Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Don't Throw Stones to Break More Windows

We live in communities in which there are problems perceived and actual.  How we respond to those problems reflect on us as citizens.  We have choices.

All communities have positive characteristics as well negative. We can choose to do nothing, we can choose to exacerbate the negative, we can work to accentuate the positive, we can work to improve upon the negative, or we can do some combination of any of these.

Recently a fiend of mine wrote a blog commenting on the public relations problem on the community in which both of us live.  Repeating others’ disparaging remarks does not add to the conversation. And repeating remarks that are untrue does not build respect and trust and actually damages those virtues. People strike out in response to anger, strikes which are often misdirected.  Paint the trim, pick up the trash, work with others, or go elsewhere; but don’t throw stones to break more windows.

The community which was being written about was Cleveland Heights, Ohio. I do not feel unsafe in Cleveland Heights. However, I would not go into a bar off the main strip which seems to tolerate misbehavior. The Cedar-Lee neighborhood has not been taken over by thugs. Cleveland Heights is not the most deteriorated suburb.  The Coventry neighborhood survived the removal of the liquor license of Irv’s when that establishment refused to work with the community and allowed serious misbehavior by its clientele. Maybe that is an option to examine here.

Yes, it is frustrating to get a parking ticket but you might as well go to any parking garage and try to sneak out without paying and see what happens. The benefits of going to Nighttown restaurant or the Cedar Lee movie theater and participating in the excitement of a vibrant community are worth paying the meal tab, the price of admission, and a few coins for parking.  Not everybody gets a speeding ticket or a parking ticket, only those people who get caught disobeying the law. There are reasons for speed laws and, if you don’t want a speeding ticket, don’t speed. There are certain intersections where it is unsafe to make a left turn during rush hour and often disruptive.  There are work arounds to those intersections but it might take add extra 15 seconds to your drive.

Any negative publicity is a public relations problem.  Not all public relation problems of a city need to be responded to vociferously but rather by keep doing well those things that one does well, supporting a caring and vibrant community of residents, businesses and visitors.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Good Money, Bad Money, Neutral Money

Every day each one of us buys goods or services from a business. Whether it is electricity, water, groceries, gasoline, meals, or cell phone we have made arrangements for a transfer of our assets to someone else. We all make decisions on the spending of our money, whom do we buy from and is it a want or a need. That decision on where to spend our money may or may not be based on a conscious process but we do need to learn how to think strategically in that decision.

Sometimes it is a decision based on convenience (I don’t have time so I’ll just get something to go from a fast food restaurant), on monopoly (There is only one municipal water provider), on social conscience (As much as possible, I’ll buy from the local farmers’ market), sometimes it is habit (I have always owned Fords), and sometimes its price (It is less expensive for me to get the product from Home Depot).

We can buy from a locally located Fortune 500 company, from a locally owned franchise, from an outside large corporation but with local factories. We can buy from a locally owned retail store that buys locally manufactured goods, we can buy from a locally owned business that imports all of its merchandise. We can buy locally grown or manufactured goods or we can buy goods that are shipped in from miles or continents away. We also can limit the amount of goods we buy to meet our wants. We can change our behaviors so as to reduce our needs.

However we do need to think about what happens to the money we spend. Most of the time there are local employees who receive pay and spend the money on their own needs. The profits are something else. That depends on whether or not the business is owned locally. A large Fortune 500 business may be local but the profits while going to the headquarters here, there is a distribution of money outside the community. Some large businesses distribute monies supporting activities in each community in which they have a presence so as to give back something to those that support them.

There are local businesses which while making money locally, are also involved in businesses outside of the community in which they use the profits from the local activities. Sometimes your own community is the beneficiary of investment by entities from outside of the region. Often there are businesses in your community which sell to people from outside of your region.

Money which comes from outside of your community and is reinvested and spent in your region is good for your region. Money which comes from your community and is spent outside of your region is not good for your region. Money which is earned and spent within the region is somewhat neutral.

Our goal in Economic Development is to increase the good money (money flowing in), decrease the bad money (money flowing out), and increase the speed of the neutral money (money earned and spent locally). This applies whether the region you are talking about is your own family, neighborhood, region, state, or country. The concept is not new but many do not think in these simple terms (simple but not easy).

Where did you spend your money this week?

Friday, September 04, 2009


One of the greatest obstacles for us in moving through life is dealing with fear. We fear our government that might take away rights, force us to pay for something we don’t want, and make us do things we don’t want to do. We fear those who are different from us, who might invade our space, take what we feel belongs to us, and make us uncomfortable. We fear ourselves that our bodies get old and not work as well, our minds lose grasp of thoughts, and we lose the ability to control our environment as much as we would like. We fear that in our communities we will be not taken care of, will be disrespected,and will be forgotten.

So we spend a great deal of time, energy, and money dealing with our fears. We let our fears control us and our relationships with others. Our fears create an isolationism within us. They create a failure to behave in ways that create trust and respect. Our fears compound themselves in us and in others around us.

The fears will always exist but it is in how we acknowledge them, limit them, and use them for positive movement that we are able survive and to grow and sustain community. It is not that we look to others to control our fears for us or that we control others' fears ourselves. Rather than being driven by fear we need to live by a caring relationship with all around us. Our greatest gift is for us to work with others as both a local and a world community to support each other day by day and work together to lessen the grip of fear.

Friday, July 17, 2009

I'll Know When I Get There

When one puts together a 1,600 mile road trip west there is a certain amount of planning that needs to take place beforehand. How much depends upon your style. One can go with a full strategic plan, one can think strategically, or one can just head west and figure out where you are when you get there.

I am transporting some family belongings handed down from my parents to my siblings who all live in various towns spread out in Colorado. With a bit of free time and a need to get this move done sooner rather than later I made a decision to do the move myself rather than hiring a moving company. In a previous life I had some experience in packing and short distance moving. I have never driven across the country further than Minnesota and I have a desire to see how towns are doing economically between here and there.

The truck rental place allows for six days and 1,600 miles so those were the parameters of my travels. I have one brother who lives in Longmont, one brother who lives in Beulah, west of Pueblo, and a sister who lives in between in Littleton. I asked and was turned down for travel companionship by both my wife and daughter; my wife because she done that drive before and did not look forward to doing it again, my daughter because she is just graduated from college and back from a month of house rehab and construction in Kentucky and is starting a new job shortly. So I made a decision to do it alone splitting the twenty hour drive up over four days.

I got some maps and figured on not driving on the interstate perhaps driving on the Lincoln Highway (US30) but no pathway certain. I filled up an MP3 player with great tunes and got a few books on tape. I got new batteries for my camera and planned to post somewhere. As I do not have a smart phone I planned on taking my computer with an air card.

Luckily I didn't complete a strategic plan as my sister arranged for my nephew to accompany me, which is actually something good, not having to do it alone. My nephew is a new history/math teacher and crew coach and is in a job search in the Washington DC area and looks to be an interesting travel companion. However, he seems to be into deeper planning than I am.

We shall see.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I am putting together a drive from Cleveland to Colorado with a truck load of furniture. On the surface it all sounds rather long and boring and not much to it other than having to drive all that way. Yes, it is more than twenty-one hours by car but I am driving a seventeen foot long truck.

The furniture that I am delivering is from my parents' two bedroom apartment which had already been downsized from a large house. I am delivering much of the contents to my siblings who all live in various towns in Colorado, many hours apart. Both of my parents died January 2008 about two weeks apart. My father was 94 and my mother was 91. So the transport represents the dissolution of physical aspects of a 66 year marriage. Perhaps there is some sub-conscious baggage that goes with that.

My father was not willing to part with most of his books when they first moved so many went into the apartment and some went into storage. When they died all of it went into storage, four lockers worth mostly because it had to be spread out to be appraised. Then all of the siblings had to decide who wanted which items which is not the easiest thing to do. We all could afford to buy new items if we wanted but generally we all had houses filled with things. However, these were the items of furniture that we grew up with. Some had been constructed by our ancestors over 150 years ago, some were pieces purchased cheaply to fill an immediate need but were never upgraded. Some had greater monetary value, some little value. Many had some sentimental attachment. So there is some baggage that goes with that.

There are four of us and I am the younger middle child, but as the only sibling in town and the executor the task of distribution fell to me. As an administrator I was perhaps a little more intense than many although my style is somewhat laid back. There were days when I did get tired of handling the process but persevered. This transport is moving towards the end of the process and there are feelings that exist behind that end.

So, on Tuesday, I drive west. I will have plenty of time to think and perhaps to write about my travels.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Rules as Commands vs Rules as Guidelines

I believe that we should rethink any action that leads to new rigid rules. It isn’t whether or not there are rules; it is how rules are written. Rules should be less commands and more guidelines for collaborative behavior. Always again, the Golden Rule. The fewer commanding rules the more we rely on ourselves as community to provide for safety and security.

How can our community guidelines lead us to accountability, collaborative behavior, and transparency?

How can we move away from controlling behavior into leveraging, guiding, and linking behavior?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Citizens Agenda for Cleveland Heights

I recently received the following forwarded email from a community colleague of a call to action in Cleveland Heights. Its worthwhile here in the Heights as well as in communities elsewhere.

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

In anticipation of the upcoming Cleveland Heights City Council election, a group of concerned citizens, including me, came together to discuss how to promote strong leadership and citizen involvement. There are four seats up for election. Three incumbents are seeking reelection and approximately 7 others have indicated possible interest in running.

Over a period of weeks we developed a position statement we call the Citizen’s Agenda that reflects the need for fresh leadership to address the pressing issues facing our community. We hope this effort will attract a wide range of candidates—young and old, new and long-term residents, and people from across the rich ethnic and racial diversity of our community.

We see three purposes to this statement and hope you will pursue them with us:

1. Create a dialogue across Cleveland Heights about our future and the type of leadership we need at City Hall,
2. Identify strong candidates who reflect this statement and are willing to run for election,
3. Organize support for such candidates and ultimately get them elected.

We have named the group Step It Up with the tag line, Leadership for a great Cleveland Heights to express our intent. As a starter, would you please take the time to review the attached “Citizen’s Agenda” and consider adding your name as a supporter? If you're willing to have your name used publicly as a supporter, please indicate in a response to this email. Include your address and phone number, as well.

We need to complete our list of names by JUNE 25th in order to go public with the document and use it to generate even greater citizen interest and involvement in the upcoming election. As a first step, there will be an article introducing Step It Up in the next edition of the Heights Observer. The article will include the Agenda and the names of all signers to date, thus our June 25th deadline. We will also host a public forum, Thursday, July 16th to present the Agenda to the community and to invite discussion and broad participation. Details of location and time will follow. Other initiatives are planned. Stay tuned.

Finally, feel free to forward the Agenda to any other CH residents you feel would be interested. They can respond to you (for you to forward to me) or to me directly at mazie.adams at gmail.com or by mail to 1285 Inglewood Drive, 44121, to indicate their wish to be listed as a supporter.




Step It Up

Leadership for a great Cleveland Heights

A Citizen’s Agenda for Elected Leadership in Cleveland Heights – Join Us!

As proud residents of Cleveland Heights we value our city government and the substantial contribution it makes to the quality of life in our community. The November 2009 city council election is an important opportunity for us, the citizens of Cleveland Heights, to shape our city’s future. We are looking for city council candidates who will seek out and embrace new ideas and carry out the changes necessary to ensure that Cleveland Heights is the best suburb in the nation.

Cleveland Heights needs leaders who will approach issues in ways that will:

* Capitalize on the ideas and expertise of our talented and diverse citizens, businesses and nonprofits to develop creative solutions to demanding issues.

* Work across city boundaries and regionally to confront shared challenges.

* Work in partnership with our public schools and neighborhoods to strengthen our city and guide it into the future.

Cleveland Heights needs leaders who will take on the tough issues and promote the big ideas that will lead to an exciting future. They must be willing to:

1. Establish a vision for our city as a 21st century suburb that includes financial and environmental sustainability.

2. Advocate for and actively promote the City's support of the CH-UH Schools as a major community asset and means to attract families to move to Cleveland Heights.

3. Set social and economic development goals for the next decade and formulate a strategic plan to achieve them.

4. Work collaboratively with all sectors of the community to create effective responses to the housing crisis that will convert vacant and deteriorating property into positive resources for our city.

5. Actively engage all residents and promote policies that continue and strengthen the rich diversity that we value in our community.

In summary, we are seeking city leaders who will genuinely engage our citizens to create new solutions and ignite our confidence in the possibilities that lie ahead for Cleveland Heights. We are looking for candidates to inspire, unite and mobilize our residents to shape an exceptional future.

Call to Action to the Citizens of Cleveland Heights:

If this citizen’s agenda resonates with you, we ask that you sign on as a supporter of our statement. The goal is to solicit broad citizen participation, then use this agenda to search for, support and elect candidates who will best meet the expectations set forth. Your involvement will help do that!

Signed: Mazie Adams, Russell Berusch, Lindy Burt, Gina Cheverine, Mark Chupp, Rev. Tricia Dykers Koenig, Sheldon Glave, Susie Kaeser, Jeff Smith, Diana Woodbridge

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Listen and Be Passionate

In business and in life most of us want to to be told what to do. We wait for our bosses to tell us what to do. We wait for our leaders to tell us what to do. We wait for our consultants to tell us what to do. We wait for our computers and televisions to tell us what to do. In this way we lessen our accountability for failure. We stroke the egos of those who are self selected to lead rather than following the examples and best practices of those who have demonstrated the behaviors that move the community forward.

What occurs is that we also lessen our ability to succeed. We have lost our passion. We become satisfied with five and ten percent growth when what could be occurring is five and tenfold growth. That growth is needed to counter when growth cycles slow in other areas in the community.

Waiting to be told leaves us dependent on others. There is a large difference between being told and listening. In listening we are accountable for what we actually do. We make a leap of faith in how we behave, in what we do, in whom we trust. We become passionate in what we do and we grow every day. We need to listen to the stories. We need to behave in ways that build trust. We need to relate our own passions to those that listen.

Don't wait to be told. Don't ask to be told. Listen from within to what you are called to do and do it. Be passionate and follow your own lead.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Footprint Tradeoff

In a recent Midtown Brews conversation there was talk about the reduction of land that is not covered/paved over. When a new store is built on uncovered land and a new parking lot is paved onto land formerly covered by vegetation we lose places where water is filtered and seeps into the water table, places that keep water runoff from building into eroding rivers.

Perhaps communities that are into building new businesses or acquiring existing businesses from other communities can make an effort to help the greater region by reclaiming land for green space foot for square foot when new construction takes place. That reclamation does not need to take place within their own community but can be made within another community that may not be able to afford to raze that abandoned drugstore or factory. Suburbs with their new malls can pay for the reclamation of land in the inner city.

Given that this practice would require no net gain in covered/paved space, there would be pressure to be more efficient in footprint usage. There would be more apartments and townhouses and fewer mansions, more parking garages and fewer parking lots, more live/work space and less retail strips.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Diminished Thought

Reaching into the brain
Searching for the connections that fail to appear,
Knowing of another night to come
Where sleep is fleeting and all too brief.

Avoiding the conversations that overtaxes what remains,
Drugs not being an option,
Rest seemingly the only hope.
Another day passes with no progress and much more falling behind.

Between the unavoidable interference,
Savoring the freedom,
Catching one’s breath,
Building strength for the next demand.

The physical and mental pain taking its toll.
Worry, fear not allowed to show their shadows.
Ever there being the hopeful expectation
That tomorrow will not be marred by diminished thought.