Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thank goodness THAT'S over!

Ah...the sweet respite of November. Gone is the sweltering heat and dusty landscape of late summer. Cool early rains wash away the stagnant air and accumulated dirt. Happy thoughts turn the coming holiday season with its promise of family, friends, food, fun and frivolity. And the best part...NO MORE POLITICAL ADS, MAIL OR PHONE SOLICITATIONS. At least for a few months.

I'm not sharing anything earth-shattering here. Everybody seems to hate election seasons. For the most part I find the entire process has become repulsive and I've actually participated as a candidate in the not-too-distant past. There is no getting around it. You cannot take the politics out of politics.

So why even bother writing about it?

The average Joe (or Jolene) can't change the way politicians or national media conduct themselves in the bi-annual painfests. And if you think about it, all that money being spent on mailers, TV and radio, candidate dinners and stump-speeches is actually doing some good by putting a few folks to work. I'm sure local TV, radio, banquet and billboard companies are glad to have had the election business during this otherwise limp economy. So there is at least one bright point to the whole mess.

I've got to admit that it was a breath of fresh air that our local office-seekers ran respectful, issue driven campaigns. I didn't hear of any last minute hit-pieces or truly negative activities. We should give them all a pat on the back for conducting themselves with civility.

What remains a concern, at least for me, is the seemingly non-stop downward spiral in our overall societal behavior that now carries itself well beyond the election process and permeates most of our lives.

The slow economic recovery causes further frustration which leads to anger which leads to fear which eventually surfaces in really inappropriate ways.

Think back a ways. Remember when we could agree-to-disagree after effectively debating diverse points of view, even about truly important issues like the economy and social services? I do. Those seem like the good ol' days when folks respected differing opinions, even if they didn't entirely buy the argument, and in the end a compromise could usually be found.

I remember when the President of the United States was referred to as "The President" or "President Whoever". Nowadays, it's just "insert last name here" without even the least bit of respect for the office itself (even if you don't particularly like the man). If we can't even muster enough respect for the institution of the presidency to put a Mr. in front of his name, why should we expect the upcoming generations to show us ol' geezers any respect?

I guess it is the loss of respect for each other that's really bothering me. Our society seems to be running downhill in our ability or willingness to show respect for others. Don't believe me? Look up just about any newspaper article or letter to the editor on-line, even the seemingly benign ones, and read the online 'forum' where folks get to post their own thoughts. It's frightening.

What's worse than that? The folks who get all up in arms about a subject they clearly know very little about but go ahead and start a "I Hate So-And-So" Facebook page, all in an effort to stir up more anger and misinformation. Oh PULEEEEZE! Do you really think that kind of crap is helpful?

We all see the network news telecasts, the talking-heads have all morphed into shouting-heads. Everybody is shouting over each other to the point where you have no freakin' idea what ANY of them are saying. For all you can tell, they might even be agreeing!

This isn't a new topic in my posts. It's a sadly recurring theme. Mostly because it truly does worry me. As a business leader, as a mother, as an American. This behavior is flat out wrong and nobody seems to be discussing it. And that's the most worrisome thing of all.

So, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'm going to keep talking about it. And I pledge that while I may strongly disagree with the opinions of others, I'll be damned if I won't respect their right to say it and will at least give them a respectful ear. And then, if I must argue my point I will do it respectfully, without insult or flinging hateful missives. I also vow NEVER to post hateful comments or untruths to an on-line forum while hiding behind a cowardly cartoon figure and fake name.

If enough people join my 'Movement of Respect' perhaps we can actually get something positive accomplished.

Hey...a gal's got to have a goal.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Welcome to Chico....Now Behave Yourself!

A very long Spring and late rains in the upper Sacramento Valley make it feel as if Summer just began. We've enjoyed very few days of over 100 degree heat, so I have a hard time remembering that we're in mid-August already.

Of course, mid-August around here brings a lot of excitement. The City Council race is heating up, Chico Unified is back in session and we will soon be welcoming all the Chico State students (back) to Chico. This year that will include roughly 1400 first-time freshman.

Enrollment at Chico State is down this year, as it is in the entire CSU system, the result of a State budget that remains, well, ridiculously screwed up. (Sorry...there's just no nice way to say that).

But even with lower enrollments the City will soon be impacted by an influx of young and exuberant students, eager to flex their independence muscles and venture into the land of grown-up living. Our twins are among them and the excitement is tangible.

There are dorm rooms to decorate, bikes to tune-up, closets to clean out. (Imagine if you will the shear volume of clothing twin teenage girls can accumulate over 18 years. It's mind-boggling.) Our girls are lucky enough to be moving into Sutter Hall, the almost-finished, state-of-the-art dorm on campus. I hope some day they'll fully understand how lucky they are to enjoy the opportunity to live on campus, becoming fully absorbed in college life, even though we live right here in town. Right now they are just too excited about starting school to be reflective about that, so we won't hold our breath just yet.

It's this time of year that the community as a whole breathes a big sigh.

Those of us in business can tell you very clearly what the student population does for our local economy. Statistics indicate that student spending averages about $13,000 per student for the academic year. That includes their housing, food, clothing and entertainment. That economic boost represents the sigh of relief we feel that more money will soon be circulating in our economy.

And then there is the other sigh...the one of mild apprehension. Will all these new residents understand their responsibilities to the community. Will they respect our laws, property and traditions? Will they, in essence, behave themselves?

Every year University leadership does a good job of outlining the expectations of living in Chico and I'm guessing that most of the students start out wanting to be good neighbors. And every year the community hopes they stick to that goal.

I hope that the current crop of students remembers a few basic rules. Here's my own list in no particular order:

1. Be respectful to your elders. You attend college at a CSU campus and that means that all of us are helping finance your education, so be nice to the local taxpayers.

2. It is never OK to mistreat our Police Department personnel. Pay attention to the laws and you'll do just fine.

3. Spend more money in local stores than you do on the Internet. It's important to our local economy.

4. St. Patricks Day, Cesear Chavez Day and Halloween are not good reasons for drinking to excess and forgetting rule #2.

5. Urinating in public is never okay. Seriously...NEVER.

6. Be a good Samaritan sometimes. It never hurts and might make you feel good about yourself.

7. When walking downtown in the sidewalk....HURRY UP! You are holding up traffic when you dawdle, so put-a-fire-under-it and get out of the street.

So that's my short list. Feel free to share it will a college student near you.

And now the downside of attending school in your hometown when your parents are somewhat involved in the's much tougher to get away with anything without your parents finding out. Bummer...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What Do You Mean It Was All Fake???

Big news on the web today...MTV's 'reality' show The Hills was apparently faked!?! (Gasp) Really? It was fake? Who would have ever guessed that this wasn't truly a long-running peek-through-the-windows of overindulged twenty-somethings REAL lives? Shocking...

A generation of viewers all over America are broken hearted as the true reality begins to set in. You were duped (i.e. lied to). You invested far to much time watching a soap opera disguised as real life. You invested your time, energy and emotion into a music network's attempt to brainwash you into believing that people really live like that and you should want to, too.

Here is the real story...none of this stuff is honest-and-truly real life. It's all staged to a certain degree to keep you watching.

So why should anyone really care about whether or not young folks think these shows are real?

Honestly, I'm convinced the nonsense they are bombarded with is negatively affecting their outlook on life, creating a sense of entitlement and, in the end, destroying their work-ethic and ability to build long-term healthy relationships.

Now don't get me wrong. My generation watched TV growing up too. The difference was we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Professor couldn't build a radio out of a palm tree and Maryann couldn't really make cream pies with just coconuts. We were also very aware that Steve Austin could not outrun a speeding Amtrak train on foot. It was only entertainment. Silly, fun and fake.

So other than the fact that we spent far too much time in front of the TV, we weren't living under delusions of someday becoming part of Starfleet. (Well, except for those guys that go to conventions dressed up as Klingons).

I'm not so sure about the current generation of young adults though. They are so overexposed to 'reality' TV they may not recognize that most people do not have Sweet 16 parties on cruise ships or spend $12,000.00 on a wedding dress. Certainly there are a few people who do, but this is not mainstream America.

When you add this type of skewed perception of real life to the propensity to live ones own life primarily through Facebook, texting and online forums, you can easily begin to see how civilized society could fall-off-a-cliff if something doesn't change soon.

This skewed sense of reality is already pretty apparent in the up-and-coming workforce. Many (albeit not all) younger employees have a very different work ethic than the previous generation. There is absolutely a 9 to 5 mentality out there. I've heard many of them say straight up that they don't intend to work as hard as their parents did.

(I do see exceptions to this mindset among the Chamber's Young Professionals Organization. This seems to be a group of newer entrants to the workforce who are trying hard to model their careers after the successful role models of our community. Cheers to them.)

Far too many others however, seem to think us ol' geezers work long hours, nights and weekends for no good reason, at the expense of our personal happiness. Nope. We do that because we know you can't stand out, get ahead and build a successful career by doing 'the minimum'. We also know that there is a significant amount of personal happiness that can be derived from a job done well. That's the good message that gets lost in most 'reality' TV offerings.

But let's be hopeful. Maybe this new economy has one saving grace...the younger work force will have to 'get real' about what it takes to become truly successful.

And just maybe, MTV did us all a favor last night by 'fessing up, revealing the reality of 'reality' TV...almost none of it is real at all.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ramblings of a Mad Woman...

Wow. Where has the time gone? Easter came and is out...Spring has sprung (almost), and a fun summer season is on the way. It will be July 4th before we know it!

Everything crept up on me so fast. Our twin-teenage-units graduated from PV High School last week, in the pouring rain. What a proud moment for all three of us parental-units. Holding both offices of ASB President and Senior Class President, the twins gave remarkably insightful speeches at graduation. They did great and really represented well the tremendously talented Class of 2010.

The whirlwind of grad parties, all-night parties, after-all-night-party-parties, and the all important day-after-the-after-all-night-party-party left us exhausted. Now it seems like a good time to settle in for a relaxing summer before the dorm move-in date rolls by. I wonder what it will be like to come home after work and find my house as clean as I'd left it that morning? Hmmmmmm.

But wait...there WON'T be any relaxing this summer, for this is another election year! Doesn't it seem that election season never really seems to end? It's really quite tiring, but you have to give a nod to all those hardy souls that put their own lives and careers on hold to run for public office. It's a lot of work.

And yet, even as we applaud them for running it's easy to get pretty tired of the endless recorded phone calls, mailboxes full of mailers, TV and radio spots, etc, etc, etc.

And as tired as I get from all of this, I remind each and every one of you that voting is ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU WILL EVER DO! No kidding. It's not just your right, it's your obligation! Do your homework. Talk to your friends, family and associates. Debate the issues and get your facts straight. And after you've done all that, cast your ballot. Just Do It!

The Chamber of Commerce has posted recommended positions on all the Statewide Ballot Measures and we invite you to read our recommendations as you do your homework. But don't look for us to make individual candidate endorsements. Nosiree-Bob! Not gonna do it...wouldn't be prudent.

Seriously. If you didn't already know the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and Board of Trustees of the ChicoPAC voted to cease candidate endorsements almost 2 years ago. I'm happy about that. I think it's much better that we stick to the issues and leave the personalities of candidates out of it. Our time is much better spent being 'the voice of business'...advocating on behalf of business with whomever wins. That's what we're good at...and that's what we'll keep doing.

And that is more than enough rambling for today....

Friday, April 16, 2010

Want Something Done...Call A Local Business Owner

The "Welcome To Chico" sign in south Chico on Hwy 99 has looked anything but welcoming lately. It has been gradually wearing down over the last few years and a particularly heavy storm this past Winter left it looking like something out of a low-budget horror flick. (Think Norman Bates and the hotel on the hill....yikes!)

Of course there was the usual flurry of Tell-It-To-The-ER comments..."who's responsible for that ugly's an embarrassment...SOMEBODY needs to do SOMETHING!" But wait...who is SOMEBODY?

It's interesting that these types of situations always generate a lot of calls to the Chamber of Commerce. But then again we get calls when people want to know where they can buy a bigger frying pan and how to get rid of bedbugs. Honestly...

This is one of those things that everyone wants to claim ownership of when it looks great, and point to others as being responsible when it goes bad. The reality is pretty muddy. As far as I can tell the sign is on private property, but was built by volunteers with private money...a very, very long time ago.

In any case it was immediately clear that it would take money and labor to get it fixed. There was demolition of the old sign to do, reinforcement of the underlying skeleton and reconstruction of the exterior. So who ya gonna call?

Never fear...this is Chico and things get DONE here. The flurry of calls caught everyones attention...the discussion grew...and then suddenly...LOOK, UP IN THE SKY! IT'S A BIRD...IT'S A PLANE...IT'S DINO CORBIN!

Yes, Chico has Superheros. A lot of them. And usually in the front of the pack waving the rally flag is Dino Corbin of Deercreek Broadcasting. Radio is his day job, but community service is his passion. If you know him at all, you know that for sure.

And Dino KNOWS people. A lot of people. People who, like him, love to give back to their community in quiet and unassuming ways. People who will not only fork over their hard earned cash to fund a project, but will slap on a nail bag, fire up their tractors, draw up the design, arrange for the permits and get the doggone job DONE!

People like Gage Chrysler and Steve Seegart of Modern Building Company, Frank Solinsky of Payless Building Supply, Tom Dauterman of Thomas Manufacturing, Danny Andreasen of Cleanrite Buildrite, Alex DuBose of Guy Rents, Keith Kuykendall of First Impression Signs and Roger Hart at 3Core.

And when these folks start rolling, they are a force to behold!

I have not doubt that this sign will be in beautiful shape in no time at all. And when it's finished, these folks won't stand around slapping themselves on the back and shouting from the rooftops "Look what we did...We are AWESOME!"

Nope. They'll probably just shake hands, nod 'nice job' to each other, and go on back to their real jobs. They will have made a tangible difference in the aesthetics of our community and they won't expect a damned thing for it. Because that's the kind of people they are.

Most people will never know how much these folks do for our community because they don't ask for our thanks, but I think we should all be a heck-of-a-lot more appreciative of them, and many others just like them, every single day. And the next time you hear someone bad-mouthing business in this community, kindly remind them of what YOU know that they obviously don't. Business people in Chico make good things happen. The Chico Chamber of Commerce knows that, and we are deeply grateful to all of them.

Just because they don't wear capes, doesn't mean they aren't SUPERHEROS!

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Internet...Giving Ill-Informed, Mean People a Voice for Over 20 Years

Wait...let me slip on my asbestos undies before I finish this blog entry. Why? Because I'm pretty sure the title alone will create the sort of nasty, dirt-slinging, name calling free-for-all I'm going to write about.

How often have you visited a news site on the Internet and made the mistake of reading some of the horrendous 'comments' that people post about the story? You know what I'm talking about...the type of truly hideous things that people will write/say only when they are hiding behind a cartoon-faced, fictitious name moniker that gives them the courage to be publicly awful.

I've looked at some of them and they can be so mean they make my skin crawl. I know I shouldn't even bother looking but it's like passing a car just get sucked in and are so shocked by what you see that you can't look away.

Yes, I've been on the receiving end of some of those nasty comments. Sometimes they call me stupid, or greedy, or a corporate shill (whatever that's supposed to mean). I generally let it roll-off because whoever is writing it is just reacting to something I did/said that they disagree with. I'm usually just puzzled why they can't disagree with me without being nasty about it.

Several months ago I saw a similarly degrading string of comments related to a coaching change on my twin daughters high school basketball team that, for some reason or another was reported in the local paper. The comments directed at the young women on the team were truly degrading. I honestly believed that nothing would surprise me anymore until I read some of that tripe. What kept going through my mind was "It's HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS BASKETBALL for crying-out-loud"! Why would anyone want to flex their insult-hurling muscles about a thing like that?

The more I think about it, it seems that a national state of incivility has taken over, manifested by the ease of spewing anonymous venom to millions of people without consequence...i.e. the Internet. What's so odd is that often it appears people don't seem to know the real issue that they are ranting-on about. They are just 'posting angry' for the sake of seeing their anger take shape in the form of printed words.

So as not to appear a hypocrite, I will admit here and now that I am very pointed in my blog posts, newsletter CEO columns and an occasional letter to the editor. I do try hard however to refrain from name-calling, degrading language or personal attacks. I do my best to talk about issues rather than people. I'm not perfect but I try pretty hard.

The type of unkind behavior I'm referring to doesn't just bother me, it worries me. How on earth did so many Americans become such foul, insensitive, angry humans? Are our lives so horrible that we must resort to spitting angry words into the ether without regard for who it effects? This simply cannot be the end-result of what our forefathers dreamed when they protected free speech, because this type of dialog won't end up being may very well cost us our humanity.

It gets even worse if the discussion starts with a dialog about local, state or national politics. Those are the kinds of posts that will scare the heck out of you, at least they scare me. And I don't buy all that baloney that one side or the other is responsible. The nastiness comes from both sides and anyone who says differently is not being honest.

I wonder some bad will it get before the pendulum starts to swing back toward civility? How many generations of young people will we raise that grow up without any regard for human feelings, social graces or civil debate?

Turning this around won't come from politicians, or the media, the right or the left. Turning this around will come from the folks that still care about how other people feel as well as how they treat one another. When those folks start to stand up and say "this kind of behavior is NOT okay with me!"

So, let me be one of the first to jump on this bandwagon. This type of behavior is not okay with me. Who's with me??

Monday, March 15, 2010

The One-Rule Test

I was pleased that the City of Chico Arts Commission set aside their draft policy that would have called for private property owners to include a public art component in their projects to the tune of 1% of their total project costs. Citing the current economic climate (which most of us agree is lousy) the Commissioners decided to table this proposal for now. We are relieved to not have to fight this ill-conceived idea, there is so much else we need to be doing!

I have an idea! I actually have ideas quite often, but many of them are either too difficult to implement, or are just plain nuts. Either way, if I could find a way to get paid PER IDEA instead of having to achieve actual results, I'd be rich. I'd also likely be an elected State official...but I digress.

This idea could actually work, simply because it's so simple! It's called the 'One Rule Test' and, if applied by all government officials and staff, would solve our economic problems lightening fast.

I'm a dyed-in-the-wool member of Rotary. We do a lot of great work in our community and in the greater world and I'm proud to be part of the group. For those of you who think Rotary is just a bunch of old guys sleeping through their lunch program every Tuesday, you would be in for a surprise. (Actually, only about 10% of our members fall asleep after lunch, depending on how good the speaker is.)

Rotary has a fabulous standard by which we test all the things we think, say and do. It's called The 4-Way Test and it goes like this:

"Is it the TRUTH? Is it FAIR to all concerned? Will it build GOODWILL and better FRIENDSHIPS? Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?"

Now certainly, nobody is perfect. But Rotarians believe that if they hold to the standards of The 4-Way Test, our business dealings, our community service and our overall lives will benefit. It is from this model that my idea springs, although I've shortened the test from FOUR things to just ONE thing to make it easier to remember and apply.

So here's the idea. Government, at EVERY level, must ensure that every piece of legislation considered, every policy penned, every Bill read, must pass the One-Rule Test. And that One-Rule is....


See how simple that is? It's quick. It's easy to remember. It's easy to apply. If the answer is NONE, the proposal goes immediately to the shred box...Do Not Pass Go...Do Not Collect $200.

If the proposal does create private sector jobs, it can be considered and will be given more weight as the number of jobs it creates increases.

Imagine how efficient our State legislature could be if they weren't wasting time on proposals that do not create or save private sector jobs! Imagine how much more efficient our own City staff could be if they weren't chasing the whims of appointed commissioners looking for ways to make their mark on the community. Apply the simple One-Rule Test. If it's not going to create private sector jobs, it's not going to get done. Period.

I think that if our government would hold to this 'One Rule Test', our economy, our tax base and our overall lives would benefit.

Here's where I have to get serious and specific about this. It is critically important that folks fully understand what will get us ALL out of this mess. It's job creation in the private sector, pure and simple. Private sector jobs create wealth that in turn create taxes that in turn employ government and support social services.

Unfortunately far too much of what government proposes, while it sounds good on the surface and might make some people feel good, in reality does nothing more than suck more money out of private business, money that could be better spent to create more private sector jobs and in turn create more tax revenue.

So there you have it. The One-Rule Test. I think it's an idea whose time has come.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Looking for Art in all the wrong places...

Chico is an artsy town, no doubt about it. Creativity abounds and we all love that. And while me may at times disagree about a particular piece of art (especially when it's public art), I think we do all agree that art in-and-of-itself makes the community a better place to live and do business. No argument there.

A lot of folks go the extra mile to make sure that Chico's art culture is well represented and we should appreciate their work. It's clearly impossible to make everyone happy all the time, especially when public funds are being used to create public works of art. But those folks do their best to present Chico in the a good light using public tax dollars collected through the RDA. (I don't have space here to explain how the RDA works, so if you really want to know call the City).

Many private property owners voluntarily include works of art in their new developments or remodels of existing property. We should be very appreciative of that as well. In fact the Enloe Hospital expansion project incorporates several art components into the project. We can't wait to see those finished!

The system is working well as it is, which is why the Chamber of Commerce is in strong opposition to the new proposal by a subcommittee of the City Art Commission that would REQUIRE private property developers to include public art equal to the value of 1% of the total project costs in their projects whenever total costs exceed $1,000,000.00. (Yes, that includes housing projects too). There is a caveat that if you don't really WANT art on your project, you can just pay the fee and let the City put some art somewhere else. We're not consoled by that caveat.

Well heck, it's only 1%, and it's only on really big projects...right? Besides, you can buy your way out of it, so what's the big deal?

This is a big deal folks, and it will take a few minutes to explain all the various downsides to this proposal, so bear with me with a bit.

Make no mistake about it, this is a new tax levied against property owners.

First and foremost we must understand that public art will NOT increase the value of a project from a financing point of view. It's lovely to look at but it will do nothing to increase the appraised value of the property. Commercial property values are determined by the income that can be derived from the property in the form of rents. Rents won't increase because you include a piece of public art on the building. (If you're building a million-dollar home, it may actually reduce the value because now any potential buyer has to love the bathroom tile and the statue in the front yard!)

Because the art won't increase the appraised value, the costs associated with creating and maintaining the artwork cannot be included in the financing of construction costs. That means this costs is a direct cash expense to the property owner, one that cannot be recovered through the cash flow generated by the project or through a future sale of the project. It's just another cash expense added to an already expensive project.

$1,000,000.00 doesn't buy as much development as it used to. In fact there are very few commercial projects that can be created for less than a cool million these days. Even at 1%, this added cost for art can be a significant barrier to a new project, one that most property owners can ill-afford.

Secondly, the program creates another level of bureaucracy that must be navigated in order to proceed with a new project or significant remodel. Trust me, that is the LAST thing anybody needs right now.

Jobs are created through private investment in our community, especially the private investment that occurs when property owners develop their property. This proposal is a significant disincentive to that investment.

It's a poor idea that comes at the worst of economic times. City government should be working to create an environment conducive to the private investment and job creation necessary for the long-term stability of our community. (Heck, all levels of government should be doing that but we'll concentrate on the City for now). This program works against those goals in a big way.

We'll be opposing this proposal when the issue comes up at the Commission level, and if necessary at the Council. We urge you to do the same.

Our message....."We like art...we like the system the way it works now...enough already with the added taxes...!"

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Good morning're on the air"

I've become one of those people. Yup...I phoned into a national radio program. Not because I wanted 15 seconds of fame, but because they asked a question that was intriguing. So I called in and talked to "Big D and Bubba".

The question was "If you could hook up your spouse to a lie-detector, what question would you ask"? Of course, they ruled-out a couple of questions that they didn't want to hear on the radio which would have resulted in way too much information, even from people you don't know.

Even so, some of the answers were just lame. So I called to give them my anonymous 2-cents worth. I told them that "I would ask how I could best make him happy every day for the rest of his life".

Now please understand...I'm no saint, and I'm certainly not a Stepford Wife. I'm just really practical. From my point of view couples that work to make each other happy stay married. Simple as that. And because I'm going to be working to make him happy, I want to make sure I'm not wasting my time on stuff he doesn't really care about. (There's that practical thing again.) It just makes sense to me that I find out what works and concentrate my efforts there.

I think most people would be much happier in ALL their relationships if they took that advice to heart. Work hard to make other people happy, and concentrate on the stuff that works. Sometimes that means you need to ask.

I feel the same way about my work. Businesses that choose to participate in the Chamber of Commerce have entered into a partnership (relationship) with us and it's important that we work hard to make them happy in that partnership. But how do I know what makes them happy?

It would be easy to do what we've always done and just call it "good". But like the answers I heard on the radio that morning, that seems pretty lame to me.

I would rather reach out and ask the questions. "What do you need?" "How can we help?" "What makes a difference to you and what doesn't?"

Particularly in these challenging economic times, nobody has the extra staff, money or energy to do things that don't really matter to the people you share relationships with. I know I don't.

So...I'll just keep asking. What is it we can do to make you happy every day?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Better Late Than Never

The good news from the State of the Union Address last night was the President Obama's assertion that jobs will be the number one focus of the Administration in 2010. Thank heavens. Washington is at least a year late coming to the party, but at least they've finally sent their RSVP. Hope springs eternal that they will pick up the jobs banner and run like the wind. Creating long term, sustainable private-sector jobs is the only sure way out of this economic mess.

This has been the Chico Chamber of Commerce message for decades. Successful business makes everything else possible! So in case any of them are listening...we don't care if it's an election year for you or not...roll up your sleeves and get some real work done to help the private sector create some jobs. Stay focused and get it done. Millions of jobless American's are counting on you.

We can only hope that Sacramento was listening too! California legislators are notorious for creating legislation that makes it nearly impossible for private business to easily succeed. The most recent example of this is SB 657 (Steinberg-D). This bill would mandate that "every retail seller and manufacturer doing business in this state develop, maintain and implement a policy addressing the eradication of slavery and human trafficking from their supply chain." Holy Cow.

The Chico Chamber of Commerce opposes this bill. I am confident that the business community collectively opposes slavery, human trafficking and the abusive treatment of workers. However, this legislation makes California employers responsible for the actions of businesses with which they have no contractual relationships, usually located in other countries.

The legislation also calls for the formation of a new commission of political appointees, whose authority includes charging fees to California companies they find non-compliant with the rules they create. Hmmmmmm.

This is exactly the type of legislation we are talking about when we call for the elimination of burdensome, punitive, expensive laws that make it so darned unattractive to do business in California.

How bad does the economy have to get before Sacramento begins to understand that they are they are not only killing the goose that lays the golden egg, they are cooking it and serving it up on skewers! For goodness sake...stop the madness...we can't afford it anymore!

Successful business makes everything else possible. Come on...say it with me....SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS MAKES EVERYTHING ELSE POSSIBLE.

Can you hear us now?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Disappointed and Concerned

On Tuesday night this week, the City Council filled two important posts on the City's powerful Architectural Review Board (ARB) and Airport Commissions. I was disappointed to learn that a very qualified, long-time resident of Chico with years of experience in landscape design was passed over for the spot on the ARB. The reason he was not appointed, according to news reports of the interview process, was the potential for conflicts of interest that may arise if he serves on this board.

I'm sure the young woman appointed instead is bright and dedicated, even if she has absolutely no experience in the field of architecture, design or visual arts. But that isn't why I'm concerned.

It appears at first glance that folks who operate private business are now unilaterally ineligible to serve on Boards and Commissions based on the fact that their private business may, at some time or another, cause a conflict of interest with the work for the City. That's a bunch of hooey!

It's important to remember that City Boards and Commissions are set up to represent a cross-section of the community and serve as a bridge between average citizens and paid City staff and elected officials. It's critical that these Boards and Commissions are fully representative of the community through the 7 people who fill the seats. Right now it feels like the voice of business is being slowly eliminated from some of the critical decisions being made.

I served for 8 years as a member of the City Planning Commission during which time I was employed by a locally owned financial institution. From time to time, one of the banks clients would have a project before the Planning Commission. When that happened I would disclose the conflict of interest and excuse myself from the vote. Simple as that.

It may have happened more often than some people liked, but I will tell you that I participated in far more decisions than I sat out on, and I believe I brought a lot of real life, professional experience to the Commission.

It seems now, however, that the Council sees any potential future opportunity for a conflict of interest to be an eliminator in the appointment process. That situation then begs the question...who DOES remain eligible to perform this important community function?

If citizens who work in private business are excluded, that leaves only government employees, students or retirees. Certainly including a mix of those folks in these important jobs is perfectly fine, but leaving private business out altogether is just wrong.

It's difficult enough to find qualified, bright, dedicated folks who are willing to give of their time and energy to serve in this capacity considering the long hours they already work to keep their business successful enough to continue paying their employees and meet their tax burden. When one of them steps forward we should be celebrating the gifts they bring to the table, the constituency they represent, and their willingness to do what's right for our community.

Instead we tell them "thanks, but no thanks".

I admit I haven't spoken to any of the Council members directly to hear their explanation of this decision. I'm sure I will in the days/weeks ahead. In the meantime I am certain that I'm voicing the views of hundreds of folks employed by private business who increasingly feel shut out of the process.

It's one thing to listen to the voices of private business and disagree with their concerns. It's something entirely different to exclude them from the conversation in the first place.

That's just plain disappointing.