Rethinking & Rebranding Malls

Reflections by a former mall cop and current author….

I live 1 block from the mall. Sirens wale and cop cars zoom to the mall, especially on Friday and Saturday nights responding to fights and roving crowds of loud, beligerent youths. I certainly don’t miss those mall cop days. Since I’m also a retired city planner and economic developer who is currently working in the mental health field, I suggest the following big-picture, long term strategy for systemic change and an entirely different dynamic:

Maybe it’s time for my mall (and malls in general) to transition away from the term “mall” and move to the term/concept “campus”:

Education scene vector illustration. Cartoon young happy student characters sitting on summer park green grass together, girl boy teens studying near university or college building facade background


  • Mixed use sites including residential, commercial/retail, entertainment and education create a natural synergy. Residents in proximity to retailers are likely to be shoppers. Workers on-site will frequent restaruants for lunch and dinner. Entertainment venues will generate repeat visitors. Educational and enriching events might offer inspiration to youths as a replacement for rumbling. Such events could include (but not be limited to), book launches (selfishly suggesting my Mall Child novel), poetry slams, debates, cooking demonstrations, and all sorts of DIY events. Imaging that, a trip to the mall where you learned something, got inspired and did not get into a fight. Last, but not least, let’s consider establishing “Maker Spaces” at malls where entrepreneurs can experiment with “making/inventing” stuff. Let’s re-create the Yankee Ingenuity that New England is famous for.
  • Transit oriented development emphasizing mass transit and pedestrian orientations encourage a “village atmosphere” which includes mixes of generations, cultures, services and goods. Maybe we could get back to the New England tradition of the “town square”. Maybe even go further back to the European and Middle Eastern notion of “market place” or “bazaar” rather than the bizarreness of a sterile, hostile cavern of shallowness in the midst of isolating suburban sprawl.
  • Once malls transition to mixed use spaces occupied by persons who have a legitimate reason for being there (rather than hanging out and causing trouble), they become livable spaces enticing visitors. If the ratio of purposeful patrons far exceeds the proportion of mischeiveous patrons, the overall atmosphere and appeal of the site imporves.

The word “mall” has developed such a negative connotation that maybe “campus” is preferable. It harks back to college memories of a self-contained, identifiable area that includes sports/athletics, education, entertainment, residential areas and of course “retail” albiet on a smaller footprint since, after all, the site is still a “mall”.

Last but not least, college campuses engender a sense of pride and belonging (i.e., school spirit, mascots, alumni, etc.) so maybe if “malls” could transition to “community campuses” we might vere off the “mall decline path” that paralles the “downtown decline path” which ironically declined thanks the the malls.

As for some more specific proposals and logistical procedures, I highlight the following:

  • Maintain a police sub-station since the cops need an on-site place for paperwork, processing, meeting and temporarily holding persons subsequent to incidents/investigations.
  • Adjacent to the police sub-station, add what I call a “Recovery Room” staffed by counselors/therapists who can immediately provide counselling and redirecting to the disruptors (the belicose, disorderly, fighthing individuals). This room should be equiped with a large screen video feed which documents the incident (the fight, the disruptions, the rage, the arguments) so persns of all ages and juvenilles (with their parents/guardians present) could review what actually happened and how this behavior could be avoided going forward. To accomplish this level of video documention of incidents, I recommend a level of camera surveillance that mirrors that of the casinos. This level of camera documentation would leave no question as to “who did what to whom and what precipitated the incident”. The mall can still require the parties involved in disruptive behaviors be banned from the mall. The camera system would augment this policy. Likewise, charges can still be levied depending upon the severity of the infraction, the desire of aggrieved parties to press charges or the mall management should they also opt to press charges. Lastly, the option to apply criminal charges could be applied if the combatants (guardians/parents in the case of juvenilles) opted out of receiving the counselling and theraputic intervention offered in the wake of incidents. For a relatively minor infraction this “on-the-spot” theraputic intervention could be a “one-and-done” event. For more severe infractions (and following the recommendation of the police), a series of such theraputic interventions could be required. If the adult combatants or the parents/guardians of the juveniles reject the offer for theraputic interventions, they could always be required to go the traditional court/criminal justice route. In sum, this proposal offers a restorative justice scenario that might actually get to the root of anti- social issues rather that the traditional method of clogging up the courts. Getting to root causes is important is light of increasing gun violence and the cycle of retribution. The video documentation format would counter the claim by combatants that “it wasn’t me” or “he started it”. Making the combatant wait till the parent/guardian arrives and requiring everyone to view these videos while receiving counselling and guidance might be more effective than just requiring a Promise To Appear (PTA) at some future court date. The goal here is to get to the source of the destructive, anti-social behavior and immediately apply a sense of restorative justice and closure. This proposal is not just for unruly youths. In my years of working as a mall cop, I lost track of the number of shoplifting incidents and patron-merchant disputes that escalated to verbal threats and in some cases physical outbursts. What I have observed over 15 years is an escalation of rage (in the parking lot, in the store) with more and more persons living in an emotional hair-trigger mode. My proposal for the “Recovery Room” is to deploy the use of camera technology and professional mediators to “decellerate toddler outbursts” and address root causes to achieve lasting change. Many a time, I recall commenting to a youngster that if they continue on their angry path, they will not be successful or happy in life. Maybe my proposal could formalize this chat and actually bring the message home to them.
  • If this process consistently reinforces the notion that continued bad-behavior will result in criminal charges and banning from the site, those persons who are hell bent on raising hell at the mall will avoid future visits to the mall.
  • Design this “Recovery Room” to be a professional, inviting space with the technical video capabilities that will enable participants to review the circumstances that let them to this room This should be designed and staffed so participants (both juvenilles and parents/guardians) receive the counselling and guidance they need to understand why they act the way they do and what are some coping strategies to avert this negative behavior in the future. If done properly, this room, procedure and the strategy of tough-love should accomplish more lasting results that the traditional “catch em, charge em, release em”. The “Recovery Room” should not feel like a cinderblock cell from the Soviet Union era.
  • Maybe adjacent to the Recovery Room there could be the “Rage Room”. This could be a place where pent up anxieties could be released on items such as heavy boxing bags and other apparatus enabling persons to “blow off steam”. As someone who punches a heavy boxing bag to reduce stress, I vouch for the effectiveness of this. Rage Rooms are even gaining some traction as a commercial venture just as “Escape Rooms” have cropped up on the commercial market. Maybe there’s even some money to be made here among all sorts of patrons since after all the “mall” is still a retail space marketing.

So that’s my long-winded observation and proposal. I’d love your feedback and brainstorming on this topic. Some of these “outside-the-box” ideas have also been baked into my novel Mall Child so check it out on Amazon if you are interested.

Replace Mascots with Lower Tuition

With football season wrapping up, basketball season underway, and mascots dancing/prancing on sidelines and college tuitions keep going up. It got me to proposing that we ditch mascot hoopla and ditch tuition increases.

I got nothing specific against mascots, it’s more about what they represent:

  • Blind, hysterical affection for the school for no particular reason. Cut the tuition rate in half and I will become a mascot as the schools biggest fan hooting/hollering and doing cartwheels on the sideline.
  • Overpriced stadiums, bloated sports programs. Beef up the library and create learing labs with experiential learning experiences train students for real jobs. I’d rather be an employed alumni praising the value of my almamata rather than be an unemployed graduate tailgating in the parking lot.
  • Sports stats trump academic stats. Decide what’s important. Redirect sports programs to fitness programs. Redirect the college experience to focus on lifetime learners and lifetime exercisers. If you miss the culture of competition that accompanies mascot mania, why not create a scoring matrix that rewards advancement (lowered colesteral, lowered high blood pressure, lowered obesity, increased endurance, etc.)
  • Replace the age old expression “that’s a good school” with no particular reason that “it’s a good school” with the new expression “that’s a great school, I would never be in my job if I hadn’t gone there”. Now that’s something to be proud of.
  • Consider affordable no-frills colleges with no walls (including no sports stadium) and open sourse learning with certifications rather than infrastructure heavy, resort style college campuses. A side benefit might be the local gyms and sports leagues populated by students. Good for the town (economic development) and good for the students (social development where they get a taste of the real world). Maybe we should follow the european model where club leagues are the path to their version of professional sports and colleges retain an academic focus.

It will take time for this sea change to take place but I see it as the only long term path to vere away from the insanity of ever increasing tuition costs. Stop the madness, loose the culture of the mascots (sorry mascots, it’s nothing personal it’s just the super stucture that you represet).

Time for a 3-way political intersection to unclog the traffic jam

Arrow way with three options of road icon. Choice of pathway. Choose of decision in split of direction. Crossroad, uncertainty and choice opportunity. 3 directions on junction. Vector.

So who are the players in this intersection and what’s in it for each of them?

Fiscal Conservatives: Want limited spending. Emphasize ROI (return on investments). Focus upon practicality

Liberals & Progressives: Want a robust social safety net. Want government to lead the charge in public policies. Focus upon promise and potential.

Libertarians: Want limited government, emphasize social responsibility, self sufficiency. Want individuals to lead, not the government.

So how are these odd-bedfellows ever going to work together on anything?

The answer may lie with UBI (universal basic income) implemented in a very tough-love, no-nonsence mix of consequences & compassion. It’s ironic that I’m toting the advantages of UBI during Martin Luther King’s holiday remembrance since he advocated this approach in a speech not long before he was assasinated.

Why UBI? Why would a policy of awarding everyone $1,000/month in accordance with the following schedule be palatable for the above described odd-bedfellows? Here is my proposed schedule: If you are a single person household making more than $100,000/year, you don’t qualify. If you’re a 2 person household making more than $200,000, you don’t qualify. 3-person household making more than $300,000, don’t qualify and so on and on. Think about it….are people living above these incomes in their respective household sizes hurting financially and lacking adequate food, clothing, shelter? That’s the liberal/progressive in me speaking. If you’re above these income categories and not making ends meet (probably because of credit card debt and living above your means) then as they say “suck it up buttercup”. That’s the fiscal conservative/libertarian in me speaking.

Last but not least, implement UBI concurrent with elimination of all goverment programs (aka, welfare) with the exception of Section 8 for housing and food stamps since housing and food are such basic necessities. Also, keep Medicare and Medicaid in their current form (don’t expand them) and of course keep social securty (SSI and SSDI) in their current form but don’t expand them. Essentially cap the current costs while bearing in mind that elimination of any of the above programs/expenditures would be akin to touching the 3rd rail in the subway.

  • Fiscal conservatives will like this because it’s tough/auster and simple. You essentially cap the current costs while getting out of the business of creating winners and loosers in the game of dolling out funds and rolling out programs. Think KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). This approach would be akin to the proposal that we revamp our income tax structure so that your IRS filing is completed on a postcard (like they do in some European countries). That’s another good proposal (sorry H&R Block) that could easilly coincide with this UBI proposal but let’s save that for another blog.
  • Liberals/Progressives will like this because it includes the basic safety net ingredient. Furthermore, it will make their lives easier since it avoids nasty decisions about setting up competing programs for every conceivable disadvantaged interest group. They should like this format since rich folks are not sucking up the $1,000/month payments. The army of social workers, advocates and bureaucrats would likely shrink. The fiscal conservatives and the libertarians would applaud this. However, the liberals/progressives could find solace in the fact that the smaller footprint of social workers, advocates and bureaucrats would be much more effective since they could focus more on being life-coaches and counselors who actually help persons in distress rather than pushing papers, filing reports and explaining programs much to the frustration and confusion of those who are the intended beneficiaries of thes overly complicated programs.
  • Libertarians will like this because its all about freedom of choice. The “nanny state” as they like to refer to government is not mandating what you do with your $1,000/month payment. They would like the implication that we are all “big people wearing our big boy pants” who can make decisions for ourselves. If a person wants to eek by on $12,000/year, so be it. If that person wanted to pick up at least a part time job and make another $12,000/year (for example), so be it. Libertairians should like the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) orientation of UBI implemented in conjunction with a stripping away of all the bureacratic over-reach of the current myriad of programs.
  • Everyone should like the way this proposal avoids the trap of setting up animosities among beneficiaries who are always cognizent of “who gets what” and resentful if they feel they don’t get “their share”. If you are single and making over $100,00/year or you’re a couple making over $200,000/year (and so on), the average hard working person struggling to make ends meet and benefiting from UBI does not (and should not) worry about you. This is who I’m referring to as “everyone”. If “everyone” as I have defined them is relatively happy, the overall society will become less polarized. Then maybe the odd-bedfellows (the trinity of conervatives, liberals and libertarins) might actually pull together behind this.

Since I’m a history buff, I remind you that throughout history, the mantra of the “powers that be” has been “divide and conqurer” It works in military combat, domestic politics, labor-management relations, racial and ethnic relations and even within families. The simplicity and even-handedness of UBI coupled with the “tough love” element of stripping away all the mind-boggling, complicated, over-bearing bureaucratic administration of programs might provide a path we all can take to escape this forrest of polarization and animosity.

One last thought.…what about those persons who demonstrate that they absolutely can not manage their $1,000/month stipend because of mismanagement, addictions, etc. Studies have shown that where UBI has been implemented, the proportion of persons falling in this category is lower than what we anticipate. I use myself as an example. Once I started receiving social security (which is like UBI), it freed me up to pursue my writing and get my first novel published. Prior to that, I was working 2 jobs full time Mon-Fri and weekend gig jobs for over 25 years as a security guard. Think of the creativity that could have been unleashed if I had been able to pursue my writing avocation all these years. Maybe I could have been another Steven King novelist (ok that’s a stretch). Thankfully, I do not have an addictive personality (at least not yet) so financial backing has not turned me into a gambler or alcoholic. Now multiply my example by millions who might be freed up to do the writing, painting, inventing, and business starting thanks to the confidence that a basic financial safety net provides. Can you smell the GDP growing? Now that’s an odor that everyone (conservatives, liberals and libertarians and everyone in between) could enjoy.

There still needs to be some consideration for beefing up the system of conservatorships (fiscal conservativeship and full conservatorship) for those in severe need or establishment of a representative payee arrangement for those who by their actions display an inability to manage finances and ultimately harm themselves. I end on this point since most persons reaction when I mention UBI is to say ” their just going to piss it away”.

As always, feedback is encouraged and let’s keep thinking creatively to break out of the polarization box. This is my tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King and all persons who think outside the box, plan for a brighter future, and look boldly and positively toward that future.

Live Free Or Die….Evolve or Die

We’re all familiar with the New Hampshire motto, very straightforward. With my kids now living/working in the unaffordable greater Boston area, we’ve been looking at southern NH for housing opportunnities….if such opportunities exist. We’re open to any suggestions or leads among readers.

As for the NH motto, we suggest expanding it to EVOLVE OR DIE


  • Global warming/climate change. Need I explain any further?
  • Politics: Dems need to continue to evolve into the “party of the future” with bold policies addressing seemingly intractable problems. I’m channelling the Star Treck line “to boldly go where no man has gone before”. To go to a place where there are no mass shootings, nobody starves or freezes, college costs & prescription costs and hospital costs do not bankrupt you. As for the GOP, they evolve back to a party of fiscal restraint, international restraint & common sense replaces craziness. Imagine that, positive evolution where EVERYBODY wins. Like I said, evolve or die.
  • Personal evolution: Technology advances, you need to do likewise. Relationships evolve….sadly some people pass away, others change (and not for the better), estrangements become inevitable as attitudes, perspectives and philosophies change (some not for the better), relationships need to be re-kindled (where practical) and new relationships need to be ignighted. Watch for more relationship reflections in my upcoming memoir entitled Exit Interview: A Memoir of Family, Friends and Acquaintances. Advice and insights from which we all might benefit.

In sum, without evolution there is devolution.

Live free or die, certainly true.

Evolve or die, certainly needed.

Odd but necessary bedfellows: Economic Engines & Neighborhood Empowerment

Definitions are in order:

What’s an ecomomic engine?

  • Large projects that generate significant tax revenues, jobs, highly visibly physical improvments. These are signature projects that “put a community on the map”, generate community pride/purpose/identity. Back in the day it was the auto industry for Detroit, the steel industry for Pittsburgh, the insurance industry for Hartford CT. Nowadays, it’s computer industry for Silicon Valley and San Francisco, Seattle, etc. Back in the day, it was a deep water port for shipping (i.e. NYNY), train station (i.e., Chicago and many mid-western and western cities), Interstate highway system (i.e., where the exit/entrance ramps appeared, so did the development).
  • It’s the projects that generate positive ROI (return on investment). It’s the projects that make economic sense and serve a purpose and fill a need. It’s NOT the boondoggles (i.e, the olympic stadiums that now lie idle, the bridges to nowhere, the projects grounded on the wishfull thinking that “if we build it, they will come” and they never came).

What’s Neighborhood Empowerment?

  • It’s when the neighborhood residents do not get displaced (or at least if there is transitions and relocations, there are adequate compensations).
  • It’s when the neighborhood residents are partners in development, have a voice, provide input and there is measurable improvement in their quality of live (i.e., lower crime, improved physical appearance, etc.)

So who are the “odd bedfellows” and how might there be a copasetic relationship?

  • Consider Tax Increment Financing for every economic engine project so that the tax revenues generated by this successful project are plowed back into the immediately surrounding neighborhood (affordable housing, education, community based policing, restorative justice/violence mitigation, etc.). Consider the above scenario building out in concentric rings of improvement so that there is a direct connection between the economic engine and areas immediately impacted by the development. In sum, replace the tank like jaugernaut method of economic engines with a synergistic chugging forward by the economic engine. If not going down the Tax Increment Financing route, consider establishment of a Special Taxing District where taxes raised within the “district” are plowed back into the area to address the needs of that area. To paraphrase the slogan of Berger King, this financing formula would be akin to “having it your way” so everybody remains happy.
  • Consider a direct correlation between what each bedfellow needs. They both need safety/security, domonstrable visual improvement, sense of pride and purpose. There needs to be a “life-raft” mentality where each needs the other rather than the traditionally combattive relationship that sets up a have’s vs. have-nots relationship.
  • Consider the consequence/compassion (tough love) matrix that permeates this proposal and my blogs. The consequence is the economic engine delivering economic success. The neighbrhood delivers stability and security. The compassion is the economic engine plowing back revenues into the surrounding neighborhood. The compassion is the neighborhood finally feeling like a valued partner rather than a competitor. As I type this I become starry eyed as I “feel the love”.

So that’s my suggestion after 30+ years working in the community development, economic development, community organizing, and afforable housing fields seeing what works and what does not.

As always, let me know your ideas and look for more proposals in my blogs that fall withing the heading of “Manifesto of Big Ideas”. (my kids hate if when I use the term “manifesto” but I assure them that I express it with no ill-intent)

The Sweet Spot

With the mid-term elections now behind us and the presidential election looming within 2 years, I’ve been fixated on finding the political/cultural Sweet Spot where some sense of unity can pull us out of this morass of polarization. When my candidate for state representative came up short on the election tally for the 3rd time against an entrenched incumbent despite a flawless, vigerous campaign, it gave me pause to consider “whats the sweet spot” to achieve change and success.

I’m having flashbacks to math classes when the teacher harped about the importance of the overlapping center of the venn diagrams, that common denominator that included elements of both circles.

To figure out who makes up this all important “swing vote”, sweet spot of the center, I decided to discount those who will never occupy the mid-point.

They are highlighted as the following:

  • The pro-life camp. They will never consider another candidate no matter how immoral or eggregious the behavior of their pro-life candidate.
  • The gun rights, 2nd amendment camp. Likewise, they can’t consider any other candidate no matter what they say or do.
  • A pro-life AND gun rights camper is definitely someone to court for the middle ground.
  • Anybody in the conspratorial, disgruntaled, disgusted, angry, apathetic camp is unlikely to be swayed by logic or arguments.
  • A recent conversation I had demonstrates the futility of conversing and attempting to convert persons from any of the above referenced camps. The person mentioned a couple of times how Bin Ladin and Obama share a strong resemblance implying that they might actually be the same person. I asked this person if he believed it to be true that Bin Ladin and Obama might be the same person. He initially said he did not believe this. However, he mentioned the notion a couple more times and it was obvious he had been influenced by this fantastical, conspiracy thinking. When I asked him what was the source of this info, he was not sure and followed up with a statement that he trusts none of the traditional news outlets. He finally noted that he did not like Obama or Biden and he liked Regan claiming that Democrats are too sympathetic to gays (even though he indicated he has nothing against gays). He topped off the conversation with notation that Democrats are too liberal big spenders who are morally compromised. That’s when I abandoned all hope of common ground.
  • To steal a line from the Soprano’s, I would say, “fogget about em”.

Back to contemplating where to find the holy grail of the swing voter, I reflected back on a conversation I had with a resident while knocking on doors supporting my candidate.

The person noted he voted for Bernie (good start) indicating he was an independent thinker who votes for the person and not just the party. He expressed skepticism about the “powers that be”. He expressed animosity, distrust for career politicians of both parties. Still good because my candiate would have been a first term state representative. However, he seemed bent on the topic of wastful spending. Coming from the private sector with graduate degrees and seeming to be affluent, he focused on R.O.I (Return On Investment with results driven policies). So far still good since we still seemed to be on the same page advocating zero based budgeting and not funding programs “just because we funded them before”. Still good but I sensed that he still was not fully on-board with my candidate who is generally a progressive candidate. Taxes were a hot-button topic for him and he perceved an unfairness to the middle and upper class who he felt pay an inordinate amount of taxes. When the conversation turned to matters of crime and punishment, he took a conservative turn with a focus on consequences (i.e, do the crime, do the time) and the lack of personal responsibility throughout society. I tried to emphasize the importance of severe sentancing for violent criminals while applying restorative justice, rehabilitation for non-violent offenders. We both agreed that the term Defund the Police should not be used since it sends an incorrect message. When I described rethinking how we do policing by deploying cops to scenes with a team of social workers and/or peer counselors, he did not object and he remained polite but I’m not sure if he was fully on board.

So how did he vote? I’ll never know. Maybe he didn’t even vote. He was an interesting guy…well educated, affluent, seemingly concerned/thoughfull. In sum, the suburban voter that’s coveted by both parties.

So how might we best pull this voter into the Democratic camp. I highlight the following suggesstions:

  • Emphasize CONSEQUENCES and COMPASSION (in this order) always starting with consequences in the converstion. If you start by assuring this person that you insist on personal responsibility mandating consequences for your actions, you can then move on to discussing programs/policies that include COMPASSION offering more coprehensive approaches to vexing social issues.
  • Emphasize specific examples of wasteful spending and superfluous, rediculous bureaucratic regulations. Now you have his attention and possibly support.
  • If you can build rapport and trust based upon the aforementioned conversational approaches, you might have a chance of pulling this type voter into your camp.
  • I present this proposal with the following major caveat. If you find yourself “selling your soul” trying to present your case for a balance between CONSEQUENCES and COMPASSION, it might be time to “draw a line in that sand” . If you are agreeing to cutting taxes and removing bureaucracy but at the expense of programs designed for the greater good, then it might be time to “draw the line in that sand”.

The magical sweet spot seems to be getting smaller and smaller and harder to find in this polarized world of news echo chambers. However, if the Democratic candidate can convince this type of voter that he/she will cut waste, cut bureaucracy, punish violent criminals, slow the expanion of government and stay out of the social/cultural wars , maybe we can draw that voter away from the radical right wing/conservative camps to find their way to the voting booth.

If these “fence sitters” can be convinced and the Democratic base can be motivated to show up, maybe that’s the long term solution. That said, I’m not sure how many “fence sitters” actually exist. I’m also getting an increasing feeling that it’s increasingly difficult to pull support from persons who are a combination of anger, distrust, apathy and affluence. My observation is that they tilt conservative/reactionary from the comfort of suburbia no matter how emphatic and energetic the presentation made to them.

I hate to end on this melancholy note so I’m throwing out the question “What’s your thoughts?”

Is it time for a national college strike?

Pick the college that leaves you debt free and preps you for a job: Name it DFU Debt Free University

I’m referring to current and prospective students going on strike, not the employees of the colleges. Before going on strike, it’s essential that you have a Plan-B in place.

Here is my proposed Plan-B:

Build upon the existing system of open-source data (i.e., You Tube, MOOGS, massive online free data sources, podcasts, Khan Academy, GCF, tutorials, etc.). The internet can provide the fundamental body of knowledge that’s required for mastery of subjects/topics that prep students to enter the workforce. The phrase “fake it till you make it” comes to mind.

Isn’t this what the whole liberal arts “college thing” is all about? Offering a broad based, well rounded, fundamental understanding of “the world” to prep for that “first job”.

Free (or low cost), self-teaching, self-directed, life-long learning is already underway. Visit any public library and you will observe those “bookworms” who spend their day browsing, researching and soaking up subjects of interest to them or preparing for whatever test may be on their personal horizons.

I propose formalizing this self-learning, self-actualizing process within the following superstructure:

Match those who know with those who want to know.

I envision the concept of “speed dating” where the student gets an introduction to the instructor/mentor but if the chemisty is not good, they are not “stuck” with the instructor/mentor for the rest of the semester. I envision the uber driver format of matching instructional services with marketplace comptetition including a ranking and rating of performance evaluations. Build upon the current format for matching students with tutors. I envision an instructional version of Angie’s List.

The above description may seen crass, shallow, and unprofessional to those wedded to the traditional educational format, However, it has been my experience based upon years of schooling (bachelors and masters degree) and over 40 years of work experience in a variety of careers, that one-on-one, practical problem solving interactions have been the most cost-effective and rewarding break throughs to mastering a subject and solving a problem. Botton line, we can achieve the same goal but at much less expense with campuses without walls and much lower overhead expenses. The phrase “only pay for what you need” used in an insurance compay commercial is an impetus for my proposal of this format.

If employers conduct entry level assessments as part of their hiring process and the applicant demonstrates a grasp of the philosophical and practical underpinnings of the job and the company culture/mission, this might give that employer sufficient confidence to proceed with hiring even if the applicant does not have the “sheep skin” diploma. What’s the origin of that archaic phrase anyway? What I’m proposing is to reverse the current order. Now testing is done in school when there is no particular job on the horizon. Why not have the testing (the “prove it” phase to be more accurate) conducted at the point of entry to the workplace. I’m willing to place a bet that the many of the students churned out of most of America’s colleges will not score well on these “job enrty tests”. The years of taking courses that have nothing to do with the job, the years of parties/beer bashes and sporting events will be of no assistance to them when they are knocking on the employers door.

Match those who have a passion for a subject with those who have a thirst for that subject. Theoretically, this is what colleges were designed to do with brilliant and enthusiastic professors imparting their knowledge and enthusiasm to eager young minds. In reality, all too often the teaching is farmed out to Assistant Professors and Teaching Assistants and Graduate Students (most of whom are underpaid). There are spectacular teachers in all of the aforementioned categories (from professors on down the teaching food chain). However, for the student, it’s more often a crap shoot comparable to buying a lottery ticket hoping that you have the good fortune of being matched with a quality instructor. Under my proposed format, the seeker of knowledge could shop around observing various “experts” in their field of interest and sign up with those that they feel would be most beneficial.

Match those who have ‘real world” experience with those who are considering breaking into the field. Example: Veteran cops mentoring to wanna-be cops. Some criminal justice theory and overview is ok (for this example) but tie it with practical, street level reality. Same logic and format could be applied to whatever field of interest the student might have.

Instead of having a nation of over-priced colleges churning out student’s with amorphous degrees, why not establish a nation-wide network of teacher/mentors who impart expertise to students and offer mentorship and career counselling long after the “college days”. Very few college alumni keep in touch with their professors. I’d venture to guss that a few years after graduation, they can’t recall the course they took or the names of the professor. They probably will vividly recall the names of college boyfriends and girlfriends but let’s make that the topic of an entirely different blog!

If the above described structure is implemented, I envision bumper stickers and cars rear windows sporting the following:

“Proud graduate of DFU “Debt Free University”

“Proud debt free parent of graduate of DFU…Debt Free University”

Transitioning to this debt-free, self acutalizing model of higher education with an emphasis on mentoring baked into educating, I propose that this scenario will address the systemic problem of college cost escalation. In light of the temporary (probably pandemic related pause on interest costs of student debt) forgivness of student loans, it’s important to address the longer term systemic problem. Unless this gets fixed, every future generation of students will be saddled with debt. Colleges in their current format have an insatiable appetite (fueled by government cutbacks and forgivness policies) to keep increasing college costs.

Of course, there will always be the traditional bumper stickers proudly announcing traditional colleges. It’s human nature to seek prestige, distinction and a sense of specialness. But I ask, “At what cost?” and “With what result?” “What is the Return On Investment?”. Maybe, just maybe, a national student strike will get colleges to consider making college more affordable since it’s a basic law of economics that as demand decreases, prices will decline. Let’s hear it for “good old American capitalism”.

One last point….

Every college has a masot. Some more fearsome than others. As an NYU graduate, we had “The Violet”, since our school color is violet. Not exactly intimidating in the world of contact sports! Nevertheless, I remain proud of my NYU roots. By the way, I only went to NYU many years ago because of a full scholarship. For this I am extreemly appreciative and it gets back to the importance of debt-free education if there is to be career/life success.

One last question I leave with readers as a homework assignement (since after all this is about education). What would be the MASCOT for my system of Debt Free Universities?

Looking forward to your ideas and feedback. For additional blogs with outside-the-box ideas check out

Reflections on Life in general and Partners in particular

As the seasons change and the days get shorter, time marches on. I’m not getting any younger, in fact none of us are. So, on this meloncoly note, I offer the following reflections (to everyone in general and my kids in particular):

Life in general:

  • Consider it a long distance run and not a sprint. Run it at your own pace, enjoy the scenery. Take some breaks when you need them but don’t stray too far off the path that you chose. By the way, make sure you pick a path and change paths as needed. but Have destinations in mind but don’t fear detours (unless they are harmful dead ends).
  • Do whatever you are working on with gusto. This also applies to causes and endeavors that you feel passionate about. Get passionate about something. However, when “the thrill is gone” (to steal a line from blues great BB King), consider moving on to other endeavors. Stay fresh, don’t get stale. Always have a Plan B concerning work/career, life style and even people. BFF’s today may not be forevers. Sadly they pass away physically, others pass away emotionally or just disapear into the mist of life eaking out an existance of eating, sleeping, working, raising kids, making money or following other priorities (some good, some not so good). Hope for the best and prepare for the worst, especially with very ominous storm clouds on the socio-economic-cultural horizon. Don’t be the person that “hunkers down to ride out the storm” when the hurricane is advancing.

With regard to marriage, life partners, soul mates or whatever we are calling long term committments….

Conside the following advice if you are getting serious about any of the above situations:

  • Make sure you are on the same page concerning attitudes toward finacial matters. Savers and spenders mix like oil and water. They don’t. Beyond the save vs. spend issue, also think long and hard about financial goals (buy vs. rent, turtle vs. hare, risk tolerance, transparency, etc.) and attitudes about money/wealth/debt and expectations. Do you both want to become “rich and famous” or are you comfortable just surviving, being minimalists happy with “3 hots and a cot”
  • Be on same page concering children and child rearing. It’s obvious that this is important but it still needs to be said. This included natural birth or adoption or opting to not have kids.
  • Be on the same page concerning health and fitness. You don’t have to both be world class athletes but bad habits while young guarantees miseries (physical, financial) when old.
  • Run in the opposite direction if any of the following situations (even the hint of these situations) exists:
  • Addictive/destructive behavior (alcohol, narcotics, gambling, abusiveness be it physical or psychological, hoarding, self centeredness or any mental/emotional health condition for which the other person will not recognize and take appropriate action be that therapy and/or medication). Being aware of the 7 deadly sins (sloth, gluttony, lust, greed, wrath, envy, pride) should be a giant warning light.
  • Growing up it never occurred to me if the other person was liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican or unaffiliated, rich or poor. What seemed to count was good times. Life evolved around movies, dinners and parties. But that doesn’t sustain a lifetime committment. And especially now if you’re rowing in different directions in thought, speech and philosophy, you are destined to drift aimlessly and ultimately sink.
  • If you think you might “change” the other person who exhibits any of the above listed characteristics, do not deceive yourself. Do not “settle”, do not “excuse” behavir unless you want to live your life in a constant state of purgatory.
  • Avoid what I call “the drift” and “the compromise”. I define “the drift” as meandering through lifes decisions, relationships and careers. There should be a healthy amout of spontinaity in life but remember that you are the captain of your ship navigating through the channel of life. I define “the compromise” as settling when it comes to people, jobs, careers. Make your decisions based on what you need on your own timeline not because of external forces and influences based upon what others think you “should do”.

So that’s my advice as the sun sets, the days get short, the temps drop, and winter approaches and storms of all sorts loom on the horizon. These reflections are swirling around in my head as I embark on my memoir entitled “Exit Interview: A memoir of family, friends and acquaintances”. I would love to hear of your reflections and observations so comment on If you have suggestions and insights, let me know. I need help as I formulate my Exit Interview memoir. Stay tuned for more announcements concerning what will be my second book. Maybe this blog will motivate you to start your own memoir. I recommend memoir writing no matter what’s your age. If I can assist with this process, that I would be honored and delighted to help.

MAKER SPACE as Economic Development Tool

Maybe we could have a Made In Trumbull (MIT) branch

Malls are in decline. They decimated downtowns which lost their luster to the suburban lure of convenient parking and the perception of low crime. Now the malls have become victims of changing consumer habits (i.e, e-commerce, Amazon, etc.), changing perceptions (concerns about crime) and lifestyle changes. In sum, the hunter has become the hunted.

Yet municipalities still engage in the rat race hoping that a grand opening of another restaurant and another big box retail store will somehow stem the tide of decline. Pursuit of the silver bullet of economic success resembles the dog chasing its tail. The eateries and the shops open with great fanfare and high expectations. But all too often like commets in the night sky, they burn out. Our local mall includes many such restaurant turn-overs a sample of which include the following: Jonny Rockets became Walburgers which then closed. TGIF Fridays (or was it Applebees?) became The Cheesecake Factory which thankfully is still in business but there basically has been no net expansion of business. The “footprint” has remained the same. So many eateries have come and gone in the food court that it resembles the wack-a-mole game with a gradual increase in vacancies. Among the three anchor retail stores, Target is doing well thanks in large part to the surge of shopping by college students and families affiliated with schools in general and Sacred Heart University in particular at the start and end of the school year. Macys and J.C. Pennys are hanging in there but their long term prognosis is doubtfull both locally and nationally. These retailers boxed themselves into the corner trying to “be all things to all people” loosing the market to boutique/specialty retailers and the discount retailers (i.e, Target, Walmart, Dollar Stores, etc.).

In sum, we will never be able to eat our way and shop our way to ecomonic success despite our best intentions.

And that brings me to propose MAKER SPACE (or comparable business incubators) for our community.


  • Producing stuff creates NEW jobs, generates NET increase in ecomomy and expands the ecomonic pie.
  • Making stuff, inventing stuff and experimenting broadens our horizons, stimulates ingenuity encouraging us all to be more creative and self-sufficient.
  • Research & Development, skill building, learning and collaborating are more likely to generate income and build a stronger, self sufficient society that simply eating and shopping which create nothing other than adding unwanted pounds and credit card debt.
  • Underutilized commercial space is already in commercially zoned areas so there would be no disturbance of residential areas. The infrastructure is already in place (sewer, water, etc.) and potential Maker Space sites are already on public transit routes. This is important since participation and creativity should not be limited to only those who own a vehicle. The existing site charactristics of these structures with limited windows and load bearing walls would be conducive to the maufacturing orientation of Maker Space endeavors (i.e., woodworking, machining, electronics, crafts, experimentation, etc.). Of course, all health and safety protocols would be required as they would for any commercial/manufacturing endeavor.

So that’s my proposal. It might work in my hometown of Trumbull CT but it should be considered wherever there is under-utlized commercial space. When it comes to economic development, let’s look forward through the windshield and not continue to view the future through the rear view mirror. Let’s consider Maker Space type endeavors and continue the tradition of Yankee ingenuity here in New England, the birthplace of the America’s Industrial Revolution.

If you like this proposal or have other innovative ideas, I’d love to hear of them. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog concerning hydroponic urban/vertical farming as another way to go-green, become more self-sufficient and revitalize commercial areas by making stuff rather than just feeding the consumer economy and going deeper into debt. These outside-the-box concepts of self-sufficiency are also baked into my upcoming novel entitled Mall Child so stay tuned for that release.

Strangers in our midst

Times may change but looks can be deceiving and trust only those you can trust

We grew up the same

Eating and shopping in the same places

Supporting the same teams (mostly, despite some friendly rivalries)

Saluting the same flag

So when did we change?

When did we divide?

What makes us so angry?

Do you have enough food, clothing, shelter?

Are you living in the woods and eating out of a dumpster?

So why the angst?

What would it take to be on the same page, united in a common goal?

911 didn’t unite

Covid didn’t unite

Global warming/climate change doesn’t unite.

Do we need an alien invasion to pull us together?

And I’m not speaking of refugee aliens around which we certainly do not unite.

If outer space aliens invaded, would we blame it on the democrats, the liberals, the republicans, the conservatives?

Maybe aliens would see our dissension as an opportunity to divide and conquer. Then again, maybe they would just pass us over letting our animosities dissolve us without their intervention. Maybe they would assume we’re too divided and insignificant to conquer, exclaiming “there’s no intelligent life down there”. 

Sadly, the way we are behaving and thinking, they may be right.

So what’s been your experience?

Who is now a stranger who used to be your friend? What socio-political-cultural influences precipitated the transition?

I’m looking for feedback to make sense of the current societal, dysfunctiona climate and I’m researching for my upcoming menoir entitled EXIT INTERVIEW: Reflections on family, friends and acquaintances.