Thursday, January 31, 2013

Turn, Turn, Turn - Is Charlotte Request Time To Set Things Right?

Hoping North Carolinians haven’t been paying attention to how disappointing attendance has been at the NASCAR Hall of Fame,  facility-obsessed Charlotte officials are back to the state for another favor.

Almost anyone could see that attendance projections for the exquisitely-executed Hall were over-stated when Charlotte successfully persuaded lawmakers to exclusively lift the limit for the hotel occupancy tax rate there.

Out of desperation to keep it from being built in Atlanta, lots of people were telling themselves a story at the time.  Unfortunately, expectations were never re-calibrated.  Even more tragic is that Charlotte has saddled its destination marketing organization with meeting those expectations, much to the detriment of its broader community-wide obligations.

Now Charlotte is asking the state to lift its limit on another special visitor-related tax it was permitted to levy on restaurant tabs and other types of prepared food so it can now finance improvements to its football stadium, or, well, its NFL team might move.

Will it be a test for the Charlotte-area officials now in so many positions of power in state government?  Not if it is politics as usual.

People such as me often mistake voting and politics.

Politics begins after people are elected. To paraphrase a definition given by neoconservative editor and columnist John Podhoretz, politics is the interplay of special interests, lobbyists, campaign donors, news media and political action groups with elected officials.  Only all too infrequently is public opinion included.

Voters get a say once every two to six years. Those who “play politics” vote daily if not more often.

I hope the state approves the Charlotte request but the real questions behind the question are:

    • Will they say yes, because having proposed the elimination of corporate and income taxes in favor of sale-types taxes, it is clear that more and more lawmakers understand that it isn’t the restaurants - who are opposed to the request - that pay the tax but those who pay the tab?
    • Will they finally make the prepared food tax (PFT)available to all counties rather than just the handful beginning as a favor to just Charlotte and Raleigh more than twenty years ago without requiring a vote?
    • Or will state officials now insist on a vote in Charlotte - as they hypocritically required of Durham several years – and then sit back as the Republican-Koch Brothers spend millions to defeat it?
    • Will they continue to make the proceeds of the PFT available only for facility construction or will they more strategically make it available for a range of other even more productive tourism-related uses such as beautification and litter control, cultural and historic preservation etc?
    • Will they finally create a strategic menu of local-option visitor related taxes to include admissions which is what should be made available to self-fund the improvements requested by Charlotte’s football team.
    • Will they remember to set aside a portion from the PFT to amplify destination marketing, which economists say is the only way the revenues can be fueled enough to offset the burden on residents?

I’m not holding my breath but if state leaders are faithful to claims of a new era, this is a good time to set things right.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Right or a Suicide Pact?

Growing up on a ranch in the Yellowstone-Teton nook of Idaho, I learned to target shoot with a rifle by the time I was eight years old and to hunt before I was ten.

The fathers of kids my age had served in WWII a decade before, and members of the National Guard let my Cub Scout troop fire a huge Browning Automatic Rifle at a bucket placed a hilltop away while laying prone.

At one time I believe I belonged to the NRA but it was the kindler, gentler, “sportsmen-like NRA of 1962 when I earned my Boy Scout merit badge in marksmanship.

The then-100 year old NRA began to change the next year with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and subsequent proposals for stricter laws controlling guns, four months before I would become an Eagle.

In 1966 the Boy Scouts of America dropped the marksmanship merit badge, and by 1968 the year both JFK’s brother, Senator Robert F. Kennedy and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. were also assassinated, NRA leaders were testifying before Congress in favor of gun restrictions.

During this era that saw passage of the Civil Rights Act preceded and followed by race riots, immense cultural change and anti-war protests, the NRA split between sportsmen (hunters and target shooters) and gun-rights hardliners.

By my mid-20s, the NRA was lobbying Congress to believe that gun violence was “a price we pay for freedom.”  Before I turned 30 years old, the hardliners were in complete control of the organization.  It has been nearly 40 years since its days of reason regarding gun control.

Today, representing about 15% of the US population overall, the number of overall sportsmen and sportswomen (fishers and hunters) who identify themselves as conservationists outnumbers those who belong to the NRA by 3 to 1.

However, of this 15%, about 37% believe that gun rights are the most important issue facing sportsmen and sportswomen including 59% of the 25% who belong to the NRA.  The majority (44%) of sportsmen live in the South.

Many believe - and I agree - that the national conversation in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook should be as much about the origins and meaning of the Second Amendment as it is about gun rights vs. gun control.

We as Americans support the Second Amendment but is it an individual right or a collective right?  Is it about Rambo or Major Kirby, Timothy McVeigh or SEAL Team 6, Death Wish or Abraham Lincoln?  As with so much about our country’s founding, the complexity of this simple amendment can only be understood in the context of slavery.

More known today for his excellent historic overview of American Conservatism, law professor Carl Bogus first came to my attention in 1999 when a friend from law school in the 1970s emailed me a 100+ page research paper by Professor Bogus on the Second Amendment.

The paper had been published the year before in the UC Davis Law Review as part of a series at the Roger Williams University School of Law where he teaches.  In 2001, it was turned into a book.

Bogus begins his paper by noting that much of what we think we know about the Second Amendment is myth, stating that, “It is not myth in the sense that the images are wholly divorced from historical truth.  Rather, myths can be powerful and sinister because they blend fact and fiction.”

He continues by writing, “Myths do not so much misrepresent as mislead, not so much concoct as distort.”   He concludes the paper by noting, “The Second Amendment takes on an entirely different complexion when instead of being symbolized by a musket in the hands of a minuteman, it is associated with a musket in the hands of a slave holder.”

Many people in both the North and South at the time of this country’s founding were against slavery.  The difference Bogus writes is that in the North they preferred emancipation, in the South deportation because they were afraid not just of losing an economy but their lives.

Slaves had revolted some 250 times by then so the fear was real.  As Bogus explains the nature of slave patrols which by the time of the American Revolution had become the role of local and state militias in much of the South, one of the reasons many states were reluctant to deploy them when requested during the war.

At the center of this research paper is the pivotal 1788 convention held in Richmond to consider Virginia ratification of the US Constitution.  At issue, Bogus documents in his paper, was the fear that the new federal government might enlist blacks in the army, emancipate them and turn them against the South or call the militias away from their assigned task to control slaves.

The right to bear arms had already been written into the constitutions of 4 of the 13 states.  However, in two of those instances, Massachusetts and my adopted home of North Carolina, which refused to ratify the US Constitution until it was amended to include similar rights, the right to bear arms was a collective not an individual right.

James Madison, a slave-owner supporter of the Constitution, came to embrace any of the Bill of Rights reluctantly.  Bogus makes the case that Madison believed these rights were already included within the structure of the US Constitution. 

At the time, insistence on a bill of rights was often a tool to subvert approval of the Constitution.  Madison’s hand was forced when Patrick Henry, in one of the first instances of “gerrymandering”, threatened Madison’s seat in Congress.

Madison apparently used a number of “rights” documents from which to edit the Bill of Rights  that became amendments to the US Constitution.  These included those approved 100 years earlier in England and meant to define the rights of Parliament vs. the King, those drafted by other states and a lengthy version drafted by George Mason who opposed ratification.

Bogus thoroughly documents that for the most part, Madison was working from background materials that viewed the right to bear arms as collective, not individual.  The term militia at the time was well defined and did not include the paramilitary, or other types of self-formed militias we know all too well today.

Madison inserted the word “security,” Bogus argues as a signal to southerners about slave control.  He did not see guns as an individual right but to “set limits on congressional power” so it would not be used to disarm militias, a part of the ongoing compromise over slavery.

Bogus makes the case that it was at Richmond, during the convention for Virginia to ratify the US Constitution, that “concerns about slave control and federal authority over the militia were united, producing a new rationale for the right to bear arms.”

However, he discredits the notion that the founding fathers were insurrectionists, in part by reviewing insurrections such as Shay’s Rebellion in 1787 while ratification of the US Constitution was underway.

States after the revolution were often divided into those in which debtors were in control and others under the control of creditors.  Important to the evolution of the US Constitution was the importance of not being a deadbeat regarding financial obligations, as it is today.

In 1949, the year after I was born, Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, fresh from prosecuting Nazi war criminals in the aftermath of WWII, wrote a dissenting opinion in a case where the majority had overturned a Chicago ordinance that banned speech which "stirs the public to anger, invites dispute, brings about a condition of unrest, or creates a disturbance" on the basis that it was unconstitutional.

As Bogus quotes, Justice Jackson wrote:

“The choice is not between order and liberty.  It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either.  There is danger that if the Court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.”

It is time in our debate over management of firearms and the Second Amendment for a little “practical wisdom.”

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Nudging Government to Govern

For possibly the first time in its history, this month Scenic America filed a lawsuit of its own rather than just a supportive brief.  Having tried logic, evidence, encouragement and seemingly every other alternative, Scenic America has turned to the courts in an effort to get the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to, well, do its job.

The Highway Beautification Act (HBA) was signed into law in late 1965, during my last year of high school and just as the now-classic California Dreamin’ was released by The Mamas & Papas following a freak September snowstorm in eastern Idaho.

However, the HBA wasn’t fully deployed until 1972, as I was graduating from college.  It had been delayed by development of state-by-state agreements such as the one signed that year by North Carolina, where I now live.  By then outdoor billboard and other sign interests had already pushed through amendments that watered the HBA down, overriding the compromise agreements they made when it was created it.

The following year, as I took my first full time job in community-destination marketing to work myself through law school at night, I learned first hand about one of the amendments from Luke Williams, one of the inventors who had built the huge American Sign & Indicator Corporation based in Spokane, Washington.

In the late 1960s, Luke, a lifelong Republican, had persuaded the powerful Democratic Senator from Washington State, Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson, to insert an amendment to the HBA.  It was designed to exempt the ubiquitous, electronic time-temperature signs the company leased from the HBA’s purpose of reducing and restricting sign and billboard clutter and blight along the nation’s roadways.

The amendment carved out an exception along roadways stipulating that “public service information such as time, date, temperature, weather or similar information may be advertised on electronic variable message signs located in commercial and industrial areas.”

By 1978, as I headed to Alaska to head the DMO in Anchorage, the FHWA’s administration of the HBA had become so politicized that the agency formed the National Advisory Committee on Outdoor Advertising and Motorist Information to make an assessment along with recommendations to improve effectiveness.

It was chaired by Thomas W. Bradshaw, Jr. a former mayor of Raleigh, North Carolina.  At the time he was secretary of the North Carolina Department of Transportation during the first terms of Governor Jim Hunt, who would again serve as governor after I arrived in Durham, NC to jump-start a DMO here in 1989.

The Committee included a balance of transportation and planning experts, tourism representatives, billboard representatives, sign manufacturers –including the senior vice president under Williams at American Sign - environmental experts, garden clubs, local officials and academicians including University of George economist Dr. Charles Floyd, now a friend of mine and retired in North Carolina.

Over several years the Committee met and conducted a wide range of public hearings.  It also broke into sub-committees to evaluate a wide range of aspects before making a final report in 1981 to the head of the FHWA, almost exactly 16 years after the HBA was first enacted.

One interesting aspect of the report is that it attempts to benchmark the improvements generated by the HBA as of 1980 including a 71% improvement in aesthetic quality by removing 542,115 signs from roadsides - including 103,000 large, unsightly billboards -  and a 33% reduction in standard-size billboards while preventing another 200,000.

In 1965 when the HBA was enacted, there had been an average of one billboard every third of a mile along primary highways throughout the nation. By 1978 when much of the act had been gutted by the allies of billboard companies, the sign blight along roadsides had been reduced to a little more than one per mile.

But the improvements were not even. The General Accounting Office reported prior to the Committee’s deliberations that residents of many areas could detect little or no improvement in their states.

What they couldn’t thwart by diluting the HBA with subsequent amendments, the billboarders effectively thwarted by starving it of funding for implementation as well as by bullying agencies, bringing the FHWA to estimate in the 1981 report that it would take another 154 years to remove non-conforming signs, a clock that today has probably reached several hundred years.

In its 1981 report the Committee laments the loopholes in the law as well as poor enforcement of the HBA.  It notes in one resolution that staff and funding for the FHWA’s Junkyard and Outdoor Advertising Branch had been slashed to skeleton only a few months into the then-notoriously anti-regulation Reagan administration.

Today, ironically, many thoughtful Republicans including former elected officials believe that the reason so many members of that political party are rabidly anti-regulation is not because they are inherently heavy-handed and excessive.

Instead, they believe regulations only got that way as lawmakers responded to the general and enduring failure by the executive branch at every level of government to execute them in the first place, setting off cycles of over-tightening and more and more complexity.

At the heart of even the watered-down HBA are three relatively straight-forward restrictions that even today, nearly 50 years after its passage, both federal and state agencies are failing to properly execute.

The law stipulates that:

1) Roadside billboards are permitted only in commercial/industrial zones but using tactics some experts call “legalized corruption,” billoarders have persuaded lawmakers in many areas to establish what was already castigated in the 1981 Committee report as “phoney zoning,” and still clearly evident today in North Carolina.

2) The act stipulated that billboards existing before 1965 could continue if they met state and local customs prior to passage of the HBA. However, billboarders have successfully pressed agencies to permit thousands of new billboards after that date. Failure to enforce this aspect is the basis of the suit now filed in U.S. District Court.

3) It also stipulates that billboards must be regulated as to lighting, size and distance. This included the prohibition of digital billboards for anything other than time and temperature or public service.  The Scenic America lawsuit asserts that the lighting provision is obviously not being enforced.

However, in late 2007, just as the “Great Recession” hit during the final months of the Bush Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, without rationale or discussion, inexplicably reversed its position on digital billboards and issued a memorandum declaring that digital billboards were not intermittent.

Failing in the years since with expert testimony to persuade the FHA that digital billboards are by their very definition, intermittent lighting, and frustrated at years of non-enforcement of the Highway Beautification Act, Scenic America has turned to the courts to force the government to govern.

Scenic America, in the suit filed on its behalf by the Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Public Representation, is asking the courts to require the federal agency to resume active enforcement of the provisions and intent of the 1965 Highway Beautification Act, including the original intent of intermittent.

Not so coincidentally, the origins of Scenic America date back the 1980s and a response in part to the findings of Bradshaw’s 1981 Committee Report to the FHWA.

The Committee, lamenting that amendments pushed through Congress in 1978 were interfering with local community control of roadsides as well as lax state enforcement, encouraged in one of its motions the creation of state and local advisory committees across the nation to advise and assist administrators in implementation of the HBA.

However, foretelling that the FHWA would probably continue to be grid-locked or politicized into inaction, the Committee noted that it had been divided into two opposing camps and because its motions had narrowly passed, minority reports were included in the report.

Frustrated at continued FHWA inaction, within months of the Committee’s report, a nationwide coalition formed what would be renamed Scenic America later in that decade, along with affiliates in each state and in many communities, one of which I have been involved in resurrecting for North Carolina.

The objective of these scenic entities are to safeguard the scenic qualities and character of America’s roadways, countryside and communities and foster citizen engagement in scenic conservation.  It isn’t being anti-billboard but anti-blight and pro-scenic character.

Polls continue to overwhelmingly favor beautification of roadsides.  And voter sentiment runs strongly against the blight created by billboards and any tree-cutting to make them visible.

Yet this sentiment has continued to be thwarted both in legislative bodies and in agencies by powerful billboard interests, even as consumer and business use of billboards had dramatically shrunk to less than .20%.

Economists call the tactics used by billboard companies “rent-seeking,” including campaign contributions and heavy-handed lobbying.  Think of it as renting economic value by influencing government decisions rather than creating economic value.

Other experts refer to these actions as a form of “legalized corruption.”  According to free-market advocates, entities and allies so engaged are not pro-market but seek instead to tilt the playing field to their benefit, but never to level it. Lawmakers and agencies are pawns, voters the victims.

Hopefully Scenic America will prevail in the courts and government will begin to govern by finally and fully enforcing the Highway Beautification Act.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Serendipity of Acquaintance in our Lives

A week ago last Friday, I had an interesting conversation on the last leg of a cross-country flight to visit my daughter and grandsons. My seatmate for that stretch had worked on the documentary Blackfish with director Gabriela Cowperwaite.

The film was being shown the next day at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.  When he learned that I live in Durham, North Carolina, he asked if I had ever been to the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival held there each April, which of course, I had.

As the flight crew interrupted to announce preparations for landing, my attention turned to the snow-covered peaks of the Wasatch Mountains that frame Salt Lake City from the east and I began thinking about how serendipity such meetings and conversations can be.

It brought to mind a time nearly 40 years ago when I headed up the newly-created community-destination marketing organization for Spokane, Washington, and became acquainted with two very accomplished inventors, Ray Hanson and Luke Williams.

Hanson, who passed away a few years ago, was another Idaho native who, while studying engineering at the University of Idaho, had invented an automated self-leveling attachment to enable efficient harvesting of wheat on the steep hillsides of the Palouse region.

This was just one of over a hundred patents for products he manufactured in Spokane and sold in 50 countries around the world.  At the time we met, Hanson was even more famous for having invented equipment that laid down entire highways and dig huge canals with the motto of “a mile a day.”

Little did either of us realize that the next move in my career would be Anchorage as we discussed the invention he used to help construct the just-completed Trans-Alaskan Pipeline.

Ray also planted the bug that led me later in life to learn to ride heavy motorcycles and take flying lessons.  He had owned a WWII era P-51 Mustang fighter and introduced me to a friend and former airline pilot in Spokane who at the time rehabilitated WWI era Boeing-Stearman biplanes, which became a part of Spokane’s eclectic appeal.

I first met Ray while snow-skiing a new area, one of several in a 50 mile radius of Spokane, that with his support had been re-built in the 1970s and rechristened 49 Degrees North.  In part, he may have even been an inspiration for a Ski The 51st State promotion the organization I led produced.

Luke Williams, after graduating from the same high school where I would later spend my sophomore and junior years, had returned from World War II to found a neon sign business with his brother.

In 1951, the Williams brothers invented the electronic time and temperature signs which rapidly became ubiquitous outside bank branches.  Luke believed signs such as that needed to serve a public purpose as much as capitalism.

The invention helped evolve their company into the huge American Sign and Indicator Corporation in Spokane but by the time I met Luke in the mid-1970s the company had moved on to developing stadium scoreboards, again marrying public service to signage.

He took an interest in my career in community-destination marketing because the organization was intended to leverage the success of Expo ‘74 into long-term visitor-centric economic and cultural development.

As part of the World’s Fair, Luke had been instrumental in persuading the state to construct an opera house and adjacent convention center and then then after the Fair to give it to the community for a dollar.

Luke definitely planted a vision for me that while tourism development has commercial aims, it should significantly also leverage historic preservation, the arts and unique sense of place.

Shortly after I left Spokane for Anchorage, Williams’s sold American Sign which was was relocated to another state and later dissembled. In 2004 Luke passed away.

As the wheels touched down on my flight, it occurred to me as it often does now in retirement, just how we gain from even brief encounters with the people we meet during our lives.

And by the way, the day before my return, I read that CNN Films and Magnolia Pictures had partnered to secure distribution of Blackfish.  The documentary will be in theaters by summer and air on CNN sometime during the year.

The film covers the same 40-year span, one in which Orcas have been captured and trained for commercial tourism purposes.  As the CNN release notes, “ultimately, it is a story about the life and death consequences of a spectacle that has thrilled millions.”

It also illustrates a type of tourism that is very different than the place-based tourism endorsed by the two inventors I came to know at the beginning of my career.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Inforgraphic - The True Cost of Getting the Flu

To read at the original source, click here.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Illuminated Solutions from Patterns of the Past

I guess I’ve always been drawn to history for two reasons.  First for its patterns that illuminate solutions to present-day problems, but even more so because the more closely history is examined the more complex it becomes.

Anything I knew about North Carolina before relocating here nearly 24 years ago came from reading Blue Highways – A Journey Into America written by William Least Heat-Moon.  I had read this classic when it was first published seven years earlier.  Today is also available as an eBook.

During my forty-year career working in promotion of travel as a form of community economic development and preservation of sense-of-place, I hated to travel myself.  That irony led former Alaska governor Tony Knowles, then mayor of Anchorage, to quip that this was one of the reasons he had the utmost trust for me while I was representing that community for most of the 1980s.

In retirement I still don’t care much for air travel but I thoroughly enjoy cross-country road-trips.  I hope in the future to re-trace Professor Least Heat-Moon’s journey.  There is no part of that journey where the country wasn’t influenced by the US Civil War including the events preceding and/or immediately following it.

In the year leading up to the Civil War, there were only 992,622 people living in North Carolina.  No one voted to elect Republican Abraham Lincoln President of the still-United States of America.

However, nearly as many North Carolinians voted for the candidate from the Constitutional Union Party which opposed disunion, as did for the candidate from the pro-slavery Southern-wing of the Democratic Party.

Durham, NC where I live, though it had only been recognized by the post office seven years earlier, was part of the 24,554 North Carolinians who were urban at the time.  Durham was also home to some of the 30,563 free Blacks at the time and some of the 331,059 who were enslaved across the state.  Wilmington was the largest city at the time.

Voters who lived in and around Durham in 1860 may have been as closely divided during the Presidential election that year because it was home to both planters who tended toward secessionist Democrats and the former Whigs of the Constitutional Union Party - including a former U.S. Senator - who opposed disunion.

Durham was already integrated although it became less so during the Civil War.  It re-integrated after the war, promoting an editorial in the newspaper in nearby Raleigh stating something like “have you seen what’s happening in Durham?  Whites and Negroes are working side by side on the same street like a wild west town.”

In a recent article for Our State Magazine, Professor Dr. Philip Gerard, a department chair at UNC-Wilmington summarized the religious background of North Carolinians at the time. 

Gerard notes that in 1860 there were 3,000 Episcopalians in North Carolina along with 65,000 Baptists, 60,000 Methodists, 15,000 Presbyterians, 5,000 Quakers and pockets of Moravians, Lutherans, Disciples of Christ, Roman Catholics and Jews.

Many slaves were forbidden to worship out of fear it would foment discontent and “an urge to run away or rebel.”  Gerard’s article gives an excellent overview of how people of faith, especially evangelicals were able to rationalize slavery and how they transferred that zeal to rationalizing that God was on their side during the Civil War.

For many in the North, the war was initially about preserving the Union and only later became a means of granting equal rights.  Union general and later U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant was married to a southerner whose family owned slaves.  Struggling to establish a farm before the war he even owned a slave himself before granting that person freedom as war became imminent.

An understanding can be drawn from that period that sheds light on how so many people of faith today can justify intolerance of other kinds.  Many of these same people seem to rationalize inaction and obstruction to efforts to address climate change while enabling resource exploitation and desecration.

I was puzzled about why a Republican state lawmaker in North Carolina had been so determined to push through a bill granting out-of-state billboard companies a “give-away” to destroy $5 billion worth of publicly owned trees along roadways, given a poll that shows that voters affiliated with that party oppose the give-away by 218 to 1, twenty-nine times the ratio of Democratic voters who are opposed.

But then it dawned on me that the chief sponsor was apparently a Democrat-now-turned-Republican, and the measure may be more about special interests than party ideology or voter sentiment.  Maybe that will encourage newly-elected governor Pat McCrory to roll-back the give-away, although as one billboarder gloated, it will be too late to save any trees.

By some measures, North Carolina was the last state to try to secede from the United States of America and only then after every surrounding state had done so.  Even after seven other states had seceded, most North Carolinians remained remained pro-Union, voting to reject even a convention to discuss secession on February 28, 1861, preferring to see what President Lincoln would do when he took office on March 4th.

South Carolina forced North Carolina’s hand when in April it opened fire on Fort Sumter forcing Lincoln to blockade the Southern coastline and to call for troops to confront secession which he termed illegal under the Constitution. 

As many at 10,000 or more white North Carolinians” elected to join the Union Army instead, along with 5,000 African Americans including both free blacks and escaped slaves.  “Approximately 125,000 enlisted as Confederate soldiers, and as many as 40,000 died.”

As Union General Sherman entered North Carolina on his march through the South that would end with the largest surrender in Durham and the effective end of the Civil War, he went easier on North Carolina, largely because the peace movement here was given far-reaching publicity by newspaper editor William Woods Holden that was far greater than its actual numbers.

Holden was appointed and then elected governor of North Carolina as a Republican dedicated to “protection of African American rights” and “suppression of the Ku Klux Klan” for which he was impeached and removed from office six years after the end of the Civil War.

History is never simple and while the labels and ideologies are fluid, its lessons are always relevant to the present and the future.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Infographic - Why Wilderness?

36 Hours - Durham

In part, Durham, North Carolina was able to rapidly leap-frog much more established destinations after first launching community-destination marketing in 1989 by seizing on two emerging trends at the time, 1) fully-integrated technology and 2) the ascent of earned media as the effectiveness of advertising went into decline.

Earned media includes what used to be called public relations and media relations and is so-named to distinguish it from paid media or advertising.

Paid media is much less credible because it is essentially “you talking about yourself” and with the average person now exposed to 10,000 ad messages per day, its effectiveness has been reduced to zero or even less except for a very few categories of product.

Earned media is complicated by the fact that it may take years of gently educating and informing story writers and editors before it may result in coverage.

This is because this partiular element of marketing is strictly based on serving the needs of the media outlets and their readers, so it takes time for the information to percolate into story ideas if and when warranted.

The good part about it though, is that earned media is more credible than paid media if the linkage is indirect.

In 2002, the New York Times reinvigorated the traditional travel section by launching the “36 Hours” series as a means to give an overview of destinations across the globe including small towns, large cities and the unknown as well as the known.

Unfortunately, when the series wrote about Durham in 2009, a year and a half before I retired from destination marketing, it was lumped in with many other cities in what we North Carolinians call the Research Triangle, a poly-centric area of distinct cities and towns with no dominant center, other than the co-owned airport.

The article, while flattering, showed an unawareness of the distances involved in traveling throughout such a dispersed region, which would mean that a good portion of the 36 hours would be spent commuting.  Research has shown that fewer than 3 in 100 travelers to any of the communities in this region, combine a visit to more than one community on the same trip and usually then only if they have an escort.

This is due in large part to something called cognitive distance friction, a condition where distances are exaggerated by as much as 20 to 1 by such things as hills and dales, irregular road patterns, duplicate street names and a lack of horizon points such as mountains.

It has always made much more sense to promote each community as its own distinct personality and destination while encouraging follow up visits to the other communities.  This is not only much more considerate to travelers but gives the region many more “bites of the tourism apple.”

Even people who live in this area prefer by more than 4 to 1 to characterize where they live by a specific city, town or county rather than as just one big place, in part because they are each distinct and unique.

The earlier article was also unrealistic because Durham and several other cities in the area each have more than enough to fill several days on a visit and appeal to different segments of travelers.  Unintentionally, it gave a limited impression compared to much smaller destinations that were being given 36 hours of their own.

In a gentle but persistent way, these points were made with the paper along with backgrounders from Durham News Service and Durham quickly warranted recognition in a series of follow up stories over the years.

And this time around this coming Sunday’s 36 Hours will focus on only Durham!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Is Tree Loss Linked to Mortality?

The unfortunate loss of 100 million ash trees to the emerald ash borer, an invasive pest from Asia, has provided a unique opportunity to deepen scientific understanding of the link between trees and public health.

After an analysis of 18 years of data from 1,296 counties in 15 states, the lead researcher, Dr. Geoffrey Donovan announced that “Americans living in areas infested by this insect suffered from an additional 15,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 6,000 more deaths from lower respiratory disease compared to uninfected areas.”

The pattern was consistent across variables such as race, income and education, but more research will be needed to determine the specific cause.

In fact, the mortality rates were highest in wealthier counties, probably because tree canopy often correlates with household income.

After being discovered in Detroit in 2002, the imported pest has swept through 22 species of North American ash virtually killing all of the trees it infests.

A researcher for the U.S. Forest Service, Donovan conducted the analysis in collaboration with scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Drexel University and other USFS research stations in various parts of the country.

The study is published in the February issue of The American Journal of Preventative Medicine.  While ash is not a large component of North Carolina forests overall, it is very popular in urban forests throughout the state, especially the component located on private property.

Trees have a proven economic value in providing scenic character and quality of place so essential to economic development.  They are also well documented sources of climate control, clean air and water, increased productivity, soil conservation, crime reduction, as well as better public health outcomes.

However, policy and lawmakers have seemed extremely slow to grasp the importance of forests.  In North Carolina, cities are replanting an average of only one tree for ever four that are removed and that is just counting the relatively small portion of urban forests located on city-owed property.

In Durham, NC where I live, officials are planting in an entire year what should be being planted each and every day to compensate for trees surrendered to impervious surface and development.

Ignoring overwhelming public opinion, state lawmakers recently gave out-of-state billboard companies permission to clear-cut $5 billion worth of publicly-owned trees along state roadways, ignoring tree ordinances in the cities and towns through which they pass.

Hopefully, it is only a matter of time before public policy will catch up with public opinion and the science documenting the incredible value of this component of green infrastructure.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

More Than Disappearing Mountains

Last August as Mugsy, my English bulldog, and I guided our Jeep on an ascent into the Rocky Mountains for an annual lake rendezvous with family.  I wasn’t the only traveler to remark that the mountains that usually form a backdrop to Denver were invisible and apparently had been for some time.

Those of us native to the Rocky Mountain west realize that Denver is more in the High Plains than the Rockies. The only difference between there and Kansas or Nebraska is that you can usually see them from there.

The view of the mountains from Denver last August was obscured by haze from one of the 3,527 weather records broken in the US alone last year, this one for heat.

The mountains were further obscured  with smoke from a nearby forest fire.  But the view isn’t the only thing disappearing from that part of the world.

Ground water is rapidly deleting.  That means it is being pumped out faster than it can recharge.  According to a study released last year, some parts of the High Plains will be unable to support crop irrigation within the next 30 years.

Many officials tragically make the mistake of believing that because their communities rely on surface water from streams, rivers and lakes, such as Durham, North Carolina where I live, that they are immune from issues surrounding ground water.

However, ground water and surface water are interdependent.  Streams and rivers are not only the beneficiaries of ground water but they also contribute to it.  It is a mistake to believe that a process such as fracking won’t be hazardous just because a community relies primarily on surface water.Hydrologic Cycle - Jeremy Carlson

Where I grew up in the nook of Idaho framed by the Tetons, Yellowstone Park and the Continental Divide, water that has percolated for thousands of years through volcanic rock spews back out of the ground at 120 million gallons per day from a place appropriately named Big Springs, fueling the 127-mile Henry’s Fork of the Snake River.

Half way across my native Fremont County, Idaho, the famed fly-fishing river spills over both the Upper Mesa and Lower Mesa Falls, out of the mountains and down across the Snake River plain to its rendezvous with the South Fork near Idaho Falls.

The Snake River arcs just under the southern edge of Idaho’s 80 recognized mountain ranges to its rendezvous with the Columbia River and then the Pacific Ocean.  But the 10,000-square-mile Idaho aquifer the huge river dissects -- the one “famous for potatoes” -- is imperiled.  

Holding as much water as Lake Erie, since the start of this century it has been in crisis with more water being pumped out than the system can replenish.  Idaho is nearly covered by mountains, huge rivers and glacial lakes, yet 96% of the population is dependent on ground water for domestic water needs.

Ground water isn’t just at issue in the western United States.  Across the nation, ground water accounts for 22% of fresh water withdrawals, 37% of agricultural use, 37% of public water supply withdrawals and 51% of all drinking water for the total population.

More and more ground water is being depleted for industrial purposes.  Fracking is not the only industrial risk from ground water mining.

Some states such as Oregon have began to create “water banks, much as we have a national petroleum reserve.  Other communities such as Pocatello, Idaho are preparing to inject treated wastewater back to help recharge aquifers.

Every community should be looking at dual-water distribution systems such as those pioneered by St. Petersburg, Florida in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Relying on simply discharging treated wastewater back into rivers and lakes fails to grasp the full hydrologic cycle.

It is estimated that failure to act on climate change is creating an annual drag of $1.2 trillion in forgone prosperity, 1.6% of all global GDP.  Yet, the issue of desertification is not limited to the American west nor is it all about the increasing heat.

A new breed of “green” cattle rancher is riding to the rescue, using technologies practiced by wild buffalo herds to preserve grassland and reclaim land and ground water as well as reduce greenhouse emissions by using techniques that were used by my great-grandparents from both sides of my lineage.

Other westerners such as those working in the Western Wastersheds Project are working to bring free-market, full-cost (triple-bottom-line) accounting to the use of public lands for grazing as a means to do the same.

It is much too early to wonder as author Mark Binelli did last month, after witnessing disappearance of the same mountain view, “Will the West Survive?”  But it may be time for another road trip!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Education Entitlement Imperative

In March of 1867, during battles with ultra-conservative-Democratic President Andrew Johnson over how to re-organize the South following the Civil War, the Republican Congress, controlled by liberals and moderates, managed to pass, and the President subsequently signed, new legislation establishing a national department of education to collect statistics.

Conservatives had long opposed compulsory public education.  Fearing even the collection of statics, the department was soon-after demoted from cabinet level to the status of office.  However, in 1870, under the new act and the new administration of President and Civil War hero U.S. Grant, the government began to conduct statistical surveys.  In 1872, Congress authorized the hiring of the first statistician.

This is how we now know that between 1870, around the time many of my great-grandparents were born and 1952, two years after I was born, “every decade was accompanied by an increase in 0.8 years of education.”

Unfortunately, that annual bump in the level of education stopped thirty years ago.  It probably isn’t coincidental that this was also when the middle-class went into decline and about the time conservatives -- by this time mostly Republicans -- took power as well as aim at government and education policy.Seven distinct youth segments - Mckinsey Survey '12

Ironically, it was conservatives who, in 1642, first put compulsory education into law.  The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were ultra-conservatives, but they believed education was a moral and social imperative.

However, it would be another 210 years before Massachusetts established compulsory attendance, which reminds me of a hotelier-friend of mine in Durham, NC where I live, who found that asking prospective employees if they had a car was insufficient, so added the question, “and does it run?” 

By 1900, pressed by the Progressive Movement, 34 states including four in the South had legislated compulsory schooling if even for as little as a few weeks a year.  This included my native Idaho, first settled by my great-grandparents in 1860, which embedded education in its pre-statehood constitution in 1887. 

By 1907, North Carolina, my adopted home now for nearly 25 years, followed suit and finally, Mississippi became the last state to do so in 1917.  By 1910, 72 percent of American children were attending school.

Back then, half the nation's children attended one-room schools as my father did during the 1920s and 1930s in the Yellowstone-Teton nook of Idaho.  By 1918, near the end of the Progressive Era, every state required students to at least complete elementary school.

It isn’t clear why conservatives have so often opposed education.  You almost need a scorecard to keep track of when conservatives have been in control of each of the major political parties in the US.

When I need a break from writing essays such as these, I often pick up a small book entitled The Good Of This Place, a collection published by Dick Brodhead, a friend of mine in Durham, who is currently President of Duke University.

Before ascending to become president of Duke, Dick had been the long-time Dean of Yale College.  One of my favorites in the book, which was published just as I retired, is entitled Taking Democracy to School, a 2001 pre-9/11 lecture he made as part of the De Vane series to mark Yale’s 300th anniversary.

Here, Dick tells the story of an 1778-80 public education legislative proposal made by Thomas Jefferson entitled “Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge” during the time he was elected Governor of Virginia while the American Revolution was in full swing.

To me, Jefferson and James Madison were the conservative Republicans of their time, resisting change, especially when it came to proposals by other founding fathers to abolish slavery.

The bill was repeatedly submitted by each of these men and a watered-down version was finally passed by the Virginia Commonwealth in 1796, well after formation of the United States of America and a constitutional compromise that would leave slavery in place until the Civil War triggered passage of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In this speech, Dr. Brodhead points out several “paradoxes of democratic education” contained in Jefferson’s proposal:

  1. “It failed partly because Virginia voters were unwilling to entrust their local schools to a statewide system…largely because they refused to assume the tax burden…”
  2. “Jefferson would make the school the great equalizer, the tool for neutralizing differences of income and family standing [except slaves.]
  3. His whole three-tier apparatus is an elaborate sorting device, a mechanism for separating the persons of superior parts and blessing him with further advancement.”

I can imagine the characteristic twinkle in Dick’s eye as he dryly notes that – “When Jefferson speaks of best geniuses being “raked from rubbish,” the limits of his egalitarianism comes clear.”

Today, education is an entitlement but a sense of “entitlement” is not limited by socio-economic status or level of education or privilege.  In 2011, while summarizing some of his research, Ed O’Brien, phd candidate in psychology at the University of Michigan noted that – “For some, a dull moment can seem like an eternity, whereas for others there is no such thing as a dull moment.

Fortunately, for the most part, I have always been more like the latter but especially now in retirement.  The study found that, unfortunately, for people who feel entitled, time passes oh, so slowly.

According to a 2012 McKinsey Global Institute survey, there are 75 million unemployed youth around the world, one in eight between the ages of 15 and 24.  For them, time is excruciatingly slow. The figure increases to 225 million when counting those who are underemployed.

Yet, paradoxically, only 43% of the employers surveyed in nine countries including the United States could find enough skilled entry-level workers.

Of those of student-age who didn’t attend post-secondary school, 57% are “too cool” (in my opinion, a form of entitlement) and 43% are “too poor.”  Another 18% are “disengaged” and 26% are “struggling.”

The McKinsey report analyzes three “critical intersections” for students, educators and employers: 1) enrolling in post-secondary education, 2) building skills, and 3) finding a job.

“Cost” is the top barrier to enrolling in college, denying nearly a third of high-school graduates access.  Among those who go on, only “46% are convinced they made the right choice as far as selecting institution or field of study.”

For those who do go on, there is a big disconnect at “building skills,” the second intersection, with 60% citing on-the-job training and hands-on learning as the most effective instructional techniques, “but fewer than half of that percentage are enrolled in curricula that prioritize those techniques.”

In my experience, many of the students in the surveys seem to feel “entitled” as do many prospective employers which are as much impediments as any failure by educational institutions to make adjustments.  At the third intersection, a quarter of youth fail to make a smooth transition to work.

The report proposes some improved models and in the United States, a Career Readiness Partner Council coalesced just a few months ago to evolve a new model between employers, policy-makers, educators, students and families.

However, I am more persuaded that a critical part of the answer is to be found by expanding the social and moral imperative for education into pre-school years.

Programs such as Smart Start, which brings together all the people involved in a pre-schooler’s life— “families, teachers, doctors, caregivers, social workers, and many others” as well as the More at Four program, have been proven effective by researchers at Duke University.

A recent Gallup survey of students reveals that student engagement with learning and education is highest during elementary school at 76%, falling to 61% by middle school and 44% in high school.  Fixation on standardized testing is one of the culprits.

I am convinced that even early intervention, well before elementary school is the answer to creating a lifetime enjoyment of learning.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Republicans Strongly Oppose Give-Away To Billboard Companies

Using estimates by the North Carolina Department of Transportation and applying the updated values economists attribute to trees in ecosystem services alone, a handful of Republicans lawmakers handed out-of-state billboard companies a $5 billion gift when they pushed through a bill permitting these firms to clear-cut trees along public roadsides, even letting them sell the wood to cover the cost of harvesting public property.

It was repulsive to some other Republican lawmakers and drew criticism from newly-elected Republican governor, Pat McCrory.  Now a new scientific measure of public opinion shows why, especially when it comes to Republican voters and women of all affiliations in the state.

By 218 to 1, each of these groups strongly believe it is “unfair for billboard owners to cut down trees in front of billboards on the state’s right of way without fully compensating the citizens of North Carolina for the use of this public property.”  This is higher than the 76 to 1 ratio of those strongly opposed statewide.

Overall, Republicans and women in North Carolina oppose the give-away by 19 and 15 to 1 respectively, higher than the state average of 11 to 1 with only 4.6% undecided.  Registered Independents and Democrats were only slightly less opposed at 14 and 7.6 to 1 respectively.

Independents and Democrats were strongly opposed by 79 and 63 to 1 respectively as were men by 42 to 1 in the statewide poll conducted by North Carolina-based NanoPhrades.

In an earlier poll by Public Policy Polling, also based in North Carolina, 80% of North Carolinians were opposed to permitting billboard companies to cut any additional trees at all, but the voters were ignored by lawmakers.

State lawmakers pushing the bill also ignored poll results showing that overwhelmingly North Carolinians believe local communities, not the state, should have authority over outdoor billboards on roadways in or passing through their communities.  Voters also overwhelmingly opposed overriding local tree ordinances.

It is unclear if the give-away will be remedied or if it is, that NCDOT will have updated its formula which currently values trees only as pulp.  Many lawmakers I know at every level, seem slow to grasp scientific public opinion polling, riveted instead on a spate of less generalizable but angry voice mail or email messages.

Of course, lawmakers may be responding to lobbying or campaign contributions the outdoor billboard industry uses to get its way past voter sentiment.  Of course, I know far too many who are much more honorable than that.

The explanation for being so out of synch with citizens may be as simple as not reading bills and relying too much on what others say.  Or it be relying far to much on their own opinions and self-interests or, perhaps, the powerful condition of “reciprocity” upon which lobbyists rely so much to exploit conflicts-of-interest.

Dr. Dan Ariely, a Durham, North Carolina-based behavioral economist and researcher discusses this type of “reciprocity” in his new book, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, explaining its power to influence irrational and unethical behaviors unless there is reputational-risk.

Even at this latest $4-to-5 billion dollar give-away, which should be prohibited by the interpretation many give to the state constitution, trees are only symbolic of the preferential treatment given billboards as a special interest.

Even though studies now show that fewer than .02% of consumers rely on billboards for purchasing decisions, and courts have long-held that their only value as property is parasitic on tax-payer constructed and maintains roadways, these businesses pay almost nothing in fees and local property taxes.  They also contribute nothing to the cost of the roadways upon which they leech.

In the opinion of economists, these nearly obsolete devices are not worth sacrificing the much greater value placed on roadside vegetation in terms of such benefits as climate control, water and air purification and soil retention alone.  We should add to that the central role that forested roadsides and view-sheds contribute to visitor-centric economic and cultural development as well as the appeal to relocating executives and businesses

If we are going to tolerate them at all, we should assess them as we do similar societal liabilities such as tobacco and alcohol. Under full-cost accounting, outdoor billboards should not only be assessed to offset the destruction and blight they create but these companies should also be required to shoulder the full share if not all of the cost of constructing and maintaining public roadways.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Infographic - Proportional Traffic Fatalities and Intoxication

Traffic Fatalities and Intoxication -

Click on the image or here to see the full infographic at its source.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Odds of a Transplant

When I moved to North Carolina in mid-1989, as I applied for a driver’s license I was given the choice of donating my organs and cornea (eyes) when I die.  Anyone who checked “yes,” as I did, has a “heart” sign on the front of their license next to the expiration date.

I just learned that a record of my decision is also in a registry maintained by Donate Life North Carolina, based in Winston-Salem, about 90 miles west of where I live in Durham.

I wasn’t aware of the organization, even though I have had friends from across the state undergo transplants here at Duke University.  Donate Life NC came to my attention after the executive director, Sharon Hirsch, who also lives in Durham, commented on one of my posts this week.

If you were unsure when you got your driver’s license at NCDMV or you have changed your mind, that isn’t the only place you can register to be an organ and tissue donor.  To update your registration with DMV or to register for the first time, click on Donate Life NC or Donate Life America.

On the Donate Life NC home page, click on register or update registration.  If you registered with NCDMV, click on update and then update DMV, enter your driver’s license number and date of birth so you’re existing registration will come up.  There are more specifics to provide here than were given when you got your license such as donating tissue.

As of today, according to the US Department of Health & Human Services, there are 127,020 people in America waiting for an organ transplant. Each day an average of 74 people will receive an organ and another 18 will die waiting.

One organ donor can save up to 8 lives!

There are 3,740 people in North Carolina waiting for a transplant including 1,918 with my blood type.  Nationwide, last year only 10,213 people with my general blood type were able to receive organ transplants including just 384 in North Carolina.  Click here to check your state.

In North Carolina there are more than 4.3 million people who registered as organ donors through NCDMV or 52.09% of all holders of driver’s licenses (or ID card holders) so you can see the odds.

That certainly isn’t enough!

This isn’t coming to mind because I will be 65 in July and entering a new stage of live, it is because my daughter and my two grandsons, ages 7 and 9 respectively, are never far from my thoughts.

Do you really need those organs after you die?  Think about it.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Recycling Expectations of Customers!

Over the Memorial Day weekend in 2011, Ken Farrington made a startling announcement to the members of the North Carolina Association of Launderers and Cleaners gathered at Atlantic Beach, NC.

N.S Farrington & Company, the more than sixty-year-old company started by his parents and still based in Winston-Salem, NC is today the distributor of supplies to dry cleaning businesses throughout North and South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and parts of Georgia.

Based on an analysis of studies revealing the recycling values and expectations of dry cleaning customers, Farrington announced that day that as of mid-2011, his company would become one of only two distributors in the United States to also offer recycling of poly film, the protective covering used by dry cleaners so customers can transport their clothes home.

In just 18 months, 130 of the company’s 1,400 customers are already participating. This includes Regency where I have my clothes cleaned here in Durham, NC, the company that acquired the 83-year-old White Star.

This means Farrington is already recycling about 2-3% of what it distributes in virgin poly film.  The poly and other recyclable plastic is currently bundled off to a company in Indiana which then recycles it back into fencing, decking, soft drink crates and other products.

Participants such as Regency are given a collection kit including a container reminding customers that for “every ton of poly film that is collected will save the equivalent of:

  • 17 trees,
  • 380 gallons of oil,
  • 7000 gallons of clean water,
  • 4100 kilowatt hours of electricity, or
  • 89 cubic feet of landfill.”

Customers can also drop off plastic grocery bags at participating dry cleaners.  This isn’t Farrington’s first venture into recycling on behalf of dry cleaning businesses.  It also provides the little caddies for collecting and returning used hangers as well as recycled paper shoulder covers and bags.

Hats off to N.S. Farrington & Co. and Ken and his brother!  The only question is if this company is making it so convenient, why aren’t its other 1,270 customers participating?

Maybe you should ask when you drop off your cleaning!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

60 Degrees and Daydreaming

Last year, Johnny Pesky, the legendary short stop for the Boston Red Sox known affectionately as “needle-nose,” passed away at age 92 following 60+ years in professional baseball.

I am a lifelong New York Yankees fan and by the time I came of age as a sports fan in 1956 -- about the age my grandsons have now -- Pesky was long-gone from the Red Sox and managing the Durham Bulls.  These were the years before the team was made famous by the 1988 movie which hit the screen less than a year before Durham, North Carolina became my adopted home.

My claim to fame as a Bulls fan is that I was first to suggest suggest the 1965 hit song Wooly Bully by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs as the team’s theme song during games. That in turn inspired the team’s mascot, suggested by a friend and Durham Innkeeper, Jim Vickery.

I also reminded the new ownership when I arrived that Hall-of-Fame second baseman and broadcaster, Joe Morgan, whom I had met in Oakland just before relocating to Durham, began his career here in 1963, when things were still segregated in the southeast.  The team retired his number in 1993.

In the mid-1950s, as I was growing up in the Yellowstone-Teton nook of Idaho and coming of age as a sports fan, there were no major league teams in the West, so you had favorite teams back east such as the Dodgers in Brooklyn, the Yankees or Giants in New York or the Red Sox in Boston.

However, you also had favorite teams in the Pacific Coast League (PCL), then almost as famous.  Pesky had cleaned the bullpens for the PCL’s Portland Beavers as a youngster and later broke into pro baseball with the Hollywood Stars, which went on to become the San Diego Padres.

During my recent break, my memories were refreshed while reading  the late David Halberstam’s 2004 book, The Teammates – A Portrait of Friendship.  He tells the story of Pesky, Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio -- all west coasters -- as two of the friends traveled one last time to visit the failing Williams. Doerr’s wife had had a stroke in Oregon, so he could not accompany them on the trip.

In 1956, with Pesky managing the Durham Bulls, I was out in Idaho and got home from school on October 8th to the family ranch in time to see Don Larson complete pitching a perfect game in the World Series in which the Yankees went on to beat the Brooklyn Dodgers for the fourth time in five years.

By 1958, the Dodgers and Giants had relocated to the west coast and the PCL was bringing pro baseball to the Intermountain West, admitting the Salt Lake City Bees and the Spokane Indians, farm teams then for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the LA Dodgers respectively.

I remained a Yankees fan but I remember as I helped friends stomp out room enough to play in five-foot-drifts of snow, hearing them debate whether their allegiances would move west as well.

I didn’t learn until later that greed was the reason for the Dodgers move.  They were drawing well in Brooklyn but the owner demanded a new stadium and LA obliged.  But MLB owners agreed to the move, only if the NY Giants would also move, something the owners hoped would jumpstart that team in San Francisco.

Pro football came to the west coast much earlier but in my younger years, college teams such as Idaho, Oregon, Montana, BYU and the University of Southern California were more popular.

The National Football League (NFL) Los Angeles Rams (now St. Louis) relocated there in 1946 after winning the NFL championship the year before.  They had played as the Cleveland Rams since 1937.  That’s the year my dad was released from the US Army following the end of WWII and pre-history for me.

As I came of age I liked the Rams, but for some reason I was much more drawn to the former teams of the All-America Football Conference such as the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Colts (until they stole away to Indianapolis in the middle of the night.)  That league also spawned the original Cleveland Browns (until they moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens.)

The NFL absorbed those teams from the defunct AAFC in 1950 before I became conscious of sports, but I’ve never been a fan of the “musical chairs” sports franchise owners play or for that matter the “musical chairs” free agency has brought to player loyalty.

I had no consciousness of the Durham Bulls until I saw the movie, but I hadn’t been in Durham more than an hour after having been recruited to jump-start the community’s first official marketing agency, before it became abundantly clear the identity of the team and the community were inseparable.

Just over a year later Raleigh interests bought the Bulls and were promised funding if the team was moved to Raleigh/Wake County setting of a campaign to undermine Durham efforts to accommodate the team and the new owners.

Fans -- half of whom lived in other communities such as Raleigh -- weighed in, telling researchers they would not be as likely to attend if the team was separated from its Durham context.

All is redeemed today as the Bulls play in the City of Durham’s larger, more contemporary but retro-ballpark. Those same Raleigh-interests have ingratiated themselves in Durham by surrounding the ballpark with real estate developments including the impeccable adaptive-reuse of the Lucky Strike and Old Bull tobacco factories, incentivized by the City and County of Durham.

Durham residents didn’t turn their back on the old Durham Athletic Park which was too small to permit the new Bulls’ ownership from moving to Triple A.  Unfortunately, that was done in part to exercise a Minor League clause to clear a radius from Durham sure to deny a team in Raleigh.

Recently, the historic DAP was lovingly restored using voter-approved bonds and is now home to the NCCU Eagles baseball team.

The late Art Model, who infamously moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, is quoted by authors Michael Leeds and Peter von Allen as saying, “The pride and the presence of a professional football team is far more important than 30 libraries.”

Having some background in the creation and measurement of both community pride and community and economic development, I think that is an incredibly absurd and self-serving claim for any business person to make.

I look forward to an era, where like with the Durham Bulls, owners come to gain an appreciation of how important their home communities are to their success, regardless from where they draw fans, rather than just how important the teams are to communities.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Becoming Extinct

My blood type is O-Negative.  I’m a universal donor which I was told means anyone can use my blood for a transfusion but if ever needed, I’ll need this specific blood type.  It is a actually a little more complicated than that but it is true in life-threatening situations.

In the USA, O is the most common blood type.  O-Negative isn’t the most rare but it is found in only 8% of US Caucasians, 4% of African Americans and Hispanics and 1% of Asians.  On weighted basis, that means O-Negative is found in 4.3% of the population worldwide.

My blood type is also becoming extinct.  The negative is for RH which means I don’t have a Rhesus monkey in my background, as apparently  85% of the population does.  Many think o-negative is the purest blood group. It can’t be cloned. My diet is closest to the cave man.  On one genealogical site I can trace ancestors back to Adam.  Others theorize this blood type may mean I am linked to ancient astronauts.

Okay, now I’m getting spooked!  Studies have shown however, that donating blood as little as twice at four-week intervals is linked to a drop in blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar levels.  The subjects in these studies were obese and I don’t have those conditions but maybe it will work for those pesky triglycerides? 

Scientists determined blood types in the early 1900s.  Nazis adulterated the science to rationalize genocide.  According to author Charlotte Libov – “In World War II, Japan segregated some of its fighting units by blood type because its commanders believed that soldiers with the same blood group would work together better.”

In his mid-1990s book entitled Eat Right 4 Your Type, Dr. Peter D’Adamo devised diets and exercise for each of the major blood types and an encyclopedia linking blood types to various health conditions.

Last year Harvard University’s Dr. Lu Qi and a team of researchers published a study linking various blood types and the risk of heart disease.  Blood types, according to Libov “are determined by the differing antigens and antibodies that the blood contains.”

For example, some blood types are more susceptible to bacterial infection and others to viral.

There are actually 32 blood group systems used to identify blood type.  Last year scientists at the University of Vermont identified two new attributes that will make transfusions even more accurate.

I think all of this is to say that I need to get my butt the three miles down to the Durham Red Cross blood donation center once a month, another good excuse to clean out the pipes on the ole’ Cross Bones.  Or I could exercise.  Or eat red meat less often but that wouldn’t be very cave-man-like.

I read an article last month about “microlives” or increments of 30 minutes of life expectancy.  Statisticians at the University of Cambridge have computed the risks inherent in various habits.

Apparently, eating an extra portion of red meat a day will cut a man’s life expectancy down by about one year and is apparently much riskier by some measures at my age than riding a motorcycle.  I wonder what it is for those of us with an O-Negative blood type?

In an article this month by Frank Bures entitled The Rewards of Risk in The Rotarian magazine, he writes in part about the studies of risk-taking by Dr. Frank Farley at Temple University and their role in our lives.

Farley divides personalities into categories of “T” for thrill.  “Big T” people, whether “T-mental” or “T-physical,” seek challenges and enjoy the thrill of seeing what they can do.  A few, unfortunately, veer into “T-negative” things such as gambling and crime.

“Then,” Bures notes, “there are what Farley calls “small-t” types – people who are risk-adverse, who let their lives be circumscribed by what they fear: failure, loss, humiliation, pain.”  He notes that 18% of the US population is affected by anxiety or the fear of possible future misfortune, a rate five times that of a third world country.

I guess, for some, I may be considered a “Big T” person, even though I’ve been retired now for three years.

I’ve spent a lot of time on a Harley, learned enough to fly an airplane, researched and written more than 860 essays such as this (Big-T mental, at least for me,) taken four-6,000-mile east-west cross-country trips with my Mugs, my English bulldog and four north-south trips with a friend.

I’ve also spent as much time as I can with family, especially my daughter and grandsons.  I treasure speaking with her several times a week as she drives to her work as a healthcare attorney or waits for the boys during an activity.

I haven’t even touched a number of other passions and interests yet, but life in so-called retirement has been rich and rewarding, so I am very blessed.

There are some things I need to do less, like eating red meat, and some things I need to do more, such as exercise.  Regarding the later, I am either a “small-t” or just lazy.

But I hope I can keep “letting go of life’s handrails” as Dr. Farley puts it because as Bures concludes in his article – “Not taking risks along the way is the biggest risk of all.”

Monday, January 07, 2013

Purchasing Influence of Advertising Mediums

After a billion dollars in presidential television ad spending alone, by 9 to 1 Americans felt strongly that campaign commercials were “not at all important” to the outcome of last November’s elections according to a Pew Research survey.

Even the ratio of those who were equivocal deemed that this element of marketing had little effect on the outcome.

In the most intense and sustained test yet of advertising’s effectiveness, the two Presidential candidates alone spent $696 million in advertising with hundreds of millions more spent by the two parties, various political action committees and a slew of “dark money” groups.

Even before this unprecedented barrage, experts estimate that the average American is now inundated with an average 10,000 ads each day.  In response, nearly everyone has tuned out, so why does anyone still advertise?

It may be due to equal parts inertia and ignorance I suppose or in the case of politics, fear of losing and the power of the advertising-industrial complex.  Marketing today is hard work but too often advertising still appeals to novices easily drawn to “shiny objects” or self-aggrandizement.

It also draws “bottom-feeders” who prey on the unsuspecting and contribute to advertising practitioners being rated among the three least trusted professions.

There is still a role for advertising in thoughtful marketing plans but it is severely marginalized by the fact that people have simply tuned out.  Studies show that even during the upcoming Super Bowl, ads will turn off three people for every one for which they are appealing.

But for some it may be that use of this inferior element of marketing continues because with the exception of outdoor billboards and other forms of advertising out-of-home, advertising often subsidizes the availability of news, sports and entertainment, although there is evidence that even that business model is phasing out.

On a recent road trip, I noticed that I-95, the front-door to Raleigh, North Carolina, is cluttered with huge roadside billboards, ruining the first impression of North Carolina’s capital city even though citizens there have made a valiant attempt to sequester billboards in commercial zones.

Further south, I-95 is nearly billboard-free and heavily forested where travelers pass by Fayetteville, North Carolina.  Of course, if they exit, they will be inundated with billboards.

In some ways, we North Carolinians are justified in feeling superior to South Carolina.  However, with the exception of where it passes through or near cities and towns or the infamous South of the Border, that state seems much more careful to keep I-95 clear of blight and tree-lined including long stretches of forested medians.

In the fall of 1969, four years to the month after the signing of the national Highway Beautification Act which introduced much less intrusive and far more effective logo signs at highway exits as an alternative to help guide travelers to roadside services for gas, food and lodging, the first Cracker Barrel country story and restaurant opened in Lebanon, Tennessee, about 30 or 40 miles east of Nashville as I-40 makes it way west from Knoxville.

In the tradition of old country stores, which were the convenience stores of their day, Cracker Barrels even had gas pumps until the mid to late 1970s.  They also earned a reputation for discrimination against gays and blacks.

During the 24 years I’ve lived in Durham, North Carolina, the Cracker Barrel chain has grown from 50 or 60 restaurants to 620 in 42 states including one in my native state of Idaho.  The chain has also worked hard to shed the discrimination of its roots, climbing from last place on the Corporate Equality Index to a rating of 55 out of 100 in 2011.

Cracker Barrel, which at the average location serves 6,700 people each week, hasn’t done so well on any such index of roadside desecration.  It is one of the businesses keeping the outdoor billboard industry on life-support, using more than 1,500 prior to the recession and ranking 11th in revenue generated for billboard companies nationwide.

Even though the company tries to be socially responsible including concern for animal welfare, it has been slow to migrate from billboards that blight roadsides and the scenic character of the communities in which they are located to the far more effective logo signs preceding highway exits.  But I see evidence as I travel that the company may be slowly catching on.

A periodic survey of advertising mediums documents that only 0.2% of Americans see outdoor billboards as influential for purchase decisions and the percentage in much of Cracker Barrel’s target audience is 0.0%.  Still, it may be difficult for its now younger and more progressive management to wean the organization.

Research in North Carolina suggests that outdoor billboards have an 8 to 1 turn-off to turn-on ratio.  That means for ever person to which the messages appeal, they turn off eight others.  Not a good number if you’re using advertising to appeal.  Unfortunately, far too many marketers still focus only on gross vs. net appeal, let along net-negative.

My favorite meal has always been breakfast although other than weekends, it is the meal I have always been most likely to skip in adulthood. Durham, NC, where I live, is fortunate to have a wide variety of indigenous and chain restaurants from which to choose for that meal.

For those who like country or comfort food, Cracker Barrel off I-85 is on that list, although breakfast is the meal served to only 1 out of 4 of its patrons company-wide.  It generates about $2 billion in restaurant revenue and more than $500 million in retail store revenue annually.

To its credit, the company is committed to community relations in its 620 locations but unfortunately that commitment does not yet include reducing visual blight and preserving scenic character.  I suspect it is only a matter of time before it does.  It is just good business and good marketing.

Just ask Chevron.