Thursday, June 30, 2005

Eminent Domain

I am not a property owner so recent Supreme Court decision on eminent domain for a private development over a few "hold out homeowners" just passes me by. I don't really care, but it's interesting.

A conservative talk show host was railing against "big government," but this is actually "big corporations" using government as a tool. It's conservative's beloved "market place" in action. Big fish eat little fish. Office park versus gandma who lived there all those years in her little cottage.

Liberals might say this proves the point. Even government now serves corporations. The fox now runs the hen house. Republicans on the Supreme Court, in the White House and Congress.

I say it's not just government or corporations. It's "the people" in disguise. Marketplace behavior. There are small businesses, in that town, wanting to see the office complex built. Economic base, jobs, shoppers, survival. Teacher pay raises. Ruled by the almighty dollar. Some little people against other little people.

But be wary of "bigness."

I remember a line from former President Gerald Ford's 1976 state of the union speech, and he's even a Republican. Speaking about the year that had just past, Ford said:

"At the same time, Americans became increasingly alienated from big institutions." "They were steadily losing confidence, not just in big government but in big business, big labor, and big education, among others." "Ours was a troubled land."

Monday, June 27, 2005

Exchange Citizens

There are exchange students from foreign countries. How about "exchange permanent citizens?" A friend of mine came up with this idea.

Lots of people want to come to America. Many think they can still make a fortune even though this is getting harder. At the same time, there are lots of Americans who wish to get away from the rat race. Chill out in the slower pace of some foreign nation. Many retired folks who would bring their retirement incomes with them. In some cases folks can no longer afford to live in America anyway. Look at real estate prices, health care costs.

How about exchanging places with someone from Costa Rica? An American moves there to slow down while a Costa Rican comes here. How about exchanging places with someone from New Zealand?

My friend is suffering from what some people might call "blue state blues." Not happy with the current direction of American society under George Bush. The so called blue states voted for John Kerry. Some have considered leaving America. Going to Canada, for instance. Problem is, Canada can not absorb all that population increase easily. Immigration to Canada is very limited.

This friend of mine suggested the "exchange citizens" idea.

It is worth thinking about, but would have some bugs. Some countries would be a lot more popular than others. It's an idea worth considering as immigration policy and quotas are negotiated between nations.

Also, I hope most of the blue state people stay here. We need them to keep America from jumping off the deep end.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Snazzy Alternative Transportation



A few of the more colorful buses have been added to our transit fleet. That's snazzy enough for subdued Bellingham.

Down in Seattle, bicyclists go naked and paint their bodies in bright colors. It's part of the annual World Naked Bike Ride Day.

This year was cool and rainy.

Climate subdued the excitement, even in Seattle. I didn't go after seeing the forecast. Still, I read close to 63 participated. A few more than last year.

In 2004 some people tried to organize a similar event in Bellingham, but it was subdued, actually suppressed. There were more police than riders. See 2004

Protesting war and dependency on oil is a big motivation behind naked bike rides held in various cities. I like the images that populate various web pages after such rides. Just do a few searches.

The word "celebration" comes to mind rather than "protest" however.

Going naked doesn't really make sense as a protest of war, oil dependency, or what ever. Main stream America might look at this as the ultimate in silly ness. The connection to serious things such as foreign policy / transportation planning seems vague. Also, wouldn't riding a bike in the nude be uncomfortable? They don't make padding in bike shorts for nothing.

On the other hand, celebration does make sense.

Celebration, including mild eroticism.

To me, celebration makes more sense than protest. Otherwise, why go naked?

Cyclists tend to be erotically appealing. Effects of all that exercise on the body. This appeal can certainly be used as a motivation for getting more people cycling.

"You too can have a lean sexy body."

Think of the billions of dollars spent on weight loss clinics. Much of that ineffective. Diets, programs, therapy, multi step whatever.

Billions.

Save that money and just go bicycling.

Libido is a powerful motivator, more powerful than the tiny "drop in a bucket" that one cyclist might have on reducing global warming.

Reduce one's own waistline. That's results one can see with out the whole world having to change first.

Being in the company of other attractive cyclists can be a motivator. Bike clubs, group rides. Better than hanging out in bars.

What ever it takes.

If more people get cycling, the war, oil dependency, global warming become less. Like the brightly colored transit busses. Most people like a celebration.

In case you are wondering, in alarm, I am not really advocating an orgy.

There have been some nude dance parties, I have gone to, that were guided by the phrase, "sexy party, but not a sex party."

One such party is done as a fund raiser for charity.

Someday it would be fun to go on a group bike ride; most likely a clothed ride. Then have it end at a hot tub.

Or how about ending a ride with "cool down stretching" at a dance?

Dance with spandex clad cyclists.

Painted? Shirtless? Maybe even the "N" word. Unthinkable.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Suspicious Of Urban Villages?



Somewhere behind all the parked cars is Barkley Village in Bellingham, WA. I still like it better than most retail developments because a bike trail goes past there.

Retail developers usually say, "we must provide parking to be viable."

That's America.

See if you can spot the "village" across that vast parking lot. See the "for sale" sign? No, that's not it.

European villages have charm, so they say, but I must admit, I have never been outside USA and Canada.

Now, a lot of urban planners, in America, are talking "villages," but some folks are wary. This skepticism has appeared in a few reader comments to some of my blog entries. Especially a recent entry related to Chuckanut Ridge, development proposed on Bellingham's south side.

Good points for dialog.

Maybe, most American developers can't be trusted to build true villages.

I once saw an article, in a Seattle paper, that discussed Barkley Village and a few other developments in the Puget Sound area. They were seen as examples of "new urbanism."

A great innovation, or is it just placing brick facade on the supermarket to make things look "quality?" Basically just the same old story? A glorified strip mall?

One difference between Barkley and the proposed development at Chuckanut Ridge is Barkley's retail focus. Chuckanut proposes "mixed use" with residential as the primary focus; from what I can gather.

That may, or may not, make much difference, but retailing does tend to "bring on the parking lots."

With automobiles, population growth and the profit motive so engrained in American society, maybe we can't create villages in a positive way. We might be stuck with "lesser evil" compromises.

Some would say that Bellis Fair Shopping Center is an urban village. It's pedestrian friendly inside the mall. One can walk from one end to the other with out having to cross streets or be in the rain.

On the other hand, try walking TO Bellis Fair. Pedestrian connection to everything else is treacherous.

Also, people would say that any village owned by one private entity is not a village. Try passing out leaflets in the village, or doing anything besides "shop till you drop." Private owners tend to "control" public life on their properties.

Many so called urban villages are owned by single proprietors. That means the "village space" doesn't really exist for public use. Therefore, the question of how we connect these developments is very important. How are these developments connected to one another?

Barkley Village does, at least, have the bike / pedestrian trail going past. Maybe that's not much, but it's something.

Connectivity between various developments. That is an important question.

The "village square" is usually a pedestrian place that is publicly owned.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Organizations who wish to slow growth in Bellingham ought to frame the front page

of June tenth Bellingham Herald and hang it up in the office.

Two unrelated headlines:

"17 Years For Park Murder." "Bandido Sweep Nets Dozens."

Less people want to move to a crime ridden city.

Lot of folks don't realize how many problems have been in this area.

I am not really an anti growth whiner. When I moved here (yes I moved here too) I didn't come to escape a big city. The town I came from was smaller than Bellingham.

Back in the mid 1970s, I came to Bellingham from Pullman, WA. for that "go away to college experience."

My sister was living in Bellingham at the time and I remember sitting in her apartment with a view out over Bellingham Bay. One could see rough looking factories around the bay. Something Pullman didn't have since that town was much smaller, basically no factories.

I said I was worried that there would be crime in Bellingham and my sister said, "there is crime most places unless you live in Pullman all your life."

Of course, Pullman had crime also, but it was familiar turf.

It is amazing what can happen in any city with out one being aware of things. Bellingham has had the Washington, D.C. Sniper, the Hillside Strangler and Ted Bundy all reside in our city at one time or another.

Someone suggested a bar should name sandwiches after all the serial killers that have frequented there. The Ted Bundy Deluxe.

And now, not far from where I live, the Bandido's with a few of the kingpins operating from here.

I wasn't aware.

Then, I have bicycled through Los Angeles and did not see crime. Along the bike paths, things were nice. The crime was elsewhere.


Below posted March, 2005.

I dropped into Pro Whatcom's public meeting last night. That's an organization working to curb excessive growth in Whatcom County.

One thing they keep saying worries me.

They say Bellingham and Whatcom County is one of the last (or last) unspoiled regions along I-5 corridor.

Basically, I don't think that's true. It's false advertising.

Be careful what one says. When people hear that this is a "last chance for quality living along I-5," they rush to buy. "Get it before everything's gone." "Closeout sale." Merchants know how to heat up demand by saying "Special offer ends soon." Ironically, this is the opposite response to what Pro Whatcom slow growth advocates want.

The message needs to sound different.

In many ways, this area isn't that great compared to the rest of I-5. We just tend to be provincial.

For open space and unspoiled scenery, there is still a lot of it along the I-5 corridor. Try the area south of Eugene, Oregon. Try around Roseburg and Canyonville, Oregon. Lumber country, but sort of a throwback to a bygone era.

For those who say I-5's large cities are all devastated, I have news. Portland, Oregon is quite nice.

Cities can be better for alternative lifestyle people. Single, gay, non car owner? Cities can offer something more than lifestyles for "breeders" in their suburbia with 2 car garages. In cities one isn't as alone being child free or car free.

Things like this are beginning to work here, as we "densify."

If we think of ourselves as another urban center, it could scare people off, prevent people from adding kids to the family.

Good.

At the same time, I am not totally anti growth. Let the alternative minded people come.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Inclusive rainbow flag on All Pilgrims Christian Church in Seattle



Of the photos from my recent Seattle trip, this is likely my favorite. A rainbow banner proudly displayed on All Pilgrims Christian Church. It says, "You Are Welcome Here." "Come as you are." A good thing to see in a district of the city with so many different kinds of people. Gay, non gay, rich, poor, young, old, not to mention so many different races, nationalities, interests.

Looking on the web, I saw that this church was listed among the open and affirming congregations in Washington State for gay and lesbian people.

All Pilgrims

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Exotic Weave dancing shoes in sidewalk on Broadway



Along Broadway in Seattle. This one called Exotic Weave.

Last weekend, I took Greyhound Bus to Seattle for a visit and to attend an exotic dance that wouldn't likely be happening here in Bellingham. A smoke free, alcohol free, clothing free, fund raiser called Romp Naked. More about that event, from another visit last Autumn.

A fun trip to the big city.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Deaths by car

In USA, it's car accidents.

In Iraq, it's car bombs.