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The Morning Grumpy – 5/31/13

31 May

All the news, views, and filtered excellence fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

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1. Brad Riter and I recorded a podcast about grocery store etiquette. It’s absurd, trivial, and thus far is the most popular podcast we’ve ever recorded. Which says a lot about the listeners. Enjoy.

2. The average American is as likely to be crushed to death by televisions or furniture as they are to be killed by a terrorist.

3. How activists are turning Chicago’s housing crisis into a huge opportunity.

The U.S. Postal Service, which tracks these numbers, reported that 62,000 properties in Chicago were vacant at the end of last year, with two-thirds of them clustered as if to form a sinkhole in just a few black neighborhoods on the South and West Sides. Currently about 40 percent of all homeowners in these communities owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, and countywide 80,000 foreclosures are wending their way through circuit court. Last spring, a nine-month study conducted by the National Fair Housing Alliance revealed what everyone in these neighborhoods already knew: After forcing out families in foreclosure, banks failed to properly market, maintain and secure the vacated homes. Thieves subsequently entered many of the properties and stripped them of copper and anything else that could be trafficked.

Sound familiar, Buffalo?

It’s not that the City of Chicago and its public and private partners don’t care about the areas gutted by foreclosures; it’s just that as investments, the numbers on these blocks simply don’t add up, and no amount of good intentions is going to change that any time soon. Since 2009, the city has funneled $168 million from the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program into the purchase of 862 vacant foreclosures, fixing up 804 of them, at an average cost of $110,000. It sank $350,000 into the repairs of one home, but even at the asking price of $105,000, no buyers could be found. So far only 91 of the units have sold.

Yup, sounds familiar. What does a city do if the property value doesn’t support renovation for purchase or rental?

Cook County now plans to form what will become the nation’s largest land bank, an entity that will acquire thousands of vacant residences, demolishing some, turning others into much-needed rentals and holding onto others until they can be released, strategically, back into the market. By clearing titles and back taxes, the land bank hopes to attract the most responsible of the investor groups that are currently gobbling up distressed housing in neighborhoods with far better prospects.

And activists are filling in the gaps. The article is filled with solid ideas to benchmark for use in Buffalo.

4. How to hire good people rather than nice people.

Nice people care if you like them; good people care about you. Nice people stretch the truth; good people don’t. If you tell a nice person to do something evil, they might do it because they do not want to upset you; a good person will refuse to do it.

You might think you are a good person, but you are fallible, so if you want to avoid inadvertently doing something evil you must surround yourself with good people, not nice people.

How do you separate the good from the nice? If you do what I do, it will be a piece of cake.

Nice people will allow you to hire them even if they know they are not among your best candidates; a good person won’t let you hire them unless that is what is best for you.

If only more hiring managers in the corporate thought this way and followed this guys tips…

5. Why are athletes and affluent sports fans so obsessed with the idea of a “blue collar” work ethic? Seeing as how most actual “blue collar” folks can’t afford a ticket to a pro sporting event.

They are pro athletes who have chauffeurs and nutritionists and such. Most of the fans in the arenas watching them are probably not blue-collar either, in the sense of working with their hands or performing other physical labor. For one, there just aren’t that many blue-collar workers anymore: Half as many Americans work in manufacturing now as they did in the 1970s, for example. That doesn’t mean it isn’t still possible to make a decent living in a blue-collar job, but probably not a nice enough living to afford the $955 ticket that will get you on TNT behind the announcers in Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Meanwhile, the current fashion in building and promoting the arenas and stadiums that teams play in is to play up the luxury factor; everything is premium state-of-the-art this and black-leather Wi-Fi-enabled that. Buy into the Krieg DeVault Club Level at a Pacers game and you’re guaranteed your own “dedicated service staff member.”

As I get older the phoniness of professional sports becomes increasingly disheartening.

Fact Of The Day: The terms “left wing” and “right wing” refer to the seating arrangements in the French National Assembly just before the French Revolution.

Quote Of The Day: “Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static snapshots. It is a set of general principles- distilled over the course of the twentieth century, spanning fields as diverse as the physical and social sciences, engineering, and management. …During the last thirty years, these tools have been applied to understand a wide range of corporate, urban, regional, economic, political, ecological, and even psychological systems. And systems thinking is a sensibility- for the subtle interconnectedness that gives living systems their unique character.” – Peter Senge

Video Of The Day: Prancersize

Song Of The Day: “World Destruction” – Afrika Bambaataa with John Lydon

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Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com

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