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Standards have to be tended to


By J. Hogan

I saw a post on Facebook, conversing about two-way traffic being restored to Church Street near St. Mary’s church in McKees Rocks and, as someone with a business management background, I was intrigued at some of the conclusions discussed.

Apparently, after a season of reducing traffic to one direction, the residents were upset that cars were flying down the road again both ways, and often drivers were running through stop signs. There was apparently even a video one resident recorded of speeding, reckless, stop sign-ignoring behavior.

Now, if one wants to argue that Church Street should remain one-way, I have no dog in that fight. One-way restrictions reduce traffic, and well, I think all of us would like less traffic on our street, even more so I’d imagine if I lived on a brick street with stately homes shaded with giant elms and maples.

Conclusions, however, come from a “therefore, it follows that” formula, and speeding cars and stop sign ignoring drivers can do that in either direction. I know. I live on Etna Street, and folks speed through the stop signs on either end of my block all day long. If making roads monodirectional solved speeding and breaking traffic laws, it would make sense to make just about every road in our town one way.

The issue here isn’t the direction of the lawbreaking, but, well, the lawbreaking. What reduces this is law enforcement.

In other words, not just having a standard (speed limits and stop signs) but actually enforcing the standard (pulling people over and ticketing them for traffic violations.)

In Michigan, there’s a section of the Southfield Freeway that goes through an area called Allen Park. When I first started visiting Teressa’s family up that way, the freeway traffic – always flying – would slow drastically at the Allen Park sign. Why? Because the Allen Park Police weren’t playing. They would ticket you for speeding, and they would ticket you for every MPH you were actually going, which, if you were still at prevailing speed when you entered their jurisdiction, made for expensive fines.

Nowadays, the traffic no longer slows down, except for the more frequent accidents in that area. For reasons unknown to me, the Allen Park police stopped focused enforcement of the law on that stretch, and, as folks took note of that, they got back to ignoring the speed restrictions.

That’s how we humans are. We need accountability with standards or we tend to see the standards merely as preference suggestions.

When I took over the Franklin Park Starbucks store, it was a mess. The prior manager had been in a bad season of family upheaval and unable to put proper focus on the store, and the employees had lost sight of the standards.

It was a mess, cleanliness-wise, and worse attitude-wise. Setting it right meant reestablishing standards, and a handful of employees didn’t like the idea. They preferred using their own drink recipes (and some customers preferred these as well, which took training the customers to order what they’d actually been receiving when they ordered their drink,) their own style of interaction with the customers, and their own pecking order for who was in charge of things.

This pecking order didn’t include me. Until I fired four people. I reset the standards, retrained the crew, and was clear that these things were not optional, but when I would leave for the day, these four employees would ignore the standards and go back to doing what they preferred.

One night, I sent a friend in to buy a beverage and observed from the car. After he’d returned to the car and answered some questions, I went into the store and sent the crew home. I closed the store by myself that night. It wasn’t easy, and it certainly wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it was necessary to relieve that crew of their jobs to fix the problem. It made for a few tough days of covering shifts, borrowing workers and training new hires.

Those tough days set the stage for an award-winning turnaround at that store. It might have been easier in the short run to ignore the rebellious portion of the crew and be content with things being stable, but the store would have never thrived.

When others saw the consequence of refusing to learn and keep the standards, the temptation to go rogue was gone and all areas of the operation started improving. Things can’t get better without standards and accountability. This isn’t brain surgery… but if you’re ever going in for brain surgery, hope they keep some standards.

Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church, 618 Russellwood Ave.



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