nonprofit organization


The Morrison County Record has published a story about the United Way of Morrison County on its website and in the pages of the this week’s print edition.  There’s more to this story, some of which can be found at the Live Un-tied website maintained by Jody Scott-Olson.  The site includes Scott-Olson’s original press release, in which she calls for the resignation of the Executive Committee members of the Morrison County United Way.  It also has a copy of the resignation she was asked to sign, complete with its offer of money in exchange for silence on financial matters of the organization.  For those of you unaware of how nonprofit organizations are supposed to operate, they are required by law to maintain transparency of their operations, including financial information.

Watching this story with a wide, goggly fish eye,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

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Following is a post from Fish Wrap correspondent Black Molly. – P.F.A.P.

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The Spring 2008 issue of Initiative Quarterly, a magazine produced by the Initiative Foundation, has recently been released. The Initiative Foundation, for those of you who don’t know, attempts to assist the fourteen counties it serves in central Minnesota with economic development, leadership training, natural resources projects, and children, youth, and family issues. The Initiative Foundation meets a portion of its mission through loans and grants and works to grow the funds it manages in order to expand upon its programs. The Initiative Foundation is one of six Minnesota Initiative Foundations in the state, all of which were started by The McKnight Foundation in the 1980s. In fact, the Initiative Foundation used to be called the Central Minnesota Initiative Foundation.

For each quarterly magazine, the Initiative Foundation picks a topic of focus. This quarter’s topic is stated on the cover: “Ready or Not? Minnesota’s Future Workforce.” While the magazine does indeed focus on the up and coming Generation Y or Millennials who will soon be entering the workforce, what’s curious about one story, “Workforce Interrupted” by Dawn Zimmerman, is how it spotlights the entry of the Millennials into the workforce as a replacement for aging Baby Boomers, who will soon be leaving the workforce in droves. As I read the article, I sensed there was something missing within the Boomer-Millennial polarity that was being presented. What was missing was Generation X. It was almost as though Millennials were expected to take over for the departing Boomers with nary an Xer in sight.

I have a particular bias toward Gen X because I can be counted among this cohort. I also tend to be sensitive about generational discussions because I typically see that Gen X gets the short end of the stick when it comes to coverage.

The Boomers are huge because, well, they’re huge in numbers. They seem to have been the first named generation and they got the name because of the massive population boom after World War II. The boom lasted from 1946 until 1964 and, thus, those born within these years are considered to be Boomers. Sometimes the Boomers are split into two groups, the Baby Boom Generation (1942-1953) and Generation Jones (1954-1965). (Generational dating is obviously not an exact science because you’ll see some overlap in dates between the generations.)

Gen Xers, who are generally considered to be those born between 1965 and c. 1982, were first called the “baby bust” generation because of the drop in births in 1965. This was five years after the introduction of the birth control pill, which, according to the FDA, was being used by about 5 million women in 1965.

The years associated with the Millennials haven’t been precisely pinned down, with dates ranging from 1978 to 1984, c. 1980 to 1994, or perhaps 1988 to 2008. There’s another named generation, only it was named after the fact, by Tom Brokaw, no less. It’s the Greatest Generation and is supposed to include those who came of age during the Depression and World War II.

That last point is key. While generational discussions can be irritating because they pigeonhole us and don’t describe the individual very well, part of what defines a generational cohort for sociologists and marketers, other than population numbers, is the kaleidoscope of cultural events occurring during our formative years. The thought is that those of us who grow up through the same critical moments together develop a particular view of the world. For the Boomers, it was the Vietnam War, the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr., the Feminist Movement, and the Civil Rights Movement. You can also count the Summer of Love and Woodstock among the Boomers’ cultural influences.

I’ve said before that what seems to have defined Gen X is the ill-defined threat. We had the Cold War, with its constant threat of nuclear holocaust. (Remember the movie “The Day After”?) We had the Shuttle Disaster, the start of the AIDS epidemic, and a president who was almost assassinated. We lived through a ton of divorces and moms entering the workforce. We became latch-key kids. We had reduce, reuse, recycle and the first major energy crisis. (Gas lines, anyone?)

Gen X women grew up knowing we’d have to work. Staying home wasn’t the option it had been for older generations. We were told that we had to put our careers ahead of having children, and many of us did. We watched as major companies threw responsibility out the window when it came to their employees and laid them off right before they were due to retire, thus avoiding having to pay pensions. We were promised good jobs if we went to college, but when we graduated, no good jobs were to be found. Due to these economic forces, we lost the concept of loyalty to a corporation. We became free agents, changing jobs that didn’t suit our lifestyles, retraining when necessary for completely different careers than we’d first been educated for. We were called slackers and cynical, yet we became independent and entrepreneurial out of necessity. (It’s pretty hard to be entrepreneurial if you are a slacker.)

Call me irritable, but when I see a magazine article that seems to hint that Millennials are a direct replacement for the Boomers (i.e. they get to jump right into the high-level jobs being vacated by the Boomers), the cynic in me makes an appearance and starts thinking that the Gen Xers are getting kicked in the teeth again. If employment attrition works as it traditionally has in the past, the ones who should be directly replacing the Boomers are the Gen Xers, who hopefully have been in the workforce long enough by now to have acquired useful experience and some of those soft skills this issue of Initiative Quarterly is encouraging the Millennials to learn.

I don’t think the article’s author really intended to slight Gen Xers. Her focus, after all, was elsewhere. But, when we’re looking at “a workforce exodus about the size of Minneapolis” as the Boomers retire, I don’t think we can afford to discount an entire group of people when we look for solutions. Rather than ignore the Xers, why not take advantage of their continual training and wide range of employment experiences? As the Boomers retire, some Xers may be ready for another career change, maybe into one of the areas for which employee shortages are predicted. How about having Xers and Boomers collaborate on giving Millennials some pointers on the employment experience?

While it may be easy to put us into generational boxes with cute names, we have to be careful about the judgments we make about each of those generations, especially in relation to the economy and our livelihoods. No matter what our age, we all want to be taken seriously in the workforce and know that our labor matters.

Your Fish Wrap Correspondent,

Black Molly

In this week’s issue of the Morrison County Record (March 23, 2008), there’s an article by Liz Verley about the Little Falls City Council’s discussion concerning the Dewey-Radke house.  (See Section A, page 4, or do a search on the Morrison County Record’s website using the term “little falls city council”.  The article is called, “Council discusses whether to repair Dewey-Radke house”.)

The Dewey-Radke house is located next to the entrance of Pine Grove Park.  The Deweys offered the house to the City of Little Falls in 1974 so that it could remain a part of Pine Grove Park.  This makes sense because the park wraps around the house’s property.

For as long as I can remember, the house has been little used by the city.  The West Side Improvement Association has been using it for meetings and activities for the past few years, but this organization’s use also appears to be minimal.  The trouble is that it is a house – great for living in, but lousy for any kind of intensive public use.  Most houses are not built to be handicapped accessible, but this particular house, which is of the 1890-1920 vintage, was constructed long before society took that sort of thing into consideration.  Also, like most houses, the floor plan isn’t conducive to public use, what with the rooms designed for individual, private use and small gatherings, not large group activities.

The city is now struggling with what to do with the home.  It is in need of repairs, to the tune of $150,000, according to the Record.  That’s a lot of cash and the city isn’t sure the home is worth it.  Jerry Lochner, the city’s Public Works Director, has suggested that it may need to be torn down “if we can not find a public purpose for the building.”

The City Council isn’t taking the situation lightly, which is a good thing.  Little Falls has become known state-wide for its active pursuit of historic preservation.  If the city starts knocking down historic buildings willy-nilly, people will note the hypocrisy.  Unfortunately, it is incredibly difficult for a city or municipality to own a formerly-private home because of the costs involved in repurposing and maintaining it.  Taking care of homes is not the first priority of a governmental unit.  In fact, houses and their attendant property are revenue streams for the government, so owning private homes works against a city’s budget in more ways than one.

Compounding the problem for the City of Little Falls is that it owns not one private home, but several.  In addition to the Dewey-Radke home, it owns the Burton/Rosenmeier home, which houses the Little Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Weyerhaeuser and Musser homes, collectively known as Linden Hill.  This is contrary to what Council member Brian Crowder is quoted as saying in the Record.  He said, “As a city we do not have anything to do with Linden Hill.  We need to look at taking care of city property.”  Well, Linden Hill is city property and while the homes are being looked after on a day-to-day basis by the Friends of Linden Hill, ultimately, the city does still have responsibility for the homes.

The city ended up with these properties through the generosity of those who bequested them and, in the case of at least three of the homes, the city was given funds to assist with maintaining them.  Frank and Alice Dewey provided funds for the Dewey-Radke home and The Musser Trust provided an endowment for Linden Hill.

According to Brian Crowder, the Dewey Trust has earned “over $1 million in interest used by the city,” and he suggested using some of that to repair the Dewey-Radke home.  What a sensible idea.  But, if the city hasn’t been using that money on the home to date, what have they been doing with it?

Even if there is funding available to make necessary repairs, the city is still going to have to figure out how to use the Dewey-Radke home, something it hasn’t managed to do in the 34 years it has owned the structure.  I’m sure it’s not for lack of brainstorming sessions; it’s just that sticky a problem.

While I offer no solutions to the current dilemma, I would like to offer a tip.  If you are considering donating your house to a city or municipality – don’t do it.  Just don’t.  I know you have an emotional attachment to seeing your house preserved as is for all eternity, but that isn’t how things will work out.  What you’re doing is putting a governmental unit into a position that it is not equipped to handle, even if you provide a generous amount of funds for the home.  Much better to create a nonprofit organization devoted directly to the house and turn the funds over to it.

My other piece of advice is this.  If you are a governmental unit – don’t accept a house.  Just don’t.  Learn from the situation Little Falls is in and save yourself the hassle.

The weeds I’m in are bound to decompose,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

Stop President Bush for getting a slush fund that would enable the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to continue to put the public at risk — take action today!

President Bush is asking Congress for no strings to be attached to the budget for the WhiteNo Slush Fund for Bush! House’s own offices.  He’s asking for a 5.6% increase in spending for White House offices, including $7 million — with no accountability limits — for the OMB regulatory office that wields power to delay and wekaen public protections for the environment, safety, public health, consumers, privacy, and much more.

To top it off, the president wants to turn the White House budget into a slush fund, with the power to transfer up to 10% of funds among offices.  That could mean much more funding for the OMB regulatory office — which puts wealthy corporate special interests ahead of the public interest.

Tell Congress that it’s time for less funding and more accountability:  no slush fund for OMB to put us at risk!

Sheesh!

Seems an ironic coincidence that I have a friend totally unrelated to Fish Wrap who uses the pseudonym Orange Ruffy. During the day I know her as Mary, a recent graduate, teacher and 40 something mother of 5. But in and around all of that she is one of the North Star Roller Girls and skates under the pseudonym Orange Ruffy because…well she has red hair.

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At last weekends bout at the Minneapolis Convention Center Orange Ruffy slipped in a bathroom stall and hit the toilet which then dislodged from the wall spraying her with ice cold toilet water an incident I’ll call the Kohler Plunge.  As an encore performance and to raise money for the Special Olympics Orange Ruffy and the North Star Roller Girls will be taking the Polar Plunge today in Minneapolis.

Help them reach their fund-raising goal and by donating today to the Special Olympics.

The Special Olympics link will bring you to the Find a Team web page, click Minneapolis then use the drop down menu and scroll to North Star Roller Girls…if for no other reason than to read some of their outrageous names like Ida Kildher.

There were a couple of articles in this week’s Morrison County Record (December 9, 2007) about the Boys and Girls Club of America setting up a chapter here in Morrison County.  The local chapter is looking at purchasing the old Central Office Building from the Little Falls School District for its home.

Tina Snell included a little history of the Boys and Girls Club in her article, writing that it was founded during the Civil War and was originally called the Dashaway Club.  I don’t know about you, but I prefer the old name of the club.  It’s more intriguing and romantic than the Boys and Girls Club of America.  If I was still a kid, I would definitely be more inclined to join the Dashaway Club.

Darting, darting, and dashing away,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel