Maple Leaf: What are the other options?

I serve on the County Redevelopment Commission (RDC).  The following is a copy of a Letter to the Editor of the Brown County Democrat. The purpose of the letter was to reinforce the need for a collaborative approach when considering development projects that can have long-term impacts on the community.

Maple Leaf: What are the other options?

 The explanation for the funding for the proposed Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center (MLPAC) has identified that “tourists will pay for it through the innkeeper’s tax.”  It has also been stated that building the venue will require borrowing at least 10.2 million dollars and issuing a bond.  Although the strategy is to make the bond payments from the innkeeper’s tax, if the revenue from the venue is not sufficient to cover the payments, the responsibility to meet the bond requirements falls on the county taxpayers.

The project is also being marketed as a “too good to fail.”  If this is true, then take some time to market the venue to private developers who can raise capital to fund the venture.

Maple Leaf in a different location (Gnaw Bone? Bean Blossom? Ski World?) could be an “anchor” facility that could support further residential and commercial development in the respective area that would be compatible with the comprehensive plan. This could include more housing that attracts businesses that can serve both the residential and tourist market.

A different location might also have the highest likelihood of resulting in positive trends in all the County’s Community Vitality Indicators (CVIs). CVIs include assessed value, per capita income, population growth, school enrollment, and educational attainment rate. A government owned venue does not generate property tax.

Establishment of the innkeeper’s tax required State government to pass a law – IC-6-9-14 Brown County Innkeepers Tax. The statute requires “county government” to provide the management and oversight of the revenue and to establish a five (5) member convention and visitors commission (CVC).  The law states that the purpose of the commission is: “to promote the development and growth of conventions and visitation in the county.”  CVC members are appointed by the Commissioners and Council.

Wikipedia identifies an extensive list of tourism related categories that would “promote the development and growth of visitation in the county” that includes: Cultural, Historical, Preservation, Education, Athletics, Arts, Agricultural, and Wellness/Fitness to name a few.

In regards to the statute, CVC member Barry Herring has remarked: “I think it’s primarily supposed to promote heads in beds. It’s supposed to promote overnight stays because it’s an innkeepers tax, that’s generated by innkeepers.”  

The statute does not restrict tourist related options to those that may result in hotel stays. In fact, any of the options could result in overnight stays.

In reply to a question about the possible competition from the Opry, Herring replied: “We’re looking at it like a Branson (Missouri) scenario. We think the more, the better.”  Note that Branson has been referred to as “the music capital of the entire universe” and includes numerous theatres built by nationally recognized entertainers. Gatlinburg has Dolly Parton.

The fact that Mr. Herring as the new owner of the Brown County Inn who is also a new member of the CVC had an epiphany regarding the options for investing revenue from the innkeeper’s tax should indicate that other investment opportunities may have been missed over the years.

The Comprehensive Plan is also mandated by law (Title 36, Article 7, Planning and Development). The Plan Commission is the body responsible for maintaining a comprehensive plan, which is required to be developed and maintained (IC 36-7-4-501) if the community wishes to exercise the power of zoning. The plan is the foundation for assessing whether new ideas fit into the strategy that citizens will support.

The Plan must be updated to include a tourism strategy that identifies the categories of tourism that taxpayers may want to support with revenue from the innkeeper’s tax.  It is up to all the county citizens to decide how the revenue from the innkeeper’s tax can best be invested.

In addition to the plan, procedures also need to be developed by the plan commission and shared with the public that identifies the process that will be used by members to assess the benefits of a project against the criteria identified in the plan. This change can help assure the community that the plan commission performed their due diligence before providing a recommendation.

At the Area Plan Commission (APC) meeting on August 22, Bruce Gould presented the request for the required zoning change for MLPAC. Citizens had up to three minutes to communicate their support or lack of support for the project. Mr. Gould had the opportunity to provide a rebuttal. APC member Paul Navarro suggested that the county first conduct a traffic analysis and effects study before voting on the recommendation. The APC with few questions and little to no discussion among the members quickly voted to recommend approval. Paul Navarro was the only dissenting vote.

MLPAC proponents emphasized the possible benefits to the Town of Nashville and the tourism industry but did not provide a convincing argument as to why this was the best option for the county. The next step in the process requires the commissioners to listen to input from the citizens and to consider the APC ‘s recommendation for the zoning change.

I am a fifth-generation Hoosier who has enjoyed hiking, camping, biking and vacationing with my family in Brown County for over 50 years. My wife and I bought property here over 18 years ago with the intent of retiring here full-time, which we did in 2014. The current comprehensive plan identifies the vision for Brown County that I support, but it could be more specific in order to clearly identify what Brown Countians want and do not want regarding change and new development.

 Tim Clark
Brown County

Disclaimer:  The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any commission or board.    

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New Book: The Symphony of Profound Knowledge

New Book: The Symphony of Profound Knowledge

Just ordered the book – The Symphony of Profound Knowledge, through Amazon. The book was developed by a Deming colleague in partnership with Aileron.

I’ve read and studied dozens of books written by individuals that worked with Deming.  I have yet to read one where the authors attempted to identify the paradigm that led to Deming’s  insights and contributions.

The most impressive comment that I heard first hand from a well known and respected student and colleague of Deming was that he never quite understood Deming’s concept for the system of profound knowledge.  Rare for someone as accomplished as he is to admit what he did not know.

It  will be interesting to read how and if the author – Ed Baker, offers and explanation of why Deming concluded that improvement is all about reducing variation.

Working with Idiots and Getting Better Results

The first step needed to improve any situation is to admit that you have a problem.

In his Washington Post article “We think our enemies are idiots, and that’s a problem – The psychological explanation for our partisan strife,” psychologist and college professor Adam Waytz suggests that among the causes that prevent people from effectively working together to resolve problems is the belief that others, especially those who disagree with us, have lesser minds. Waytz and his colleagues have coined this as “the lesser minds problem.” He goes on to state that “Physiological research shows that in virtually every way, we assume that the minds of our peers are less rich than our own minds.”

Those with “lesser minds”—i.e., “the idiots”—are thought to be less sophisticated, thoughtful and empathic, with a lower capability for reason, emotion and discipline. Waytz further states that “The minds of our peers may seem lesser, but the minds of our political opponents seem downright moronic.”

Given that someone will disagree with us and we will disagree with others, everyone may be considered an idiot by someone at one time or another.

In my article “Improving Health Care – A Better Way,” I introduce the work of Jonathan Haidt, who also identified a theory to help explain conflict between people that may account for some of the political polarization.

“Haidt’s research indicates that moral responses are instinctual—human beings are born preloaded with basic moral values. He believes that political attitudes are an extension of our moral reasoning, which accounts for much of the vitriol that surrounds liberal and conservative ideology.

According to Haidt, an individual’s beliefs and actions are influenced through a filter of values that include caring, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity and liberty. These values provide a foundation that is needed for a society to function. He believes that liberals focus more on caring and fairness and undervalue the importance of loyalty, authority, sanctity and liberty. Conservatives also value caring and fairness, but not at the exclusion of loyalty, authority, sanctity and liberty.”

However, as Waytz points out:

“Bridging the gap between our own minds and other minds requires colossal efforts of deliberation, humility and cooperation, but recognizing why this gap exists to begin with can help start us on our way.”

Bridging the Divide – A Better Method

Waytz reinforces that judgments regarding the variation between people can become a self-fulfilling prophecy:

“If we believe our political opponents are as rational, thoughtful and empathic as we are, then we are likely to pursue political compromise through rational debate, civil discussion and collaborative analysis of the facts. But if we think our opponents are mindless, then rational bias rather than objectivity.”t makes sense to forgo civility and push our opinions across the table with brute force and discount any counterarguments as rooted in irrational bias rather than objectivity.”

The contributions of W. Edwards Deming in helping organizations and industries do the right things were recognized by the editors of FORTUNE magazine as among the greatest contributions in business history.

Deming felt that American management failed to tap the potential of all employees. As a result, he believed that the United States was one of the most underdeveloped nations in the world. He also remarked that if he were to reduce his message to just a few words, it all had to do with reducing variation.

“Businesses” are organizations that consist of people. Put another way, the Deming application framework for improving individual and group capability by reducing variation from the ideal may be among the greatest contributions in human history.

The underlying premise of the Deming application method includes the following:

  • Every individual is unique. As a result, each individual will have unique potential and capabilities.
  • People can agree on facts and ideals. Within organizations, ideals are expressed in vision statements and facts are provided in accounting and performance-related reports.
  • People can find common causes to problems, can choose to agree to disagree and then can choose to work together to get results where everyone wins. For example, when discussing the gap between the ideal end state expressed in the vision and the actual performance that occurs as part of a strategic assessment, organizational leaders can develop a consensus on the actions that need to be taken to close the gap (i.e., reduce variation).
  • People will always have different opinions, beliefs, perceptions, values, norms, morals and theories as to the identification of problems, their root causes and the solutions to solve those problems. These differences are fundamental to understanding, learning and improvement. An organization that “learns” leverages the diversity in the workforce to identify and implement better solutions.
  • There will never be the “perfect answer” in any given situation. The number of solutions could be infinite, but when implemented, some solutions will have better results than others in the near, mid and long term. Deming advocated the application of the Shewhart cycle for learning and development (also referred to as the scientific method).

The Shewhart cycle consists of four phases:

  • Plan a change or test aimed at improvement.
  • Carry out the change or test, preferably on a small scale.
  • Study the effects to help ensure that the change minimized the cost of the two types of mistakes—treating common-cause variation as special-cause variation and vice versa—that can be made. This information is the basis for determining if change resulted in improvement.
  • Act on what was learned.

Applying Deming-based methods requires an understanding and basic knowledge of the interrelationships between people, systems and their respective variability. This awareness and insight leads to the “new knowledge” that is needed for helping determine when changes to policies, systems and processes result in improvement.

The U.S. Founding Fathers applied an unconscious or intuitive understanding of these principles when they designed the U.S. political system. The justice system also integrates these principles. I provide a little more background on this in my papers “Drive Out Fear: Having the Courage To Do The Right Thing” and “The Deming Paradigm for Reducing Variation: Unknown by Most, Misunderstood by Many, Relevant to All” which I presented at the Deming International Research Seminars.

A quick assessment of your knowledge of variation can be completed in a couple of minutes. If you have five minutes, my article “Revolutionize Government in Five Minutes or Less” may be of interest.

A Way Ahead

French intellectual and author Marcel Proust remarked that “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Bridging the gap Waytz identified between our own minds and other minds requires “new eyes” and a method.

Deming provides the new eyes and the method that successful leaders have always used on an unconscious or intuitive level when leading others to achieve success.

A more common knowledge (conscious awareness and understanding) is an alternative for getting past individual differences. With conscious awareness and understanding, you can accept the fact that individuals vary and choose to develop more positive relationships with those individuals opposing your point of view instead of considering them enemies or idiots.

The more pervasive application of the Deming principles and methods has the potential to support a new era of leadership that is critical in addressing the challenges of our times. These challenges include unemployment, underemployment, adequate healthcare, national and economic security and a better method for exercising our individual and collective responsibility to take action that results in progress toward achieving the more perfect union our Founding Fathers envisioned.

Deming’s genius in providing the framework needed to successfully address these challenges may one day be considered as among the greatest contributions in human history.

 

The longer version of this article written to support civil server reform is available at FedSmith.com.