MINNESOTA POLLUTION Control Agency staffers have noticed a familiar face around the Capitol lately--their former boss, Charles Williams. Williams resigned last summer after a five-year tenure as commissioner of the agency. His new job as VP for internal and external relations with Iron Range-based EVTAC Mining includes "interfacing" with state government and the Legislature. And this year, that's put him squarely in conflict with his former agency.
The story gets pretty complicated, but the gist is that starting next year, the MPCA wants to raise fees companies pay for their air-emission permits by between 10 and 15 percent to finance its air-quality division. The proposal has the support of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce; Williams's new employers, however, are dead-set against it.
MPCA staffers, including air-quality division manager Mike Sandusky, say they were "shocked" to find Williams as their main adversary during committee hearings. They claim that as commissioner, Williams advocated using fees to fund the agency, and that his current position would "eviscerate" the MPCA's enforcement capabilities. Williams says his position reflects his long-standing belief that the funding problem needs to be solved in Washington, D.C.
Either way, critics point to Williams as yet another example of the revolving door between industry and state government. Earlier this year, state Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville) proposed barring top state officials and legislators who leave government from lobbying their ex-colleagues for a year. The measure died quickly, and Williams says it deserved to. "People take these jobs to advance themselves professionally," he says, "and then not being able to use that expertise--I have a problem with that kind of logic. The assumption is that we're going to do something that is not ethical."
DON'T LET IT be said that Minneapolis DFLers had nothing better to do at their convention than to endorse the mayor by acclamation. Toward the tail end of an otherwise tame confab, a group of activists calling themselves Citizens for the Restoration of Trust in Government introduced a resolution asking the city to "set a policy of not hiring contract lobbyists or lobbying firms whose other clients have conflicting interests with the city." Peter Wagenius, one of the instigators of the resolution, says the proposal was sparked by a CP report ("All in the Family," 2/12/97) listing city lobbyists who also represent waste haulers, landlords, the airport, the tobacco industry, and other groups whose legislative agendas sometimes directly conflict with the city's. The resolution met with majority approval, which, of course, doesn't mean anyone has to abide by it. Wagenius says the group plans to bring the matter up when new council members take their seats in January.
HONEY, I SHRUNK POP
AFTER A YEAR of publicly contending that the organization was in fine shape, People of Phillips--the group representing Minneapolis's largest, poorest, and most diverse neighborhood--has undergone a sudden and dramatic shrinkage. Staffers were called into a "mandatory emergency meeting" Monday afternoon by PoP's interim executive director, Cindy Jones; 11 of the 17 were asked to retreat to a back room, where Jones informed them that they were being laid off. Matthea Smith, who chairs the PoP board's executive committee, says the move is part of a "stabilization plan" developed by Jones and her consulting firm, Marsh West Associates. Jones, a former Cargill and TCF executive, took the reins of the beleaguered organization April 1, after more than a year of controversy revolving mostly around a housing program ("Under Fire," 3/26/97).
"We needed to do this to be fiscally responsible and accountable to the community," Smith says. "It had nothing to do with the people who worked there." The former employees, not surprisingly, sound a harsher note. "They've fired the people who were the neighborhood's greatest resource for implementing the NRP plan," says Sharon Jaffe, who worked on the plan. Smith says PoP's skeleton staff and volunteers will continue implementing the plan as well as perusing the organization's books; she says PoP plans to conduct a self-audit in June.
From the employee newspaper of the Newspaper of the Twin Cities comes the following discussion of branding:
How would you define [the] Star Tribune in just one word? What do you think the "essence" of Star Tribune brand is?
Even after you've worked for Star Tribune for just a short-time [sic], you start to get a feel for the place. You come to feel the rhythm. You learn what's acceptable and what's unacceptable. What's cool and what's "just not us." As the accompanying Brand Buzz states, a brand's essence can often be defined in a single word. This is sometimes called the "ness" of the brand....
Defining the "-ness" of a brand
Some people have a certain "something-ness" about them. You know who they are. They possess something that defines who they are and what they stand for. It makes them predictable, but in a reassuring sort of way. You know how they'll look, react and respond to most any situation. And more often than not, their looks, reactions and responses will be exactly what you would expect for the situation at hand.
It's difficult to put a word to that special something, that essence, the -ness of a person. Although defining that single "-ness" is a struggle, you know it when you see it. And most people wish they could have a certain "something-ness" too... that spiritual center that defines a person and permeates all other aspects of who that person is.