Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Something Else 2nd Anniversary

Two years ago I published an account of my involvement with a non profit training institute formed in the year 2000 by the city and the county to provide customized training services for local employers. After a horrible start, the institute's board ousted dysfunctional management, and yours truly found himself in charge of a sinking ship with a horrible reputation, many enemies, and losses exceeding $30K / month. After 18 months of trauma and turmoil, by late 2004 SAIAT (Southern AZ Inst. of Advanced Training) was operating in the black. By 2006, it was serving over 100 local employers and 10,000 working Tucsonans. Praise from customers and the community grew. Just as I sighed in relief over a cigar, a man warned me that SAIAT was doomed.

By early 2006, SAIAT was universally praised. The Mayor, TREO CEO Snell, Supervisor Bronson and many others voiced support. They invited me to join the economic development contingent visiting Austin. They invited me to the Tucson Town Hall. They said they wanted to promote SAIAT as a "Business Convergence Center" consolidating other support services with the customized training. In June 2006, I told "Cigar Man" he was full of it, "We train over 10,000 people!"

He remained adamant, "You could train ten million!"

In the fall of 2006 TREO deliberately destroyed the institute by taking its funding. As bankruptcy (and my resignation) rapidly approached, I replayed the tape, did some research, and discovered for myself the charade of overpaid suits that justify their salaries by praising each other. Instead of the slightest results, all that's necessary is the facade: plans, studies, blueprints, models, charts and graphs, words like "world class" and "great workforce." The city and county pay millions to play make believe in an act on a stage.

Those who understand Something Else know that it was a journey, a learning experience, a process of discovery. During the writing and research, a distinction clicked when I read a statement about a completely absurd, ridiculously overpriced leadership program I KNEW would NEVER occur, yet the suits were seriously discussing it as if it were reality. An overpaid Pima Community College official asserted, "I happen to believe deeply that this is how you get things done. You weave people together, you weave organizations together, and you come up with a stronger cloth that way."

A stronger cloth? THAT’S IT!!

GTEC paid a consultant $500,000 for a yellow streak, "GTEC's external marketing effort should position regional attributes to interest cluster company suppliers and customers, as well as new technology companies to want to move to the region . . . ultimately helping to strategically grow and sustain our existing business base."

TREO paid a consultant $250,000 for a pamphlet. Rio Nuevo spent $9 M to think about a bridge. Millions in land were given to friends. City staff tell developers who to pay (Hecker, Eckstrom, etc) if they're feeling friendly. The Downtown Tucson Partnership fired a director so it could hire a friend. In such an environment, using the words of Cigar Man, I was "flying blind with a noose around my neck."

Indeed.

Something Else is available at the link to the left.

11 Comments:

Blogger Liza said...

Yes, and anyone who resides here for any length of time can see what has been accomplished by the third rate predators. At the end of the day, there are always those stubborn facts when Tucson is ranked with other cities on every economic indicator you can think of.

The cloth needs to be doused with gasoline and set on fire.

7/07/2009 6:43 AM  
Blogger Cigar Man said...

Well said. I can tell you are now clear that you couldn’t believe me back in 2006. It’s not something one believes until experienced. In the "Clothiverse" only appearances matter, not actual results. You were the real deal in a world where bullshit rules. (Click on the various links. I can tell you that it is 99% nonsense. PCC does understand the game of praising TREO, DTP, elected officials, etc, and pays these people good money to pretend they do something. Try to find someone who took this PCC training. Go for it.

IT DOESN’T HAPPEN. Silly x4mr thought he was supposed to actually teach people.

Something Else really surprised the Cloth. In fact, it surprised everyone. That was really fun. TREO consulted attorneys. They thought about hiring security guards. HAH!
Thanks to x4mr everyone knows TREO stole funding for other agencies. You have burned that understanding into the local consciousness. Almost everyone has the "distinction" Cloth. Cowards to the core, people still observe political correctness and smile and nod when Snell and his ilk present their fabricated calculations. The TREO "return on investment" is my favorite. Some kid buys a movie at Best Buy, and they put it into their capital expenditure report. Actually, I’m kidding. There is no calculation based on anything.

They just make up numbers that look good. They make up everything to look good. All one has to do is look around with open eyes to see that absolutely nothing is being accomplished by any of these characters.

The Rainbow Bridge is a perfect metaphor. $9 M for a pretty picture and nothing gets built.

Nothing.

7/07/2009 7:58 AM  
Blogger Liza said...

What hurts is that THEY are still there, sucking the blood out of the taxpayers, living in fine style, while the charade goes on and on.

Maybe some cities are just supposed to be shit holes and it would take Divine Intervention to change it. Obviously, a little insight hasn't much impact.

Now everyone knows enough to write nasty comments about the Cloth on blogs and in the Star articles, but where does it go from there?

Snell is still eating steak.

7/07/2009 9:50 AM  
Blogger Cigar Man said...

Liza,
The Cloth are EXTREMELY resilient and almost impossible to destroy. Just like x4mr says, they reinforce and support each other. Snell praises Lyons who praises Hecker who praises Letcher who praises Singer who praises Snell. They are all on each other's boards and approve each other's salaries and contracts.

PCC's business training group fits right in. You would not believe what happened when x4mr started really producing results at SAIAT and training thousands. The people at PCC went completely batshit because their "act" was telling everyone that's what they did.

A key dynamic of the Cloth is CLAIMING to be doing something. PCC CTD CLAIMS to do customized training for businesses. TREO CLAIMS to be recruiting companies, producing economic growth, blah, blah. It's all a charade.

There is a whole army of people well paid to be politically correct, preserve the illusion, and clap for the naked emperors when they present their smoke and mirrors.

What they find terrifying is visible competence. People doing good work is bad enough, but people being seen doing good work is a severe threat. x4mr started ACTUALLY DOING what a $1+ M organization at PCC claimed it was doing for everyone. That makes for embarrassing questions. People got very cranky.

7/07/2009 11:53 AM  
Blogger The Navigator said...

I will never forget reading Something Else. x4mr wrote on several levels, and it rang so incredible true and real. You could instantly tell his footing was rock solid. I love the chapter "Reality" where he mentioned all of the bullshit going on and then contrasted it with the reality. That was chapter where he quoted PCC about "ramping up" a training program for "impossible to saturate" optics technician jobs.

In reality, optics firms were closing and the only ones hiring needed Phds. Further, the PCC program required a strong math background. Oh the stupidity, and he was quoting senior level PCC executives. The ridiculous program went no where, of course.

I think I might know where Cigar Man works.

Chapter Three is where cloth is distinguished. When I got to chapter five, I knew I was reading something extraordinary. I am not well connected, but I bet its publication really caught TREO by surprise. I also bet that the town never quite looked at TREO the same way again, or x4mr.

7/07/2009 2:49 PM  
Blogger Cigar Man said...

Nav,
I think you might know where I USED to work. I forgot to mention that I know the exact program where PCC BIT (Business & Industry Training) director Weiss talked about "making a stronger cloth." The program was to charge the city and county over $85,000 for the "bare bones" version. It was nonsense.

You have no idea how much cash went to PCC for various programs back then, especially when workforce development funds were really flowing. I know of invoices for over $25,000 for programs where the training never actually happened. You can probably imagine the upset that occurred when x4mr kicked the tires and lit the fires at SAIAT. Then he shut down PCC's cash cow electronics program because it was outrageously overpriced.

I would pay a month's salary, seriously, a full months GROSS, to have been in the SAIAT board meeting when x4mr announced the termination of HTHW and PCC community campus President Jana Kooi blew five gaskets and ran screaming from the room.

7/07/2009 3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Careful, Cigar Man. Start posting this often and you'll get addicted.

So it has really been two years since 7/7/7. Wow. I remember it well. There was something surreal about how you "checked out" from the network and suddenly your blog and "Something Else" were the talk of the town. I thought it was great the way you shifted from anonymous blogging to your real name two months before the publication, giving you press recognition and mention as one of the most influential blogs in the state in a Star article. As this happened you became a grant funded graduate student behind an "employment firewall" immune to any repercussions from your blogging.

Then you removed your real name and switched back to x4mr in time to clean your google profile for the job search as graduation approached, which obviously succeeded.

Impressive.

Your posts are clearly projecting an imminent decline in the coverage of Southern AZ, but I hope you keep blogging. Your site offers an interesting and insightful perspective that I value quite a bit.

7/07/2009 6:53 PM  
Anonymous Robish said...

The Cloth and its governmental partners are very good at spreading unwarranted praise on each other, that's been well-documented. Giving TREO credit for Pella Windows' decision to come to Tucson when TREO hadn't even existed when Pella made the decision, is a notable example.

Besides manipulating the PR to give or deprive credit, the Cloth also manipulates events to allow fellow Cloth to take credit for things that actually do happen. And conversely, the Big C withholds support for projects, or delays cooperation with work that could make non-Cloth look good.

I don't know this for a fact, but I'm guessing that once the Cloth decided it was going after Steve Weathers (and I'm not suggesting he wasn't pretty Cloth-y himself) and GTEC, every effort was made to deprive GTEC of accomplishments to take credit for.

Again, just guessing: once the decision was made to take the Tucson Downtown Alliance budget and give it to the new group headed by Larry Hecker, or probably even before that, the city or whoever the Alliance interacted with in the Cloth Realm most likely made things as difficult as possible for the Alliance to get anything done, looked for ways to smear or discredit them.

Of course with downtown, you had the colossal failure of Rio Nuevo, so it would have been easy to conflate whatever the Alliance was doing with the general failure actually perpetrated by Rio Nuevo. The general public doesn't know enough about who has responsibility for what to make the necessary distinctions to see through these things.

In that case, you had the city indirectly blaming a quasi-private group for the obvious failures of the city, and then putting together a group that was even more dependent on the city to replace the quasi-private group.

This sort of behavior helped justify doing away with GTEC and the Alliance. Deprive them of accomplishments and then blame them for not accomplishing anything. Put your cronies in a position to save the day. It's the same story over and over, and it's the same faces that populate each one of these charades.

7/07/2009 7:02 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Just reading the comments here was pretty moving in that it really shows the progress made over the last two years. Robish is absolutely spot on. SAIAT was training for over 100 companies, 10,000 people, and its work was dismissed as "property management" by people unwilling, even after detailed tours of the facility, to acknowledge what was happening.

Same for the Alliance, etc.. I think anyone who regularly reads this blog has a good grasp of the Cloth, its methods and practices, and the key members involved.

Very astute, Anon. You are absolutely right about the design. I shifted from x4mr to the real name and back again most deliberately for the reasons you mentioned. I got lucky regarding BNN blog rank when the Scarpinato article came out. I have no delusions about political influence, but I love the thought of certain parties reading that article.

My favorite press event was the Carli Brousseau piece that slammed TREO for stealing MAC's funding. Some of the O'Dell pieces were also gratifying, whether this place had the slightest role or not. It also felt good to help keep a likely Clothmeister out of the TUSD Superintendent slot.

I will keep blogging, but yes, the tie to Southern AZ, while perhaps never severed, is likely to slacken. I would encourage Robish, Cigar Man, Liza, Policon, and others to keep the critical lens focused and call attention to the shenanigans.

On a totally unrelated note, I hardly "Facebook" at all, mostly just to communicate with my daughter. Well, the other day Salette Latas friended me. I think she's great, and while I know it doesn't mean anything, I was so jazzed.

7/07/2009 7:48 PM  
Anonymous Mariana said...

Salette is a great lady, she is a fireball and she "Facebook"(s?) very profesionally. Her friendship means something, even on FB.

7/09/2009 12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if any of this is what on a small scale is like my uncle taking credit for bring the Pella plant to the town he lives in. I'd love to hear that story from somebody else.

Anon from KY

7/30/2010 7:17 PM  

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