MCOFuture: Groundhog day groupthink for the last generation

I walked out. Couldn’t take it any more. Sitting in a room with 300+ people rehashing the dreams of a future that will never come, thanks to their inability to see what’s right in front of them.

MCOFuture was the brainshild of our County Commission- a grand plan to follow to make everything successful- by copying others, by doing what others did and without admitting that structurally we’re built to fail.

The first “brilliant” idea is a “Council/Congress of Governments” or CoG. I almost lost it when they cited an example in Northern Alabama that encompasses 5 counties with 45 jurisdictions. We’ve got 1 county and 28 or 29 (does it matter- it’s too many). The goal they are pursuing on this is to create yet ANOTHER layer of quasi-governmental bureaucracy to make the many march as one. Of course, we saw how well that worked with the 911 project. The key, according to Jack Dustin of Wright State is to make sure the organization is crafted to last. What we really need is to construct an organization to start eliminating other organizations. We can start with eliminating urban villages and townships in the county, we can follow up with unified schools, and finish with eliminating city governments and moving to a true Countywide unified government- but alas, that would put all the politicians and their patronage job lackeys out of work, and that was almost the entire room.

Next up was Sinclair touting “work force development” and training for jobs of the future- so we can lure employers here with our abundant, well trained labor force. Of course, the problem is figuring out what exactly the “jobs of the future” will be and what we’ll concentrate on. County Administrator Joe Tuss talked about advanced manufacturing as one, and logistics and distribution. I almost have to laugh when one friend on Facebook (RD- I’m talking about you) reminded me that at one time we were going to be a center for composites, and lately it’s been RFID and drones- excuse me- UAVs.

Here’s the problem- the speed of change right now is faster than you can prepare for. Who predicted the Internet 20 years ago having the effects it does now? Who trained for it? Exactly.

The reality is we’ve been pouring money into Sinclair Community College for a long time. It’s a leader in inexpensive education and training and still, you don’t see companies flocking to Dayton to do their thing.

The final straw was listening to Dr. Learn To Earn, Tom Lasley, talking about how everyone else is already ahead of us. We have to catch up with others and invest in pre-K education and create graduates ready to earn. It’s really funny that he’s saying this today as the New York Times has a story about having a bachelor’s degree to be a file clerk. I think the people in the room are on the right track to increase employment- keep making more bureaucracy so we can hire more dolts who believe that government can solve these problems at this level.

Let me explain why “Learn to Earn” isn’t just a lame slogan, but a total turd.

  • Not everyone is college material. Lasley talked about the lack of the GM job for life working in a factory without a degree being a thing of the past. If everyone has a college degree, or a master’s or even a Ph.D. it doesn’t make a bit of a difference, we still have an economy that isn’t designed to be fair. Our country is allowing the economy to be run like a game of Monopoly- where the goal is to own everything and bankrupt the other players. That’s our definition of winning- and as long as that’s the goal, there is no hope for the low skilled or even the middle class. Until we move to a system that rewards those who create the most jobs- instead of creating the most value in a stock market that’s run like a casino- we’re toast.
  • The other thing about learning that seems to have been lost in both “Learn to Earn” and “No Child Left Behind” is that learning isn’t something you do up to a certain level and stop. Either you’re a person who learns and loves to learn- because you value the gifts we’ve all been granted, or you don’t. Education isn’t everything- and especially the institutionalized educational factory model we’ve built and accepted as the standard. Someone smart in the audience asked what happened to apprentice programs? There used to be a day when you could become an architect that way- but, we legislated that away. Our idea of education as a product of a process has to go away. We have to become a community that values smart individuals, that rewards those who think for themselves. This meeting was a case study in follow the herd. #FAIL
  • Lasley did point out that India has more honor students than we have students. This is why we have to look at local economies as local ecosystems and find ways to reach maximum employment utilizing local labor, capital, resources. I look to my friend James Kent who is “deconstructing homes” using ex-offenders to create value- both in employing those whom others won’t and by the creative recycling of what others consider a nuisance. He calls his business a “social enterprise.” We need to look to create our own value with what we have. And- it’s got to be for all, not just those who read and write well.

Why the future has to begin in the present

I’ve been to too many of these visioning meetings. I have a huge binder of the 20/20 vision that was done around 1999 (I think)- and nothing became of it. So here’s the suggestion of how we really deal with these issues:

We stop expecting government to solve problems government wasn’t supposed to deal with. Do you see any mention of economic development in the Constitution?

Why do we have to do all these things to make this a great place to live, work and play? It’s already a great place to do all that- we just have way too many “leaders” wasting our time and money on overhead- instead of on delivering best-in-class services to our citizens. There were 300 people in that room- that we waste money on electing, where we could probably elect 15 to run the entire shooting match- and put all the rest of the money into making sure our roads are paved, our parks are beautiful, the police and fire are best in class, that we have great schools (that focus on learning for learning’s sake- instilling the values of integrity, rigor of thought and a higher purpose for mankind than to just win at Monopoly).

If we did the fundamentals right, with lower overhead, don’t you think companies would want to move here, invest here, raise a family here? It’s as if the people we elect thrive on pointing out what we don’t have, instead of improving on what we do have.

The fastest way to success is to build on strengths, not to spend all your efforts on fixing the deficiencies. Unfortunately, we’ve elected a crew of people who don’t know how to think for themselves and lead us to excellence.

That’s the first thing we need to change if we want a future in Dayton, OH.

(And one other note- it’s sad that in that huge crowd, talking about the future- I was the only one tweeting it. You can’t invent your future if you can’t use the tools we have today.)



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