Thursday, May 31, 2012

“Insight-Driven” Decision Making

An IBM face-to-face survey of more than 1,700 chief executives in 64 countries reveals that the three things separating those businesses that outperform vs. underperform are:

  • More access to data
  • Greater capacity to draw insights from data
  • Stronger ability to translate insights into actionIBM Survey

In short, they are not only data-driven, they are “insight-driven” and they readily grasp the head start that capacity provides over the competition.

Similarly, a just-released McKinsey & Company survey of C-suite executives confirms that “more executives say they have outperformed competitors in their use of big data and analysis than in applying any other trend.”

Harder to find these days, I suspect, but still vocal are the few in every community who denigrate the need for data, preferring to black-ball, talk-over or bully anyone with information that may scrutinize or contradict their unsubstantiated preferences.

An IPSOS survey of senior business executives last year found that half already own a tablet device (nearly eclipsing smartphones) and a Financial Times survey reveals how senior executives use them:

  • 53% access work email [greatly extending their virtual day]
  • 38% already see tablets replacing desktop/laptop computers
  • 8 out 10 use them for news, reference and reading (data)

The latter is good news for newspapers and other traditional media that are rapidly shifting to new platforms but not bode well for traditional media which shows a 61% decrease in use in reaching customers according to the IBM survey which projects that over the next three to five years only 15% project will use that medium.

Similarly those overly reliant on business travel will see its decades-long decline drop with another 16% drop forecast in the use of face-to-face meetings and sales forces.

It probably will come as a surprise to organizations purportedly lobbying on behalf of business and their legislative enablers, but of all the external concerns, CEOs rank regulatory concerns only fifth on their list of concerns and environmental issues eighth.

CEOs are far more concerned about the impact of technology #1, people skills #2 and market factors #3.  Macro-economic factors have fallen to fourth.  As a political moderate-leaning Independent, this tells me that the President is apparently on point and doing his homework.

As the IBM report summarizes, “CEOs are becoming increasingly accustomed to volatility. They expect unpredictability…Unable to control or even anticipate economic outcomes, these CEOs have shifted their focus elsewhere.”

Which brings us back to data - deeper and broader, primary and secondary, generalizable and anecdotal – organizations and decisions today must be informed by data in order to increase their capacity to draw insights and then rapidly deploy those insights into action.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Leading Edge of Extended Days

In the April 2012 edition of FutureProof, Yannis Kavounis of The Futures Company breaks down the importance of the 5.6% to 6.1%% of US consumers (5% globally) known as “leading edge” even to those businesses and organizations with otherwise mainstream audiences.

These are the folks who “push the boundaries of the status quo” and “always look to expand horizons and create new solutions.”  They are “constantly curious” and have a “high sensation threshold” and they are always “seeking new, alternative, and unique ways to express self.”Extended Day

If I were in the business of pursuing new models for local newspapers, these are the people on which I would keep a close eye through studies such as the one on Newspaper Multiplatform Usage also released in April.

Keep in mind that being “leading edge” isn’t about being younger.  In fact this type of consumer is only three or four years younger on average than mainstream consumers.  I’m not sure I agree with my friends who kiddingly refer to me as leading edge but I certainly made good use of this group as a bellwether during my 40-year career in community-destination marketing.

My days have grown even longer since I retired nearly two and half years ago.  Ubiquitous multitasking on multiple platforms such as a desktop, mini-laptop, smartphone and tablet has extended my virtual 24 hour day by an average of 6 hours according to the recent study Screens to the nth, conducted by Ipsos MediaCT and IAB.

While studies such as these, along with analysis like that provided by Kavounis, are invaluable to various forms of media and marketers they require attention and focus and thought.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Is Desecration Marketing Ethical?

Community or state destination marketing organizations (DMOs) that still utilize huge, outdoor, static billboards need to consider whether it is ethical to use a medium that desecrates the places and homes and neighborhoods from which they hope to draw their visitors.

If not deemed unethical, at the very least the use of roadside billboards violates “sustainability” which is one of the three pillars of today’s values-based marketing, aka “marketing 3.0.”

If marketing intelligence suggests advertising as a part of the marketing mix for a DMO and outdoor advertising is somehow unavoidable, there are about 100 alternative formats to consider instead of using roadside billboards.

While the alternatives may still raise the issue of visual pollution in general, they do not require clear cutting 250,000 acres of roadside trees and vegetation nationwide, nor do these alternatives always violate the inherent right to a view by those using public roadways.

Using revenue as a guide, roadside billboards are now only 65% of outdoor advertising, which is now more accurately referred to as “out-of-home” advertising since much of it is not really outdoors.

Growth projections for out of home advertising often mask the fact that revenues for static roadside billboards have been down or barely flat over the last decade despite huge investments in and campaign contributions to secure the use of digital “enhancements” to these structures.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, the community-destination marketing organization for Durham, NC where I worked until retiring a few years ago, was the first to begin using eye-tracking by Perception Research Services (PRS) to ensure the effectiveness of its ad designs and layouts.  Today that service also includes measuring the emotive power of an ad by tracking facial expressions.

Although tempted from time to time and even pressured once by a devotee, the policy of that organization has always been to avoid using static, roadside billboards both because they destroy trees and blight quality of place bit also because Durham’s 1984 ban on billboards made it seem hypocritical to turn around and deploy them for advertising in other locations from which we pursued visitors. 

PRS has determined that some outdoor or out-of-home alternatives such as mobile advertising wraps on trucks, cars and other vehicles are 96% more effective than traditional static outdoor billboards and they generate 2.5 times more attention.  And they don’t require even one tree to be cut down.

In my opinion, two of the most basic rules of marketing today are 1) Don’t piss off more people than you inspire and 2) Do no harm.  Advertisers still using roadside billboard and the legislative enablers who permit the desecration they create are in violation of both principles.

In the words of marketer Scott Goodson, “instead of attempting to persuade people…marketers must try to tap into what it is that people already believe and care about.”  Overwhelmingly, research shows that people value roadside trees, vegetation and views more than advertising on billboards.

Marketing, according to Goodson, is now more about sharing what people care about than selling; and I believe community or state destination marketing is, at its essence, movement marketing.

Marketers who still use roadside billboards may find interesting the perspectives of Philip Kotler and Hermawan Kartajaya.  They define “marketing 1.0” as the way it was practiced during the industrial age when it was all about selling products without concern for what the customer needed or wanted.

Back then as it still is for many marketers now, the activity of marketing was “considered as mere selling, an art of persuasion, and even cheating.”

The information age ushered in “marketing 2.0” with its focus on helping customers find what they need and want even if it ends up not being what the marketer is offering.  This was what I practiced during the first part of my now-concluded 40-career as a community-destination marketing executive.

Kotler and Kartajaya define marketing today as the “human-centric era” or marketing 3.0, where customers are “treated as human beings who are active, anxious, and creative” and where sustainability is a core value and customers actively help shape the product or destination being marketed to them.

It could be that Jonah Sachs is defining “marketing 4.0” or at the very least 3.5 when he writes in his soon-to-be-released book Winning The Story Wars about “empowerment marketing.”  It isn’t a stretch to believe, as I do, that advertising should empower not desecrate the sense-of-place in communities and states where it is placed and viewed.

There is no place for the desecration marketing via roadside billboards in the age of human-centric empowerment marketing.

Two business school professors at Brooklyn College lamentably prophesied in a 2009 issue of the American Journal of Business that

“Corinthian-pillared buildings, gothic archways, monuments, and colossal skyscrapers once defined the architectural landscape of our cities.

Today outdoor advertising overpowers those landmark giants in cities in which we live and work, as advertisers find it progressively more difficult to reach people through other media.

Gargantuan billboards and other manifestations of this industry make this metamorphosis possible in urban and rural areas.”

When the authors of that article, professors Lopez-Pumarejo and Bassell, noted that outdoor or out-of-home advertising may be the “…only unavoidable realm from which to reach progressively elusive consumers…” they may have been referring to calculations which show that we are each bombarded now with and turned off by an average of 5,000 (soon to be 10,000) advertising images each day.

That clutter is up from just 500 a day in the 1970s when I first became a DMO exec, according to Dr. J. Walker Smith, now executive chairman of the global board for The Futures Company during a 2009 CBS Sunday Morning interview when he was president of Yankalovich Consumer Research during its merger.

Locked in an arms race according to Smith, it appears to me that even advertisers who know this clutter is driving the well-documented and dramatic decline in the effectiveness of advertising don’t seem to know how to stop the self-destructive implosion of this one element of marketing.

The responsibility should weigh even more heavily on those who market states and cities.  As Ed McMahon asked in an essay two months ago in Urbanland:  “Do you want the character of your city to shape the new development, or do you want the new development to shape the character of the city?”

Maybe a corollary for community and state marketers should be - do you want the character of your community or state and the places of origin of its visitors to be reflected in the sustainability of the marketing decisions you make? or do you want to enable visual pollution and let desecration such as billboards create define the character of your city or state?

If the answer is the former, start by making sure the marketing you practice lives up to the responsibility to curate and guard sense-of-place both in the places you represent as well as in the places from which you hope to draw travelers.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Link Between Trees And Reduced Crime

In nearly every community perusal of a map of the urban forest tree canopy will reveal it is thinnest, or nonexistent, in poorer neighborhoods just as it is in Durham, North Carolina where I life.

But urban foresters are often rebuffed in their efforts to reforest such neighborhoods by the myth that there is a link between trees and crime, often perpetuated by police officers who misapply CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design) principles.

Now a study in Baltimore has established a 12% reduction in crime with a 10% increase in tree cover and the magnitude was 40 times greater on public lands.

Often though, urban legends are stubbornly held even in the presence of data and posts like this one by Eric Jaffe on Atlantic Cities.  But even where there is awareness of the benefits of trees, it often doesn’t translate into action.

Urban trees are viewed by most public officials as a good thing for many reasons including not only crime reduction but also lower levels of domestic abuse, water and air quality not to mention aesthetics and property values and economic development.

But urban forestry is not funded or resourced in proportion to these overarching benefits so beyond mere awareness the dots obviously remain unconnected.

Reforestation remains one of the most cost-effective things local and state governments can do in both urban and rural areas including parkland and along roadsides.

Savvier communities will deploy trees to fight crime.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Infographic – What Happens in an Internet Minute

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Infographic – The State Of Social Enterprise

Social Enterprise

If the full image doesn’t open by clicking on it, click here.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Riding A Harley In Stilettos

Two images struck me during a recent quick trip to Salt Lake City to visit my daughter and grandsons.

One image is that of a young woman in a tight black skirt, wearing stilettos and a coon skin cap astride a big black Harley-Davidson motorcycle riding alone down a busy boulevard past the 130-year-old Liberty Park as we headed up 700 E for a float at the now-50-year-old Hires Big H Drive Inn.

It enlisted a gleeful, “boy is she hardcore” from my single-mom healthcare-lawyer daughter.

The other image was of multiple streets lined with back to back billboards leading east and west to and from downtown Salt Lake City such as the one in the image from High Country News shown in this blog.

The huge boards mar an otherwise beautiful city and obscure the views of the Wasatch Range of Rocky Mountains that serve as its backdrop.  The desecration also irritates many times more people than the small percentage who may find it useful, a fact lost on the businesses that still keep this obsolete and increasingly desperate technology on life support.

This billboard blight is missing from the logo and images which are strategically used by Salt Lake’s community-destination marketing organization, but it nonetheless assaults visitors and newcomers and those residents who haven’t become callous to its existence.

There is a revolution in communities across the country, including Salt Lake City, against “visual pollution” as illustrated by a new seven and a half minute documentary by Ossian Or, who with his wife Sandra are among a growing number of marketing professionals joining this fight.

The 80-acre Liberty Park in Salt Lake was the first in that state, designed by its first formally trained architect, and it came only after the city’s extraordinarily wide streets had been established (purportedly so a wagon pulled by draught animals could pull u-turns.)

But in my experience, many architects seem ambivalent about community sense of place while others may have their information misattributed or overstated as in this flyer produced by an arm of the association representing the outdoor billboard industry.

The flyer lobbies for use of big billboards in mixed use developments and gives the impression that it is authored by a distinguished professor-emeritus of architecture.  A closer reading reveals that the flyer uses some of his case studies.  However, the photos showing dissonance between billboards and sense of place speak volumes.

Published five months ago, a far more enlightening analysis is Jonathan Snyder’s Beyond Aesthetics: How Billboards Affect Economic Prosperity.  As an urban planner, Snyder uses data to reveal the negative impact billboards have on property values.

Ironically, many downtown development organizations are “thick” when it comes to outdoor billboard blight including some cited in the billboard industry flyer above.

The downtown advocacy organization in Durham, NC, where I live, is lobbying for a tax so in part it can do marketing but expanding the agency’s web page to full screen shows a depiction of an outdoor billboard.

Whether due to oversight or a mistake or inadequate funding to make remedy, it stands as an obvious affront to Durham’s nearly 30-year-old ban on billboards.

The first lesson this downtown group can take in marketing is to be true to community-held values, the policy followed by Durham’s official marketing agency which is the guardian and curator for its unique sense of place.

Sense of place isn’t rocket science and it definitely isn’t as hard as steering a big Harley in a tight skirt and stilettos.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

100 Year Unlearned Lessons Along The San Gabriel

In the late 1960s I lived for a few months high up in La Crescenta, 2,500+ feet above Los Angeles along the edge of the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains.

The apartment was the ground level of a home carved into the mountain side on steppes not far from what is now Deukmejian Wilderness Park.  It was spring and the days were crisp and clear and the views out over the Verdugos to the ocean were spectacular.

This section of the national forest had been established by the federal government as a “forest timber preserve” in 1892 during President Benjamin Harrison’s administration and combined with two others to become a national forest 15 years later during Teddy Roosevelt’s.

That forest preserve was established only a decade after the Southern Pacific Railroad linked Los Angeles to the east coast and created a land rush.  Having swollen from a population of 40,000 in 1881, when the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe linked up, to more than 100,000 by 1890, Los Angeles County was already very worried about its water shed which the forest preserve was in part created to protect.

By the time I lived along those mountains, the population of the county below was already nearing 7 million and now, forty-four years later, it is up to 9.8 million.  What cattle ranchers considered a joke some 130 years ago, that they gave the land away but sold the climate has come to be prophetic today.

Maybe they didn’t know enough back then to to realize that the value of wetlands and parkland would be priceless when it comes to protecting water quality.  Nor did they realize the value of those lands in flood control, especially their ability to retain sediment from storm run off.

As High Country News reported last week, the flood control in the San Gabriels was initiated not only to protect lives and property and water quality but to prevent the recurrence of sediment flows that plugged LA’s harbor at San Pedro after fires and heavy rains in those mountains resulted in flash floods in 1914.

I can’t help but think of the images of San Pedro painted nearly eighty years prior to that event by Richard Henry Dana Jr. in one my favorite books growing up, Two Years Before the Mast when, as a mate on the cow-hide trading vessel The Pilgrim, he wrote:

“I also learned, to my surprise, that the desolate-looking place we were in was the best place on the whole coast for hides. It was the only port for a distance of eighty miles, and about thirty miles in the interior was a fine plane country, filled with herds of cattle, in the centre of which was the Pueblo de los Angelos–the largest town in California–and several of the wealthiest missions; to all of which San Pedro was the sea-port.”

At the time of Dana’s description, Los Angeles with a population of 800 was undergoing a growth spurt and had just been declared a city by the recently independent country of Mexico.   By the time of the land rush that came with the railroad in 1881, the cattle herds Dana mentions were grazing clear up to where I would live for those few months 132 years later.

By 1914 when the harbor nearly filled with sediment, Los Angles County’s population had swelled to nearly 800,000.  As a result, river beds were lined with concrete and dams erected along the washes coming down from the mountains.

Today instead of sediment being captured and settled in wetlands along the way, it has to be captured and removed from dams.  Running out of places to “dump” the sediment means engineers are making unfortunate decisions to destroy forests of old-growth oaks and sycamores to create dump sites.

The free market is miraculous but it obviously wasn’t capable back then of understanding or incorporating the value of protecting the lands necessary for water quality and flood control, nor is government protecting old-growth forestland now.

I’d like to return to La Crescenta one day to motorcycle the spectacular 116 mile loop through the Angeles National Forest beginning just a few miles downrange on the Angles Crest Highway, going up through the mountains, along the backside on Big Pines Road and returning through the mountains via the Angeles Forest Highway and down through Big Tujunga Canyon Road, emptying out again just up range.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Codependent Roots Of Tourism And Billboards

Organizations dedicated to community-destination marketing (DMOs) date their emergence to 1895 during the Progressive Era even though towns and cross roads across New England had more loosely used nostalgia and pastoral views to draw tourists from industrialized cities as early as the 1830s the same period that villages and towns initiated the first urban tree planting and beautification.

So maybe it isn’t so coincidental that destination marketing began to formalize the effort to draw tourists to and between cities at about the same time reformers launched the City Beautiful movement to reform the approach cities took to architecture, parks, urban forest, boulevards etc.

City Beautiful was preceded by the mid-18th century village improvement societies and succeeded by movements such as the National Roadside Councils in the 20th century and they give root today to organizations like Scenic America and affiliates such as Scenic North Carolina.

It is puzzling to me then why so many community-destination marketing execs today seem so detached from their role as guardians and curators of sense of place.  In my now-concluded 40-year career in destination marketing I often used trees and outdoor billboards as a litmus test.

If a colleague defended the blight and destruction created by billboards, it is my opinion they didn’t have a grasp of sense of place and their role in shaping and preserving it.  But there is some history as well behind the ambivalence by some in tourism toward outdoor billboards.

The first DMO in Detroit was followed quickly by the emergence of one in Hawaii in 1902, St. Louis in 1904, Denver in 1909 until there were nearly 30 by 1920 when they met in association. To put that in perspective the number of cars in America grew from 8,000 in 1900 to 200,000 in 1908 and to 8 million in 1920.

But many early DMOs overlooked that new technology and remained fixated only on railroads and even more narrowly on the very small proportion (10%) of tourism which was then, as now, driven by conventions and meetings.

Railroads back then often partnered to create tourism such as when the Northern Pacific opened Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park in 1903 followed by an alternative route to that park by the combined Union Pacific – Oregon Short Line railroads in 1910, which passed four miles east of my great grandfather’s homestead-ranch, the year this very cool “Where Gush The Geysers” brochure was published.

That year the Great Northern Railway developed tourism facilities in the newly opened Glacier National Park.  Attendance to national parks rose from 356,000 in 1916 to 1.5 million in 1925 and 2 million in 1927.

As the population of America grew from 69 million, when the first DMO was created, to 76 million in 1900, to 92 million in 1910, to 106 million in 1920 and 123 million in 1930, the still relatively new technology of automobiles democratized tourism to cities, towns and regions.

As the population and the number of cars grew, the new roadways created for them expanded, outdoor billboard companies turned against the downtowns they had literally wallpapered until then and claimed the mobility of the great outdoors, dismissing technologies such as telephone, radio and magazines as being for “indoor people.”

As detailed in her 2004 book Buyways: Billboards, Automobiles and the American Landscape, Dr. Catherine Gudis documents how the 1920s emerged as the “heyday of civic boosterism.”

During the post-WWI “real-estate speculation boom of the 1920s, enterprising communities,” across the nation, “sought to attract business and tourism dollars or to develop their rural areas by forming groups devoted to publicity” now called community-destination marketing organizations.

Today there are several thousand community-destination marketing organizations worldwide, more than 1100 in North America alone, all pursuing visitor-centric economic and cultural development for the places they represent.

Outdoor billboard companies were quick to publish articles such as one in 1922 entitled “A Few Tips On Selling A City” describing, according to Gudis, how “marketing a place as a commodity entailed selling a packaged identity to potential businesses, visitors and residents including the pleasures of nature, history, commerce and climate.”

As they are often now, DMOs then were easily seduced by seeing the name of their community “up in lights” so to speak and quickly a co-dependency with billboards was formed even as this soon-to-be-obsolete form of advertising was serving to dissolve the distinctiveness of communities, deliberately fueling sprawl and substituting stereotypes for unique sense of place.

Gudis writes, “tourism became a means by which drivers could be made into consumers and the landscape into consumable merchandise.”  She also notes that the dominant themes of auto tourism were always contradictory – embrace of technology [auto and billboards] and a quest for pastoral, non-commercial world of the great outdoors.”

But today community-destination marketers can no longer afford this codependency.  Savvy marketers increasing realized that billboards no longer serve a purpose.

Highway signs, navigation technology (now used by nearly 60% of drivers,) the general decline in the effectiveness of advertising, standardized roadside exit logo advertising and non-destructive and more effective out-of-home advertising alternatives have made huge outdoor billboards redundant.

Community-destination marketing organizations as well as tourism related businesses such as restaurants, retail stores, theaters, sports facilities and lodging businesses can no longer afford or tolerate the blight, tree cutting and view obstruction outdoor billboards create.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

An Era Of Sprawl Mitigation

North Carolina prides itself on a diverse sense of place, but newcomers and visitors nearly always sum it up in one word – trees.

But trees and forestland aren’t a given in a state that is already 125% more densely populated then the national average.  Thanks to a study of urban trees in nearby Tennessee, we know that the replacement value of North Carolina’s 1.4 million acres of urban forest would be more than $86 billion.

More than $13 million of that is the replacement value for just those urban trees along transportation corridors through North Carolina’s cities and towns.

So why in this time of fiscal crisis were outdoor billboard allies permitted to sneak a bill through the last legislative session that sacrifices huge swaths of these publicly-owned roadside trees with no requirement for payment or replanting or respect for local values?

Why is it that the legislature is willing to sacrifice hundreds of urban roadside trees, each valued at $76.26 annually according to economists, just to increase already-adequate visibility for outdoor billboards which are valued at only $57 in annual property taxes, both in 2008 dollars?

Where is the fiscal sense in that?  Why aren’t outdoor billboard companies being required to not only pay for and replace these trees but the scenic easements they take without compensating the public?

In fact, why aren’t outdoor billboards assessed the cost of the roadways upon which they prey and the costs of sprawl for which they have gleefully taken credit since the 1920s?

The good news is that although North Carolina is 28% more densely populated than neighboring Tennessee, it has managed to retain or reforest 8% more urban forest.

The last few years during the economic slowdown represented a huge missed opportunity for urban forests and developers alike when during the economic slowdown, cities, towns, counties and states elected to slash planning budgets instead.households

This would have been a perfect opportunity to take a breather to make or update “detailed, long-term projections of all development needs” and to conduct in-depth “inventories and assessments of current land-use patterns and development potential” as recommended by a 2004 study by the Brookings Institution.

It is good news that the authors projected that only 1/3rd to 1/2 as much of the new/replacement development taking place between 2000 and 2030 will be sprawl.  More interest in new urbanism and better infill or replacement development, as well as adaptive reuse of historic structures, is all positive but these trends require more planning, not less.

Cities like Durham, NC, where I live, have been asked to sacrifice developable land so down stream communities like Raleigh could grow; but now our community is also being asked to shoulder more than its share of improvements to that water quality without access to the assessed value it made possible there.

The good news is that it means a good proportion of Durham is set aside in natural area-watershed.  More good news is that one of the mitigation strategies will be to convert developed parcels into park-like and reforested pocket wetlands in neighborhoods.

More good sprawl-mitigating news is that much of the new growth/replacement development being forecast for the future can take place in parking lots.  The Urban Land Institute projects that America is one-third over-parked.  This means that not only can parking areas be reduced but there is an opportunity to greatly improve the parking that remains by requiring far better tree planting.

Judging from the lots around the places I shop in Durham, this community is one-half or more over-parked to use the Institute’s term.

But developers don’t like surprises.  A compact community like Durham (fourth or fifth largest city shoehorned into the 17th smallest county in terms of land area) City-County Planning must be more adequately funded and updating ordinances must be done with far more intensity.

The Brookings Institution report projects that by 2030, half of all existing development will have been built since 2000.  The proportion is even higher in the South.  Two-thirds of all of that development will be driven by growth and replacement – valued at $23 trillion – more than any other generation.

For example, 38.8 million units of residential will be needed to address new population growth but 20.1 million units will represent replacement of units lost for various reasons resulting in the need for 58.9 million new units of residential in America between 2000 and 2030.

Dr. Laura L Carstensen, the founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity in a recent TED talk said that “culture is that crucible that holds science and technology and wide-scale changes in behavior that improve health and well being.”

One of her Center’s reports continued:

“The US Census Bureau projects that the over-sixty-five population in the United States will grow from thirty-five million in 2000 to seventy-two million in 2030 to eighty-nine million in 2050.

The number of people eighty-five and over will grow from 4.2 million in 2000 to 9 million in 2030 to 19 million in 2050.

Dr. Sherwin Nuland tells us in his book, The Art of Aging, that today 64 percent of Americans can expect to live to seventy-five and 35 percent should plan to reach eighty-five.”

So obviously older Americans will have a lot to say about our ability to grow while minimizing if not reversing sprawl and protecting our nation’s life support system:

“… an interconnected network  of waterways, wetlands, woodlands, wildlife  habitats, and other natural  areas; greenways, parks and other conservation lands; working farms, ranches and forests; and wilderness and other open spaces that support  native species, maintain natural ecological  processes, sustain air and water resources and contribute  to the health and quality of life for America’s communities and people.”

New Realities of an Older America, a Stanford longevity center report published in 2010 notes that the “number of households in America grew from 63 million to 111 million since 1970 – of the 48 million increase, 30 million settled in the suburbs.”

Now the number of older suburban households has tripled, as have the number of single person households.  The nursing home population has hovered around 1.3 million since 1985.

But as the report notes, this will change.  “The number of 85+ Americans in nursing homes will double between 2030 and 2050.  The choices older Americans make about housing have the potential to re-shape our communities just as dramatically as their suburban choices and dramatically larger home sizes did since 1970.

We’ve come a long way since it emerged a hundred years ago but today there is no more critical investment we can make than in robust and reinvigorated urban planning.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Innovating Social Welfare

As I was growing up in the Yellowstone-Teton nook of the Book of Mormon belt that arched from southern Alberta, Canada to Mexico and sweeping over Las Vegas to San Bernardino, a claim was often heard among the million adherents at that time that the federal Government had copied the Mormon welfare system.

That has never been substantiated, but both systems did both tap into some common lineage before coming of age during the mid-1930s and the Great Depression.

While they may not have crossed paths, within a little more than a year the entrepreneurs behind each plan had volunteered at Chicago’s Hull House, a turn-of-the century outcome of the Progressive movement and were mentored by its founder Jane Addams.

Amy Brown Lyman, who would go on to lead the Relief Society, a Mormon women’s auxiliary, stopped in Chicago during the summer of 1902 on her way east during her husband’s sabbatical and not only took a class at the University of Chicago in the relatively new subject of sociology but also volunteered at Hull House.

After accepting a teaching position in 1904 in Lake Forest, Illinois, Frances Perkins volunteered for Addams at Hull House before becoming a cabinet officer through all four terms of the Roosevelt administration and championing the Social Security Act of 1935.

Thanks to written and oral histories left by a slightly younger contemporary, my great aunt Vera White Pohlman, the full story of Amy Brown Lyman’s contributions have re-emerged and informed scholarship such as that by Dr. David R. Hall of Cal State Fullerton.

The lifetime contributions of Lyman support a claim often made today by Dr. Mathew B. Bowman (no relation), a professor at Hampden-Sydney College north of Durham where I now live, that Mormonism is as much a “community” as a church and that while it is the most conservative of all faiths today, its members have a “surprisingly deep affinity for Progressive politics.”

When she returned to Utah from that sabbatical, Lyman lobbied passionately for creation of a social welfare department in the Mormon Church which she led for many years after its creation in 1919.

She even won election to the state legislature in 1922 to champion Utah’s participation in a nationwide program to promote infant and maternity care as well as establishing a hospital and a training school for the mentally disabled.

The common struggle shared by Perkins and Lyman was how to scale up social welfare to the size needed to truly address the magnitude of the challenges.  Republicans then as now opposed any role of government, hoping instead that disparate private agencies would somehow suffice.

Lyman was famous for reaching out to both non-profit agencies as well as local and state agencies to leverage efforts by the Mormon Church until behind-the-scenes lobbying among male leaders finally forbid it.  The mastermind behind that move was a former Hoover administration official, J. Rueben Clark.

Perkins succeeded and so did Lyman in a way.  Mormon leaders who disparaged Roosevelt programs as the “dole” when they were launched in 1935, created an “inversed projection” by creating a “dole” of their own in 1936 by gathering, standardizing, centralizing and reinventing a number of programs including Lyman’s while freezing her out of the process.

Unfortunately, the program was hampered by politics, both gender and ideological, including a condition that can lead “individuals or groups to subconsciously rationalize a contradiction in their own self-conception by painting themselves as the victim instead,” something hardly unique to Mormons and often witnessed in news stories today.

But as effective as the 1936 Mormon welfare program was back then and as remarkable as it has evolved into today, it was no match for the scale of hardship during the Great Depression.

Statistical reports by federal officials at the time document that the by-then isolationist Mormon welfare program didn’t come anywhere close to making Mormons along the Rockies self sufficient from the federal programs nor were pioneers such as Lyman unaware of the problems associated with the inevitability of increased government involvement.

Overwhelmingly Mormon back then, Utah had among the highest per capita use of federal welfare programs during the Great Depression, yet, the church program stubbornly insisted it was “taking care of our own.”

Church members weren’t officially reauthorized to leverage efforts with those of other public and non-profit agencies until approximately 1991.

What is increasingly apparent to many experts today is that far too many social welfare programs are not cost/effective.  They have lost the nimble and innovative characteristics with which they were inaugurated and long ago it became too expensive to provide recipients to work volunteer in return.

Too much time is wasted on attacking or defending rather than just cutting ineffective programs, trimming waste, eliminating fraud while also increasing funding for innovation and research for those programs that are effective.

All of this should be informed by the growing scientific evidence about human interactions with incentives including sense of entitlement.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Nexus Of Roadside

The first day of my most recent 6,000 mile cross country trip included a drive north up the spectacular 105-mile Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

In stark contrast to that parkway, my drive that day was punctuated by a 26 mile spur of West Virginia, which links Virginia to Maryland via I 81, where the forests of that state were blighted by huge back-to-back double-decked outdoor billboards towering above the forest.

While that may be marginally better than allowing billboard companies to clear cut huge swaths in either direction, like North Carolina recently has, it is still a jolting violation of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1836 revelation that no one owns the landscape or the “public right to view” nature.

Both stretches of that drive crossed my mind again last week on the anniversary of the warning given 109 years ago by a Republican President of the United States:

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children's children.

Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.

The world and the future and your very children shall judge you according as you deal with this sacred trust.”

Although dedicated and then replicated across the country during the 1930s by a Democratic President, the Skyline Drive parkway down the Shenandoah was initiated under another Republican President, Herbert Hoover, who had a cabin retreat in the valley below.

Although the first parkway had been launched only a decade earlier, the concept and the term had been coined 63 years earlier by the landscape architects Olmstead and Vaux of Central Park fame according to the book Buyways: Billboards, Automobiles and the American Landscape, by Dr. Catherine Gudis

The Parkways concept envisioned much that was carried over into the Interstate Highways System such as:

  • “widely spaced and carefully controlled entrance and exit points”
  • alternate routes for trucks,
  • bridges and overpasses to avoid cross traffic
  • screening of “objectionable sights”
  • planting of “tens of thousands of trees and shrubs”
  • integration of roadways with “surrounding landscape.”

But soon a war broke out within transportation agencies that persists today.  Some engineers couldn’t be bothered with roadsides, let alone treat them as parkland, preferring only the utility and function and efficiency of the roadbed.

Even today, engineers who champion the aesthetic, environmental and economic benefits of unfettered roadsides are either siloed away within these agencies or exiled completely to other agencies altogether.

Fortunately some highway engineers joined the roadside reform movement that arose in defense of the parkway movement even as the first federal-state efforts to fund motor vehicle roadways were launched before and after World War I.

While roadside reformers in the 1920s and 1930s didn’t have today’s data documenting the value of roadside trees to control water and air pollution, thanks to audits of roadways back then done in nearly two dozen states including North Carolina, they were armed with data that:

“transformed nature into scenery and codified it as a way to help audiences appreciate and savor experiences and, as Dr. Gudis notes, supported the view that …. ‘landscape offered lessons in national heritage, spiritual uplift and civic virtue,’ all selling points for tourism.”

The reformers were also beginning to understand something that research is only now documenting.  Trees and landscape in urban and non-urban areas alike can transform “the roadside into a domestic enclave where one learned, through nature and beauty, moral rectitude and civility.”

Durham, where I live, is an ironic nexus of sorts on this issue of roadside reform. It is the:

Durham is also home to several generations of a family central to the parkway movement.  Honored at Durham’s Annual Tribute Luncheon last month, the Teers began building roadways shortly after the founding of the Nello L. Teer Company in 1909 and the Federal Highway Act in 1921.

The Durham-based company was also awarded the first contract for the Blue Ridge Parkway to connect Skyline Drive and the Shenandoah down through North Carolina to the Great Smoky National Park.  The company completed an astonishing 17 segments of the 77 year old Parkway.

Now in his 90s, the son of the founder, Dillard Teer is still able to point out the locations of old WPA camps which served as an “employer of last resort” along the roadway during the Great Depression as the Blue Ridge Parkway was built.

Fittingly, what is called “America’s Favorite Drive” was only completed in 1987 when the spectacular Linn Cove Viaduct resolved a significant conservation issue related to the final segment.

Robb Teer continues his grandfather’s legacy by serving with me on the Durham Appearance Advocacy Group and as a member and former chair of the RDU Airport Authority, he is a strong advocate for appearance around the airport his grandfather help construct in 1939.

Maybe it is time to revisit that notion of roadsides as parkland!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Full Circle of Smoke Jump Dreams

As Mugs and I, joined briefly by a friend, dropped down from Lolo Pass into Missoula, Montana on a cross-country road trip last summer, I glanced across the valley and over the Clark Fork to see if the Smokejumper Base was still there.

It was but the Missoula base with 85 smokejumpers now has been joined by nearly 10 others across the intermountain and coastal west including Alaska, all but two operated by the National Forest Service.

As we had tracked the 75-mile Clearwater River up across the north-central Idaho Rockies that day, I recalled how often I had dreamed of fighting forest fires, as I was growing up yet another day’s drive to the southeast along the Continental Divide in the shadow of the 1.6 million acre Targhee National Forest established in 1908.

More specifically I dreamed then of becoming a “smokejumper” and I could think of nothing more worthy in those early years than risking my life to save trees.Young Men and Fire  It seemed as noble as the work of any of the super-heroes evolving at that time such as Captain Comet, The Fly and Flash.

Growing up just west of the Ashton/Island Park Ranger District,  I had often heard the tragic story of how 13 jumpers died in another national forest two hundred miles north of that nook where the Centennial and Grand Teton ranges meet.

Much later, just a few years after I moved to Durham in 1989, where I now live and home to The Forest History Society, a 1978 forensic analysis of the Mann Gulch tragedy was published entitled Young Men and Fire.

The book’s posthumous publication was spurred by the huge popularity a year earlier of the movie A River Runs Through It, adapted from an autobiographical novella by author Norman Maclean and starring actor Brad Pitt in one of his breakout roles and directed by Robert Redford.

Growing up, as I did, in the Mormon culture of homesteaders along the famed Henry’s Fork of the Snake River where it drops out of the Targhee gave special resonance to a memorable line from the book and the movie:

“In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.”

While I didn’t grow up to be a smokejumper or to fight forest fires, I did spend nearly 40 years as a community-destination marketing exec which involves putting out fires far more frequently than people might think.

And now as if to come full circle to that dream of my youth, one of my issue-based passions in retirement involves “saving trees” not from fire but from the blight of roadside billboards and the careless disregard and indifference of a few state legislators.

Author and screenplay writer William Hjortsberg, a friend of Maclean’s once described A River Runs Through It as reaching “into that dark area where you don’t know how to help somebody you love until it’s too late.”

I hope it isn’t too dramatic to think about saving North Carolina’s signature tree canopy and what better place to start than along its roadsides.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Infographic –The Shifting Age Structure

Age Stucture Shift

For the full report containing this graphic, New Realities of an Older America, by the Stanford Center on Longevity, click here.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Infographic - America's View on Evolution and Creationism

Evolution And Creationism

If it doesn’t open by clicking on the image, click here to see the full graphic created by the BioLogos Forum, a community of evangelical Christians committed to exploring and celebrating the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith, using data from Gallup Research, The New York Times, and the Pew Research Center.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Urban Timber Utilization Conference

Long before he was President of the United States, FDR used an example learned during his youth to help pass an amendment to the New York State Constitution that helped reforest that state's canopy from 25% to 60%.

NC Urban Wood Utilization
He had visited a town in Germany, whose residents, through careful management of municipal forest were able to enjoy the trees and pay for the cost of public services.  This should not be confused with the idiotic proposals recently made by a couple of state legislators to denude every roadside of North Carolina.

A workshop will be held in Durham, where I live, on June 28th to inform entrepreneurial opportunities to utilize trees from North Carolina’s 1.4 million acres of urban forest.  This is sustainable harvesting for trees that age out or fall during storms or are taken out by roadway expansion etc.

Currently such trees are simply disposed of, but expert panelists at the workshop will describe how these trees are being utilized around the country in part to help fund growth of urban forest canopy.
Click here to learn how to register.  The workshop is sponsored by the North Carolina Urban Forest Council.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Protecting Sense of Place from Mobs With Torches and Pitchforks

With a 1.5 to 1 favorability ratio nationwide and 39% unsure, Baltimore is evidence that it takes much more than a revitalized downtown and a trend-setting retro baseball park to fully rehabilitate a community’s reputation.

It is also one of the latest testaments to how tourism often kills the things it loves when a convention hotel, which a sports columnist in the region terms a "cruel cubist joke on a previously perfect ballpark," recently rose to block out the coveted view of the skyline there from Camden Yards.

That’s why, as a 40 year veteran of entities responsible for curating community sense of place to external audiences such as community-destination marketing organizations, I am relieved when I see thoughtful, data-driven and critical analysis being used to inform decisions and exhibit reservations such as those recently about the impact of cruise ships on Charleston, South Carolina or mega-casinos on South Florida.

I was just arriving in Durham in 1989 to spearhead an image turn-around here, where I still live, as construction was breaking ground for Camden Yards.  Little did I know as I marveled at the sense-of-place genius of building it in a warehouse district, that a move was afoot that in less than a year would try to relocate the Durham Bulls.

A proposal was on the table to relocate the team to an adjacent city and county willing to subsidize the building of what journalist Steve Rushin describes in a lyrcal  Sports Illustrated tribute to Boston’s Fenway Park as “state-of-the-art stadia …symmetrical quadruplets, multipurpose, multi-parking-spaced…” which displaced historic facilities around the country through the 1960s, 70s and 80s with concrete look-alikes.

“Stalked by baying mobs – of real estate developers, government officials and even proprietors - bearing metaphorical torches and pitchforks, wanting to do away with the beast…” as Rushin notes, historic and beloved facilities such as the historic Durham Athletic Park (DAP) were being displaced to a 65-acre geography of nowhere.

Durham was shell-shocked by the proposed loss of the Bulls, just months after the DAP, the team and the community had starred in the hit 1988 movie Bull Durham, still rated one of the top sports movies of all time and what historian John Thorn calls the “gold standard” of baseball movies.

Even the purported convenience of the proposed new location didn’t make sense. A student survey by North Carolina State University had confirmed that, without the warehouse ambiance of the old DAP and downtown Durham, the 60-70% of fans who commuted in from other cities were less likely to attend games.

Proving less and less differentiation, the era of customer satisfaction was already in its twilight and the era of customer experience was beginning to emerge.  People were drawn to be in environments that make them feel genuine and authentic.

Fortunately in Durham, the “baying mob” didn’t include one brave City Council member, Chuck Grubb who rallied community opposition, found funding and persuaded the teams new non-resident owner to support and, to his credit help shape a new-to-look-old “Camden Yards style” ballpark.

The city-owned Durham Bulls Athletic Park opened in the mid-1990s, still in downtown Durham, became the catalyst for the adaptive reuse of the historic Lucky Strike and Bull Durham tobacco factories into creative class offices.

The district now anchored by DBAP delivers on the overarching Durham brand including the slogan “Where Great Things Happen” and hopefully any new construction will never block out the skyline.

It is also unlikely that Camden Yards in Baltimore would have become what it is without the teamwork of long-time mayor and then governor, the late William Donald Schaefer and then-Baltimore Oriole president Larry Lucchino,who credits the look for the ballpark to “his best off-season acquisition”, Janet Marie Smith, an urban park planner.

At the turn of the century Lucchino became part owner and CEO of the Boston Red Sox and with principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner rescued historic Fenway Park from the wrecking ball that had threatened it every decade or so beginning in 1958.

Fenway was last declared dead in 1995 just a year before as DBAP was set to open in Durham.  As Rushin notes in his Sports Illustrated tribute, Fenway dodged a bullet because the real estate magnate who proposed a new complex then turned out to be Frank McCourt who went on to bankrupt the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In fully renovating, restoring and updating Fenway to serve another century, Luchinno and his partners again brought in urban park planner Janet Marie Smith to work her magic on Fenway before she eventually returning to Baltimore and a role in renovating Camden Yard.

Sense of place is about much, much more than buildings but ballparks such as DPAB, DAP, Camden Yards and Fenway illustrate an important role and  Fenway illustrate something even more important.

Such a facility doesn’t have to be new to be “major league.”

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Skirting the Dells of The Mohawk

During a road trip I’ll be taking in June, I’m sure he’ll be one of the people who will cross my mind as I travel up the Hudson River Valley for the first time.  This will be my first venture in that state beyond the five boroughs of “The Big Apple.”

As I pass West Point, it will be hard for me to envision that New York had only 25% of its overall tree canopy remaining when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was born along that route, the impetus, I’m certain, for his determination to reforest America with more than 3.2 billion trees during just the last half of his lifetime alone, more than half a million at his own expense.

FDR leaned more toward conservation than preservation, often giving his occupation when voting as “tree-planter,” long after he became famous according to the author of an excellent new book entitled American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation.

Planning for the trip, I’m reminded that my first exposure to FDR, while growing up in the Rocky Mountains, was a small photo hanging in my great-grandfather’s tiny living room, framed on each side by reproductions of paintings by Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt, who were devotees of the Hudson River Valley School.Van Hoesen House Claverack

As I draw closer to where the river gets its start, I may stop at two sites which mark where my first American ancestors lived, one of whom first assembled the land where the town Hudson is now and the historic home of his grandson in nearby Claverack.

From there I will skirt the the dells of the Mohawk River and drive up and over the famed Adirondack Plateau, an area the size of nearby Vermont and framed by Lake Champlain on the east and the Black River on the west, until I spill out onto the plain leading to the St. Lawrence River, the ultimate end of this journey.

I’ll be cutting through the 26-million-acre Great Northern Forest, now the largest contiguous block of forest land remaining in the United States, stretching down from Maine through New Hampshire, Vermont and New York (which is back to 60% tree canopy) to the Great Lakes, 80% privately owned and possibly explored best via a 740-mile canoe trail.

Established in 1892, to me the Adirondack Park marks a pivotal point where Americans drew the line between unsustainable exploitation and renewable stewardship, which has become today the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States, a state park greater in size than Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National parks combined.

Including parts of 12 counties, the boundary of Adirondack Park encompasses approximately 6 million acres, half public and half privately owned.  However, the viability of that area was in serious doubt as ancestors on both sides of my family migrated west in the mid-1800s where they became conservationists and perhaps even a few preservationists.

They migrated west for religious freedom but also partly because unsustainable farming practices had devastated ancestral lands in the east and made them unsuitable for upcoming generations, making it necessary to abandon farmland and move west.  By FDR’s time, nearly 5,000,000 acres of New York farmland was exhausted or had been abandoned.  Erosion and contaminated water were extreme threats.

My ancestors had been re-established for a decade as conservation-conscious ranchers along the far side of the Continental Divide by the time the Hudson River School’s Bierstadt accompanied and documented the Lander Survey Party’s 3,000-mile search on horseback to map a route for the transcontinental railroad planned through the same area their wagon trains had crossed in 1847.

Bierstadt was followed by that school’s Thomas Moran who documented the survey that led Yellowstone Park to be established a few miles from what would become my birth place nearly eight decades later.

I owe my own passion for trees and conservation, as well as preservation, not only to ancestors who were determined to leave a land sustainable for further generations but to awe-inspiring images spawned by those who drew inspiration along the Hudson River.

When the General Assembly in North Carolina, where I now live, took office in 2010, there had been 100 years of recovery and restoration since that incredible 60-year period of desecration between 1850 and 1910 during which fully two-thirds of the deforestation of the last 400 years took place.

Soon, over the objections of 9 out of 10 North Carolinians, a few in our NC legislature - including ethically questionable ring leaders - rammed legislation through that is revisiting the backwardness of 100 years ago on the state’s scenic roadsides clear cutting them to accommodate the outdoor billboard industry at no cost, with no requirement for replanting or selective cutting and without regard to local ordinances.

Only time will tell if once again leaders will arise to end this insanity as they often have during the last hundred years or when they do how long it will take to restore North Carolina’s scenic character.

Until then I am inspired by the words of the late Thomas Berry of Greensboro:

“We cannot own the earth…we own property in accord with the well-being of the property and for the benefit of the larger community as well as ourselves…

The Great Work that is before (future generations) is moving the human project from its devastating exploitation to a benign presence…

We are chosen by some power beyond ourselves for this historic task…The nobility of our lives, however, depends upon the manner in which we come to understand and fulfill our assigned role…

We cannot doubt that we too have been given the intellectual vision, the spiritual insight and even the physical resources we need for carrying out this transition…from the period when humans were a disruptive force on the planet earth to a period when humans become present to the planet in a manner that is mutually enhancing.”

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Measuring & Influencing Community Reputation

Even if she hadn’t recently telegraphed the response she desired, I couldn’t bring myself to disillusion a new acquaintance from Michigan as she proclaimed to a group of us that a two year nation television advertising campaign by one of the Big Three with Detroit as a backdrop had turned that city’s image around.

Even before scientific studies began to document the gradual and alarming decline of the effectiveness of advertising, that element of marketing had been long discredited as a means to turn image around – simply because it lacks credibility – because it is you talking about yourself.  But one area it still has traction is the sale of vehicles.

A scientific survey last month by Public Policy Polling confirmed that after two years of national television exposure, including spots run during two consecutive Super Bowls, Detroit’s reputation nation-wide is still a net negative by more than 2 to 1 with 29% of respondents unsure which had been predicted by experts in the weeks after the campaign launched.

I’m pulling for Detroit to turn its image around and I’m sure there are people there working extremely hard to do that. I know from experience that the formula for an image turnaround differs from community-to-community and must be based on carefully unwrapping and understanding the specifics related to audiences, internal and external audiences, both nearby and extended.

Things such as mega-events, mega-facilities or “being major league” are proven for far to long to be much too blunt as instruments to have any lasting effect on image. Even those attributed metaphorically with the so-called “billboard” effect, any change is fleeting much like that of the obsolete roadside medium.

Having had a hand in turning Durham, North Carolina’s image around, I’ve already written about how marketing intelligence or research helped us customize a formula here. I can tell you that the things many people signal as signs of the turn-around were a result of that phenomenon more than a cause.

I did take a moment though to compare the results of similar polls to document Durham’s popularity both within North Carolina and nationwide.

Within the state:

  • Durham has been the most popular of the state’s largest five cities since the 1990s with a more than 60% net positive and half the average percentage negative or unsure for the group.
  • Ironically, Durham’s net popularity statewide was 23 times greater than the city where residents were most negative about Durham. Knowing this helped isolate both causes and solutions that, when executed, helped Durham erase all but 11% of the negativity there while increasing the proportion who are positive by more than six times that amount.
  • Nationwide Durham’s favorability has never been a problem except when there is a threat of contamination from pockets of negativity or water-cooler folktales.
  • Durham’s net favorability nationwide is nearly 85% higher than the average for the 21 cities measured by Public Policy Polling but understandably the community is 24% less known and this is something where earned media or “publicity” is much better suited than advertising.
  • Durham’s negative rating nationwide is one-third the average of the Public Policy group and lower than any of the 21 measured.
  • Durham also has a much narrower favorability gap between genders and ethnic groups and I suspect the same would be true among those who live in metro vs. non-metro areas, although that was not measured in the Public Policy as far as I can tell.

There are three corollaries I learned during my decades grappling with community image:

  • Communities are never as popular with external audiences as they believe and only scientific public opinion research provides a reliable benchmark both from which to start and then to measure improvement.
  • When it comes to influencing community image, marketing can be a spearhead but some elements such as advertising and direct sales are far too blunt as instruments and lack credibility.
  • A third is that marketing as a tool to turn-around and promote image must be about much more than applying lipstick. It is a must to admit what must be improved while always putting it into perspective.

Lastly, turning around image isn’t for the faint of heart or about cloning or playing politics.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Clear Cutting Raleigh!

Even though the only hearing on the matter occurred right there, Raleigh, North Carolina has seemed oblivious to the legislation that was rammed through the state legislature which led to regulations permitting outdoor bill companies to not only double the cut zone but “clear cut” with no requirement to be selective or to replant or to pay for the public property destroyed while, at the same time, ignoring local ordinances and values.

My guess is that a little hubris may be involved.  Raleigh is accustomed to favored treatment as North Carolina’s capitol city such as the concentration of nearly every state museum and much better roadside maintenance from NCDOT.  So residents in the City of Oaks may be incredulous to see what is captured by the images below.

No sensitivity was given to soil erosion, or the over-story needed to protect sensitive trees like dogwoods, which is the state tree after all, or to storm water retention, carbon sequestration, aesthetics or the state constitution or the wishes of 9 out of 10 North Carolinians.

All of this sacrificed just in case anyone is still unaware of Blue Bell Ice Cream.  Dial 1-800-327-8135 and press 3 to tell Texas-based Blue Bell corporate offices to stop desecrating North Carolina communities such as Raleigh.

Calling the offending billboard company won’t do any good – they are out delivering campaign contributions to legislators. But you can click here to “like” Scenic NC on Facebook and stand up for North Carolina’s scenic character.

cupcakes 002 (1)

cupcakes 003

cupcakes 005

cupcakes 008

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Infographic – Connecting Outrageous Dots In Two Minutes

Click here to view this illustrated video on YouTube.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Infographic – What’s Wrong With Our Food System?

What's Wrong With Our Food System

If clicking on the image doesn’t bring up the entire inforgraphic by Oxfam, click here.

Friday, May 04, 2012

The Antidote To Billboards and Sprawl

Something didn’t seem right in news stories about a poll last month by Harris Interactive reporting that only 27% of Americans describe themselves as environmentally-conscious, so I drilled down a bit.

A more accurate statement would be that only 12% report that being environmentally-conscious doesn’t describe them at all.  Everyone else to a degree was environmentally-conscious, 28% somewhat, 33% fairly, 18% very and 9% completely.

Before we obsess too much about “12% who apparently don’t give a flip or possibly just own billboards, there has been an uptick since 2009 in the overall percentages which now show that 20% of Americans describe themselves as conservationists, green 17% or environmentalist 16%.

That may not seem large but by comparison it trumps the current popularity of the US Congress (10%) or the North Carolina General Assembly (18%) or Tea Party (12%.)green infrastruvture

Illustrating why 79% of Americans yearn for far more and better coverage of the environment, a local city official recently stopped me in mid-sentence to ask me what I meant by the term “green infrastructure.”  It wasn’t a trick question nor was it only because environmental consciousness has been brutally politicized.

What news coverage occurs about the environment (e.g. 1% of stories last year) has become politicized by a phenomenon described by co-authors of an op-ed last week in the Washington Post (one from a conservative think tank and the other from a progressive think tank):

“We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.

Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?”

By now all Americans, especially anyone working in government at every level but especially local, should understand that:

“…green infrastructure is the ecological framework needed for environmental, social and economic sustainability—in short it is our nation’s natural life sustaining system. Green infrastructure differs from conventional approaches to open space planning because it looks at conservation values and actions in concert with land development, growth management and built infrastructure planning.”

More specifically, as defined by the Green Infrastructure Work Group:

“Green infrastructure  is our nation’s natural life support system —  an interconnected network  of waterways, wetlands, woodlands, wildlife  habitats, and other natural  areas; greenways, parks and other conservation lands; working farms, ranches and forests; and wilderness and other open spaces that support  native species, maintain natural ecological  processes, sustain air and water resources and contribute  to the health and quality of life for America’s communities and people.”

That definition is strategic and overarching.  Some have narrowed the term to be more tactical such as this guide the how to value green infrastructure for storm water management.  Still others think of it only in terms of a “green roof” on a building.  But I prefer the more all encompassing, strategic sense of the term.

“Green” infrastructure is every bit as crucial as what is called “gray” infrastructure such as utilities, roads, sidewalks and buildings.  Just like social and cultural infrastructure, they require a careful balance.

As sense-of-place champion Edward T. McMahon co-wrote a decade ago, green infrastructure may be a new term to some but it is not a new idea, and because it balances conservation and development it differs from traditional open space planning.

A fascinating new book entitled American Canopy: Trees, Forests and the Making of a Nation by environmental lawyer Eric Rutkow explains historically that even before the founding of this country, people understood that sustainable development was enabled by a balance of infrastructures.

Development is far more sustainable and valuable when informed by holistic green infrastructure planning which includes a series of hubs and links throughout a community.  Without it sprawl gnaws away at the character of a community.  Without it inter and intra agency silos result in what we see in the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Within NCDOT roadside environmental engineers carefully plant trees, turf and wildflowers and protect scenic by-ways for economic, health and aesthetic reasons, but maintenance is done by another department, which as we’ve seen recently along Interstates here, can be scalped and clear-cut or surrendered to private billboard companies even in violation of the department policies, federal guidelines and with no disregard for local regulations.

As documented in the 2004 book Buyways: Billboards, Automobiles and the American Landscape, by Dr. Catherine Gudis at the University of California – Riverside, sprawl did not begin after World War II.  It began much earlier in the years after WWI and in the absence of zoning was fueled by the outdoor billboard industry which first desecrated downtown buildings and then wallpapered roadways as fast as they were built while fueling development that even today is many times what would be justified by the growth in population.

To me the antidote to sprawl and blight, such as billboards and unsustainable development and the desecration of community character, is more coherent infrastructure planning beginning with a development-balanced, overarching and strategic green infrastructure plan.