Friday, April 29, 2011

For Me New Technology Can’t Replace Great Wait Staff

For me wait staff are indispensible consultants and a pivotal part of the dining experience.  Many become friends.  So I don’t see them being replaced as much as augmented by a cool, new device heralded in the news a week ago.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like technology so I will use the device to place some orders and pay.  But I like the fact that wait staff who are familiar with me know what beverages I like 110422_$BOX_iPadWaiterEXand that I like to sit back, relax, visit and drink prior to ordering and definitely before I eat.

I also like it when they introduce me to something new as a mini-appetizer.

I don’t think the new technology will replace wait staff but it will free them from the mundane tasks like ferrying the check and give them more time to do what they do best.

The technology will also make it easier to immediately register comments and suggestions without interrupting them and before I forget.

More importantly it will give me an easy way to acknowledge great service or favorite dishes or concerns when it seemed the HVAC wasn’t working evenly.

No, I don’t think the technology will replace wait staff.  As it always has when it comes to staffing, technology will augment wait staff, make things faster and more efficient and productive…but it won’t replace them.

For me, they are as important as the chef.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Lyrical Sense of Place & A Few Other Favorites

People close to me know I’m as drawn to the lyrics of a song as the melody or rhythm.

A pleasant surprise when I was recruited to Durham in 1989 to jump-start the community’s official marketing agency was learning that this is the hometown of Hall of Fame song writer Don Schlitz who has written 24 #1 Hits and will perform May 10th at the Casbah here.Don-Schlitz-poster-REVISED-final

Coincidentally, Keith Whitely had introduced me to Schlitz a year earlier when he first took the song When You Say Nothing At All co-written by Don to #1, a song Allison Krause took to #3 a half a dozen years later from a tribute album to Whitely.

Keith Whitely died of alcohol poisoning less than a month before I arrived in Durham. His Greatest Hits are still a favorite companion through my helmet earphones on long motorcycle rides through North Carolina countryside.

Early in my tenure in Durham, Don Schlitz co-wrote I Still Believe In You with Vince Gill, a song that still continues to capture what I want my only child and now lawyer-single-Mom daughter to feel.

Written by Don a decade before I arrived in Durham and later a hit recording by another North Carolinian, Randy Travis , Oscar The Angel, gave me a glimpse into Durham’s unique character as a community.

I understand that lyrics differ from poetry in several ways but primarily because poetry can be much more complex. Lyrics, however, must work in tandem with the rhythm and structure of music and are meant to be heard.

But I enjoy reading lyrics. Poems also work best for me when I read them aloud. And then there are those exquisite moments when a poem and lyrics come together like Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah also beautifully interpreted by Jeff Buckley!

Below is a very brief sampling of 25 other partial lyrics that are favorites, all reflective, but in no particular order:

“Everybody wants a little piece of my time
But still I put you at the end of the line
How it breaks my heart to cause you this pain
To see the tears you cry fallin' like rain
Give me the chance to prove
And I'll make it up to you”

- Vince Gill and Don Schlitz

“I'm just a whisper of smoke
I'm all that's left of two hearts on fire
That once burned out of control
And took my body and soul”

- Hugh Prestwood

“I have come to listen for the sound
Of the trucks as they move down
Out on ninety five
And pretend that it's the ocean
coming down to wash me clean”

- Emmylou Harris

“Oh I wanna do right but not right now”

- Gillian Welch

“For everything you win, there’s something lost”

- Dan Seals

“And so it is
Just like you said it would be
Life goes easy on me
Most of the time”

- Damien Rice

And each night begins a new day
And if you don't understand him and he don't die young
He'll probably just ride away…
And they're always alone
even with someone they love

- Ed and Patsy Bruce

“And freedom, oh freedom
Well that’s just some people talking”

- Don Henley and Glenn Frey

“I used to be the main express
All steam and whistles heading west
Picking up my pain from door to door
Riding on the storyline, furnace burning overtime
But this train don’t stop, and this train don’t stop
This train don’t stop there anymore”

- Bernie Taupin and Elton John

“Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more”

- John Lennon and Paul McCartney

“No, I can't forget this evening
Or your face as you were leaving
But I guess that's just the way the story goes
You always smile but in your eyes your sorrow shows
Yes, it shows

I can't live if living is without you
I can't live I can't give anymore”

- Harry Nilsson

"There is a town in north Ontario
With dream comfort memory to spare
And in my mind, I still need a place to go
All my changes were there”

- Neil Young

“Then I crossed the empty street
'n caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin' chicken
And it took me back to somethin'
That I'd lost somehow, somewhere along the way

'Cos there's something in a Sunday
Makes a body feel alone
And there's nothin' short of dyin'
Half as lonesome as the sound
On the sleepin' city sidewalks
Sunday mornin' comin' down”

- Kris Kristofferson

“I guess you're tired of walking tightropes
Of setting up and tearing down
You want a place to call forever
And rest your feet on solid ground

Somewhere you've lost that sense of wonder
But that’s still the place I’m bound
I’m a storm in search of thunder
I’m a circus leaving town

-Travis Tritt

“He put her out
Like the burning end of a midnight cigarette
He broke her heart
She spent her whole life tryin to forget
We watched her drink her pain away a little at a time
But she could never get drunk enough to get him off her mind until tonight
She put that bottle to her head and pulled the trigger
And finally drank away his memory
Life is short and this time it was bigger
Than the strength she had to get up off her knees”

- Bill Anderson and Jon Randall

“Daddy when will you coming home
I’m already there take a look around
I’m the sunshine in your hair
I’m the shadow on the ground
I’m the whisper in the wind
I’m you’re imaginary friend
And I know I’m in your prayers
Oh, I’m already there”

- Richie McDonald

“You know she came to see him one last time
We all wondered if she would
And it kept running through my mind
This time he's over her for good
He stopped loving her today”

- Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman

“I was born by the river in a little tent
Oh and just like the river I been a runnin' ever since
It's been a long, a long time coming but I know
A change gon' come oh yes it will”

- Sam Cooke

“I was there when you were a queen,
And I’ll be the last one there beside you”

- J.D. Souther

“If tomorrow never comes
Will she know how much I loved her
Did I try in every way to show her every day
That she's my only one
And if my time on earth were through
And she must face the world without me
Is the love I gave her in the past
Gonna be enough to last
If tomorrow never comes”

- Garth Brooks and Kent Blazy

“When I was just a baby my mama told me. Son,
Always be a good boy, don't ever play with guns.
But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die
When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry”

- Johnny Cash

“All my bags are packed and I'm ready to go
I'm standin here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
But the dawn is breakin it's early morn
The taxi's waitin he's blowin his horn
Already i'm so lonesome i could die”

- John Denver

“This ol' airports got me down
It's no earthly good to me
'Cause I’m stuck here on the ground
Cold and drunk as I might be
Can't jump a jet plane
Like you can a freight train
So I best be on my way
In the early mornin' rain”

- Gordon Lightfoot

“Isn't it rich?
Isn't it queer?
Losing my timing this late In my career?
And where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns
Don't bother - they're here”

- Stephen Sondheim

“I hold it up and show my buddies
Like we ain’t scared
And our boots ain't muddy
But no one laughs
Cause there ain't nothin' funny
When a soldier cries
And I just wipe my eyes
I fold it up and put it in my shirt
Pick up my gun and get back to work
And it keeps me drivin' on
Waitin' on letters from home”

- Tony Lane and David Lee

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Head Start From Data-Driven Decisions

“A 20-minute head start” is the story of any success I had during a four-decade career in community destination marketing.

So it was with interest that I read news reports this week in several publications that a study by researchers at MIT and the University of Pennsylvania (download at this link) has now quantified the difference one of those “20-minute head starts” can make in output and productivity.hero-data-driven

Data-Driven Decision-making (DDD) gives organizations a 5% to 6%+ boost in output and productivity over those using the traditional approach of “opinion, conventional wisdom and intuition,” even those who then search for data in support.

That’s it? some may say, but according to the report, the  difference is “significant enough to separate winners and losers.” The ability to make data-driven decisions is becoming even more critical with the amount of business data now doubling every 1.2 years.

Every organization has access to marketing intelligence these days so in my opinion there are six keys that differentiate whether an organization puts studies on the proverbial “shelf” after the obligatory news release or truly sinks its teeth into data-based decision making:

  • Suppress ego and shun politics
  • Actually read for content and application
  • Think, listen and make adjustments
  • Critically question “conventional” wisdom
  • Distill and track trends
  • Innovate strategically and tactically

That’s it!  Oh, and what were the other things I used to gain those “20-minute head starts” during my now concluded career?  They aren’t rocket science and I confess that I got an early jump by being the beneficiary of being in the right places at the right times:

In Spokane we seized on the then-novel idea of going after the 90% of visitors who are not traveling for conventions and meetings, while making sure we secured our fair market share of the latter.

In Anchorage we jumped on unique opportunities to generate and then apply marketing intelligence with in-flight surveys and early forms of performance measures to identify target niche markets.

Starting with a clean slate in Durham, we jumped on analytics, data-driven decision-making and technology to leapfrog much more established competition.

What’s surprising is how many organizations are still plugging along with last-century “opinion-intuition decision-making” but something tells me we lost them back with “suppress ego?”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Durham Spawns Another Innovation for DMOs

Another “best practice” popped up last week on the Durham News Service.  Durham’s community/destination marketing organization (DMO) teamed with iApplicants to launch .durham_logo-771812[3]

There are more than 3,000 visitor-related organizations in Durham ranging from museums, theaters, sports clubs, retail stores, transportation companies, restaurants, lodging properties and many others.  Besides customers, these disparate organizations have something else in common, the need fill more than 10,000 jobs.

DCVB first teamed with iApplicants several years ago to develop a highly efficient and effective means of managing its screening and hiring process for jobs related to official community marketing agencies.  Now it is has collaborated on a process that will be rolled out to other DMO’s as a means to help their constituents.

DCVB forged the new tool in response to visitor-related organizations that wanted a centralized and destination-branded location to post openings.  But the new tool also makes it much easier to process and manage the application process.

Durham visitor-related organizations and businesses can also specifiy which, if any, other job boards (like Craigslist or Jobster) should post the listing on

DCVB continues to be widely recognized for innovations such as this. Obviously innovation is fully embedded in the organizational culture and representative of one of Durham’s distinct personality traits.

For more information on how the DMO for your community can partner with iApplicants, email DCVB at .

Market Forces and Mental Health Changes In The 1960s – How’s that Working for Ya?

In most instances, cutting deficits at the Federal level will mean a shift of costs to state and then to local county and city governments.  So called “market-based” solutions don’t work for many public services.

Take mental healthcare for instance.  Hospitals dedicated to treatment of the mentally ill fell into into disfavor in the 1950s about the time promising new drugs became available (click on the image below to see the change between 1950 and 1994.)

We jettisoned almost the entire system of care putting our faith in claims that things just weren’t sustainable, cutting government spending and shifting care to out-patient facilities like community mental health centers (which we never adequately funded as promised) while putting far too much faith in “market forces.”Capture

Sound familiar?  With all due respect to the people who work so hard to serve the mentally ill, it has been a disaster, masked only when the passage of Medicare and Medicaid came to rescue.

All we really did, for all of our good intentions and obsessive cost-cutting, was shift the costs of caring for the mentally ill. And as a result, bankrupting families, flooding nursing homes and jails, populating the streets with panhandlers and the homeless, providing victims for criminals, turning police officers into mental care givers, making healthcare insurance unaffordable and….well it’s a mess.

You’ll forgive me then for being a bit skeptical about some proposals for overhauling Medicare and Medicaid in favor of “market forces.”  Click here to see one of many books on the topic, check out chapter IV.

Do I have the solution?  No, that’s beyond my pay grade.  But I can tell you this is an example of the “false” economies that come from those obsessed with cutting government while not raising tax revenues.

We’ve repeated a lot of history recently, allowing ourselves to be pull into not one but two wars reminiscent of the mistakes of Vietnam, wiping away critical regulations only to come close to repeating the Great Depression, crushing public sector unions and then wondering why we’ve got overly tired air traffic controllers?

It is imperative that we remember and avoid repeating what one conservative columnist calls “stupid cuts” and with the warning that “they’re liberals but they’re not idiots” to which I add that many more of us are Independents but we’re not idiots either.

Monday, April 25, 2011

One Last Characteristic – Where They Hatch!

A couple of weeks ago I summarized various studies identifying the characteristics of a good CEO.

One I didn’t include is “homegrown.”  A 20-year study of non-financial organizations from 1988 through 2007 by the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and A.T. Kearney was released this month.Home Grown

It confirms that one key to superior long-term performance is managing leadership succession because organizations that grow talent from within outperformed those who hired CEOs from outside the organization.

But only about half of public and private organizations have formal succession plans and only 16% of directors on governing boards believe their board is effective at succession planning.

Disturbingly, the tenure of CEOs has shrunk from 10+ years in the mid 1990s to less than 5 years now.   The study finds it even more disturbing that nearly half of all governing board members think succession planning is the CEO’s job and more than half don’t know when their CEO plans to step down.

In conclusion the report’s authors note:

CEO succession is too often seen as an event rather than a process. Research and experience confirm that companies savvy enough to foster internal leadership succession achieve superior long-term results, and that effective succession management is absolutely vital to a company's sustainability. High risk, significant disruption and burgeoning costs await boards that are not fully engaged in these processes—superior results and high returns await those boards that are.”

I was fortunate that when I retired at the end of 2009, the organization I led had a succession plan which had been adopted half way through my two-decade tenure. To my credit I had taken my responsibilities in the plan seriously without overstepping and to the governing board’s credit at the time, it showed great discipline in following the plan.

I had alerted the governing board five years in advance of when I planned to retire from a nearly four-decade career in destination marketing management and the board executed the succession plan a year and a half in advance of my leaving to provide time for a smooth transition.

As I was departing I was asked to publish a description of the plan for Destination Marketing Association International as a best practice.  Even though organizations of four or five staff members may be too small to groom a homegrown successor, it remains that having a good succession plan is good policy.

By the way, a succession plan is not about the current incumbent selecting or lobbying for a successor.  That rarely if ever works.  The CEO’s role is grooming internal talent to be ready when the time to execute the plan arises and to advise the governing board as it goes through the steps in the plan.

A leadership succession plan covers more than replacing the CEO.

For anyone wishing to build a succession plan or for those who want to improve the one their organization has, the report linked here provides some essential ingredients.

Friday, April 22, 2011

700 Rich People Who Think Wealth Should Be Taxed Just Like Work!

Before you file away your copy of your taxes, give this Federal Taxpayer receipt a try.  It’s on the White House website.Tax Receipt

Okay, maybe I’m just the last person to see this but it is cool!

Just plug in the dollar amount on your taxes for Social Security Taxes paid, Medicare taxes paid and your income tax minus any refund or plus anything you paid when filing.

Hit calculate and you’ll get a receipt for what you paid for both as a proportion of each expense and the dollar amount.  It really puts things in perspective both in terms of the services rendered but it informs public discussions about debt etc.

Our two local governments in Durham, the City and County have something similar but not nearly as personal.  I wonder if the State of North Carolina has one.

A GfK poll last month in conjunction with Roper and Associated Press revealed that 54% of Americas believe their tax burden is fair and 46% don’t.

Not everybody who’s whining is rich though.  Click here for 700 people in the top 5% of income or wealth in the nation who have signed a pledge that wealth should be taxed like work.

There are now so many tax breaks that 45% of Americans pay no Federal taxes and the tax rate paid by the 400 Super Rich in this nation has dropped to 17% in 2007 from 26% nearly two decades ago. Meanwhile, the average tax paid by all Americans dropped three-tenths of a point from 9.9% to 9.6%.

The tax code is riddled with a trillion dollars in exemptions now, averaging about $8,000 per taxpayer.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Answer To The Deficit Is The Economy, The Answer To The Economy Is Energy Innovation!

The deficit is not the only thing threatening America’s future or the economy.

I’m not referring to ideology-driven agendas in many states including my own to gut conservation and environmental regulation blind to the fact that three in four Americans are worried about water and air pollution.

As impressed as I am with some of his thinking, I was disappointed when Representative Paul Ryan’s budget solution didn’t include the self-funded bipartisan energy proposal I finally got to in the stack of reading that accumulated during one of my two 6,000-mile-cross-country trips.

Anyone involved in visitor-centric economic and cultural development to fuel revenues for local governments knows there is a third alternative to the tired slogan, “it is a debt problem, not a revenue problem” or the equally worn alternative of “raise taxes.”Capture

The third way is to fuel the economy, the answer to the economy is a solution to energy, and now that cap and trade is dead and “drill, baby drill” is just stupid, the answer to energy independence is innovation.

To President Obama’s credit, he included parts of the energy alternative, jointly proposed by scholars on the right, left and in the middle, in his proposal that reduces the deficit by a trillion dollars. But also as one post on the Internet noted with a call for more energy research, expanding the tax credit for corporate R & D, training 100,000 new science and math teachers and expanding Internet access to 98% of Americans.

But it is still far from being robust enough to achieve what was proposed in the bipartisan energy report..

For skimmers and those unwilling to even crack the 34-page report, which unfortunately includes far too many lawmakers, here are some take-aways from a self-funded framework that would make “clean energy cheap and abundant and secure America’s energy future:

  • First, the costs of between $15 and $25 billion per year (less than a third of what we devote to defense-related research alone,) can be paid for without adding to the deficit by :

    1. phasing out subsidies (read the report)
    2. modestly increasing royalties charged to oil and gas companies
    3. placing a small fee on imported oil
    4. establishing a small surcharge on electricity sales and
    5. dedicating revenues from a small carbon price of $4-$5 per ton

  • Investing in energy science education to increase the number of scientists working on innovations or basic science discoveries upon which the private sector can innovate.

As the report notes in part, our economic advances through history have relied on approaches like this such as when the Federal Government enabled:

-a national rail network, the homestead act and land-grant colleges act under President Lincoln and in the midst of the Civil War.

- the aviation industry under President Wilson

- hydroelectric dams under both President Hoover and President F.D. Roosevelt

- nuclear energy under President Roosevelt and President Eisenhower

- the Interstate highway network under President Eisenhower

- advances in space-related technology under President Eisenhower and President Kennedy

- semiconductor development under President Kennedy and President Reagan and

- health research under President Clinton and President G.W. Bush.

There remain indispensible ways the Federal government can fuel the economy by securing America’s energy future and erase the deficit.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

States Rights’ Was Really About The Elephant In The Room!

I’m deep into an excellent biography of Alexander Hamilton, the only founder of this nation who was emphatically and unequivocally opposed to slavery.  Born and raised in the West Indies, he had witnessed the inhumanity first hand.

The war that began 150 years ago last week has intrigued me from my youth and often been reframed as being a struggle over states’ rights and manufacturing vs. agrarian economies.  A Westerner until moving to Durham, North Carolina more than two decades ago, I do understand the cultural differences ( I know, to Southerners, anyplace else is the North.)logo-resized

But it is clear from reading biographies of the founders of this nation that slavery was the “elephant in the room” and the unfinished business that festered for another seventy-four years after the Constitution was ratified. States’ Rights and debates about agrarian vs. manufacturing economies, while important discussions, were in the end euphemisms.

But just as the Revolutionary War did not complete the task of nation-making, the Civil War did not complete the task of emancipation.

African-Americans were horrifically victimized by slavery but the issues that still hold so many back cannot be resolved by reinforcing a culture too often centered on enabling people to hide behind that history.  Nor will just the threadbare-safety nets suffice as so many on the right condescendingly leave dangling.

Slavery is still permitted and enabled today as much through unlivable wages as through prostitution and other forms.  The indignation about the size of government is misplaced by tea partiers.  Even liberals, both the nation’s founders and those today, are defiant about limited government.

Hamilton was not only the chief architect of the Constitution but he parlayed his close war-time friendship with George Washington to persuade him to stand for election as the nation’s first President.

As the biographer I’m reading notes, Hamilton though, didn’t create America’s market economy as he is often credited, so much as he almost single-handedly “fostered the cultural and legal setting in which it flourished.”

But Hamilton also viewed a strong government as a means to balance the dangerous potential of capitalism devolve into greed and to “promote self-fulfillment, self-improvement, and self-reliance,” something the programs of the left have forgotten and the “I did it my way” right fails to acknowledge.

I’m highly recommending the biography of Alexander Hamilton and I’m glad I read it after reading A. Lincoln and before moving on to the author’s now Pulitzer-prize winning biography of George Washington.

And for detailed information on the role of my adopted hometown in the Civil War, click here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reflections On an Old Clipping And A Little Help From My Friends…

I’ve been organizing and cleaning out the artifacts of my life in case one or both of my grandsons turn out to share my interest in family history.  Several things about an old clipping taken from the Durham N.C Herald-Sun Sunday issue in late August 1998 gave me pause to reflect.

People were always nice to send me copies of clippings whenever the community marketing organizations I led during my career received newspaper coverage, even though these organizations are meant in part to be a resource for the news media, not subject matter.

Typically I had skimmed them but now in retirement, several things caught my attention about this one:

  • The date of this article first caught my attention because at the time I was just three months into my 10th year at the helm of Durham’s official marketing agency and nearing the midway point of my more than two decade tenure culminating in my retirement at the end of 2009.


  • Something else that caught my eye was that the front page photo of me was below a headline for an adjacent article about President Clinton placing al-Qaeda on a terrorist list and featuring a photo of Osama bin Laden, just a year and three weeks before the suicide attacks of September 11 on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon.


  • I wish at the time I had read the article but even if I had I probably would have been reticent to tell the young reporter, Claire Cuisck that it was one of the most accurate, detailed and balanced I have ever read about the the roles of a community/destination marketing organization, especially the role as the defender of a community’s image.


  • I smiled at the quote she obtained from the person who had succeeded me in Anchorage.  He was older, a former fighter pilot in Vietnam who had subsequently flown with the elite Thunderbirds, an acrobatic USAF demonstration unit now in its 58th year.  Now in retirement I am able to let his generous words wash over me but being a perfectionist at the time, I’m sure I found a way to twist them into something I needed to improve:

“his fingerprints are indelible in what we do today, even 11 years after he departed…I don’t know how to build an airplane but I sure can fly one.  I don’t know if Reyn can fly an organization, but he sure can build one.”


  • Two local sources while still positive were more guarded, reflecting what it must have been like to hear sources in nearby Raleigh incessantly complain about me but not having witnessed the severity or intensity of the issues I was confronting on a daily basis, one noting “I’d almost say he has a passion for his job” and another questioning if that passion overrided my message, one that maybe the Mayor should carry.


  • No one was ever more at my back on a daily basis than the Mayor at the time who, eloquent as always, put it this way:

“the big difference is he’s (me) dealing with a very specific task.  And that task is place identification.  It is Reyn’s duty to make sure that people identify Durham as a place, and not as just some sort of fuzzy, mushy, general area.”

Always pithy, the Mayor continued “he does that with greater or lesser levels of success – sometimes more aggressively than I would hope, sometimes less aggressively than he should.”

Reading or rereading the clipping was made all the more relevant when I learned that during my time of reflection, the representative of an airline publication was planning a feature restricted to Raleigh, possibly assuming as commonly mistaken that co-owned RDU International Airport is located there and that the area feeding the airport is centered around that one community.

Airlines, “bless their hearts,” struggle with the mistaken notion that every airport is synonymous with just one city, dismissing those like RDU that aren’t along with the numerous feeder cities and towns and counties needed to make any airport sustainable.

The folks in Raleigh provided the information the airline publication needed but they also kept talking about all of the great stuff over in Durham, much of what was where his interest truly lied.

Making his way then to Durham and knowing, as often quipped by the same Mayor quoted above, that “there is simply, no such place as Raleigh-Durham,” the publication decided that any story about various destinations related to RDU needed to be about BOTH Durham and Raleigh as distinct and separate communities and destinations each anchoring separate-but-related metro areas.

I guess my passion didn’t override the defense of Durham’s identity after all.  Instead, as intended, it resulted in more accurate and mutually respectful portrayals of each community and the regions surrounding them.

And that, as they say in the new series Fairly Legal, is a “win-win!”

Monday, April 18, 2011

Limited Yes, But Far More Energetic And Vigorous!

Ideology aside, there is no doubt that the federal government is too large!

It was too large to be functional long before we had deficits run up first by Republicans for ill-conceived wars and tax cuts for the wealthy that we couldn’t afford.

It was even too large to be functional before Democrats increased that deficit to stave off an economic meltdown caused by shoddy regulation and too much deregulation while defending too many programs that just don’t work or no longer work.

It’s been much too large for a long time.  At a certain size, organizations, public or private, lose their vigor.  I learned it from consultants when I was a CEO.

No matter how functional and energetic an organization becomes, each year there will always be 20% of the human capital that is no longer productive or a good fit, even given excellent training and performance feedback.

The same percentage can always also be value-engineered from even the most productive programs, products and services.cutting_costs

Fail to ferret out the 20% year after year, building up layer after layer and it sucks the energy and life and vigor out of any enterprise.

Sheer size also ultimately makes the task of digging down to find the 20% more difficult.  It becomes easier to just expand to make up for lost productivity or work around the waste.

The answer isn’t top down either.  That just results in cutting the wrong programs or the wrong elements and letting the wrong people go.  Top-down cost cutting is a recipe for dysfunction.

Only the people actually working in the Federal Government or any large enterprise can tell you where to cut and it isn’t about rank.  The 20% rule applies just as much to managers and executives, too often promoted beyond their capabilities for no other reason than seniority and then given little or no training and not held accountable.

Only the people who are excelling at their work as well as working determinedly to make programs and services excel can be trusted with ferretting out the 20% that aren’t.

The current caucus of Republican elected officials is proving themselves far too ideological, rigid and partisan to do the job.  Democratic officials are far too trusting in the “intent” of programs to admit that lack of funds isn’t the problem as much as a lack of vigor and results-based accountability.

I believe we desperately need a functional and energetic Federal Government in the spirit of Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and even Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) including increased funding for energy research and technology and infrastructure and clean air and water given the challenges we face.

FDR is unfairly blamed by some for the expansion of Federal Government but if you look at programs pioneered under his administrations, especially those focused on work-relief compared to today’s approach to unemployment benefits, they worked then because they were vigorously focused on social mobility.

Just compare the intensity of unemployment programs of the 1930s and the relentless focus on putting people to work in exchange for benefits to today’s programs, often resented even by those they are intended to benefit.

Sheer size and embedded bureaucracy has bludgeoned the sense-of-urgency out of these and other well-intentioned programs. 

With all respect to the majority of people working for our various levels of government who have a sense of urgency and even-handedness and a determination for continuing and never-ending improvement, the organizational brand for government in general is stigmatized and undermined today by a small minority of workers who are lethargic, discourteous, distracted, complaining yet unwilling to act on complaints, heavy-handed, inflexible and disinterested in change or improvement.

They lack vigor!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Luck Finds “Doers”

I was deep into a recent biography of Alexander Hamilton when I read two posts by Dilbert Creator Scott Adams.  I never was much into cartoons beyond a certain age but coinciding with the Durham phase of my now concluded career I rarely missed reading Dilbert.20090103_dilbert_25

The first post is a blog this week entitled The Education Complexity Shift .  It made some excellent points but at the expense for some readers of reinforcing stereotypes about the value of studying history.

Its value is not in memorizing dates and facts but in providing perspective and context for understanding current and future events.  Self-styled tea partiers could better hone the current meat-cleaver approach by reading beyond the events from which they took their name.

The greatness of this country rose from people like Hamilton, Lincoln, both Roosevelts and Eisenhower who understood the importance of a limited (something upon which both the left and right can agree) but robust and energetic Federal Government to paraphrase Conservative columnist and author David Brooks.

The issue we should be dealing with is about reinvigorating the Federal Government to fuel social mobility like was done with things like capital markets, public education, the homestead act, land grant colleges, canals and railroads, environmental conservation, research and the Interstate Highway system to name just a handful.

A few days earlier Adams published an funny and informative op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and well worth a read at this link.

Adams finishes the op-ed by detailing the seven important lessons below.  One of my favorites is the fourth one down, about attracting luck:

“Combine Skills. The first thing you should learn in a course on entrepreneurship is how to make yourself valuable. It's unlikely that any average student can develop a world-class skill in one particular area. But it's easy to learn how to do several different things fairly well. I succeeded as a cartoonist with negligible art talent, some basic writing skills, an ordinary sense of humor and a bit of experience in the business world. The "Dilbert" comic is a combination of all four skills. The world has plenty of better artists, smarter writers, funnier humorists and more experienced business people. The rare part is that each of those modest skills is collected in one person. That's how value is created.

Fail Forward. If you're taking risks, and you probably should, you can find yourself failing 90% of the time. The trick is to get paid while you're doing the failing and to use the experience to gain skills that will be useful later. I failed at my first career in banking. I failed at my second career with the phone company. But you'd be surprised at how many of the skills I learned in those careers can be applied to almost any field, including cartooning. Students should be taught that failure is a process, not an obstacle.

Find the Action. In my senior year of college I asked my adviser how I should pursue my goal of being a banker. He told me to figure out where the most innovation in banking was happening and to move there. And so I did. Banking didn't work out for me, but the advice still holds: Move to where the action is. Distance is your enemy.

Attract Luck. You can't manage luck directly, but you can manage your career in a way that makes it easier for luck to find you. To succeed, first you must do something. And if that doesn't work, which can be 90% of the time, do something else. Luck finds the doers. Readers of the Journal will find this point obvious. It's not obvious to a teenager.

Conquer Fear. I took classes in public speaking in college and a few more during my corporate days. That training was marginally useful for learning how to mask nervousness in public. Then I took the Dale Carnegie course. It was life-changing. The Dale Carnegie method ignores speaking technique entirely and trains you instead to enjoy the experience of speaking to a crowd. Once you become relaxed in front of people, technique comes automatically. Over the years, I've given speeches to hundreds of audiences and enjoyed every minute on stage. But this isn't a plug for Dale Carnegie. The point is that people can be trained to replace fear and shyness with enthusiasm. Every entrepreneur can use that skill.

Write Simply. I took a two-day class in business writing that taught me how to write direct sentences and to avoid extra words. Simplicity makes ideas powerful. Want examples? Read anything by Steve Jobs or Warren Buffett.

Learn Persuasion. Students of entrepreneurship should learn the art of persuasion in all its forms, including psychology, sales, marketing, negotiating, statistics and even design. Usually those skills are sprinkled across several disciplines. For entrepreneurs, it makes sense to teach them as a package.”

Thursday, April 14, 2011

At What Point Does A Product Or Service Become Useless?

The scientific results of a poll showing how often outdoor billboards are actually used makes you wonder how much longer we can afford them.

The poll showed that less than one in ten North Carolinians use them a few times a week to decide on a product or service, one in five use them a few times a month and nearly seven out of ten never use them.obsolete

A hundred years ago they may have seemed quaint or humorous but already states were curbing them. At what point do they become obsolete? At what point are they no longer worth the blight they bring to roadsides and communities?

At what point do we pull the plug because North Carolina’s scenery is so much more valuable as a cornerstone of the state’s $17 billion tourism economic sector?

At what point will the economic value of the trees and vegetation swathed so they are visible be worth more than the billboards in their ability to remove pollutants from the air and clear storm run-off?

At what point do advertisers realize that it isn’t worth reaching such a tiny segment of the population while irritating the the vast proportion who responded to the poll that outdoor billboards are a detraction and distraction?

At what point will legislators and local officials say enough is enough, even for the small amount of “parasitic” property right involved.

At what point will outdoor billboard owners take management guru Peter Drucker’s advice and pull the plug on them as an obsolete service?

We now have a benchmark so will it be when the proportion of population that finds them completely useless inches up from 68% to 75%? It is only a matter of time.

If I were in or owned stock in a business that owns outdoor billboards, I’d be divesting as fast as possible. Being in the business of irritating people doesn’t have a future.

In the meantime, to keep billboards out of landfills, let ReMakes, an incubator for environmentally-sensitive consumer products, recycle them into hundreds of unique placemats.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Characteristics Of A Good CEO

Even having been one for 94% of the nearly four-decade career I concluded 15 months ago, I’m still learning what makes a good chief executive.

Much more interesting and relevant, in my opinion, than surveys of what CEOs themselves think are studies that correlate CEO characteristics and successful organizations.

A book published last month by David Brooks gives a brief synopsis of three studies beginning with the 2001 best-selling study Good To Great which found that the best CEO’s were “not flamboyant visionaries,” according to Brooks, but “humble, self-effacing, diligent, and resolute souls who found one thing they were really good at and did it over and over again….they demanded discipline and efficiency.”

Brooks also cites two other studies.

One is a 47-page 2009 report entitled “Which CEO Characteristics Matter,” by Dr. Steven Neil Kaplan at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and two other researchers which Brooks notes, “found that traits that correlated most powerfully with success were attention to detail, persistence, efficiency, analytical thoroughness and the ability to work long hours.”Capture

But I notice the report also cites that an “important caveat is that different types of CEOs may endogenously match with different types of companies. In this case, the resulting performance may reflect company differences rather than a causal impact of CEO types.”

This was why a former counterpart in a nearby community and I would joke that I wouldn’t last five minutes as the DMO exec in his community and he wouldn’t last ten minutes in mine. In community/destination marketing at least, it is more critical that a CEO meshes well with the community and organizational culture.

Another 2001 study entitled Personality And Performance by Professor Murray Barrick now head of the Mays Business School Management Department at Texas A & M and two other researchers, according to Brooks, “surveyed a century’s worth of research into business leadership. They too found that extroversion, agreeableness, and openness to new experience did not correlate well with CEO success.”

Brooks continues that from the report “what mattered was emotional stability, conscientiousness – being dependable, making plans and following through.”

Brooks also notes that “these sorts of dogged but diffident traits do not correlate well with education levels. CEOs with law or MBA degrees do not perform better than CEOs with college degrees. Nor do they correlate with compensation packages, nor fame and recognition.”

So for all the folks who strut around annual conferences to impress job search consultants in hopes of climbing the ladder of success, it appears you’re better advised after all to focus on the continuing education and getting your organization accredited while keeping an eye out for communities with the right fit.

The rest will take care of itself.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Long Reach Of “Booster Socialism"

Glendale, Arizona is less a community with professional sports facilities than a sports enterprise with a community held hostage to previous improvident decisions.”

That’s a great opening line by columnist George Will that has greeted readers in more than 450 publications across the nation in the last few days including the Durham Herald-Sun. Durham is similar in size to Glendale but Durham is the core city for a metropolitan area while Glendale is often dismissed as a suburb.Capture

Will’s a big sports fan, especially baseball. He’s also conservative - one of two - the other David Brooks, to which as a progressive-leaning Independent voter I try to never miss reading (I also follow a number of liberal commentators.)

He writes that Glendale, in fear of losing its NHL hockey franchise and already paying triple the rate for bonds, is attempting what Will terms “booster socialism.” They are trying to sell $116 million in bonds so it can give $100 million to a wealthy Chicago businessman to help him buy the team with the hope of repaying the bonds with parking fee rights it already owns.

The team doesn’t even reflect Glendale’s brand. Instead, the team showcases the name of nearby Phoenix, giving that community the reflected “billboard” effect without having to pay a dime of the $180 million in tax revenue required to build the hockey arena where the team plays.

While it is easy to dismiss Glendale’s dilemma, this juggling act is at play all across the country wherever communities are held hostage by not only mega-sports facilities but mega-convention centers and other facilities.

I remember being stunned as a member of an International board once when peers deep-sixed a convention expenditure study that was much more generalizable than anything done before.

The reason it was suppressed was that the expenditure estimates for conventioneers while still “huge” were not big enough to support bonds that had already been sold in some cities to fund huge convention centers. I almost threw up as the information was deep-sixed by an up or down vote, decided in the hallway, after a smidgeon of discussion.

Communities often become hostage to major sports and cultural facilities as are community/destination marketing organizations when those facilities almost always move to monopolize resources and attention intended to market the overall destination.

People may shake their heads at Glendale’s predicament but right under their noses in communities across the country, the same dynamic is at work often taking community/destination marketing organizations hostage as well.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Americans Decry Power of Lobbyists, Corporations, Banks, Feds

Americans Decry Power of Lobbyists, Corporations, Banks, Feds

When Community Marketing May Be A Waste!

I’ve learned there are two simple ways to tell if your community is truly being “marketed” or just “sold” (sales being just one element of marketing.)

  1. Marketing is the process of identifying and fulfilling the needs of customers for which your community is well suited.  Sales, unless driven by overall marketing, is more like arm-twisting as in “I have this stuff and I want you to buy it.”
  2. Without a true grasp of what makes a community distinct, any attempt to improve on it for or market it to either internal or external audiences is just so much “puff” and more likely to homogenize it.trash-can1

I hate to say it, but in today’s complex communications environment, marketing, including the sales element, is a waste of money unless a community has a full grasp of its distinct and temporal personality first.

It is also a waste of money to market a community armed with only a superficial list of its physical attributes, museums, theaters, ballparks and other mainstream “cathedrals.”

And it definitely is a waste of money to be armed with only a logo and a tagline, the most superficial and non-essential elements of a brand.

Beware of charlatans claiming otherwise.  They offer a quick, no-pain fix or an off-the-shelf solution.

A community’s “personality” or brand exists much deeper down with the shared traits, values and “cultural scaffolding” that has given it character and authenticity for decades and centuries.

It is this cultural scaffolding of intrinsic or temporal values and traits specific to each community that make it genuine and give it distinct character and authenticity.

We probably had it easier when heading the community marketing for Durham, even though we were able identify an “overarching brand” encompassing but not just limited to one for tourism.  Sure, we had to overcome objections by the one or two well meaning individuals who always want to “declare” or “issue” a community’s brand like it was as simple as picking team colors.

I’ve known a few seem that superficial but others just fear what peeling back the layers of a community’s cultural scaffolding will or will not reveal, warts and all.

But Durham still has a “there-there” to use a term coined by the writer and poet Gertrude Stein in lament about the loss of such in her hometown.  I learned by plumbing down with the help of scores of inclusively balanced focused groups and then refined with generalizable  scientific polling, to where we were able to recover a full and detailed awareness of the cultural scaffolding underlying Durham’s unique personality.

Unfortunately for many communities, they face not only the minor obstacles Durham did but much deeper ones after spending so many years trying to be “just like other places” and/or failing to safeguard and appreciate what was distinct or retain any sense of character or coherence from what Dr. Scott Russell Sanders terms:

“the forces of development. Uniform highway design, strip
malls, cookie-cutter suburbs, manufactured housing, garish franchise architecture, and box stores surrounded by deserts of blacktop have made our settlements less and less distinct from one another.

The mass media contribute to this homogenizing of America
by smearing across the land a single, sleazy imagery whose overriding goal is to grab our attention and sell it to sponsors, and whose underlying goal may be to mold our minds into thinking as the owners of the media wish us to think.

Chains of radio stations play the same music and recite the same headlines; chains of newspapers print the same articles; chains of bookstores feature the same books; cable and satellite networks beam
the same programs from Florida to Alaska.

Over the airwaves, on billboards and t-shirts,through computers and phones, the usual products are peddled coast to coast. As a result of these trends, we spend more and more of our lives in built environments or in virtual environments that are monotonous, ephemeral, rootless, and ugly.”

If a community and/or its community/destination marketing organization are truly serious about getting to the bottom of its unique personality, “run, don’t walk” to check out the resources on DMO Pro.

Start with a through read of the tiny book “how to” book,” Destination Branding for Small Cities by Bill Baker (understanding that what works in the smallest of destinations will work in the largest) supplemented by Destination BrandScience by Duane Knapp.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Localism Index Signals Return of Local, Independent Businesses

Below is a graphic illustrating reasons to be optimistic that “localism” is on the rebound. It has appeared in both Harpers and The Nation.

To stay abreast of this movement, click here to subscribe to The Hometown Advantage Bulletin eNews published by The New Rules Project of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

(click image to enlarge or click here)


Reweaving The Source Of My Motivation!

I’m really not certain now what motivated me to go to college. “Memory doesn’t actually retrieve information. It reweaves it,” according to a new book I’m almost finished reading by David Brooks.

I remember my parents, one of whom finished high school and the other who dropped out at age 16, being insistent that I go to college. As did both sets of grandparents, none of whom had gone to college and only one of whom graduated from high school.Capture

While I was certainly surrounded by supportive influences, I suspect from statistics that Brooks cites that applying household income averages today to my family back then, I’d have only a 1 in 10 chance of graduating by age 24.

But I did and at a time (1972) when there was little or no premium to your income if you did. But today is different.

Brooks cites statistics that a family with a graduate degree today makes an average of $93,000, a college degree $75,000, a High School diploma $42,000 and a drop-out $28,000.

It isn’t all about money, though. According to Brooks, researchers in a Minnesota study followed 180 children and their families over three decades. They were able with 77% accuracy to predict if a child would drop out of high school by 42 months of age based on social and emotional factors.

If you want to read a fascinating book about those social and emotional factors, read The Social Animal – The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks.

It reminded me why my parents were emphatic that I not only attend college but graduate but it wasn’t all about income.

Having never been there themselves, my parents and grandparents saw college as a means to broaden my horizons, expose me to many different kinds of people and cultures, teach me to critically think, expose me to ideas and innovation and an architecture for making ethical decisions, deepen my compassion and empathy, hone my self-discipline and work ethic and fuel my ambition.

It also fostered my love of learning and exploration that is now making retirement so deliciously rich and rewarding.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Durham’s Rising Stars In Community Destination Marketing

Now not only is DCVB Chief Executive, Shelly Green, vice chairman and rising through the ranks of the governing board for the organization that accredits destination marketing organizations worldwide,Capture

…but former DCVB marketing exec Vicki Isley has just been appointed Chief Operating Officer of Destination Marketing Association International.


Maybe Anger Just Loves Company

Maybe Republicans aren’t banking on votes from Independents to stay in control of elected offices.

They are obviously going after labor unions to neutralize one of the few remaining counterweight to the torrent of unlimited and anonymous corporate campaign financing unleashed by the presumably non-partisan Supreme Court under the guise that corporations are guaranteed free

Now it appears they want to disenfranchise the “youth” vote as illustrated in the infographic linked here and shown to the right (click enlarge.)

Come on! Maybe Republicans like Representative Paul Ryan are the few self-confident, thoughtful adults left in that room.

This is embarrassing for anyone hoping that politics will regain moderation and return to a focus on governance vs. ideological power-mongering. Because these antics will ultimately guarantee another severe swing of the pendulum.

If the Walmart hippies (a term coined by Conservative David Brooks to describe the Tea Party) thought reforming healthcare insurance was over the top, wait till you see the backlash to crap like this.

Maybe anger just loves company!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Poll Reveals NC Voters Strongly Prefer Local Control of Billboards; Majority View Outdoor Advertising as Detracting

North Carolina voters oppose proposed changes to state law that would take away local control of billboards and would allow more electronic billboards along highways and roadsides, according to a new statewide poll released by the N.C. League of Conservation Voters.

The telephone survey indicates that North Carolina voters overwhelmingly hold the view that billboards detract from the appearance of communities and strongly believe that placement of billboards should remain a local decision.


  • 78% of Independent voters, 70% of Democratic voters and 68% percent of Republican voters, hold the view that billboards detract from the appearance of communities and strongly believe that placement of billboards should remain a local decision.


  • More than 80% of those surveyed said they opposed removing more trees so that billboards could be seen for longer distances.


  • Two thirds of those surveyed said they generally opposed any increase in the number of billboards in North Carolina.


  • There is virtually no support from North Carolina voters for having the state tell local communities where and what kind of billboards can be put within their boundaries,” said Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, a Raleigh-based firm that does public opinion surveys. “This is a rare issue where Democrats, Republicans, and independents are all in agreement.”


  • 80% of voters surveyed opposed allowing up to seven electronic billboards per mile.


  • An overwhelming 70 percent of North Carolina voters surveyed said that electronic billboards that flash changing ads every eight seconds would present a distraction to motorists.


  • 68% of those surveyed said they almost never use a billboard in deciding where to buy a product or service, 20% used billboards a few times a month and 9% said they did so a few times a week.


  • 90% of voters surveyed said state lawmakers should focus on creating jobs than weakening billboard restrictions, the same among Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

The poll was commissioned by the N.C. League of Conservation Voters based on the concerns expressed by a number of local community groups including Wilmington Council of Neighborhood Associations, Durham Inter Neighborhood Council, and Winston-Salem Neighborhood Alliance.

Contact: Carrie Clark, NCLCV

Tom Jensen, Public Policy Polling

For more information on proposed Billboard legislation,

A Hazard To Passions

I have a lot of passions but one of them isn’t outdoor billboards.

I blog in objection to billboards because I have a passion for “places” and the things that make them scenic and unique. I saw first hand during the near decade I lived in Alaska just how much better it is without outdoor billboards which were banned there in 1959, almost immediately after achieving statehood.

I also have a passion for riding a Harley-Davidson Cross Bones where you see first hand how distracted motorists can be in general, without something like outdoor billboards which are put in place for the sole purpose of pulling your eyes away from where they should be.Save The View

Looking away from the roadway is responsible for 70-90% of unsafe driving events such as drifting, swerving etc. In fact, ten percent of drivers are responsible for 50% of the crash risks and things that distract drivers from keeping their eyes on the roadway are among the highest causes.

Studies show that a two-second distraction doubles your risk of an accident. A study by the Outdoor Billboard industry showed that even in daylight, digital billboards draw your eyes away from the road for two seconds or more twice as often as regular billboards or no billboards at all.

It is no wonder they elected not to do a night time analysis.

Spokesmen for the current bills in the North Carolina legislature argue they are just trying to modernize and that they know of no other business prevented from doing so.

The fact is, even without modernization, these structures are safety hazards and there are tons of examples where public safety trumps this type of so-called improvement. According to scientific opinion polls seven out of every ten North Carolina voters agree and eight out of 10 oppose them.

North Carolina must reject these bills, not just because they will line our roadways with up to seven digital billboards per mile and swath away tree screens from public roadways but more importantly because they override local control and are a purposeful and unnecessary hazard to public safety.

The people working in or representing outdoor billboard companies are not demons nor any more flawed than the rest of us. From what I know of them personally, they are honorable people. But they are wrong and according to an interview in Planning Journal, the courts have ruled for many years that outdoor billboards do not derive their value from private land.

They fall under the what courts term the “parasite principal.” Billboards derive their value from the publicly built and maintained roadways and the public has a right to determine if and where they exist.

Judging by the value of their absence to Alaska, Vermont, Maine and Hawaii and thousands of cities and towns, in North Carolina, the debate needs to be whether we can afford to have them at all, let alone turn our roadways into a drive through yellow pages as the proposed bills allow.

Scientific polls show that 78% of Independent voters, 70% of Democratic voters and 68% of Republican voters all agree that outdoor billboards detract from community appearance.

To quote from a recent interview, “these entire states and thousands of cities and towns and counties have found that beauty and place-making are good for business; ugliness and excessive commercialism are not.”

For more information on the bills before the General Assembly, click here.

A 2035 Trace!

I’ve traced a reminder on my 2035 Google calendar!

Yup, that’s a quarter of a century away, a few days after my daughter will have turned my current age and a few days before my youngest grandson will be on the “backside of 30,” With any luck I’ll be a week from my 87th birthday then and hopefully as spry as my Mom is at 82 today.

But I’ve traced my calendar for 8 am the morning of Thursday, July 1st that year out of curiosity to check back and see if the DCVB governing board, my employer until I retired back in 2009, will launch a tourism match grants program in 2035, the first year that funds eligible for that purpose will be available!

Community/Destination Marketing Organizations (DMO’s) are typically not grant agencies but in North Carolina, if the DMO receives 100% of the special tourism development tax, state policy permits up to 1/3rd to be use for tourism-related projects, other than community marketing, which is the stipulated use for no less than 2/3rds of the funds.

But not in Durham for two reasons:Permissable Use of Funding

  • Because only 33%, not 100% of Durham’s special tourism tax is used for the purposes for which the tax was pioneered in 1982, those funds that do make their way to DCVB are restricted to “only” marketing Durham. Marketing activities are specifically defined in the legislation and do not include grants.

  • Because to accommodate City and County officials and some Downtown interests, DCVB asked the General Assembly to waive the requirement to conform use of the special tourism development tax under state policy so that up to $1.4 million a year could be diverted to pay for the Durham Performing Arts Center. So the General Assembly further hardwired DCVB’s portion to only be used for marketing until 2035 when the theater is paid for and those funds revert to DCVB for their primary purpose (click on the image above to see detail.)

Of course, when the theater is paid for and those funds go to DCVB, there is no guarantee they will go to tourism matching grants. The Tourism Development Authority will have the discretion to use them to bring Durham marketing up to par other communities and/or for other tourism-related purposes (which could be tourism matching grants) including capital projects.

But if some of the funds are devoted to grants, DCVB is all set to go. Several years ago, Durham’s destination marketing organization took a tourism matching grants process developed by another community and updated it to best practice standards including both day-trip and overnight visitors.

The grants-centered “Durham Tourism-Project Development Fund” was adopted by DCVB’s Tourism Development Authority to be shelved but kept up-to-date in anticipation of the day eligible funds come to the Bureau in 2035.

In the meantime, currently 50% of the tourism development tax is retained in the City and County general funds with more than 30% of that portion technically eligible to be used for tourism matching grants. It isn’t identified as such but it may be that’s what is currently used by those local governments for grants to festivals and/or to close gaps for tourism-related facilities like the Convention Center, Museum of Life & Science, Durham Bulls Athletic Park and DPAC.

I hope so anyway.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

15 Facts Illustrated About Inequality!

Yesterday, I spotted an infographic on the Objects In Repeat blog while searching for a study released by the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality.

The Stanford Center had made 20 charts easily accessible from the  report.  But click below on Kristy Tillman’s inforgraphic on Objects In Repeat to see an example of how to make this information really pop.  I also just noticed she made Fast Company’s blog today as well.  (click on the graphic below to enlarge)

One that really grabbed me is in the lower, right corner.  A few years before I graduated from college in 1972, CEO pay was 39 times the average workers pay.  The year before I came to Durham, it was 191 times.  By the turn of the century, it was 1039 times.

Another part of the infographic illustrates that all of the discrepancy isn’t just due to an increase in CEO comp, a big part is the stagnation in overall income over the last several decades.


Fetzer’s Election Night Challenge Already A Distant Memory!

I’m probably not counted as one of Tom Fetzer’s friends.  Something about calling to ask his campaign to remove the signs they had planted two towns away and all over southern Durham when he ran successfully to be Mayor of Raleigh in the early ‘90s.

We did become acquainted over the years, typically whenever Raleigh went “big game hunting” and insisted on manipulating Durham into expensive schemes. But I thought Tom did an incredible job as chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party during the last election.

I had truly hoped his newly elected constituents would take heed to his wise and eloquent challenge the night their victories gave them control of both chambers in the General Assembly, “the tough job begins now, these people have to govern.”unknown

But governing is not what many Republicans here and across the country are doing with the opportunity a 7% margin voters gave them in the last election.

If I were a cynic and not just an Independent, I’d say they obviously aren’t confident as a group that they will be in power long so they are trying to wreak as much havoc as possible while they can.

I’m not just talking about the US House vote to repeal healthcare legislation that was rejected by the Senate on February 2nd nor the bill four South Dakota legislators sponsored three days earlier to require all adults in that state to own a firearm and then backpedaling several days later as one sponsor claimed to a reporter that it was just a joke.

I wish the secret meetings in our legislature were joke, as well as the insane legislation proposed to strip local control of billboards and place North Carolina’s scenic fame behind seven blinking digital billboards per mile with trees swathed from the “public” roadsides to make sure your attention is drawn from one to the next.

Now a bill seeks to permit event ticket scalping and eliminate any protection for consumers that they are buying a ticket that actually exists let along many times its worth. Or congress members seeking to cut EPA’s funding so the environment is left defenseless to those eager to degrade it for a buck.

Or eliminating tens of thousands of jobs at a time when it will slow or postpone the recovery while refusing to address President Obama’s willingness to cut entitlements so they can gut environmental protection and pursue social agendas such as mural-gate or demonizing unions or taking away the right to restrict concealed weapons.

To quote Maureen Dowd, “Republicans talk fiscal policy but can’t resist social meddling.”

The kids in the candy store are looking at a big stomach ache if they aren’t following polls and trends like the analysis last week by Nate Silver illustrating that while Tea Party favorability remains as it has always been in the in the low 30s, the percentage of those unfavorable to the Tea Party, once below 20%, is now at 47% and climbing.

Doesn’t look like that enthusiasm gap that swept Republicans into power is holding.

I’m not sure but I’ll bet Tom is just shaking his head over the lost opportunity to truly govern.

As Dowd wrote a few days ago, “because Independent voters considered President Obama too partisan in his debut, they shifted their loyalties – and swept in one of the most ideological and partisan Republican caucuses in history.  Now Obama will get back some Independents because he seems reasonable by comparison.”

Monday, April 04, 2011

My 1966 Destiny And The Friend I Left Behind!

Maybe I was destined to attend the huge Idaho Falls High School my senior year. I had been born seventeen years earlier in that city of then 34,000 after my Mom went into labor and my Dad had to whisk her 50 miles south from our Henry’s Fork ranch on an extremely hot July afternoon because there was no hospital in nearby Ashton at that time.

I think I was meant to attend IFHS that year to prepare me for college the following year in many ways other than academics. That’s where I first took typing class to give me a way around the essential tremor that was already degrading my ability to handwrite.1000px-Idaho_Falls_High_School_logo_svg

I expanded beyond sports to hone a skill in forensics and I don’t mean the CSI kind. I mean the forensic art of competitive individual and team debate. Some call it advocacy forensics because you must learn to debate and refute both sides of an issue.

By the way, the debate topic nationwide in 1966 was:

Resolved: That the federal government should adopt a program of compulsory arbitration in labor management disputes in basic industries.

I think I may have also been destined to go to IFHS that last year to learn better how to deal with the large student body I was to encounter in college the next year. At well more than a thousand students, IF as it’s known was many times larger than any school I had previously attended and larger than the entire town near where I spent my early years.

But I’m sure I was also meant to go there to connect with Ronnie Park and we instantly became best friends. Ronnie was “cool” but not as in the typical “cool cliques” that had already hardened to much for anyone to crack in only a year.00341_yn_aaeuyfyqe1947

We both drove old Chevy’s, mine a ‘57 and Ronnie’s a ‘55. When his ‘55 blew up, he was one of the first people in Idaho with a Datsun (today called Nissan.) That’s Ronnie in the photo to the left standing next to that car, which seemed pretty exotic at the time.

We both liked girls and rock and roll. I liked one girl in particular but Ron was more elusive. We traveled two hundred miles south to Farmington, Utah that summer to see The Rolling Stones and The Animals perform live at the Lagoon Amusement Park Patio Gardens to an audience of only a few thousand people.

We were Beatles and Beach Boys fans but the edginess of The Stones and The Animals formed the perfect soundtrack to a year when war and protest filled our living rooms and the draft loomed ahead.

Ronnie and I made several college visits together including the University of Idaho, Utah State University and Idaho State University. We had planned to visit the University of Wyoming over in Laramie but the engine in my ‘57 Chevy blew up and we had to be towed home.

That summer before college we worked together up in the 3-million-acre Caribou-Targhee National Forest, near my birthplace and ancestral ranch, fighting that year’s huge outbreak of Mountain Pine Beetles by spraying the soon-to-be banned DDT straight up into huge Lodgepole Pines in that nook between Yellowstone Park and the Idaho side of the Teton Mountains.

When we got back to IF, our paths parted as suddenly as they had crossed when I was lucky enough to get into Brigham Young University down in Provo, Utah where I wouldn’t be admitted by today’s academic standards, but managed to graduate magna cum laude. Ronnie headed to ISU in Pocatello.

I probably wouldn’t have adjusted to going to school with 20,000 other students at BYU had it not been for that year at IFHS. A lot of kids had difficulty making the adjustment to schools that large including one of my much brighter cousins. Enrollment at BYU had doubled in size over the six years prior to my freshman year and continued to rapidly grow before leveling out a little more than 20 years later at 32,000+.

Ten years after Ronnie and I parted ways, I was living and working in Spokane, Washington when I received a clipping from the Idaho Falls Post-Register anonymously in the mail, maybe from that former girl friend. Under what seemed like a huge headline, “Ronnie Park Found Dead,” the article reported that he had been living in Ucon, a little town north of Idaho Falls on US 20 leading back north to our ranch, and working nearby.Ronnie Park

He had killed himself with a 20-gauge shotgun, leaving a widow named Dianna. It confirmed he had attended ISU and served four and half years in the Idaho National Guard.

It hit me hard and still does with more than a little guilt that we hadn’t stayed in touch, that I wasn’t there to dissipate the unfathomable anger and despair that can motivate suicide.

I passed on the 10-year reunion for the IF Class of ‘66 held a few months later and I have not attended any since.

Last week marked the anniversary of when I received that clipping the week after Ronnie’s death.

R.I.P my friend.