Odds and ends, with some a bit odder than others:
Nothing like a chair: Here is the essential nub of my management expertise after running a small company for 37 years. If you want an employee to feel valued, understood, respected, then, once in a while, buy her a new chair. Buy him a chair when he asks for a new chair. Buy her a new chair when you’ve sat casually at their desk talking to a colleague and you realize her chair is crooked-sitting, sloped, unsteady, stained, tormentingly uncomfortable. Turn that colleague loose in an office furniture showroom or online. Insist they make a purchase and watch productivity rise.
Comes to mind as a certain Oak Park village trustee is nit-picking the purchase of new office furniture — chairs especially — for village hall. The contract to spend $190,000 on all sorts of new office furniture was actually tabled at a board meeting last week so that staff can provide full detail on the proposed purchases.
Whether Trustee Deno Andrews will want to be picking the fabric and the color of the seat cushions before we are done will tell us the level of the micromanaging he wants to descend into here.
He told the assembled that he had gone to the manufacturer’s website and found chairs costing $1,000. This would be, Pioneer Press reported, “a slap in the face of taxpayers.”
Lisa Shelley, the deputy village manager who has been tasked with reclaiming village hall from its decades-long decay, calmly told trustees that the village is not paying retail, that it gets notable discounts as a government body and further discounts because of the size of its purchase.
When Wednesday Journal reconfigured our offices this year we bought some new office furniture and believe me, even on our small scale, prices are highly negotiable.
In the early 1970s, Oak Park built an architecturally honored village hall. That the heating and air conditioning never worked right, that the staff never much liked their quarters, that a penny-pinching village government never spent a nickel upgrading the place — how about the duct tape on the fraying carpet seams! — left our seat of village government looking tattered and unwelcoming.
Between the grumpy employees and the grubby surroundings, village hall was not a place to spend time. So in the past few years, gradual investments have been made for the benefit of both staffers and taxpayers coming to village hall. New paint, new carpet, new signage, new sidewalks, and, now in the final phase, new office furniture.
Celebrate the investment, Deno, don’t begrudge your most important asset, your staff, a decent chair. And don’t micromanage your senior staff by making them produce invoices and fabric swatches.
Dr. Ansell’s wisdom: Have been meaning for the past few weeks to put in a call to Dr. David Ansell. He’s an Oak Parker who has had a dedicated career in medicine with a focus on the West Side. I wanted to interview him again, this time about his new book, The Death Gap. He beat me to it with an essay he wrote last week for the Journal.
Ansell has spent decades at three West Side hospitals. He started at the old County Hospital and wrote a compelling book on that experience. Then a decade at Mt. Sinai, the definition of a safety-net hospital in an urban setting. Now he is high up in the medical staff at Rush, trying to figure out how to convert that institution’s rich resources into better medical care for its less-well-off West Side neighbors as well as decent jobs at the medical center.
Here’s the central point of his new book: You live in Oak Park and your life expectancy is 83 years. Cross over into Austin and it is under 72 years. There are reasons for this. None of them reflect well on any of us. If you can, Ansell will be speaking tonight, Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. at the main library.