libertarian cult-economist F.A. Hayek denounced parks.

To me, as a moderate-Independent, Republican opposition to conservation, public parkland and clean air and water has been as consistent as it is incomprehensible.  Based on the current votes in Congress and in our state legislature, it is more than fringe support in that party.

Fortunately, many Republicans eventually come to their senses as Goldwater did when in 1996 when, at age 89, he joined the newly-formed Republicans for Environmental Protection.  In the meantime, we just need to protect the environment from those still on the other side of the issue.

Republicans today, all but purged of anything except conservative and ultra-conservative viewpoints, need to heed that organization’s slogan “Conservation is Conservative® !”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Populist Heroes Of America

I live in a state that was ambivalent during the Civil War. One of the very last of the Southern States to secede, North Carolina lost many more lives in that war than others such as Virginia, which is often given more notoriety.

To understand why North Carolinians were ambivalent and/or resistant to the Civil War, it helps to know that in 1860, there were 69,000 farms here, 7 out of 10 of which were 100 acres or less and only 300 plantations owned by just 121 planters.

There were more than 700 farmers for every one planter.  While in general, farmers did not own slaves, planters argued that their profits relied on a third of a million enslaved African Americans.

And yet, the interests of just 121 power-brokers pulled North Carolina into secession and war where 125,000 of its citizens would fight and more than 40,000 would die, more than any other state.

The ambivalence here was not concentrated just along the Appalachian Mountains as it was in Virginia where West Virginia broke away in order to stay in the Union.  Nor did the ambivalence and resistance to the war end when a North Carolinian became the first to fall for the Confederacy.

Pick up a copy of the November issue of Our State Magazine which is just hitting newsstands.  It includes an article in the magazine’s eight part series that runs through next May about North Carolina and the Civil War entitled A Separate Peace.

This month’s piece is about another pocket of resistance stretching across 5,000 square miles from Durham (then part of Orange County) through nine counties to the west across what the author Philip Gerard calls the “Quaker Belt.”

Eventually, a secret resistance called Heroes of America spread through Durham and south and east through the State Capital of Raleigh, population 5,000, and all the way to the coast.

Gerard, who also writes historical novels, chairs the creative writing faculty at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington and his articles in the series are each eventually posted at this link.

He refers to Heroes of America as a “rebellion within a rebellion” and one that appears to me to have been a truly populist union of pacifists and small yeoman farmers, who abhorred slavery.

In Durham that demographic schism as well as the war are interpreted at three state historic sites: Historic Stagville, Duke Homestead and Bennett Place where the Civil War ended.

Reading  A Separate Peace is also a reminder that moderates today must not be ambivalent as other factions become more extreme.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Sense of Place Alliance

Planning officials where I live in Durham, North Carolina will soon begin a periodic review, overhaul and update of landscape/tree coverage standards. With mounting evidence of the many different benefits provided by urban tree canopy, it will be a great opportunity to calibrate those standards to:

  • Aesthetics (Now proven essential to economic development, resident attachment and talent retention.)
  • Crime Reduction
  • Mental and Physical Health
  • Rental, Homeowner and Commercial Property Values
  • Carbon Sequestration
  • Air and Water Purification (especially storm water run off)

This review is also an opportunity to generate reforestation elsewhere in the community equivalent to what is destroyed by development, hopefully at a ratio much greater than 1 to 1. Adding a sense of urgency for Durham is the realization that this is the state’s fifth most populous urban area and the state’s sixth most populous county but within the 17th smallest in land area.Tree Guide

However, there is no reason Durham’s tree canopy can not only be reforested to compensate for development but increased beyond the current 96,240 acres of tree canopy based on just the benefits noted above.

A worthy near-term goal would be to reverse the decline in tree cover and to increase it back up to an even 100,000 acres which would cover just 2% more of the County. Long term, it would be good to index the growth of tree cover to population and additional development, making allowances for preservation of the 26,000 acres of cropland remaining.

Experts have calculated that to offset the carbon generated by Durham would require an impossible 1.3 acres of trees per resident but a reasonable goal would be to strive for .70 acres per urban resident or a tree canopy of 169,000 acres which could include reforestation of lower income areas.

This would add to the 51% of the County and 40% of the City currently covered by trees. To help achieve this goal, it also seems like a good time for Durham to elevate reforestation as a direct or indirect use of impact fees from developers in areas such as open space, trees along roadways etc.

Fueling a sense of urgency, even in less compact communities is that the financing of local services and infrastructure is far too over-reliant on the long-out-dated system of real estate property taxes, first established in this country only out of sheer convenience as early as the mid-1600s and already labeled as long ago as 1895 as “one of the worst taxes ever used by a civilized nation.”

The property tax over-incentivizes the public sector toward development and blinds both the public and private sectors with a false sense of security that belies the erosion of other elements that are even more critical to sustainable growth and quality of place such as preservation and conservation of open space, tree canopy, farmland and historic and cultural assets.

As an example other than tree canopy, according to Durham resident and Duke ecology professor Will Wilson, the author of a new book entitled Constructed Climates – A Primer on Urban Environments, Durham farmland has decreased from 140,000 acres in 1910 on 1600 farms to only 26,000 acres today on the 250 farms that remain predominantly in hay fields that like grasslands provide lots of water quality benefits.

People with both an understanding about the importance of and a passion for preservation of a community’s unique sense of place including open space, cropland, urban forestry and historic structures are frequently frustrated by poor land-use decisions and often fall into the self-defeating trap of either trying to preserve everything or block every threat.

Trying to defend everything just doesn’t work and it dissipates energies and increases public and private sector costs with only token although important results.

These energies are better focused into identifying and securing specific properties and areas to preserve for open space including cropland, as archeologically or historically or culturally significant along with overarching aspects as scenic preservation, tree cover and overall appearance.

While the array of organizations and initiatives involved must retain areas of focus and specialization, each of them must be aware of and interweave support of the others through overarching and interwoven strategies. This includes organizations such as land trusts, conservancies, farmland and watershed stewards, preservationists including both historic and scenic as well as appearance advocates.

Maybe DCVB with a mission on behalf of Durham that includes being the official “guardian of its unique sense of place” and a supporting role to “steward the sustainability of place-based assets” should use its considerable nationally-recognized expertise at forming and facilitating coalitions and strategic partnerships to form an alliance of these partners just as it did for those involved in communications and several other groups of stakeholders.

What could be more relevant and the Durham Unique Sense of Place Alliance has a nice ring (DUSPA.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Felonious Depravity of Visual Blighters

Marketers are ashamed and a few, dating back to “Madmen” pioneers such as David Ogilvy and Howard Gossage, have warned in books and speeches about the visual blight created by huge, obsolete outdoor advertising billboards.

But visual blight is well, visual, so in his spare time veteran marketing-video producer Ossian Or of DoubleOMedia visually documents this depravity as he did a few weeks ago with the video posted earlier this month and embedded in this blog.

It documents the most recent cases of felonious tree poisoning, this time in Florida, but that have also occurred in North Carolina and many other states over many years.

Marketers, especially those in my former profession of community/destination marketing must move beyond shame and begin to lead the charge to educate internal and external stakeholders about the irreparable harm this visual blight does to the character and unique sense of place of the communities and states they market.

A good first step would be to ask the primary beneficiaries of that sense of place to join with a community/destination marketing organization as a signatory to Scenic Stewardship Pledge.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Infographic: Beer By State

For more infographics in this series, click here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Infographic : Occupy

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Basaltic Volcanics Of My First Sense Of Place

When people hear I was born and spent many of my formative years in Idaho they typically have one of two reactions:

  • “Oh, where they grow the corn?” – nope, that’s another “I” state, look a little more west, or
  • “Oh, on a mountain top.” – Kind of but a mile-high one buried in lava.Henry's Fork at Ora Bridge by Darren Clark

Fremont County, Idaho is located right in the very nook between Montana and Wyoming, framed by the three looming Grand Tetons to the east and the Centennial Mountain Range to the north which is crested by the Continental Divide.

The County is forested by the Caribou-Targhee National Forest and dissected by the Henry’s or North Fork of the Snake River as it carves from caldera to caldera, slowly descending from the highlands down onto the Snake River Plain to rendezvous fifty miles downriver with the South Fork.

For all of the forests, mountain ranges and rivers, the area is somewhat flat but dotted with hills and dales and filled with “basaltic volcanics” including unique, columnar rock formations, some ground down into incredible topsoil and rangeland. The calderas are part of a chain of large, smooth, hardened lakes of molten lava created as each was filled and then overflowed into another fed from the eruptions of the Yellowstone Supervolcano.

Ranging in altitude from 10,240 feet decending down to 4,380 feet, Fremont County is 80% larger than the land area of the entire State of Rhode Island but just less than 32% is privately owned. The remainder is held in the public interest, mostly by the National Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management as stewards.

The population of the County is currently 13,242 which is up from 9,351 when I was born but about half what it was around the time my ancestors arrived there during a robust period of colonization.

I was born onto a horse and cattle ranch with related meadows and cropland for raising feed. It was homesteaded and then assembled at the turn of the 19th century into the 20th century by both my paternal great grandparents and grandparents just one mile west of the Ora Bridge as it crosses the Henry’s Fork. (shown in the recent image taken by Darren Clark and used in this blog)

That world-famous fly-fishing river carves south through one of those calderas that stretches from the grandest of the Tetons which loom a few miles to the east across the rangelands of Clark County and the Bitterroot Range to the west as those mountains arches down from Northern Idaho forming the border with Montana.

I left Fremont County and Idaho decades ago but its views and topography and wildlife and sounds and smells are all part of a unique sense of place that will never leave me.