Monthly Archives: November 2014

Ferguson is Quiet Tonight

Ferguson is quiet tonight. Firefighters, ringed by police for protection, have doused the flames that consumed three businesses, places whose only crime was being caught in the path of anger.
The destruction came about after a grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer for the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager.
Officer Darren Wilson testified that he shot Michael Brown after a scuffle and that the nearly 300-pound teen was charging him.
But conflicting eye witness reports, outlined by CNN and others, muddy the waters as to what exactly happened, how far away the two were and whether Brown was attempting to surrender at the time of the shooting.
The Ferguson protest sparked others to take to the streets in other cities, protests that were more peaceful.
Clearly the Brown case is the latest in what some see as a long line of injustices, the proverbial back- breaking straw of a predominantly white system’s handling of black suspects and defendants.
I have attended countless trials where the jurors, the bailiffs and deputies, the judge and the lawyers are all white. The only African Americans are the defendant and his or her family members.
When one group of people doesn’t even think about race in applying for a job, or a loan or walking into a bar while another group sees racial ramifications every day there are bound to be conflicts.
We all see the world through our own glasses and where some see the dangers of walking the thin blue line others see a system that protects its own.
I don’t know what happened in Ferguson on that fatal day, I wasn’t there. Even people who were there can’t agree.
But it’s clear that even fifty years after the start of the civil rights movement we still have a long way to go, and those who use the perceived injustice to burn a building or steal a bottle of vodka do little to help bridge that gap and may make it worse.
Ferguson is quiet tonight. How long will it stay that way?

Our Destination

Meetings are going on across Erie County this week to release the results of Destination Erie, an 18-month, federally funded effort to pinpoint the priorities on which we should focus for the next few decades.
Supporters insist we can’t move forward as a community without a common vision. Critics say it’s a nice way to blow through nearly two million federal dollars but don’t hold out much hope it could lead to more than that.
There are reasons to see both sides of the argument.
A similar effort in the 1960’s pointed out the need for the Bayfront Parkway we now enjoy. That is often cited as most visible example of what can happen when the community can reach consensus on what is needed and then work in the subsequent years to secure the funding to make it happen.
But for more than a few barstool naysayers, these reports start sounding a little repetitive. There are blueprints for addressing blighted housing, crime, education and the environment.
These are all chronic problems that society deals with year after year. Poverty, educational opportunities and reducing crime were all issues in the 1960’s too after all.
What’s the value, you might scoff, in just pointing them out again?
But we are getting smarter and there is reason to hope in that. We have come to understand over the years that the problems we face are all interconnected. Waiting until someone is a teenager and set in a culture of failure will just continue that cycle.
Newer efforts have focused on younger and younger people. Finding students getting off track as early as third grade can create greater chances for graduation later on. High school graduates have a better chance of earning more money, which helps reduce issues like poverty, unemployment and adequate housing.
The devil in reaching that destination of course lies in the details. Success or failure for Destination Erie will be measured not in todays or tomorrows but perhaps decades down the road.
The question is: Do we have the will to build that highway too?

Oldies but Goodies

Anyone reading the following might come to the conclusion that the author is coming from a certain age-induced bias. But since this is a blog and not a news story…oh well.
When it comes to our health we’re told that 60 is the new 40. Indeed, a whole host of new medicines is allowing people to live healthier, more active lives well into the Golden Years.
But that reality seems to be lost on the job market. In many areas, 50 is the new irrelevant.
Oh, I understand the economics. Older employees want to be paid more for the accumulated wealth of their experience. They often also cost health plans more because of the cumulative effect of both years and miles.
But there’s a reason why that gathered knowledge has value. People who have lived through situations, especially ones who have made mistakes in how they’re handled, learn how not to repeat them.
As Bill Murray said famously about God in Groundhog Day, “Maybe he’s not omnipotent. He’s just been around so long he knows everything.”
That comes to mind as I visit various workshops talking of the digital age and the right mix of social media for companies, one of my interests in considering the next chapter of employment.
Not a single presenter, not one, has topped 25 years of age. Most are 22 or 23, clearly just out of college.
Again, that age group works more cheaply than older folks and in the digital media arena are considered savvier since they’ve grown up with them.
But websites, Facebook, Twitter and their ilk are all means of transmission, tools that can be used to fashion a message to send to the desired clients, or customers or readers.
Knowing the delivery system doesn’t always give one expertise in forming the content.Does knowing how to hold a pencil make someone an author?
So as we live better longer we should also start to appreciate the contributions older employees can bring to the table.
Is that coming from a certain post-50 perspective? Yes, it is.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.