Since 2002, I have written columns and features for this magazine, sharing lessons I learned as a subcontractor, volunteer leader and business educator. During the last few years, I also taught high school and middle school, and I have now settled in as a fifth-grade bilingual teacher. Teaching well requires my full attention, so this will be my last column for the magazine.
Education and construction share the same vision—a prosperous future built by new generations of hopeful and dedicated professionals battling the forces of bureaucracy and inefficiency. Choosing to teach in the third-largest school district in the country is a labor of either love or insanity—perhaps both. Subcontractors and teachers share occasional moments of self-doubt, but we continue to hope for fairness and envision possibilities, even during challenging times.
What would we wish for if we were in command of our world and our future? What if the wildest ideas were possible in a utopia of our own creation? When I become Empress of the World, I will consider reshaping the future in outlandish ways. Here are some examples.
All owners fully fund their projects with appropriate contingencies for change orders. Shop drawings are unnecessary, because design professionals understand how to create plans and specifications that perfectly describe how to build finished projects. Contractors are paid on time and earn profits appropriate to the risks assumed on each project, and lawyers become obsolete because all potential disputes are settled over a beer at the local pub while watching football or playing pool.
Customers and employees replace complaints with reasonable solutions or face mandatory boot camp/gratitude-appreciation training. Civility and respect govern workplace environments, and there are no weak links in the production chain. Craftspeople make impeccable judgments on job sites and exhibit consummate professionalism in representing their companies. Departing employees sign binding contracts waiving any future claims.
Employers are no longer collection agents for governments, because individuals pay their taxes directly. Healthcare services include comprehensible and comprehensive price lists. Governments do not subsidize insurance companies and drug manufacturers, and consumers receive discounts for healthy choices. Employers choose the benefits they provide to attract and retain the most qualified employees.
Government that works
All public employees are required to be efficient and customer-service oriented. Candidates for office must have held at least one “real job” and pass a comprehensive economics exam. Every new regulation must replace at least 10 previous ones, and legislators are subject to the laws they enact. Campaigns last no longer than three months, with rhetoric confined to policy positions. Attacks on opponents are prohibited.
No new taxes are implemented until taxpayers receive a full, detailed accounting of how previous tax revenue was spent. Budget reauthorizations reward bureaucrats who reduce expenses. There are no taxes on inherited funds, retirement accounts, savings accounts or social security. Government assistance programs are not designed to exist in perpetuity, and recipients perform services or complete skills training to qualify for job placement.
All voters must be at least 30 years old, pay at least $1 in taxes each year, and understand the Constitution and basic finance. No dead people remain on active voter registries.
Truth and lies
Chronic liars, false accusers, professional victims and social media trolls will face behavioral conditioning. The same goes for people who overuse the words “like” and “you know” or sprinkle their conversation with F-bombs without provocation. This also will apply to pedestrians who jaywalk or block traffic, bicyclists who ignore traffic laws and drivers who cut off semi-trailer trucks. Delivery trucks parked blocking traffic will be towed.
Cell phones automatically power down in theaters, airplanes, restaurants and concerts. Television commercials are no louder than the programs, cable television is free of advertising and infomercials, and “breaking news” does not interrupt “Jeopardy” unless an interplanetary attack is imminent. Dressing animals in costumes is forbidden.
Peace, love and electrical construction
In my EC-topia, all electrical contractors are honored as heroes who set the standard for ethical behavior, integrity and benign yet effective leadership. The world is at peace, love conquers fear and “happily ever after” becomes the new normal.
Feel free to create your own wish list, and remember to stay the course when chaos seems to reign. We may disagree about the details, but we share the same vision of a world in which electrical contractors can take pride in achieving success without apology. I am grateful to the readers who have taken the time to ask questions and offer comments and kind words, and I shall miss you.
About The Author
Denise Norberg-Johnson is a former subcontractor and past president of two national construction associations. She may be reached at [email protected].