POSI 4397: Book Review, Urban Containment & Fringe Development

Daniels, T. 1999.  When City and Country Collide: Managing Growth in the Metropolitan Fringe

Introduction

Tom Daniels’ book, When City and Country Collide: Managing Growth in the Metropolitan Fringe, provides a comprehensive examination of the far-reaching and complex issues fueling land use development out past the farthest edges of suburbia and into what has been coined “the fringe.” First, Daniels starts by explaining what “the fringe” is in terms of where it is and why it is important. Next, Daniels weaves in a wide variety of topics in order to show how these different issues have collectively fueled growth and development out into the fringe. Finally, Daniels concludes with recommended counteractive measures to help fringe communities preserve their small-town character while facing challenges associated with absorbing a larger population and the commercial development that comes along with that growth.

Analysis of Content

Definition of The Fringe

Simply defined, the fringe is a geographical “…region of middle ground between wide-open rural lands…and expanding suburban residential and commercial development.” (Daniels, 1999:10) Just beyond the suburbs and edge cities, but before the farm and rural lands that lie beyond the major metropolitan regions, fringe areas (also known as exurbia) make up a large percentage of land surrounding major metropolitan areas. Fringe areas are the less developed regions of metropolitan cities and many nonmetropolitan counties that border metropolitan areas, have low population density rates, and have specific attributes that qualify the areas as “fringe” communities.

For example, the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Service Area (Austin-RR MSA) is a free-standing metropolitan area composed of five counties, and bordered by another 9 counties, as defined by the Texas Comptroller. (http://comptroller.texas.gov/taxinfo/staxqtr/stxqtr_info.html)

In the map below, the Austin-RR MSA area is shown surrounded by the red border. Inside the Austin-RR MSA resides 5 counties with 8 large cities, 16 medium sized cities (suburbs), 23 small towns (edge cities), 15 fringe cities (exurbs), and 32 unincorporated areas. The population distribution is shown in the chart below. In this example, the 47 areas that make up the fringe cities and the unincorporated areas tend to lie on the outskirts of the area inside the red boundary line, and some of the smaller towns were even identified as residing in two different counties. These areas qualify as the fringe communities surrounding the Austin-RR MSA.

(table not included)

However, population distribution and proximity to the major city centers is only one way to identify potential fringe communities. It is possible for a fringe community to reside even as close as 10 miles away from the city center. When considering if an area is located in the fringe the following attributes can be considered:

  • The population density in the fringe is generally less than 1000 people per square mile, although this is not a hard and fast rule.
  • Fringe areas can lie a few miles beyond small cities to forty or more miles outside of major urban centers. Distance from city center can vary greatly in the fringe.
  • Housing development will appear scattered, and the fringe will have low-density settlement patterns, and homeowners will generally own one or more acres of land.
  • Most fringe areas utilize on-site sewage systems whereas suburban development will have mass-developed neighborhoods tied into the city sewer system.
  • Fringe areas are not generally connected to major highway areas; farm to market roads and smaller highways are more common in the fringe.
  • Agriculture, forestry, mineral mines, and other such industries often reside in fringe areas; however, they will be in decline as population growth and development is encroaching on these areas.
  • Fringe areas are often described as having open space, a slower pace, and a sense of safety; commuters travel more than 25 miles to work and back each day, passing through the easily identifiable suburban communities on their way to work and back each day.

Fringe History

Fringe areas have been recognized as early as the 1800s, as the term “rural estate” was an object of envy. Where the city was crowded, noisy, filthy, and crime-riddled, the countryside offered a quiet, safe, and clean way of living. However, due to limited means of travel, owning property out in the country was often achieved by those who had the financial means to do so. At the beginning of the 19th century, the city center was the hub of industry and commerce, and since most transportation was still limited to horse drawn carriages and walking, settlements were densely built so a person would have a means by which to reasonably live and work.

But transportation would advance and as people became more mobile, the exodus from the cities became achievable goals. In the late 1850’s the first suburban community was born in Llewellyn Park, New Jersey, to meet the aesthetics of well-to-do elitists who wanted out of the hustle and bustle of New York City. Some thirteen miles from city center, Llewellyn Park offered a direct access to the railroad which allowed residents to commute daily to New York City. Large homes built on spacious lots, planned green space, and a ban against commercial development, the Llewellyn Park suburb offered a “quiet, bucolic place to live” and other “railroad suburbs” started taking shape. (Daniels, 1999: 20)

The next boom came about with the invention of the streetcar at the turn of the century. This allowed much more people to commute to a job from the suburbs to downtown and cities experienced a surge in residential housing that appealed to the middle-class worker. Commonly referred to as “row houses” (houses that were built on uniform long and narrow lots), these streetcar suburbs gave commuters a clear separate of work and home life. The evolution of land use laws originated out of the introduction of the street car which was challenged all the way to the Supreme Court in 1926. The end result was a ruling that set the precedent for “zoning to be the primary land-use control in America” and by 1928 the Standard Zoning Enabling Act was imposed on all the states.

By the 1920’s the personal automobile was the preferred mode of transportation and the 1916 Federal Road Act paved the way for urban sprawl. No longer confined to trains or streetcars, the middle-class worker could now drive him or herself to and from their own office, in their own car, and every single day. By the 1950’s the suburbs were almost completely residential: work and commerce were in the city, home life was for the suburbs.

Cities were booming, suburbs were humming along, and the construction of interstate highways started opening up the countryside for commuter travel. By the 1970’s the nonmetropolitan counties grew faster than the metropolitan counties. Between 1977 and 1997, the suburban population grew by 30 million residents, the fringe area expanded to include 20 million people and more than 700 counties, while the 39 major metropolitan areas of the time saw less than 1 million new residents. (Daniels, 1999:40) For many, the cities were out, and the suburbs and fringe areas were in.

Problems & Solutions for Fringe Development

Growing pains facing rural-fringe areas is a relatively new problem that emerged from poor land-use planning practices as suburbs and edge-cities pushed out into the fringe. In essence, fringe communities are quickly becoming the suburbs of the suburbs. Eighty percent of Americans reside in and around 273 major metropolitan regions. Inside those regions lie 25% of all counties in the United States. While big cities and suburbs are the focus of city planners, state oversight, and federal bureaucrats, the fringe is struggling to keep up with explosive growth.

With the fringe taking up this growth trend isn’t going to reverse anytime soon (Daniels, 1999:40). City planners, managers, and leaders are feeling the stress of this growth as they struggle to manage growth while supporting concerned long-term residents, enthusiastic new neighbors, and eager developers. The biggest challenge, Daniels says, is in balancing growth while maintaining the essence, or community small-town feel, of a fringe city while safely absorbing increased population and the commercial development that comes along with growth. Daniels identifies eight complex obstacles, that are often interrelated, that encumber organized, sustainable, and successful growth management in the metro fringe:

  1. Fragmented and overlapping governments, authorities, and special districts that influence development in the fringe (state agencies, school districts, medical districts, economic development boards, etc.).
  2. The large size of fringe areas that include fringe cities and unincorporated areas that must be considered when planning city resources and basic emergency services.
  3. Lack of a community, county, or regional vision given the private and independent nature of the residents in the fringe.
  4. Lack of a sense of place and identity due to the vast settlement patterns exhibited in the fringe.
  5. Conflicts between the newcomers who might want to see more commercial development in their new areas, and the long-term residents who want everyone to leave.
  6. The spread of scattered new development which can result in a large sprawling rural town with too few residents to support city services.
  7. Too few planning resources available for the area leaders.
  8. Outdated planning and zoning techniques that lead to poorly designed communities with many unforeseen consequences.

Success for these communities depends on a thorough and proactive growth management plan to address the issues listed above and prepare the community for future growth. A successful growth management plan is exhaustive but when done properly will provide planners and community members with both a vision for their city and a direction in which to move. Community planning efforts that follow the formula below will reach tremendous milestones in their development and address many of the complex issues listed above.

Daniels Steps for Growth Management Planning

  1. First: start with the end in mind. A successful growth management plan will rely on solid population estimations for the next ten to twenty years.
  2. Next: compile the data. The plan must inventory, analyze, and identify existing and future needs. The region must be mapped out to show the current and future capabilities for housing, commercial, industrial, transportation, schools, water resources, parks, natural areas, farmland, etc. Each area must be mapped out for both current and future needs. For example, knowing that the population of the area will double in twenty years, how can the city ensure adequate fire, police, and ems services for its citizens? Does the city adopt a new residential housing plan to help wrangle in the community? Does the city build ten combined safety centers spread across the region? Each fringe area will answer these questions differently. This data collection and mapping exercise will provide the legal basis for the zoning ordinance as the foundation for the comprehensive plan.
  3. Finally: collect the taxes. Once there is a legal basis for zoning in place, planners can begin to assess the financials, collect taxes, and move the comprehensive plan forward.

In all fringe cities, Daniels says there is a common sense of urgency to hurry up and solve the problem of growth – as if it is a one-time solution simply needs to be voted on. When, in reality, managing growth in fringe cities is an active exercise in “the search for and implementation of effective public policy solutions.” (Daniels, 1999:259) These policies boil down to three options: pro-growth, balanced growth, or no/slow growth. Pro-growth strategies allow development to take off and turn a fringe city into another suburb, or an edge city. The balanced growth strategy places an emphasis on pacing growth to allow for environmental preservation. Balanced growth works well in areas where there is a lot of agriculture, mining, forestry, or other natural environmental areas worth protecting. Balanced growth sees the environment as an asset worth protecting and will slow growth down to do so as needed. Lastly, no/slow growth strategy makes development difficult and expensive as a way to keep change to a minimum. These fringe communities are protective of their space, their tax base, and their quality of life.

Federal, State, and Local Governments + the Fringe

Proactive growth management in the fringe should be a collective responsibility between the federal, state, and local governments. Daniels suggests local and state governments should handle most of their own planning, and should actively improve coordination of efforts amongst each other, via open communication between local and state government – to help efficiently meet their community needs. Ideally, more transparent and open communication between local and state government will result in solid growth management policies that will face minimal risk of being overturned by the federal government. Regional planning between city and country, village, and townships is simply a necessity. In fact, he states that the “…emergency of regional metro governments with, at minimum, jurisdiction over planning & transportation, is the wave of the future” and the only way to ensure successful growth management in the fringe regions. (Daniels, 1999:208)

Furthermore, the federal government should be an active participant in managing growth in the metropolitan fringe. The federal government has the means and the ability to assist in a wide variety of ways. From helping communities with grants for infrastructure development (such as helping a large fringe area put in a regional water treatment system to replace or eliminate single-home septic systems), to protecting agricultural space & endangered species, and passing laws to protect the environment (such as the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act), the federal government can play a big role in driving the vision for fringe development.

A Sustainable Solution

Daniels concludes his work by outlining sustainable principles for land use with the goal being that current development can meet the present needs while affording future generations the ability to meet their needs. Daniels suggest the following:

  • Compact, transit-oriented development will help reduce fringe dwellers reliance on personal transportation to get around fringe areas.
  • A mixed-use development that emphasizes walking and biking in town, and between fringe towns, will help preserve the small town feel within these fringe areas.
  • In-fill development to help fill-in vacant lots and open spaces in clustered fringe cities will help to minimize fringe-sprawl.
  • Low-density zoning in the countryside can be leverage to reduce and discourage sprawl.
  • Financial incentives to encourage rural landowners to keep their land open and not sell to developers.

Balancing these sustainable growth principles alongside a no growth, slow growth, or fast growth plan of action can help communities successfully manage growth in the fringe, but it will require the communities to work together in an open and transparent manner to develop both regional and community growth action plans.

Conclusion

Daniels book provides the reader a comprehensive understanding of what defines a fringe city, how fringe cities evolved into the fastest growing land area today, how the federal, state and local governments can prepare and manage the growth. Developing a growth strategy, managing long term land use and planning, designing for a sustainable, nurturing economy, and overseeing responsible stewardship of natural resources, requires careful consideration to many different details. Full of valuable information and insight for communities struggling to deal with the influx of residents and development, taking the steps to pull together a thoughtful and comprehensive plan for growth management will serve the community, the state, and has the potential to influence federal policies. Longevity and sustainability are the end game, and a successful end game requires a vision, takes careful planning, and requires work to implement. But Daniels suggests all these things are not lofty goals, but achievable gains when the foundation is prepared and the communities are committed.

 

POSI 4397, Article Review I: The Paradox of Urban Containment Policy

Raymond J. Burbury, Arthur C. Nelson, Dennis Parker & John Handmer (2001) Urban Containment Policy and Exposure to Natural Hazards: Is There a Connection?, Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 44:4, 475-490

Introduction

Urban containment policies aim to create safer, more sustainable communities through limiting land available for development, preserving green spaces, and restricting the delivery of public goods and services within defined growth boundaries. However, a serious, unintended, consequence may have evolved from these policies. In Urban Containment Policy and Exposure to Natural Hazards: Is There a Connection?, Burbury, Nelson, Parker, & Handmer suggest that development into less-expensive, hazardous lands, outside the growth boundary lines, can lead to a higher loss of life and property in the event of a natural disaster. The authors explore this issue as a hypothesis by doing three specific things. First, the authors review urban containment policies and show how those policies have directly contributed to the increased development of hazardous areas. Next, the authors examine naturally contained urban areas and cite circumstantial evidence to support their claims regarding risks associated with development in known hazardous areas. And finally, while acknowledging that more research is needed to fully understand the big picture, they suggest that including hazard mitigation plans alongside containment policies will help reduce loss of life and property when nature strikes.

Urban Containment Policies & Hazardous Development Areas

With the rapid expansion of all major metropolitan areas in the 20th century, and the urban sprawl that goes along with it, urban containment policies were quickly adopted as way to manage growth and reduce sprawl. Through a variety of rules and incentives, urban containment policies aim to promote, and even restrict, residential and commercial development towards the central areas inside the growth boundary lines. In doing so, cities and counties are able to keep the bulk of jobs and tax revenues in the central city, which allows the city to deliver public goods and services to its residents in the most efficient and fiscally responsible manner. Additionally, by confining growth within boundary lines, cities can maintain dedicated green space, protect farmlands, and preserve natural resources. City governments were the first to start implementing urban containment strategies, and several states have developed enforceable land use and planning containment policies.

However, as successful as urban containment policies have been, the development of residential and commercial properties within hazardous land areas has emerged as an unintended, yet, direct outcome of these growth strategies. Containment policies limit land available for development which inevitably leads to higher land prices. Land development then naturally turns to lower-priced areas inside and outside of the containment boundaries. These areas can include hazardous lands purposefully left outside of original growth boundaries, or lands inside the growth boundary that were originally not zoned for commercial or residential development. Hazardous land areas can include anything from land near a river that swells every time it rains, an active fault line, a dense greenbelt that becomes a fire hazard, or a retired landfill that isn’t truly old enough for development (among other conditions).

Since this land is cheaper to build on, development in inevitably happens. If developers take steps to mitigate the hazardous conditions during development (slope-stabilization on hillsides, elevated foundations in flood plains, reduce brush in green spaces, etc.), then the associated risks might be greatly reduced, or even negated. However, without local governments requiring developers to take these precautions, developers will most likely not make these expensive land improvements before building and the risks remain. Furthermore, homeowners generally do not take measures to protect or prepare their properties from natural disaster, even if their home is zoned in a previously known hazardous area. Either they do not purchase enough insurance (unless required to do so), or they do not want to pay a developer for the extra work needed to insure a safe and sound home has been built. But the issues just aren’t with the developers and the home owners: homes built outside of the containment areas may not lie close enough to allow the city to respond to an emergency in an efficient and effective manner. If a city or county has not planned accordingly, they will not be able to support those citizens who live in the hazardous areas in the event of a natural disaster. Considering all the variables, development in hazardous areas can clearly result in a marked increase in the risk of loss of life or property, as compared to non-hazardous development areas, or in the event of a natural disaster, if the known risks are not mitigated by the developers or local city planners through hazard mitigation plans.

Natural Urban Containment and Hazard Mitigation

Next, the authors examine circumstantial evidence provided by New Orleans, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, in order to demonstrate associated risks with development in hazardous areas, and justify the need for hazardous mitigation plans. These densely populated regions are constrained by natural, physical barriers (vs. an arbitrary boundary line set by a planning board.) When examined through a “contained urban area” lens, these areas can provide planners ample information on how to reduce damages from natural disasters. While the authors recommend more research is needed, they argue that circumstantial evidence supports their claims regarding hazardous mitigation plans as a necessary tool to help in managing development and growth in and around areas affected by urban containment polices.

New Orleans, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are three regions in which a dense city center is surrounded by naturally occurring “containment” boundary line. New Orleans is bound by the “…Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain, and extensive coastal marshes and is one of the most contained urban areas in the USA.” (Burby, 2010) San Francisco is bordered by the water and hills. Los Angeles lies in between the Pacific Ocean and a mountain range. All three geographic areas must manage their growth within a tightly contained region. All three are very densely populated. All three are susceptible to one or more natural disasters: floods, fires, hurricanes, and earthquakes. The authors highlight the costs associated with disasters in these areas. A category 5 hurricane could cost New Orleans an estimated $30 billion+. A massive earthquake in San Francisco could cost upwards of $120 billion just in damaged buildings. And if another major flood, massive earthquake, or roaring fire hits Los Angeles, the losses would soar well beyond anything they’ve managed before, well into the $100 billion range. Again, this information is provided to show how development of residential and commercial properties in hazardous regions poses an increased risk of loss of life and property in the event of a natural disaster. The authors are not suggesting that development not occur in those areas; but rather, if they must occur, that the development plans should include hazard mitigation plans so that if the worst case scenario unfolds, loss of life and property will not be as extensive.

Hazard Mitigation Plans & Urban Containment Planning

Finally, hazard mitigation plans require careful consideration in order for planners to fully understand all costs associated with containment policies – good and bad. A solid hazard mitigation plan can let a city planner know if the proposed containment policy is affordable and sustainable. This information is invaluable in the early stages of city and development planning and because the costs associated with implementation of a hazard mitigation plan after development would be considerably higher it is imperative that the hazard mitigation plan be completed alongside, or even before, the development plans kick off.

The authors provide applicable information on how to develop comprehensive hazard mitigation plans and explain why they should be created right alongside any urban containment plan development with the following six different types policies and action plans:

  1. Preventative Policies: Seeks to limit new development in hazardous areas.
  2. Property Protection Policies: Affords financial support to retrofit old properties, relocate structures, or obtain insurance.
  3. Structural Protection Policies: Normally used in flood-prone zones, these policies require both cities and builders to invest in and proper flood control measures such as drainage ditches, levees, dams, etc.
  4. Emergency Services Policies: Aims to reduce the severity of a natural disaster after it strikes by providing efficient and effective emergency response teams and provisions.
  5. Natural Resource Protection Policies: Protecting spaces that are prone to natural disasters as a preemptive measure to reduce hazardous development.
  6. Public Information Policies: Building awareness by educating home owners on their options, and developers on their duties, is a major part of any hazard mitigation plan.

Because every region is different, every hazard mitigation plan will be different, and these six policies above are not the full extent of what kinds of policies and action plans will be required to properly mitigate every hazardous area. It will be important for the hazard mitigation plan to adequately and appropriately apply to the specific region or development area for which is being planned. For example, an area prone to hurricanes and flooding will want to focus on property protection, structure protection, and emergency services policies. However, an area prone to fires and earthquakes may want to adopt some preventative policies, natural resource protection policies, and emergency services policies. Each different type of hazard mitigation policy is equally important – it all depends on the area in question.

Conclusions

The authors conclude by stating that this article is simply an examination of an issue they have identified within the urban containment planning and policies. While they are adamant that hazard mitigation plans will help reduce the loss of life and property, in the event of a natural disaster, they admit that this is an hypothesis that needs more fleshing out. Never the less, they hold firm their stance that planners have a duty to produce a thoughtful, comprehensive, and thorough hazard mitigation plan.

Additionally, they offer two other questions which they say deserve more research. First, they want to know if urban containment actually does increase development in hazardous areas. The authors have suggested that this is the case, but admit there is no hardcore evidence to support their claim. Secondly, they want to know what extent have other “…areas pursuing urban containment adopted appropriate hazard mitigation plans…” in order to answer the nagging suspicion that without state mandates, planners will continue to ignore the need for hazard mitigation planning.

This article is interesting in light of issues faced by development in far outlying areas known as “fringe cities.” Fringe cities can mitigate their risks in the event of a natural disaster by developing a hazardous mitigation plan at the same time containment plans are being developed. While these remote communities may not initially have resources to plan for natural disasters, as fringe cities adopt containment policies, it would be prudent to produce a comprehensive hazardous mitigation plan. Not only will this plan be of vital importance in the event of a natural disaster, it could shield the city from any negligence suits, as well as help the city prepare for its own future sprawl.

SOCI 3328: Complex Organizations

SOCI 3328: Organizations: Structures, Processes, and Outcomes

Essay 1

After reading chapters 1 and 2, describe and explain what an organization is. Define the term, ‘complex organization.’ Discuss some examples (minimum two) of organizations that you are a part of in your daily life. What is the nature of these organizations and what is the structure of these organization, what type of organizations are a part of your life (ie; for profit, non-profit, etc..). Use both your experience and the text/lecture to write this essay.

     Over the course of my life, I have been involved in many organizations. From my earliest Sunday school church memory to my most recent re-entry into college, organizations have been, and remain, a big part of my life. As someone who appreciates the structure afforded by organizations, it is easy for me to involve myself in different organizations, and in very different ways. For example, in the local fire department, I am a volunteer & donate my time to help the fire department achieve their goals. However, my involvement with the WordPress.org organization isn’t so altruistic; I volunteer my time and services in that community so as to leverage their resources and advance my career.  From the time I wake up in the morning until the time I fall asleep at night, my life seems to weaves in and out of many different organizations. But what is an organization, exactly? The term is innocuous and vague. In this paper, I will attempt to briefly define the term and share two examples of organizations I am involved in and offer a short conclusion with my personal thoughts on organizations.

First, the term “organization” can be defined as a collective body of people/participants who have come together to achieve a common goal; the organization provides a means to an end for these participants. While these purpose-driven communities can be structured in a number of ways (local/global, formal/informal, for/not for profit, vertical/spatial, etc.), the end result, or goal outcomes, remain the primary focus. The structure of the organization can change over time but the nature of the organization will most likely remain the same. Organizations can be simple or complex. Simple organizations generally have, well, a simple focus and simple directives, and simple governments. Whereas complex organizations are made up of many people, have many different systems and processes and rules, have many different levels of members, and can have multiple goals and directives. Most organizations seem to be complex in nature. Organizations can exist to serve many purposes – both good and bad – and can be very effective (or not at all effective) in achieving their goals. Even if one believes they are not involved in any specific organization, organizations are a part of everyday life for everyone.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, one organization I am involved in is the Morgan’s Point Resort Fire Department (MPRFD). The MPRFD is made up of both paid and volunteer fire fighters and emergency services technicians who serve the local community in response to fire, medical, and water rescue emergencies, along with a handful of volunteers who help manage administrative duties related to running a fire department. The nature of this organization is to safely serve its local community. While I am not a firefighter or medical responder, I am an active volunteer in this organization. I help the chief manage things such as data entry of reports into the RMS (records management system), fundraising events, and community outreach involvement in events such as Toys for Tots, school career day events, the local Fourth of July Rodeo, etc. The MPRFD is a complex organization that is vertically & spatially organized with a centralized power (the chief) who answers to a bureaucratic organization outside of the department (city council and city manager). The organization is vertically organized in that all the members are under the direction of a Chief, Assistant Chief, Lieutenants, and Captains. There is a clear chain of command, but ultimately most decisions are in the hands of the chief. The organization is spatially organized in that there is one Fire Services Building to serve most of the community, but there is also a second location and fleet of apparatus and tools that live at the Morgan’s Point Resort Marina and stand at-the-ready to respond to water emergencies on Lake Belton. Lake Belton is ultimately under the control of the US Army Corp of Engineers, but MPRFD and two other local fire departments, are responsible for managing boat/water rescue calls for the majority of the lake. This, in itself, creates a myriad of organizational complexities. The MPRFD has a positive impact on the communities(s) it serves and is a critical part of the greater Central Texas region at large.

Another organization I am involved in is the WordPress.org Foundation. WordPress.org is a community-driven organization that maintains and advances the source code for WordPress, the world’s most popular content management system. Over 25% of all websites currently up and running are built off the WordPress codebase; the goals and focus of this organization impact almost everyone who uses the Internet today. The WordPress.org foundation exists specifically to make sure that the community can continue to maintain this open source software and protect the users who depend on it for their livelihood. WordPress.org also organizes and promotes WordCamps, which are local, community-driven, seminars and workshops to help people who run WordPress websites or make their living within the WordPress ecosystem. The WordPress.org organization is spatially organized in that it is entirely fully-distributed meaning that 100% of the members live all over the world and the entire organization is run remote via the web. However, there is a governing body that helps to manage community issues and deal with the organization at large. This governing body is also 100% remote; there is no literal WordPress.org foundation headquarter building. As a member of the WordPress.org community, I am active in speaking & volunteering at WordCamps, helping people in my community find and maintain employment, working within the WordPress economy itself, and sharing information with the community at large. From 2013 – 2015, I attended &/or spoke at over a dozen WordCamps; however, in 2016, with my return to school full-time, I’ve scaled back my travels & involvement. When I’m finished with law school, I’ll circle back to the community and volunteer more time and resources. It is like family to me.

It is really hard to describe and discuss the two organizations that I am involved with, in brief. Even though MPRFD is small in size, the services provided touch the lives of thousands of people and the work being done at our local fire department is starting to shape how other volunteer-based fire departments run, train, and manage their fire fighters at the state level. And the WordPress.org Foundation is actually a critical organization to users the world over. It’s a powerful and important 21 Century organization that will be around for decades and it originated right here in Texas. It’s exciting to be involved in two organizations whose goals are user focused and whose nature is community-driven, community-powered, and service-oriented. Lastly, both organizations I’ve mentioned are complex. WordPress.org Foundation is exceedingly complex with organizations inside of organizations. (Such as the Accessibility team within the Core Development Team.) Fire departments are equally complex but provide the stability and order required for a first response team to perform appropriately.

In conclusion, organizations can move mountains, but the mountain only gets moved because the people inside the organization are all pushing at the same time. WordPress, for example, would not exist if it were not for the hundreds of volunteers working to keep the code base up to date and fully secure for the millions of websites running on the platform. A mountain is moved, but only because of the collective force. Therefore, organizations themselves are very self-referential. What does an organization do? Whatever the people in the organization want the organization to do. How does the organization do it? However, the people in the organization determine it will be done. Organizations are complex but necessary, parts of our lives and, in short, it seems that organizations make the world go around.

SOCI 3328: Leadership Styles

SOCI 3328: Organizations: Structures, Processes, and Outcomes

Essay 2:

“Discuss the different leadership styles that you have read about in the text. Pick one of the leadership styles that you think best fits the boss you discussed in the Forum comment and state why you think this style fits this leader.”

A quick glance at Figure 5-1, Leadership Variables, on page 97, in the book Organizations, provides a solid overview regarding the very many complexities that impact leadership styles. Traits, skills, behavior, power, and intervening/exogenous/end-result variables are interwoven elements that have a huge impact on not only the leaders themselves but on their subordinates. A leader’s effectiveness can very much be influenced by how well the leader meets the needs of their team(s); to do so requires some fluidity in the way a leader manages his/her responsibilities. And, as I’ll share below, it is possible to for a “leader” to embody all the common elements of leadership, but still, fail at leading his/her team.

There are many elements to consider when thinking about what makes an effective leader. Per the book, the most important element of leadership is charisma. The more charismatic someone is, the apter they are to find themselves in a position of leadership. Beyond charisma, at the heart of leadership, four distinct styles have emerged: autocratic, consultative, delegative, and participative. Each style represents a different way of managing the direction of a team. Autocratic leaders tend to make all the decisions for their team without asking the members of the team for any input or feedback. Their decisions are somewhat autonomous and arbitrary. Consultative leaders will afford their team a chance to share their ideas, feedback, and input, but ultimately consultative leaders tend to make their decisions independent of the group. Delegative leaders will give pertinent info to key members of their team, and allow them to make the decision(s). And finally, Participative leaders fully involve the team/group that will be affected by decisions and allows them to make decisions. Each leadership style has its place; however, studies have suggested that the Participative (or group-based) style is the most effective in producing solid outcomes for the groups/teams. With the responsibility of leadership comes great power, and how one determines to nurture and navigate that power

However, not all who are in positions of leadership exhibit any productive traits associated with leaders, they are just the top dogs in charge. For example, the boss I mentioned in the forum post, was everything except a leader – even though in my professional community at large he is considered a charismatic leader. He is, in fact, the opposite. He prefers concentrated power (within himself) that dominates rather than leads. He manages from a place of traditional authority and believes compliance is an expected return on his efforts, and conflict is simply the result of insubordination. To him, employees are easily replaceable and professionalism is of no concern to him. If he were to have a leadership style, it would be more autocratic than anything else. He made all the decisions, and they were almost always wrong. He did not like to be challenged, yet he would hold you accountable when his decisions failed. Or he would simply throw you under the bus in front of your team, your clients, or your other managers. Expletives included.

I was unaware of how abusive a boss could be when I launched my career and took the position with the aforementioned boss. I was too naïve and completely unprepared to deal with something like this. This type of “leadership” runs rampant in the tech community, and his type is rarely held accountable. He who has the money wins and this boss definitely holds significant purse strings. In fact, he sabotaged a job I took immediately following my exit from his company. He actually called that current boss and manipulated a situation which left me just shaking my head, and I told that boss I wasn’t putting up with any of this and I left that position too. Since then, I’ve quietly taken odd jobs here and there within the community I’m affiliated, but my financial situation hasn’t improved much since I quit the job with the horrible boss. Out of fear of retribution, I’ve not moved forward in my career, and in fact, have decided to pivot, go back to school, and move into the field I’ve always wanted to be in: law.

In closing, leadership styles can directly impact the health and productivity of any given team/group/community. It is important for the right leaders to be placed in the right positions, and for those leaders to be able to move through their managerial/leadership responsibilities in such a way as to meet the needs of their team. I think, considering all the different elements on the Leadership Values chart, being an effective leader takes someone who is both conscientious and charismatic.

 

When he became a she – walking in love

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

just a jesus follower

walking in love blogThe other day, Zac and I went into a retail store and were greeted by an associate.

I soon recognized the associate as someone I used to go to church with years ago. Someone close to my age, who I had shared many years sitting next to in our small little church.

But, he had changed.

He was now a she.

I could tell my friend recognized me, but didn’t think I would recognize them. They helped me around the store and their hands were shaking almost uncontrollably the entire time.

I knew why.

They were afraid.

Afraid of what I might say if I caught onto who they were.

Afraid of seeing the shocked Christian look of horror on my face.

Afraid of my judgement or God knows what Bible verses I just might hurl at them.

Afraid of being shamed.

And it BROKE MY HEART.

I decided to…

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How We Be Dashing

Monday the 11th, John and I started the Dash Diet. I have got to drop some weight and he has to get his blood pressure under control. After looking at several different diet plans – this is the one we both thought seemed most attainable for us. Whole foods, simple recipes, and simple plans to follow. Simple being the key word there – but we also needed a structure. A way to reframe our eating habits. This has been a really great 9 days so far – the first couple were tough – and there were some fail days – but we just kept going forward. Change is hard.

How We Dash

So, this is how John and I have been monitoring our diet in the day-to-day. (Granted we [well … he] cooked a bunch this weekend so planning and execution would be streamlined. But…the night before, I write our next day’s menu on the board, straight out of the Gold Book (the only change is 1/2 grapefruit vs. tomato juice in the mornings. Neither of us like tomato juice, but we do like grapefruit, and that seems to be an ok substitute for us.)

Dash Diet Day 10 MenuAs we go through our day, eating what we want, when we can/want to, we just put a dot beside the food choice. We also substitute as needed. For example, I don’t want hummus – no big deal – I just substituted the hummus with pecans in my yogurt just now. So I put a dot by AM yogurt snack, and PM hummus snack. When I go to eat lunch later, I’ll put dots where needed. John cannot tolerate the texture of yogurt. But he LOVES frozen greek yogurt bars, so he’ll have that instead.

Since John and I have very different schedules, we rarely eat together. We get up at and go to bed at drastically different times. Yesterday, we hardly even saw each other! HA! John is a Fire Chief and he cannot plan on meal times at all. He’s always on the go.If John has had a very busy day and he hasn’t had time to eat much, he can “pig out” at night (using this as his guide) and not worry about eating the wrong thing. I sleep till 10am, and stay up till 4am, so we just have different timetables for meals and this is what has worked for us so far – it’s simple, easy, attainable.

Current Outcomes: 100% Exercise Free 😜

In only 9 days, John is sleeping better, 100% of his indigestion issues are cleared up, and he’s lost 10lbs, so this is working for him and it helps him stay on track. His goal is just to get off his blood pressure medication – the weight isn’t a big deal for him because even with 20lbs to “lose” he’s still relatively thin. I have 70lbs!!!! to lose, and am down 8 so far, doing the Dash Diet this way. I don’t have to stress about what’s for lunch or what’s for dinner or how will I get it all done…it’s mostly all done before the week starts & then we just have to execute the plan. The nice thing is – this is more of a change of lifestyle than a “diet” & neither of us feels deprived at all. I will say this is the first time I’ve had that feeling regarding “dieting.” I’ve known for a year or two that I needed to pivot my nutritional habits, but I also wasn’t ready to do it.

My Partner in Crime

So the other wonderful thing I have to say, which is what I think has made this shift in our lifestyle so attainable – is that John & I have done it together. I’ve never had a partner just come alongside me and help me with everything like I have in John. I’m grateful for him every day.

I ate my way through my divorce and into my new single life and into my life with John, and **he** enjoyed every chicken fried steak along the way. And now he’s helping me get all this weight off! He’s never once judged me for any of it, nor criticized my appearance, or turned his attention elsewhere. (That’s a big change in my life considering previous marriage.) He’s going to the grocery store, prepping and cooking foods in bulk for the week, and getting me out of the house when the jar of honey starts calling my name, and reminds me that he loves ME just the way I am, 70lbs heavier, gray roots, and all. He’s amazing. Did I mention that?? 😍😍😍