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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13 Responses

  1. Doug Van Dyke February 20, 2013 / 11:19 pm
    Well said! 
  2. nka February 21, 2013 / 8:54 am
    Interesting article but there is one glaring observation missing.  This area simply does not have the leadership of a strong CEO from the private sector to give direction.  Back in the days of NCR, Mead, etc. the local CEO’s got in a room and made important decisions for the community.  They were so good at it that we took it for granted and didn’t even notice the “invisible hand”.  
    As these companies fled our area we continue to miss not only the financial investment but also the leadership that these people brought to the table.  When a business person runs something they understand that the only scorecard that counts is the bottom line.
  3. Some Guy February 21, 2013 / 11:06 am
    Until financial collapse inevitably comes, and the completely delusional form of community planning and operating comes to an abrupt halt, no amount of obvious sense will break into any equation in the Miami Valley. Our systems are all built around an infinite growth model. These teat suckers you speak of at the meeting are there to keep their jobs and ultimately, the bi-level or McMansion in the suburbs viable.

    Collapse will be our savior, because only then, will sense seem obvious, and delusions seem mad. Right now, it’s bass-ackwards.

  4. Dr. Funkenstein February 21, 2013 / 12:33 pm
    If Jack Dustin is the answer we are in trouble!  I had that idiot as a professor as WSU.  He is your typical never spent a day in the real word phd that has spent his whole life in the classroom.  He could not advise  someone how to run a small business but we turn to people like that on how to run a county?  That is why failure is always the outcome. 
  5. truddick February 21, 2013 / 9:34 pm
    I have to question the statement “not everyone is college material”…I think that anyone is capable (absent a real learning disability).
    The question is, does everyone NEED to be college material?  The answer obviously is no, but everyone who wants a bright future needs something in the realm of professional training.  Yes, I teach college, but I’m aware that a good construction worker is as intellectually capable and educated as any of our graduates–just in a different realm.
    Yes, in two years the technical skills we teach will be somewhat outdated. I always remember my college years (hint; they started when the Beatles broke up) when technical schools advertised that you could prepare for a high-demand career if you just took their card-punch programs.  In less than 10 years, punch-cards were history, magnetic media (floppy disks) were the norm, and nobody needed a certificate to do that job.
    Our higher ed should focus on teaching students how to learn and how to solve problems.  That means the ability to read and listen, to write and speak, to distinguish objective fact from subjective opinion, to think creatively.  The old-fashioned liberal arts curriculum did that to a degree; we could do much more.
  6. David Esrati February 21, 2013 / 10:57 pm

    @Thomas- I agree with this part of your statement:

    Our higher ed should focus on teaching students how to learn and how to solve problems.  That means the ability to read and listen, to write and speak, to distinguish objective fact from subjective opinion, to think creatively.  The old-fashioned liberal arts curriculum did that to a degree; we could do much more.

    But- I think that should be the goal of a HIGH SCHOOL EDUCATION- and unfortunately, that’s our first failure.

    Steve Jobs, Bill Gates- both did OK without a college degree. The goal of a great education system- of any sort- is to create the love of learning and the ability to reason and decipher the bull. Unfortunately- we’re too busy leaving no child untested- and not enough time teaching them to draw, dance, sing and debate.

    That’s how we end up with a room of 300 people who can’t question the drivel that’s being fed to them with stupid slogans like “Learn to earn”

  7. Bipartisanman February 22, 2013 / 1:11 am
    As a whole we do lag behind in education. I know this article is specific to Mont. Co. But why are the new education models so ludicrous? From what I gather, they are loosely (but not too loosely) based on the education systems of the two dozen or so nations that excel beyond American’s in math and science. It may be hard to predict exactly what specific jobs we should be aspiring to for the future. However it is clear that the future is math and science. Are trade schools not emphasized as much as college too? I thought they were. I agree with you that criticism is always necessary, for that is how we learn and progress, but to be so opinionated in one single direction is not beneficial to anyone. Thank you for taking time to express your views.
  8. David Esrati February 22, 2013 / 7:02 am

    Welcome Bipartisanman. “to be so opinionated in one single direction is not beneficial to anyone”- really? I could give you examples of things to be opinionated on in one single direction that are commonplace- guns, gays, taxes, abortion- people have these positions all the time and we let them dictate way too much of our political speech.

    Would it have been bad to speak up vehemently against the Nazis? How about against slavery? Or for Civil Rights?

    Our education system is lagging behind- but “learn to earn” is just another bad buzz phrase in education- like “No child left behind” which hasn’t worked at all.

    Seth Godin shared his thoughts on becoming gifted this am:

    Actually, it goes the other way

    Wouldn’t it be great to be gifted? In fact…

    It turns out that choices lead to habits.

    Habits become talents.

    Talents are labeled gifts.

    You’re not born this way, you get this way.

    via Seth’s Blog: Actually, it goes the other way.

    Inspiration is a hard emotion to sell.

    I’m sure you’ve heard “keeping up with the joneses” as a term to explain how a community can push people to achieve. We’re going to have to change our social norm, our community perception to see a change in our educational attainment. We need to put smart people- really smart people, front and center- ones who think, do and create. Not the “it takes a herd to be heard” mentality of that room (that expression was first uttered to me by Paul Woodie- who at one time was the most creative thinker in Dayton City Hall- back in 1989 or so- it stuck).

    For another view on education- and educational reform:

  9. David Lauri February 22, 2013 / 10:42 am
    You should scan and post the “huge binder of the 20/20 vision that was done around 1999.”  That’d be fun to look at.
  10. David Esrati February 22, 2013 / 11:02 am

    @David Lauri- hmmmm- maybe I will. So much to do right now though. Thanks

  11. Donald Phillips February 22, 2013 / 12:23 pm
    Mr. Esrati is a poison weed  and a bourgeois individualists!  It’s time for him to undergo political reeducation. I order you, Mr. Esrati,  to read the collected works of Richard Florida and the Pol Pot Omnibus! Afther that you must confess your capitalist roader tendencies in a struggle session overseen by the Gang of Metroids!
  12. jstults February 24, 2013 / 8:34 am
    The NAP has a new report on ‘Building the Ohio Innovation Economy‘ out, this part on local government sounded familiar:

    …Ohio is a state with antiquated governance systems and high costs. “These detract from the innovation focus we need, from business development, and tends to promote interlocal competition and ‘poaching’ that undercuts regional competitive capacity.” She said that 86 percent of states have fewer governments per 100 square miles than Ohio.  The state suffers from a confusing combination of historic factors and modern sprawl. In the early agricultural economy, county lines were drawn so that one could travel to the county seat and home again in a horse and buggy from anywhere in the county in one day. Agrarian economies were more localized, and not easily compatible with today’s global economy based in metro regions. Land consumption, or sprawl, has outpaced population growth, and sprawl without population growth results in more local government.

    […]

    Ms. Brachman listed several suggested ways to bring about local governance reform. First, creation of a Governance Reform Commission, which would collect data and monitor the growth and needs of those governments.  Second, she suggested the creation of a framework for pooling resources regionally, a form of revenue sharing in which “the state needs to be playing a much bigger role. We also need to make mergers, consolidation, shared services, and alternative governance structures more ‘permissive.’” In many cases, she said, even if mergers of small government entities were shown to be desirable, as between a city and county. They are not permitted under state law. Finally, she suggested that more data needs to be collected on local government costs.  All of these steps, she said, must be taken “in the service of creating a more innovative environment and reducing the costs that undercut our competitiveness.”

    Is it really against the law?

  13. David Esrati February 24, 2013 / 4:01 pm

    @Jstults- yes- reorganizing the provisions of the Northwest Ordinance from 1785 is illegal. We like to keep things in the musket age here in Ohio.

    Thanks for finding that quote- it’s right on the money- and here we are trying to add another layer of bureaucracy with a Council of Governments… argh!

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