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Showing posts from November, 2015

Black Friday Parking

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As part of Strong Towns's Black Friday Parking event, I roused myself out of my warm house this morning after Thanksgiving--traditionally the start of the holiday shopping season, and possibly the biggest shopping day of the year--to go study parking lots. [Memo to non-Iowans: It had to be morning, just to be fair. Afternoon would have been like shooting fish in a barrel, because the Iowa Hawkeyes were playing Nebraska, and when the Hawkeyes are on, all commerce in our town pretty much ceases.]

Strong Towns, of which I am proud to be a charter member, has a particular animus towards local ordinances that require a certain minimum number of parking spaces for stores and offices. Minimum parking requirements "create a barrier for new local businesses and fill up our cities with empty parking spaces that don’t add value to our places." They encourage members to cruise their towns, cameras at the ready, to show that even on the busiest shopping day of the year, we're wast…

I still believe in The City

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I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least. --DOROTHY DAY

I've just finished Vivian Gornick's short, elegant The Odd Woman and the City (cited below). A cross between memoir and segmented essay, it describes her life in and relationship to New York City--Bronx in her youth, Manhattan as an adult. Her most soaring passages celebrate life in the city:

It's an evening in June and I am taking a turn through Washington Square. As I stroll, I see in the air before me, like an image behind a scrim, the square as it looked when I was young, standing right behind the square that I'm actually looking at.... With the street at my back and everything I know etched on my face, I look through the scrim directly into those old memories and I see that they no longer have authority over me. I see the square as it is--black, brown, young; swarming with drifters and junkies and lousy guitar players--and I feel myself as I am, the city as it is. I have lived out my…

Explaining the library vote

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The Cedar Rapids Public Library's quest for a property tax increase met a decisive defeat on Election Day. The final margin was 45 percent to 55 percent, out of about 14,000 votes cast (16.2 percent of registered voters, which in Iowa means about 12-13 percent of those eligible). The measure would have increased the library's property tax bite from the current 4 cents per $1000 assessed valuation to 27 cents per $1000. The anticipated additional revenue of $1.6 million per year would have replaced one-time funding which ends through June 2016. The library's baseline annual budget is $6.3 million.

Without public opinion survey data, the reason(s) for the defeat will have to remain mysterious. News coverage included quotes from a couple voters, but they don't necessarily speak for everyone. Certainly it was not for lack of political resources: There were many "Yes=Smart" yard signs, no "No" signs at all that I saw, and the Gazette endorsed it.

So wh…