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Tuesday
Oct282014

Why I'm Voting No on CoMo Proposition 1

While I support the idea of additional police and firefighters for the City of Columbia, I will be voting NO on Proposition 1 on 11/4.

The proposition being put forth by proponents is easy enough to understand: although Columbia has grown from about 84,500 people in 2000 to 115,000 today, our police force is about the same as it was in 2000, and proponents argue we need to increase property taxes to add public safety personnel.

However, this seems to me to be a case of poor fiscal management on the part of the city being made to be the problem of taxpayers.

One would suspect that an increase in population would bring with it an increase in tax revenue, and it has. A quick look at the numbers shows that the total city budget increased from $178 million in 2000 to nearly $390 million in 2014 - a 119% increase.

However, our police department budget from 2000 to 2014 only increased from $11 million to $19.9 million - just an 81% increase.

Looking at more recent comparisons, it becomes clear that the city has decided to make funding increases for other city departments a priority at the expense of the police department. From 2012 to 2014, city council administrative expenses increased 312%. Administrative expenses for the city managers office increased 38%. Our convention & tourism fund increased 29%. Our police department funding increased 5%.

Despite having a city with explosive growth, the city hasn't made growing the police department a priority with the revenues they already have. Now they want the taxpayers to carry the burden of paying more.

To be fair to the tax increase proponents, I conducted my research in less than a half hour by glancing at a few city budgets. I'm sure it can be argued that the truth is more complicated. In fact, I know it is.

But the numbers are real numbers. They are in black and white for everyone to see. Until the city convinces me that that there are absolutely no other alternatives to increasing the staffing level of our police department (i.e. cutting back in other areas we don't need), my vote is a firm NO on Proposition 1.

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Monday
Sep012014

Twitter Analytics Tools Now Available for Everyone

If you're a stat geek, and you're on Twitter, be prepared for your mind to be blown. Twitter is now making account analytics available to everyone with an account.

As Media Bistro reports, the service had only previously been available to those with paid accounts or verified accounts.

Now you can see just how much influence your Tweets are having. You can find the analytic site at http://analytics.twitter.com.

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Monday
Aug182014

23 Things I Hate About the Ferguson Story

This Ferguson story is awful. Watching an American city turned into a warzone, night after night, takes its toll. Here are 23 things I hate about the Ferguson story, in no particular order.

  1. I hate that a young kid lost his life..

  2. I hate that his family is grieving.

  3. I hate that this is happening right down the road from me. 

  4. I hate that the Ferguson police department has refused to release information unless it makes the young man who lost his life look bad (don't say that you don't want to spoil witnesses but then make an attempt to spoil witnesses).

  5. I hate the fact that, although the timing of it's release is suspect, people want to try to pretend that the video showing the shooting victim robbing the store is irrelevant (goes directly to his state of mind and charachter).

  6. I hate the fact that the local police response to the resulting protests have sometimes been heavy handed without cause.

  7. I hate the fact that the police have sometimes been heavy handed, with cause, because they've been shot at.

  8. I hate that some are taking out their frustrations on all police officers.

  9. I hate the fact that the police officer's life is being threatened. 

  10. I hate the fact that people are blindly assuming that the police officer committed murder without knowing all of the facts.

  11. I hate the fact that people are blindly assuming that the police officer's actions were justified without knowing all of the facts.

  12. I hate the fact that people are protesting without knowing all of the facts.

  13. I hate the fact that we are slow to get all of the facts.

  14. I hate the fact that business owners are losing property and quite possibly their business.

  15. I hate the fact that innocent employees have feared for their lives while looting has taken place.

  16. I hate the fact that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are quick to come into town and make quick speeches, but are nowhere to be found after dark to try to calm down restless crowds.

  17. I hate the fact that there seems to be no calming down the restless crowds that appear after dark; maybe that's why Mr. Sharpton and Mr. Jackson don't bother to show up.

  18. I hate the fact that journalists have been bullied by the police.

  19. I hate that journalists are in some ways just making the problem worse.

  20. I hate the fact that, "Let's find out the truth," has been replaced with, "We want an arrest right now."

  21. I hate that people will interrupt a press conference being held by the governor to demand an answer as to why he hasn't charged the cop with murder when, in fact, he can't charge anyone because he doesn't have that authority.

  22. I hate the fact that local authorities can't seem to figure out how to solve this crisis and allow peace to prevail.

  23. I hate the fact that I don't have an answer either.

This whole thing is a mess.

At some point, the good people of Ferguson need to realize that America will have to move on. Whatever point someone was able to make on whatever side will be inconsequential to the vast marjority of people paying who are giving Ferguson its 15 minutes of fame. Yet Ferguson will have to live with the consequences of whatever mess it's made for years to come.

I'm tired. It's time take a break from watching this and move on.

Ferguson, here's to hoping that your future looks brighter tomorrow.

Follow up: 3 Keys To Preventing Another Ferguson: Respecting Individuals, Their Rights and Truth. 

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Sunday
Jul202014

Have Fun Talking About Your Craft

Scene from Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee

Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee can be called a lot of things.

Entertaining - it's hilarious.

Groundbreaking - here's a guy producing a program everyone is talking about, and it's solely for the Internet.

Hip - what's more hip than people getting together for coffee in trendy urban environments?

How about adding this word to the list: inspiring.

The great thing about Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee is that it's so much more than Jerry Seinfeld, a comedian, getting together with other comedians, and talking about careers and comedy. It's a passionate discussion about the craft, and you're along for the ride.

To say the show is funny is an understatement, but it often goes beyond funny and talks about funny, and that's where the inspiration comes in. When the conversations steer towards what makes good comedy and bad comedy, or what a perfect bit looks like, they are talked about with such passion and enthusiasm that it draws you in and makes you feel like an industry insider.

So often when you watch the show, there's nothing you would rather be doing than participating in that conversation with them, going to work in that industry yourself and striving to create something amazing.

The show is a great reminder of how much more fun business is when you are around people who are passionate about it. 

  • Car dealers that are the most fun to talk to are the ones that love cars
  • Graphic designers that are the most fun to talk to are the ones who love art
  • Accountants that are the most fun to talk to are the ones who love to talk about accounting

And those are the people you want to do business with.

Going beyond simply how employees perceive and talk about their specific company, it is a key responsibility of a business's leadership to set the tone for how passionate they are for their industry and craft as a whole. Starting, participating in and encouraging passionate, fun conversations about "the biz" are sure-fire ways to draw your employees in and get them engaged in the business in ways they've never been before.

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Wednesday
Jun252014

Are You Caring for the Person or Just Treating the Disease?

Today, we hear two wildly different stories of the same event. 

A man, suffering from chest pains, has his wife drive him to the ER. The way the patient and his wife perceived the event is entirely different from the medical staff that treated him. According to NPR, the perspecitve of him and his wife:

When the man arrives in the ER, he is told to take off his shirt. He lies in the hallway, in pain, naked from the waist up. Strangers surround him. They don't introduce themselves, and they talk over him, at each other.

Pagers ring and there's a lot of beeping. Someone else must be really sick, he thinks; that must be why no one is paying attention.

After a few minutes, he signs some forms and finds himself being wheeled into an elevator. Masked figures enter. He feels a cool liquid flowing into his veins. The lights go out.

He wakes up hooked up to machines, uncertain what has happened. It takes several hours for the staff to find his wife, who is still waiting in the ER lobby and has no idea why her husband is in intensive care.

They are both surprised when they find out, two days later, that he's had a heart attack. As soon as they get home, they file a complaint with the hospital about their terrible experience.

The hospital's point of view? Within 3 minutes of arrival he's been given an electrocardiogram that determines he's having a heart attack. An emergency heart team is immediately paged, and 22 minutes from arrival he's been given a catheter in his heart (that's 20 minutes ahead of the national average). He's back at work in two weeks, even excercising, and the medical team considers his medical treatment to be a resounding success.

Leana Wen, who wrote the story for NPR, is an emergency physician who also advocates for her patients. Her thoughts on what may have caused these two very different perspectives? She says that sometimes medical teams get so caught up in treating the disease that they forget to care for the person. The patient, in this case, was receiving excellent care; it just seems nobody took the time to really let him know what was going on.

We can all take a lesson from this story. In business, it's easy to get so caught up in the technical details of performing a scope of work that we forget we're doing it for real people with wants, desires, needs and insecurities that go beyond the simple performance of a task.

Think of the bad stereotype of the IT guy Jimmy Fallon played on Saturday Night Live that simply tells you to, "Move!" before fixing your computer. Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of that kind of service, so it's important to never be the kind of person who provides that kind of service. 

That means listening when it's time to listen. 

That means walking people through things on their terms at their level when they aren't understanding.

People need to have buy-in. They need to know what's going on. They need to be cared for.

As people.

Do that and they'll think so much better of their experiences with you.

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