Showing posts from August, 2015

Rights and our common life

Courts know this and nothing more Now it's my rights versus yours --A.C. NEWMAN (THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS)
I know my rights! --STEVE JESSUP As we come to realize that space, resources and opportunities aren't limitless we come to realize our interdependence with other people as well as the natural world. That interdependence can be a good thing (community support in a time of grief, vibrant and interesting places) or a bad thing (taxation, noisy neighbors), but it's real. And unavoidable. The American dream might still be a fast car on an empty road to a big well-accessorized house, but in our waking hours in the real world we are constantly confronted with others. We could try to isolate ourselves, to the extent possible. But if we're realistic, and clever, we look for the upside in cooperation for common goals, while doing what we can to mitigate the nuisances.

And that requires conversation.

Each of the problems of our common life in the 21st century--economic opportunity…

Starting a conversation about education

Garfield School in Cedar Rapids, where my boys attended and where I still volunteer, will have a new librarian on staff this fall. As was the case with several of her predecessors, she will spend only part of her week at Garfield; however, for the first time, Garfield will share a librarian with two other schools, not just one. Surely this is driven by a search for savings by the school district. Having one-third of a school librarian is particularly awkward for schools like Garfield, where 67.6 percent come from families poor enough to qualify for free or reduced lunch. But why should even upper middle class students be shorted?

This led me to a series of questions about American education, because I am guessing, although confidently, that such staffing exigencies are not unique to Cedar Rapids.

The education system's ongoing struggle for funds sends me back to the question with which Strong Towns begins its Curbside Chat: Why, despite all the growth America has experienced, do…

Transportation, again: Can dysfunctionality be functional?

Following up on last week's post on the Federal Highway Fund, I want to comment on a post this week on the Brookings Institution website (originally published in Politico). The authors, both policy experts, recommend that Congress quit their five-year-old practice of passing last-minute extensions of the Federal Highway Fund, and seriously address our nation's crumbling transportation infrastructure. They recommend an ad hoc Special Joint Committee on Infrastructure, modeled after recent budget summits, composed of Senators and Representatives from both parties and all relevant committees. The committee would be charged with writing a long-term authorization for the Highway Fund, including identification of funding sources, by a stated deadline. "Action to preserve our nation's infrastructure," they hope, "could be proof that Congress is not totally broken."

Their argument assumes, in a semi-stated way, there exists a cross-partisan consensus that: [a] …

Cedar Rapids' protected bike lanes experiment

Cedar Rapids multimodal transportation planner Brandon G. Whyte led a demonstration Sunday afternoon of the protected cycle lane that will be part of the reconstruction of 3rd Avenue when it is completed in October. The lane will run from 6th Street SW to 3rd Street SE, at which point it will connect to the traditional-style bike lane that continues to 10th Street SE.

The temporary striping was completed with the help of what Red Green would call the Multimodal Transportation Planner's Secret Weapon:

A protected bike lane is one that is separated from car traffic by some sort of physical barrier, such as a curb, bollards, or, as in this case, parked cars.

Sunday's demonstration took place in the 200 block of 3rd Avenue SE. Whyte explained the protected-lane concept as well as the city's plans, and volunteers illustrated by riding through the demo section and around the block.

A key feature is the left turn box at the end of the block, which is where the riders are stati…

Groundbreaking at Indian Creek's "Amazing Space"

Indian Creek Nature Center gathered a healthy crowd on a sunny afternoon last Thursday as they broke ground on their new 12000 square foot facility, which they call Amazing Space. The Nature Center's headquarters and classrooms will move to the new building, out of the 1932 barn they currently call home. The building will produce all of its energy, and then some, with an array of 350 solar cells on the roof, continuing the Nature Center's tradition of pushing the envelope on our thinking about sustainability. The project will unfold in the midst of a restored prairie on Otis Road, about 1/2 mile west of the current facility.
The construction is the largest part of a $6.9 million capital campaign, most expected to come from individual and corporate donations. They received a $400,000 grant from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. [UPDATE 8/3/15: Nature Center staff say construction is expected to take about a year, meaning it will be ready to open summer 2016.]