Solving The Undocumented

Giving undocumented immigrants citizenship doesn’t make sense.

It doesn’t make sense to those of us who came the documented way. Sure, it was costly. Sure, it took time and appointments to the embassy. Sure, it even took some embarrassment when the doctor performing the physical took a peak inside my pants (without asking) after I was told I had to be in a cubicle with my brothers in my underwear–something I never did at home–waiting for him to come and inspect us. I only wondered what would happen to my mother who was in a separate cubicle with my baby brother but I digress.

Andre-Heading West

Photo: Lilibeth Andre-“Heading West”

People come to the U.S. for opportunity. The opportunity to work hard and get ahead. Back at home you can work hard, if you’re lucky to have a job, but it seems you never get ahead. You’re lucky if you maintain your economic ground but it seems that it slips like sand between your fingers more and more. And if you had your own business you probably went under when NAFTA brought all those American chain stores into town and they out-priced you, and you could never support your family on the wages they pay and the hours they require.

The opportunity for jobs is what brings people to America. If people are willing to risk coming as an undocumented migrant, suffering the perils of illegal entry, it is only because you have a high chance of finding a job. When the economy was slow and jobs were not so prevalent, illegal immigration went down. Why risk coming when there are no jobs?

So here’s the solution: Instead of pursuing the illegal migrant, put the burden on the people that hire the undocumented person who is willing to work long hours for low wages and no benefits, illegal employment practices. And if the employer insists that they must hire these undocumented workers (not just the brown ones from the south), then it would be their duty to make their workers legal migrants through work permits.

Work permits give workers the ability to move freely between borders. If fear of deportation or the ability to return is removed then more people will come with a temporary worker mindset. Instead of having to stay in a country they do not consider their own they would be able to go back home and be with their family more easily. This burden could perhaps balance the economics of hiring legal workers and paying them a decent wage and benefits because this loss of jobs for local workers reverberates up the work chain and everyone pays the price when specialized and certified workers are displaced by illegal immigrants who cost the employer less. The consumer pays the ultimate cost disguised under the veil of lower prices.

Citizenship is the ultimate reward for legal immigration. Each country is allowed a certain number of migrants into the U.S. People can be legal, over time they can become residents (with all the rights but to vote), and then they can become citizens, if they choose to do so, with the right to vote. By then, there is a greater understanding of what this country is all about and with assimilation in culture, language, and understanding, the right to participate in the political process is a reward.

The Future of Work – An Artist’s Perspective

The future of work is a concern for many. As we advance technology with artificial intelligence, with drones, with massive analytical capabilities we ask, will machines replace humans? Will there be any jobs left? What will we humans do?

In 2014, I was invited to present my Vision for Houston in 2040. This vision focused on our living environment, the combination of urbanism and nature. Since then, I’ve realized we also need to change how we live at the social level.

Currently we each carry a dollar sign on our chest. It is our value. It is what categorizes us and makes some targets to pursue and others untouchables. It gives us license to adore some and the ability to turn others invisible in their very presence. We relate to each other according to this value but aren’t we more than that?

If we look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs we can find a guide for developing our social make-up.

Maslow's pyramid of needs. Found on Wikipedia.

Maslow’s pyramid of needs. Found on Wikipedia.

Each person is unique. We each come to this life with certain gifts. I propose that we allow each person to pursue the development of those gifts, that we allow them to be their passion. With free education to pursue the development of those skills and knowledge people will become richer in areas that make them happy.

By providing a universal basic income thanks to the automation of much of the work we will enable everyone to meet their physiological needs along with their needs for safety and security. Everyone would have food and shelter where they decide to live.  This would be a standard.

We would then be free to pursue love and belonging, esteem, and self actualization. We would become givers instead of takers. Creators instead of consumers. We would all be free to become philanthropists of the gifts we have to give and these gifts would be developed to the level we desire. Some people would pursue technical paths, some would pursue social or natural areas. We would be able to match those who are young and curious with incessant questions with those who are senior and experienced looking to share their accrued knowledge and wisdom.

Everyone could become a master or an expert, or obtain enough experience to suffice for the needs of sharing in their community. The choice would be theirs. Those who want to pursue more could do so. Those who have had a life of making widget number 5 all their life would be invited to learn that which always called to them. This would not stop them from pursuing the great fish that got away but would give meaning to their retirement by giving them the opportunity to kick around that which they always wanted to pursue or practice, even if it was what they always did and loved. They would share of themselves with those looking for just that ability. Each person would be honored at all points of their life.

By finding the space to pursue love and belonging they would become esteemed members of their community. By finding and developing their true calling people would identify their place in the community. For the love of it, they would be scientists, engineers, technology experts, analysts enhancing the the advancements that make life hum. There would be those who engage in the social make-up of the community filling the creative, spiritual, and human need. And there would be those who become explorers, philosophers, and those who contemplate the essence of life. There would be those who become specialists and those who become generalists testing life in various areas at different times in their life. Everyone would be a teacher and a giver at one time or another, some more than others.

By enabling everyone to create a specific space for themselves in the community and valuing them for who they are, we can change the way we see “work” and live. We will recognize that each individual is important for who they are and what they contribute to the rest of us or the world in thought, product or presence. Not to pursue consumption but quality of life and enjoyment. We would pursue the purpose of being human.


Your Health and Asbestos Awareness Week

Asbestos Awareness Week

Asbestos Awareness Week

This is Asbestos Awareness Week and as with all issues, it takes personal impact to get our attention. My personal impact with asbestos came when I heard Uncle Joe had been exposed and was dealing with the impact on his health.

Uncle Joe had worked as a color stripper in the print industry. He was in the news printing industry when I learned about his health. Color stripping is now a dying trade. A color stripper creates color separation plates for a print run. There is a lot of precision that is involved in this work and he was very good at it.

Having worked in the architectural design field, I knew about asbestos but I learned of the impact from exposure too. I knew asbestos is very controlled in how it is handled for removal but I’ve also learned that exposure is still likely to happen so I am sharing some information to increase your awareness.

Many products and materials with asbestos can still be found today. This can create exposure at work or in the home.

Exposure can lead to health risk, more seriously, to mesothelioma, a form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs.

I invite you to learn about asbestos to protect your health. You can visit Asbestos Awareness Week to learn more.



Collaboration Killers

Nothing stops collaboration more than the lack of it. And then, it will not happen again.

Many will want to build teams to collaborate and exchange ideas but have little intention of contributing. They are mainly using others to gain what they lack.

True collaboration entails contribution and exchange to leverage the strengths and weaknesses of each participant but what are the two main killers of collaboration? Why do ‘team’ members hold back?

Two of the main culprits are funding and ego.

If competition exists for a small pot of funds then the result will be competition versus collaboration. Some people say competition is good because it generates innovation but what a work environment to have? That would end future and willing collaboration and it would dissolve the inducement towards innovation itself by having members who hold back.

The ego comes to play when one feels they must possess and brand the outcome. That attitude stops further collaboration because it is not good for all. This attitude may continue when the controlling member has an advantage but loyalty will not be a part of the partnership because of the imbalance.

If collaborating is hard because we have to open up and become “vulnerable”  then why do we want to collaborate in the first place? Why is becoming “vulnerable” important to collaboration?

The reasons are creativity and innovation. These are the reasons we must be willing to collaborate and play in an even playing field. The more diverse the team members, the greater the opportunities to build on each other’s skill set and knowledge. This composition of a collaborating team allows us to better leverage the three proverbial qualities of a project: cost, time and people, creating a fitting solution.

Creativity and innovation happen almost anywhere but they happen more when we are in a relaxed environment of open exchange and commentary. When we are free to toss out thoughts and allow others to volley the thought until the idea grows and morphs into the best version of what it has become then we are collaborating. We are building the best solutions and taking into account the needs for cost, time and the people. The ultimate reasons to collaborate.





Houston–My Vision for 2040

On March 19, I was invited to share my vision of Houston 2040 with the My Houston 2040 folks, a group of visionaries from Houston Tomorrow, Air Alliance Houston, Better HoustonCongress for the New Urbanism (CNU), and the Citizen’s Transportation Coalition. After dinner with friends at Piola, and a preview of the play at The Ensemble Theater, I got home to put my vision on paper.

I began with how I arrived in Houston 22 years ago. Here’s my story:

In 1992, I came to Houston as a consolation prize.  My family and I were moving to San Antonio to be close to family. His in Michigan, mine in Mexico, and siblings in SA.

We arrived in the evening and decided to stay at an economy motel to rest and freshen up before going to see the family.  With four kids and a trailer each in tow, we were glad to park, grab a quick happy meal, give everyone a bath and hit the sack.

 In the morning the main vehicle and trailer were gone and after 30 days of searching and coming up empty- handed, we decided to take a second option … Dad lived in Clear Lake … and the coordinates were not too different from SA so we made Houston our home.

Having lived in Mexico, Illinois, Michigan California and Arizona, I came to Houston with the understanding that Houston was an industrial town with many freeways. And it had a medical center too.

We discovered Bellaire, the loneliness of downtown after 5pm, and the people-swallowing tunnel system. And there was a pretty cool express bus to Memorial that took 45 minutes to get there and allowed me to read a novel a month while commuting to work.

Working downtown I saw the run-down housing west of the main square give way to change. I saw an initial attempt to bring new residents to downtown without much thought to support services to satisfy their living needs. People were also saying they wanted better services in their own neighborhoods.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I discovered there were other things to Houston that seemed to have greater value. The great outdoors.

I began to discover that Houston had a tremendous assortment of natural ecosystems that could be enjoyed within a day’s drive. There were swamps, prairies, woods, marshes and of course the coast. I reconnected with nature and remembered the peace it gives freely.

In 22 years, I’ve seen downtown become a more livable core. I have seen freeways expand and still not satisfy traffic congestion. I’ve seen people grow in their understanding of what quality of life means to them. And I have seen how more people question what success of an economy looks like.

But the most exciting thing I see is that many more people are stepping up to make a difference. These people along with all the other dedicated people I have seen along the years, are where I was 22 years ago, and they are hitting the ground running.

The tipping point is before us and these young and high energy people understand that we must join together and create change from the individual level. They realize that this change must ripple out to build momentum and allow others to join in and build the synergy necessary to create a force for change.

I’m going to make a request. Sit comfortably. I invite you to close your eyes and breath in, slowly and deeply. Hold your breath for a few seconds and slowly exhale, and as you exhale, with your eyes still closed, follow me and begin to see this picture in your mind:

We move foreward in time. It is now 26 years later. It is the year 2040.

We are high above the ground and we can see below us. The Houston region appears to be made up of core islands of dense development surrounded by wooded green space, prairie grasslands, and marshlands all the way to the coast.

We see arteries of water, our bayous, like fingers reaching across the city coated by lush green gloves.

We see that the core islands are interconnected by a principal shared roadway with public transit, smart cars, people-powered vehicles and people-movers. There are mayor highways capturing freight vehicles anchored by public speed trains connecting to other major cities.

Within the core islands are meandering paths with rail, smart mini buses, smart cars, people-powered vehicles and pedestrians. Public and private transportation run on superconducting energy, solar cells and hydrogen.

We now begin to notice the architecture. It blends into the surroundings, so well that it is difficult to tell where nature ends and structures begin. The design is organic, it works with the elements, and the aesthetics present some artistic features that appear to be landmarks.

On closer observation we see that these landmarks are community structures. Within these structures we see shared space for learning, professional, and social activities. The structures, as with the residential structures, are adaptable. The public structures contain activities that take place 24-7.

Each building, private or social, is independently powered using solar, wind and water. They regenerate waste for reuse.

Learning and professional activities take place via eCommunication, in groups and individually. Many of these activities take place in residential space.

Education is tailored to the individual and is ongoing throughout life. Sharing of knowledge takes a special meaning in the social space where ideas are shared to expand interaction, creativity and innovation. Because education is free people seek learning and job satisfaction creating a workforce that satisfies the needs of the community. Education is repaid through social service and professional practice.

Leaders are elected electronically. There are no political parties. And candidates run on measured accomplishments and vision. Positions are unpaid and part of the social service so opportunities are open to anyone with the right skills and ideas.

Income is determined by the amount and level of education each individual achieves. Positions are assigned using a sophisticated system based on the old Myers-Briggs personality evaluation. And these evaluations take place upon request of the candidate and after life-changing conditions occur.

Because careers are determined by innate and developed skills, and education is unlimited, people can determine their social level through their merit and initiative so poverty is non-existent.

Health care is based on holistic natural health maintenance that includes natural modalities coupled with spiritual and energy practices. These activities are taught within the public learning system and coaches can be accessed for assessment and guidance. Emergency care is provided in public trauma centers that count on sophisticated and low intervention methods that allow for minimum tissue damage and high precision repair. Both systems work interconnectedly to maintain, restore, and manage health.

The connection to the natural environment is tied to quality food, water and air, wellness, learning, and well-being. It provides for high quality of life.

Each residential and social structure includes food gardens. The value of local organic farming is recognized and industrial farming is a forgotten industry. The higher quality food provides greater seasonal and nutritional value. It enhances overall wellness at the physical and emotional level.

Because the use of resources is measured there is little true waste. Resources are captured, modified, and recaptured. The community has adopted minimalist living and believes in quality versus quantity. This causes a resurgence in craftsmanship and natural materials that are consciously retained, particularly in the personal living space reducing indoor emissions and exposure.

Efficiency and innovation provide clean industry that satisfies local needs. We are a model of independent and resilient living utilizing minimal resources and maximizing natural systems.

Communities are naturally resilient through design and use technology and innovation to improve and advance the quality of life without sacrificing the same. The living environment works with nature and can better withstand changes because it allows nature itself to maintain the primary balance.

As we observe this vision of 2040, we sit down in one of the many public gardens off one of the multiple hidden paths within one of the wooded green spaces. We can hear the birds and feel the sunshine on our skin. We breathe and smell the fresh aroma of spring, of soil, of nature.

We breathe slowly and deeply, and gently, we begin to open our eyes.


Economics: Reading The Tea Leaves

Reading tea leaves is sometimes easier than it sounds. In this case, the economic tea leaves were very clear to me and I wonder if they are as clear to others who are in a position to make change happen.

McKinsey tells us why top management eludes women in Latin America.  They list a myriad of reasons that sound very much like those we deal with in the U.S. We have the demands of profession and family, the fact that in many cases we prioritize family first, the lack of female role models, etc. They say that employers are just as committed to creating opportunities for women at their top level jobs as in the U.S.

Nowhere did it mention that age discrimination is a tolerated bias. That women coming into the workforce are faced with restrictions that limit openings to single, young and attractive women. That women in the workforce who have made their way up the ladder through the effort of complying with all demands and are forced to leave due to family demands can pretty much kiss their career goodbye because they are probably of an age that will not allow them back in so easily–30’s and beyond.

To me, this clearly tells me why women who have the experience and are capable of stepping into top management are not there to fill the jobs. They are basically squeezed out of the workforce the closer they get to the top and with fewer women still holding on to their jobs, and those who sacrifice their careers to handle family not likely to return, there are less likely and able candidates to consider.

The other set of tea leaves was a bit more obvious.  How has the economy impacted Americans? Top searches in one of our 50 states painted a picture that made me feel for the citizens of that state and others as well. The top searches in order of activity were:

Food Stamps
Child Support
Gun Permit
Vehicle Registration
State Jobs
Public Services
State Employees
Divorce Forms
Social Security
More Public Services
Job Bank
Tax Forms… Can you see the picture?

What Came First, People or Business?

Each element of our society has essential value and deserves the respect of being sustainable. In this manner, each individual will contribute positively knowing they are a valued element of the whole. They will be more susceptible and able to contribute to the overall outcome, and their own perveyance.

People are the most valuable asset. Without people we have no need for products or services.

In a recent Forbes article by Laura Shin, “Why McDonald’s Employee Budget Has Everyone Up In Arms”, Shin points out that the budgeting tool became a detonator to the open acknowledgement that minimum wage does not support a person. It was right there on the internet!

Lilibeth Andre, Denzel, 10x8, watercolor

Lilibeth Andre, Denzel, 10×8, watercolor

This inability to make ends meet has been a long-known fact to anyone living on minimum wage or even without it. For example, one who has been in a position to know what it’s like to pay the bills with less money than is required can easily spot the fallacy of an attempt to support ones standard needs. In fact, the budgeting tool is clear to demonstrate that minimum wage doesn’t even support basic needs. And that is the whole point.

When we remove the ability people have to support themselves we take on a tremendous responsibility we are not well prepared to support. And when we bring someone on board requiring full-time (or more) attention from their life, we need to be able to give them what it takes to provide high quality attention.

What does high quality attention from an employee look like?

If I want to capture my employee’s high quality full attention, as a society, I want to be able to give him what he needs to be able to deliver that. Starting with the ability to have the peace of mind to be able to focus and providing the skills, knowledge and training that will allow him to maintain that optimum performance.

Lilibeth Andre, Drew, 11x8.5, watercolor

Lilibeth Andre, Drew, 11×8.5, watercolor

What provides peace of mind? Not having to worry about borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. This compromise is never more prevalent than for a working parent. In order to work, one must allow for care of the kids. Minimum wage does not provide the means to afford care for our children that merits their value as the investment in our future–yours and mine–because we don’t know what that child will be able to achieve and we want him to be the most balanced and prepared he can be. Does that include allowing the parent(s) to be more involved in their life? Does that mean providing the time they will need to do that? Does it mean that their work and school schedules will mirror each other? Does it mean valuing parenting years to raise the pay of one working parent?

The high quality comes in the education and training. An education system that provides ongoing knowledge and training to meet the needs of the workers and the employers. The guarantee that it will be affordable because we recognize the value of an education and its relationship to the quality of life of all of us. If we don’t invest in providing top education and training to our children, what will our future look like if those who become our leaders and service providers are less prepared that we were when we started? Will we be providing the enrichment that the arts offers to expand creativity and innovation as well as our appreciation for our own culture and that of others?

This minimum wage awareness focuses on those who work for others but what about those who work for themselves? Are we providing the liberties and environment that fosters sustainability by someone who sets out to support themselves or provide a product or service to others? We must not clip the wings of people or take away their independence. We must honor people’s essential value and deserved respect to be sustainable.

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