Don’t Blame the Cars, Blame the Urban Planners

People complain about parking a lot.  The suburbanite complains that there is not enough parking when there is not an open parking space within 10 feet of the strip mall merchant they want to do business with.  The urban champion rants that motor vehicles are the spawn of Satan and that asphalt gardens littering metro Phoenix only encourage the car obsession.  Both groups can raise a fair amount of sympathy in their own camp.

However, it is not the cars or the parking lots that are the real problem.  The real problem is that city planners in the SouthWest have forgotten how to build community.  They have lost the art of creating city/neighborhood cores that provide multi-stop destinations to those that visit or live in them.  Drive by any large mall and you will find people not complaining about parking.  Why?  Because they stay there for 2 to 6 hours.  Walking for 5 minutes when you stay for that long is no big deal.  It’s time we recreate city/neighborhood cores that allow for someone to park and spend a reasonable amount of time exploring, shopping, playing and dining.

It’s time we provided enough value that parking and having to walk a few blocks is not an issue.  If we start there it will only be a matter of time before people choose to regularly inhabit these cores.  When that happens dependence on the car will wane.  We must stop fighting the symptom (car dependence) and start attacking the cause (poor urban planning).  We must embrace the city we are in if we wish to obtain the city we want to become.  We live in a car dominated culture, asking people to people to quit the car cold turkey is unrealistic.  Giving them options to use the car less is reasonable.

How can you affect planning in your city to reduce car dominance and restore community?

Taste Chandler this Oktoberfest

It’s has been a whirlwind of activity this past month as construction on Gangplank 3.0 is getting underway and the widening of Arizona Avenue is coming a end.  This weekend is the 3rd Annual San Tan Oktoberfest.  It starts at 2pm and goes until 11pm and costs $10.

If you like beer this is YOUR event. San Tan Brewing, Papago Brewing, Sonoran Brewing, Grand Canyon Brewing, Mudshark, Sun Up, and Thunder Canyon will all be in the beer garden; and a lineup of Crescent Crown’s marquee craft beers will also be available, including Ska Brewing, Avery Brewing, Fat Tire and The Lost Abbey.  Holy Brew Awesome.

There will be live music from Take Cover as well as beer olympics, a strong man competition, a sexy beer maid contest, a bratwurst eating contest, as well as kid-friendly activities and games, including bounce houses tricycle races and bag toss.

The following week is TasteChandler‘s culinary festival.  You will probably see the commercials airing this week!


The best part about both events is being able to crash at the historic San Marcos Hotel after the event.

Political Bites: Lessons from September 11th

What most lasting lesson should Southeast Valley residents take from the events of Sept. 11, 2001?

The lesson we can all learn is that a community united is capable of tremendous things.  The human spirit is caring and compassionate and extremely resilient.  We need to not wait for tragedy for a community to find its common fabric, but instead drop our personal baggage and exude that cohesiveness today.

Building Arizona’s Future: Jobs, Innovation and Competitiveness

This past April I attended the 96th Arizona Town Hall in Tucson Arizona.  The New Economy: A Guide For Arizona serves as background information on the event.  The result of the Town Hall was a set of recommendations (pdf).  Recently at Mesa Community College I was asked to speak about the experience and highlight my recommendations.  Below is my summary.

The Process

The process was good discussion, but it often felt that things were watered down quite a bit by the time they got recorded.  However, at the final session I saw the passion come back out and some good middle ground was found on a number of difficult issues.  If only our legislatures could come to agreement in this fashion.

Economic Development

Economic Development has changed.  It used to be about material resources and manufacturing infrastructure.  That is changing and now creative people are the most valuable resource.  Good companies move to where good people.  We must invest in human and social capital to be a player in the future.

Based on that I believe the following recommendations should have priority and we should concentrate on making them a reality.

Slide Rock

8. Preserve Quality of Life

We need to attract good people in the short term to fill the needs of growing companies emerging in the new economy.  Also, we need to retain the quality creators that are already here.  We can do this by preserving the quality of life.

a. Cultivate the arts, sports and other recreational amenities.

We need creatives to get involved with their local art scene.  Bring relevant programming to the great Performing Arts Centers many cities have.  Support existing programming and work to create new and diverse programs.  We need to convert empty buildings into Art galleries, centers for creation and music.

b. Preserve our natural and cultural resources.

We need to get the state legislature to restore funding to our State Park system and find ways to make sure it stays healthy.

c. Develop strong sense of place in our communities.

We need to encourage density and support third places that build a sense of place.

1. Education

We must start building our future now.  Our future lies in our youth.  We need to radically transform education to be a leader in how we restore creativity to schools.

a. Improve funding and rigorous statewide standards to meet workforce needs of business and industry.

It is time we get serious about funding schools and we restore learning to it’s roots and allow kids to explore and create.

7. Broadening the Tax Base

We need to have the proper way to pay for quality of life issues.  The best people want to live in a quality place.  We have to stop looking to be the Walmart of the world.  Low cost living, education and infrastructure attracts the people and employers that have bleak place in the future economy.

a. Implement a broad-based, diversified, and stable tax structure that does not rely disproportionately on sales tax.

We have to explore raising property taxes or finding other ways to balance providing necessary infrastructure.

11. Other Economic Development Actions

We need to grow businesses as much if not more than recruit them and then help them grow.  Jobs don’t create jobs.  Companies create jobs.  We need to focus on creating companies.

a. Fund business incubators, a competitive small grant program for start-ups and existing small businesses, and other small business assistance programs.

2. Strategic Planning

d. Address both recruitment of new businesses and retention of businesses and talent already present in Arizona.

4. Capital Formation

We need to have capital available for those companies as they grow.

d. Encourage AZ individuals, foundations, and industry to invest in an AZ “fund of funds” to provide venture captial for the early-stage development of new companies.

We need people to invest in seed funds to encourage creation of new businesses.

6. Infrastructure

We need a quality infrastructure to promote growth.

a. Create a networked business environment through advances in our transportation system and data connectivity.

12. Other Activities that Influence Economic Development

a. Pursue comprehensive, multimodal transportation planning and design programs.

Summary

Don’t wait on the state legislature, you can help do this RIGHT now.  Look to entrepreneurs to get the ball rolling.  Participate in your local government and start making a difference.  Simply voting can start to unlock necessary change.  Be active in our future!

If You Play the Numbers Game, You Will Always Lose When Trying to Change the World

Why do we focus so much on attendance numbers when trying to make change?  The truth is that numbers can deceive us and give us a false sense of progress.  Let me give you an example.

Recently and event was held in Phoenix that two or three “popular” community activists got behind to try to institute change on something.  Between these connected people they mustered up roughly 5,400 people to invite.  This includes the reach of their reach within a social graph.  If there are 3.5 million people in Phoenix, their effective reach is 00.15%.  Significantly less than 1%.  In reality, let’s cut it down to their audience, the creative class.  In Phoenix that would be about 500,000 people.  So their reach in the creative class is about 1.06%.  Roughly one percent.

Of the 5,400 people they invited to participate, 175 decided to stand behind them with another 235 saying maybe they would participate and nearly 1,254 flat out said no.  Another 3,700 were apathetic and gave no response.  If we go by numbers the organizers were proud that the day of the event 300 people showed up.  They were effective in getting 00.06% of the creative class to stand behind them.

So on the surface 300 people showing up seems great and inflates the ego, but in reality .06% is a miserable turnout.  The reason you lose when you make it a numbers game is because then the focus is only the numbers and someone who is paying attention can easily see that the numbers suck.

300 people showing up might make an organizer feel accomplished, but to the educated their delight in the numbers only highlights them as the paper tiger that they seemingly are, thus negating most momentum they seem to be gaining.  The real problem is that trying to use the attendance measuring stick is an old economy way to think of things.  It is the epitome of corporate.  Events and organizers looking to see their effectiveness based on their attendance are missing the point.

Stop looking at “how many people we have” and instead start asking “do we have the right people?”, “what impact are we making?”, “what value are we adding”.  The only time attendance should matter is if you are charging ticket fees and attendance relates to your bottom line.  At that point you are changing the world or are you simply providing entertainment (which is totally acceptable).

Random Sidebar
It is interesting that there were only 12 disciples.  Imagine how popular Christianity might have been if there would have been more of a focus on attendance.  In fact, maybe the demise of modern Christianity could be that pastors are more concerned with attendance instead of making an impact?
Summary
Some people might ask that a better number than the time before should count for something as it is an improvement.  They would be right, but they still miss the point.  What do numbers mean?  Even if they are trending up?  The truth is when you are focused on numbers you are focused on your own self and not on changing the world.  Would you rather impact the people close to you or just be surrounded by legions of cheerleaders?  Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson have lots of fans.  Is that what we aspire to be?

The Future, It’s About People..

We have been talking about concepts in software development for the last few years at Integrum getting back to humanity.  That the separation of goals and values between developers, product owners and users is out of control.  We have executed a grand experiment with Gangplank of restoring fellowship and collaboration back to the workplace.  Tearing down the context of work and ushering in a place of collaboration, connectivity, creation and innovation.

Recently, I was listening to famed economist Richard Florida talk about what he sees in store for us in 2050.  He ends with “But I think by 2050, we’ll have a much more urban, a faster-paced world, a hopefully a more diverse world, and a world that I think at the bottom not only treats the natural resources and natural environment better, but really for the first time in history, really values human creativity and human beings.  And, you know, if we can leave that kind of world for our kids and grandkids, we’ll all be better off.”

I am excited for the day where we celebrate the human spirit and all that it encompasses, seeing every person not as a cog or a stepping stone, but as a person that should be valued for their uniqueness.  I hope that is the world that my grand kids are able to enjoy.

SBR: Linchpin by Seth Godin

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Seth is back. He really gets it right on this one. This is an excellent book to pair with Richard Florida’s Reset. The world and they way we work in it is radically changing.

This is a good book to help people get ahead during this great changing of industry. One of the better books I read this year. It is easy reading. If you put yourself to it you should be able to finish it in one sitting.

View all my reviews >>

The World is Changing and so is our Economy

We might be in the midst of a recession, but I don’t think we have seen anything yet.  Most of America is not willing to acknowledge a few key concepts.

1. Things won’t bounce back to where they were, expect recovery to be in decades not months.  A new normal has been set.

2. The old economy is dying.  The days of manufacturing things is now a commodity.  That other countries are able to much better and cheaper.

3. Our educational system is broken to prepare America’s youth for the new economy.

I understand that I sound like chicken little and at this point people are laughing at the mention of the sky falling.  I could point to statistics and reputable journalists, but perhaps the best thing to do is show you reality.  Let’s take a look at a great city that at one time was the “model city” for “industrial” America, Detroit.

It literally lays in ruins.  It looks vacant similar to Chernobyl after a nuclear meltdown.  Will all cities be in this position?  No.  Is there a little of Detroit coming to every city?  Yes.  We can no longer stand idle and watch as things decay.  It is time to step up and unite.  Tackle the tough problems we face in educating our youth and training a displaced workforce.  It is time to make creativity and innovation core to our culture and walk through to the other side prosperous and and top.   As you watch these samples of urban decay ask yourself what you can do to change your neighborhood, city and state.  How can you help be part of the solution?

Political Bites: Mesa Graywater Decisions

Should cities require buildings to incorporate water-saving techniques, similar to what Tucson is doing?

Conservation of water is critical when building cities in the middle of a desert.  I am curious if Mesa residents get a credit for helping Mesa fulfill it’s gray water contract?  Do they get compensated for providing water to flush the sewer system?  Looks like Mesa is simply protecting a revenue stream to me.

Notes: Mesa this week decided to hold off on enacting rules similar to Tucson’s, which include requiring buildings to harvest rainwater and accommodate “gray water” irrigation. Background on the decision, if needed: AZ Republic Article

Coworking is a commodity. It is a race to the bottom.

I read  “A case against ‘free trial coworking‘” by Alex Hillman from IndyHall and it reminded why I can’t relate to the coworking movement.  I purposefully use the word collaborative workspace when talking about Gangplank because implying that there is a coworking component is a misleading comparison.

Coworking claims to be trans-formative and future thinking.  Changing how people work and think about work, but in reality it is a lie.  It highlights independence of the worker, but still structures itself on old economy models of thinking.

Don’t believe me?  Let’s examine a single phrase from this article to highlight the point.

‘..it’s unwise in an early stage business to give ANYTHING away that you wouldn’t otherwise charge for..’

That is conventional wisdom.  That if you give something away it costs what you gave. The more you have the less I have.  The more I share the more I lose.  This is a dying model.  Repackaging it as a revolution by telling the participants they have ‘independence’ is disingenuous.

The truth is charging for space turns the relationship into a transaction and destroys the ability for real community to flourish.  Coworking is a commodity.  It is a race to the bottom.

At Gangplank we choose to give our space away for free.  All the time, not just on a trial basis. When you give something away, you benefit more than the recipient does.  The act of being generous makes you rich beyond measure, and as the goods or services spread through the community, everyone benefits.  Giving space as a gift with no reciprocity allows us to experiment and create.  We seek to help people be dangerous and challenge the status quo. It’s not for everyone, but it’s how we see the world and we hope to help the right people change their view of the world and how they contribute back to it.  We want to give them the gift of finding the creator within themselves.

Metro Phoenix has been hit harder than most during this recession.  We feel that giving to the community freely let’s us all prosper more quickly.  It increases the quality of bond between our members and ultimately strengthens our community.  It leaves an obligation for our members to help the next person.  The gift creates a surplus as it spreads and ultimately gives us joy.

The argument we always hear is ‘Some one has to pay for it.  You can’t run a space for free’.  The truth is if you were remarkable you would find a way to give it away for free.

The reason Gangplank is hard to quantify is because its worth something more than we could ever charge in rent.