Archive for June, 2008

Jun 30 2008

Sierra Club-Huron Valley Group

Published by under Politics

I am pleased to announce that the Sierra Club-Huron Valley Group has endorsed my candidacy for councilman of the Second Ward.

This is a great honor for me and I will try my best to live up to the expectations of the Sierra Club. I first joined the Sierra Club in the mid 70’s when I became interested in environmental and ecological issues while serving in the U.S. Air Force in Northern California.

In accepting the endorsement of the Sierra Club, I will embrace its philosophy that is the responsibility of each of us to find a way to leave this world a little better than we found it. Thankfully we have the Sierra Clubs to awaken us when we forget how connected the world really is.

Comments Off on Sierra Club-Huron Valley Group

Jun 27 2008

“Best & Brightest”

Published by under On the campaign trail

There is a grease board on the wall in Systems Planning at Larcom that staff use to keep track of who is “in” or “out” at any given time. Staring at the board prior to my meeting yesterday with Craig Hupy, (rhymes with “guppy”) Manager of Systems Planning I tried to figure out what all these Managers, Coordinators, Analysts and Senior Engineers had in common. My initial impression was that after the “Big Bang” reorganization the City went through four years ago, the people responsible for putting the jigsaw puzzle back together simply lost interest while there were still 8 “extra” pieces that did not seem to fit into the puzzle. Out of time and out of money they just lumped these disparate offices into a corner and grabbed a “senior”, Senior Project Manager, Craig Hupy and made him Manager.

As usual my superficial analysis was for lack of a better word, “superficial” and after an hour of visiting with Craig I learned that the “extra pieces” indeed have something in common…they were critical pieces in the reorganization that demanded the best and brightest and my guess is that reorganization actually started with Systems Planning and worked outward.

A more astute observer would have noticed that the color of the “8 pieces” is Green and actually that is the common denominator of these various offices; Energy, Water Quality, Solid Waste, Storm Water, Forestry and Natural resources and indeed they were staffed with the best and the brightest! How lucky we are to have staff dedicated to disciplines other cities only dream about. Digging deeper into Craig’s background I learned that his “real passion” is pipes! What better qualifications could you have in a municipal project engineer? I suspect that instead of watch at retirement we will have to buy him Backhoe!

Comments Off on “Best & Brightest”

Jun 22 2008

“Sustainable” Sustainability

Published by under Lessons learned

If you “Google” the word “sustainability,” 33,000,000 links appear. It seems almost every government, academic and business institution has their pet definition or spin of the new paradigm of our “Code of Conduct” for global development.

The World Commission on Environment and Development, WECD, defines sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

That sounds sensible but how do we accomplish these honorable goals? According to a standard text on the topic, Urban Planning (Fifth Edition), sustainability requires four factors.

  • Ecology. This is the typical dimension that most people associate with sustainability. How is what we are trying to accomplish going to affect our environment?
  • Equity. How will we distribute our limited resources and opportunity in a manner that is equitable and consistent with our broader social goals?
  • Livability. How should we design the public spaces in our community to best utilize our streets and buildings to facilitate the numerous activities we go about doing in the course of our work and social lives?
  • Economy. This is the final leg of the table that is the “glue” or economic engine that keeps the whole thing together. Do we create ways for our citizens to earn a livelihood to pursue their dreams, support their families, and enjoy the manifest benefits of living in the greatest country in the world?

Over the next month or two, I plan to drill down into each of these terms that I believe we can use to filter our thinking and to guide us as we move forward as a City. We can use it to fashion a “united vision” that we can use as a “destination” to get us all working together and pulling in one direction as unanimously as our human weaknesses will allow.

Source: Urban Land Use Planning (Fifth Edition) by Philip R. Berke, David R. Godschalk and Edward J. Kaiser, with Daniel A. Rodriguez, University of Illinois Press, 2006.

Comments Off on “Sustainable” Sustainability

Jun 17 2008

And Miles to Go before I Sle……

Published by under On the campaign trail

Watching the national campaign closely over the past 8 months has given me a great deal of respect for the amount of stamina that it takes to effectively mount a serious political campaign, and then if elected to keep up with the demands of the office.  Witness Obama and Clinton with their cross country trips with constant jet lag, endless town meetings, debates, necessary fundraising dinners, high pressure newspaper interviews and strategy meetings not to mention keeping up with the ordinary duties of the office for incumbents or “day job” for the challengers.  Politics is not the job for the faint of heart.

On a much smaller scale and closer to home, I am lucky that I have great health, “young” legs, a supportive family and numerous motivated supporters, but I must admit that the demands of the trying to run an effective campaign have pushed my limits.  There is always something to do or write.  I have tried to use some of the time management techniques I have acquired over the years but there always seems to be something else to do.  Tonight  I came to the realization that I have to accept that I must prioritize, accept that I have limits and not worry when I begin to think of one more thing I need to do before I go to sleep at night.  There will always be one more thing!  Good Night! I can post this in the morning.

Comments Off on And Miles to Go before I Sle……

Jun 16 2008

A “People Person”

Today I had the opportunity to meet with two members of the Ann Arbor Fire Department union. We had what I felt was an an excellent discussion of my background and personal philosophy and why I felt I would be the best candidate for the City Council position. As a young lieutenant in the Air Force, I quickly learned that the only real “assets” that any organization possesses are its people. I saw first hand how “good” people made up for “bad” equipment everyday. First, our enemy in Viet Nam showed that despite being outnumbered, out gunned and out supplied they could hold their own against a supposedly superior enemy by working harder and being smart. 1000’s of miles away, behind the Iron Curtain, the Communists in the Soviet Union, another “Super Power” was able to bluff us into believing that they were a “Super Power for 40 years before we were able to unmask the fraud!

These experiences convinced me that when I get to be in charge of my own organization, military or civilian, that I would conduct myself with the following inviolate priorities:

1. Put People First! Hire the best and brightest!

2. Train, Train, Train!! and then train some more.

3. Equip them with the best equipment money can buy.

This personal priority list has served me well whether running an Air Force Squadron or small business and I am sure it will work with police and fire department. I will never deviate from these priorities. Our recent discussions on spending $42M for a new municipal complex reminded me of my personal priority and it is unfortunate that certain members of City Council consider a building more important than the people that occupy it. A building cannot respond to a 911 call. Only police can. We need guaranteed “feet on the street”.

Comments Off on A “People Person”

Jun 12 2008

When is a “dollar” not a “dollar”?

Published by under Lessons learned

No, I am not referring to a trip to Europe and exchanging a stack of dollars for a much smaller stack of Euros. I am talking about what happens when I am promised a financial payoff in the future in exchange for providing a financial benefit today. Bankers figured this concept out 100’s of years ago when they developed the concept of a mortgage. Basically it is this…Would you rather have me give you a dollar today or a dollar one year from today? I think most of us would prefer to have the dollar in our pocket today. Why is that?

The reason is that if I have a dollar today I can put it in a savings account and earn interest on the dollar. Let’s assume I can earn 5% on my dollar so that a year from today I will have $1.05. So when we are pondering the dollar today vs the dollar next year we can see the choice is actually would you rather have $1.05 today or $1.00 one year from now. If we take the same idea and flip it around we can actually say that if I lose the opportunity to put the dollar in my saving account today and earn interest on it the dollar I receive next year is really not worth a dollar. I could say that my the dollar received 1 year from today is actually only worth $0.95. This is a very simplified way to look at two important financial concepts, Net Present Value, NPV, and Net Future Value, NFV. In the first comparison we showed that when comparing the two scenarios, a dollar received today compared to a dollar received in one year, the Net Present Value, NPV, of the dollar received today is $1.05 and the opposite comparison is the dollar received next year has a Net Future Value, NFV, of $0.95 all other things being equal.

You are probably asking yourself why even bother to make the calculations? When you are starting a project like the Larcom renovation to accommodate the Police and Municipal Court, and you start comparing possible scenarios that extend out 60 years, the calculations can drastically alter your decisions. This is the mistake that Councilman Greden made when he announced at the June 2, 2008 City Council meeting that if we build the new Police Court facility at Larcom it would save the City $52,000,000. Councilman Greden was correct it would save the City $52,000,000 but the City would not benefit from the savings for 50 years!

If we apply the concept of NFV of $52,000,000 received 50 years from now the savings actually turns into a loss and he would have been forced to vote the opposite way on the bond issue. This kind of mistake when you are dealing with your own money can make YOU look foolish. These mistakes when you are dealing with taxpayer money…your money makes US all look foolish.

It may be too late to stop this project, but the lesson we need to learn is that our elected city officials must have the skill set to help them make complex financial decisions. The stakes are high. The City General Fund budget is $80M and if you add in the other City accounts our elected officials are handling 100’s of millions more.

I have an MBA plus a very strong background in finance and accounting. As a small business professional, entrepreneur, business consultant and Angel Investor I have learned how to make these kinds of difficult decisions. I hope you will give me a chance to offer another independent voice, analytical mind and listening ears to the council that will help us make efficient use of your money.

Comments Off on When is a “dollar” not a “dollar”?

Jun 03 2008

Our most important resource

Published by under On the campaign trail

I was more than a bit envious as I sat with Laura Rubin the Executive Director of the Huron River Watershed Council yesterday. I failed to conceal my outright jealousy as I looked out the window of her office and observed first hand the beauty of the Huron River and Argo Pond, a small part of Laura’s domain, that extends through 7 counties and 67 separate local government agencies. Wow! I have always admired individuals that have dedicated their entire life to some narrow but useful spectrum of life’s opportunities and managed to make an occupation out of an avocation. Laura certainly fits that mold. I imagine that Laura rarely views her daily routine as “work”.

The Huron River evokes many fond childhood memories for me. As a very young child I can recall going to the submerged bridge at the Arb and driving out and washing my father’s car with him. I think it was a 1938 Packard that my father was so proud of. (I wish I still had it!) What a spectacle to see a car “floating” in the river. I know now that washing cars is not the best use of this natural treasure, but it was an accepted practice that smart people later figured out was not sustainable. Most Ann Arborites will not know what I am talking about when I discuss the submerged bridge, but Laura knew exactly what and where it was. It is gone now so don’t try to find it. Later, I spent more hours than you can imagine in high school with my best friend in a canoe with bow and arrow out near Dixboro trying to land the biggest carp in the river only to complain about the slime we got on our hands as we removed the arrows. My friend Peter was so good with the bow that I suspect it has taken till now for the carp population to recover.

Whether you use it or not, as resident of Ann Arbor the Huron River is inextricably linked to our lives and enriches our quality of life even if you only drink it. As individuals we need to become aware that we are only “borrowing” resources like the Huron from nature and if every citizen tried to leave it a little better than they found it, the cycle can continue.

Comments Off on Our most important resource