29 May 2012

I have had no Communication with Mr. David Byrne - It's Serendipity

Last Friday, I mentioned Talking Heads founder and bicycle enthusiast David Byrne.  Last Sunday, his opinion piece in bicycles appeared in the New York Times.  hocoblogs@@@

25 May 2012

Compare and Contrast – Friday Edition

One of the highlights this week was the Connecting Columbia presentation that the Columbia Association held in Oakland Mills.  The Connecting Columbia website states that:

“CA is developing an Active Transportation Action Agenda to create a more interconnected and comprehensive bicycling and walking circulation system for health, recreational and transportation purposes.”

I was not able to attend, but I have talked with several people that did, and the response has been very positive.  To date, Sarah Says has the only rundown on the meeting.  It is a great read, and I encourage everyone to take it in.

All this local multi-modal love is juxtaposed with two articles that came across my feed this week.  These reports describe how the car became king (with descriptions of the origins of “jaywalking” and “America’s love affair with the automobile).  Yes, the automobile industry is implicated, but so are some unlikely participants (AAA, Groucho Marx).

As a testament to AAA’s messaging comes another report from Michigan, where high school students were punished for riding their bikes to school.

Taking all this into account, I can only hope that Connecting Columbia reaches out to Talking Heads founder David Byrne.  Mr. Byrne is a lifelong bicycle enthusiast and not too long ago wrote the book The Bicycle Diaries.  During a presentation at the Newseum, Mr. Byrne characterized Columbia in a not so positive light. hocoblogs@@@

23 May 2012

Compare and Contrast

The Atlantic Cities website features a new ranking of park systems in the United States (The Best City Parks Systems in America).  Its an interesting article (San Francisco comes out on top in this particular assessment) and well worth reading.  In particular, I found this passage compelling:

[director of the Trust for Public Land's Center for City Park Excellence, Peter] Harnik notes that a wide variety of factors determine how well a city's parks serve its people. The number of playgrounds may be the most important.
"We feel a playground is really a basic bottom-line measure of what a city park system is doing for its residents. Obviously playgrounds are great for children, but they go way beyond children. They're community gathering areas, they are so important to the social network of a neighborhood and a city," Harnik says. "It's somewhat of a predictor of the other kinds of facilities that a city parks department provides its citizens."
Compare the above statement with the Columbia Associations stated policy of removing 20% of the tot lots from Columbia's neighborhoods.  What does that say about us? hocoblogs@@@

15 May 2012

(Solar) Power Play in the Next American City

Michael Cornell, CA Board Member from River Hill and sometimes guest blogger, has a nice piece over at HoCoRising about the recently installed solar panels adjacent to the River Hill Pool and Neighborhood Center.  It’s a nice post.  I encourage everyone to read it.

But it made me think.  I applaud CA’s foray into harnessing the power of the sun; however, I think it’s time for CA to go big on this project.  I believe that CA should push to cover every swimming pool pump house and shade structure (gazebo, pergola, trellis; whatever you want to call them) with solar panels.  In addition, the vast, southern wall of the Columbia Swim Center should get the photovoltaic treatment too.

I single out CA’s 23 pools for a specific reason: they are open about three months a year.  The remaining nine months, the power generated at each of these locations would exceed the power used, thereby generating utility credits. 

Understanding CA’s status as a non-profit, they would have to spend these credits.  Another model would be to allow CA to take out a bond, utilizing the power generated from the panels from Labor Day to Memorial Day as payment on the bond, a solar bond.  Given a 20-30 lifespan of the panels, this could represent some significant funds available for reinvesting in the pools and other infrastructure.  It could also offset/minimize the cost of operation during the summer months.

Now, I am sure that this is not a completely new idea.  I believe CA has taken a look at their rooftops and assessed their solar potential.  If CA could efficiently generate power from the Talbott Springs Pool rooftop, Alex Hekimian would be writing blog posts too.  Very few sites are ideal, and there are some barriers to work through to get these sites upgraded.

There may also be some legal/regulatory hoops to jump through.  Legislation may have to be written to allow non-profits to enter into bond agreements of this structure.  The legalese surrounding the triple-verification (CA, the bond holder, and the power company) of the power meter at each pool would be a significant undertaking itself.  But taken as a whole, this may be the type of 21st century economic dynamic worth doing. hocoblogs@@@