Friday, September 25, 2009

Vote "No" on Issue 9

So I just started a class in the Planning Department of the University of Cincinnati. The class is called organizational theory, and will be fascinating (call me weird). On the first day we were told about how the class would go etc. We were given a service learning assignment to be completed by November 3rd - election day. It is focused on the election and we have to volunteer at least four hours toward an organization or cause that is directly related with the elections. I wanted to do something I was interested in so that my volunteering wouldn't feel so much like volunteering. I decided to check out the Hamilton County Board of Elections to see what issues are up for the vote.

One of the biggest ones right now is the issue on Casinos. I could easily join the cause against the casinos, but I thought I better check out the other issues first. Then issue 9 stuck out. Of course! This is the issue I've been preaching for years, and now it is up for vote!

Issue 9 deals with the streetcar debate in Cincinnati. Many people think that a streetcar system is a waste of money. I however, totally disagree. I think it is the first step of many toward a stupendous public transportation system around Cincinnati. Few Ohioans realize the powerful benefits of a solid public transportation system. Why, Because Ohio has no good public transportation systems. Cincinnati would be the first. Let me give you a little background on where I come from on this matter.

From July 2001 I moved to Bairnsdale, Australia. Bairnsdale is 3 hours east of Melbourne and 8 hours south of Sydney. Despite the distance from Melbourne, I could hop on a train and ride into the city. Once in the city, I could hop on numerous trams to go all around downtown and see the sights, or take the trams straight into some of the near suburbs. It was wonderful. It greatly reduced the reliance on cars to get everywhere, and made it easy for me to check out Australia without a chaperon (I wasn't allowed to drive while I was there).

In July 2002 I moved back home. It was so sad to be 45 minutes away from downtown Columbus Ohio and not even capable of catching a bus into the city. The closest bus stop was halfway into the city. At that point, taking the bus was pointless. Then in 2003 I moved to Salt Lake city. Anybody familiar with Salt Lake will agree that traffic on I-15 can be a burden. For the 2002 Olympics, Salt Lake City installed a light rail system that paralleled I-15. It greatly reduced the congestion on I-15 and continues to be a boon to the city out there.

Then I moved back to Ohio, this time to Cincinnati. Here is a town that has an extensive rail network, much bigger than that of Columbus or Salt Lake City. Many of these rail corridors are no longer in service, but they still exist. Although the bus system is better than Columbus, it is still ridiculously slow. Now the Mayor and several other key groups want to get funding for a Tram system downtown. I think it is a brilliant idea.

I hate to pay for parking. I will park 8 blocks away at the University of Cincinnati just to ensure I get free parking. That is by far the worst part for me of going downtown. If it was possible to get free parking (it is) and then hop on a tram into the heart of downtown (not yet) I would visit downtown significantly more often. It would make it much easier to see a Reds game too. I've uploaded a map of the proposed corridors.

The key to remember here too is that this is phase 1 of a much bigger plan. Later phases of the plan would implement light rail all around the city, mostly on preexisting rail corridors. The real scary thing about issue nine isn't that it bans street cars. Issue 9 changes the city charter to ban any "passenger rail transportation." This seems a little extreme for the people against a Trolley system. Hey if you love hanging out on I-75 for an hour on your way home from work, be my guest. I won't lie and say that a rail system will reduce your commute time. It might and it might not, but it will reduce your commuting stress. I would much rather hop on a train and read the newspaper for that same hour. You can't read the newspaper and drive, finish that big project for work and drive, or even safely talk on the phone and drive at the same time.

Don't vote yes. Cincinnati has a great opportunity with it's preexisting corridors to become one of the best public transportation cities in the country. Why would we want to ruin that forever. By the way, I'm not even going to count this blog post toward my four hours of service requirement.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tom Peters on Leadership

Here is a little video from Tom Peters about Leadership, that I thought I would share.
The hand movements are a little exaggerated, but the point is good.

Tom Peters on the Definition of Leadership from Tom Peters on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Two Views of Freedom - Which one is better?

I've recently understood a gospel topic in a new way. The issue has confused me a few times in the past, and I think I've finally been able to wrap my head around the idea and embrace it. (Sounds painful doesn't it.)

The issue is this. Many critics of the Latter-Day Saints or Christians in general, claim that they would be "limited" to be bound by so many rules and obligations. They feel that there is much more freedom in just living life how you want to, regardless of what God has commanded. On the other hand Brigham Young said (and I paraphrase) to really understand true freedom, one must keep the commandments of God, because as we keep the commandments our ability to exercise our agency gets enhanced and expands. (I wish I could find this quote again)

You might be able to see where the confusion lies. Both sides of are claiming greater freedom but through opposing means. As usual, reading the scriptures really helped expand my understanding. The Book of Mormon is full of great imagery that helps explain key principles. 2 Nephi 28:19-28 helped explain this principle to my mind. In these verses, there is imagery of chains as well as imagery of the rock foundation or the sandy foundation. Let me explain how this helped.

When people build their life's foundation on the sand (in the world), they may feel that they have more freedom than those who build upon the rock (in Christ). This is because those on the rock cannot move their feet from the rock while those on the sand can move around on the sand and change their foundation as the sand shifts. However, those on the rock know that there is more to freedom than where to put your feet. There is growth upward and out. Like a good tree with a strong foundation, there is no end to its height or the broadness of it's leaves. Those in the sand may feel that they have more freedom, but they are looking down at their feet. While they are paying so much attention to their feet and bragging about the freedom they have, Satan is layering chains over top of them. When at some point they look up they will realize that those chains are holding them to the sand.

We try and point out those chains to the ones in the sand. If at some point they try and balk at the lack of freedom others suggest is there, they are quickly reassured that they can still move their feet. Deeper and deeper into the sand they go as the weight of their chains hold them down. You hear advice that if you're stuck in quicksand the best thing to do is hold still. Those that balk will wiggle their feet to get reassured of their "freedom." That is when they sink down further into their sandy foundation until one day they can no longer even feel their toes. At this point they may realize that they made a mistake, they may also feel that there is no more hope. That is where those on the rock come in.

The ones on the rock slowly grow bigger and feel freer as they explore the open atmosphere of the world and "the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." Even though their feet are planted firmly, they know the true freedom comes from above. Invariably, one of the truly righteous trees hang very closely over one who is trapped in the sand. If the one in the sand decides to admit that he needs help. If he quits wiggling (committing sin) to prove that he has "freedom," then he may look up and see the branch of his former friend reaching out to him. The main role of the ones on the rock is to be an example to all around.

How do we get onto the rock? Satan tells us that we must first dig ourselves out of our mess by ourselves, and then drag ourselves onto the rock of our salvation. This route seems so difficult that many will give up or quit, which is what Satan wants. What does the Savior say? "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Christ, having "descended below all things," works his miracles from below rather than above. The individual must decide to begin exercising his "freedom" to get onto a sure foundation, a "foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall." Once the decision is made, he stops wiggling (which is what got him into the mess in the first place), and trusts in the Savior.

As the individual in the sand exercises his freedom to be "limited" by keeping the commandments, they see that Satan's chains begin fading and breaking. After a season of faith, repentance, etc., the individual in the sand makes a huge discovery. While they have been looking skyward and keeping their feet firmly planted in the right, Christ has turned their sandy foundation into sandstone! Without realizing it, they are free from the chains of Satan and can grow ever upward and outward with a better understanding of what true freedom means. Then they understand what the God-fearing people meant all the time by having more freedom through righteous living.

Marty, Scott, Cassie, and Austin: The branch is there. I might not be the best at reaching out to you, but I do love you. I'm ready to help when you are ready for it. Please stop wiggling, let the Savior transform your foundation, and come find the freedom in the so-called "limited" path. You will be amazed.