Peter Auger, Auburn Hills City Manager
Thoughts on running a city, daily musings, and everything in between.
City Manager, Auburn Hills, MI
It is that time of year where we go through some changes, and this week will illustrate that the climate changes all the time. We issued a snow emergency for certain areas of our community for tonight as we are told we will get from 3 to 6 inches of snow, staring sometime in the evening and getting an inch of snow an hour for several hours.
As these reports are coming in we are attempting to ensure all our storm drains are clear of snow and ice debris. You see tomorrow, the temperatures are going to climb above freezing, therefore, there will be a melt off and water will be flowing. It will be a busy day for our Police, Fire and DPW as this transition goes from 00 to almost 400 in a day.
This is always interesting, but most folks probably don’t even notice the efforts and the change of what happens in local governments during these transitions in weather. From water over the roadways, the expanding pot holes and people just adjusting to the new conditions, this change will keep us busy.
Worse Winter Ever! I have heard that several times this year because we received a lot of snow and cold temperature. Comes to find out, they could be right. From what I understand this is closing in on one of the worst winters in Michigan’s history. If we get the 6 inches tonight we move into 2nd place, and we are not through February yet.
Just think, as the days get more sunlight, that spring is just around the corner and all this snow will become the water that we need to water our lawns and spring flowers. Uh oh, that means I better find my golf clubs! I remember I was going to put indoors all winter to improve my game, okay at least I kept that streak going.
I was reading a paper written in 1955 called Speak Truth to Power, a Quaker Search for an Alternative to Violence. It was written pre United Nations, attempting to lay the ground work for international relations.
It has kind of been a theme throughout human history, that those who gain positions of power surround themselves with people who are “yes people.” Tell the boss only the things that they think the boss wants to hear. Not necessarily what the boss needs to hear.
All throughout history there have been plays to represent the issues of the day, Sophocles’ fourth-century B.C. play Antigone heavily weighs on the perils of speaking truth to power. One could say the play is the source of the modern cliché, “shooting the messenger.”
When you hold a position of power it is always good to check your premises, know why and how you know what you know. We are fortunate in our organization to have that level of trust and be able to speak up amongst ourselves in order to create a better product. Of course we attempt to do this in the right place at the right time.
What you can witness in some people in leadership positions is a display of what the Greeks called hubris (the arrogance of power). They often react quickly without all the facts or without view of the entire picture. A consultant of ours once told me a neat quote that might remind us who exercise leadership to pull the reins back sometimes when she told me a good reminder phrase when people get too absorbed with their power. “Careful when you want something in the worst way; sometimes that’s how you’ll get it.”
There are organizations who have experimented with positions like Lear’s Fool in the Shakespeare’s play, yes the modern equivalent to a court jester that had been promised not to have their head removed for speaking the truth.
Of course there is the great children’s story by Hans Christian Andersen The Emperor’s New Clothes of course the Emperor had no cloths, but everyone was afraid to tell him. Unfortunately we often see this played out in the political arena, but for the time being there is a remedy, it is for people not to let others change the language or meaning of words to fit an agenda, to ensure that 2+2 will always equal 4, and we always do the right thing at the right time for the right reasons.
Have you ever gone through a spell where you felt like you could never catch up? I know some people in our organization feel that way. We are used to moving at such a rapid pace sometimes jumping from one exciting project to another, or starting a new program prior to jumping back to what we already do.
Well this morning I scheduled a little time just to catch up on pile C. Normally I have piles of things to be done, Pile A is highest priority that needs to be delegated, followed up or researched. Pile B is a little less urgent but still needing attention. Pile C are more things I’d like to get too if we ever get 8 days in a week.
Sometimes I write notes on papers, sticky notes and other items when I hear or see something that makes sense and I came across some of those today. Most of them I don’t even have who I can give credit to, but I thought I could share them today in kind of a random thoughts type of post.
I have one from Trout Pomeroy (a local author), he told me once “The trouble with opportunity is that is always disguised as work.”
Then you could go with some old favorites such as Winston Churchill’s observation “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Or Ralph Waldo Emerson “The only way to have a friend is to be one.”
Sometimes it helps to read words of encouragement and recharge our batteries and get back into the good mind set.
Just about all life needs balance and trust. Sometimes we get out of balance and sometimes we get burned when we trust.
I like what American writer C.W. Metcalf wrote when he penned:
“Take your work seriously but yourself lightly.”
We have a lot of people who take their work seriously in our organization. I was happy to see an email from one of our police officers to one of our firefighters.
“I just wanted to follow up with you in reference to the Palm Palace medical on 0/0/14. I’ve been a cop here for almost 12 years and I’ve been involved in my share of critical incidents. I wanted you to know that I was highly impressed with the way you handled yourself and provided leadership on that call. You were alone, you provided specific direction to me and other responding police personnel, and when additional medical responders and necessary medical equipment arrived on scene you immediately started using it in an effort to save that woman’s life. I’m not sure what the outcome was following transport but I am sure that we did what we could at the scene to give her a fighting chance. I wanted you to know that from my vantage point (delivering chest compressions) your services appeared extraordinary!”
This type of communication helps build stronger teams. So many times we concentrate on what we do wrong in each other’s actions but don’t take the minute it takes to say good job. When we do make the effort it has a multiplying effect.
Yes we are not perfect, but our team sure does a lot right. We will correct errors when they occur, but we will also try to strike that balance and make sure we notice the good efforts as well.
Okay, after last week’s post about the benefits of winter, why would I then post a thinking spring blog?
Well now is the time that we do that in our organization. Our roads (all across the State) have taken a beating this winter. Guess what? When the frost leaves the ground we are going to see so more issues also.
Our DPW is out today attempting to fill the worst pot holes with cold patch. Yes, they know this doesn’t last long. It is too cold for the hot mix, so we use the band aid until we get to warmer weather. Once we get to the warmer season the crews will be out with a better patch.
With winters like this it will probably shift some of our road maintenance budgets to different areas that based on the conditions. This was going to be a large infrastructure year without the winter conditions as I believe we will be spending about $9 million of city funding to gain State and Federal dollars for somewhere around $15 million worth of infrastructure work.
So, even though we get a break from the snow for a few days, rest assured the DPW is still working for that eventual spring.
Okay, that’s probably an easy question for most to answer, and a slow pitch softball across the plate for some.
What a great winter we are having.
Yes it is cold, it does that in winter. Wow, lots of snow too, also does that in winter in Michigan.
Both the above can make commutes more challenging. But it is also what makes Michigan so great. Really? You ask.
Well it is great if you:
Down Hill Ski
Cross Country Ski
Sled or toboggan
Snow ball fights
Boat on the Great Lakes or thousands of inland lakes
What, boating and winter? You bet, you want those summer lake levels up, don’t you?
What else do we get out of winter? What about the change of wardrobe, sweaters, boots and different hats. Oh, then there are the comfort foods that go along with the change of the seasons like stews and chilis.
Don’t get me wrong, I love it when spring comes. Call me goofy, but don’t be so harsh on winter… It’s one of my top four seasons!
I use to think words meant something. That when you string several together, a thought, or a point was made that people would know exactly what someone was talking about. If you read the title of this blog above, what would you think I was writing about?
You see, I must be getting old because certain things make me say “really?”
What have we done to our language, and why don’t we laugh at people who use the language to explain things away and look at us like we are fools?
Classic example is the great news from the CBO that explains that the new health care law will eliminate the equivalent of 2.5 million jobs in the United States. The response? “Just think of all the family time people will have.”
This makes one wonder if some (or many) have lost all use of logic, self-respect and integrity. Or, do they think we have? Hmmm.
I also read where the UN has informed the Catholic Church that they need to change their church doctrine about what they think about homosexual acts, their feelings on killing unborn babies, and that they should stop attempting to teach sexual morals. I wonder if anyone checked into the crime, ethics or moral standing of the UN? Have they made such statements against other religions who believe some of the above sins allow those who commit them to be executed?
It is just an Orwellian world we live in where wrong is right, right is wrong, up is down and down is up. I must be getting old for such trivial matters to bother me.
Oh by the way the, the title comes from something I was reading:
“Every day, thousands of innocent plants die, ripped from their roots, cut up, mutilated just so some vegetarians can eat.”
I guess everything needs to be put in context.
Our team has heard me quote Jim Collins and the 20 mile march mentality. This fits right into our management strategy in this organization. The consistent, steady and measured movement forward that makes good organizations great.
I enjoy reading smart people’s work (like Mr. Collins’) because they verify what some of us know in the field. They collect and analyze data and validate some things that we take as second nature. I know people get tired of hearing great things about our community and we strive to do great things here. It would be great to be the best at everything, but we are realistic in our sights. We do want to be in the top class in all categories.
To badly paraphrase Ecclesiastes, the race does not necessarily go to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but those who continue the journey. The way I look at it, if we finish in the top ten in every part of our organization I think we will be in good shape.
So I launched this very unscientific study on the 20 mile march strategy. Ever hear of the app Bejeweled? It’s a simple game, matching jewels and gain coins in a minute’s time. You also get a free spin every day that gives you varying amounts of coins. You can buy special powers with these coins that help you get higher scores. Clear as mud?
Well, here was my experiment. I wanted to be in the top 10 of all my friends in the Facebook world who play this game (points are tracked and you can view where you rank against your friends after every game). In under a year’s time, I have normally stayed in the top 10 and I am now approaching 10 million coins (yes that is an absurd amount of coins). My family thinks it is silly to have all these coins that I cannot spend in the real world, but what if we all were just more consistent in what we do, how we spend, what we don’t spend, still focus on being great… ? We might end up with more coins (or something you hold of value).
By the way, our track record is pretty good at being in the top ten :
And the list goes on and on…
It is keeping the 20 mile march mentality and not expend time and energy jumping from fad to fad de jour.
We all have one. Funny, we just don’t know it. This week we said good bye to my Uncle George. Don’t worry, you didn’t know him. He wasn’t famous to most folks. Wasn’t a role model for most folks. Just some folks. Those would be his family and friends.
See most folks chase fame and/or fortune during their time on earth. In my mind, Uncle George enjoyed life while on earth and wanted to live it. He had a great partner during his journey in my Aunt Elaine. Peas in a Pod those two, both would drop everything to help anyone, and often did. They loved to live, and laugh so hard till they cried.
My aunt has a talent she has shared with family for a long time. I think the first poem I remember her read was at my Great Grandma’s funeral. Sure enough, at her own husband’s funeral she read a poem she wrote (did I tell you how strong she is?). I didn’t ask her if I could share it with the world, but sometimes there is not enough love in the world and maybe I can help someone see love in the life of others. So here is my aunt’s tribute to her husband titled My Angel Baby.
Oh Honey – What have you done
We’ve always been two, now I’m just one.
You’re gone from me now, you’ve ripped out my heart
But it’s always been yours right from the start.
Our life together has been a good ride,
The good and the bad we took it in stride.
We’re born with an expiration date
We don’t know when that is.
God comes down and touches us
Then we’re back being his.
We’ll celebrate now the life that we’ve had
I’ll be alright honey, I’ll just be sad.
My Angel baby will always be you,
The love that we shared it was real – it was true.
I’m so proud of you honey you’ve come along way,
And I’ll be with you again
On my expiration day.
Poems are great when they rhyme; they have the right cadence, follow a consistent theme. But to me, what makes any work of art precious is when it is true and comes from the heart.
By Karrie Marsh, Executive Assistant and Guest Blogger
Just how much snow are we going to get? This is the first winter that I have ever thought, “Enough already.” But as a wise man around here says about situations, you must “innovate, adapt and overcome.”
I’m pretty sure he is referring to more challenging situations than the snow but it still helps me handle situations of all sizes. Which had me thinking about the best way to “adapt” to the cold and “overcome” the dreaded (for me anyways) snow. Here is the solution I came up with; The Auburn Hills Public Library is holding a Valentine Cookie Decorating class tomorrow, Saturday, February 1st at 10:30am until noon. So bundle up, put layers of clothes on, drive carefully and don’t let old man winter keep you from decorating delicious cookies for your favorite valentine.
Besides showing up, all you need to do is register in advance by calling 248.364.6706. Thank you to the Auburn Hills Public Library and the Auburn Hills Senior Center for hosting this tasty event!