Thursday, September 29, 2011

Things I would miss if the Stock Show leaves Denver

A customer in Common Grounds, Lodo, prompted this reflection when she said she would miss the smell of all the cows and horses during January. I told her the smell which oozes down to Lodo during the stock show is partly bovis excrementum, but more likely, the odors from the Purina Dog Chow plant just south of I-70 near Swansea. But this got me to reminiscing about what I would miss too about the Grand Daddy of 'em all, Denver's Ntional Western Stock Show.

1. I would miss the parade of long horns up 17th Street. The people of Denver have come to love that parade and the children especially. And it affords me the opportunity to say in response to horse pockey and bovine rounding or splashing clumps, "Stand back, everyone, I work in the Auditor's Office, I deal with this stuff all the time.

2. I would miss visiting the Grand Champion Bull with Tom Noel when the bull stays in a pen in the grand lobby of the Brown Palace Hotel. Tom and I always get our picture taken with the grand old big bull. We always wear name tags so folks looking on can tell which is the real bull.

3. I would miss the Mexican Rodeo and the Martin Luther King Rodeo.

4 I would miss seeing all the little creatures, the chickens, the rabbits and goats on full display in the exhibition hall.

5. I would miss the sellers and hawkers demonstrating vegetable crushers with the voices of auctioneers.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Technology and civil unrest

Mark Cleverley, a researcher for IBM corporation, originally from the "United Kingdom," as he coined it commented on the use of cell phones for texts in the recent civil unrest in England. Cleverley spoke at a mini conference at our Colorado Convention Center sponsored by IBM concentrating on use of statistics and information for cities and states in dealing with various problems. Promoters billed the conference as a class on analytics in government in solving problems and acheiving goals. In reality it was a soft sell for the IBM systems available for governmental folks in dealing with statistics and issues. I would have preferred a more direct sales pitch about programs available rather than a shrouded sales promotion. Cleverley reported to the crowd of almost 50 people that bands of lawless brigands and other folks would email and text each other deciding where and when to pillage and steal next. He shared that the English parliament is contemplating legislation which would give police authorities the power to shut down electronically mediated communications: emails, tweets and texts to try to control flash points of where rioters and urban pirates might focus their next escapade.

He said rioters went after such luxury items as perfume, cosmetics and the like, not food as might be expected in a time of financial chaos and monetary shortfall.

I asked Cleverley if in his research he found anyone who had studied the new media: tweets, texting and emails and had predicted the use of such in riotous violent activity. He could think of no researcher who had predicted those illegal uses. This issue should be of concern to us in Denver. Have gangs used cell phones to focus on targets for group assaults in lodo after ball games and bar closings? A Denver police representative said the department is looking into this new twist of tweets and emails.

Marshall McLuhan, the first Media Ecologist who taught for years at St. Louis University, got it right so many years ago when he wrote: "Innumerable confusions and a feeling of despair invariably emerge in periods of great technological and cultural transition." Couple this with the huge number of people out of work, the increase in forclosures and home losses and you have a witches brew which makes us think of MacBeth's old crones who cried, "Fair is foul and foul is fair." Something to think about for sure and nothing seems fair at all.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Analytics and accountability

Today I attended a mini conference at our Colorado Convention Center sponsored by the Performance Institute, an adjunct of the IBM Corporation. The conference had lots of good information on "analytics." There were other speakers who illustrated how good information from their analytics programs can help city agencies confront problems. There are lots of definition for Analytics but in a nutshell, this process of information gathering encourages government officials and staff workers to look at patterns statistics which can then become predictors of all sorts of activity of interest to police, fire and other city agencies.

David Edinger, Mayor Hancock's recent appointment as Chief Performance Officer for the city, the keynote speaker at the conference said he hopes to revamp program delivery, execution and performance management based on stakeholder feedback. The agenda item describing what he hopes to do mentions: "to gain citizen support and enthusiasm for government and public service, (to) reform and better utilization of tax payer dollars must be executed throughout all government entities."

One of the speakers for the conference could not come to Denver due to weather conditions somewhere in Canada. So I took a few minutes to fill in for the absent speaker to let David and the other members of city and state agencies present that I really looked forward to working with him. I told him we need his help with recalcitrant city agencies who fail to address recommendations in city audits. I gave several recent examples of city agencies who tried to deny problems in the city. I told him we need his help when agencies deny us access to records. I asked David to attend Audit Committee meetings during which members of the committee hear how audit recommendations are are being implemented.

Someone at the conference asked Edinger what enforcement power goes with his office? He said the Mayor would be the backup if an agency is not performing at peak quality. I responded briefly that the Mayor will have to call his appointees to task if they are not being accountable in running the various departments to which he has appointed them. I did add that Cary Kennedy, new CFO, gets the audit process and will help David and the mayor pull any reluctant appointees in line. One of the IBM software sales people said Denver is on the map because of the focus on performance in Denver. Unfortunately, David is the only employee of the Performance Office. This reminds us of Mike Henry, the only employee of the Ethics Department. Enough said.

So we march up the mountain of accountability at our city. And analytics is like a piton which fixes the rope deep in the stone so a hiker can pull others up to the mountain top.