13 December, 2011

Cancer For Christmas

My 89-year-old mother has stage 3 cervical cancer.

We thought she was starting her radiation therapy today but, no, they just did some more imaging and will start her on the weekly chemotherapy and daily radiation in a few days. The weekly chemo and daily radiation treatments will run 5 to 7 weeks.

For privacy reasons, I won't be providing a lot of details about mom's case or prognosis but if you are a close friend or family member, reply to me privately and I'll answer questions or provide details not included here.

As for the Higginbotham At Large blog, look for announcements and changes in 2012.

12 August, 2011

Age Bias Against Older Job Applicants: I Experienced It When I "Mystery Shopped" Some Large Employers

At some employers and staffing agencies, the job application process is front-loaded for age bias.

My mystery shopping  experiences at several staffing companies and large employers will illustrate what I mean.

1. At 2 companies, young job applicants were led to a bank of computers where they applied for jobs online while older applicants like me were handed clipboards with paper applications. When I asked one of the 20-somethings why she led young applicants to a computer bank but handed me a paper application she actually said "Well, my parents aren't computer literate so I figured you might rather have a paper application."

2. At one employer, the 20-something worker who was handling my application started speaking to me s-l-o-w-l-y and loudly when she saw me use reading glasses. To her, if I needed reading glasses I was also deaf.

3. Two major employers, one a staffing company, the other a transportation company, literally tried to talk me out of applying for jobs at their companies. They said things like "Uh, Mr. Higginbotham, you do realize  the job you're trying to apply for involves hard physical work, right?"

At some companies, the recruitment/application process is front-loaded for age bias because the 20-somethings on the front lines of that process stereotype older workers. Twentysomethings believe older workers are technophobes and Luddites. Twentysomethings think older workers can't hear because we wear reading glasses. Twentysomethings think older workers can't do physically demanding work.

Twentysomethings naturally want to stock their companies with other twentysomethings with whom they'd like to be "social".

The reason there are so many twentysomethings on the front end of the hiring process is that this initial screening role is seen as an "entry level" position that is wasted on more experienced HR people. Maybe employers need to re-think this. After all, what could be more important than getting the best people - regardless of age - into the next round of recruitment?

A twentysomething employer told me he wanted to hire "people with tight buns" who looked like "college soccer players."

If you don't have some older workers on the front end of your recruitment/application process your company may be one of the companies that discriminated against me when I went out to "mystery shop" staffing firms and other employers.

Employers need to diversify by age for the same reason they need to diversify by race and religion and gender.

Is your company's recruitment/application process front-loaded for age bias?

Have you ever hired a mystery shopper to report on your application/recruitment process?
Would you like to serve on a "older workers task force" or would you like to recommend somebody? Call me at (304) 550-6710 or email me at JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com to learn more.

31 July, 2011

Employers: Diversify Your Recruitment Team To Access The Entire Talent Pool

"If I knew where to find job applicants who can pass a drug screen and show up for work on time every day I'd hire them all right now" said the owner of a small manufacturing firm.

"I know where you can get job seekers who have been showing up for work on time and passing drug tests for 30 years" I said.

"Where?" asked the factory owner.

"The 50-somethings recently off-loaded by Corporate America" I said.

"Those people don't apply at my company" said the factory owner.

"Oh, yes, they do" I said. "You just don't know about them because the 23-year-olds on the front lines of your recruiting/screening process find a way to eliminate the 50-somethings from further consideration" I said.

Employers: The competition for talent is really a war. What if the sales rep you need is gay or the accountant you need is black or the IT guru you need is "old" or the marketing guru you need is atheist. Can you really afford to discriminate against any class of worker on the basis of age or sex or race or religion or sexual orientation? No, you can't. If you wish to compete for the entire talent pool you have to diversify your recruitment team.


For more on "institutional ageism" see :: http://higginbothamatlarge.blogspot.com/2010/05/institutional-ageism.html
Joseph Higginbotham has 20 year experience as a "headhunter". Joseph Higginbotham's articles about recruitment have appeared in Living Well 50 Plus, Campus Career Counselor and in Business Lexington. Higginbotham was a presenter and promoter at University of Kentucky-hosted "Career Changers and Job Seekers" events. Contact Joseph Higginbotham at (304) 550-6710 or at JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com.

Beside the debt ceiling, what's the hottest topic? JOBS! If James Carville were here he'd say "It's JOBS, stupid." 

Does your club or organization need publicity? Have you considered providing a jobs workshop? I can show you how to publicize your jobs workshop and make it pay for itself. Call Joseph Higginbotham at (304) 550 - 6710 or email me at JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com.

29 July, 2011

Why A Charleston Radio Station Can Profit From "The Law Of The Category" And Give Talk Radio Fans An Alternative To Agnello

West Virginia Radio exec, Mike Buxser's,  recent re-hiring of serial brand-killing, conservative talk show hypocrite, Michael Agnello, gives me a chance to ask a question I've been asking radio station owners and program directors everywhere I go: why would a radio station rather be the 3rd country station or the 4th oldies station or the nobody-ever-heard-of-us rock station in a market the size of Charleston, WV when there's an unclaimed format category they could have all to themselves?

Did these radio people not read Reis and Trout's bestseller, 21 Immutable Laws of Marketing? Law #2 is "the law of the category" which says "if you can't be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in."

What is that unclaimed category Charleston, WV station owners are failing to claim for themselves? Here it is: talk radio for talk radio fans who can't stand talk radio hypocrite Michael Agnello.

No, this category doesn't exist in other markets. In other markets the new category might have to be "liberal/progressive talk radio" but here in Charleston all you have to do to create a new category is be the only talk station in town where talk radio fans don't have to listen to MIchael Agnello.

I can think of several Charleston stations that could profit from Reis and Trout's Law Of The Category by making a format change.

First, there's WIHY radio at 1110 on the AM dial. WIHY is one of the few stations in the market that isn't owned by West Virginia Radio, Bristol Broadcasting or LM Communications. WIHY is owned by Big River Radio of Blacksburg, VA. WIHY doesn't even show up in some of the ratings books I've seen so their "Classic Rock N Roll" format doesn't seem to be working very well for them in this market. Seems to me  Big River Radio has 4 choices: 1. they could simply turn off the transmitter. 2. they could sell the station. 3. they could double down on a format that isn't working for them in this market and keep doing what they're doing (and probably keep getting the results they've been getting) or they could make a bold format change. I suggest they consider becoming the talk show station for talk show fans who can't stand Michael Agnello.

Then there's LM Communications which owns a cluster of stations in the Charleston area. At least two of LM's stations - at 1300 and 1410 on the AM dial - aren't showing up in the ratings so, clearly, what they're doing isn't working from an audience size standpoint. One of those stations might make money, however, because it's a listener-supported Christian station which means the content providers actually pay the station for the airtime. The content providers, in turn, ask their listeners to support their "ministry". In case you've ever wondered how a radio station with a 1% market share can survive, this is how they do it.

People who have been around St. Albans for, say, 45 years or so, may know that radio station WKLC AM at 100 Kanawha Terrace in St. Albans was LM Communications' President, Lynn Martin's, first radio station. LM Communications owns clusters in Lexington, KY - where Martin now lives - and in Charleston, SC.

I think Lynn Martin should consider profiting from Reis and Trout's Law Of The Category by reformatting 1410 as the only Charleston talk radio station that doesn't have Michael Agnello.

I even know where LM Communications' Lynn Martin and Big River Radio's Edward Baker can get their first 3PM radio show to air opposite radio talk show hypocrite and serial brand-killer, Michael Agnello. Former Huntington mayor, Bobby Nelson, is already doing a civil, thinking man's talk from the Kindred Communications studios in downtown Huntington. As a former state senator and former Congressman Ken Hechler staffer, Bobby Nelson already has a fan base in Charleston so it would make sense for an enterprising Charleston station owner to simply license the show from Kindred and simulcast it in the Charleston market. Since Huntington and Charleston are only 50 miles apart and Bobby knows as much about the local politics and news in Charleston as he does about what's going on in Huntington, Bobby could easily adapt his show to the geographical expansion.

There's a new sheriff in town at LM's Charleston, WV cluster, cluster manager, Reggie Jordan. I think this is Jordan's chance to do something bold, something that would give LM a category in which they can be #1. They can't be #1 at rock or country or any of the other categories they compete in. Their situation is tailor-made for the Reis/Trout Law of The Category.

For readers who don't know why I call Michael Agnello a "hypocrite" and a "serial brand-killer", just go to Google and find the Charleston Gazette and Charleston Daily Mail articles about Agnello's numerous arrests for assault, drunk driving and driving on a suspended license. While you're at it, look up articles about how Agnello lost his job as a Charleston pastor when he had an affair with a member of the church staff.

On a recent show, Agnello was calling on the Boone County Board of Education to fire teachers they caught using meth even though this Bible-quoting former preacher has been the recipient and beneficiary of unprecedented grace on the part of West Virginia Radio, WCHS and Mike Buxser.

Perhaps Agnello should read the story of the "Unforgiving Servant" in Matthew 18 before he goes on the air and advocates the career death penalty when he only has a radio career because of the long suffering of his employer who has forgiven him numerous times after numerous arrests.

17 July, 2011

Dave Kravetz: From "Overqualified" Pizza Delivery Man To iHigh.com Linchpin

David Kravetz has a graduate degree in political science and speaks fluent Japanese but when I last wrote about him in a 2008 newspaper column he was the most overqualified pizza delivery person in Lexington, KY. Despite Dave's impressive resume, employers didn't want an "overqualified" 50-something. 

I'm happy to announce that not only has Dave found an employer who looked past his age and saw his value, I'm happy to report that Dave is making us 50-somethings proud.

No, Dave didn't walk straight into a job that paid as well as the job he had at Lexmark before he became a pizza delivery man. In fact, his new job at iHigh.com, a young Lexington company with a why-didn't-I-think-of-that? business plan,  paid less than half his old Lexmark salary but Dave saw the potential to grow along with the company so he worked hard and became a linchpin at iHigh.com. His bosses noticed and promoted and rewarded him accordingly. David is now the Director of Business Development at iHigh.com.

Sometimes its a part-time job, a hobby or a "passion" that makes one candidate a better fit for a job than someone else would be. Dave is succeeding at iHigh.com largely because of one his part-time jobs. You see, Dave was the webmaster and promoter for a semi-famous musician who records and performs under the name Antsy McClain and the skills Dave acquired came in very handy when he went to work for iHigh.com because managing the website and promoting the music for Antsy McClain gave Dave a chance to learn how to drive traffic to a website, a key component of how iHigh.com makes its money. 

I always knew Dave's low-paid work for Antsy McClain would one day become key to Dave's self-reinvention but I just didn't know how. I thought Dave would probably start a business but, instead, Dave got in near the ground floor of a hot new start-up that's going to make its shareholders rich either in an IPO or an acquisition.  

What I wrote about Dave in my 2008 newspaper column is still true of the other Daves who have recently been rightsized and downsized and offshored out of their old jobs: "Dave is on sale. There's a bull market in Dave. You can hire Dave and others like him if you'll just strike the word "over-qualified" from your vocabulary. Jump the wood rail fence and shake a job application at the raging bulls." 

Experience is on sale in America. Buy and hold.

Incidentally, Dave got his great new job with help from a social co-signer who, in this case, was his wife, Julie. As my regular readers know, even a terrific employee like Dave seldom gets the job without help from an insider.

Competence gets a job seeker into a game that relationships win. 
Learn how to turn your relationships into social co-signers in my February 28 thru March 5 posts.

11 July, 2011

A Job Search Fact Job Seekers Can Use To Network Their Way To Their Next Boss

Not once have I placed a candidate who the paying client couldn't have found on their own just by using their existing network of employees, colleagues, vendors, clients and other professional contacts.

Let's backward-engineer that fact. Not once have I placed a candidate with a paying client who couldn't have networked his or her way to that job on their own. In every case where I've been paid a ridiculous fee for "finding" an executive, a sales rep, a marketing guru, an architect, an engineer, a nurse, a respiratory therapist, a pharmacist or other professional, that successful candidate was already socially and professionally networked to the hiring client and could have networked themselves to the job had they simply worked their existing networks.

If you haven't been living under a rock and you have any work experience at all you probably already know somebody who can introduce you to your next boss.

I've just divulged a fact that other headhunters don't want you to know.

There are two major reasons employers pay ridiculous headhunting fees instead of just becoming their own headhunters: (1) laziness and (2) total cluelessness about how to use their existing networks of employees, clients, vendors and other professional contacts. At a recent trade show I was approached by a man I didn't know who wanted me to find him a selling branch manager in Carbondale, IL. Since I didn't know the man and perform search work by referral only, I declined the search but offered to show him how to do the search himself. I promised him that I could sit down with him and show him how to fill this job himself by using Linkedin. Free. He didn't want to do it himself and asked me again if I would do the search for him.

Invariably, when I "find" the candidate my client wants to hire, I do so by networking with people who could have introduced the client to that candidate if only the client had asked.

Most of what headhunters do is simple networking.  Employers and job seekers can use that fact to become their own headhunters and network their way to solving their problem.

Read my February 28 thru March 5 posts on how to get a "social co-signer" to introduce you to your next boss.

For more on how to network your way to your next job, read my February 28 thru March 5 posts.

09 July, 2011

Job Seeking For Recent College Grads

Lately I've been hearing from recent college grads who find themselves looking for their first "real" job in a market where they feel like a stranger - their own hometowns. Their last hometown employment was five years ago and didn't provide them with the kind of professional networking opportunities they need now. It's hard to grip and grin down at the Rotary club breakfast when you're the one cooking or serving the Rotary club breakfast.

When it comes to job search, there's nothing worse than being a stranger.

Hometown strangers need to get out of the stranger category and into the friend-of-a-friend or introduced-by-a-friend category. This is going to involve doing a lot of interviewing but not the kind where you send a resume to a stranger and hope the stranger invites you in for an interview. No, the interviewing I'm talking about is the kind where you talk to every active working professional you know - people whose professional networks are current - and ask them who they know who might be in a position to hire you.

Start with your old college town. Perhaps you did an internship or some part-time work in college. Who did you meet? Get out a legal pad and make a list of the professionals you met in your college town and then start calling them asking who they know in your hometown. Those professionals belong to associations or sit on boards or do business with people in your current market. Start calling them and asking them who they know in your current market.

You can waste time playing the low-percentage game of sending resumes to strangers or you can play the high percentage game of moving out of the stranger category and into the recommended-by-a-friend or friend-of-a-friend category. It's a fact of human nature that people will not hire or do business with a stranger if a satisfactory non-stranger is available. You don't have to be the hiring manager's best buddy to get the job but you do have to move from the stranger category into the non-stranger category. Your college town contacts can do that for you. Make that list of your college town contacts, tell them where you are now, and ask them who they know in your current town.

And don't just ask them if you can "use their name". Using the name of a friend or professional contact is good but what's even better is to ask your professional contacts to send an email or make a call to someone they know in your current town.

People won't hire or do business with strangers if there is a satisfactory non-stranger available. The fact that you've sent hundreds of resumes and still don't have a job confirms my assertion that you're playing a low-percentage game. Increase your odds. Don't be a stranger. Become a non-stranger by getting somebody you already know to intervene on your behalf.

And don't assume that your hometown friends and relatives have already done all they can to help you. Interview each of them. Tell them what you did in college - both academics and employment - and ask them who they know that they'd be willing to introduce you to. Ask them to arrange a lunch meeting or coffee at Starbucks. This conversation will jog their memories and make them think of people they wouldn't have thought of as important contacts until you show up with a legal pad and started asking them who they know.

What you've been doing isn't working. Try my way.

I'd rather spend one day networking with friends of friends than a month sending resumes to strangers.

Don't be a stranger. Make the list. Conduct the interviews. Get your professional contacts from your old college town involved in your job search. Get your hometown friends and relatives to introduce you to people they know who may be able to hire you.

I'd rather spend one day interviewing friends and relatives than spend a week sending resumes to strangers. The odds of success are far greater.
Older job seekers with years of work experience should look at my February 28 thru March 5 posts about working with headhunters, getting a "social co-signer" and more.

06 July, 2011

Job Seeker Tip: Don't Be A Stranger (And How Not To Be)

As my regular readers know, a job seeker with a great resume is no match for a job seeker with the right relationships. Competence gets job seekers into a game that relationships win. Every few minutes an employer passes over better-qualified candidates to hire someone they know, someone they like, or someone who was recommended to them by a "social co-signer".

Though helpful, it's not necessary to be a friend of the employer but it is necessary to move out of the stranger category. Why? Here's a fundamental fact of human nature: people don't like to do business with strangers. Employers don't like to hire strangers.

If you are a friend of a friend,  you're no longer a stranger.

My younger job seeking readers - many of them recent college grads seeking their first jobs - have a hard time understanding this fact of human nature and how to exploit it. They think that if they had the highest GPA from the most prestigious school they should get the job.

It only works that way when there's not a non-stranger in the candidate pool. Non-strangers with "B" averages get the jobs over 4.0 candidates all the time.

People won't do business with a stranger if there is a non-stranger available who can provide a reasonably good product or service.

People won't hire strangers if there is a reasonably competent non-stranger available.

Get out of the stranger category and move into the non-stranger category.

Every good salesman knows that his odds of getting the new account greatly increase if he is introduced to the decision maker by a mutual friend (the social co-signer).

Don't let your stubborn refusal to believe in the irrationality of human beings stand in the way of getting the job. Instead of sending resumes to strangers - a low-percentage game - get your social co-signers to introduce you to somebody who can hire you.

Two candidates apply for the same job. One is a stranger, the other is a non-stranger. The stranger has the stronger resume, better experience and glowing references from other strangers.

The non-stranger is introduced to the hiring manager by their mutual friend.

Hiring managers and HR managers will never tell you  this but, in most cases, the non-stranger gets the job.

Stop sending resumes to strangers. Get introduced to your next boss by a social co-signer.

For more info on social co-signers, read my Feb. 28 to March 5 posts.
Anonymous and pseudonymous comments will not be approved for publication.

Forget Your Resume, Send Your Rap Sheet To Mike Buxser At West Virginia Radio Corp

Michael Agnello is returning to WCHS radio 580.

Former conservative radio talk show hosts who damaged their stations' brands by driving drunk, driving on a suspended, being arrested for assaulting their girlfriends or having affairs with women at churches they pastored should send their rap sheets to :

Mike Buxser
West Virginia Radio
1111 Virginia Street East
Charleston, WV 25301

See the story at  :: http://wvgazette.com/News/201106301029

For more on returning conservative talk show hypocrite, Google search terms "Michael Agnello" plus "South Central Regional Jail", "cash-only bond", "suspended license", "revoked license", "arrested", "affair with another minister".

29 June, 2011

The Company Men: The Star-Studded Downsizing Film You'll Want To Watch With Your Unemployed Friends

Despite it's star-studded cast - Ben Affleck, Kevin Costner, Chris Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, Maria Bello, Craig T. Nelson  - the most honest film I've ever seen about the resetting of America's job market, was a box office flop - perhaps because its natural market (unemployed people) can no longer afford to see movies. That's too bad, because The Company Men deserves to be seen by every right-sized, downsized, unemployed and underemployed American so I hope my unemployed and underemployed readers will rent it as I did last week.

The Company Men's main character, Ben Affleck, is a $150k per year account executive at a ship-building company until he is fired along with thousands of his co-workers by CEO (Craig T. Nelson) and the HR director (Maria Bello). The Company Men realistically follows Affleck as he goes to company-paid "outplacement", sells his upscale house, sells his Porsche, moves back in with his parents, deals unsuccessfully with headhunters, loses job opening after job opening to younger MBAs willing to work for less than half what he used to make, lets his wife go back to work (she's a nurse so she can work any time she wants)  and eventually takes a manual labor job carrying building supplies to the skilled laborers at his brother-in-law's (Kevin Costner) construction firm.

My regular readers will understand why I especially liked the advice Affleck got from the outplacement firm: they told him and his fellow outplaced workers to make a list of everybody they know - friends, relatives, former co-workers, former bosses, former clients - anybody who might help them find their next job.

The Company Men is honest about ageism. One of Affleck's co-workers (Chris Cooper) commits suicide when he discovers that no matter how much he amends his resume and dyes his hair, he's just too damn old to get a job. When Affleck's old company loses a major account and starts a second round of firings, workers over age 50 are fired in disproportionately high numbers but company attorneys insist they can get away with it.

The Company Men is honest about what I call the "low percentage game" of sending resumes and going to interviews. If you've sent thousands of resumes and gone to dozens of interviews that didn't lead to job offers, you may be tempted to think there's something wrong with your resume or your interview skills - and there are plenty of people who are more than willing to take advantage of your insecurities and charge you hundreds of dollars to write you a killer resume or thousands of dollars to coach you how to interview. My readers know that the truth: its not better resumes or better interview skills but better relationships that will get you the job. The candidate with a great resume is no match for the candidate who is introduced to the hiring manager by a mutual friend. I call this mutual friend the "social co-signer". (Read more in my Feb 28 thru March 5 posts).

The Company Men is honest about where your next job is likely to come from: somebody you already know. Affleck finally escapes manual labor with his brother-in-law and gets back into a "more suitable" job when one of his fellow fired executives (Tommy Lee Jones) uses the profits from his stock options to start his own company and hire a few of the down-sized workers.

Kudos to John Wells for writing and directing the most honest film I've ever seen on job search in modern America. Kudos to The Weinstein Group for getting this realistic, almost instructional film out on DVD. Rent it today. Watch it with a few of your job seeking friends.

Higginbotham At Large is not affiliated with anonymously or pseudonymously published websites - even sites that quote from or link to my blog. See my March 12 & 13 2011 posts for details.

Higginbotham At Large does not publish anonymous or pseudonymous comments. 

09 May, 2011

Natalie Tennant Squanders A Chance To Actually Have A Message On The Hoppy Kercheval Show

On this morning's radio show, Hoppy Kercheval gave Natalie Tennant an opportunity to make some news and say something that will get people talking about her campaign. She squandered it. Kercheval asked her an abortion-related question and instead of taking the opportunity to say the one thing she can say that no other candidate can say - that she is the only pro-choice liberal in the race - Tennant stuck with the message that isn't working and talked about Luntz-tested words like "accountability" and "transparency". She's at 17% in the polls and claims to "feel good" abut her campaign and insists that her "message" of accountability and transparency is "resonating" with voters.

I understand that elected officials like Tennant are surrounded by supporters and sycophants who won't tell her that her "message" isn't a message and that if she doesn't start saying something different she's going to keep getting the results she's getting but I don't understand how a women with a masters degree  can't understand the polls. Tennant probably took no fewer than 3 or 4 statistics classes in college so she understands how polls work and she has to know that if her so-called "message" is resonating with voters she'd be polling higher than 17%.

I also understand that when all your friends are in politics it's easy to have the misconception that all voters are engaged and aware of what you stand for. They're not. Just yesterday I saw an email from a Ph. D. who was still deciding between Tennant and Thompson - two candidates who are about as dissimilar as two candidates can be.

Natalie Tennant is running a lousy campaign. She's lucky Emily's List doesn't ask for their money back.

Is there nobody in Tennant's inner circle who will tell her the truth that her so-called message isn't a message and that it's not "resonating"?

08 May, 2011

Squandering The Emily's List Endorsement: If Tennant Loses It Will Be Because She Didn't Make The Right Enemies

Candidates win races the same way organizations raise money: by attracting the right enemies. if Natalie Tennant loses in a primary race where she is the only pro-choice liberal in a 5-way race against 4 DINO men, it will because because she failed to get attacked by her opponents and anti-choice activists. It will be because she squandered the Emily's List endorsement.

A HuntingtonNewsNet editorial said Natalie Tennant "sold her political career for a very cheap price" when she received funding and an endorsement from Emily's List. The editorial was wrong. Tennant may very well lose this special election primary and she may very well have squandered the best chance she'll ever have to get the democratic nomination for governor but not because she was endorsed by Emily's List. No, if Natalie Tennant loses it will be because she failed to make the right enemies and because she failed to get those enemies attacking  her loudly enough to arouse her natural constituencies, women and liberals.

As I've said in previous posts, if a pro-choice female Democrat can't win the democratic nomination this year against a field of 4 Republican-lite men, then she can't win at all. Never again will the primary math favor her the way it does this year. Never again will Tennant be lucky enough to have 4 men fighting over all the conservative votes and leaving the non-conservative vote to her.

But this favorable, split-vote primary math advantage only works if Tennant can get people talking about her as the only liberal in the race. Nothing says "liberal" like being the only pro-choice candidate in the race, the only Emily's List endorsed candidate in the race.

Instead of trying to receive the endorsement under the radar, Tennant should have made that endorsement the cornerstone of her campaign.  All the candidates claim to be for more jobs, more accountable government and lower taxes. The Tennant campaign can't excite and mobilize her natural constituencies - women and liberals - by sounding like one of the DINO boys.

But in a primary election where she's the only pro-choice candidate, Tennant can differentiate herself from her Republican lite opponents if she makes choice the cornerstone of her campaign and gets the boys to attack her for it.

And she's running out of time. I hope that even as I write this post Tennant is taping a new TV ad in which she trades the tomboy outfit for a business suit and replaces the DINO boy script for a clear declaration that she is the only liberal, pro-choice candidate in this race.

With any luck, one of the anti-choice DINO boys will take the bait and try to strengthen his conservative bona fides by attacking her as "too liberal for West Virginia" or failure to reflect West Virginia's values. The more Tennant can get her male opponents attacking her for her views on abortion, the better chance she has of taking advantage of this year's unusual split-field primary math.

As long as Tennant allows this race to be about Luntz-tested words like accountability, she can't  take advantage of the most favorable, split vote primary election math she'll ever see.

And while it would be great if one of the DINO boy candidates would attack Tennant on abortion, the next best thing would be if some fire-breathing anti-abortion organization like The Family Foundation or The Heritage Foundation would use Tennant's position on abortion to raise funds. The point is, if Tennant loses a 5-way race in which the other 4 candidates are splitting the conservaive vote 4 ways, it won't be because she got the Emily's List endorsement, it will be because she didn't get her enemies to attack her for it. What Tennant needs is the right enemy. A loud enemy. An enemy who will make the point she has failed to make: that she is the only liberal, pro-choice candidate in this race.

THIS JUST IN: Rick Thompson, who has been running a cynical, dog whistle campaign for the evangelical vote all along, is now running a TV ad aimed at people who "carry a Bible to church on Sunday". If Tenant could just get the hymn-singing Thompson to attack her it would help her more than it would help Thompson. Yes, Thompson may very well take a few evangelical votes from frontrunner, Tomblin, but more importantly an attack on Tennant's position on abortion helps differentiate Tennant as the only pro-choice liberal in the race.
Send comments, questions and hate mail to JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com.

06 May, 2011

Bray Cary Is Right About Why Natalie Tennant's Campaign Isn't Getting Traction

Bray Cary of West Virginia Media is right: Natalie Tennant's campaign isn't getting "traction" because she's not giving people a reason to vote for her except that she's a nice lady. He made this observation on Hoppy Kercheval's radio show this morning. I'm sure some of you heard it.

That's why people are talking about Perdue, Thompson and Tomblin but not Tennant.

Is there not somebody in the Tennant campaign who can take her aside and tell her that if she can't win in a race where the conservative DINO vote is split 4 ways, she can't win? Is there nobody?

The primary math will never be more favorable to a Tennant win than it is right now. The question is, when will Tennant adjust her campaign strategy to exploit the favorable math?

Secretary Tennant, pull the tomboy TV ads and replace them with an ad in which you tell your natural constituencies - women and liberals - that you are the only pro-choice candidate in the governor's race.

That'll get people talking about your campaign and, more importantly, it'll give approximately half the women voters and all the liberal voters a reason to come out and vote for you.

05 May, 2011

Why Tennant Needs To Pull Her Current Tomboy Ads and Replace Them With Ads Aimed At Her Natural Constituencies

Here's the bad news for Natalie Tennant: Natalie Tennant won't get any conservative votes. Tomblin, Perdue, Thompson and Kessler will get all the conservative votes. No matter how much Tennant's TV ads try to make her look like a tomboy, conservatives and the West Virginia Democratic Party establishment will vote for the boys.

Here's the good news for Natalie Tennant: Tennant can win without one conservative vote. All she has to do is win her two natural constituencies, women and liberals.

So the question is, why is Natalie Tennant's campaign wasting scarce TV money on ads that make her look like just another conservative? It simply doesn't make any sense.

I think Tennant has been hoping that her female and liberal base will do what she's failing to do, that is, reach out to her natural constituencies.

I think she's assuming that enough people know she's the only pro-choice candidate in the race that we will put her over the top with a word-of-mouth campaign.

She's wrong. Oh, we're trying. We're out here Facebooking and blogging and using Linkedin and Twitter but there simply aren't enough liberal elites in the East End of Charleston with connections to the women and liberals in the far flung counties who will only know Tennant from her TV ads that don't say how she's different from the boys.

The boys, by the way, are helping her. The frontrunner, Earl Ray Tomblin, is starting to get some grief for the corporate welfare he receives from the Greyhound breeding industry so I look for the conservatives - Tomblin, Thompson, Perdue and Kessler - to get negative and tighten the race. I think Tomblin's 30+ poll numbers will drop into the high 20s as voters start to learn who he is and Tennant can win with only about 30%.

I think she can get to 40 but not with her current campaign strategy. I think if it were generally known that Tennant is the only pro-choice candidate in the race women who go to conservative churches and sleep with conservative men will go to the polls and vote for Natalie Tennant. They'll lie about it, of course. They'll tell their pastors and their husbands they voted for Thompson or one of the other DINOs.

And I think that women who don't tell their pastor or their husband or their boyfriend the truth about how they feel about reproductive choice would go out to the polls and vote overwhelmingly for Tennant if she just tells them she's the only pro-choice candidate in the race.

And I know the liberals will. Trouble is, Secretary Tennant can't count on the progressive enclave on the East End to get the word out to the rest of the state. There's a myth that all West Virginians are only separated from each other by one or two degrees. That's false.

Tennant needs to pull her tomboy ads and go on TV dressed like the professional woman she is and tell the liberals and women of this state that she is the only pro-choice candidate in the race. If she does that, women all over the state of West Virginia will tell their husbands and their pastors they're voting for one of the boys but they'll vote overwhelmingly for Tennant. And liberals who don't know anybody on the East End and live in places where they can't identify themselves as liberals will come out in droves to vote for the only progressive in the race.

04 May, 2011

Why This Year's Math Favors Tennant But Her Strategy Doesn't

"Much of what political consultants do amounts to exploiting the mathematical quirks of the plurality vote." - William Poundstone, Gaming The Vote: Why Elections Aren't Fair


Yesterday I wrote that in a year when all her opponents are male and running like Republicans, Natalie Tennant's clearest path to the Democratic gubernatorial nomination is to run like a girl. The anti-choice boys are splitting the male, conservative vote 4 ways which means that if Tennant can motivate women and liberals to come out and vote, Tennant wins. So why is she running like one of the conservative boys?

My friends and I have been swapping theories about why Tennant is running such a bad campaign. Several people have cited her inability to raise money. Others have speculated that this special election run is just a dress rehearsal for the real race a year later. Some have even suggested that she doesn't really want to be governor.

It's also just possible that Tennant thinks she doesn't have to compete for the female vote and doesn't have to play the I'm -the-only-pro-choice-candidate-in-the=race card because her women friends will get that message out leaving her free to run like one of the boys.

If that's what she thinks, she's wrong and she's getting bad advice. 

West Virginia women don't like the TV ads the boys are airing. They make fun of them. Perdue has some kind of creepy obsession with telling us how "big" he is. Thompson thinks all he has to do is play gospel music and tell us about his sad childhood and we'll forget that he's otherwise indistinguishable from any Republican. 

Tomblin tried to deprive us of the opportunity to vote at all. 

West Virginia women want an excuse to vote for Tennant but she's not giving them one. Her phone bank scripts look as if they were lifted from the Tomblin campaign and in her TV ads she is dressed like one of the boys and she doesn't say the one thing that would mobilize the female vote against the boys: that she's the only pro-choice candidate in the race.

If Tennant were in a 2-way or 3-way race for the Democratic nomination I might understand her reluctance to bring up the controversial subject of abortion, but this year's Democratic contest has rules that favor a pro-choice woman. 

Secretary Tennant, the kind of voters who would vote for anti-choice conservatives like Tomblin, Thompson, Perdue and Kessler will never vote for you so stop trying to get a slice of that demographic.  Give your natural constituencies - women and liberals - an excuse to come out and vote for the only pro-choice candidate in the race. 

Today's governors become tomorrow's US Senators and Presidents. Women know this and that's why Natalie Tennant can own the female vote if she just lets West Virginia women know that she's the only pro-choice candidate in the race. If Tennant brings out the female vote and the boys split the male vote, Tennant wins. If the boys split the conservative vote and Tennant brings out the liberal vote, Tennant wins.

Run like a girl, Secretary Tennant, run like a girl.  Never again will the math actually favor the pro-choice woman so this could be Tennant's year to beat the boys if she'll just run like a girl.

03 May, 2011

There's Still Time For Natalie Tennant To Beat The Boys If She'll Just Run Like A Girl

West Virginia Secretary of State, Natalie Tennant, is the only pro-choice candidate in the West Virginia governor race so why is she running like she's just another Republican Lite Democrat-In-Name-Only?

Why doesn't Tennant just let Kessler, Thompson, Perdue and Tomblin split the conservative, DINO vote 4 ways and aggressively brand herself as the only liberal in the race?

First, it's the only way she can win the Democratic nomination.

Second, if she runs on women's rights she can capture the lion's share of women voters and she can capture all of the liberal vote.

This strategy wouldn't work if she were in a 2-way or 3-way race for the nomination but in a race where all the other candidates are male and anti-choice, this should be Tennant's race to lose.

And yet I hear that Tennant's  phone bank workers are being handed scripts that sound almost exactly like the Tomblin campaign's slogan: more jobs and lower taxes.

Tennant can't beat the DINOs by campaigning like a DINO.

This year, Tennant needs to campaign like a girl and proudly run as the only pro-choice candidate in the Democratic race.

Tennant needs to pull the blah ad she's running on TV now and replace it with a simple ad where she looks into the camera and tells the women and the liberals of West Virginia that she is the only pro-choice candidate in the entire gubernatorial race. She needs to tell West Virginia women that if they come out to vote for her, there's not a "big man" or a guitar-picking, hymn-singing or election-fighting man in the race who can prevent her from looking out for West Virginia women when she's governor.

Never again will Natalie Tennant have the opportunity to make her gender and her liberalism work for her.  In any other year, running as the only pro-choice candidate in a conservative state would be a losing strategy but with the conservative vote split 4 ways this is the year when a woman can win by campaigning like a girl.

Campaign like a girl, Secretary Tennant. Run like a girl. The women of West Virginia can hand you the nomination if you'll just run like a girl. Don't run like Tomblin. Run like a girl.

01 May, 2011

Why I'm Exhausted From Defending Linkedin: An Open Letter To The Investors, Board, Management And Other Linkedin "Suits"

Remember Velma Hart? She's the black lady who made national news when she stood up in a televised Town Hall Meeting that she was "exhausted" from defending Barack Obama.

I feel like the Velma Hart of Linkedin. I'm exhausted from defending Linkedin.

I just spent hours composing a message to members of the three Linkedin groups I own and manage explaining to them how the latest ham-handed "anti-spam" Linkedin technological change will adversely effect members' ability to send messages to each other unless they do so as 1st level connections or unless they do so as participants in a group discussion.

To thwart spammers, Linkedin no longer allows me to look you up and send you a message from an advanced search screen. Let's say a recruiter, HR manager, department head or other heavy LI user sets up an advanced search to find everybody in her network with a degree in accounting and let's say some of the people who show up in that search are members of some of the same groups as the searcher. The searcher no longer has a "send message" option at that screen unless the searcher and the intended recipient are 1st level connections.

This is another example of how the technological geniuses and engineers who run Linkedin don't understand the first damn thing about the humans who use their technology. The harder Linkedin makes it for people to "talk to each other" via Linkedin, the less often Linkedin account holders will log on and the less time they will spend there.

Is there NOBODY at Linkedin who understands this? If the suits who run Linkedin - Reid Hoffman, Nick Besbeas, Jeff Weiner, Deep Nishar, Skip Battle, Leslie Kilgore, Michael Moritz, David Sze, et al,  don't understand this then the investors need to rise up and make them understand that people with Linkedin accounts are just giving up on Linkedin in droves.

If I didn't know better, I'd swear Linkedin is deliberately driving users into the messaging-enabled arms of Facebook where, if I can see you I can send you a message unless you have disabled that messaging in your account settings. Of course, most Facebook account holders have not disabled that function. Why would they? The whole point of "social media" is to be able to talk to people via the social media platform you're using. Facebook makes that easy. Linkedin makes that hard.

In my 01 September 2010 blog post I said that Linkedin's artificial distinction between "professional" networking and the "social networking" of Facebook is not shared by the typical Linkedin user and has not survived first contact with the enemy (Facebook). Linkedin tries to say they don't compete with Facebook and, therefore, don't care if the Facebook user experience is making Linkedin users expect Linkedin to be more like Facebook. That's like a beer maker saying he doesn't mind losing sales to wine makers because their target markets are different. People have a limited amount of time to spend on networking platforms and if they are choosing to spend it on Facebook instead of Linkedin, that's going to cost Linkedin investors money. Don't they understand that?

Doesn't Deep Nishar, VP of User Experience at Linkedin, understand that the reason Linkedin has so-called "users" who haven't logged on in a year and can't remember their passwords is because Linkedin keeps making it harder, not easier, for users to talk to each other?

Isn't there a Linkedin investor out there who understands that "the Facebook effect" has forever shaped and elevated Linkedin user expectations?

Look, Linkedin, I get it. I do. You are trying to use your technology to enforce a particular networking philosophy. I understand. In a perfect world, the best way for me to "meet" a person I don't know is for me to be introduced to that person through a mutual friend. I agree, that's best. The mutual friend serves as a kind of "social and professional co-signer". I get it. I agree with it. But your average Linkedin user doesn't know how to use the "get introduced through a connection" function.

And what's the deal with asking us for the recipient's email address before we can send a connection request to that recipient? It may be that I haven't seen the recipient since 3 jobs ago but the recipient would gladly reconnect with me. Why do you make me go find them on Facebook so I can get their email address? If I have to find them on Facebook, send them a message, get their email address and then connect with them on Linkedin, what's to prevent me from just deciding that Facebook is easier to use and facilitates rather than hinders my communication with other people?

So, just as Velma Hart is "exhausted" from defending Obama, I am exhausted from defending Linkedin. Just the other day I told one of my Friends of Linkedin group members that I hope somebody who understands people as well as engineering will buy Linkedin and fully enable messaging between Linkedin account holders.
Read my 01 September 2010 post, "How Linkedin Must Change" at ::http://higginbothamatlarge.blogspot.com/2010/09/how-linkedin-must-change-adapting-to.html
Higginbotham at Large no longer accepts or publishes reader comments here. if you wish to send me suggestions or hate mail, email me at JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com. If you wish to discuss current events or politics with me, meet me at LinkedLiberals on Linkedin. If you wish to discuss the future of St. Albans, WV, meet me at LinkedSt.Albans on Linkedin. 

21 April, 2011

What Doesn't Work In Network Marketing Doesn't Work In Activism

One of my Linkedin group members asked a good discussion question. I'll paraphrase it. She asked "Are you actually doing anything or do you just join stuff?

I've long been bothered by this question or variants of it. Nancy Lublin failed to convince me when she wrote about the virtues and value of "slacktivism" for Fast Company. Wear a button. Sign a petition. "Like" this or that on Facebook. Nothing wrong with any of that - and I especially respect people who are willing to be visibly linked to something unpopular like being a liberal or a Pitt fan in West Virginia but I think that this sort of wholesale distribution approach to activism doesn't work for changing your community or your world any more than it works for network marketing. They use different terms but too many of the well-intentioned people I know are spending way too much time sucking up to their "uplines" and trying to acquire a "downline" and not enough time selling some soap or some vitamins or some whatever to actual, retail consumers, too much time trying to become known as leaders without ever noticing that nobody's following.

if you've ever been in or knew anybody who was into network marketing you know that the guys at the top of the pyramid - the only ones who ever make any money from the scheme - lure people into their "downlines" with promises of a lot of money for very little work. At every level of the pyramid, there's a guy with a "downline" of distributors who assumes the guys below him will actually sell the skin cream or the soap or the nutritional supplements but, of course, everybody was lured into the scheme with unspoken dreams of just sitting back and getting rich off the work of others.

Trouble is, most of the people in your downline and most of the people in their downlines are spending more time trying to get a downline than they're spending actually selling something. Sooner or later, somebody has to sell some soap but almost nobody wants to do that. It looks too much like work.

And it doesn't make the person doing the work feel like a big deal.

Activism is that way. Many of the people in my world have fancy titles in orgs that don't actually do what they purport to do or hold poorly-attended meetings of the usual suspects at the Roosevelt Center or sponsor speakers that only the Already Converted want to hear. The expression "preaching to the choir" applies.

You don't change your community or your world by preaching to the converted.

Speaking of choirs, sometimes real leadership means telling the choir not to come to practice. I know a Georgetown, KY preacher who built his church by telling choir members to skip choir and do something else instead. Yes, really. Here's what happened: Georgetown became a boom town when the Toyota assembly plant opened and suddenly thousands of new people were moving into Georgetown. My preacher friend tried to visit them all and invite them all to church but there were so many of them he couldn't keep up. Every day he drove around looking for moving vans and "sold" signs and making his list of newcomers but his list got longer because he simply couldn't visit them all.

Every week my preacher friend asked for help with visitation and every week he found himself all alone on visitation night.

Then it hit him: most of the people he hoped would help him visit new residents were already at the church several nights each week for choir practice and Wednesday evening Bible study and so on so he decided to ask some people to quit choir.

"You sing off-key anyway" he told one man, "so I want you to give me Tuesday night instead of Thursday night choir practice." So, each Tuesday night, the preacher and the sour singer met at McDonalds, divided up the list and went off to sell soap, er, invite people to church.

The church started getting new visitors on Sunday morning.

Pretty soon, other members of the choir asked the preacher if he would make them the same offer he made the first guy. Before long several of the choir's worst singers were visiting Georgetown's newest residents on Tuesday nights instead of making the choir director cry on Thursday nights - and church attendance exploded.

Those of us who are politically active expend too much effort lobbying to the upline (elected officials) and not enough time actually making converts to our political views. At election time we set up phone banks to "get out the base" but we do almost nothing to actually expand the base.

I've known a lot of people in network marketing but I never knew anybody who actually made any money at it because I never knew anybody who actually sold some soap. Everybody assumed the next guy would sell some soap and that guy was looking for somebody in his downline who would sell some soap.

Just as network marketing only works if somebody sells some soap, do-gooderism only works if somebody gets their hands dirty selling the soap.

I recently joined an org whose stated mission I agree with. I looked on their website and they listed local chapters all across the nation and there was a button I could click if I wanted to start a local chapter so I clicked it. To say that my interest in forming a local chapter of their org was met with a total lack of support would be an understatement. When I looked further into the org I found that most of the "chapters" listed at the org's website don't exist. I sent emails to all of them and most of those email addresses were duds. Even do-gooders can be guilty of false advertising, fundraising by deception, and a failure to actually sell some soap and get their hands dirty at the local level.
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Higginbotham At Large is not a candidate for any elected office.

20 April, 2011

If A Council Or Mayoral Candidate Stammers and Gets The Deer-In-Headlights Look When You Ask This Question, Don't Vote For Him

Now that St. Albans city council has denied a rezoning request that would have allowed a builder to put townhouses in an area not zoned for townhouses, I hope they will turn their attention to a long range strategy for how to get more businesses, not more residential housing, within the city limits. Real estate brokers' argument that St. Albans needs more residential housing just doesn't hold water. St. Albans dramatic population loss has created a huge inventory of empty houses all over town as anyone who walks the wards with me would soon see for themselves.

No, a city whose population has declined dramatically since I was growing up here in the 60s and 70s doesn't need more housing, it needs a plan to get St. Albans on the grow.

Unlike its neighbors - Nitro, South Charleston, Dunbar - St. Albans doesn't really have much of a business tax base. Many of the businesses with a 25177 address aren't in the city limits of St. Albans which means they aren't putting money in the city coffers. STARDA - St. Albans Regional Development Authority - was formed in April of 1990, in part, to find solutions to this problem but a succession of mayors who saw STARDA as a competitor de-funded STARDA so none of STARDA's "infill" and annexation plans have been accomplished.

No, with a declining population and a glut of empty houses, St. Albans won't need more residential housing until people are trying to move into St. Albans instead of away from it and for that to happen, St. Albans needs a strategic plan. That plan should include:

1. Main Street -  St. Albans doesn't really have one. The newly-remodeled Alban Arts and Conference Center is a step in the right direction but that alone doesn't make St. Albans' Main Street a destination.

2. The approaches to the city - Every time there's a crime committed in "West St. Albans", Chemical City, Amandaville, Jefferson or Green Valley Drive, St. Albans' gets a black eye. We probably can't break lazy reporters from saying "St. Albans" when the meth house was really in one of the unincorporated approaches to St. Albans, so St. Albans should take a serious look at annexing these crime-ridden eyesores so we can tax the legitimate, desirable businesses, shut down the rest and clean up these filthy gateways to the city. If we can't bring business to St. Albans maybe we have to take St. Albans to the business.

In 2 years when mayoral and council candidates ask you for your vote, ask them how they plan to get more businesses within the city limits of St. Albans. Don't vote for any candidate who stutters and stammers and gets a deer-in-the-headlights look in his eyes when you ask that question. This question should be St. Albans' voters equivalent of the famous "Roger Mudd Moment" when the veteran newsman asked Senator Edward Kennedy why he wanted to be president and Kennedy's eyes glazed over as he stammered his way through the unpresidential answer that some say sealed his defeat.

Attention 20-somethings and 30-somethings: St. Albans' leadership vacuum is an opportunity for you to lead. If you have a plan, run for office. 2013 will be here before you know it.

Now that St. Albans city council has dispensed with the distraction over the townhouses, I hope the "No Rezoning" signs I see all over ward 6 will be replaced by a citywide discussion about St. Albans' future and a strategic plan to realize that future.
You can start that discussion at LinkedSt.Albans on Linkedin.
Higginbotham At Large doesn't accept reader comments for publication but you can email me at JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com.
Higginbotham At Large is not a candidate for any elected office.

19 April, 2011

How The St. Albans Peoples Party Should Differentiate Themselves From The Citizens Party

In yesterday's post I said that the St. Albans Peoples Party is back from the dead.

But how will the new, resurrected St. Albans Peoples Party differentiate themselves from the incumbent Citizens Party?

I encourage the St. Albans People Party to start by being more transparent than the Callagarchy has been. Don't conduct secret executive committee meetings at which you hand pick candidates before you have considered the entire universe of possible candidates.

Yesterday I received pseudonymous hate mail from a reader who said I should run for office if I think I can do better than the Callagarchy has done. The hate mailer obviously hadn't read my blog. Had she read it, she would have known that I have consistently said St. Albans needs Gen X and Gen Y leaders who can attract and retain a younger demographic to the city. I'm a baby boomer. It would be hypocritical of me to run.

But I'll gladly and enthusiastically campaign for visionary Gen X and Gen Y candidates who want to make St. Albans city government more transparent and more accountable.

If the newly resurrected Peoples Party wants to send a clear message that they are not the Callagarchy, not the business-as-usual, private club party, they will put up a website, post the names and the contact info for their executive committee, and announce public meetings at which voters can ask questions and even offer to run for office as Peoples Party candidates.

Much of the new Peoples Party executive team has education or law enforcement ties so they will be tempted to go behind closed doors and select candidates from the law enforcement and education arenas without really considering other capable, eligible people. That would be a mistake.

The best way for the newly-alive St. Albans Peoples Party to demonstrate that they are not just Callagarchy Lite is for them to be very public and inclusive about what they do, to reach out to the entire city, beyond their own social circles and beyond their comfort zones. St. Albans is full of capable people who have never been allowed to serve, never been asked to serve. Reach out to them.

While you're at it, reach out to the many people in St. Albans whose contributions to the city have never really been acknowledged.

Don't be like the Callagarchy which, in the April St. Albans Monthly, spends several self-congratulatory pages crowing about its management of the St. Albans water company. Did they give credit to the technicians and the staff who did the work? No, but Callagarchy members Tim Sheldon, Mayor Callaway, Jerry Cogar, Ron Colby and Frank Offutt were prominently photographed.

So, Peoples Party, now that you have been born again, eschew the ways of the past and the ways of the Callagarchy. Give credit where credit is due. Be transparent. Reach out to the entire town, beyond your own friends and family.

Put up a website and fill it with the kind of information prospective voters will want. After you get the website up, don't just send the link to your friends, buy an ad in the St. Albans Monthly and tell everybody where to read about the re-born Peoples Party and how it differs from the Callagarchy. In your ad, print the names of your executives. Print email addresses and/or phone numbers and encourage potential candidates to contact you. Be accountable and transparent to the people from the start.
Higginbotham At Large doesn't publish reader comments because most readers want to comment anonymously. Higginbotham At Large publishes no anonymous comments. Send comments, news or hate mail to JosephHigginbotham@Gmail.com. 
Higginbotham At Large is not a candidate for any elected office.
Higginbotham At Large is not affiliated with any anonymous blogs or websites - even the ones that quote from or link to my blog.

18 April, 2011

Once Left For Dead By Its Own Executive Committee, Has The St. Albans Peoples Party Risen From The Grave?

A 2009 news article that started with the words "St. Albans Peoples Party is in need of a few good people to run for office" went on to say that the Peoples Party didn't field candidates in several city council wards and that the Peoples Party executive committee had resigned.

Had that been the last news I received about the St. Albans Peoples Party I would have had the impression that the St. Albans Peoples Party was dead.

There's been a resurrection. The St. Albans Peoples Party is back. Sort of. They have an executive committee. They don't have a website or even a Facebook page but over the weekend I spoke to members of their executive committee and am happy to report that, on paper, St. Albans now has 2 political parties again.

This is important because, in St. Albans, you have to be a nominee of either the Citizens Party or the Peoples Party in order to run for Mayor or Council.

I know that the Peoples Party has already identified a potential mayoral candidate and I've spoken to a Peoples Party candidate who says he's running for council. That's good. If the Peoples Party hopes to become a factor in St. Albans again they need to start thinking about 2013 right now, but I am disappointed that they haven't held any public events or meetings at which voters can find out how Peoples Party candidates would differ from Citizens Party candidates.

I'm also sorry that, as far as I can tell, the Peoples Party executive committee has no Gen X or Gen Y members.

In a previous post I said that St. Albans' crime and drugs problem is an opportunity for Gen X and Gen Y to provide leadership. Let me add that the absence of Gen X and Gen Y voices in St. Albans city government is an opportunity for the St. Albans Peoples Party to reach out to generations of voters who have felt ignored and rejected by the current mayor and council.

I'll have more People Party news in future posts. Stay tuned.

Higginbotham At Large is not a candidate for any elected office.

Higginbotham At Large stopped publishing reader comments because nearly all comments were from "Anonymous" - and Higginbotham At Large absolutely will not publish anonymous comments but send your news, suggestions, comments and hate mail to JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com.

Higginbotham At Large is not affiliated with any anonymously-published websites or blogs - even the ones that have linked to or quoted from my blog.

12 April, 2011

New Words For Old Problems In St. Albans, WV: Apathariat, Apathocracy, Callagarchy, Opaqracy

Here are some new words for some old problems in St. Albans, WV:

Apathariat - Those ruled by a government whose power is dependent on the apathy of the governed.

Apathocracy - The government that results from an apathetic citizenry. An apathocracy is arrogant, unaccountable, opaque, unresponsive and perpetuates itself by restricting the flow of information in the well-founded belief that the apathariat won't notice or won't care.

Callagarchy - Rule by the few St. Albans residents who agree with or fear Mayor Dick Callaway. This includes council members who think they work for Dick Callaway and not for the people.

Opaqracy - The opposite of a transparent government. In an opaqracy, such basic information as which ward you're in, who your council person is, what's going on in your ward, how to participate in your city's war on crime, where your neighborhood watch meets,  audio and video (or at least minutes) of the last city council meeting, and an org chart of who does what in city government are not made available on the taxpayer supported website.
In my weekend posts I called upon St. Albans city council members to insist that the Callagarchy upload the ward map to the city website so residents can figure out which ward they're in and who their council members is. I'm happy to report that one city council member emailed me to say he supports my "suggestion". We'll see. If he's willing to go on the record as a supporter of uploading a ward map to the city website, I'll publish his name so that voters who Google him in the next election year will find that he is a transparent government man, not an advocate of opaqracy 
HigginbothamAtLarge reads all submitted comments but only PUBLISHES comments from identified submitters. No Ring of Gyges for you. Frankly, HigginbothamAtLarge has no respect for people who won't sign their name to their opinions.

10 April, 2011

A Website Dan Cain Doesn't Want You To See And Other Observations About St. Albans' Opaque Government

In my 14 December 2010 post I said that any product is the result of a system that is designed to produce that product and that if you want to change the product you have to change the system that produced it.

If your product is opaque, incompetent, unresponsive and unaccountable government - like we have in St. Albans, WV - you have to change the system that keeps producing that undesirable political product.

But before you can re-engineer the system that keeps producing bad government you have to identify the system that is doing the producing, you have to figure out how it works. In St. Albans, WV, the system is designed to control the flow of information citizens need by restricting the flow of information. Instead of putting out information where all citizens can get it - that's called "transparent government" - our system perpetuates opacity in government and has done so for decades.

Our elected leaders get away with this opacity because the voters let them.

It's time we demand accountability, opacity and responsiveness from our council members and our mayor and if they won't accede to our demands, it's time we elect people who will.

I want to recant something I said about Mayor Callaway in a previous blog post. In my 8 April post I said that Mayor Callaway is "bad at communication". That's not true. While Mayor Callaway is very bad at "transparency", he's very good at keeping his friends close and his enemies uninformed.

Council members, too, want to deprive you of information. In a recent neighborhood watch meeting Ward 5 council member and Callaway ally, Dan Cain, stood up to ask attendees not to view an anonymous website (with a URL very similar to the city's website) that is critical of the mayor. Since I don't promote anonymous blogs or websites, I won't give you the URL here, but Dan Cain did and I hope every person in that room fired up their smart phone or went home to their computer and looked at the site Dan Cain doesn't want you to see.

By the way, I call once again upon the anonymous owner of that website to identify himself so I can promote his site. As a matter of principle, I will not reward anonymity.

"Boys club", opaque politics depends upon voter apathy for its perpetuation. Mayor Callaway was re-elected with only 829 votes. According to the 2010 census, St. Albans has about 11,000 residents. If that number is correct, Mayor Callaway was re-elected by about 8% of the electorate. Callaway and his opponent combined got fewer than 1300 votes meaning that only about 11% of St. Albans residents bothered to vote in the mayoral race.

In that same election, Xris Hess (who has since resigned) won the Ward 2 race with only 4 votes. She ran unopposed and could have been beaten by anybody who was able to get even 5 votes. If that Ward 2 race isn't emblematic of the kind of voter apathy and disengagement that keeps producing the only kind of government it can, an opaque, unresponsive, unaccountable and incompetent government, then I don't know where we'd have to look for a better emblem of a bad system producing a bad product.

I've been exchanging emails with a guy who says he's going to run against Dick Callaway in the next mayoral race. "Your opponent is not Dick Callaway", I told him, "your opponent is voter apathy, voter disengagement."

If the voters of St. Albans don't start demanding more from their government and aren't willing to go to the polls and elect a new government, then no matter who's in office we'll continue to get the only kind of government that can be produced by the apathetic, disengaged system we have in St. Albans.
Higginbotham At Large is not a candidate for any office but if you know a Gen X or Gen Y thought leader who believes in transparent government and wants to run for office in St. Albans, put them in touch with me at JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com.
Higginbotham At Large no longer publishes reader comments. Send comments, questions and hate mail to JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com.
If you live in St. Albans, do you know which ward you're in? Do you know who represents your ward in council? Shouldn't this information be on the www.stalbanswv.com website along with locations and dates of neighborhood watch meetings, minutes of city council meetings,  an org chart of who does what at city government and other basic transparent government info? Your tax dollars pay for that website. Call your council member and demand that your government become more transparent. See yesterday's Higginbotham At Large for phone numbers of the mayor and all council members.

09 April, 2011

Why Don't St. Albans Council Members And Voters Demand That Mayor Callaway Post Basic Info at City Website?

Attention WSAZ TV, WOWK TV, WCHS TV, Charleston Gazette, Charleston Daily Mail and St. Albans Monthly: The next time you report on drugs and crime in St. Albans, please tell us where and when St. Albans' residents can attend a neighborhood watch meeting. This information isn't posted on the City of St. Albans website.

As of this writing, Mayor Callaway still isn't posting the times and dates of neighborhood watch meetings on the City's website. He also hasn't posted a map of the city's wards so St. Albans can go to the city website and find out which ward they're in and who their council representative is.

The April issue of  St. Albans Monthly contains a spring clean up schedule for each ward but no information whatsoever on how citizens can find out which ward they're in without calling the sanitation department between the hours of 8 to 4 Monday through Friday. Why not just post the ward map on the city website? 

If Mayor Callaway is sincere about his war on drugs, he'll arm citizens with what they need to be foot soldiers in this war. The citizens of St. Albans need to know which ward they're in, when and where  that ward's neighborhood watch is meeting and who their council representative is. Since this is the Information Age and, though many St. Albans council members want to deny it, it's natural for citizens to expect to find basic information like this at their city's website. The internet is not a fad and it's not going away so stop pretending that if you just ignore the internet it will go away.

Since the City of St. Albans already operates a rudimentary website, St. Albans will incur no additional costs of operations by simply uploading a ward map to the site.

And isn't there anybody on your staff who can extract neighborhood watch information from members of city council? Hey, I have an idea: instead of issuing council members a check, issue them a memo that says they'll get their check when they submit neighborhood watch info for publication on the City website. Remind them that we're in a war on drugs and the foot soldiers don't know where to go to get their orders.

Members of council should be INSISTING that this ward information be posted at the City website.

I recently attended the Ward 7 neighborhood watch meeting where I raised these concerns. I had to work way too hard to find out where that meeting was held and, no, I didn't find the info at the first place people expect to find it - the www.stalbanswv.com website. I found the date and half a location on the WSAZ website. I say "half a location" because Kallie Cart's story said only that the meeting would take place at "the United Methodist Church" but she didn't say which one so I had to call the only Methodist  church in Ward 7 to confirm that the meeting was, in fact, at the St. Peter's United Methodist Church. Citizens shouldn't have to Google and make phone calls to find out where to go to get their orders in the drug war.

So, members of the media, since The City of St. Albans doesn't post the information its citizens need on the city website, would you start reporting this information in your news reports when there's another cop shooting or drug bust in St. Albans?

Below, find a list of St. Albans council members (from the www.stalbanswv.com website) . Call each council member and ask them about neighborhood watch meetings in their wards. Be the first to report it.

St. Albans, WV Mayor and Council

Dick Callaway
722-1273 (home)
727-2971 (work)

Vice Mayor / Council At Large:
Helen Warren
727-7456 (home)

Council At Large:
John Boles, Jr.
722-3612 (home)

Council At Large:
Jerry C. Cogar
727-6785 (home)

Ward 1:
Robert J. Keiffer
722-6473 (home)

Ward 2:
JD Adkins
727-0817 (home)

Ward 3:
Ronald K. Colby
727-2667 (home)

Ward 4:
Cheryl Thomas
727-8429 (home)

Ward 5:
Dan Cain, Sr.
722-2576 (home)

Ward 6:
Loretta Griffith
727-9153 (home)

Ward 7:
Desper Lemon
727-5344 (home)

Ward 8:
Kevin Pennington
727-5790 (home)

Ward 9:
Stephen Donelson
727-8690 (home)
Higginbotham At Large is not a candidate for any elected office. I call my blog Higginbotham At Large because it is the name an editor once gave to a column I wrote for his paper.
If you are a St. Albans resident, you believe in competent, transparent government, you believe the internet is not a fad, you are a member of Gen X or Gen Y, and you plan to run for St. Albans Council or Mayor, please send me an email.

Higginbotham At Large no longer publishes reader comments because nearly all of them were from "Anonymous" and Higginbotham At Large simply will not publish anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Send your comments, questions and hate mail to JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com.

08 April, 2011

Why Do I Have To Explain To St. Albans' Titular Leaders Why Basic Information Should Be Posted On The City Website?

Attention Generation X and Generation Y: Half your city's titular leaders go to bed every night hoping that when they awake in the morning it will be 1955 again; the other half just go about their business pretending that it's still 1955.  As one 28-year-old man said to me after the meeting, "St. Albans has gone backwards."

As Albert Einstein said, "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." So it's time that we elect new leadership in St. Albans. The people we have in office do not have the imagination, motivation or creativity to make St. Albans a city where people want to buy houses and start businesses.

No, I'm not running because my generation and my parents' generation have had their shot and we failed. It's time for a new generation to step up and lead and instead of running for office myself, I am looking for Gen X and Gen Y candidates I can back.

I'll confess, this is not the blog post I thought I was going to write today. As my regular readers know, after being forced to search way too hard for the time and location of the meeting because Mayor Callaway and Ward 7 Council member, Desper Lemon don't think there are enough internet savvy people in St. Albans to merit posting such info on the city website, I attended the Ward 7 Neighborhood Crime Watch meeting where St. Albans' lack of leadership was on display. Prior to the meeting, I thought I would hear a lot about what Councilman Lemon and Mayor Callaway are doing to organize and mobilize St. Albans' citizenry to fight crime. Indeed, I did hear a helpful presentation from a fellow named Tim Akers - the only bright spot in that meeting - about how to recognize the telltale signs that your neighbor is making meth.

For example, when I asked why I had to Google for 10 minutes and make a phone call to find out where the Ward 7 meeting was being held, and when I asked why the residents of St. Albans can't go to the city website to find out which ward they're in, who their council member is and where and when their neighborhood watch is meeting, there was a lot of shoulder-shrugging and a lot of  council members and the mayor looking at each other. Desper Lemon finally told me that if I wanted a map of the city with ward numbers and boundaries I could go to the city building to get a piece of paper containing that information.

As one man told me after the meeting, going to city hall for information won't work for him because he's on the road to his job in another county before dawn and he's not back home until after sundown. The city building is closed weekends so he can't go to the city building for a piece of paper on the weekend.

Why isn't such basic information posted on the city website where citizens can look it up and print it out at their leisure? Since the city already operates a website posting such basic info won't add to their costs so why not post that info on the website? Do they think the internet is a passing fad and that if they just ignore it it will go away?

Frankly, I am shocked and disappointed that a mayor who used to run radio stations and has an entire radio studio in his home is so bad at communication. 

I have to go now. I'm going the the city building for that piece of paper with ward numbers on it.
For more on why St. Albans' lack of leadership is an opportunity for Gen X and Gen Y to become leaders, see  my 20 March post at :: http://higginbothamatlarge.blogspot.com/2011/03/st-albans-doesnt-have-crime-problem-as.html

07 April, 2011

Put On Your Heisenberg Hats, Your Gas Masks And Your "Breaking Bad" T-Shirts, We're Headed For Ordnance Park

Put on your Heisenberg hats, your gas masks and your "Breaking Bad" t-shirts, we're headed for St. Albans' Ordnance Park tonight. Yep, we're gathering at the St. Peter's United Methodist Church in Ordnance Park at 7PM to take a bite out of crime and it's nursery, citizen apathy.

By the way, I ran into the busiest man in St. Albans, Adam Bryan, today and I have an idea for him: On Free Movie Night at the Alban Arts and Conference Center, show encore presentations of the best show on TV, Breaking Bad". If you haven't seen "Breaking Bad" and its cast of award winning actors, it's about a mild-mannered high school science teacher who finds out he has only a few months to live so he starts cooking the purest, best meth in town and makes a lot of money to leave for his family when he's dead.

Yeah, I like that idea, Bryan. Thursday night showings of "Breaking Bad." Seasons one and two are on DVD now. Season three goes on sale June 7.

Tomorrow I'll report on tonight's meeting.

In the meantime, read  my 20 March post, "Why St. Albans' Crime Problem Is A Leadership Opportunity For Generation X and Generation Y"


Why Linkedin Should Eliminate The "Open" Groups Option

Yesterday I left 4 Linkedin groups because their owners made the irreversible mistake of switching from "members only" to "open". In "members only" groups, only members can post and read discussions. In "open" groups, only members can post but anybody with an internet connection can read and follow discussions.

Being in an open group is a little like installing one way glass throughout your house so that outsiders can look in but you can't see who's looking at you.

I think open groups is one of the stupidest things Linkedin has ever done. I love the power of LInkedin. There are things you can do with Linkedin that Facebook doesn't even know you need to do but sometimes I think the suits who run Linkedin have never used it themselves. If they did, they would realize that "open" groups are an attack on group member privacy and that the only people who benefit from "open" groups are the exhibitionists who try to fill the new discussions carousels of every group they belong to and update their status every 5 minutes. (By the way, I have recently removed connections who constantly update their status and I have ejected or changed the posting permissions of group members who lack the empathy, consideration and impulse control to exercise posting restraint. I warn them first, refer them to group rules, then eject them if they persist in making a nuisance of themselves.)

When Linkedin first announced that groups could switch from "members only" to "open" I announced to my groups that I would never betray them by making my Linkedin groups "open" and that my 3 Linkedin groups would only go "open" when Linkedin pried the  "members only" option from my cold, dead hands. They thanked me for it. Except for the exhibitionists, Linkedin users don't like "open" groups.

I've done my part to prevent group owners from switching to "open". I've sent other group owners personal messages in which I predicted that switching from "members only" to "open" would have a chilling effect on discussion. Several group owners who already made the switch and regretted it have asked me how to switch back to "members only". As far as I can tell, the door from "members only" to "open" swings only one way; once you've gone open the only way to go back to "members only" is to delete the group and start a new one.

If you own a Linkedin group and you've already made the mistake of switching from "members only" to "open", I suggest you go ahead and bite the bullet and delete your group. It's easier if your group is small because you'll inconvenience fewer members. The group owners with a really big problem are the  ones with really big groups - unless those groups are full of exhibitionists who want as many people as possible to see their mug shots and read their spammy discussions.

I don't have any data to support this but I suspect there are two reasons group owners make the mistake of switching from "members only" to "open". The first reason is laziness. I suspect that some group owners, upon discovering that there's actual work involved in owning a Linkedin group, make their groups "open" because they think they'll have to act upon fewer membership requests.

The second reason some group owners switch their groups from "members only" to "open" is lack of empathy, inability to imagine how naked and invaded and betrayed members will feel when they find out anybody with an internet connection can spy on their group discussions.

It's because of these lazy and unempathetic group owners that Linkedin should do away with the "open" groups option and switch all groups back to "members only".