Political Bites : Does Arizona Spend Too Much on Prisons?

Does Arizona spend too much, too little or about the right amount of money on prisons, and why?

Arizona is definitely spending too much on prisons.  In 2010, we were spending almost $1 billion or 11% of general fund on corrections.  Arizona’s prison growth rate has outpaced every other state in the Nation finding 1 out of every 170 Arizona’s in prison.  It is time we start diverting more nonviolent, low-risk offenders to home arrest, probation or other more inexpensive forms of punishment/rehabilitation.

What Makes Gangplank Magical?

For a while there was a #whygp push going on to ask people what made Gangplank unique to them.  You can see the results at What is Gangplank.  The truth is, Gangplank is magical.  It is often cited as being so, but rarely does anyone try to explain it.  So here is my feeble attempt.

Gangplank is a community of creators that fuses family life, civic life, creating and earning a living into this unique blend where anything is possible.  The support and tenderness offered is counter balanced by a gruff and forceful exterior making participation daunting to most.

Recently Gangplank’s executive director, Katie Hurst, took the next step in her journey and headed to Portland with her husband, Tyler Hurst.  What would your family do if one of it’s children were leaving the nest to explore what the rest of what life had in store for them?  What rite of passage would you embark on?  At Gangplank the choice was made by, Amanda Blum, to transform the space into the Land of Oz for the day.

Gangplank Oz

Photo by James Archer.

Could there be a more a beautiful metaphor for the magic of Gangplank than the Wizard of Oz?   Much like Dorothy when you first set foot into Gangplank your entire world is transformed.  Regardless of what tornado brought you through the doors, you find something different about this world.  It has a quality that tends to comfort while providing endless possibility.  The playfulness of munchkins pervades the space, often making you think perhaps you have landed back in middle school.  While the wicked witch may be looming or lurking in any number of forms, you are encouraged to keep exploring and finding the truth you are looking for.

Along the way you are sure to make friends that make the journey exciting and attainable.  They will have their own quirks.  Each searching for their own selves, but thats okay you are all in it together.  Eagerly anticipating each part of the journey.  Whether you stuff your brain with knowledge along the way, find your courage to be the creator longing to escape from within or find the passion to fuel you to your destiny or whether you are just looking for home.  You will find what you are looking for in the end.  It will never be what you really expected.

The status quo and her band of flying monkeys will guard the castle of the entrenched, but with your new friends you will brave the storm and push forward to victory.  When you have conquered the walls of your former cubicle, your own self doubt and the mediocrity of the norm.  You will have learned that the magic of Gangplank was in you all along.  Once you have been to Oz it will always be a part of you, same with Gangplank.

Don’t believe me?  How else can you explain the above group of connected souls literally floating across the canvas of Downtown Chandler on their journey home?  Sometimes it pays to believe in magic.

Political Bites: Housing Prices Up, Good For Economy?

Housing prices are up, but supply is low. Is that good or bad for the economy?

At this point housing prices are the least of our economic problems. The looming student loan bubble, currently nearing a trillion dollars and up by $663 billion since 2003, is a far bigger threat to our economic stability. Compound this with the horrible job market that graduates are leaving school to enter and it is cause for concern. If we thought the housing bubble hurt, wait until this sucker pops.

Political Bites : Are Rising Tuition Costs Making You Change College Plans?

I Can't Believe It!

Are increasing tuition costs making you rethink college plans for yourself or your children?

The combination of escalating costs and 20th century learning models have begun to make attending post secondary institutions less appealing for most potential students. Students are leaving with higher student loan debt and entering a market that doesn’t value their diploma. It is becoming more difficult to encourage my children to enter the university system, soon even the community college system will be unreasonable. It is time that we confronted a system that is clearly broken.

When It Comes to Community Building, It is the Small Things

drops of spring

I alternate between listening to podcasts and audiobooks on my travels around Arizona in the car (and RV).  I find myself regularly adding new podcasts and removing existing podcasts.  My five favorite current podcasts are HBR Ideacast, Story Tellers AZ, Don’t Sell Me Bro, The ScrumCast and Haste. Three of those five happen to be recorded at Gangplank Studios.  Which reminds me that I am surrounded by really smart people everyday.  That makes me happy.  However, this morning it dawned on me that the intro/outro music for some of those podcasts were done by Hepnova and KrysVS.  Many are produced by the Spellwight the Podcasting Wench.  Just another example of people exchanging talents and raising the boat.  The power of a community studio in effect.  I can’t wait for the music studio. Maybe it’s just me but it’s the little things in the community that make me happy.

It is easy to get depressed about the lack of vibrancy around Arizona.  It can feel hopeless at times.  However, if you look at the little things, the moments of clarity and serendipity.  Notice the people doing awesome around you.  Those struggling, trying and fighting for something better.  It makes it all worth it.

I am reminded today the teachings of Lao-tzu, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.  Arizona we have a long way to go, but we definitely walking towards the goal.

In the words of Gary Smalley, “Arizona you are good enoughsmart enough, and doggone it, people like you!”


10 Steps for Planning a Great Event

The most difficult part about planning an event is knowing where to start. At Gangplank, we plan a lot of events. We have created a simple process that allows us to jump right into planning.

We assemble those involved in the event planning (it could be 1 person or 20) in a room with a white board. We put each of the following 10 steps up as columns on the white board. We start on left (first step) and work our way to the right. The steps are in an order because generally knowing the item(s) in previous steps makes answering the following steps easier.

  1. Purpose: This is where you brain storm the “why”. What is the goal of this event. Why do you want to do it? What does success look like?
  2. Audience: Based on our purpose who do we invite to the event? This can a list of specific people or as board as general groups. (ex: Phoenix Area CEOs)
  3. Format: What is the format of this event? Is it a traditional one track conference? Multiple track? Open Space? Bar Camp? Is it multiple day? Half-Day? Weekday? Weekend?
  4. Content: What are the primary topics? If you were to do a call for speakers what would you want them to speak about?
  5. Schedule: Since you know the format, you should be able to set a loose schedule. This helps give you an idea of how long to make sessions and how many there will be. Whether to include breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc.
  6. Venue: Since you know the format, audience and schedule you should now be able to brainstorm a number of potential venues. Be liberal here, because you will need options.
  7. Speakers: This is a brainstorm of potential speakers you would like to invite to the event to speak, assuming your format requires it. This could also be persona’s of type of speakers you would like to accept on an open call for papers.
  8. Time Frame: This can be a very specific date or it can be a general time frame (ex: early March 2012). This will allow you start finding a venue. Generally the closer the event the more specific this will be.
  9. Sponsors: Who will help make this event happen. We usually split this into three categories. Media sponsors, those that help us get the word out. Partners, those that let us use resources (including their mailing list). Financial sponsors, those that are financially contributing.
  10. Determine Next Steps: Now that you have all this brainstorming done. You create a punch list of action items to do based on what has been discovered.

We find that this exercise takes anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour. Tasks can usually be distributed and fairly quickly the event is ready for promotion.

Unlock Your Inner Creator. Make Something Today.

We are wired to create. It is in our DNA. We have it systematically beaten out of us on a regular basis. We are told we aren’t good enough to try things. We lose our curiousity and our ability experiment with things we don’t understand.

As the new year approaches, consider getting back in touch with your inner creator. Make something in the new year. Try out a new medium. Get uncomfortable.

There are plenty of places in Arizona to get support in your creative endeavors. Stop by The Lab 137, Heatsync Labs, Maker Bench, Gangplank (Chandler, Tucson, Avondale) to be inspired and meet people fighting to let their inner creator out.

Chandler Center for the Arts.. A Place to Arrive

Recently, I was asked to sit in on a visioning session for the Chandler Center for the Arts (CCA). The report from those meetings has been published. You can find it here.

Muchilottu Bhagavathy Theyyam
CCA should be applauded for not resting on it’s laurels and understanding that it must adapt for the future. Taking the time to get community feedback is something so many organizations/facilities fail to do.

The recognition that the audience is changing and that educational components have to be address in order succeed is a great first step. Understanding that the facility, current partners and programming all need to be challenged to fight the status quo is key.

The report covers in detail the dynamics of Chandler’s community, demographics, business/lifestyle trents, the role of arts/culture, building on a strong foundation, preparing for the future and managing dynamic tensions.

If you care about Arts/Culture in your city, run a an arts organization or want to understand the dyanmics at play, this report is a must read.