Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Thank you to the last of the Newfield Swim Club Founding Fathers

Daniel Asselta, 90, passed away yesterday.  His obituary mentioned he was one of the Founding Fathers.  That's a title bestowed on the men who established the Newfield Swim Club in 1959.  Polio was still a very real threat, often closing the many small recreational swimming areas on the lakes around Newfield, and with the shore about 50 minutes away by car,  this meant hordes of the baby boomers roamed the town with nothing to do. 

Not really hordes but certainly a boom of children had been born in Newfield starting in 1946 and since there were no dedicated summer sports facilities then and none nearby, we (I was one) roamed around on bicycles and foot.  The town library opened once a week on Tuesday evening in a one room building for two hours.  Various churches held summer Bible school, but that only kept some of us occupied for a week at most.  There were boy and girl scout camps and some families could afford to rent a house at the shore for a week, or may be a whole season but that was rare.

So, with a very real threat to our well being and the possible problems we could cause as we approached puberty (in those days, there was one cop and he walked the town as his beat),  a group of fathers had a brilliant idea -- buy land, build an olympic size pool (for that time), and establish a members only swim club association.  It was brilliant in concept and from ground breaking in 1959 to opening in the beginning of summer 1960, took dedication and and lots and lots of hard work apart from their regular bread winning jobs. 

They chose to make it private so it would not get bogged down in any town, county, or state politics and/or funding.  They had a business plan that forecast they would need about 100 families to sustain it through the years and while there have been lean years, it still exists 56 years later with about the same goal.  Oh, there have been many changes in that time and lots of hard work by many fathers and mothers alike to keep it vibrant but the original vision and hard work has paid off for three, possibly four generations of Newfield and surrounding areas residents.

So, thank you, Mr Asselta, as I would have called you.  I will also miss your bright and wide smile.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Calling Millennials who believe global warming is big issue for next US election

Remember the slogan "Think globally, act locally."  Global warming has become, for many, the global issue most important in the next US Presidential election.  Local actions have taken the form of protests and rallies against oil drilling/fracking, and small items like choosing better packaging (no plastics) from the grocery stores and retailers.    I don't want anyone to stop those local actions but I want you to add another local item: demand action on your local Superfund site.

There have been over 1100 Superfund sites listed since 1976 when the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was passed.  If you search and find a local site and its status is final, that means it is on the list not that the problem is fixed.  Sites are deleted when all actions are completed and tests show no more contamination.    This process can take years, even when it has been decided what needs to be done. 

Newfield has a Superfund site with contaminated ground water and a slightly radioactive slag pile.  The ground water problem impacts residents in the City of Vineland more than it does Newfield and some action has been taken to reduce that problem, whether its the right action or not is not something I can judge but at least the problem is still being addressed.  Many years pass and the slag pile sits there and sits there and sits there while the company responsible and the US and NJ regulatory agencies have their days in court. 

I am assuming this is true for every Superfund site.  So, look up your local Superfund site and if it isn't cleaned up, demand action from your local politician, especially if they have a re-election coming up.  Make some noise, please.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Pursuing forgiveness

Several months later after a panic attack over another person's behavior that just enraged me, I read a passage in a book that spoke urgently to me.  It said basically that the best revenge is forgiveness and the best insult is indifference.  Applying the methodology known as "fake it til you make it", I have been putting the indifference part into good practice both externally and internally emotionally.  I am having a much harder time with the forgiveness part.

I have seen how powerful forgiveness can be in the example of the Charleston church members.  I don't believe the battle flag of the Confederacy would have been removed from the S.C. capital without their swift and direct forgiveness of the murderer.  It took the spotlight off the murderer and right on the nature of the crime - hate - symbolized by that very flag.  The response was historic.

I heard the message of forgiveness again when I went to see Disney's 2015 Cinderella movie along with its adage of "have courage and be kind."  Being kind enough to forgive often takes courage because forgiveness takes inner strength and a belief in one's own humanity and ability to make mistakes.  Mistakes that can alter one's entire path through life.

Pope Francis has declared a year of mercy that runs through Nov. 20, 2016.  Mercy sometimes requires forgiveness so I will take it as another sign I am on the right track.  For me, of course, the hardest person to forgive is myself.  Because in learning to experience forgiveness emotionally not just externally I have to separate failure to accomplish something from thinking of myself as a failure as a human being.  People with entrepreneurial spirit can do it, why can't I?

After all, having experienced various systems management group efforts where the emphasis was on finding the root cause of the problem not on personnel fault finding, I should have incorporated that lesson into my own emotional responses, but I haven't reached that state yet. 

I try to inspire groups to do that by providing examples.  I analyze situations I am experiencing or  others are reporting to me and look for ways to reduce or remove a problem but I can not reduce or remove an emotional reaction in myself or others.  I experience that lack of control as my failure whether it is or isn't.  

I need to say to myself I failed and then forgive myself and ask forgiveness of others if I have lashed out towards someone else.  So how do I get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.  I have plenty of mistakes in my past just ripe for practicing on.  Wish me luck, add me to your prayers, or not.  Regardless, thanks for listening.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A good man died on June 4th

I am sure many good men and women died that day around the world but I want to talk about one I knew for almost thirty years - Al Erickson.  I heard about Al and his wife Marlys when my son began dating one of their three daughters although I didn't meet them in person for awhile.  Al was still working in Security for Boeing in the Seattle area then, a job he had moved his family to after moving around in the service.  Soon I knew any fears I might have that my son would encounter a rigid father who thought no man was good enough for his daughter were allayed.  Al's big heart had reached out to bring Brent into his family by feeding him plenty of meat and potatoes.

When Brent and Sheila moved into together while she was still a student at UW, Al wasn't fazed but helped them with their bills.  When Brent and Sheila went to France for a year as part of Sheila's education/career development, Al and Marlys went to visit.  When Brent and Sheila got married after 10 years of being together, Al gave a sweet toast at the reception held at Al and Marlys's backyard to the effect that Brent was already part of the family and had been for quite awhile.

Al was a good man who loved his wife, wanted only happiness for his daughters, supported his church, and lived every day of his life with integrity and grace, and he knew how to smile, which he did often.  He is missed.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Arrogance, Inspiration, Insult and Impressed

My self confidence has toppled over into arrogance again recently.  I was insulted when someone I only know in passing started to say they were impressed with some ideas I had gathered from others, added some of my own, then put into a succinct presentation.  I told myself I was upset because what I wanted to accomplish was to inspire them to put some of the ideas into action, not to be impressed with my writing skills.

There was a time when I would have let the person finish and bask in the compliments because I had very little confidence in my ability to put ideas down in a clear, readable fashion or, if my self esteem was particularly low, deflect it with a modest comment.  Now, I need to stuff that arrogance back in the box and practice humility again before that arrogance turns into self-entitlement.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

My suggestion for a compromise between Borough Council and Fire Company

Since neither mediation nor negotiation happened, I am playing mediator here and making an open suggestion for a compromise.  Item 1: What the Borough Council and Mayor seem to want more than any other result is for the fire chief to be someone else and for regular reports of fire incidents to be reported to them.  Item 2: What the Newfield Volunteer Fire Company seems to want is to be left alone to run the fire company as they always have.  Item 3: What the residents of Newfield want is fire service at the same cost it historically has been.  Item 4: What the town needs if it is to continue to have its own volunteer fire company is a new fire truck.

I can not do anything about the Item 4 as that will raise the tax rate and no one wants that.  I hope a compromise addressing Items 1 and 2 will go along way to making Item 3 happen.

My points for the compromise are:
  For the Newfield Volunteer Fire Company:
  1.  Prepare a succession plan for a new and different fire chief of their choosing to be installed in 6 months in order to give the new chief time to learn what procedures are, start what ever additional training is needed, and practice with the company in the role of fire chief.
  2.  Provide written reports going forward and back to Dec 31, 2012 that make it easy to file incident reports on the national fire incident reporting system.
  3.  Provide a write up of the procedure used to thoroughly vet new volunteers before they can be accepted into the company so it can be treated as public record, with any sensitive material such as passwords deleted.
  4. Provide an affidavit signed by all members that they will not seek to nor re-elect the current fire chief for a period of three years.
  For the Borough of Newfield Council and Mayor:
  1. Repeal the current ordinance and re-instate the the original ordinance governing a fire department.  This will return to control of the fire company, its membership, officers, and finances to the company as it was before 2013.
  2. Amend the original ordinance to include written reports of fire incidents to be provided quarterly in a format and detail that is suitable for reporting on the national fire incident reporting system.
  3. Provide the fire company with the contact information for reporting whatever details the insurance company needs on members and drivers directly.  This protects any sensitive information of individuals.
  4.  Provide an affidavit signed by all members of Council and the Mayor that they will not seek to nor enact a new ordinance about the fire company for a period of three years.
Compromises require trust and there is little of that currently available so I have included affidavits for both sides that at least gives some time for trust to be restored.

The people of Newfield can still win in this situation but time is running out.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How much will it cost Newfield Borough if Forest Grove is contracted to provide fire services?

The newspaper reports that Borough Council is trying to start up a new fire company and if that fails it will pay Forest Grove Volunteer Fire Company to provide fire services for Newfield.  Nowhere do I find any estimates of what it might cost out of our real estate taxes nor any estimates of how much our house insurance fees might rise.  Forest Grove is several miles away from the center of town and thus response times are longer; every minute counts in a fire and insurance companies take than into consideration.

Somehow it seems it was more important to Borough Council members that they "win" by removing the fire chief and thus the fire company than the cost to the taxpayers.  I wonder if any grants that might be won by the police department if and when the new fire company starts reporting on the National Fire Incident Reporting System will offset all the additional taxpayer cost.  With only 45 calls in a year, I wonder if it makes any difference at all.  Could it be we get few grants because we have so few residents/voters?