PODCAST

Rethinking with Alex Torpey

Alex Torpey

Our nation’s public institutions at nearly all levels are failing to be the proactive, thoughtful, strategic forces for good that they were founded to be. As a result, our society is currently incapable of effectively identifying and addressing our most pressing challenges, threats, and needs. Rethinking aims to provide those who work in public institutions or whose work relates to community and public problems, access to a completely nonpartisan, thoughtful, and critical place to question everything and develop strategic and practical real-world solutions to some of our most pressing needs. From serving as mayor (non party affiliated) of his hometown of South Orange at age 23, a municipal business administrator, founder of a digital consulting firm, an emergency management director and volunteer EMT, and as a graduate level adjunct professor, management consultant, mentor and speaker, Alex Torpey brings together his uniquely diverse experiences to help provide us a platform to rethink the future of our communities, our republic, and ourselves.

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Ep #25: Municipal borrowing - is rising debt a problem in your community?
May 31 2022
Ep #25: Municipal borrowing - is rising debt a problem in your community?
Join former mayor, municipal manager, professor, consultant Alex Torpey for a new episode of Rethinking where we discuss dynamics around debt from (local) government borrowing. While millions of Americans are in debt or behind on high-interest credit card payments, many trillions of dollars is owed by governments at various levels for money they have already borrowed. At the same time, we know that debt can be a way to way build wealth, or it can help more fairly finance important large-scale public investments. So…Is debt good or bad? Like almost everything, the answer is more nuanced; it depends on a number of factors, such as whether that money is being borrowed as part of a larger strategic plan that identifies and makes available for public inspection and discussion things such as: – – The total amount that has already been borrowed and associated debt service payments, overall and per taxpayer– The long term plan for how that government (The local taxpayers) will afford to make the payments for the life of the loan– What other long-term financial commitments exist, and how those will be paid for (a comprehensive capital plan), and what the priority order of those projects are. But based on my experience in local government, these kinds of details are not always part of the discussion, and with responsibility shared among several stakeholders, some towns and cities end up borrowing more than they realize, or in worse cases, the public being intentionally misled by those with differing motives. This can happen easily. For example, this graphic below shows five years of bond ordinances in one of the towns I worked in as the administrator. There was no document that reconciled all of the spending in one place for the Governing Body or public to view. I created this in 2019. In blue is the cost of each ordinance. In red is total debt authorized, meaning, the cumulative total of each bond ordinance. Most people are surprised when they see how much the smaller seeming amounts (blue) add up to to larger amount (red). The more you know! In this episode, I give an ultra-simple overview of how local government budgeting works, and then discuss several of the consequences of what happens when what I call “runaway ad-hoc borrowing” occurs, some reasons I’ve noticed why we might see this happen, and a few things we can each do about it to help encourage transparent, strategic borrowing. Borrowing that enables communities to harness the power of credit/debt to make responsible investments that help improve their present and futures, rather than burdening future generations with in
Ep #25: Municipal borrowing - is rising debt a problem in your community?
May 31 2022
Ep #25: Municipal borrowing - is rising debt a problem in your community?
Join former mayor, municipal manager, professor, consultant Alex Torpey for a new episode of Rethinking where we discuss dynamics around debt from (local) government borrowing. While millions of Americans are in debt or behind on high-interest credit card payments, many trillions of dollars is owed by governments at various levels for money they have already borrowed. At the same time, we know that debt can be a way to way build wealth, or it can help more fairly finance important large-scale public investments. So…Is debt good or bad? Like almost everything, the answer is more nuanced; it depends on a number of factors, such as whether that money is being borrowed as part of a larger strategic plan that identifies and makes available for public inspection and discussion things such as: – – The total amount that has already been borrowed and associated debt service payments, overall and per taxpayer– The long term plan for how that government (The local taxpayers) will afford to make the payments for the life of the loan– What other long-term financial commitments exist, and how those will be paid for (a comprehensive capital plan), and what the priority order of those projects are. But based on my experience in local government, these kinds of details are not always part of the discussion, and with responsibility shared among several stakeholders, some towns and cities end up borrowing more than they realize, or in worse cases, the public being intentionally misled by those with differing motives. This can happen easily. For example, this graphic below shows five years of bond ordinances in one of the towns I worked in as the administrator. There was no document that reconciled all of the spending in one place for the Governing Body or public to view. I created this in 2019. In blue is the cost of each ordinance. In red is total debt authorized, meaning, the cumulative total of each bond ordinance. Most people are surprised when they see how much the smaller seeming amounts (blue) add up to to larger amount (red). The more you know! In this episode, I give an ultra-simple overview of how local government budgeting works, and then discuss several of the consequences of what happens when what I call “runaway ad-hoc borrowing” occurs, some reasons I’ve noticed why we might see this happen, and a few things we can each do about it to help encourage transparent, strategic borrowing. Borrowing that enables communities to harness the power of credit/debt to make responsible investments that help improve their present and futures, rather than burdening future generations with in
Ep 19: Discussion on polarization, civics, libraries, and where we go from here at the South Orange Public Library
Dec 7 2021
Ep 19: Discussion on polarization, civics, libraries, and where we go from here at the South Orange Public Library
Join former mayor, municipal manager, professor, and consultant Alex Torpey for another episode of Rethinking. This is a special episode. What follows is a discussion I had with Laura Sims at the South Orange Public Library as part of their Special Conversations series, that I am sharing here with permission. In the one hour zoom talk, we covered a wide range of topics, such as: current political polarization and how traditional and social media platforms makes that worse while at the same time benefiting from it, how we addressed toxic online culture in South Orange nearly 10 years ago now, and how engaging people through more constructive means helped us build public trust and make better decisions, the opportunity for libraries to build civic infrastructure, the benefits of helping young people think about running for office as a service term, not a career, why science fiction is so cool, the joys of working outdoors with kids, and much more. The South Orange Public Library always has a special place in my heart. After college, as I was starting to write for our local newspaper and join the Rescue Squad, I was appointed to the public library board and had a really great time working with that group over the next couple years before running for office. Anyway, it’s a fun conversation and I hope you enjoy it.You may also enjoy Episode 11, the discussion with Steve Schnall, a former governing body member in South Orange. In it, we dive into a lot more detail about a few of the things that were touched in this talk about how we engaged the public more transparently and constructively and made better decisions in South Orange. You can find that here:  YouTube:
Bonus Interview: Former Boston City Council candidate Lee Nave
Dec 2 2021
Bonus Interview: Former Boston City Council candidate Lee Nave
Join Alex for this bonus interview as part of the Special Series: On Running for Public office. This interview is with Lee Nave. Alex and Lee met while Lee was a student in Professor Torpey’s MPA course at Seton Hall University. Lee moved to Boston five years ago and began to engage in various local redevelopment and affordable housing issues. He ran for City Council in District 9 in 2019, earning nearly 10% of the vote in a seven-way race where the winning two vote getters received about 25% of the vote. Alex and Lee talk about running for office for the first time, sharing their experiences as introverts, what you learn as a candidate knocking on doors, and a lot about local housing policy. This is a special edition series from Rethinking. Based on the demand and interest right now from people who want to learn more about getting involved and becoming more influential, or a decision maker, in government, I decided to create this free, nonpartisan, totally open tutorial. This may be valuable for those who are thinking about running for office, but need a place to start or don’t have access to these sorts of resources already. There will be more episodes on other ways to get involved. This series provides an overview in the following areas: Should you run for office?How to start your campaign from scratchRunning your campaignGOTV and Election DayWin or lose – now what? Each section provides an overview of helpful information. It is not meant to be exhaustive, nor is it meant to be definitive – there are many ways to approach this, and there is lot more detail you can go into. But for those of you who may not have access to partisan resources, or wish to run outside the party/power structure (go you!), I hope this is a helpful starting point. Do you wish I went into more detail in any area? Let me know on social media or by email!
Episode 6: BUSTED! Top 12 Myths About Running for Public Office
Dec 2 2021
Episode 6: BUSTED! Top 12 Myths About Running for Public Office
Join former mayor, municipal manager, professor, and consultant Alex Torpey as he briefly introduces the Special Series: On Running for Public Office, and investigates 12 common myths about running for office, such as myths related to balancing private/public life, public service being a thankless job, careerism in politics, and not being able to make an impact in the areas you care about. 1. 7:35 Myth #1: I have to belong to a party or be part of an existing slate or power structure 2. 13:48 Myth #2: I have to “sell my soul” or make promises to people that I don’t want to make 3. 24:33 Myth #3: I can’t run because people who run the government don’t look like me 4. 32:50 Myth #4: I have to be wealthy or know people with a lot of money – campaigns are expensive 5. 36:28 Myth #5: I can’t run because I don’t have any campaign experience 6. 38:48 Myth #6: I don’t want my private life to become public 7. 47:39 Myth #7: I’m an introvert or not an aggressive alpha personality, this isn’t for me 8. 50:24 Myth #8: You only get power over time, and I don’t want a career in politics 9. 55:42 Myth #9: I’m not qualified or experienced enough to actually be in office 10. 1:00:14 Myth #10: I don’t really like politics, running for office isn’t for me 11. 1:01:39 Myth #11: I won’t be able to make a difference in the areas that I care about 12. 1:04:22 Myth #12: People are mean and Local government, or public service, is a thankless job Additional resources from this video: Some organizations that may provide leadership development/coaching. Please note I am not recommending any of the following organizations, but rather providing a list to help you get started in your search. You should perform your own due diligence to understand if working with any organization, or person, including any of the below, is right for you and your values and goals.* General organizations:* Running Start All in Together Ready to Run – Rutgers* American U – Campaign Management institute* Sorenseon Institute (UVA) Youth focused: (May be left or right leaning)* Run for Something: New Leaders Council: Left-leaning organizations:* Launch Progress Right-leaning organizations:* American Majority Leadership institute Organizations that help women specifically: (May be left or right leaning)* Women Count (SA)* Emerge VoteRunLead Annie’s List She Should Run sheshouldrun.org* VOICES of Conservative Women: Organizations that help underrepresented cultures and ethnicities: (May be left or right leaning)* Catalyst PAC: ROSA PAC: Maggie’s List: The Campaign School at Yale: The Collective PAC: Organizations that help LGBT individuals: (may be left or right leaning)* The Campaign Workshop: Victory Institute: Organizations that help veterans: (May be left or right leaning)* Veterans Campaign Organizations that help people with disabilities: (May be left or right leaning)* Other lists of similar organizations: (May be left or right leaning)* out all of the episod
Bonus Discussion: former Cleveland, OH City Councilmember Merle Gordon
Dec 2 2021
Bonus Discussion: former Cleveland, OH City Councilmember Merle Gordon
Join former mayor, municipal manager, professor, and consultant Alex Torpey for this bonus discussion with Merle Gordon as part of the Special Series: On Running for Public Office. Merle is not just a fellow alum of Hampshire College, but she first joined the City Council in Cleveland Ohio in 1997 when she was only 27 years old! She served two terms on the City Council and has had a long career in and around government, and most recently served as Cleveland’s Director of Public Health. In this conversation, Merle and I discuss a wide range of topics, from the challenge of women, young people and other under represented groups to run for office, mental health, why independence and self-determination in politics is so important, the consequences of reactive versus proactive governing, what issues she worked on in the City Council, why local government is such an exciting place to make change, and much more. Check out the conversation, and don’t forget to like and subscribe on whatever platform you are listening or watching. Enjoy! This is a special edition series from Rethinking. Based on the demand and interest right now from people who want to learn more about getting involved and becoming more influential, or a decision maker, in government, I decided to create this free, nonpartisan, totally open tutorial. This may be valuable for those who are thinking about running for office, but need a place to start or don’t have access to these sorts of resources already. There will be more episodes on other ways to get involved. This series provides an overview in the following areas: Should you run for office?How to start your campaign from scratchRunning your campaignGOTV and Election DayWin or lose – now what? Each section provides an overview of helpful information. It is not meant to be exhaustive, nor is it meant to be definitive – there are many ways to approach this, and there is lot more detail you can go into. But for those of you who may not have access to partisan resources, or wish to run outside the party/power structure (go you!), I hope this is a helpful starting point. Do you wish I went into more detail in any area? Let me know on social media or by email at alex@rethinkingwithalextorpey.com!
Ep 11: Bonus Discussion with Steve Schnall on Good Governance in South Orange
Dec 2 2021
Ep 11: Bonus Discussion with Steve Schnall on Good Governance in South Orange
This conversation part of the Special Series: On Running for Public Office is with Steve Schnall. Steve ran for a seat on South Orange’s governing body (a council seat) in 2013, and just finished serving eight years in that position. Much of his work in the position focused on developing and supporting a number of cultural, arts, downtown, and public engagement programs that ran the gamut of creating new events and programs with the South Orange Performing Arts Center, to helping begin the revitalization of the Irvington Ave/Seton Village business district. In this discussion, we reflect on what dynamics shape whether any government is able to be effective or not – we discuss political power dynamics, civic discourse, internet and social media, partisanship in local government, journalism, public engagement, and a variety of other issues as we reflect on why we were able to get so much done in South Orange’s unique civic space, and what lessons we might be able to draw from that for improving governance elsewhere.  You can check out the full Special Series on Running for Public Office on my website at rethinkingwithalextorpey.com or on YouTube. Don’t forget to subscribe, like, or share with a friend if you like what you hear, and don’t hesitate to reach out to me on social or by email at: Alex (at) rethinkingwithalextorpey.com.  Some Additional Information:  A summary and detailed list of the initiatives we undertook in my four year term: alextorpey.com/southorangeReferenced East Orange Water Commission Issues: Town Meeting in South Orange:  town meeting:  Orange Play Day:  Pink:  Conference: Orange Performing Arts Center:sopacnow.org/Referenced branding efforts on Irvington Ave/Seton Village
Ep 14: Travels with Torpey - Southwest heat waves and building out of balance with nature
Jul 13 2021
Ep 14: Travels with Torpey - Southwest heat waves and building out of balance with nature
Join former mayor, municipal manager, professor, and consultant Alex Torpey for another special Travels with Torpey episode, recorded in Dixie National Forest in Utah.Alex reflects on the extreme heat waves in the Southwest and the environmental and community impact of redevelopment and building practices, and various other human behaviors, that are done out of balance with nature.Can we do better? What’s in store for our future? You can find the episode wherever you listen to podcasts above, or below. Don’t forget to like and subscribe or share with a friend if you like what you hear! — Additional information and links:  All of my travel photos/stories on Instagram: trends in the United States – American Association for the Advancement of Science:  is headed into a water battle it can’t win – High Country News:  Watershed Protection FAQ – NJ DEP:  Essential Ways Trees Help Our Planet – Trees.org:  can do the Dirty Work of Waste Cleanup – USDA:  Francisco Residents Share Videos, Photos Of ‘Apocalyptic’ Skies As Wildfires Burn Nearby – Newsweek:  brutal’: Las Vegas cooks amid blazing heatwave – and it’s going to get worse – The Guardian:  California will never control raging wildfires if it doesn’t stop building in high-risk areas – LA Times:                   Record Temperatures Enveloping The West Are Not Your Average Heat Wave – NPR:  We Survive Extreme Heat? – Rolling Stone:
Ep 10: Travels with Torpey - Death Valley and Joshua Tree 2017
May 4 2021
Ep 10: Travels with Torpey - Death Valley and Joshua Tree 2017
Join Alex for a few special episodes reflecting on and sharing photographs of some past travels as a lead up to an exciting announcement coming in May. — In January of 2017 I took an “offgrid” motorcycle trip for six days through Death Valley, the Mojave Desert and Joshua Tree. Join me as I share some photographs from the trip, reflect on some of the issues I was working on at the time: for example, why it’s important for us to be intentional about our attention, what we prioritize, and how we find a balance with work and distractions, a topic we’ll cover more formally in an upcoming episode. You can find Rethinking with Alex Torpey on your favorite podcasting platforms, such as Google, Apple, Stitcher, and Spotify. If you like the content, please consider subscribing, liking, and sharing with a friend who would appreciate it. You can contact me on Instagram, Twitter or at alex (at) rethinkingwithalextorpey.com. Enjoy! A few additional links:  Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck Links: Article:   short list of a few additional resources on mental health and regaining balance with work/life and with technologyLeading through anxiety series life of one’s own:   2-Year Study of More Than 5,000 People Shows This 1 Activity Destroys Your Emotional and Physical Health: UC San Diego and Yale researchers shared their surprising results:  What We Know About Mental Fatigue:  psychological importance of wasting time:  we morally obligated to meditate:  and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: