Tuesday, November 22, 2011

11/22/63 Where Were You When You Heard President Kennedy Was Assassinated?

That’s what I asked this morning of those who are old enough to remember what they were doing on the 48th anniversary of the president’s assassination.

Our Lady of the North shared this:

“I was in grade 6, Mrs. Patterson's class, at Willows Elementary (Victoria). Our principal came on over the PA system with the news (I think part of the radio broadcast was played for us), and Mrs. Patterson started crying, something very unusual indeed. School was dismissed early and we were all sent home (those were the days when mothers could be counted on to be there to receive us!). Later that day I remember going for groceries at the local shopping centre with my mom, and it was all people were talking about...that day, and for many days afterwards, everywhere I went.

Do you think this same scene would have played out in Seattle if Canada's prime minister had been assassinated?  :) “

As for me, I was in Honolulu, early Friday morning before the big homecoming football weekend. We were assembled in chapel (all-boys prep school) and told. This was the second time I remember really praying; the first time only a year or so earlier when we had been assembled during the Cuban missile crisis. Thank goodness there were adults around to explain to some of the kids why all the football games were going to be cancelled that weekend. Then the weekend of television: Jack Ruby killing Lee Harvey Oswald, the president lying in state, the funeral march. Thus, I was welcomed to growing up in the ‘60s.

Depending on how old we are and where we grew up, we have ‘defining events’ in our coming of age. What ‘defined’ yours?

--Mike Sato

Friday, November 18, 2011

Get Real; Raise Revenues

Today's Salish Sea News and Weather contained a couple of clips about the looming budget shortfall in the state's budget:

Washington state economist Arun Raha projects that state revenues will drop by $122 million over the next two years. State faces nearly $1.4B deficit    Robert Graef in a Marysville Globe editorial closely reads Governor Gregoire’s proposed list of program budget cuts down into the bone of our state’s social fabric. Blood on the budget axe

Our Man of the South wrote: "Carnegie Group (3 years ago) suggested a way to raise revenue (up to $2 billion / year) without raising taxes.  It was ignored of course."

Here's the letter sent on December 9, 2008 to Governor Christine Gregoire:

"Dear Governor Gregoire:

The State of Washington and most local jurisdictions are feeling the effects of a severe downturn in the economic health of the nation. Proposed budget cuts will hurt many people and many initiatives vital to the public including children, troubled families, and the protection and preservation of our environment, to name a few. Yet there is an untapped source of revenue that ranges into the hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars annually that does not require new taxes.

We are referring to the massive subsidies currently given to the development industry by the state and virtually every local jurisdiction. In a hurried study done by Eben Fodor in 2000, the cost of unfunded infrastructure demands generated by growth exceeded $50,000 for every new dwelling unit constructed. Cost of growth studies by Mazza a few years later, substantiate the subsidies. Similarly, cost of growth studies in other states corroborate the enormous amounts given away for growth. There are no recent cost-of-growth studies available, so numbers may not be current. But it is quite possible that the cost in tax revenue in Washington State to subsidize growth could exceed $2 billion annually.

It is nearly impossible to spend a dollar in this state without providing a subsidy for growth. The cost burdens of subsidies fall on everyone including the very poor. The beneficiaries are the wealthy developers, land speculators, and the relatively wealthy newcomers who can afford the high price of a new home. The state’s citizens have long suffered under this iniquitous system. Our leaders to date have been unwilling to confront the development industry lobby on this issue. But if ever there was a time in history when our leaders have justification to bring equity to taxpayers and simultaneously provide much needed revenue to state and local jurisdictions, now is that time. If there was ever a time when the administration owed so little to the development industry, it is now. If there was ever a time in the last 40 years when the revenue needs were so great, it is now. If there was ever a time when growth threatens to overwhelm us with environmental degradation, it is now. Let us seize the moment.

We recommend that the state immediately put in place capital facilities charges on new dwelling units for the state facility needs generated by growth including but not limited to:
• State Parks
• Schools and colleges capital facilities
• State transportation needs
• Penal system facilities
• Justice systems
• State police capital facilities
• Social and health services capital facilities

We also suggest that the state make the following amendments to state law to allow local jurisdictions to collect and use capital facilities charges for its unfunded infrastructure demands related to growth:
• Expand the list of capital charges for which local jurisdictions may charge to include penal systems, justice systems, power generating and transmission facilities, libraries, city and county administrative facilities, and so on.
• Remove the time limit in which capital facility charges must be spent.
• Allow capital facility charge revenue to be spent anywhere within jurisdiction boundaries.

Finally, we recommend that the state make all grants to local jurisdictions for capital and infrastructure needs contingent on their imposing the maximum allowable capital facility charges in all the categories in which it is legal to impose such charges.

In the near future, the state can apply the general funds no longer needed for subsidies toward the shortfalls in the provision of vital services that it is currently experiencing. In the longer term, lower taxes might be a much needed bonus for state residents.

We have drafted and submitted numerous bills over the last ten years to implement these and other policies designed to cure the inequities of growth funding. We will avail ourselves at your convenience to meet with appropriate members of your staff to brief them on these proposals.

The Carnegie Group of Olympia
Peggy Bruton, Citizen Activist
Thomas W. Holz, Civil Engineer
Robert Jacobs, Former Mayor, City of Olympia
Walter Jorgensen, Former Councilmember, City of Tumwater
Suzanne Nott, Former Candidate, Port of Olympia Commissioner
Jerome Parker, Citizen Activist

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupy Everywhere But Stay On Message

My activist friend is among those organizing Occupy Bellingham. The weather has turned cold and wet; I expressed my concern that it would be hard to maintain the tent shelters during the winter. I’m sure that concern has been discussed.

I was down in Portland last weekend counting down to the city’s midnight deadline for clearing Chapman Square of Occupy Portland tents. At midnight the crowds grew and the atmosphere became more festive than confrontational.

A tweet attributed that to “Portland Nice.” It only got serious later Sunday afternoon when the police moved in to clear the area and arrest those who would not leave.

No doubt some folks came to Occupy Portland only as ‘lookie loos,’ but many came to stand with those who occupied the park, the same way thousands had come together in the early days of Occupy Portland.

Unfortunately, the media coverage was all about the confrontation between the police and those in the park. Mayor Sam Adams, Park Commissioner Nick Fish, and the Portland Police Department have become ‘the enemy’ instead of the fat cat bankers, multinational corporate creeps and sleaze-ball politicians.

It is totally legit to carry out a large-scale occupation of a public space in order to call attention to the obscene influence and power one percent of the population has over the 99 percent— and engage people in corrective action. What happened to that message?

I think it was Nick Fish who said that the one percent wasn’t paying for police and other city staff overtime and repairs to the park; it was all the taxpayers footing that bill. That’s not a bill I’d prefer to pay since it doesn’t serve my political purpose.

I want us to get smarter in bringing about real change. How about you?

--Mike Sato

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Five Things You Should Know About Puget Sound

Map: Sierra Club

The Nature Conservancy recently posted their Five Things You Should Know About Puget Sound  and I’ve been encouraging others to put down what five they’d put forth.

I’d expand the geography to the Salish Sea because we are one big ecosystem family. But let's stay with Puget Sound for now.

My Five:
1. Puget Sound is a deep subject: Its deepest point is 930 feet. 
2. Puget Sound is big: Its basin encompasses about 12,000 square miles.
3. Puget Sound is not all wet: Sequim’s annual average rainfall is only 16 inches. 
4. Puget Sound locals can say “Humptulips,” “Puyallup” and “Poulsbo” without difficulty.
5. With projected population of 5.2 million souls by 2025, Puget Sound will have more people we can entertain with lists like these.

OK, your turn. How about sharing your list of five?

--Mike Sato

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Still Looking For The Silver Bullet: Tell Me When You Find It

(Dillon School District)
People, smart people, make money teaching us how to communicate effectively. ‘Effectively’ usually means getting someone else to understand what your are saying— and in many cases getting them to do what you would like them to do.

Saying what’s true is important because you’re toast if someone shows it’s not true. But saying what’s true with a human face and a human voice beats saying what’s true with tables, footnotes and reasons every time. Values-talk beats ledger-talk, benefits beat features almost every time.

We have developed a whole range of tools and techniques to ‘talk’ to people. There are great stories about how many of these have worked and why you should use them. It’s hard, however, to take a product, a candidate, a cause and to use all the available tools and techniques.

Not everyone is interested in buying a hybrid vehicle— or can afford one. Who really wants to read President Bush’s memoir? Who do you want to pick up their dog’s poop?

The answer is obviously not ‘everyone.’ Knowing how many hybrids, books and poop you want sold and picked up— and who you want to be buying and picking up— is a great place to start before figuring out which tools and techniques to use.

Set goals.  Know thy audience.  Tell your story in values and benefits.  Say it over and over.  Measure results and adjust your tools and techniques.

I doesn’t hurt to have the right person championing your product, candidate or cause. Right person, right audience, right message.

Those of us who work for causes on small or non-existent communication budgets dream the equivalent dream of one day becoming a millionaire: We dream that one day our message will go viral and circle the globe. We’d love to have that silver bullet.

And, just like becoming a millionaire, we will work hard but it won’t happen.

But here’s another way of looking at  the work we do on good causes, and I heard it from David Domke, author and communications prof at the University of Washington.

Domke said that groups working on climate change, pollution, food safety, environmental justice and other causes have missions and goals that make them seem like disparate efforts competing with each other for people’s attention— and money and time.

He suggested that groups-- without changing their mission or goals -- try to reframe their higher purpose in terms of responsibility, legacy and opportunity to give a sense of common purpose among all causes. ‘Responsibility’ to do what each of us can do to make the world a better place. 'Legacy' to leave something good and positive for the next generations. And 'opportunity' to open the possibilities economic growth associated with doing good things.

I always found Domke’s suggestion compelling in bringing together so much of the work we do as communicators. Not a silver bullet in the sense of tools and technique but a simple and powerful reframing. Great values, good benefits, truth well told.

--Mike Sato

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Still Looking For The Silver Bullet: Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen

Remember The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, published in 2000? We were young then, weren’t we?

One of my colleagues from the Natural Resources Defense Council got us all excited with his excitement about how connectors, mavens and salesmen could bring about the West Coast adoption of marine protected areas.

Gladwell had identified what he called “The Law of the Few.” For a trend or a phenomenon to ‘tip’ into widespread popular acceptance, it required a few influential types of people.

“Connectors” are people with ties in many different areas of society and who can make connections and relationships about a new idea or product.

“Mavens” are people who are knowledgeable and who are turned to by others about making informed decisions about new ideas or products.

“Salesmen” are people whose charisma makes them very persuasive in influencing other people’s decisions about ideas and products.

There we were, ready to change the world for the better, once we could find the connectors, mavens and salesmen who could help us promote marine protected areas to the public and regulators.

The problem was that we couldn’t identify individuals who filled the roles of connectors, mavens and salesmen. Those that we could identify (‘big Rolodex people’) were either doing the work already or were so far removed from marine resource protection that it would take a miracle to get them on board.

The problem wasn’t just with a campaign like establishing marine protected areas; it was in all the areas of environmental conservation where we took Gladwell’s tipping point concepts and tried to apply them to a specific cause or campaign. Connectors, mavens and salesmen were busily connecting, informing and selling what they were already promoting.

It was looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

It’s out of the enthusiasm for a cause that its connectors, mavens and salesmen arise. If a cause didn’t engender enthusiasm, it would never attract its connectors, mavens and salesmen. There are many, many causes — good ones and not-so-good ones. How many of them are you enthused about enough to think they will ‘tip’ ?

--Mike Sato

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Still Looking For The Silver Bullet: After Al Gore Invented the Internet

It seems likes the Dark Ages when the fax machine was the chosen mode of communicating the written word quickly.

I started using email in or around 1994; People For Puget Sound was an early adopter. So was National Audubon. I was happily amazed when I learned that Helen Engle, the Doyen of Audubon, was an early adopter, too.

In 1994 Willem Scholten worked with People For Puget Sound and the Seattle Library to establish a ‘Green Gopher’ portal that allow access and transmittal of the library cataloge and documents in ASCII format.

Later that year, Scholten helped launch People For Puget Sound’s website, SoundWeb.

Those were good years. Paul Brainard and Denis Hayes of The Brainard Foundation and The Bullitt Foundation, respectively, thought it was necessary for Northwest conservation groups to move into the digital age. They included money funding hardware, software and training in program grants. One Northwest (now Groundwire http://groundwire.org) was born.

Back then, we were so pure. I recall the huge hoo-ha that went on when some Southern lawyer posted a commercial message and sullied the integrity of “The Internet.”

It wasn't easy to do research using the web in the early days. Educator Stephanie Raymond explained to me why it wasn't a good idea to have our intern use the web to research the subject "octopus" as I'd suggested. The entries in those days were predominantly for sex toys.

So, how many emails have you received today? How many hours have you been “surfing” the “World Wide Web”? How many Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn postings have you received today? How many have you sent? Counting how many doesn’t seem to be the point.

I like to think I could have foreseen where we are today back then. No way. How good is your imagination? How will we be communicating in 2025— and will we be understanding each other any better than we were before Al Gore invented “The Internet?”

--Mike Sato

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Still Looking For The Silver Bullet: 30 Years After 'In Search of Excellence'

If you’re old enough, you’ll remember the excitement that business consultant Tom Peters brought with his seminars and books in the 1980s: In Search of Excellence, Passion For Excellence... Managers in government agencies and electric utilities I knew were swept up and inspired by examples of how to be a successful business: reward action, trust your intuition, listen to your customers, cut red tape, match authority with responsibility...

I think we all liked the kinds of stories Tom Peters told. We liked the story about how astronaut Frank Borman insisted on clean tray tables when he took over as president of Eastern Airlines. If you can’t take care of the tray tables, why should the customer think you can take care of the engines? “Now clean your desk,” we’d joke. We also like the one about how a worker took the initiative to charter an airplane to get some important delivery through. “Get the helicopter,” we’d joke.

The eight ‘themes’ Peters and coauthor Robert Waterman highlighted were:

  1. A bias for action, active decision making - 'getting on with it'. Facilitate quick decision making & problem solving tends to avoid bureaucratic control
  2. Close to the customer - learning from the people served by the business.
  3. Autonomy and entrepreneurship - fostering innovation and nurturing 'champions'.
  4. Productivity through people- treating rank and file employees as a source of quality.
  5. Hands-on, value-driven - management philosophy that guides everyday practice - management showing its commitment.
  6. Stick to the knitting - stay with the business that you know.
  7. Simple form, lean staff - some of the best companies have minimal HQ staff.
  8. Simultaneous loose-tight properties - autonomy in shop-floor activities plus centralized values.
You’d think that with advice like this, American businesses and governments would be in ‘excellent’ shape. Next year is the 30th anniversary of the publication of In Search of Excellence. Maybe the celebration is yet to come but it’s hard to hear much talk these days about Tom Peters and the themes in In Search of Excellence.

Those must not have been the silver bullets we were looking for.

--Mike Sato