The Super Bowl is Tomorrow. Who Knew?!

I am going to a party tomorrow and don’t want to appear more foolish or out of touch than usual. Apparently, the Super Bowl is tomorrow evening so that’s the theme of the party. I wondered why someone would schedule a party on a Sunday evening when people have to go to work the next day. Now I know.  Through some research, I have learned that the Steelers are playing the Cardinals. While the Steelers are still in Pittsburgh, it turns out that the Cardinals have moved from St Louis to Phoenix, who knew?!

This may surprise you, but it’s been a while since I’ve paid much attention to professional football. For example, I also learned during my research that Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris and Mean Joe Greene have all retired so I don’t really know any of the players for the Steelers.

Football means the smell of Ohio Valley autumn leaves to me so I just can’t root for the Cardinals – there aren’t any trees in Phoenix for Chrissake!! Besides, I grew up in the shadow of the Black & Gold. I always liked that guy that played with half his foot blown off in Viet Nam. What was his name? You gotta love a team that would give a fella like that a chance. Nice bunch of guys, don’t ya think?

So here’s where you Steelers Fans come in. What are FIVE things I should know about the Steelers in order to cover up my total ignorance of the NFL? Nothing too complicated that would be difficult to memorize, please.  It would also help to have two or three things to help me trash talk those good for nuthin’ city hoppin’ Cardinals but don’t worry if you can’t come up with anything or you’re just to polite to diss the competition.

Thanks for your help.

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frozen trees

Haiku 012809

Sunshine slicing through the clouds.
Ice on trees like prisms, splitting light into tiny colored sparkles.
Beauty.

Atlas Shrugged – revisited

I read Ayn Rand’s 1957 masterpiece, “Atlas Shrugged,” in high school. I remember the appeal of her story describing the power of an individual making the choice to act counter to the crowd and the system. It was a welcome message to me then and I have kept the yellowing paperback with me over the past thirty years. I now wonder if what I took from the book then was simply what I wanted – teenage validation of a naive self-image of independence and self-sufficiency.

As I worked yesterday with the radio playing in the other room, I heard the words, “Atlas Shrugged.” The words cut through the white noise of the news of failing economy, betrayed trust and political change like the sound of your own name overheard in a crowded room. I immediately stopped and turned my attention to the radio but the story was done. I don’t know the context but somehow I understood that the it’s time to reread the book. This time to discover the depth and power of Rand’s intended message and not to be satisfied with wading in the shallows.

I’ve just begun but have already found in the first few pages validation that this book promises to speak to our times. I reread these three paragraphs several times as the awareness of institutional and leadership betrayals of the past several months colored the white spaces between the words. I expect this book to be full of new insight and nuance written in a voice that we haven’t heard over the din of the crowd for a long, long time.

The great oak tree had stood on a hill over the Hudson, in a lonely spot on the Taggert estate. Eddie Willers, aged seven, liked to come and look at that tree. It had stood there for hundreds of years, and he thought it would always stand there. Its roots clutched the hill like a fist with fingers sunk deep into the soil, and he thought that if a giant were to seize it by the top, he would not be able to uproot it, but would swing the hill and whole of the earth with it, like a ball at the end of a string. He felt safe in the oak tree’s presence; it was a thing that nothing could change or threaten; it was his greatest symbol of strength.

One night, lightning struck the oak tree. Eddie saw it the next morning. It lay broken in half, and he looked into its trunk as into the mouth of a black tunnel. The trunk was only an empty shell; its heart had rotted away long ago; there was nothing inside – just a thin gray dust that was being dispersed by the whim of the faintest wind. The living power had gone, and the shape it left had not been able to stand without it.

Years later, he heard it said that children should be protected from shock, from their first knowledge of death, pain or fear. But these had never scarred him; his shock came when he stood very quietly, looking into the black hole of the trunk. It was an immense betrayal – the more terrible because he could not grasp what it was that had been betrayed. It was not himself, he knew, nor his trust; it was something else. He stood there for a while, making no sound, then he walked back to the house. He never spoke about it to anyone, then or since.

John’s PUCO Commissioner Application Letter

Tomorrow, I am driving to Columbus, the state capital of Ohio, to submit my application to be appointed by Governor Strickland as a Commissioner of the Public Utilites Commission of Ohio (PUCO).  The mission of the PUCO is “to assure all residential and business consumers [have] access to adequate, safe and reliable utilty services at fair prices, while facilitating an environment that provides competitive choices.” As readers of this blog know, I am a passionate believer in the importance of infrastructure for the economic growth of a community, state or nation. I hope my passion is expressed in a compelling way in my application letter below.

Officially, my chances of being appointed are pretty slim but would be exactly “zero” if I didn’t apply. The process will be very political (partisan and otherwise) and many, many diverse voices will be appropriately considered in the selection process. However, I read an important quote a few days ago, “The only things that we should doubt are the limits we place on ourselves.”  I don’t know who to attribute it to but thanks for the encouragement to reach high.

I’ll let you know how this goes. Call or write to your Ohio Representatives and Senators or the Governor if you have an opinion about my qualifications for the job, pro or con. Your government leaders probably haven’t heard from you in a while and they need to know what you think about a lot of things.

My resume is on my LinkedIn profile. You can find a link to that over there on the right.

January 8, 2009

Public Utilities Commission Nominating Council
C/o Public Utilities Commission of Ohio
180 East Broad Street, 13th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-3793

Dear Members of the Nominating Council:

The availability of efficient, safe, properly priced, well-maintained and technologically advanced infrastructure is an essential prerequisite for the creation of wealth, prosperity and a high quality of life. Ohio’s public and private investments in railroads in the mid-1800’s enabled the growth of the steel, rubber and automotive industries in northeast Ohio just as the construction of the Miami-Erie canal proceeded the chemical and paper industries in the southwest. Twentieth century investments in energy systems, telecommunications and highways enabled Ohio to become one of the world’s great manufacturing economies and brought the prosperity necessary to build and support our state’s great cultural institutions and education systems. We must honor this legacy by ensuring that Ohio continues to invest in and guide the proper development of its utilities and infrastructure. Ohio can only remain globally relevant if our infrastructure is technologically advanced, sustainably designed, properly maintained and made available to its customers and citizens in a socially equitable manner. Infrastructure is the foundation of economic development.

Since 1985, I have lived in southwest Ohio, in Hamilton and Warren Counties, and I am a Democrat. My understanding and appreciation of our infrastructure has grown through a public and private sector career of planning, building, buying and promoting local and regional infrastructure and utilities.  In my roles of transportation planner, real estate developer, infrastructure builder and economic developer, I have earned a reputation for strategic thinking, creative and insightful analysis, high integrity, fiscal responsibility and a collaborative style of leadership. My professional networks and associations extend throughout the state and the country. I have acquired a deep understanding of the breadth of Ohio’s industry and culture, the complexities of its governance, its unfulfilled promises and its incredible potential.

I believe that as the newest Commissioner of the PUCO, I will add a vitally fresh perspective to the Commission as a licensed professional engineer, economic developer and experienced community builder. I appreciate your consideration of me as a candidate for this important position. If appointed Commissioner, I promise to be an uncompromising advocate for the State of Ohio and for all who look to the state’s infrastructure to enable, not entitle, their future prosperity.

Respectfully,

John E. Fonner, P.E.

Big Three Bailout and Foreign Automakers

David Broder, in his Washington Post column last Sunday, implied that the opposition to the bailout of US automakers by southern Senators, led by DeMint (R, SC) and McConnell (R, KY) was influenced by the presence of foreign auto manufacturers in many southern states. The column is about politics and not specifically about economic development but it raises important questions for economic developers:

-Is it reasonable to assume that the bailout of the US auto industry (approved administratively by President Bush after the legislation failed in the Senate) will be bad for foreign automakers?
-Will the bailout create a battle within the auto industry between the southeast and the midwest for future jobs and investment?
-Are Tier I and Tier II suppliers of the Big Three likely to migrate south as Ford, GM and Chrysler contract?
-Are the supply chains of foreign automakers insulated from the troubles of the US auto industry?
-How should the economic development profession react?

What do you think?

This was also posted as a discussion topic at http://economicdevelopment.ning.com/forum/topics/big-three-bailout-and-foreign