Monday, September 01, 2014

20 Important Songs in Rock (Part 1)

(Capitol Records)
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I wanted to create a short blog post that everyone could celebrate in. Here are some fun musical selections that are among my favorites in rock. 
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The Beatles: "All My Loving": When faced with the task of selecting a single identifying song that captures the energy, songwriting, sound, and phenomenon that is uniquely The Beatles, this is the song I hear in my mind over screaming fans. Despite the claims on the album cover, this was actually the second album by the band to be released in the United States on January 20, 1964. The following month, Beatlemania hit the United States during the band's arrival on a Pan Am flight from London to New York for an initial appearance on CBS television's "The Ed Sullivan Show". The band toured the U.S. in the weeks that followed, and music was never the same again. This LP ranks at No. 59 on Billboard's Top "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".    
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(Elektra Records)
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The Doors: "L.A. Woman": An entire book could be written on this album alone. The title track is iconic with the sound of a V-8 automobile engine accelerating, amid a cacophony of discordant strings that blends into an aggressive bass guitar line, and the full band setting up the rapid tempo for lead singer, Jim Morrison. The strain of Morrison's descent into alcoholism made the recording of this album very difficult for band members. Recorded live inside a Los Angles house, dubbed "The Doors Workshop", the band enlisted bass player Jerry Scheff (on a hiatus from Elvis Presley's TCB road band) and rhythm guitarist Marc Benno, thus allowing Robbie Krieger to focus on his lead guitar solos. Following on the heels of the well-received "Morrison Hotel" LP's blues-rock orientation, the singles: "L.A. Woman", "Rider's On the Storm" and "Love Her Madly" emerged. "The Changeling" is said to have been an homage to singer James Brown. Released in April 1971, Jim Morrison died three months later in Paris, France at the age of 27. The song "L.A. Woman" is based loosely on a series of images during a night in Los Angeles.
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(Scott Brothers Records)
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James Brown: "Living in America": Released in 1985, this song composed by Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight is included on Brown's LP "Gravity". It was Brown's first Top 40 hit in 10 years, and stands up today as a tightly arranged, hard-hitting performance with perfectionism for which the singer demanded over the length of his career. This high energy/high impact dance number is performed by Brown in actor-screenwriter-director Sylvester Stallone's movie, "Rocky IV", and reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it enjoyed an 11-week stay. The song was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song in 1986, and won Brown a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. It would also mark his last chart topping single. James Brown died on Christmas Day, 2006 and is alternately known as "The Godfather of Soul", and "The hardest working man in show business". The song was not included in the recent bio-pic on Brown's life, "Get On Up", but remains one of my favorites of all time. I never tire of it. With it's patriotic theme, sledge hammer dance beat and Brown's trademark horn section, this song is infectious to kick-start any party. "I feel good!" 

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(Capitol Records)
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The Beach Boys: "Good Vibrations": It's opening notes are among the most recognizable in the history of Rock and Roll. Released in October 1966, singer/songwriter Brian Wilson's composition, with lyrics by Mike Love is legendary. Recorded during the sessions for the album, "Pet Sounds", "Good Vibrations" was curiously released as a stand-alone single that eventually made it's way from the aborted "SMILE" LP (later completed in 2004 by Wilson) to the LP "Smiley Smile". The single took Wilson 8 months of studio work to complete, and miles of recording tape to layer. It features an Electronic Theramin, along with multiple instruments played by members of the famous "Wrecking Crew" stable of musicians,  including bassist Carol Kaye and drummer Hal Blaine, under Wilson's demanding, if not strenuous effort at achieving perfection. It marked his genius status as a writer, singer and recording engineer. YouTube video's of Wilson in work during the recording sessions is fascinating. Described as "a pocket symphony" by band publicist Derek Taylor, I was fortunate to attend a concert by the original surviving band members in 2011 (and was one of the youngest members of the audience). The song ranks No. 6 on Billboard's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".    
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(MCA)
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Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers: "Kings Highway": Released in 1991 on the LP, "Into the Great Wide Open", this song actually came to my attention while driving back to Ohio from a rock concert in West Virginia. I was unable to get FM Radio reception along much of the mountainous highway trek. But just as I approached the top  of a hill, this song came playing over the radio. While never a single, it is well known in the Petty repertoire. The album also yielded "Learning to Fly" as a second hit single. There are multiple namesake highways named throughout the world, including one in Virginia State. It is my favorite song from this band. The guitars are bright, electric and the sound is optimistic. When the chorus kicks in, the song reveals a groove that is powerful.
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To Be Continued...
 
 


 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

An Interview with William J. Flynn, president and CEO of Atlas Air Cargo


William J. Flynn
(Photo Courtesy of Atlas Air)
 
An interview with William J. Flynn, president and Chief Executive Officer of Atlas Air Cargo
By: Michael Manning

William J. Flynn has been President and Chief Executive Officer of Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc. since June 22, 2006 and its subsidiaries, Atlas Air Inc. and Polar Air Cargo Inc. since June 2006. Mr. Flynn has been the Chief Executive Officer and President of Polar Air Cargo Worldwide, Inc. since June 2006. He served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Agility Holdings Inc. from August 2002 to June 2006. He has spent 30 years in ... the freight forwarding and logistics industry and has held senior executive positions with PWC Logistics, and Sea-Land Service Inc. He was initially recruited in 2002 to lead when PWC Logistics acquired GeoLogistics Corporation in 2005. Before joining GeoLogistics Corp. in 2002, Mr. Flynn served as a Senior Vice President of Merchandise Service Group of CSX Transportation, the railroad unit of CSX Corporation from May 2000 to July 2002. Mr. Flynn served as Senior Vice President - Strategic Planning of CSX Corporation, where he was responsible for its e-business strategy and development, from December 1999 to April 2000. He also served as Senior Vice President of CSX Corporation from 2000 to July 2002. He held various positions at Sea-Land Service Inc., a subsidiary of CSX Corporation from 1977 to 1999. He joined Atlas in 2006. Mr. Flynn has been a Director at Republic Services, Inc. since December 5, 2008. He has been a Lead Director at Horizon Lines Inc. since May 2008. Mr. Flynn has been a Director of Horizon Lines Inc., since December 1, 2006 and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc. since May 2006. Mr. Flynn serves as a Director of Polar Air Cargo Inc., Horizon Lines LLC, Aero Logistics LLC, Polar Air Cargo Worldwide, Inc. and Atlas Air Inc. He served as a Director of Allied Waste Industries Inc. since February 19, 2007 and Agility Holdings Inc., since August 2002. In March 2003, he was awarded the Marco Polo Award by the Government of China, the highest award given to a private person for support of humanitarian activities and business development in China. Mr. Flynn holds a BA degree, summa cum laude, in Latin American Studies from the University of Rhode Island and a Master's degree from the University of Arizona
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(Image Courtesy of Airways Magazine)
The following interview was published in Airways Magazine's September 2014 cover issue
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Manning: We’ve witnessed the collapse of two historical competitors: Evergreen International in January, and World Airways in March. Obviously, they were very vulnerable to the same economic pressures you face at Atlas Air Cargo. How has Atlas structured its business to avoid a similar fate?
 
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Flynn: I think first of all it has to start with our view of the market. Our view is that air freight in particular – we do have passenger services as well – but air freight in particular is, from our point of view, an essential part of the global economy and a long-term growth industry as well. So, the underlying demand in air freight has been flat for the last couple of years. We really didn’t see any appreciable growth in 2011 and 2012, and only started to see evidence of growth in the first quarter of 2013.
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(Photo Courtesy of Atlas Air)
But I think the good news is that has continued, and even the most recent statistics that we were looking at over the past couple of days on May numbers, in our own experience we continue to see growth on a year-over-year basis for the first five months of the year—which is typically the lower demand period. Over the year, air freight is typically second-half weighted. And so I think those are all very good signals for what the full year may be. Hopefully that will continue over what the full year will be. Recognizing that the industry is a long-term growth industry, I think there are several key components to our strategy that are important for Atlas. First, it starts with our fleet. We’ve made substantial investments ever since the company began a little over 20 years ago in having a very modern, very fuel-efficient fleet of aircraft that we could offer to our customers—offer to our ACMI (Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance, Insurance) customers and offer to our charter customers. The newest component to our fleet are nine 747-8. But of course, we have 21 747-400 freighters that we operate as well. We think that in terms of our ACMI and charter operations, that is, indeed, a modern and fuel-efficient fleet that we can bring to our customers. Beyond that, Michael, we have a scale and scope to our operation that I think that conveys and allows us to create additional value for our customers. Last year, we operated in and out of 124 countries and 400-plus cities. But if one were to look at a map of freight flow, and what are the major centers of the world through which freight flows, you would see Atlas has a high level of operation in almost all of those points. So, the scale and scope of the business, the size of our pilot force, the scale and scope of our ability to maintain our aircraft, how we have parts inventories deployed around the world—all that adds up to allowing us to create exceptional value to our customers. So, part of the answer to your question of ‘what have done that might have been different (from Evergreen International and World Airways) is the investment in the fleet, the ability to grow scale, we’ve diversified into the 767 which is the platform that a number of our customers integrated into their operations as well. We also had a very conscious effort dating back to 2006 and moving forward, that we needed to grow and diversify and not be overly-dependent on U.S. military demand for cargo and passenger service.        
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(Photo Courtesy of Scott Wright)
Evergreen International Airlines (1975-2014)
 
Manning:  Looking back, Evergreen International appeared to be a broadly diversified company--from oil exploration to helicopter services. But the company still failed. As you look at their business model, are there any segments that might be of interest to Atlas in the future that you’re currently not pursuing?  For example, offering modified 747 aerial tanker services to the U.S. Forest Service as Evergreen did? 
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Flynn: I think we’ve taken a somewhat different tact than Evergreen—and they were very diversified, as you said, a lot of that driven by the vision of Delford Smith, their founder. But where we diversified, for example, was into aircraft dry leasing. Our historical business and our core is ACMI operations.
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We were able to expand on that by introducing fee-MI services, where our customer owns the aircraft, but we’re operating the aircraft and maintaining it, and providing the network logistics for that. A few years ago, we didn’t have any aircraft under CMI operations. Today we have 14 under CMI operations. From that, we were able to pivot into passenger charter operations as well. Then, the third area that we’ve developed is, indeed, dry leasing. We’ve invested over a billion dollars into the dry leasing business, over the last 15 months or so. We have over 10 aircraft now in dry leasing – six of which are triple-sevens. So, we’ve taken a different approach towards diversification. What we’ve told our investors is that ACMI is our core. We’ll continue to manage our fleet with a view towards modernization—which could mean additional dash 8’s. But we’ll also continue to invest in Titan, which is our dry leasing subsidiary—there also with a focus on freighters.     
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(Photo Courtesy of Atlas Air)
Manning: I noticed in your Strategic Growth Plan for 2014 that military transport demand is declining. In light of this development, you see opportunities to grow into segments outside of that.
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Flynn: Yes, that’s exactly right. I think that anybody who has been participating in military service cargo or passenger services had to expect that demand would contract, as we’ve withdrawn from Iraq and the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan. So, it was urgent, in a way, for us to develop additional areas of our business model. And again, we’ve made an investment the dash 8’s. That was about a billion and a half dollars in those assets and they’re performing well for our customers. And then we did a parallel investment into Titan over the past couple of years, which—if you were to look at our 10-Q for the First Quarter, you’d see a strong growth and contribution in both ACMI and in dry leasing—which offsets the contraction in military (flying), and military will further contract as we complete the withdrawal from Afghanistan over the next year or whenever the (Obama) Administration’s timetable is. I’ll just clarify. There will still be some ongoing military opportunities for business—passenger charter and some cargo. But it’ll be at a much smaller level of operations, more consistent with the pre-9/11 environment than what it’s been for the last thirteen years.
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(Photo Courtesy of Atlas Air)
Manning: What were some of the considerations that went into your decision to order the new Boeing 747-8 series aircraft for the Atlas fleet?
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Flynn: Well, there were several. We knew that at some point in time, customers and we ourselves would be looking for—consistent with our view, the most modern and fuel efficient aircraft available in the market. Aircraft from the freight perspective that would produce the lowest cost to move a kilo or a ton of cargo from Hong Kong to Cincinnati, or Shanghai to Frankfurt—number one.
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Number two, we’ve been operating Boeing freighters for quite a long time—and believe they are excellent freighters—and believe that the 747-8 would be just another great extension of the 747 line from over 40 years ago now. So, what does the 747-8 offer? Well, it offers several things. It offers greater cargo-carrying capacity, substantially-improved fuel efficiency, it utilizes the new gen-ex engines that are being used on the 787, it incorporates a lot of the design features of the 787, including the wing design. It’s an all-metal aircraft. It’s not a carbon fiber aircraft. But it takes advantage of the engineering and design features of the 787. From an ownership point of view, we anticipate that the long life, or the full life maintenance costs to maintain the 747-8 and the engines will be lower than even the full-life maintenance costs of the 747-400’s. So, our view is that it’s a great freighter that certainly something that our customers would want. From the economic point of view it would be a great investment for the company and generate solid returns for us and for our shareholders.
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(Photo Courtesy of Atlas Air)
Manning: Are you satisfied with Atlas’ current fleet composition of Boeing 737’s, a 757, the 767’s, 777’s and 747’s or do you foresee any changes?
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Flynn: Well, you’ve basically run down a list of the freighters that are available in the marketplace. We manage our fleet aggressively. Certainly, I could envision a certain amount of 747-8’s. But in doing so, we would likely reduce the number of 747-400’s. It wouldn’t necessarily be additive. But in exchanging our 747-400’s or exiting our 747-400’s and adding the dash 8’s, there is, I think, real earnings upside potential in that for the company and value for our customers. I expect that we’ll also continue to invest in Titan. So, there the 777 is a very attractive aircraft from a leasing point of view, and I suspect that there will be opportunities to invest in 767’s as well—767’s for freighters. The smaller aircraft, the 737’s and the 757 are probably more opportunistic. The fleet is just smaller. It has more limited application than the other aircraft do, so we’ll probably want to invest in the mid-size and the larger freighters just so we’ve got the best opportunity to deploy them across the market.
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Manning:  Will Atlas remain an all-Boeing operator, or have you considered Airbus at any point as part of your fleet composition?
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Flynn:  Well, right now the only freighter that’s being offered is the A330-200 and that’s a very good freighter. But what we haven’t seen a lot of ACMI opportunity for that freighter. And so the fullest suite of offering right now is by Boeing. I understand that Airbus may be considering an A350 freighter, and if they do, that certainly is something we’d look at. But I don’t know if they’re committed to that freighter yet and what the timing or the delivery of those units might be. But in terms of the large wide-body freighters, there really only are Boeing freighters—the 777, the new 747-8 or the 747-400. There is no large freighter from any other manufacturer.
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(Photo Courtesy of Atlas Air)
Manning:  In years past, airlines such as Champion Air and Sun Country relied heavily on relationships with travel agencies. What is your assessment of the demand for leisure passenger charters?
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Flynn: I would say that we’re actually learning about that, Michael. We first started passenger operations as a CMI operator for SonAir, a subsidiary operator of Sonangol—who is the Angolan state oil company. And what they were looking to do is to have a dedicated service in a luxury configuration between Houston and Luanda to serve the U.S. and Angolan oil and energy companies. That actually got us into passenger operations—that’s how we started. After a year of flying for Sonangol, we were qualified to offer services to the military and we submitted an application to be considered for military operations and were approved by the Air Mobility Command. So, we began passenger operations for the U.S. military. What we found was that there is, indeed, a passenger charter market that’s a commercial passenger charter market, and we’ve been somewhat successful in that over the last couple of years. Basically, that drives higher utilization on the aircraft that we have for the passenger operations for the military. Going forward, I’d say we’re still in the learning mode. How big is that market? What would be the right investment to be in that market? And then you raised a very good question: What are the best sales and distribution channels? Most of commercial passenger charter operations come from well known brokers. So, I’d say we’re in the learning mode and haven’t decided how much more investment might be required, and what would be appropriate for us going forward.
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Manning: Recently, Lufthansa Cargo has postponed a decision on whether to accept Boeing 777 freighters. We’ve noticed that Air France-KLM, Singapore, and Japan Airlines have all reduced the number of freighters they operate. This trend must bode well for Atlas. What are your views on these developments?
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Flynn: It’s interesting as you point out that several very well known freighter-operators—we might consider them some of the pioneers of freighter operations internationally--are changing their business mix around their cargo and freight operation. But others are growing and other parts of the world are growing and creating new opportunities for us as we see higher rates of growth in some of the emerging markets and emerging economies. So I agree with you. It does create a new opportunity for us. Either with traditional airlines, in terms of providing ACMI or CMI operations for them, or working with airlines that are just beginning to really develop their freighter operations and freighter profile, and working with them to help them grow their business, and thereby grow ours as well.
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Manning:  What are your thoughts on the IATA request for its members to shave 48 hours off shipping times? The agency contends that out of the 6.5 days on average it takes to get air freight from door to door, only a few hours is actually spent in the air. Is Atlas changing its procedures with freight forwarders and ground handlers to meet this challenge?
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(Photo Courtesy of Seth Jaworski)
Flynn: I was at the conference in Doha just a week and a half ago, and that was discussed and that’s being discussed at the Cargo summit as well. I think what IATA is underscoring is that there is a need to accelerate the process by which freight is tendered to a forwarder or broker—whoever the receiving party is. And then ultimately move the destination, and it’s either available at the door for pickup or delivery and they are focusing on the process, as opposed to the actual flight time, cause flight times are what they are and certainly not more than that. I think there’s a number of questions there. I think it’s the right focus though, because air freight is expensive. By nature, if you look at what moves air freight it perishable, it’s time-sensitive, it’s high value—there are any number of considerations. I do think there are opportunities to take time out of the supply chain. So, what does Atlas do here? We continue to develop, I think, a suite of information products that our ACMI customers can use and our charter customers can use. That information, more than anything can be uploaded into their supply chain system so they can provide for their own operations and to their customers, an in-transit visibility on the air product. And hopefully, better information can flow back to origin and forward to destination, so that more time and coordination can be made with customs, clearances, airport operations and either door pickup or door delivery.
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(Photo Courtesy of Atlas Air)
Manning: What can we expect from Atlas and it’s subsidiaries in the foreseeable future?
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Flynn: Our very firm belief here is that air freight is a growth industry and an important part of the economy. We’ve made substantial investments to be a leading provider of very high quality services to our customers—and to add to that—to be advisors and consultants to our customers as they think about their operations and their businesses. We will continue to invest in our company in our fleet. I do think that we do have a very deep understanding of global air freight and international markets. I think you’ll see Atlas continuing to not only grow with longstanding customers, but develop new customers, and maybe more so in the emerging north-south market between Latin America and the rest of the world and between South Sahara (East-West) Africa from the Middle East, which is a well established market already.

My thanks to thank Bonnie Rodney and William J. Flynn for making this interview possible.


 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Music Hall and Union Terminal is Not The Expendables 4

(LIONSGATE and Nu Image Films)
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 Last night, I treated myself to the movie, "Expendables 3". Without elaborating too much, if you read my last post, you'll understand what I mean when I say that it occurred to me during my viewing that I have a new assignment for these guys. But before appearing to act hastily, and with all kidding aside, let's look at five photos below, reminiscent of the Rod Stewart hit song, "Every Picture Tells a Story".
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Before we begin, I'd like to thank The Cincinnati Museum Center for allowing me use of the following photos. Check out their amazing website by Clicking HERE for more information!
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 (Photo--Philip Grosh)
I believe this is the East Entrance of Music Hall in downtown Cincinnati. It's where my high school graduation commencement was held, where a girlfriend once made me take her to see Barry Manilow in concert, and where I've personally attended performances by such diverse artists as Kris Kristofferson, Gordon Lightfoot, and poignantly--a young lady that I personally interviewed on my radio show--the amazing symphony conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson. It was here that she conducted Michael Hersch's "Ashes of Memory". The orchestral work originally enjoyed its U.S. premiere by The Pittsburgh Symphony under Mariss Jansons It was amazing, and for those of you who may not be familiar with Music Hall, know this: it is one of the few acoustically perfect concert venues in America. Built in 1878, Hamilton County Commissioner's Chris Monzel and Gary Hartmann have struck it off the November referendum in Hamilton County, Ohio. The 14-year .25 cent icon sales tax would have provided funds for comprehensive building repairs to both Cincinnati Music Hall and  Union Terminal. As of this writing, Hamilton County residents have had their votes taken away by an August 7th action, led by Hamilton County Commissioners Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel to deliberately avoid funding Music Hall and underfunding Union Terminal. This makes no sense. I urge the Hamilton County Commissioners, again, to affect a mid-course correction in this matter by allowing voters in Hamilton County to decide on the plan set forth by The Cultural Facilities Task Force. 
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 (Photo--The Cincinnati Opera) 
A packed house for the Cincinnati Opera's Opening Night of "Carmen".
(Photo--Phil Didion) 
If this photo doesn't move your heart and speak a thousand words, I honestly don't know what will. This little girl is part of our future. It is for her and successive generations that we must properly fund permanent and comprehensive repairs for Cincinnati Union Terminal and Music Hall, under the proposal set forth by The Cultural Facilities Task Force. Hamilton County residents: It's now up to you to speak up and explore with Mayor Cranley and the Cultural Facilities Task Force a sensible and realistic redress to the destructive Hamilton County Commissioners vote of August 7th. You ARE Hamilton County. Let your voices be heard!
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 (Photo--Mike Howard)
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The original clock in the center lobby of Cincinnati Union Terminal. If anyone reading this online post visits the Terminal  in person (and many of you will) please email me with your impressions via my Contact Page at www.michaelmanning.tv). This is a magnificent landmark. I suggest taking a couple of days to explore it thoroughly. You'll be amazed!
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 (Photo--Library of Congress)
This Black and White photo reminds me of the extinguishment of all Hope. I can assure my readers that Cincinnatians will NOT allow the light of Hope to be blown out by misguided policies that make no sense. Union Terminal is the "Crown Jewel" of a great city! The building has been repurposed and is a going concern.  Inside you can visit:
 
  • Cincinnati History Museum
  • Museum of Natural History & Science
  • Robert D. Lindner Family Omnimax Theater, a 5-story domed movie house
  • Cincinnati Historical Society Library
  • Duke Energy Children's Museum
  • Cincinnati Historical Society Library
  • The Cincinnati Railroad Club
Before you visit: Call (513) 287-7000 for Hours
Where: 1301 Western Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45203
Website: http://www.cincymuseum.org/
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(Photo--Black Wolff)
Support Union Terminal
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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hamilton County Commissioners Must Stand and Deliver on Music Hall and Union Terminal!

Warner Bros.
My late uncle gave me a love of history, and lately I've been reading a lot of it in order to understand human behavior, politics, and decision making. On May 22, 1968, President Johnson announced his plan to transform America with the advent of "The Great Society". The plan, under the Johnson Administration, was an attempt to address--among other things--our decaying cities with a promise "to assemble the best thought and the broadest knowledge from all over the world to find answers for America". Incidentally, I've read that an unsympathetic Congress--seated at the time--coupled with the tragedy of the Vietnam War, drained much of this optimism away. Consequently, "The Great Society" foundered. The parallels to the fate of Cincinnati Music Hall and Union Terminal are similar.
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The "best thought and the broadest knowledge" in Cincinnati civic and business leadership was assembled  with formation of The Cultural Facilities Task Force. They worked tirelessly for 9 months studying decades of problems that confounded the City of Cincinnati regarding these landmark buildings. The plan they proposed was comprehensive in scope, and through competent and creative planning, actually solved decade-long problems.
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When two Hamilton County Commissioners in Cincinnati, Ohio can wield enough power to sensor an issue that voters have every right to consider in a referendum, something is terribly flawed. It is nothing less than an insult to every voter's intelligence. Rather than embracing a well thought out plan that would have unwound decades of problems that led to the buildings being placed on the list of "The 11 Most Endangered Buildings in America" by The National Trust for Historic Preservation, political expediency has triumphed over principle. The Task Force created a solid plan that would have permanently repaired both buildings and maintained them for generations to come. 
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A dinner meeting was held with newly elected Cincinnati Mayor Cranley, Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, and Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation CEO Steve Leeper. In that meeting, it is my understanding that Mayor Cranley answered  claims that the city "wasn't doing enough" to save these buildings. The Mayor countered with the City Council's pledge of $10 million to Music Hall, and another $10 million for ongoing maintenance of both buildings. Mayor Cranley left the dinner believing that all issues were addressed. It was an occasion for handshakes and goodwill. After the dinner, Greg Hartmann told The Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper that the city still "wasn't doing enough".  
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In separate meetings, Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel, and Task Force Chairman Bob McDonald met with one another multiple times. In each of these meetings, the Task Force proposal to fund both landmarks was fully vetted. Had Messrs. Hartman and Monzel presented any misgivings during either of these meetings, the Task Force would have had ample opportunity to factor in their concerns to the final proposal that was created to be presented to Hamilton County voters in the November referendum.
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In an action that is reminiscent to this writer of Judas leaving The Last Supper, a power play was initiated at the 11th hour striking Music Hall from the renovation plans. This is simply nasty politics at its worst that insulted the Mayor, and the intelligence of every voter in Hamilton County. It was beyond an innocent example of being short-sighted. It was, in fact, a cold slap in the face to intelligent people who expect to be given the opportunity to let their votes be heard about this issue. Instead, political expediency over principle appears to have prevailed. The Hamilton County Commissioners passed a five year, quarter-cent sales tax (and not a 14-year plan) that totally excludes Music Hall, and underfunds Union Terminal's need for comprehensive repairs by at least $33 million (by my calculations). 
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I find it incredulous that Bob McDonald, who led as Chairman of the Task Force, and who has just been placed in charge of The U.S. Veterans Affairs Office to assist 9 million veterans was undermined in this situation. Apparently, the Hamilton County Commissioners felt that he either couldn't be trusted, or needed to be micromanaged. They were wrong, and this entire debacle is embarrassing. 
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Again, I call on Messrs. Hartmann and Monzel to be accountable, along with the rest of the Hamilton County Commissioners they influenced in what amounted to an 11th hour coup de grace. 
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Music Hall and Union Terminal are not partisan political issues limited exclusively to Democrats or Republicans. The buildings are the birthright of The People of Cincinnati. Just as the 1988 film of the same name directs, Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel now need to "stand and deliver" answers to the questions their actions have created. Here are the questions again:
 
  • Will their actions permanently restore Union Terminal?
  • What is the bonding capacity?
  • What is the construction timeline?
  • How does "pay-as-you-go" financing impact the project timeline?
  • Does this delay the construction, increasing construction costs?
  • What is the impact on Historic Tax Credits?
  • What is the status of the City of Cincinnati's commitment?
  • What- is the status of the $40 million in philanthropic commitments to this plan?
These questions need to be answered immediately. This brinksmanship has created a new crisis for the Music Hall, Union Terminal, The Cincinnati Museum Center, and the City of Cincinnati. Music Hall is part of Hamilton County, and to deliberately exclude the landmark building under the excuse that "it isn't part of Hamilton County" is a glaring outrage. The Hamilton County Commissioners know better and so do I. Again, Union Terminal would be underfunded by this plan, and 9 months of hard work by The Cultural Facilities Task Force has been dismissed overnight.
 
I seriously doubt the voters in Hamilton County will let this stand. This matter is far from over.   
 
 

   

 
 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Beneath the Facade: A Rare Look Inside the Deteriorating Cincinnati Union Terminal (Part 2)


Photos-Michael Manning


 
Can you imagine? For over 8 decades, this towering strength of Art Deco beauty has welcomed every traveler inside from the heat and cold. Wherever your destination was, you were left with an indelible impression of a city with a deep and proud cultural heritage. There were seven railroads that provided service to Union Terminal: the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O);The Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad (C&O); the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway; the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N); the Norfolk and Western Railway; the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Southern Railway selected a site for their new station in the West End of Cincinnati near the Mill Creek. Santa Fe ceased offering passenger service in 1960 (it's distinctive red and silver "Chiefs" were repainted in the cargo blue and yellow livery). Today, Burlington Northern is merged with Santa Fe (as Burling Northern Santa Fe Railway Company, or BNSF) and Southern Railway (who purchased the Union Terminal's rear freight yard and carried out demolition of the 407 foot-long Concourse to enable piggy-back freight operations), is now amalgamated into Norfolk Southern. Amtrak offers limited train service from Union Terminal.   
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(Michael Manning)
The beautiful massive neon lit clock.
As with my previous post, I'm grateful to CincyWhimsy for sharing these
photos. You can access them by Clicking HERE. Pictured above is a light
bulb that lights up the hour hand.
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(CincyWhimsy)
As you might expect over 83 years, the face of the clock has shattered,
yet stayed intact as it awaits new glass panes it so richly deserves.  
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(CincyWhimsy)
How many millions of travelers and visitors have gazed up at this clock?
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(CincyWhimsy)
Installed in 1931, the original gearing of the clock remains functional.
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"There were master craftsmen. We don't have master craftsmen anymore."
Actor Steve McQueen (1930 - 1980)
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(CincyWhimsy)
Tools, circa 1930 to repair and adjust the clock mechanism.
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(CincyWhimsy)
Engineers use this clock to adjust the hands of the massive clock for accuracy.
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(CincyWhimsy)
As the plaster has fallen away, deep cracks from water damage have broken this retaining wall.
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(CincyWhimsy)
Estimates are that what is left of this wall will last only 12 months, if that long.
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(CincyWhimsy)
A weather-beaten hallway.
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(CincyWhimsy)
Another crumbling wall near an old radiator.
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(CincyWhimsy)
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(CincyWhimsy)
A large section of this ceiling has collapsed, creating a serious safety hazard.
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(CincyWhimsy)
Above and below: This is the external Rotunda support wall with cracks that worsen with rain and snow.
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(CincyWhimsy)
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(CincyWhimsy)
Walls and archways where plaster and support materials underneath are subject now to collapse.
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(CincyWhimsy)
How long will this wall be able to support weight-bearing loads?
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(CincyWhimsy)
The Union Terminal deserves a far better fate. Since 1972, it has received a new lease on life and is a viable going concern. It has given much to society and now it is our turn to repair and maintain it for generations to come.
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(Michael Manning)
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Like arms that reach out to welcome a great city, so too we must give back. I believe this is entirely possible: Let's commit ourselves to salvaging the 9 Winold Reiss murals inside Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport's abandoned Terminal's 1 and 2. Further, let's permanently repair Cincinnati Union Terminal and the Cincinnati Music Hall. I am but one voice of concern--a catalyst and a conduit--to increase public awareness, and highlight the need for this action.  
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My Own Emotional Verdict
In the opinion of this writer, Hamilton County voters in Cincinnati were denied the right to have their voices heard when Commissioners Chris Monzel and Greg Hartmann made an 11th hour move to strike the .25 cent icon tax issue from appearing on the November referendum.
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This reckless action, which amounts to collective malfeasance, was undertaken against the County's own consultants, the County administrator's advice, the Tax Levy Review Committee, and even by-passed direct communications with fellow Commissioners in advance of the vote. This is hardly a sterling example of ethical civic leadership.
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When Hamilton County Commissioners rejected  The Cultural Facilities Task Force solutions to permanently fix Union Terminal and Music Hall, they destroyed 9 months of dedicated hard work. The solutions were comprehensive in scope, and corrected decades of neglect by previous administrations. Many civic leaders and politicians alike could see that there was a problem festering, with the absence of a long-term maintenance and repair program for Music Hall and Union Terminal that was adequately funded. The tendency to "kick the can down the road", or apply temporary quick fixes to both landmark buildings, predictably resulted in a full blown crisis. Current civic leaders were awakened, and responded with a creative solution to complete restoration and permanent repairs to both buildings. 
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There must be a mechanism to revisit the decision of the Hamilton County Commissioners and return control of the icon landmark tax issue to the hands of the County electorate. The Commissioners were appointed to serve the people of Hamilton County and not their personal interests. In the eyes of this writer, they have failed to do their jobs and must be held accountable for their actions. If they are unable to perform their jobs, they need to be removed and replaced.       
 
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The Eyes of  the Nation are Watching 
It bodes well to remember that Cincinnati became the first city in 41 years to have two landmarks appear on the National Historic Trust's "11 Most Endangered Buildings in America" list.  Other cities with iconic landmarks that share a spot on this list have been closely monitoring the situation playing out in Cincinnati. The Commissioner's decision of August 7th set an example of poor leadership by recreating the problem. By choosing to strike Music Hall from the November referendum and underfunding Union Terminal's requirements, the initial problem will only worsen. Stop and imagine what civic leaders and concerned citizens in Richmond, Virginia (Shockoe Bottom), Englewood, New Jersey (The Palisades), Hot Springs, South Dakota (Battle Mountain Sanitarium), Huntington Beach, California (Historic Wintersburg), St. Louis, Missouri (Palladium Building),. Chattanooga, Tennessee (State Office Building), Miami, Florida (Bay Harbor's East Island), Tallahassee, Florida (Frank Lloyd Wright House) and Kona, Hawaii (Mokuaikaua Church) must be thinking. Could this outcome repeat itself in their city? The answer depends on the intelligence quotient and competency of their elected leaders.
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A Blue Chip Task Force
I've reviewed the names and credentials of The Cultural Facilities Task Force and they are impeccable. These 22 members volunteered the gift of their time, their presence, and their expertise. It bears repeating that the Task Force members were handed a problem. It wasn't their problem. It was a problem that was allowed to fester over decades of bad decisions that ultimately burdened a great city. No, it wasn't their problem. They didn't cause it. But they were willing to step in and solve the problem that ultimately landed two Cincinnati iconic landmarks on the "11 Most Endangered Buildings in America" list. 
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While the National Trust for Historic Preservation dates back to its founding in 1949, the endangered list was created in 1973. Over the past 41 years, 250 buildings have been saved through the efforts of this non-profit organization. 
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A Comprehensive Solution is the Best Option
The Cultural Facilities Task Force did an exemplary job, and proposed a comprehensive plan that was a solution to a blight on The People of Cincinnati. To dismiss this plan and "kick it to the curb" is a rank obscenity. We can do better that that by reversing the egregious action of two weeks ago, and embrace the comprehensive solutions to save both buildings now. Where there is a will, there's a way.
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No More "Business As Usual"
Further, I respectfully disagree with those who suggest that "it's time to swallow hard feelings and make it work". Nothing could be further from the truth. How many private donors were alienated and angered by this reckless 11th hour brinksmanship by Mr. Monzel to the point of withdrawing total financial support?
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Union Terminal Officials Must Hold Off Action on The Monzel Plan
Officials at The Cincinnati Museum Center must defer moving forward on what amounts to a failure to fund the future. Someone needs to explain to me how underfunding Union Terminal by at least $33 million is rational. Would anyone in their right mind attempt to drive through a remote desert with less than a full tank of gasoline in their car? Rallying supporters around a plan for failure is senseless. Any drive to raise the necessary funding after the Monzel affair, is ludicrous. With the Task Force Plan, donors knew how their money would be used. Would you be a confident donor with this mind set in place? Any seventh grade student can see that this is the type of thinking responsible for creating the mess that The Cultural Facilities Task Force was left to clean up in the first place!
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Rallying around "business as usual" sets a terrible example for our youth of flat learning. We manage to learn the same lessons year in and year out from half-baked decisions consistent with the Monzel affair. If I were a business consultant, and the Hamilton County Commissioners were a management team of a private business I was assigned to reorganize, I'd be tempted to fire every member from their post as quickly as possible. Next,  and replace them with competent leaders. Unscrupulous acts committed by unethical people have no place in government or private enterprise.    
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For the uninitiated, here are the members of The Cultural Facilities Task Force listed below. They deserve our continued support to remain involved, and to find a substitute leader, now that Robert A. McDonald has been appointed to his new position as head of The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
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The Cultural Facilities Task Force Members:
 
Robert A. McDonald -- Proctor & Gamble, Retired Chairman, President and CEO
 
J. Wickliffe Ach -- Hixson Architects, President & CEO
 
Hon. Theodore N. Berry Esq.-- Hamilton County Municipal Court, Judge
 
James E. Evans -- American Financial Group, Director
 
Scott D. Farmer -- Cintas Corporation, CEO
 
William Froehle -- Plumbers, Pipefitters & M.E.S. Local 392, Business Agent
 
Father Michael J. Graham, S.J. -- Xavier University President
 
Thomas L. Guidugli, Jr. - International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local No. 5
(IATSE), Business Agent
 
Robert Killins -- The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Program Director, Vibrant Places
 
S. Craig Lindner -- American Financial Group, Co-Chief Executive Officer/Co President and Director
 
Timothy J. Maloney -- The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Hale, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation President & CEO
 
W. Rodney McMullen -- Kroger, CEO
 
Kathryn E. Merchant -- The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, President & CEO
 
Keith A. Oliver -- Kroger, VP-Facility Engineering
 
Mario San Marco -- Eagle Realty Group LLC, President
 
Robert Sheeran -- Xavier University, VP for Facilities
 
John I. Silverman -- Midland Atlantic Development, Managing Principal
 
Murray Sinclaire, Jr. -- Ross, Sinclaire & Associates, LLC, President & CEO
 
Liza Smitherman -- Jostin Construction, VP Professional Development
 
Shiloh Turner -- The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Vice President for Community Investment
 
Kathy Wade -- Learning Through Art, CEO
 
Bernadette Watson -- Community/Government Affairs, Consultant