Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hanging out at Harvard

Not your usual view of the Student Union, I'm hanging out this morning at the Harvard Business School. An amazing decor and beautiful surroundings, a rare moment for the History grad at the U.

Today, I'm participating in a roundtable discussion on Innovation in Government hosted by the famous and yet humble Professor Clayton M. Christensen, aka my older brother.  The discussion of innovation in government has too often centered on Private vs Public delivery of service, yet one or the other, really doesn't provide a compelling solution to costs.  In fact, if you look at a lot of the Federal Contracts for providing services once provided by the public sector, I would venture to guess, it costs us more except when you decide to cut its funding, it's much simpler to send contract employees off packing, than Federal employees.  Even my own city, Salt Lake City, recently went out to bid it's garbage and reclycle service and it was less expensive for us to provide it ourselves.  We obviously don't have the corporate overhead and we've been doing it a while, so much of our support infrastructure is in place.  The real question at hand is whether or not either side is truly motivated to find a simpler or cheaper model, which we sometimes call affectionately in our family, disruptive innovation (thanks to my older brother Clayton).

As I look through the attendee list, it is a little daunting to wonder my own contribution, but I also know that I bring 15 years of public service and a variety of experiences that I believe can contribute to the important dialogue.  Last evening as we discussed my brother's model on why our economy hasn't rebounded as it has in the past, it really became clear why government hasn't moved forward, yet are faced with some of the most daunting challenges in the last 50 years in terms of cost, demand and ability to provide the historic services we have come to expect.

I expect to learn much today, but the thing I've learned perhaps most importantly of all, here at the Harvard Business School is that recycle base napkins are not as absorbant or have the same capacity of normal napkins.  Yes, I spilled my orange juice in the student eating area and had to make at least two trips back to the napkin dispenser.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sending your child off to college isn't much fun...

Jessica at age six
You know how you have that image of your kids in your mind and for some reason, you always picture them that way, yet somehow they grow up on you?  Today was one of those harsh realities that maybe, somehow, my little girl grew up on me and it was time for her to try something new.  Yea, go ahead, tell me to grow up, but it's not your little girl!  The above picture was taken the year before I was first elected and today I dropped my daughter off as a Junior at Utah State.  I'm sure there are countless of you who have done, lived through it and probably were a lot stronger than me.  But I'm just weak and emotionally challenged with the notion of my girl testing out the next phase of her life.

Having earned her associates degree last April, Jessica obviously started thinking about alternatives to baking me cookies each Sunday evening.  She even had the audacity to think  she wants to educate little kids and increase their learning and growth.  And for some reason, she thinks that the good reputation of Utah State and idea of moving away from home would be a good direction to head in her life.  What is she thinking?  The difficult part of this all, is she may be right.  So today, we loaded up her stuff, and between her 2002 SAAB and our suburban, headed off to Logan to get her settled.  I had Cathy ride with her on the way there and I followed up the rear.  I of course called them no less than three times to suggest better driving techniques or habits (which of course don't reflect in my driving) and I was sure every movement around a big truck was going to be the end.  However we made it and got her checked in with the manager of her apartment. 

I was then sure her roommates would be unfriendly or the room lousy, but they had to welcome her and tell her how excited they were to see her.  And the room, all five have their own bedroom and bathroom units within apartment, were clean and her roommate across the hall had a sign that said "Smile" on the door with a doormat that said "HI" on it.  They even cleaned the kitchen while we were there, eliminating a sub-plot that Cathy and I were working on.  There was a shed in which she could lock up her bike, and a parking spot for her car.  They even had free Internet for her to use. 

While thinking up other conspiracy theories, I noticed she had a low tire, so we took it into a repair shop to have the flat fixed, have lunch and pick up some items at Walmart.  Of course we packed a whole slew of large quantity items from Costco purchased in Salt Lake, but there were other things to purchase there, a new printer, ink, paper, food,   We thought it time to replace her bike helmet from Jr. High, I thought she needed a bike rack for her car to take her bike on it and of course a new lock for the bike.  I then realized she needed a pump for her bike that I had her bring (and when did they change the direction of the little lever on bike pumps from pressing down to lock to sticking up straight to lock it - I spent 20 minutes trying to get it to work until Cathy and Jess read the instructions).  I of course made her pull over to a gas station, even though she had 2/3 of a tank of gas to fill it up for her to make sure she had enough.   I later set up her printer which is wireless and test printed a note, telling her to write and call frequently...

We made her practice putting on her new bike rack and her bike.  Then made her practice taking it off. And then it came time to go.  Yea go ahead, take the knife, rip my heart out and tell me not to cry.  It just isn't going to work.  I'm still crying.  For the record, I like Hangout in Google and free texting and the data package I have on her phone with T-Mobile.  I know I will see her again and it's going to be a great opportunity for her.    I think your concern should be for Sarah.  We're going to have to have someone to parent....

Doing the unthinkable - Aggie A on the car
And finally, Jessica's former boss at "another" bank where she worked, gave her this receiver plug that he had but didn't use, to give to me.  It's an Aggie "A".  So tonight, just below my faded University of Utah Alumni license plate holder, I put it in to recognize the institution of my daughter's choice and of any dollar I didn't really have to spend.  I love my Jessica and all I can say, is they better treat her right...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Theater Fever

Joining Mayor Becker announcing both Architects and Contractor
for the new Utah Performing Arts Center
After working many years with my colleagues at Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, this was a great week.  Salt Lake County agreed to partner with Salt Lake City in helping to fund the construction of a new Broadway Touring Theater and also operate it to maximize the synergies with their existing facilities as well as draw upon their expertise in operating most of the cultural facilities downtown.  My thanks to the county council members who supported us, especially Max Burdick and Michael Jensen and I'm hopeful that the rest who didn't, will recognize the value long term as we move forward.

This week we also named the architects chosen to help design it,  HKS and Pelli Clarke Pelli and the contractor, Layton Construction.  Local talent with some national expertise will assure a great finished product for our community.  I also anticipate some good community outreach as designs come together and we truly make this a great project for downtown, the region and the State of Utah.

Yesterday, I also had a fun opportunity.  "Wicked" is the current Broadway Play being shown at Capitol Theater.  Tickets sold out early, but every evening, people have the chance to put their name in a drawing and 10 lucky people are chosen who can purchase 2 tickets for $25, which would otherwise cost them $135 a piece.  On Thursday, I got to announce the names of the winners and it was fun to see their reaction.  Below is a video of one of the 10 experiences.

The only down side to the experience, is the other 140 people who walked away not winning, and I couldn't help them.  However it demonstrated the need for a larger theater and the unmet need that exists for this product in our community.  Capitol Theater has served us well and needs some work and would continue to provide a vital role for the Ballet and Opera as well as other things that can not currently be scheduled.

Cathy and I also had the great fortune of attending Wicked ourselves (we also got to pay for the tickets!) We had an absolute fabulous time.  Done a lot of reflection on the "Wicked Witch" who clearly is reflected with a different light in the play, and a reminder that we too often want to categorize others and label them for who they aren't.  The crowd was clearly a crowd we don't see in Salt Lake City on a regular basis and they were just thrilled with the experience and contribute much to our local economy. As did we with dinner before and a CD purchased in the lobby!

I do have one mission as we build the new facility and that is LEG ROOM! I don't try to abuse my political power too much, but if I have any say over it, those of us who can't sit in Capitol look forward to liberation!  Theater Fever is on its way!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Hook & Ladder Serving the West Side for 40 Years - Congratulations Van Turner!

Van Turner with his son Devin.  Two Generations keeping
this great Gem alive on the West Side of Salt Lake City
 Today, while out running some errands with Cathy, we decided to stop in at the Hook & Ladder and get some Fish & Chips and visit my good friend Van Turner.  I had the pleasure and honor of serving next to him on the City Council for 12 years.  In his usual friendly way, Van informed me that 40 years ago today, they opened the Hook & Ladder for business.  Located at 1313 West California Avenue, "The Hook" as it is known by his friends, serves the west side residents and employees of nearby businesses six days a week and is filled with nostalgic memorabilia depicting some of the history of firefighting in Salt Lake City.  Van frequently has one of his fire trucks parked in the parking lot, and it continues to be a mainstay of the Glendale neighborhood.

The Hook & Ladder was rated in the top 10 burger places for Utah by the Salt Lake Tribune and you can pick up one of the yummiest combo meals at a very reasonable price.  My favorite was always the double bacon cheese burger, but with my recent weight loss efforts, I've had to choose other options!  Having said that, I still indulge on occasion.  As it transitions to a second generation, Van has involved his sons and you can frequently see them working side by side.

You can't beat the Hook's specials!
 The Hook will be the host of this Tuesday's Night Out Against Crime for that neighborhood.  Van has faithfully supported the neighborhood in hosting the event and makes sure everyone feels involved and fed!  I'm always amazed at the many acts of genuine kindness showed by Van.  I always tried to get Van to take more credit like a good politician, but he always wanted to do what was right for his neighborhood and frequently the credit went elsewhere.   The real Van is what you see!
Firehouse Floral is a also one of Van's
investments in the community and a great
service to many.
In a period of time when many small businesses have not succeeded or migrated to more heavily visited commercial areas, Van has held on and kept this vital core alive for the Glendale Community.  In addition to his restaurant and his floral shop, he also rents out the corner parcel to beauty salon operators and as he will point out, that's the location where he grew up working side by side with his father, who ran a grocery store on the location.

I've never seen Van hold a grudge and he turns the other cheek much easier than I could ever do.  A political opponent one day to him, is a friend the next day after the election.  I was always frustrated that the Salt Lake Tribune would frequently not endorse him, yet he still won, without spending the money that many of us have spent, proving them and us wrong.  I often smile when I'm browsing the Tribune on my iPad and it sends a message asking us to use their app.  On that advertisement is a picture of Van next to his business, one of the few times I felt they gave him the respect he deserved.  While probably not following you on Facebook or Twitter, Van with his wife, Wendy is busy being a true friend to all.  You just have to attend one of their children's wedding receptions to know of the diversity and commitment of their friends are as far as you can see.  And in a way that only Van could do, he serves his church helping those who are spending time in a halfway house, encouraging them in their desire to change their life.

I'll never match the qualities of Van Turner, but it's a huge honor to call him friend!