It’s a bottom up process; and it’s working

July 4, 2011

I believe a person, which spends the majority of their life, either serving the public or working on the inside for a public entity eventually loses sight of reality and what they truly set out to accomplish. This can be applied to not only our federal government but to our local governing bodies as well. Last week I asked, what is your local government doing to help or hinder development? Its clear regulations are a must, but when those regulations will surely impede both business and residential developments, it is time to draw a line in the sand to protect not only personal property rights but that of your parish or county also.

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Living in a parish where the police jury is currently working on a new unified development code, it has become very apparent that some in the system are blinded by their desire to produce, and not protect residents’ rights. We have been told by some that is for the future of our parish and if we do not have a comprehensive plan we can likely lose out on business prospects. One statement by an insider was this; “This process is primarily a consolidation of 37 years of the building of 16 ordinances and consolidating them into one document with common and current language”. Common and current language? If this person had used the word “solely” instead of “primarily”, it may have turned less heads. Why do I take such a personal offense to this? I believe this document will hinder development more than attract it.  I love where I live and DO wish to see it prosper and grow, if I did not, I would not concern myself enough to run for office.

While we must remain vigilant to our up-coming state and federal issues and races, we must also concentrate on what is happening in our very own backyards. Have you heard talk of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI): Local Governments for Sustainability . Is your city, parish or county on this list? , New Orleans, you’re on the list. In 1993, by Executive No. 12852, President Bill Clinton created The President’s Council on Sustainable Development. This followed up on June 9, 2011, by Executive Order 13575; President Obama created the White House Rural Council. The express mission of this council is to “…work across executive departments, agencies, and offices to coordinate development of policy recommendations to promote economic prosperity and quality of life in rural America, and shall coordinate my Administration’s engagement with rural communities.”   If your location is not on any target list as yet then be alert to what your local governing bodies are doing. Do they know what they are doing or have they been led to believe it’s best for their communities?

Bossier City, Baton Rouge and Jefferson Parish, you now have in place a Comprehensive Plan for the future, or not. Research for yourselves to justify your local governing bodies’ decision to implement these plans and see if they are good or bad. Since this is a bottom up process, we can allow these regulations to go into effect or we can cut this process off at the feet. The choice is always ours as long as we are aware, to influence the outcome of a vote by our police jurors, county commissioners, etc. You can find me at every Calcasieu Parish Police Jury meeting.

Interview: Debra Fine on small talk secrets for the holiday season

NPR Morning Edition December 7, 2005 | STEVE INSKEEP STEVE INSKEEP Morning Edition (NPR) 12-07-2005 Interview: Debra Fine on small talk secrets for the holiday season

Host: STEVE INSKEEP Time: 10:00-11:00 AM


On Wednesdays, we focus on the workplace, and in this workplace, NPR, they’re having a holiday party this week, which means that somewhere in this company, as in many companies, there must have been a planning meeting, which might have gone a little bit like this meeting from the BBC series “The Office.”

(Soundbite of “The Office”)

Unidentified Man #1: OK. Christmas party ideas is what I’m looking for. What do you want to see there? Brainstorm. Let’s go.

Unidentified Woman #1: A buffet.

Unidentified Man #1: That’s what I was going to say.

Unidentified Woman #2: Disco.

Unidentified Man #1: OK, I like it.

Unidentified Man #2: Girls.

Unidentified Man #1: What do you mean?

Unidentified Man #2: Invite girls.

Unidentified Man #1: Girls will be coming.

Unidentified Man #2: Not the girls that work here. Other girls, pretty girls.

Unidentified Man #1: Anything else?

Unidentified Woman #3: A secret Santa.

Unidentified Man #1: …(Unintelligible) I like it.

Unidentified Woman #4: A dancing competition.

Unidentified Man #1: Dance comp.

Unidentified Woman #5: What about something for the old people?

INSKEEP: And then, of course, the fun begins for everybody. To get some advice on surviving the office party once it starts, we brought in Debra Fine, who wrote a book called “The Fine Art of Small Talk.”

Debra, welcome to the program.

Ms. DEBRA FINE (Author, “The Fine Art of Small Talk”): Thank you, Steve. Great to be here.

INSKEEP: Can you just tell me a story that you’ve heard of an office party experience gone wrong?

Ms. FINE: I actually heard this gentleman, who was a boss, say to a woman, `Are those real?’

INSKEEP: He was talking about earrings, right? Earrings is what he was talking about.

Ms. FINE: Well, you know, you can guess it, but, you know, there’s all kinds of faux pas at office parties. If you’re going to go to your office party, don’t go with a bad attitude, because it will be evident, and it may come back to haunt you. Just make the most of the opportunity of being there and then leave early if that’s what you’d like to do. website christmas party ideas

INSKEEP: What is it that makes people anxious that would give them a bad attitude going to a party?

Ms. FINE: Number one, they don’t know what to talk about with the people in their office, except for work, and so that’s stymies them. In addition to that, they just think it’s going to be some boring, horrible thing, and even if it is, it’s up to them to make the most of it. You know, your boss might be standing over there, the head of the department is in another corner. If you hide in your corner like a mouse and you’re invisible, you’ve missed a huge opportunity to at least greet the boss, extend your wishes for a good holiday, thank them for the wonderful party and then take off. So at least show some visibility at that time of year.

INSKEEP: What do we talk about, other than work?

Ms. FINE: Oh, there’s lots of things to talk about. At a holiday party, it almost gets too easy. For instance, Steve, you know, what’s your favorite present that you’ve ever given or received? Or, tell me, Steve, you know, how do the holidays impact either your work or your family or, you know, how do the holidays impact your life?

INSKEEP: So you’ve given an idea of just some way to kind of break the ice and get a conversation going. What are some things to avoid that might kill a conversation?

Ms. FINE: Well, you don’t want to ask someone, you know, `How’s your wife?’ or `How’s your husband? Is he here, Debra? Is he at the bar? Is he in the men’s room?’ `No, he left me, Steve, finally after all these years, and the last person I want to talk to about this is you at this office party.’ Don’t ask someone how their husband, wife, girlfriend is. Instead, `Bring me up to date, Debra. What’s been going on in your life since the last time we had to chat?’ Or, `Debra, bring me up to date about your family.’ Use big questions like that so you don’t put people on the spot. go to website christmas party ideas

INSKEEP: I like that advice.

Ms. FINE: Oh, thank you, Steve. You do need to be careful. Sometimes, we try to be warm and friendly and we’re just not thinking about what we’re doing. Also, imagine this. If I say to you, `How’s work, Steve?,’ you’ll probably say, `Pretty good.’ If I instead say to you, `What’s been going on with work since the last time we talked?,’ you’re more likely to give me a sentence.

INSKEEP: So you’re saying don’t be too specific, but also don’t be too vague when you’re trying to get people to talk.

Ms. FINE: Exactly. Because otherwise, we become FBI agents. `How’s work?’ `Good.’ `How’s the wife?’ `Awesome.’ `What’s been going on otherwise?’ `Oh, not much.’ And then we’re done with the conversation. Start with one topic. Use open-ended questions. Make them as big as possible so that you have real conversations like a tennis match, instead of that batting cage type of situation, and play the conversational game, Steve. We’re at an office party. If somebody said to me today, `Isn’t it cold outside?,’ I would say, `You know, it may seem cold to you, but I grew up in Buffalo, New York. That’s also where I went to school, the University of Buffalo.’ Now what I’ve given you is something about me. I didn’t talk about a divorce. I didn’t talk about my aches and pains. I didn’t go on and on. You can now–if you want to talk to me, you have something to work with. `Debra, you’re from Buffalo? Is it really as bad as they say it is there?’ or `Debra, what is it like having a Super Bowl loser year after year after year?’ Give me something to work with. If somebody says, `Isn’t a beautiful day?,’ give them something. `How’s the family? What’s been going on?’ Don’t say, `Not much.’ Give me a sentence so I have something to work with.

INSKEEP: Debra, thanks very much.

Ms. FINE: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: Debra Fine is author of “The Fine Art of Small Talk,” and we’d like to leave you with a scene from a movie, Renee Zellweger in “Bridget Jones’s Diary” attempting to sing at an office Christmas party.

(Soundbite of “Bridget Jones’s Diary”)

Ms. RENEE ZELLWEGER: (Singing) Oh, can’t live if living is without you. I can’t live…

INSKEEP: For more tips on getting through holiday parties, you can go to our Web site,

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I’m Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE (Host): And I’m Renee Montagne.



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