The M&M Boys, The Poor, And Good Business

There is so much running through my mind this morning. Yesterday I purchased a fun car. Back in 1998, because of certain things going on in my life, I decided to do something for myself. I bought a brand new Mustang. I always wanted one, and I loved the new body style. I thoroughly enjoyed driving that car, and drove it for twelve years. For the last fourteen years I have driven my wonderful Ford Ranger. It has been a great vehicle, and has been a joy to drive. However, after six years of saving I bought another fun car, a Lexus IS 250. I am in hog heaven. It is so good to drive, and it looks good too.

The reason I start today’s blog with this is the lesson I had yesterday about good business. I purchased the car from Kuni Lexus of Portland. I will say this it was the best purchasing experience I have ever had when buying a car. No pressure, great service, and did I say no pressure? We left there with a wonderful car, and a few gifts. When my wife and I are ready to buy our next car, I know where we are going. The lesson involves the importance of service. This dealership treats all of its customers with dignity and care. Good business means good relationships.

The next thing running through my brain this morning is the situation in Clark County with the M&M boys. Steve Stuart, the third County Commisioner, has announced he will not run for re-election. His reasons are similar to what many good politicians that are resigning (or have resigned) or not seeking re-election are saying. I can think of Brian Baird, among others, who said they were tired of the partisan bickering and the lack of service. Politics have become a cronyistic exercise in making sure one keeps their seat instead of serving the public good. The M&M boys, because of their willingness to appoint their buddy to a job that he had no business getting, have driven a good politician out of office. Good politics are like good business practices, serving your customer.

The last thing that has been rattling around in my noggin this morning was the result of an article I read yesterday. Our country has been fighting poverty for 50 years. With 40 plus million still considered in poverty the question is whether our actions are effective, or do we need to find other ways of lifting people out of the trap of poverty.

The article in question places Cory Booker and Paul Ryan in juxtaposition to try and capture meaningful actions needed to attack poverty. Booker rightly focuses on the lost opportunity associated with the partisan bickering in politics. He does this while emphasizing “In America, tragically, social mobility is flat or, in some measures, actually declining: If you are born poor, you are likely to stay poor.” There is one thing that I really agree with him about is the need to get past partisanship to deal with this issue.

Paul Ryan on the other hand wants to focus on growth and fighting poverty at the local level. Ryan gives a great example of  how Pulaski High School in Milwaukie is creating a violence free zone in order to ensure students get an education. This high school has five counselors who have credibility with the students to talk them through difficult situations. These counselors “don’t have education degrees or state certificates. They have something more important: credibility. The youth advisors understand what the students are going through because they had the same struggles.” After focusing on actions at the local level, Ryan then focuses on the need to change the assistance process.

When a person who is receiving assistance gets a job, their assistance is cut off. However, the job they have gotten usually does not pay enough to cover all their expenses. So, why should they go to work, the motivation is to stay on government assistance. Ryan talks about reducing assistance as wages climb, rather than eliminating them when one gets a job. I am all for that, but most of all, I am for having the dialog necessary to create positive solutions.

The lessons of Leadership in all three of areas are clear. First, the owner of Kuni is demonstrating leadership through how he treats his employees. In turn the employees then take care of the customer. This means the customers are willing to come back. It is easier to keep a customer than get a new one.

The second lesson of leadership is situational. Just because one is a good leader in the private business realm does not mean they will be a good leader in the public arena. The M&M boys may have been good in their businesses, but they are certainly making a mess of the county. Employees are afraid to say anything, and are fearful for their jobs. The Freeholders that are designing a new Clark County government are recommending the addition of two more commissioners. This will help mitigate the ability of two people to hijack a political process. I think this will be good.

The third lesson of leadership involves the ability to work together. The differences between Reagan, Clinton, and Obama are many. However, Reagan and Clinton were able to get the two parties to work together to accomplish things. Obama hasn’t demonstrated that skill yet. The leadership we need to deal with the issue of poverty will need to be creative and collaborative. Something that we may have seen glimpses of in the past, but have not experienced at the level needed to accomplish what LBJ had in mind when he initiated the war on poverty.

And that is my thought for the day!

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