A view From the Sidelines of Life
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
I Have to Get Back to This Slowly.
To explain my inability to write anything the last two weeks because of the utter devastation of Karina, I had to write this post.

New Orleans has never been one of my favorite places to visit.  I have been there on a number of occasions, some on business, some pleasure and some of necessity.  My son went to Tulane for two years, so I can't help but have some affinity.

But, I guess my first trip there was with my wife and after I was 35 or so, and beyond the appeal of French Quarter partying..  I found the restaurants over-rated, over-priced, most service surly and the jazz perfunctory and tired.

My last trip through, however, I had the opportunity to lunch at the Commander's Palace, that exceeded the expectations on quality and service and though the price was still high, the other two made us ignore that.

So my reaction was not about the destruction of NOLA.

It was about race and class.

I spent about 40 years of my life working, directly or indirectly to eliminate those issues from our society.  Some progress has been made, but much is left.  I know, by things I did, I made some changes for some individuals and some communities.  I believe that the "War on Poverty" succeeded in some ways, but was not sustained and it really did not succeed in the overall scheme of things.

In my heart, I know why the Civil Rights movement, succeeded in some things and also failed in the long run.

As I watched hours of video of the aftermath of Katrina, all these things rushed out at me tearing the feelings out of my suppressed knowledge that we, I, all of us had failed, and that there had to be a new movement come forward.

And it's incidental that it happened in New Orleans.  If scientist suddenly discovered a meteorite bearing down on Chicago, or St. Louis, or Milwaukee, and warned citizens that they had three days to evacuate, who would get out, and who would be "left behind."

That's what the true Christian Believers should really worry about, if they really believe in the New Testament, who would be left behind?

It has been an emotional time for me, and I am not generally an emotional person.  I felt that if I started writing, I could not avoid discussing political blame for the specifics of this serious crisis, and believe me, I am furious.  But, by not writing for awhile, I have regained my perspective.

Regardless of the response or lack thereof, and the loss of life and property, which has resulted, the real root cause goes beyond the instant circumstances, and the failure of our society to solve the issue of race and class.

Race is a tangible, obvious, and can be confronted.  Class is a more complicated issue.  Half of the poor people in this country are white and believe that the other half of the poor people who are black are poor because they are lazy, shiftless, sex-obsessed persons who are enabled in their behavior because of government welfare programs, while they themselves largely exist by the same welfare system.

I will state flatly, that the major social issue of our time has been the ability of the politically and financially powerful to use race to divide the lower class, thus preventing any real class revolution.  And, I don't know that in history there has ever been a biracial class revolution.

At least since the '60's there have been enormous efforts to organize and engage the black underclass in political activism and self-help strategies, some very successful, some not.

But there has been almost no attempt to engage or organize the white underclass, except by the Neo-Nazis and the skinheads, or the prison Brotherhood, who preach hate and blame race for their own problems. 

Politicians in the South and elsewhere have used this underground to serve their political interests.

Earlier in the century, ethnic enclaves, organized, unionized, and gained enough political power to get attention.  This happened because they had some shared values, religion, customs, etc.

Today's poor whites share nothing, except they are poor, often poorly educated, with little future, and a hatred of blacks, unions and government, who they blame for heir circumstances.

And unfortunately, I don't see the current generation dying away, given the current economy and job situation.  It will likely grow and adopt their elders belief system.

I have always been an Optimist, but my hope is tempered.  Unless we get another "Bubba" like Clinton, who really understands this problem and does something about it, I see little hope for the end to racism in our country.

I was reminded today, that there has long been a theory about the assignation of Martin Luther King, that the real cause was not his leadership of the Civil Rights Movement, or his Anti-Vietnam stance, but because his support of the Memphis Garbage Worker's Union was on the verge of demonstrating the economic benefit of whites and blacks working together for justice.

That's an unforgivable sentence and paragraph, but makes as much sense as any other explanation that has been put forward.

Until somebody, some young person, finds a way to prove that the cooperation of poor whites and poor blacks can achieve some economic justice, we will not solve the underbelly of racism in this society.

Come soon, Jesus.

Monday, September 12, 2005
I've Been Sitting on the Sidelines of This One.
I have unable to post for the last couple of weeks, while, I , like most Americans, have watched the horror unfolding in the Big Easy.

I cannot post anything without turning this blog into a extremely bitter partisan site, which i never intended nor want to do.  I have posted a few barbs, so I have no doubt that any reader knows my politics, but I never intend any political rant. But I could write nothing else right now, so I'm just not writing anything.


Tuesday, August 30, 2005
CCUO Mobilization Hiring Process. (con't)
Anyhow, we were provided with the applications approved.  The secretary managed a 30 minute schedule, arranging and juggling appointments.    This obviously could not have been every day or all day, as the other things required urgent attention too.

But on those days and times, the Secretary would show the applicants in to my office,  I would shake their hand and direct them to a chair.  I had seen their application form before the interview, and asked some usual questions about their past experience.

 I really had no interest particularly in their answers, other than trying to judge consistency.  As I said at the time, we hired anyone who was warm.  By that, I meant that we said yes to anyone who projected an essence, that you could see.  The handshakes counted too.

Once the decision was made as to whether the person was dead or alive, the next decision was what job tthey might be qualified for.  Since, at least some of the jobs had never been done before, this would seem to be risky business.  But, in fact, we pursued a conscious policy of slotting everyone hired, at least one level, beyond their present competency and often two.

My specific reason was that people who are challenged, try harder and work harder than those who are doing things they are already comfortable with.  And ultimately, we had no choice anyhow, as there was no pool of people with experience in what we were embarking on anyway.

I have never really seen this theory expressed in any management philosophy tomes, but, I don't read many of them anyhow.  I have used it my whole management life and it works magnificently

In my opinion, the major problem with Federal, State, and Local  Govrrnment is that too many Civil Service employees have reached a point in their careers that no longer challenges them.  And they stay for another ten-fifteen years, bored to death, and becoming self-destructive.

I suspect the same is true of Corporate America, but that is beyond my frame of reference.

Back to the real thread.  I spent about 15 minutes with each applicant, as they left, I told Tom either "yes" or "no."  He would fill out the paperwork and at the end of the day, we decided on the jobs.  They were given to Ed Kennedy, and by the next morning, they would be at Civil Service for clearance.

Of all my satisfactions in life, probably the greatest was the result of this deviation from conventionall thinking.  By the time I revise ted CCUO in 1968, only one of the 250-300 people I hired in 3-4 weeks had been fired.

No, not all worked out and were transferred to other duties or left or something else, but most were still there and probably retired as Chicago City employees and probably bored as hell.

And I have actually followed the same philosophy throughout my career.  I did the same with Community Action Agencies in West Virginia, Florida and California.  I used the same philosophy when we established our consulting business, always putting people in situations beyond their capability. 

We once had a job opening and three of the applicants were just wonderful, all with different strengths and weaknesses.  I just said, "Hell, we'll just hire all three and they will have to help us get enough business to pay their salaries.  And they did.

The result has been wonderful, but I have never expressed this technique before.  And I won't name those who made me so proud.

In my last job as City Administrator, I did the same thing.  The City Superintendent had retired.  Their had been some conflict among the worker for a long time.  The City Council decided not to fill the position for awhile.  Basically to see if the Administrator could also be the Supervisor of the City Work Crew.

The Morgan Will came along and that ended that.

The City always added some extra workers for the summer, doing mowing, cutting weeds, and jobs that could be done in good weather, usually returning college students.

In the late spring, a young guy came in to see me.  He had been working with one of the local plumbers as an assistant.  And they had a falling out.  He was inquiring about the possibility of a job with the City.  I told him that I didn't have a full time position but if he wanted to accept, I would put him on as a temporary summer worker.  He accepted and I jumped at the chance to hire a more experienced person.

I routinely met with the work crew almost every day at coffee break, !0.00 Am and 3:00 pm.  and was able to observe his interaction and his relationship with the others, I saw the respect.

By the end of the summer, it was clear, with the Gateway Project that there was no way I could supervise the day to day business of the City work crews.  The Council agreed to hire a new City Superintendent.

I met individually with the Head of the Water Department and the head of the Electric Department, who were the Senior staff members in terms of seniority.

The meetings were off the record and separately, and explained that I wanted to promote this temporary summer employee to be the new City Superintendent, effectively as their boss.

Both ultimately indorsed the move, although, I suspect, with some relief, that they were not going to be put in that position.

After a brief interlude, he is now the City Administrator in Oberlin.  I was there for eight years, he has now been there seven and is still going strong.

I have written so much, by now the lesson is lost.  Except that people perform best when challenged to do something beyond their reach.

Sunday, August 28, 2005
CCUO Mobilization Hiring Process. (con't)
I will skip all the nitty-gritty stuff for now--finding buildings, negotiating leases, getting City approval, finding furniture, getting phones installed, securing numbers to publicize, getting contracts let for any renovations needed, etc.

I should mention that the smallest of these three buildings was 26,000, sq. ft, the second about 32,000 sq. ft. and the third 40,000 sq. ft.

But the real problem, I knew was dealing with the Civil Service Department.  Yes, in spite of the impression, the City of Chicago had a Civil Service system, headed by a PhD and a staff of personnel analysts.  Essentially, they had little voice as to who was hired above lower level positions, but they did have control of the job classification system. 

If they could not control who was hired, they could control what they were hired to do and how much the position should pay.  Needless to say, they took these few powers seriously.

I learned that lesson at Urban Rewal.  I had gotten permission to hire an additional person, who would essentially be the same position as the other dozen or so employees. 

It took me six weeks to get Civil Service approval of the position with the same job description and pay range.

I immediately recognized this as the most vexing of problems.  This was not something that the Mayor could expedite, without creating all kinds of political problems for himself.

During my experience at Urban Renewal, I had worked with a Classifican Specialist from The Civil Service Commission, by the name of Ed Kennedy.  Ed wanted to be a policeman in the worst way, but had physical problems and ended up in this job, which he really disliked.

I asked Jack  Brooks to request to the Civil Service Director that he be loaned to CCUO to help write position descriptions in order meet their standards.  He did and they agreed.

I met with him immediately and stated the problem of hiring hundreds of people to new jobs in six weeks, and asked how can we mess up the system?  After much discussion, we decided the best opportunity was to overwhelm their system.  They were used to dealing with a few requests a month, and were not equipped to deal with a glut.

Ed set about writing Civil Service standard job descriptions for each position on our Table of Organization. 

We would send fifty at a time every few days, along with applicants to approve.  They literally threw up their hands and surrendered, So it worked amazingly well.

Now to the subject of this post.

I was assigned, not by my choice, the best Secretary I have ever had.  I brought over a guy from DUR to be my Asministrative Assistant who had not worked for me. but who had impressed me with his skills.  His name was Tom, and I cannot unfortunately I cannot remember his last name.

I set up a cubicle with Tom in the same space, but with his desk facing the side wall.  Ihad an empty chair next to my desk.  There were ten or so other Divisions, but we were the ones hiring the general public.  There were hundreds of applicants, and there was some screening process, but I am unaware of how it worked.  (Continued in next post.)

Thursday, August 25, 2005
CCUO Mobilization Hiring Process.
I mentioned in the posts about Shriver's hiring practices, that I had used another unique process to hire 250-300 employees in roughly 30 days.  It will take many posts to get to this point in my career.

I would have to first describe East St. Louis, then South Shore in Chicago, the City Of Chicago Urban Renweal Authority, and several posts about CCUO to get to this actual happening, but since I mentioned it, I will deal with it with a minimal amount of background to establish the context.

I've already written that the Office of Economic Opportunity awarded it's first grants in mid-December 1965.  Number one going to St Petersburg, FL.  Chicago's grant came just after the New Year in 1966.  If I remember correctly, it was  grant number eleven.  I don't remember the exact date.  I saw the announcement in the paper  in a press conference with Mayor Daley and the Director of Chicago Committee on Urban Opportunity. He announced a series of Neighborhood Centers that would be "Little City Halls."

I was well aware of the plan, for reasons I'll discuss in another post.  But I was shocked when he announced that the first Center would open in 30 days.

At about 10:30 on Jan. 6, 1966, I got a call from Dr. Deton J. (Jack) Broks, asking if I was free for lunch, I said yes, and met him.  During lunch, he offered me the job of Director of the Community Development Division, essentially responsible for setting up and managing these neighborhood Centers.

I accepted on the spot, already knowing that Mayor Daley had set a high bar.  Daley did not expect failure to his public pledges.  Brooks had not agreed to this deadline before the announcement, so there were no mobilization plans in place.

I asked, "When do I start?"  He said, "You've already started!"  I said what should I tell the Commissioner of Urban Renewal?  He said, well, you can tell him, or I'll call him, or I'll have the Mayor call him.  I said I'll take care of it.

I literally walked out of the restaurant, got on the elevator and started to work on my new job.  (I did take time to call the Urban Renewal Commissioner's Secretary and get an appointment about 4:30 that afternoon.)

I met with some of the planning staff for most of the afternoon.  What I found was they had not identified which neighborhood should be first, did not have any facilities located, had no staffing Table of Organization for these Centers, no staffing pattern or job descriptions, etc.  What they had was a general concept, (which I had reviewed earlier) which envisioned a facility, with core staff provided by CCUO, but largely staffed by persons assigned by various City, County, and State Service agencies, that would be all things to all people.

Not only, were there no neighborhoods selected, but no negotiations had been held with any other agencies, except for the Cook County Department of Public Assistance, where Dr. Brooks and a fair number of other planning staff had come from.

Now, anybody who knows anything about public management, understands the problem of why the FBI and CIA and INR, etc. won't share information or cooperate, will understand this situation.

(I have to make a parenthetical segue here.  Even after the election, the Republicans continued to insist that the poverty program was a plot to allow big city Democratic machines to hire more African Americans and other minorities to patronage jobs, to help deliver the vote in future elections. 

This was Chicago, and at that time, The Chicago Tribune, under Col. McCormick was the most rabid right-wing newspaper in the country.  He fought everything the Daley, Johnson Administrations ever mentioned.

I still have a copy of a Tribune front page publishing the photos, salaries, past experience of every senior staff member at CCUO.

It was against this political backdrop that we were making decisions.)

After another day with the planning staff, I met with Brooks.  I essentially said, if we open the first center in a black neighborhood, we are walking into a political trap.  If we went somewhere else, we're in a similar trap with black leaders.  I proposed opening three centers at the same time.

And we proposed three specific neighborhoods.  One in the Southside, a completely black neighborhood.  One, on the west side, which was sort of a mix of Hispanics, blacks, and others.  And the last in the Uptown area, which had the lowest economic figures for white citizens, many migrants from Appalachia.  it also had a small black area and a fairly substantial Cuban population.

Brooks took the proposal to the Mayor and he approved.

I realized that I had just tripled my problems in the near term, but I saw great benefits in the long term.

This post is getting too long, so i will continue it next.

Monday, August 22, 2005
Sarge's Personnel Selection Process.
As Ipromised. an examination of Sarge's system on selecting top staff.

I really do not know a thing about Schriver's previous experience, before his appointment by JFK as Director of the Peace Corps.  The Peace CDorps was the crown jewel of Kennedy's legislative agenda, and along with the space program and tax cuts were his major domestic accomplishments.  He took the responsibility for the failure of the Bay-of-Pigs operation and caught flack from both sides, although it had been planned by the Eisenhower Administration. 

Florida Cuban exiles vote republican to this day because he did not commit the U.S. Air Force to cover the invasion.

There is ample evidence that he reluctantly entered the civil rights struggle, encouraged by his brother Bobby, the Attorney General, to enforce the first Voting Rights act.

in fact, the Peace corps was not even his idea.  it had originally been proposed by <a href"http://www.peacecorpswriters.org/pages/1999/9911/911pchist3.html"><Hubert Humphrey></a>.

Whatever all the side issues, the Peace Corps hit a cord and was approved by Congress and attracted many idealistic young people.

When you start any new Agency (Federal or otherwise) their are a lot of jobs to fill and fill quickly.

 I know, in the first 30 days of operation of the Chicago Committee on Urban Opportunity, I hired somewhere between 250-300 employees, while trying to write job descriptions that would be acceptable to the Civil Service Commission.

Civil Service is a great thing and I support it 100%, but it is not designed to handle mobilizations of this kind.  I' sure the key players were selected by the White House and put in place as exempt classifications.  That probably would have included the 1st, 2nd and 3rd level positions and may the 4th.  Everything else would have been subject to regular Civil Service procedures.

Theoretically, someone enters Civil Service at some lower level by testing in through an objective test.  Then you move up by performing and earning promotions.  And after years you reach GS-15, the highest classification of career Civil Servants.

Obviously, people enter Civil Service at higher levels for which there are no tests.  This is done by resume weighing and recommendation by one or more persons.

When a new Agency starts up, like the Peace Corps and later OEO , they are dependent on a deluge of applications from present Civil Servants from other agencies responding to job postings, and from others from outside the system.

One of the facts of management life, is that current supervisors always give good recommendations for current employees, whether they want to get rid of them or are sincere.  I learned that lesson when Dick Poston, hired a person, who I knew personally and warned Dick against, because he got a glowing reference from the guy's present boss.  He later led a staff revolt that got Dick kicked upstairs, and out of what he did well.

Then of course, there are champions, who promote someone.  Bill Haddad was my champion at the Peace Corps.  I later had another who promised me a GS-14 position to start at OEO.

So the leadership is stuck with the problem of how to deal with this early hiring frenzy, with some semblance of finding mostly good people.  The typical approach is to devote a large amount of time and find the best personnel person available and leave the problem to them.

I am sure Shriver avoided this approach, since I never talked to a personnel type during this whole process.  I don't know how he dealt with the 3rd level, and I suspect 4th level, I do not know.

But for the 5th level, he had established the system I have described.  It actually was pretty simple.

All candidates, whether Civil Service applicants, outside applicants or recommended by champions went through the process.  A series of interviews  was set up with various managerial personnel.  I don't remember  how many I talked too, but I'm sure there were others involved in this process that I did not see.

Unless at least two, and preferable more, put in a bid for your services, you were not hired.  The essence, of course, was that the assessment process was spread out among a number of individuals, all with different needs, different attitudes, personnel skills, etc.

Bill was ecstatic that four others wanted me.  That meant that I could walk through the personnel process.

How effective this was, I don't know.  But I devised another  unique approach to hiring large numbers of CCUO employees five or so years later.

Another story for another time.

Sunday, August 21, 2005
An emotional Plane Ride to Chicago
.I knew this was the chance that hopefully comes once in a lifetime.  Foriegn travel, working with really dedicated young American dogooders, (this was before the Vietnam War so the volunteers were not avoiding military service then) hobnobbing with politically and socially public figures in and out of the Uited States, and under the age of thirty.


By the time the plane landed in Chicago, I had figured out that this was an impossible dream  The visions of sugarplums had stopped dancing.  I had a wife, from St. Louis with a son 6-9 months old, who had just moved to Chicago.  We were on the south side of Chicago, she did not drive and knew no one except some relatives who lived on the north side.

Even if I moved her to Washington, D.C., the situation would have been worse, further away from home, no relatives, and no knowledge of D.C. of how to survive on her own.  If I left for weeks or months at a time?  No Way!  I knew that my choice was job or marriage.

The one hope was possibly looking at the job as Director of the training camp in Puerto Rico, so I kept contact with those folks.

I went back in a couple of weeks for a second meeting with that group.  The discussions really went well and we meshed philosophically and in managerial approach.  But, just by chance, while I was waiting for a meeting, I happened to meet a Hispanic man about my age, who had just returned from the site of this camp.

It was just an informal conversation, as he didn't know why I was there, and I did not know his status.

But, he told me the camp was really primitive, ad was 200 rough miles from San Juan.  He wasn't trying to discourage me, because he was just Xeroxing some copies in the office.  I have tried and tried to remember his name, because it will reappear in this post, but I can't.

So, again, I realized that this would not work, a city raised wife, who did not speak Spanish, living alone in San Juan, at least for a week at a time, by herself with a child.  Peace Corps training camps were much like Outward Bound.  So here was some likely hood that I would miss many weekends as well.

So I kissed my Peace Corps Drems goodbye.

And besides I had made a commitment to a neighborhood that was in crisis, which would have been also hard to abandon.

But the real, story of the missed opportunity, had little to do with the Peace Corps, but the people involved.

Actually, I knew that the position in evaluating country programs would lead to contacts and exposure to the leadership of the Agency.  Writing reports is a routine part of that kind of situation.  But there are always problems.  In  government programs, you don't want to reveal problems until you have some course of action to respond with.
 before the problem is admitted.

(I would submit that this is exactly the present administration's problem, they have no solution, so can't admit a problem.)

Problems result in meetings, not reports, so I knew this position would lead to top level strategy sessions, of which I would be a part.  Thus, I assumed, key players would get to know me.

I. and I'm sure those players had no premonition of the future, but his is some of what happened.

Shriver, of course, was appointed to Direct the Office of Opportunity by LBJ, I'm sure taking key staff from the Peace Corps to set up the new agency.  This is, of course, where I ended up.

Moyers, went on to become Lyndon Johnson's Communications Director.

Bill Haddad set up a consulting company that secured millions of dollars in government contracts, largely related to the Poverty Program, but quickly moving into other areas of expertise.  The last time I saw Bill, he had an office in the Chrysler Building in New York City.

His brother Sid later worked with me in Bakersfield, CA.

The Hispanic guy, who's name I cannot remember, also set up a consulting company and became one of the largest minority owned firms in the country.  They had  bunch of OEO and later Head Start contracts, and we competed on some business.  Well, they usually won, so I'm not sure it was competetion.

And, Of course, I mentioned Charlie Peters before.

All these folks became millionaires I'm sure.  How much would those contacts been worth money-wise or career-wise, I don't know.  I could have pissed them all off over something.

I really haven't thought much about it over the years, as I have always been a  "make a decision and forge ahead," kind of person.

But, in the twilight of life, you have to ask, "what might have been?"

And, course, there are no answers.

Friday, August 19, 2005
A Career Crossroads.
A week or so ago, I read a review of a new book written by Charlie Peters, about the  Willkie campaign to capture the Republication nomination for President in 1940, entitled "Five Days in Philladelphia."  A book about Willkey would not capture my attention, but the author Charlie Peters did.

(Anyone who reads this blog, knows that the mantra is from Sen. D. P. Moynahan's famous quote, "You must remember, everything is related to everything.") In my case, it always is.

Charlie Peters, who was the founder and editor for many years of the Washington Monthly,  one of the more respected magazines devoted to politics and government.  Retired, he still writes a monthly column, called, "Tilting at Windmills." 

My memory of Charlie Peters was in an entirely different context, and he played a minor role in a personal and career crossroads in my life.  I realized at the time that this was so, but I didn't realize the extent for years to come.

First, I want to make clear that I do not claim to know Charlie Peters and I can assure anyone that Charlie Peters would not know me.

In 19961 I was working in Pittsburgh, PA.  The grant I was employed under from the Mellon Foundation (not Richard Scaife) was about to expire, so I was looking for a job.

Richard W. Poston, my former boss at S.I.U. had written an article for Harper's about the "Hidden Community Development Role," of the Peace Corps.

Dick actually started his Community Development career as a reporter, sent to Montana by Harper's to write a story or stories about the Montana Studies Project.  That was his career crossroads, and he contributed to mine twice.

He was a consultant to CARE and a world-wide recognized authority on he use of Community Development strategies in Developing Countries.  The article was written with the obvious support of the Peace Corp leadership.

I read the article, and called Dick.  i asked if he thought there might be an opportunity for me there.  When he said yes, I asked for names of some contacts.  The name he gave me was Bill Haddad.  He said he'd call and open a door.

After a few days, I called Haddad's office and arranged for a rather quick appointment in Washington.  We had a long discussion about Community Development and what it might do and my experiences.  Twice during that visit, Bill answered calls from Pierre Sallinger at the White-House.  I was impressed.

At the end of the appointment, I felt good, and he expressed an interested in me working there.  He said we'll get in touch in a week or two.  I went back to Pittsburgh, to my wife and months old son, all excited.

Nothing happened.  I have never felt that you should remind someone you were there if they were really interested, so I did not call back.  In the meantime, I had some other feelers out and was invited to Chicago for an interview for a  position as Executive Director of the South Shore Commission.  They offered me the job and I accepted, Moving to Chicago in January, where the weather made me immediately question my decision.

I moved the family to Chicago in 4 or 6 weeks.  So, it was probably around the 1st of April when I received a call from Bill Haddad's Secretary, asking me to come to Washington as soon as possible.  They had gone to the trouble  to track me down, as I had not notified them that I had left Pittsburgh.  This impressed me so I said yes, I would come.  She gave me a travel voucher number and I got a flight out in a couple of days.  They arranged a hotel room close by.

When I got to the office, I saw Bill for about 2 minutes.  He explained that he had a bunch of important meetings, but had arranged a series of meetings for me and that he would see me later in the day.

Thus, began one of the strangest days of my experience in any government setting.  Unaware, I had entered Seargant Shriver's unique leadership selection system.  It is so unique, that it will require a separate description, and discussion.

But to describe my actual experience that day.  I had a tour guide, who moved me about every half hour to a new appointment with someone I did not know or  their role within  the Peace Corps.

The typical conversation went like this.  "Why, are you here?"  "I don't know."   "Well what job are you applying for?"  "Well actually none that I know of." " OK, what is your background?" 

Then we had a general discussion about my experience., answering specific questions, then the guide came in, saying we have to move on.

This scenario repeated itself over and over again.

At the end of the day, I met with Bill Haddad.  He explained the process and why I had been put through it.
(again another post) but what he wanted to hire me for was to be a member of a 3 man Evaluation Division, that was being created, under the leadership of Charlie Peters.

The job description was fairly simple, the three of us would travel to 42 foreign countries, meet with host Government Officials, Peace Corps Project Directors and Volunteers and write reports pretty much, was a seat of the pants, evaluation about how specific projects were accomplishing their stated goals, etc.


I came in the next morning, and was informed that some snags had arisen.  Four of the other people that I had met with had put in bids for my services.  One wanted me to be the Country Director in some African Country and another in the Middle East.  I don't remember the third, but the most persistent was an offer from the Training Division to head up the second training camp that was being opened in Puerto Rico.

Bill assured me that he held the trump card if I would accept his offer.  I really did not know his actual position within the hierarchy, but I would assume, third in command.  I met briefly with Charley Peters and had the impression of a nice guy.

Unbeknownst to me Bill Moyers was the Deputy Director of the Peace Corps at that time.  Even if I knew it, I would not have known who he was, unlike Shriver, Kennedy's In-law.

The rest of the story later in the next installment.

Monday, August 15, 2005
A Confouding Mistake.
For some reason that I cannot explain, I visualized the first Message I posted on this Blog, and realized that I had given misinformation in that post.

It was convincing enough that I went back today to check, and my vision was correct.  I had stated in that post that I was 72 years old.

I am not, at the end of September, I will be 74.  I don't know why I wrote that, and I certainly don't know why it popped in my head 2.5 months later, but it did.

The most amazing thing about it is that its probably the first time in my life that I understated my age.

When asked my age, I would truthfully say, I didn't know.  I would subtract 1932 from whatever year it was, and that was my age, but 9/12's of the time I was overstating my age.

In my early professional and political career, there was a legitimate reason for appearing older than I was.  During those years, I was dealing with politicians, business people, community leaders, bankers, etc. in one to one situations, and it was advantageous to be beyond my  actual years of life experience.  And I pulled it off pretty sucessfuully.

In later years, it became irrelevant, but the habit was ingrained, and I kept projecting myself as a year older than I really was, and I never felt an need to try to appear to be younger than I really was.

So. why the original post gaffe?  I don't know, and why I thought about it today, I don't know.  But to set the record straight I will be 74 next month. Unfortunately, I haven't figured any way to edit the archives to remove the evidence of a Senior moment.

Saturday, August 13, 2005
The Little Guy Wins Again. (Or the fairy Tale Ends Happily.)
I should have added this to the last post, but, again, I didn't think about the parallels, until I re-read the post, and looked at a video of a special on the story.  The City of Oberlin faced as great a challenge as the A. D. in my dream.

But, the Gateway  Community Center held it's first event on January 21, 1993, less than three years from the anniversary of Madonna Morgan's  death on March 4th, 1990.  I will not discuss here how it was done, but just to end the suspense, I left in the last post.

I will talk a little about the difficulties faced by the City.

In the first place, the actual value of the estate, that had to be matched, was not exactly known until the day the money was transferred to the City from her estate.  Part of the estate was cash, which was earning interest, every day it remained.  The bulk of the estate was in farm land, which had to be auctioned off, once it was, of course, the money went into the bank and started also earning interest.  All the farm land was actually farmed by others on shares, which is a tradition in farm county.

When she passed away, the wheat crop was planted the previous fall and the corn crop was planted shortly after her death.  The estate's share of those crops would not be known until the crops were sold, which was almost six months into the two year window.

So, a building, costing an inexact amount of money and a really undefined purpose, had to be designed and started in real terms in less then 18 months.

And the Community had to raise funds equaling the estate, dollar for unknown dollar.

Probably, the most important difficulty, was that this was not a need that came up through the community, been debated, studied and planned.  If anyone has ever been involved in a public works project, this was the worst possible scenario, no recognized need, no community input, even no consensus that the money should even be accepted.

A couple of just minor problems.  The estate included a house she owned in Oberlin, which her sister-in-law lived in.  She left her a life interest in that property, which was no problem, except that the estimated value of that home was included in the value of the estate, that had to be matched, but the City did not have the ability to liquidate the property, thus had to also raise the estate's share.  Just a little loose end.

But the most major problem, was that construction had to start in two years, which could not happen without plans.  So, in addition to not knowing the total amount to spend or a definitive plan about what this building was to be, an architectural firm had to be hired to start designing this facility.  The architect fees on this kind of project run 10% of the cost, so the City had to commit to spend about $250,000, not budgeted in that  current year.

So,  the Athletic Director thought he had problems?   Not much compared with the difficulties that the City Of Oberlin faced.

Thursday, August 11, 2005
A Dream That Became Real.
As I said in the last post, I had that dream years ago, and it recurred several times.  It was so vivid, I could remember most of the details.  Over the tears, I thought about it casually, but not in the detail I was able to recall for the last post.

Now, I will swear, on my families honor, that I had not made any connection, until I proofed the post, between the dream and events that actually happened at least 20 years later.

( I started to write this post, to explain how this came about and got so far afield, that I just decided to start over with the fact, not reasons.  I'll post them some other time.)

I accepted a job as the City Administrator in Oberlin Kansas, which is about 250 miles from Denver in the Northwestern corner of the state.  I started work on January 2, 1990.  The Council and I had worked out kind of a six month trial deal, they didn't know whether a guy form the big city could fit in and be accepted, and I didn't know whether the commute and family separation was bearable or not.

The Council at that time met in regular session on the first Monday of each month.  On a late Friday afternoon before the March, 1990 meeting, a lawyer from Hill City, stopped by the City Hall and requested that he be put on the Agenda for the Monday's meeting, an Executive Session under the Attorney Client privilege.

His name was Kenneth Clark, Whom I had never heard of.  The agenda was mailed and Council Members received it, and began calling me.  It turns out, Ken was considered the best plaintive attorney in Northwest Kansas, and usually won his cases.  The fear was that he was representing someone who intended to sue the City over something.

On Monday evening, Ken arrived with an older lady, who I did not know.  In Executive session, he announced that his client, a Madonna Morgan had passed away on Saturday and had bequeathed the City of Oberlin her estate (estimated at about $1.2 million dollars) to construct a Municipal Auditorium, the definition and purpose of which was really vague.

BUT, the City had to match her estate dollar for dollar and begin construction within two years of her death. And one of the major early problems, was that the estate consisted mainly of farm land, with no real way of knowing what it would bring, so no fixed number to match.

AND IF the city failed either in matching her money or beginning construction within two years of her death, the estate would go to the Shriner's burn Center in Galveston Texas, no strings attached.  (Remember Notre Dame.)

How this was accomplished, will take many posts which will happen sooner or later, but the reason for posting this here is the similarity with the dream I had years ago.

I don't think I subscribe to anything that explains this except chance, but I ought to be buying Lottery Tickets every week.

I Tilt at Deserving Windmills.

Monday, August 08, 2005
A Complete Screen play.
My wife and I went out to dinner last night, and there was a guy setting at the next table with a body shaped like a Japanese Sumo Wrestler.  He brought back memories of a dream from long ago.

I have no idea when this dream actually happened, but it was during a time when Hollewood made a bunch of feel-good movies, often about High School heroes and other such topics.  It might have even been after 1974 when the original "The Longest Yard," was produced.

But I had a dream one night that was a complete screen play for a movie in that genre.  I had the same dream on several occasions over the next few years with hardly any changes.  It was so vivid and complete that I can remember most of the details, and the guy with the Sumo build, pulled it out of memory.  Actually, I think about it every time a see a Sumo Wrestler.

The story line goes like this:

There was this little obscure private college, struggling for survival.  It's athletic teams suffered through many losing seasons, and had just hired a new Athletic Director (Van Johnson.)  For the younger audience, van was the leading man in a bunch of fluff films.  He had red hair and freckles and was just a nice guy, and I cannot name one film he was in.

One alumnus of the college had become fabulously wealthy, rubbing shoulders with captains of industry and finance, who had attended fancy Ivy league Schools or those famous for athletics.  He was always embarrassed, when someone asked where he had gone to school, and would mumble the name and change the subject.

Her was so busy making money that he had no time to marry and have kids.  All of a sudden he was stricken with a fatal disease, with only weeks to live.  He and his attorney devised this scheme, partly joke, partly revenge, partly torture for his will.

He left all his money to his Alma Mater, with one provision, their footfall team had to play and beat Notre Dame within one year of his, or Notre Dame would get the money, instead.

So the new Athletic Director found himself on the hottest of hat seats.  There was a love interest of course, the coach of the cheer-leading squad.  He realized immediately that no amount of conventional thinking was going to get him out of this spot.  So he started thinking (as they call it now)  out side the box.

He found a unique set of circumstances, a former Pro Quarterback, who had been kicked out of college a year before graduating, for unspecified reasons (rumor, rumor, rumor.)  After his year wait to be eligible for the NFL, he was drafted in and became a huge star.  Unfortunately, he sustained a career ending injury to a knee, took his insurance pay-out and moved on.

The AD realized that this guy (imagine Burt Reynolds) still had a year of college eligibility left, and had been away from professional sports for six years and therefor was eligible to have his amateur status restored.

The next segment deals with enticing this 30 something guy to return to college.  The cheer-leading squad, played a prominent role, as did the fact, that they really had no coach, so he could run the team as well as QB it.

But much of the discussions revolved around how the AD proposed protecting him so he wouldn't et injured again, and this the real unique part of the script.

The AD had spent some time in Japan and had become a fan of Sumo Wrestling.  He realized that none of them had attended college, and were not subject to NCAA Rules on Professionalism.  And he only had to deal with one semester of academic eligibility.

He managed, with promises of immigration to the United States to recruit enough Sumo's to fill out the Offensive line and back-ups.

A major segment of the film deals with the trials and tribulations of spring and fall training camps.  First, trying to find equipment to fit 500-600 pounders.  Comedy scenes with them trying to fit into regular gear.

Then the problem of them just grabbing a Defensive Lineman and throwing him to the ground.  Then the problem of bowing to the opposite lineman after each play.  All hilarious stuff.

Finally, things come together.  Essentially, nobody can move the OLine. The QB, who can't really move doesn't have too anyhow, and sooner or later the most inept receivers will get open and catch passes into their stomach.

The team wins a couple of close games,looking really lost and stupid. Then the momentum builds, and winning margins keep rising.

Now, the National Press picks up the story about the  alumni's bequest and its provisions.  As the team wins each week, the pressure builds on Notre Dame, who can essentially earn the inheritance by just refusing to play a team not on their schedule.

As each team closed in on undefeated seasons, public pressure on Notre Dame became enormous, and they finally agreed to play an unscheduled game for all the marbles.

The little school won of course, in a nail biter, and the final scene is of the benefactor in heaven telling St. Peter that he had planned it all that way.

Fade to credits.

For me to remember this much detail about a dream that happened 30-40 years ago, is, I think is quite remarkable.  I have never studied dreams, so I have no clue of any significance, other that I can still recall it in such detail while awake, has to mean something.

But, I will next write about the eery Part of the story next.

Sunday, August 07, 2005
Sixty Years After Hiroshima.
I remember it well, I was in prison when both Atomic Bombs were dropped and the Japanese surrendered.

A neighbor and friend of mine, Billie Ryan's father was the Assistant Warden at a minimum security Prison in Vandalia, IL.  During the summer, Billie and his mother lived at the prison.  During the winter, his dad commuted so that Billie could attend school at home, which was about 25-30 miles away,

During that summer, I visited Billie for ten days or so, and it just happened to be early August.  It was a lot of fun.  Most of the prisoners were young men, sentenced to 18 months or less.  There were many trustees, who had a great deal of freedom.

The prisoners grew their own food, had dairy cows for milk and chickens for eggs, all of which were outside the walls.  There was a river that ran just behind the prison and past the gardens.  One of the trustees, took Billie and me fishing at the river several times.  I remember catching a Gar fish, which I had never seen before, not have I caught one since.

The news about Hiroshima with a picture was on the front page of the morning paper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I would guess.  No one knew what Atomic meant, and the news stories weren't much more enlightened than we were.  But we were aware that this was something big.  That's all anybody talked about all day, and how maybe it would end the war right away.

That night some of the prisoners got into some Apple-Jack they had been making and had a celebration, which ended-up in a lock-down of the whole prison.  Billie and I didn't know anything about it as we were in bed and didn't hear a thing.  So that was the main topic of conversation the next day.

And we really couldn't do anything, we were more or less locked down too.  After awhile, officials began sorting things out and beginning to let a few trustees, who had not been involved, out to do some work.

The second bomb was not as memorable because of the Surrender news that soon followed.  Since we were in such a confined circumstance and officials locked everything down to prevent a reoccurrence, I don't have much of a recollection of the VJ Day celebration, not compared to the VE Day celebration.

I was at home then.  Word of the Cease-Fire came over the radio, and as word began to spread, it seemed like everybody in town headed to the main intersection in the business section of town.  After awhile a bonfire was started in the intersection.  People went to find anything that they could add to the fire,

It seemed to me like it was 20 feet tall, but that was probably just imagination.  I remember people forming a circle around the fire, holding hands and dancing round and round.

I don't know how long the celebration lasted, because the folks took me and my baby sister home at some appropriate hour.  Even though there were only two taverns, two package stores and a couple of private clubs in town, I would guess that alcohol flowed pretty freely that night.

Friday, August 05, 2005
A Brief Follow-up on the Last Post.
One test that I forgot to mention, was the National Draft Deferrement Exam, given in 1951.

During WWII one whole college generation was essentially lost to enlistment and draft into the Military.  This gap really created some problems for industry and the Military in the immediate aftermath of the war, causing a shortage of educated white collar workers.  The G.I. Bill was one attempt (among other reasons) to deal with the problem.

But there was still a WWII egalitarian view that draft deferments should not just go to the rich and  connected.  As a consequence, a plan was put in place to create a national test to determine the most likely to benefit society (and the Military) by staying in school until they completed their college education.

(And I would suspect that there were some who decided that completion of a Master's program or PhD, were worthwhile academic goals.)

I, like almost every student at every college in the United States took this exam.  I ended up in the top 7% of all those who tested.  I give most credit to my ability to test, rather than actual intelligence.

The reason for writing this post, however, is to document my approach to taking a multiple-choice test.  I have never read this anywhere, don't know how I devised it, but know it works and hope that it will help my grand children and great grand children to greater achievements.

In High School, and specifically after you enter college and the real world thereafter, mot exams are multiple choice, and most are time limited.  I approached these in a very simple and systematic way.

First, I quickly went through the entire list of questions (carefully, not carelessly reading them.) and answering those that I knew immediately were correct answers.

Then I returned to the unanswered questions.  I logically analyzed all the choices and eliminated all that could not be correct.  This process often left me with one choice that was correct choice.

Then I made my last trip through.  These were questions I absolutely did not know the answer to.  Often, I could eliminate all but two as not possibly being correct.  Then I guessed between the choices left, usually only two, or maybe three.

My experience was that those who tried to deal with each question, in order, ran out of time and/or got too rushed at the end and failed to answer questions that they actually knew.

My approach meant that if I had a time problem, I was only dealing with questions that I didn't know the answers too anyway, and was jut going to guess.

One caveat, particularly on college exams, the specific philosophy of the instructor is reflected in the questions, so one needs to spend time in advance of the exam, to understanding that bias.

Standardizedtests from testing organizations are also biased, and its much harder to know what those biases are and compensate for them.

I'll cite one specific example, then quit.  I spent 20 years or so as a consultant, often doing training on Leadership and Supervisory skills for a variety of Government and Non-Profits.

I had occasion to take a Civil Service exam for Supervisors..  One question, specifically reflected the opinion of the test writer, but was widely questioned in the real world.  I wrote on my paper that I though the answer wanted was thus, but generally and my opinion, was not that.

That was the only question I missed on the exam.  So being right isn't always being right.

Thursday, August 04, 2005
Did I Say I was Good at Tests?
Well, I was, probably not now, but I ain't taking any, anyhow.

The last subject reminded me of some specifics.  One of the reasons, that I was so disappointed in my "B" in the class cited, was because of another class I was making up.

It was another Poly. Scie. 400 level course, and the Professor was one of the toughest in the Department, a good guy, but tough on student majors.  He was no longer teaching the course, when I returned.  I met with him and he agreed for me to read the text and he would give me the final exam.  I was frankly worried about getting a "C," not because of the test, but whether he would go from an incomplete-F to a "C" or better was really a question.

I aced the exam, which I assumed I would, but was absolutely floored when he gave me an "A."

I did not really worry about Winter's class since I was one of the top two or three students in the class and Municipal Government was my specialty.  So go figure.

But back to testing, I will cite several examples.

The first is another Political Science class, that I must have taken as a Sophmore.  It was a required course for Majors and was taught by a Professor who was not well liked.  He seemed to enjoy showing up students, both in class discussions and his final exam.  He delighted in this exam, and every student who took the class dreaded it. 

It was a multiple choice style test, with three, four or five choices for each question.  Not unusual, except that on his exam, none, one, two or all answers might be correct.  And he had devised a scoring system which he told students precluded guessing.  He described this with great fanfare, and in detail.  Boiled down, you got three points for each correct choice selected, you lost two points for every correct answer not selected, and one point for each wrong answer selected.

My guess now was that he was a golfer and had discovered the Stableford Scoring system, a modification of which is currently used by the International at CastlePines Golf Tournament, which is this week in Denver.  In any event, it is designed to reward chance-taking and punish conservative play, which is exactly the opposite of how he described it.

As a non-golfer, I had never heard of it until this tournament was started 30 years ago, but I recognized this Professor's scoring system right away.

I immediately realized that you were rewarded most by getting every correct choice right, but you were penalized twice as much for failing to mark a correct choice as you were for selecting an incorrect choice.  So, a Chimpanzee should make a 75%.  If you actually marked every choice, you would end up close to that, depending on the percentage of correct choices there were in the universe.

I am terrible at mathematics, statistics, or anything like that, but I'm pretty good at logic, so I understood this clearly.

I simply went through and marked every choice that I knew was correct.  Then I went back and marked every choice that I was sure was not wrong.  I finished the test in twenty minutes of a two hour period and handed it in.  Another student told me the Professor made some derogatory comment after I left, that I must have given up.

I scored 2nd in the class and secured an "A."

Another example.  I mentioned earlier that my father was in the Life Insurance business at that time and wanted me to follow in his footsteps.  Actually, I kind of think it was wish fulfillment on his part.  He had been a top producing salesman for the Company for something like 12 years in a row, but he could never rise to the next level in the Company, because they had an iron-clad rule that the next level(General Agent) had to have a college degree, which he didn't.

As an aside, the Life Insurance and probably most of the rest of the Industry were the first successful MLM (Multi-Level-Marketing-- think Amway) and probably still operates that way today.  First you are hired as a salesperson.  You might get a small salary for a couple of months, but most of the expense money you are given, is a draw against future earnings, and a debt to the company, if there are no future earnings.

If you are successful for a couple of years, you get promoted to Agent, and, in addition to continuing to sell, you got the task of shepherding one or more rookie salesmen.  And you got a share of their production, called overrides. 

The next step up was to become a General Agent.  At that level, you supervised a number of Agents, and any of their salesmen who became Agents, and the overrides from all.  Dad arranged for me to enter the track to become a General Agent.  He arranged a day of Interviews and testing.

By 1956, I had been in the Military for two years, college for four and politics for six and had taken about every kind of test there was.

They gave me a battery of Aptitude type tests.  I knew what answers they wanted and provided he correct answers.  During the afternoon interviews, I was told that I had scored the highest aptitude for the insurance industry as anyone they had tested.  I could hardly stifle my reaction.

I absolutely hated the Life Insurance business, considered it a bad investment in most circumstances, a scam at worst, and it was about the last thing I would have ever done for a career.  And that was before I understood the MLM aspect. And I had just gone through this, so as not to disappoint my father.

Actually, within about three years, he himself left the Life Insurance business, a decision that, I suspect, he never regretted.

The final example, is a test I took for Naval Intelligence in Chicago, Ill.  How this happened, is another story, which is too long and out of place here.

I went to this secure place to take this exam, all alone.  The Chief Petty Officer assigned to give me the exam, handed it to me, and said I had X amount of time to complete it.  I looked at the title and it said it was a test for Engineers.  I immediately objected, saying that it had nothing to do with what I was there for.

He admitted that this was obviously true, but that's what he had.  (Briefly, the Naval Reserves were offering a direct commission in the Naval reserve for persons with prior military service and degree's in the Social Sciences.)

He explained that a 60 was a passing grade.  Between 60 and 70, you would qualify for a position in Crimainal Investigation, and 70 or above you would qualify for the Intelligence Service.

My quick thought process--I can't possibly pass this anyhow, but if I do I want to be at the low end.  This is the Navy,most crimes take place on land, don't want to be a detective, but being on land is preferable.  Every ship at sea has an Intelligence Officer.  I crossed the Atlantic twice, and I can't swim that far.

When the Petty Officer scored the test, which I mostly guessed the answers, I scored a 69.   He was impressed, and obligingly changed one of my answers to put me in the 70 range.  What was I supposed to do?

For other reasons, I didn't pursue this, but it just shows that the ability to test can bee good and it can be bad.

Powered by Blogger