Category Archives: Uncategorized

Guns, Shootings at Schools, and What Is Being Positioned as ‘Debates’

Ribbon-blackOnce again, our communities are about to proceed down the road of discussing guns, gun laws, reform of guns policy, the Second Amendment… and then end up with a whole lot of nothing.

The cynic in us all immediately goes to this sensibility, but that cynic is also that part of you that can remember. It can remember Virginia Tech. It can remember Columbine. It can remember Sandy Hook.

I am forever amazed by our cycle that seems to follow when these terrible tragedies occur. In this case, we point ourselves to Oregon and to Umpqua Community College. The media coverage begins, on scene stills and overhead helicopter video is presented, experts in law enforcement, FBI profiling, grief counseling, and advocacy (for the gun lobby as well as victims’ organizations) take their positions in the split screen along with show hosts juggling the interview with new information coming at them in their ear pieces. Then, the press conferences launch. Local law enforcement. Elected officials. Advocacy organizations. Faith-based support systems. Congressional leaders, with aids-in-tow, arriving in open collared shirts and fleece vests. American Red Cross and other impacting nonprofit organization mobilizes and call out for volunteers, monies, blood donations.

Congress moves to “debate” – but not where it counts (on the floor of Congress seriously considering policy improvements) but in the ratings arena. MSNBC and Fox. CNN and CSpan. And while all of this is happening, the new “news cycle” has been churning and churning – social media. Tweets, posts, blogs (just like this one) flood our inboxes, news feeds, and notifications.

ribbon_columbineThen… it ends. As quickly as it happens, we all collectively seem to go in a state of reset. Like someone just decides that this was enough time and energy and now it is appropriate to place this on the shelf, and charge its battery to be ready to go when the next “senseless tragedy” occurs in a place where no one would expect. In THEIR community.

Why are we challenged to make strides far beyond the latest PPP poll or Washington Post poll? How is it that a nation of leaders and laws cannot find itself the strength and perseverance to examine, in true honesty and soul-searching clarity, our policies and find ways to reduce these kinds of episodes?

I am not a fool. I fully recognize that these things happen for a myriad of reasons: gun laws, regulations, de-regulations, states’ laws v. federal laws, our mental healthcare (or lack thereof) in particular areas or socioeconomic classes, traditions, regional biases or norms, the list can go on forever. But these, ALL OF THESE, are but self-imposed barriers to impact. Our debates move the conversation from potential action to political rhetoric. It seems like the challenge is to position within a political ideology and represent a voting block base than actually “hear” the other side’s ideas and questions, or to at least try to understand the counter-position and find some kind of common ground to establish something – anything – that looks like leadership.

Ribbon_VTInstead, the two sides dig in. Score points with the proper talking points and ideology. Speak to the base. Enter the echo chamber. Rinse. Repeat.

President Obama has had far too many press conferences when his combination of sadness, angst, and pure frustration over no tangible changes that might – MIGHT – help reduce these unthinkable event from occurring show through. And before you pin me as being an “apologist” for Democrats or for this President, let me just say this sense of far too many press conferences would be that same if the President was a Republican. There are just too many. FAR too many.

Rhetoric become meaningless when it simply appears it is being said, but no one truly senses actionable passion behind it. We have all experienced this on the mundane level. When someone asks you “how are you?” in small talk, we know this isn’t really, truly, the time to express your deepest darkest challenges that you’ve been facing since last time you met your friend. It is rhetoric base upon the social contract of introduction, of small talk.

Sadly, this cycle inside this “senseless tragedy” narrative is becoming that way to many of us. To ME.

Yes, the democrats will empathize, then call for gun law reform, push for greater mental healthcare, and look to ban weapons that have no place in a personal arsenal (unless you DO think a AR-15 is needed to take down a deer..really?)
Yes, the republicans will empathize, then call for stricter enforcement of existing laws while also protecting the 2nd Amendment, positioning that it was a person, not the gun, that made the choice to rampage, and guns are a right for all for their defense.
And yes, somewhere else in the cycle, the fringes will demand ALL weapons be banned; while others will suggest arming EVERYONE under the guise of total protection… plus a million other ridiculous schemes.

Ribbon_sandy-hookBut do you know what’s really missing in all of this? LISTENING. True listening. To me, the essence of statesmanship. Being able to hear what the opposition is saying (and what they are NOT saying), then making a plausible, sensible counter-argument to move the conversation to resolution, negotiation or further debate. We don’t “debate” things like this. We argue without listening. We preach to the choir. We show our base how much we are with them in “our” camp.

These victims deserve better.

So I ask our local, state, and federal leadership to challenge each other to a debate. A TRUE DEBATE. Where we can force ourselves to face these terrible facts about guns, school shootings, and our society. Face it head-on, without scoreboard watching, but rather opposition LISTENING… and building better policy to protect our children, our families, and our communities.

I hope to see this soon. Because this cycle will eventually come to its end. And then we will wait. Wait, sadly, for the next Breaking News “Senseless Tragedy.”


WIIFM & NIMBY: Sadly, That’s Not A New Cartoon Show

When talking about any kind of economic and community development, the conversation very quickly turns to two major factors: where and how much money?  It’s as natural as when greeting someone you instantly ask “how are you?”

Sadly though, these questions in economic development aren’t generally meant out of concern or care in the macro – it’s out of two schools of thought a little more micro:

What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) and Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY).ffbarneyhit

These two concepts dominate many conversations about community development, and though it is hard to tell someone that is often the cause of much gridlock and reduces creativity.. welp, there they are, both just sitting out there like two cartoon characters beating themselves up with those overgrown mallets on the head.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the reasoning.

You DO want to see growth in a city, but I want it to be on what I WANT here, not what the larger community might NEED (WIIFM).

You DO want to clean up the streets of the “homeless and the riff-raff” but I just don’t WANT to have that shelter or rehab center in my neighborhood… and I definitely don’t WANT to have to pay more for it (NIMBY).

It is so natural to pull these two cards, that sometimes I think we almost feel compelled to start with WIIFM and NIMBY quotes – you know, just to get the ball rolling.

I talked about this beforeand suggested that we all must reassess what it means to discuss public policy. The “public” in public policy is the key part here. There is no one-size-fits-all to many of our challenges that we face. And too often because of this, our policy discussions tend to trend into the idea of “my way or I hate it” feelings versus “consensus.”  We can’t design a system that will support and be liked by everyone… they just don’t exist. Yet, our debates seem to want to keep that expectation alive, and it stems creativity.. and most importantly LISTENING.

Full disclosure. I’m of a couple of ethnic backgrounds that gave me two wonderful personality traits: (1) I LOVE to argue and debate; and (2) I REALLY LOVE to win said arguments and will continue them until I do (believe me, my WAY-BETTER-HALF fiancee will back me up on this one). So I might not be the best person to be suggesting out loud that everyone needs to get over their individual feeling, suck it up, and realize that the reality is you can’t win them all and move on!

On the contrary, I’m suggesting EXACTLY that – but with one caveat.

Once consensus is made, then we shift gears into creative way to bring that policy to life… together.

Community development is like BBQ: best cooked slow and low. But in that time of development, there’s a ton of space for creativity and adjustment. A little paprika here, a dash of onion powder there. A sprinkle of town hall comments here. An extra spoonful of group creative time there… like more time for an “Idea Break.”

THAT’S where community development can mature. When we move into creative design of the policy into practice.

And yes, that might mean it won’t have much in it for YOU. And truthfully, it might be in YOUR back yard.

But that’s the building blocks of community. Sometimes you get an extra helping of that sweet sweet BBQ on the plate. Some other times you get that cartoon mallet to the head (but don’t worry, it’s a cartoon one, they in fact don’t hurt at all).  It’s amazing what we can all solve once we all realize we’re on the same side, just coming at the challenge from different angles, persuasions, and slants. We just want a great community, that’s all.

Warners_mallets_WBSo next time a public policy debate pops up in your local paper or your Facebook news feed, I challenge you to put the mallet down, don’t worry about your own personal interest and back yard for one brief moment, and ask yourself “how can I contribute some good home ingredients to this special sauce.” Leave the WIIFM and NIMBY to the guys at Cartoon Network to figure out.