Perhaps a monarchy would make more sense

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Last week my 14-year-old daughter wrote an amazing essay addressed to our founding fathers about the inspiration they provide and sacrifices they made. She invoked images of the Statue of Liberty to illustrate her point.  Today the founding fathers are probably rolling in their graves as they watch this country’s election season. Lady Liberty is weeping.

I could start this rant in so many different places but after picking up the mail today, I have to start here. I’m no tree hugger but I do try to do the right thing environmentally when possible.  The waste of paper and what happens to it is a particularly sore spot for me – especially in today’s electronic age.

The glossy oversized direct mail being sent to me daily from various political candidates goes directly into the recycle pile.  But the overabundance of this old-fashioned form of communication in this election is truly breathtaking. Isn’t it enough that you call me every night?  And do you really think that anything that you mail me (or your phone messages that I immediately delete for that matter) is going to change my mind about the election?

As bad as the negativity and constant vitriol and snarkiness of every single political candidate out there, the overwhelming waste of money to deliver your snarky message points is even worse.  Shut up already.  Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.

Some things I wish I could end by snapping my fingers.

1.Stop wasting resources. I don’t want another direct mail piece, email, voicemail or Facebook message from any of you. Ever. Again.

2. I don’t want to see politicians on the Letterman show or MTV – I look to that kind of TV for entertainment and politics is NOT entertainment.  What’s next? – a cameo on Grey’s Anatomy or will a first lady join the cast of the Real Housewives of DC?

3.  Hollywood should shut its collective mouth. What an actor or singer says about politics only makes me want to go in the opposite direction.  Many of these individuals were merely lucky in the gene pool and couldn’t pass a third grade history, geography or math test. Their opinions are irrelevant.

4. Most importantly, stop the horrible negativity that is bringing this country down. We only show weakness when our sitting president is more interested in getting in a “zinger” during a debate than having a real plan or answering tough questions about a terrorist attack. We are less than one step away from being a third world country whose governing body regularly has fist fights in the aisles.

I wish I could look to the future and know that no matter who is elected to office that all of the people of the nation will get behind that individual and seek to build bridges and mend fences.  But I fear that ship has long since sailed as we have devolved into a country where anonymous attacks and bullying in social media and disrespect is not only tolerated, but celebrated. Our founding fathers would be ashamed.

The Forgotten Entrepreneur

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Let’s get right down to it.  There are hundreds – if not thousands – of ways to be a small business person.  Government leaders crow about how much they help small business but they are focused on one group only.  That’s the group that has a handful of employees – and get an incentive to hire one more. Think local pizza shop.  Or the company that makes some kind of widget.

The forgotten entrepreneur is the sole proprietorship, generally an LLC consisting of one employee.  One.  That employee serves as owner, president, worker bee, administrative assistant, janitor and everything in between.  My business fits into that mold.  So does my friend Dave Hagan, the personal trainer.  And so do millions of other Americans.  What breaks have we been given by the current administration? I’ll tell you what breaks – none.  And depending on what side of the mouth this current administration is speaking, we are likely being targeted for tax hikes because we have worked our asses off to achieve some level of success.  I’ve done the math. It actually would make sense for me to back off on adding new clients to my roster to avoid a huge potential tax hike.  What kind of sense does that make in a capitalist, free-market economy?  None.

I may not be able to hire another drive to deliver pizzas, but when I get new business, a whole raft of other companies and individuals benefit.  The designer I call to work with me on a brochure or web project.  The printer who prints the magazine.  The photographer who shoots the photos for the newsletter. The writer I bring in to help when I have too much work piling up and deadlines looming.  The media relations expert I bring in to help place a story.  The money I spend at the Apple Store on a new laptop to support the growing client list.  The lunch I treat my suppliers to that helps keep a restaurant in business and waiters working. And that’s just off the top of my head. It’s called trickle down and it’s real.  When I don’t have as much business, none of these things take place and I am not fueling the economy.

But go ahead Mr. President.  Raise taxes on the “rich.”  Maybe if you can finally decide what that magic number is, we can all figure out how to adjust our business plan downward so we can be sure to fall under it.  That sure will help the economy.



Why is the Pittsburgh Airport a White Elephant?

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 Twenty years ago today the new terminal at Pittsburgh International Airport opened.  I was lucky enough to have served an integral role in that opening as Airport Communications Manager for a small non-profit entity that had been granted a contract by Allegheny County to manage communications and opening events. While I assisted in training event volunteers and opening events, my primary role was to attract national and international media attention to the facility.

It truly was the best of times and the worst of times.  The work was in turn both exhilarating and frustrating.  Although I had worked with premier media outlets before, I had never been so fully focused on media like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NBC News, CNN and USA Today on a daily basis. The bottom line is that we were overwhelmingly successful both in media and special events.  That was the exhilarating part.

But two of us hired by this nonprofit to handle the airport project were caught in a political firestorm between the agency and the county.  I had never before been exposed to the political arena and it is the single reason I abhor all politics and politicians. That was the frustrating part.

Now the fun part is the sixth sense I developed about the airport. I learned so much about that facility by walking through when it was a construction zone, conducting hard hat media tours and following the progress right up through and beyond opening day. I can turn a corner and I know that there will be a restroom there; I instinctively know what concourse has restaurants; and back when it mattered where the pay phones are located. Our group even held a rousing game of Airport Trivia at a local pub as a post-mortem to the opening events.

But like every story filled with drama and frustration, laughter and fun, there are also tears.  Every time I go to the airport, I am sad at what it has become – a shell of its former self.  Two of the concourses with 50 gates each have had walls erected in the “crook of the arm” to close off half the gates.  Sad.  Looking up at the board of flights – no longer are there 600 plus flights on a daily basis.  Today it is fewer than 200 – way fewer. Whose fault is it?  Well, in large part the blame falls with the aftermath of 9/11 and what happened in the airline industry.

But there is plenty of other blame to go around.  County politicians – who were so quick to inject themselves into every detail of our work in 1991 and 1992 – dropped the ball when it came to putting all its eggs in one basket with USAirways.  And in the 20 years since, the replacement politicians have all turned a blind eye to the project hoping it would resolve on its own.  And USAirways.  Never has an entity been given so much – the very airport itself designed as they wished – and then abandoned the region as soon as times got tough.

Yes it’s sad to see what this showpiece has become.  I wish I could snap my fingers and turn back time to 1992 and have the airport functioning at its best again. Astoundingly I read in yesterday’s newspaper former county politicians pointing fingers at their contemporaries about what went wrong.  I assure you that these people can all point the finger right back in the mirror.  The petty politics limited everything about that project and everyone in office before, during and after the airport opening carry responsibility for what it has become.