9 Weeks, 2010, Place Your Bets

$3,987.oo ÷ $443.oo/week = 9 weeks

That’s when my last unemployment check will show up. In 9 weeks.

I think I know why the House Republicans voted unanimously against the Stimulus Bill last week. It’s because they believe President Obama is right when he says that the economy is going to get worse before it gets better. They believe the President when he says that it’s going to take a very long time to get things back on track. They know President Obama is right about the economic conditions he inherited from failed Republican leadership and they are betting they can twist his honesty with the American people to their political advantage.

The House Republicans unanimously placed the bet last week that the economy is not going to be better, and potentially will be worse, in 2010 when mid-term elections will be in full swing. They are betting that American voters will have forgotten President Obama’s honest prediction of a long recovery. House Republicans are betting that even if the stimulus package is the right thing for our country in the long term, it’s positive effects won’t be showing by election time in 2010. They are betting that if they vote against it now, they will be able to wag their fingers at the President, saying “I told you so,” and recapture their lost political majority in the House of Representatives.

It’s their political bet that the American people are impatient, fearful and ignorant. It’s a variation of the same bet Republican leaders made when they defended the $1 trillion wasted in Iraq by labeling the opposition “unpatriotic.” It’s the same bet they made in manipulating the tax code to create benefits for the wealthy by promising the benefit would “trickle down” to the rest of us. House Republicans are placing the same old bet because they are willing to put their selfish political ambition ahead of the public good.  They are betting that we’re fools.

My unemployment benefits run out in 9 weeks. If necessary, I’ll put my engineering degree and 25 years of experience to good use cleaning floors or pushing patients through hospital corridors or working in a rail yard as I try to support my family. In 2010, long after my unemployment checks have been spent, I will remember the bet House Republicans placed against me last week.

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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.

Do it Now!

The environment demands that we use less oil and find better energy sources for our mobility. Our transportation infrastructure is crumbling due to insufficient funding provided largely by fuel taxes. Unfriendly nations are enriched and their hostility is funded by our globally unrivaled consumption of oil.  Raise the federal gas tax now!

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/27/opinion/27sat1.html?partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/23/us/23works.html?partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

Better Place & Better Ideas

I watched the press conference announcing the Better Place project in Hawaii, this exciting company will be fascinating to watch over the coming months and years.  As others get serious about electric vehicles, there will need to be standards set and non-proprietary recharging technologies created.  I can envision a chain of battery exchange & recharge stations that will service not just Better Place vehicles but also their competitors’ vehicles as well. Move over BP and Exxon, Big John’s Sun Spot is coming to a corner near you.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/10/opinion/10friedman.html?partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

LinkedIn, FaceBook and the Blog

I received an email today from a former colleague who had noticed my use of LinkedIn and this blog. Cindy is the marketing manager of a regional engineering firm and asked for my thoughts about these tools for promoting her firm.  After writing the following response, I thought I would add it as a post because it explains what I’m trying to do here.  Maybe I’m just lazy but I prefer to think of it as “content recycling.”

Cindy,
When I started using LinkedIn, I wasn’t sure what the value was but was intrigued and kept at it. During my current job search, I’ve had several HR people tell me that they use it aggressively to identify and screen candidates for positions that they are trying to fill or recruit. I think it is especially important as a validation tool for professionals who describe themselves as “well-networked.” Several people have noticed & commented on how many people I’m connected to and what kinds of professions my connections are (ie economic development, real estate, consultants, etc). I also got an emotional boost a few weeks ago when I asked several people to write recommendations for me – many did and seeing their comments made me feel great. One prospective employer mentioned that he saw little need to ask for additional references from me so I know that recommendations get noticed. I don’t believe LinkedIn is a silver bullet and constant pursuit of more & more connections just for the sake of driving up the number would be a time-waster, but I think it has an important role in managing your own career. I think it could also be valuable as a tool for a company like yours trying to raise the exposure of their business development and thought leaders.
 
I am just getting started with my blog. A web-saavy friend recommended WordPress as a good on-line hosting service but there are several others. WordPress has lots of templates to choose from and the tools have been pretty intuitive to learn and use. If you have some engineers that are interested in blogging to promote your company, you might consider having them experiment with something free like WordPress or Blogger. Choose a template that is compatible with your website so you can link & promote their blogs in a way that is consistent with your branding.  If it’s a hit, then consider spending the money to host the blogs on your own IT so you can more fully integrate them into your website. This way you can see who is really committed (and not just a ‘tech-talker’) and experiment without spending any cash. Again, I’m just getting started so I probably sound like I know more than I really do.
 
You didn’t mention FaceBook, but I have been using it for a while and really like it although it really has high time-wasting potential.  I have started thinking of LinkedIn, FaceBook and my blog as three parts of the whole John Fonner “brand.” (I hate using that word – it sounds so trendy & pretentious to me – but I haven’t found a better one yet.) LI and FB are where I interact with my professional and personal networks, respectively, or where people can ‘discover’ me. My blog is the place where I more fully develop and share ideas and can get feedback from people in either network that are interested in the same things. I’m trying to link the three together in a way that is natural and appropriate without seeming too self-promoting. I’m having fun and like the intellectual challenge of all this. I’m not too worried about making mistakes but am simply trying to do things consciously with a plan in mind.
Good luck & have fun as you wade in!

Engineers and Bankers, Unite!

This article in the New York Times points out  that among the major mistakes made by GM (and likely at Ford and Chrysler as well) was an over-emphasis on financial outcomes  over product innovation and long-term investment in new products and research.  While the auto industry and Wall Street are very different businesses, what they have in common is that blind focus on profitablity  has led to the economic mess we’re in right now. As a society, we need to recognize the flaw in our elevation of alleged financial acumen as the ultimate professional skill.

Our country began the past 60 years of unprecedented wealth creation with inventors, scientists and engineers as our business heroes. Our individual, national and cultural aspirations were defined by technological achievement, with spaceflight and Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon as proof of the point. Somewhere along the way, maybe in the 1980’s, when we realized that we were wealthy (as a nation) beyond all prior civilizations, we changed. The need to manage our money became more important than our passion to tackle technological problems.  An MBA degree from the right B-school replaced an engineering degree as the path to professional success. Articles from Money magazine replaced Popular Mechanics and Car & Driver as the source of discussions among the guys.

I am an engineer, I admit to my biases. But I also admit to my limitations (and those of my profession.)  It would be foolish to suggest that we put engineers and chemists in charge of everything. That would simply result in a different kind of chaos than the one the accountants and  financiers have put us in. What I am suggesting is that we must learn that long-term stable success demands balanced input from all kinds of professional and creative talent. A red light should go off in the minds of leaders when the definition of success gets boiled down to a single  indicator, financial or otherwise. Results often can’t be measured on a quarterly basis.

Television stations are required to offer balanced time to different political viewpoints. Perhaps as a way to change our cultural obsession with finance and investment, we should require stations to run reruns of Mr. Wizard (or Bill Nye, the Science Guy for those more likely to actually be reading a blog) as often as they report the latest Wall Street oscillations. I also suggest that the Big Three would do well by setting a  goal of doubling their positive media hits in Scientific American magazine.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/06/business/06motors.html?partner=permalink&exprod=permalink