Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays & Hope for an Earth, Rising in a Universe of Energy

Dear People: It's actually a rare day when I walk around down town and don't have someone come up and tell me how much they appreciate my work--and particularly these emails to you. Thank YOU all for your warmth, support, questions, concerns, frustrations, and joys. Happy Holidays to you all!

One practical note: There are no meetings that I'm involved in until the new year, so I also won't be having my office hours until that time either--and, be forewarned, they may change, as my schedule changes again with the new school term.

In lieu of a seasonal card, I want to link you to a message of realism and hope in today's New York Times, from science writer Oliver Morton, who asks us to reflect on Major Bill Anders' famous "earthrise" photograph, often credited with spurring the modern environmentalist movement. That photo helped us see our Earth as a small, gorgeous, blue, warm, and fragile cradle in a dark, cold universe. Morton, today, argues that, yes, the earth as a habitable planet is in danger from the effects of human-created/exacerbated global warming. But he also suggests, in beautiful, Ecclesiastical imagery, that a deeper, broader understanding of life and the immense flow of energy that we're a part of--e.g., the fact that "The Sun delivers more energy to the Earth in an hour than humanity uses in a year"--shows us the way forward:

An unending spate of pure luminous energy pours from the Sun in all directions. Eight minutes downstream at the speed of light, part of this extraordinary flux crashes down on the Earth in a 170,000-trillion-watt torrent. Some of it splashes back into space; Major Anders's "Earthrise" captures that reflected light in the brilliant white of clouds and polar ice. Most, though, is absorbed; this is the energy that drives the winds, makes the waves and currents flow, heats the rocks and warms the sky. The Sun's energy flows through the earth system and out the other side, ebbing back into the coldness of space as a tide of infrared radiation.

A very small fraction of this energy is caught, not by rock and wind and water, but by life. That fraction of a percent captured by plants and other photosynthetic organisms flows into and through the food webs of the world. It is this sunlight, endlessly refreshed, that allows the grass to grow, the birds to sing — and you to live. The Sun's energy flows through your breakfast cereal, your morning coffee, your veins and your mind. It animates you as it has animated almost all the Earth's life for billions of years.

We can, if we work hard, use this energy--develop real, sun-rooted methods of fueling our lives. Morton concludes:

"Earthrise" showed us where we are, what we can do and what we share. It showed us who we are, together; the people of a tough, long-lasting world, shot through with the light of a continuous creation.

Recently Japanese astronauts captured this, to me, even more stunning picture of earthrise (the picture I've posted above). Let's take these words and images of our gorgeous, blue, sunlit world forward with us, as icons of hope and responsibility, into the new year.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Open house--tonight!

Dear People--

Please remember to slip out to welcome the new manager, Mark Cundiff, to Yellow Springs at an open house reception this evening (12/16): Room A&B upstairs at the Bryan Center, 6:30-8:30. 

Bring friends, family!

Mark is a really warm and competent person, and we feel very lucky to have him here. Please help make him feel welcome here in the village.

(psst...I'm told there will be chocolate truffles, amongst other goodies...!)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Budgets, Bold Energy Planning, Historic Preservation, Rock Salt shortage!

Dear People! Well, things are really swinging into holiday mode, even as we are all feeling the economic downturn directly affecting our own families and friends, neighbors in our village, and people in our state, nation, and around the world. Please know that I am aware of your concerns about our village's fiscal health, and I am hoping that I will have something more specific to say about the Village's situation in the next few weeks--in fact we're scheduled to plan out the Budget workshop at our upcoming Village Council meeting on Monday, December 15, 7 pm, Council Chambers up on the second floor of the Bryan Ctr. And I'll be in my office hours from 12-1 today.

So! two little warm spots in this cold world to start us off: the annual Wheeling Gaunt flour and sugar donation to the widows of Yellow Springs has been happening this week, with a small spate of outside news coverage--in Wednesday's Columbus Dispatch and in an online magazine called American (nice pictures!). And our manager, Mark Cundiff notes that although a driver hit a street sign pole on the corner of Dayton and Corry Street Wednesday night, "By noon Thursday, Dave Conley and his crew had replaced the pole, including its custom knitted sweater that was on the old pole." My, we have wonderful village workers.

Ok, so on to Monday's meeting:

COMMUNICATION: First, one piece of communication we may discuss is that a drug arrest resulted in the confiscation of a large flat-screen TV which Chief Grote would like to donate to the youth rec. room in the Bryan Center. Additionally, Luwanna Delaney wrote a letter regarding our support of Home, Inc.'s request that their homes be properly valued at their actual resale potential in accordance with their leases.


1) One ORDINANCE: We'll have a first reading and a public hearing regarding Ordinance #2008-12 Supplemental Appropriations as an Emergency. While "emergency" sounds scary, this is actually a normal procedure, and from my quick perusal of the numbers, things look ok: we have appropriated less than we budgeted for by $552,814. I think this is because we have not begun the Northern Gateway work ($308,000) and because we haven't spent economic development monies ($102,500) or appropriated the Green Space Funds ($137,900). However, I will ask for clarification. The numbers do not look too bad yet; the big question mark is what will next year look like?

(FYI:Here's a rather sobering power point report on Ohio's projected budgetary problems over the next three fiscal years, from the Ohio Office of Budget and Management. Governor Strickland has written a strong letter to leaders in Washington , including president-elect Obama about this ongoing crisis, making a request for block grants and increases in TANF--money for needy families--funds from the feds, etc.)

2) Three RESOLUTIONS regarding * Employee Health Insurance coverage renewal, * Dental coverage, and * the Michael Shuman event on local economic growth, scheduled for the weekend of Jan. 16-18. (If you want background on this event or Shuman himself, I've covered it in greater depth in previous emails, including last week's, which are always posted on my blog:

SPECIAL REPORT: The Electric System Task Force: Phase 2. The ESTF recommends that council "begin funding a long-term (2025) phased in project to
  • minimize our dependence on coal,
  • provide as much of our electricity from renewable resources as possible,
  • reduce our average per meter consumption by 50% and
  • create 100 new conservation, efficiency, and/or renewable energy related jobs in the village."
The ESTF have specific suggested methods for achieving this goal--including
  • funding a study to size &cost an energy plan,
  • increase our electric rates, use the funds for conservation/education/renewable generation,
  • allocate funds to increase conservation in village-owned properties, and
  • implement a plan to incentivize job creation around these goals.
Please come hear this presentation!

  • Historic Preservation Update: Many of you came out for Glenn Harper's talk on Monday, and I have the text of his presentation, entitled "Preserving Your Sense Of Place: Historic Preservation Planning / Strategies For Saving Local Landmarks." (email me if you'd like a copy!) I strongly urge you to read it--it's not long!--and again to check out the State Historic Preservation Office website for more details. He argued that there are many benefits to creating a plan, that the plans can be tailored to fit our community's values (e.g., preserving the "funkiness" of 1960s barnboards on the front of downtown stores, including lots of latitude for energy efficiency when remodeling historic structures.) And there are funds available for some of the consultant help we might need to create an inventory of historic structures and really develop a good historic preservation ordinance. He's a wonderful resource! We'd love feedback on this talk, so please come if you can!
  • Center For Business and Education update: Mark says he'll be able to announce the firm that won the contract for the work that needs to be done to develop the infrastructure at the CBE at this Monday's meeting.
  • Library Grant (I think we briefly discussed this last time, an ICMA public library innovation grant, but I don't recall the exact details.)
NEW BUSINESS: Will include discussions of appointments to the EC, Goals Session schedule; a budget workshop schedule, and the HRC's budget request for a grant to the AACW for the Blues Fest.

MANAGER'S REPORT: We're releasing a bond for the Standcliff properties, and we're having to cut back on some of the salting we normally do in order to deal with shortages and rising costs for rock salt statewide. Only main arteries will be salted.

We'll then end with standing reports from the commissions, and agenda planning for next time. I'll report on the Library alleyway plans discussed at Planning Commission (i.e., that we have decided to take minimal action mostly related to clearer signage and I think maybe speed bumps (?) at this point--have to check my notes--to see if that doesn't mitigate the problems), and the EC is planning a home insulation forum for early February.

Peace be with you all,

Saturday, December 6, 2008

PC on Mon: Historic Preservation, Library Alley, Endless Comprehensive Planning, and more...

Thanks to the YS Arts Council Blog for this image of the John Bryan Community Pottery
Dear People--I still get excited when I wake up to snow coming down. It's completely irrational, possibly atavistic* (Norwegian ancestors), more probably rooted in the thrill of school being canceled in childhood, and no doubt I'll grumble about the cold a little, later in the day, or worry about accidents, etc., but there you have it. I bid you the ephemeral happiness of light snowfall! and will be happy to see anyone who ventures out into this chill in my office hour at the Emporium from 12-1 pm today.

First, there are lots of fun holiday events going on this weekend in the village --I want to alert everyone that today and tomorrow the John Bryan Community Pottery is having an open studio and ceramics sale! Stop by today from 11-6 pm, or tomorrow from noon-3 pm. Local potters, including my husband Frank, will have interesting and useful objects for sale; there will be light refreshments. The pottery shop is owned by the village, by all of us, and is a wonderful community asset.

Second, again, the main event at our Planning Commission meeting (this Monday, 12/8, 7 pm Bryan Ctr) will be a presentation to Planning Commission and Village Council by Glenn Harper, an Antioch College graduate, who is the Certified Local Government and Preservation Services Manager at the State Preservation Office. He works statewide with Certified Local Governments and municipalities seeking certification as well as with preservation organizations throughout the state, and he oversees development of the state's comprehensive historic preservation plan.

Harper will offer a general overview on the benefits of historic preservation planning for communities, best practices for historic preservation ordinances, and how municipalities incorporate historic preservation concerns into their comprehensive plans. It is expected to last about 20 minutes with time for questions from the Council and Commission as well as the public. 

Citizens who would like to come to the meeting well informed are encouraged to peruse the Ohio Historic Preservation Office's website (, particularly the documents linked under "Preservation in Your Town," which includes model ordinances, information on tax incentives and funding sources, and why planning should include attention to historic preservation.

After that, we'll discuss what we ought to do to make the alley behind the library, and the driveway into the lot from Davis street (which basically just needs to be marked as one-way, coming into to the lot), safer for us all. Lots of letters are flowing in on this issue, which is good. The question is how to provide safe access to and egress from the library parking lot as well as the neighboring properties that border on this alley.

* Woolperts has suggested widening, paving and straightening the alley, and making it one way from Limestone to Davis.
* We are considering speed bumps and making part of the alley--probably the Davis side, only accessible by bikes and pedestrians, and making the Limestone exit one-way going out. However, there are suggestions of blocking the alley off in exactly the opposite way (i.e., blocking the Limestone side to traffic, and making the Davis side the exit). I'm happy to hear your thoughts.

Additionally, we'll be looking at the comprehensive plan goals, and then planning for our next meeting in January, where it's hoped that we'll be receiving and reviewing the final development plan for the Friend's Care (Barr) property at 321 Xenia Ave.



*Oh, and being able to use 'atavistic' in the first sentence of an email = equally thrilling to morning snowfall. [OED: atavism: "resemblance to grand-parents or more remote ancestors rather than to parents..." Work it into your morning conversation today...]

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Michael Shuman, Historic Preservation

thanks toJafabrit's blog for the wonderful image of one of the Keith's Alley murals I love.

Dear People: Happy holidays--I hope you all had a warm and friend-filled Thanksgiving. I am taking my son Andrew back to college today, so I won't be in my 'office'. Instead I will be in the Emporium on SUNDAY, from 12-1; I'd be happy to hear your concerns.

Our agenda schedule for this Monday is fairly light, but we will be discussing the lecture and workshop with Michael Shuman currently scheduled for mid January, 16th-18th that the village is co-sponsoring with the Smart Growth Task Force.

Shuman is a leader in the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. In the wake of the first waves of the current financial crisis, Shuman has been arguing that congress should expand the Community Reinvestment Act, initially passed in 1977, which "outlawed redlining and forced banks and thrifts to make quarterly reports about the percentage of its lending that went back into their community, especially low and moderate income neighborhoods," which even with scattershot enforcement has led to $1 trillion in local community investment that otherwise wouldn't have happened. He writes a blog called "Small-Mart: Ideas and Tools for Building Local Economies" based on the ideas in his books The Small Mart Revolution and Going Local.

He'll be providing a "leakage analysis" for the village, i.e., helping us determine where money is leaving the local economy and to get ideas about what kinds of businesses could keep more dollars local. If you are interested in participating in his weekend workshop or sending an organizational representative, please contact me or any other Village Council rep, or Dimi Reber of the Smart-Growth Task Force.

First, we will attend to two very brief items of legislation
  • An Employment Agreement for Deborah Benning, our Clerk of Council, who continues to do excellent work for the village, bringing as she does a wealth of experience and love for the community to her job, and
  • A resolution updating our US Bank account signatures, so that Mark Cundiff, our new manager, can do his job conducting village business.
After that, we will discuss:
  • The status of our hiring an engineering design consultant for the infrastructure for the Center for Business and Education (i.e., the Antioch-McGregor building site), and
  • the Shuman visit, and
  • a request from the Human Rights Commission that the AACW be provided a small amount of funds related to expenses arising from this year's blues fest (around $600), and 
  • the Manager's Report will focus on Health Insurance coverage for Village employees.
HEADS UP: NEXT Monday, December 8, during the Planning Commission meeting, Village Council and Planning Commission are holding a joint special presentation from Glenn Harper (Antioch College alum) of the State Historic Preservation Society on the possibilities of historic preservation in our village. It will be fairly short, but there will be plenty of time for questions. Please attend!

His presentation is intended to be educational for the village, which has lost a number of irreplaceable historic structures over the last several years. He will also discuss possibilities for flexibility in historical preservation given that as a community we also value variety, innovation, accessibility, and new environmental design and construction practices.

Citizens who would like to come to the meeting well informed are encouraged to peruse the Ohio Historic Preservation Office's website ( ), particularly the documents linked under "Preservation in Your Town," which includes model ordinances, information on tax incentives and funding sources, and why planning should include attention to historic preservation.

May you feel both peace and joy during these hectic weeks,

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Visioning, Antioch Co. Problems, Cell Phone Tower, and Bikeways

...the iconic yellow spring, from

Dear People: I am going to be in my office hours a little early today, from 11:30 (when I'm scheduled to speak with a villager) to about 12:30, because I am heading over to Dayton for the local "No H8"/anti-proposition 8 protests that are going on all over the country for GLBTQ rights. 

Our next Village Council meeting is at 7 pm Monday 17th, at the Bryan Center. (If I weren't at this meeting, however, I'd be going to hear writer Sherman Alexie speak at Wittenberg !)

Included in the packet this week is correspondence concerning: Michael Shuman's visit (proposed by the Smart Growth group, who is asking for funds to support it); the bankruptcy filing of the Antioch Company and a YSHS student's concern that we do more, as a village, in regard to the peak oil crisis. I suspect that there will be some discussion of these letters.

(In happier news, Risa Grimes of the Non-Stop institute reported two days ago that they have raised $140,075.57 - $5,000 over the goal of $135,000 - and did it 2.5 weeks earlier than planned! Good work!)

LEGISLATION: We'll discuss three resolutions regarding:
  • Vernay Labs is generously donating one of its generators to the Village; we'll use it as a standby for our water treatment plant/wellfield.
  • The new clarifier line project at the Wastewater Treatment plant. This is a fairly low cost project, at $62,400, but our advisers believe it may mitigate up to 90% of our current EPA violations. This resolution awards the work contract to Levan's Excavating.
  • Changing John Weithofer's status, as of 11/17 to a "management consultant" through the end of the month (11/28), so that he will be able to provide transition assistance to our new village manager, Mark Cundiff. After that time, we plan to authorize an as-needed consulting agreement with Mr. Weithofer. 
  • We'll be getting an update regarding Verizon's plans to put up a cell phone tower on Village property (the Bryan Center grounds) and probably discussing the proposed location (behind the building). 
  • We'll be reviewing the Clerk of Council's annual report.
  • And, the major item of discussing for the night, we'll be discussing the revised "Request for Proposals" (RFP) that the Visioning Task Force has crafted, with some (somewhat rushed) input from Council and from our village lawyer, John Chambers. 
  • A request for proposals is a formal document that is sent to contractors who will, inthis case, tell us what they could do, in terms of helping us come together plan for the future. The revised RFP crafted by our lawyer asks for specific outcomes like a new zoning plan, help with strategies for retaining diversity, and ideas for investing in economic development.
  • The link takes you to a page where you can download .pdf files of the original RFP, the suggestions Judith and I made, and the revised version created by our lawyer. If you are short of time, I'd read the link "Recommended revisions by village solicitor (clean)" as I believe that will form the basis of our discussion (it's about a 7 page document, but doesn't take that long to read through).
  • This seems like a very important discussion: I don't know how much it's on your radar screen, but if you care about the future of our village, and how we ought to proceed, we need to hear from you--both if you are supportive of visioning or skeptical about it (and I have heard from several of you who are very skeptical about this.) Please come!
  • MVRPC Comprehensive Local-Regional Bikeways Plan (Karen Wintrow recommends reading the executive summary of this long document that you can link to from that website). This plan has been under development for some time. I believe that some YS bikers would like to see more of a focus on "share the roads" biking rather than the rail-trails that are a little more emphasized in the region. 
  • On page 10, there's a map of existing and proposed bikeways: YS has 2 rural bikeways proposed for the Yellow Springs-Fairfield Road between YS and Fairborn as a top priority project. This is detailed on page 34-35 of the document.
  • Hwy 343 is a lower priority project; our "Safe Routes to Schools" plan for walkers and bikers is also marked on the pg. 10 map in blue.
That's about it! Have a good week!


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Late posting...this week's planning comm/env. comm.

Dear People: I was busy on Sat. morning and never got this written nor attended my office hours. Sorry about the delay. The Planning Commission will meet on Mon at 7 pm* in the Bryan Center, to discuss two agenda items:

1) The Library Alley: Woolpert consultants have looked at the alley behind our library that access the library parking lot. They suggest
  • Making it one-way (enter only from Limestone and exit only from Davis St.)
  • If possible, straightening and paving it.
2) The Comprehensive Plan, focusing on the 4th part which we've been working on revising, and the comp plan as a whole and our future plans for it.

Our next EC meeting will be a trip to CEMEX. Good news: Cemex has withdrawn its request to burn tires!

The bad news is that they are still our biggest polluter, and we want to know more about the process they are using for burning petroleum coke and coal in that plant--and what, if anything, can be done to improve the situation.

Our next Village Council meeting will be on the 17th. We'll be discussing the RFP that the Visioning Task-Force has created. I am very concerned that this process work, and would urge people to attend, if possible. I will have more info closer to the date.

*This was sent as an email to my mailing list on Sunday 11/9. Please let me know if you'd like to be added to that mailing list.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

New Manager Contract, Visioning/Strategic Planning

Dear People: I'll be in my office hour today, 12-1, Emporium. It's been a tremendously busy month, but I'm pleased to say that we have now reached a tentative contract with our new village manager, Mark Cundiff, which we'll vote on Monday evening. (7 pm, second floor of the Bryan Ctr.)

I feel very solid about this decision, particularly after having heard evaluations of his work--the responses were uniformly extremely strong in all areas: from his integrity, skills at managing people, budgets, employees to his ability to work with the public, to his dedication to public service, and his willingness and ability to learn new skills. Mark has worked in a variety of areas in municipal government and has an excellent support network from other municipal managers.

I know that Mark is excited to do the work, and I hope everyone will give him a warm welcome.

I want to thank those of you who attended the three fora and provided feedback on the candidates, and to those who did lunch interviews with the candidates and provided feedback to us on our request. I also would be happy to hear feedback on our process; I know that we did things differently this time, and that can feel confusing or frustrating. Please feel free to speak to me about any of your thoughts.

Agenda items for Monday: Legislation:

  • 2 ORDINANCES: 1)  emergency supplemental funding for storm damage/declare an emergency (Ohio has been declared a disaster area by the President from the September 14th wind storm. This declaration makes local governments eligible for 75% federal reimbursement for storm related expenses); and  2) another ordinance, also as an emergency, for the submittal of loan request from the Ohio Water Development Authority for the Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade
  • 1 RESOLUTION: Employment agreement for the Village Manager.

Old Business: A Status Report on the Revolving Loan Fund and the RFP from the Visioning Group:

The Visioning Task Force has asked us to approve a request for proposals that their group has created. We will be discussing this RFP at our next meeting. I have some concerns about it, related especially to its having become a joint village and township process, to the budget, and also to the goals and ownership of the process and final products. My goal is to make sure that our money is well spent on a process that has the greatest chance of providing a useful product for us as a village--something that won't get left on a shelf but that helps us directly address our most real and pressing concerns.

I hope that those of you with an interest in this process will attend this meeting.

See you downtown,

Saturday, October 18, 2008

VC: Village Manager Search continues!

Dear People--What a crazy busy month! I was in Seattle last weekend and plumb forgot to write. (Someone call Joe the Plumber for my brain!--I think my pipes are clogged).

No office hours today--my parents are in town! And we have canceled our second October meeting due to the hiring search process. We've already met with Mark Cundiff and Randy Bukas; Monday evening will be Nancy Benroth. The forum goes from 7:30-8:30 pm. Please attend!

Monday October 20 - Nancy Benroth -- "Benroth has served for 11 years as the assistant village administrator of Bluffton, a town of 3,800 in northwest Ohio. In Bluffton she oversaw projects for the local parks system and served on the steering committee and outreach education team for the Blanchard River Watershed Partnership. Prior to that, Benroth spent eight years as the budgetary and payroll clerk for the village of Ottawa, Ohio. She has a bachelors in public administration from the University of Findlay and an associate degree in applied business."

Don't forget to vote! I didn't realize there are so many judges on the ballot. I recommend using the League of Women Voters site to help you sort out all the issues and candidates, particularly if you vote early:


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Of Flour and Sugar for Local Widows, and Forums for Village Managers

Dear People--Well, it's been a busy week for me at school, and the month of October is going to be a bit on the insane side--a whole bunch of meetings, plus midterm grading. Any calming, supportive thoughts, prayers, or karma you can send my way will be appreciated. Two big meetings: first, our normal October meeting on Monday at 7 pm &, second, on Tuesday, the first (of three) village manager candidate forum, in rooms A&B, 7:30 pm.

Wheeling Gaunt, ex-slave, philanthropist

Monday's meeting: LEGISLATION: One ordinance
--regarding transferring money from the general fund to the police pension fund as an emergency ordinance. My assumption is that this is a fairly normal procedure, but it is $55,000, which is a fairly large amount of money, so I would like a better understanding of what's going on, precisely. And ...

A Slew o' Resolutions:
  • First, we're sending four official appreciations in response to work done during/after the "Wind Event" (I love that title...was it black tie?) to 1) all village employees and staff, 2) the Miami TWP Fire & Rescue; 3) AMP-Ohio, and 4) the Mutual Aid Communities who helped make the village response to the remnant hurricane so successful. (I'd like to add a shout out to Kurt and the Emporium staff, although I admit I am a little biased...)
  • An authorization for the Interim Village Manager to sign an agreement with ODOT to complete work on the access road for the CBE (Center for Business and Education--where Antioch McGregor is).
  • And, everyone's favorite resolution, the annual Wheeling Gaunt Flour and Sugar expenditure, for all local widows. (The link takes you to the Yellow Springs News' history column that covers the period from 1883-1898; if you scroll all the way to the last segment on the page, you can read all about the life of ex-slave, business man, and philanthropist, Wheeling Gaunt, and the stipulations of his will.)
  • And, another friendly one, the Begger's night expenditure resolution.
The village solicitor has recommended that we remove a planned resolution regarding the Stutzman's lease from the agenda, and discuss it in executive session due to legal concerns.

After we hear any citizens' concerns that may be raised, we'll
  • have a brief report on the village manager search (officially announcing the finalists) and
  • make an appointment to the Cable Advisory Panel and
  • have the manager's report on the Wastewater Treatment Plant Clarifier Project, Pool Repair & Painting.
  • and close with brief agenda planning; our next meeting will be devoted to the third village manager forum on the 20th.
TUESDAY: Village Manager Forum, 7:30 pm. I am quite pleased with the pool of candidates we received and the three top candidates we have chosen--with a great degree of unanimity--to interview (plus two back ups, if any of these three drop out for any reason):

Tuesday October 7 - Mark Cundiff From YS News: "Cundiff has worked for seven years as the planning director for Troy, Ohio, a city of 22,000 people. From 1998 to 2001 he was the city manager of Greenville, Ill., population 6,400, where he administered a $7.7 million budget and oversaw 40 full-time employees. From 1994 to 1998 Cundiff was the assistant city manager of Sidney, Ohio, where he also served as the community development director from 1991 to 1994 and the city planner for three years prior to that. He has a masters in applied behavioral science with a concentration in community development and planning from Wright State University and a bachelors in political science with a concentration in public administration."

Monday October 13 - Randy Bukas-- "Bukas has served for over three years as the village manager of Germantown, Ohio, a village of 5,000. From 1996 to 2005 Bukas worked as the village administrator for Whitehouse, Ohio, and also served for three years prior as the city administrator, clerk and treasurer for the town of Lodi, Wis. He has a masters in public administration from Roosevelt University."

Monday October 20 - Nancy Benroth
-- "Benroth has served for 11 years as the assistant village administrator of Bluffton, a town of 3,800 in northwest Ohio. In Bluffton she oversaw projects for the local parks system and served on the steering committee and outreach education team for the Blanchard River Watershed Partnership. Prior to that, Benroth spent eight years as the budgetary and payroll clerk for the village of Ottawa, Ohio. She has a bachelors in public administration from the University of Findlay and an associate degree in applied business."


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Voting Begins! Ballot Initiatives & Community Day

Dear People--I'm sure you're all aware that the deadline to register is this Monday! Be sure you are registered to vote!

Obviously the national election is important, but there are also some ballot initiatives that are vital to the interests of all Ohioans which aren't getting as much attention, as far as I can see. I advocate voting YES on Issue 5 (control Payday Lenders); NO on Issue 6 (No new Casino); and YES on ISSUE 2 (Keep the CLEAN OHIO FUND).

1) YES on ISSUE 5 (NO on ISSUE 6): The PAYDAY LENDING industry is pouring a lot of money into trying to rescind the law passed by the Ohio legislature this year that keeps these lenders from earning up to a shocking 391% interest--limiting them to a still VERY high 28% (even my credit card doesn't charge that much if I fail to pay off my balance).

I am very aware of these lenders, many of which are located in the poorest parts of Springfield--just drive north up Highway 72 and you see them lining the road. Shockingly, a huge percentage of these lenders around the country are located near military bases like Wright-Patt. I was speaking to an Antioch alum who works for the Army in their real estate division, and she was just bemoaning the way that these industries prey upon poorly paid soldiers and their families.

I believe you can talk even to your conservative Ohio friends and relatives about this issue--urge them to vote YES on 5. Here's an article from the Columbus Dispatch about this issue, and issue 6 (which would bring a casino to the state), and why a wide range of pastors are publicly advocating that voters of conscience check "Yes" on 5 and "No" on ISSUE 6:

2) YES on ISSUE 2: From Environment Ohio: "Without your help, the Clean Ohio Fund, our state's most important water and land preservation program will expire. Since Ohioans voted to create the program in 2000, waterways from Lake Erie to the Big Darby are cleaner, more than 26,000 acres of wildlife habitat have been preserved, and over 170 abandoned industrial sites have been cleaned up. So far, the Clean Ohio Fund made more than 700 clean water, urban revitalization and land preservation projects possible." MORE INFO:

You can even vote early! Click the link below to find out where you can vote YES on Issue 5; NO on Issue 6; YES on Issue 2 before November 4th:

3) Finally, I was asked to announce that there's a Community Day event this Sunday with a Free Lunch! "
This Sunday, October 5th at 1:00pm in the John Bryan Community Center Gymnasium, the Nonstop community will be having a birthday party for Antioch College! Members of the Pro-tem Board, the Antioch College Alumni Board, Nonstop faculty, staff, and students will join together for a (free) Community Lunch to remember and celebrate Antioch's history as we move into an amazing future. We will also be hearing a report-back from Matthew Derr and Nancy Crow about the Invent-a-College weekend. Please RSVP to chelseamartens [AT] gmail [DOT]

All Best,

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Storm Redux, Village Mgr Search, Planning Comm/MTZB Mtg.

Dear People: Well, what a wild week it was! I will be in my office hours today at the Emporium, 12-1.

This past Monday I sent out a quick email to my whole Yellow Springs email list alerting you to the need to conserve water. Additionally, the "CodeRED" system called thousands of homes and cell phones of residents to give us the latest updates. (To find out more and/or register your cell phone or other number with code red, please click here and follow the instructions, or call the police department's non-emergency number, 7206, or email dispatch[at]yso[dot]com).

The great news?
By Wednesday morning, the YS grid was just about 100% back online. Some individual structures that sustained damage to the connection points on the buildings were still off line late this week. As interim manager Weithofer explained, 56 buildings in town sustained minor damage, while 10 sustained major damage, according to reports from the MTFR. Without AMP-Ohio's assistance--which had 7 additional crews in town, helping with our recovery, we'd probably still be offline.

AND: During the power outage our village reduced our consumption of water by 70%,
interim manager Weithofer reported at our Thursday night meeting. He also noted that, because of this reduced usage, there were no EPA violations during this time at our wastewater plant. We did not come close to using up all our water in the tower.

So, from all of us in village government: Well done, villagers! For more information about the inspiring and community oriented response to the storm, by both villagers and village staffers alike, please be sure to read the article by Diane Chiddester and Virgil Hervey in this week's Yellow Springs News. If you get a chance please consider sending a personal thank you to the village staffers who worked tirelessly to get things back up and running much faster than we thought possible on Monday.

Several of you asked some important questions about the storm and our response to it. Let me answer several of those questions now:

1) Generators at the water treatment / wastewater treatment plants? Interim manager John Weithofer reports that he is working with Joe Bates, our water treatment plant operator to install permanent pre-wiring for generators that will enable us to readily install and connect generators to our water plant during emergencies. He's also working with LJB, the engineering firm that is designing the planned updates and alterations to our wastewater treatment plant to put in place permanent prewiring for generators there.

2) Improved emergency notification system: As I mentioned, we have added CodeRED as the latest additional way for the police to contact villagers in case of emergency, and we encourage you to register alternative numbers with that service. (If you have a listed YS land-line number, you're already covered). Additionally, we always contact both WYSO and Dayton TV stations with the same information as soon as it is available.

What now? Dealing with debris. The Village asks that if you have large limbs that will need to be hauled off of your property, please follow the instructions at this link and then be patient--it will take some weeks for us to remove all the limbs and debris that need to be attended to.

Additionally, the above YS News article has advice from the health bureau about what to throw out, what to keep, from your fridge.

Ok! On to "normal" business:

1) Village manager search update: we received 46 applications for our village manager. 26 were from Ohio-based applicants; 20 from out of state. 39 applicants were male; 7 were female. We have narrowed the field down to 3 persons to interview, plus 2 alternates. The three interviewees have been contacted, and visits/interviews have been scheduled, and the alternates have been notified that they may be contacted for interviews. Remember to mark your calendars for the community forums that will be held on the evenings of October 7, October 13, October 20, 7 pm.

I have been very pleased with the work of our consultant Don Vermillion and with the help and advice of John Chambers, our village lawyer, and John Weithofer, our interim manager, during this process.

2) Planning Commission: We'll be having a joint Planning Comm mtg on Monday Sept. 29, Bryan Ctr., 7 pm with the Miami Valley Township Zoning Board discussing
  • Role of development in the Township and the Village and zoning
  • Annexation and Cooperative Economic Development Agreements (CEDA)
  • Greenbelt
  • Urban Services Area Map
Second, on Wed Oct. 1, 7 pm Bryan Ctr., we'll hold our regular Planning Comm meeting, be reviewing the Nonstop request re: the application to use the Davis St. house as office space and review the Comprehensive Plan.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Village Mgr Search, Flouride?, and 10 cool towns...

Dear People: We received about 40 applications for our Village Manager position, so that will be the main focus of our work at our regular Village Council meeeting on Monday evening at 7 pm in the Bryan Center--including our executive session. Don Vermillion, our consultant, will be at this meeting to offer an update on his work. I need to spend more time analyzing and ranking the applications, but it appears there are a good number of promising, and diverse, candidates.

Mark your calendars: Public Forums with each of the three candidates we bring for full-day interviews will be held at 7 pm on:

1. October 7
2. October 13
3. October 20

Additional legislative business on our agenda includes two resolutions:

* Water/Sewer rate study: Because we are under Ohio EPA findings for the problems at our Waste-Water Treatment plant, and are planning to use loans to help cover many of those costs, we are requred to complete a study to determine what rates will be sufficient to generate revenues to cover the loan payments. This resolution authorizes the study and appropriates funds to pay for Woolpert Services to complete it.
  • One question I have for future consideration: Should we consider ceasing to fluoridate our water? On our tour of the water treatment facility, the director of our water treatment services very briefly mentioned that the price of fluoride was rising fairly dramatically and there were quality control issues. While fluoridated water has typically been seen as a cost effective way to distribute fluoride to everyone in order to prevent tooth decay, is it still a good idea? Briefly, it's my understanding that there's no health benefit to injesting fluoride, but there are some health risks associated with injesting higher levels of fluoride, and there are disputes as to what levels, precisely, are safe for children and adults, and about the sources from which drinking-water fluoride is currently derived. Many countries in the world--Germany, Sweden, Japan, etc.--no longer fluoridate their water, given the widespread availability of toothpastes, etc. with fluoride. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
+ Here's a letter from the CDC advocating continued fluoridation based on the current science.

+ Here's a statement--published by an anti-fluoride activist group--from a scientist, Dr. Harvey Limeback of the University of Toronto, who participated in a review of the EPAs standards on fluoridation; since 1999 he has begun to oppose fluoridation of drinking water.

* Lease Termination: After months of efforts to resolve problems due to a lack of adequate insurance coverage, we are terminating our lease with Stuzman Landscaping. I am very sad that it has come to this point, but we can see no other path forward at this time. The animal rescue operation, "The Ranch Menagerie Animal Sancutary," can provide satisfactory levels of insurance and will be taking over the lease, so the ostriches and emus will, we are glad, be able to stay.

There will also be a Visioning Task Force update, as well as reports from the Village Manager (esp. focusing on the cost of our Comprehensive Plan update), and from the various commissions.

Speaking of which, we had what I think was a good meeting of the Planning Commission on Monday. I was glad to see that we were able to buy a little more time for Non-Stop to work with the neighbors to resolve concerns about their office space on Davis Street, just behind the library parking lot, and to approve their moving into the Millworks property as permissable under current zoning rules.

Note: Planning Commission and the Miami Township Zoning commission will have a special meeting on Sept. 29th; Planning Commission will have a special meeting on the 1st; our normal meeting on the 13th is canceled.

In EC news, we discussed our forum on tire burning vs. coal burning with the Greene Environmental Coalition, the EPA/RAPCA, and CEMEX. Eli Hurwitz has been doing some good research on the issues. We have some specific concerns about the kiln's design that we would like to look into, so at least some of us are going to try to take a tour of the plant, as CEMEX offered. We are planning another forum, tentatively looking at a date in November. We'll be publishing an ecobeat article soon with some of our thoughts on the issues raised.

In my life, school runs apace--I've just finished cowriting a grant proposal with a colleague, have sets of essays from all my students--and I've been obsessing over the national election. And I've fallen in love again with early American writers--I can't seem to get out of the 17th and 18th centuries. Mary Rowlandson (is she the 17th century Sarah Palin?), Anne Bradstreet, early native writers like Senecan mystic Handsome Lake, the Mohegan Samson Occom, and the first African American to publish a book of poetry, Phillis Wheatley. There's great new research on these last writers that makes them much more complex than we used to believe, and their experiences more poignant.

However, some of you may realize that we've got a NonStop student living with us, James, from Texas, which has been good fun. James is featured in this Columbus Dispatch article about NonStop. Also, most of you have probably seen that at least one magazine thinks we're cool. (Not that we didn't already know that!)

One national election related item and I'll stop: take a look, if you have any doubts, at this striking graph that represents how little oil will be gained--and that little trickle starting only around 2025/2030--from future off-shore drilling.

Don't drill, baby!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Plan Comm: Historic Preservation, Non-Stop and YSKP requests, Comp Plan

Dear People: The Planning Commission will meet 7 pm Monday evening, Bryan Ctr., and we have a pretty big agenda on tap. I'll be in my office hours today, 12-1 pm Emporium.

Historic Preservation:
I'll be proposing to the Planning Commission that we hold a joint meeting with the Village Council, in December, for an educational, special report from Glenn Harper of the Ohio Historic Preservation on the possibilities of historic preservation--including historic preservation ordinances and what is entailed in Certified Local Government status--in the village.

Public Hearings: We'll have two public hearings on
  • The vacation of two alleys (in, it seems, on the most technical sense; they have already been partially vacated) between N. High St. & N. Stafford St. at 409 N. High St.
  • Non-Stop Liberal Arts Institute is asking for a conditional use permit for its rental property on 113 E. Davis St.
Old Business: The ongoing saga of our Comprehensive Plan revision, with John Eastman.

New Business: Ed Amrhein has been advised by our Village Solicitor, John Chambers, that the Planning Commission needs to make a determination as to whether YSKP can use a site within Millworks (on Walnut St.), which is zoned light industrial, for prop production, storage, and possibly rehearsal. We have to decide whether their proposed uses are permitted or require a conditional use permit.

I hope I'll see some of you in my office hours today or wandering around the Blues fest, or other events going on in town this weekend. (I've read good things about the Woody Allen film that's playing in the Little Art right now...).

Rock on, compatriots--

Monday, September 1, 2008

Delayed post (sorry!): VC meeting agenda, Recap of EC tire-burning forum

I meant to post this on Saturday, but didn't--sorry!

Dear People: I'll be in the Emporium today (Saturday)--12noon-1pm. VC meeting on Tuesday 9/2--7 pm Bryan Ctr.

VC: We will be voting on an emergency ordinance regarding our budget appropriations, a resolution regarding "Clean Ohio" (urging state funds being appropriate to municipalities for brownfields), and a resolution accepting our current rates/tax budget.

Then we'll be discussing Domestic Partnerships and getting an update on the Village Manager search.

EC: We had a great forum on the issue of tire burning on Thursday. On behalf of the EC, I would like to thank everyone who came out for the event. Here's EC chair Bob Moore's assessment:

'We had teary-eyes pregnant moms, an emotionally- shaking pathologist from Miami Valley, upset organic farmers, well dressed physicians dangling tomatoes, ordinary folks, Obama supporters anxious to see their candidate, and a packed room. We had numbers from both sides and Doug Bailey counted 95 people" flowing out into the hall in the Standing Room Only crowd.

One positive piece of information that I learned: I did not realize that RAPCA has a monitor for our air quality located right at the Bryan Center--as well as in Xenia, Dayton, Moraine, Springfield, and Preble Co. Yellow Springs is one of the few places in the region where the air has not been over federal Clean Air limits in the last two years, staying (just barely) under 35 ppm of particulates (34.75). I'd encourage data people in particular to look over the data available at the RAPCA website:

Two concrete outcomes of the forum:

  • First, the RAPCA rep agreed to collect data specific to WHOLE tire burning prior to the tests (which will not be conducted until 60 days after CEMEX alerts RAPCA), because audience members are concerned that tire-derived fuel--tires that have been shredded and processed prior to burning--is not the same as burning whole tires.
  • Second, the EC agreed to have a follow-up forum at some point in the future, where we hope there will be more time to compare the burning of tires more directly to the burning of coal/petroleum coke, which I have to admit is no more attractive to me at many levels. So I really do want answers to questions--I'm really uncertain about what is
The EC are a fairly young commission that's just getting some good experience, and we do realize that there were some glitches that we're hoping to address; we've already been asked by Bob to make lists of what we'd do differently next time. (When we chose this date about two months ago, we weren't even thinking about the Democratic national convention, sorry! Luckily, Obama didn't speak until 10 anyway.) We're thinking about altering the format in small ways to make the question period more efficient. And maybe we'll try to get a bigger space and microphones next time.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

PC: Historic Preservation Ordinance?

Dear People:

NOTE: I will have my office hours tomorrow LATE in the afternoon--from 4-5 pm. Also, due to the start of the school term, I will have to alter my normal office hour time. I will let you know what time slot I'm going to commit to as soon as I've figured out what will work best for my class schedule this fall--it may be a very early morning time or a weekend time. (If you have a preference, feel free to let me know.)

Planning Commission Meeting Monday 8/11, 7 pm, Bryan Center.


1. Reports
  • Council--focus will be on the Village Manager Search plan
  • Bike Enhancement Committee--Management Action Items: the BEC is working with the Village on
--getting Xenia Ave. foliage cut back,
--making street surfaces safer for bikes (repairing pot holes, assessing grates/utility access covers, etc.),
--marking the "sweet spots" that allow bikes to activate traffic lights,
--improving bike rack quality/availability,
  • Zoning Admin/Planner report
  • Miami Township Zoning Commission
2. Communication: from Xenia Township Zoning Inspector sent us a letter explaining that the Xenia Township, located on our southern border, is creating a land use plan for the northern (and southern) section of the township; their next discussion (on August 21) will include a focus on well-field protection and mineral extraction.

3. The main agenda item: Historic Preservation Ordinance: Should we adopt an historic preservation ordinance? We need to decide whether it would be valuable for us, as a village, to enact an historic preservation ordinance (which would necessitate having a historic preservation board to oversee permit processes), and also whether we should (at some point) work towards being a Certified Local Government with regard to historic preservation.

Such an ordinance could require demolition and remodeling permits for any significant changes to any buildings or lands within the historic district, which includes a significant portion of the whole village. How strictly would we want to write these rules? I have sample guidelines, from Medina and Springboro, provided by Glenn Harper of the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office.

If you are interested in this issue--pro or con!--I would like to hear from you. Is it time for Yellow Springs to more proactively protect our village's historic legacy? (Can we do so and still "keep it funky"?) This is always the line we are walking.

Please write me with your thoughts and/or attend this meeting!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

VC: Trash/Recycling rates, Village Manager search

Dear People--I'll be in the Emporium as usual from 12-1ish for my office hours tomorrow.

We have a fairly light agenda for this Monday's (8/4) Village Council Meeting (7 pm, Bryan Ctr) with the main item of business being a special report and discussion of our Village Manager search process. And I also want to use this opportunity to alert you all to the forthcoming efforts of the Environmental Commission to educate the community about the proposed tire burning at the CEMEX plant.  (Please also note my earlier posted entry today about Community Gardens in YS.)

1) Village Council Agenda

Resolutions and Ordinances:
  • First reading of an ordinance regarding changes to our Solid Waste (trash/recycling) rates, including new surcharges that are tied to increased fuel costs. Rates are rising for most customers, but will still be in line with what other communities are charged.
  • Resolutions to:  1) Renew our Rumpke solid waste (trash/recycling) contract / 2) Renew our contract with our village solicitor (our attorney, John Chambers, of Coolidge Wall law firm) / 3) Initiate a contract with Woolpert Planning services, who are assisting with the management of the Barr property and other projects related to the CBE, etc. / 4) Reimburse a village resident for a sewage backup, caused by Village sewer work, that damaged his home. 
Special Report by Don Vermillion regarding our search process for a new village manager. We will be determining what process we would like to use--especially how we will use, build on, alter or revise the work of the 2005 hiring committee. The things we'll be balancing are the need for broad community input, and also the need for the manager and Village Council to be able to work together. We need the manager to be absolutely willing and able to take direction from your elected representatives on Council as his direct employers, while providing clear professional recommendations as to how to get the work of the village done, generally on a limited budget.  

2) Environmental Commission:
  • CEMEX tire burn questions? The next issue of the Yellow Springs News will, I hope, have an ecobeat article that the Environmental Commission wrote regarding the CEMEX tire burning issue, which has been raised again because they have been given permission by the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency (RAPCA) to do a test burn of whole tires. At this time, CEMEX has not notified RAPCA of plans to do a test burn, which it must do at least 60 days prior to burning. The EC is planning an educational forum on the issue for August 28th, 7 pm, in the Bryan Center, at which we have confirmed the participation of representatives from the Ohio EPA, RAPCA, the Greene Environmental Commission, and Cemex who will each speak briefly and answer questions from the audience.
  • Community Gardens? see below!
Otherwise, I had a great time in New York City this past week (a quick drive with villagers, and we slept on the floor of two former YSHS graduates.) Bookstores are my personal addiction, so I spent a day wandering independent bookshops in the East Village and SoHo, and, despite many a resolution, bought an armload of new and used books. Just finished Fun Home by cartoonist Allison Bechdel, which was a fast, thought-provoking read. Now I'm trying to read mostly stuff I need to read for teaching this fall, which is fast approaching!

Community Gardens in Yellow Springs? Join a new group

The picture to the left is from The OSU Extension Service's webpage on urban services.  We can get some support from them for our community gardens!

The Environmental Commission is seeking to build interest and support for a community gardens program here in Yellow Springs.  We'll be announcing some community meetings for the fall, with the hope of being able to really get some gardens going next spring.

If you are interested, please consider joining the newly-minted Yellow Springs Community Garden forum, a yahoo-groups listserv: 

Click to join yellowspringscommunitygardens

Click to join yellowspringscommunitygardens

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Barr Property Conditions, Visioning Group Update, and the EC's CEMEX/tire burn forum 8/25

Dear People: Village Council will be meeting at 7 pm in the Bryan Center on Monday, July 21. The Environmental Commission will meet on Thursday, July 24, 7pm, Bryan Center Rooms A&B.

The main agenda items for the VC meeting are two resolutions
  • to hire Don Vermillion to assist us with our village manager search and 
  • to set official conditions on the Friends Care housing unit at the Barr Property. 
We were introduced to Don Vermillion at our last Village Council meeting, when he presented a very brief overview of his approach to helping with these searches, and provided references to other local municipalities that have used his services. In response to a question as to why his rates were so low, Don explained that in a way his work for the local public good is "subsidized" by his position, focused on public projects, at the Fitz Center of the University of Dayton. He comes highly recommended by our interim manager, John Weithofer.

We should be able to quickly move on to setting the conditions on the Barr Property. I know that many of you may have a direct interest in reading these, and unfortunately there are 25 and they are fairly long and wide ranging--and I don't have an electronic copy to link to. 14 of them were suggested by Emi Randall, of Woolpert Services: Planning and Design, who has been hired as a project manager for this project.

I will hit only the highlights, from my perspective. The original conditions suggested by the Planning Commission included things like
  • Requiring the amenities included in the Friends Care proposal: green roof structure, pervious pavement, secure bike parking, energy star appliances, alternative energy (e.g. geothermal "to the extent financially feasible"), etc.
  • Retaining the requirements for senior housing status
  • "The developer shall make every effort to facilitate the relocation of the Barr house." This condition stipulates "at least" a 3-month timeframe in which the developer solicits proposals for relocation, after which time the structure may be removed "using a salvage process."
the added suggested conditions include things like:
  • "The Final Development Plan must show preliminary storm water run-off calculations, conceptual surface and sub-surface drainage as well as detention and discharge plans," to be approved by village engineer. 
  • The engineer and/or village administration must also approve things like the plan for hooking into water service, sanitary sewer, storm drainage, a "Site Amenities Plan" with exact locations of everything including things like trash receptacles, open space, a "photometric plan" relating to the light emitted from every fixture, a plan for soil erosion and sediment control during construction, renderings of signage, "landscape plan that shows the location, number, and species of plants to be planted and trees to be preserved," etc.
  • Approval by the Police and Fire chiefs for emergency response access and fire codes.
  • A requirement to remove the chain link fence.
  • "No mechanical equipment or dumpsters should be visible from either Limestone St. or Xenia Ave and must be screened from adjacent property owners. These items must be screened through the use of plant material or decorative wall or fence materials."
  • "The developer shall employ architectural techniques to better integrate the proposed building into the surrounding Historic District through the use of exterior features, heights, appearance, color, and texture of the materials of exterior construction that are congruous and in harmony with those of the restored historical structures within the contiguous Historic District. The final architectural plans for exterior materials must be approved administratively. To aid in illustration, the developer shall provide architectural renderings with building materials and colors specified, or material samples for the exterior finishes."
The Visioning Group has also prepared a timetable for their work, adjusted to work with our process of hiring a Village Manager.

The Village Manager will then offer his update on various items of concern, including our response to a citizen's frustration about faulty sewer work that led to damage to his home, the work of Emi Randall and Brad Schwab of Woolpert Planning/Services, the Village Paving Program of 2008, the Advertisement for the Village Manager position.

The Environmental Commission is tentatively scheduling a forum on the CEMEX Tire Burning issue on August 28. We are in the process of inviting representatives from the Greene Environmental Coalition, CEMEX, the EPA and the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency, and possibly one or two other interested groups. A representative from Village Mediation will moderate the event. We will spend a good amount of time at our next meeting working on an effective structure for this forum, which we hope will be fair, respectful, and educational for all.

Final note: I've been reading a book on effective teaching this week, by a guy named Robert Boice. He advocates moderation, above all, holding back, reflectively, rather than rushing into a project with guns ablazing in the face of a rapidly approaching deadline, claiming that an "active waiting" approach is actually a more effective way to get things done, and done well. 

He also recommends approaching the vital tasks of our lives with playfulness and a certain level of detachment. He quotes a devastating aphorism from writer Stephen North, "The worse the writer, the greater the attachment to the writing." And explains, "This maxim refers to struggling writers who get too invested in their work to see alternatives or to listen to criticism, who refuse to revise or deviate from original plans, who communicate in insensitive ways. You can see how the same principle applies to teaching."

After 20 years, I'm still learning how to be a good teacher, by a whole lot of trial and a whole lot of error. And I'm using the same method for serving on Council. I'll be taking a reflective pause next week, and won't be sending a note (or posting to my blog). But I'm always open to hearing your constructive ideas for my work and the good of the village.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Planning Comm (7/14): Birch III PUD?, Historical Preservation?, Library Alley Problems

This is an old picture from the YS News published in relation to the documentary film, The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, directed by Faith Morgan.
Dear People--Another busy week looms. Tomorrow (Mon 7/14) I'll have my normal office hours from 12-1 pm, and in the evening at 7 pm is our Planning Commission meeting, so I'll focus on that for most of this note.

However, do note that Village Council will meet the following week, Monday 7/21. We'll be considering the conditions on the Barr property development at that meeting, and should have several resolutions to pass regarding appointments to commissions, the Village Manager hiring process, etc.

PLANNING COMMISSION TOMORROW NIGHT: After the normal reports to the Commission--including my update on Council activities, the Bike Enhancement/Northern Gateway Committee, Zoning Administrator/Planner report (Ed Amrhein) and the Miami Valley Regional Planning Comm's Bike Plan and Miami Township Zoning Commission reports--we'll proceed to Old Business: Comprehensive Plan Review and Revisions, with John Eastman, and the final approval of our 2008 goals.

Next, (by about 8:30--but I hope earlier, maybe 8 pm?) we'll go to three items of New Business items that may be of greater interest to villagers:
  1. Concept presentation for a Planned Urban Development (PUD) within Birch III. The proposal is to convert 8 of the lots in the Birch III development (totalling 2.782, located roughly in the middle of the development) from single family dwellings to 6, 4-unit dwellings that they call "attached patio homes," which would have a new "back alley" between them for 12 of the units. Analysis by Ed Amrhein suggests that the potential benefits of this development are: increased revenue from taxes and utilities, increased enrollment in schools, and possibly faster build-out time for the subdivision. The questions that Ed suggests we may need to consider, include:
  • Where is the 25% open space that our ordinances require?
  • Is the alley built to a standard that it could function as a street?
  • How would utilities be connected to the twelve units fronting on the alley?
Additionally, an "Other Voices" column from a resident of Birch III, Mark "Sol" Solomon, in last week's YS News (7/3) raised residents' concerns about this project and the process thus far. My impression from Mr. Solomon's article is that he and some other neighbors who have already moved into the development do not oppose density per se, or--at this point--any specifics of the proposal, but were feeling the developers weren't really being straight with them about their motivations, etc., and that the residents will have made a major life decision/investment based on information that is now changing. Mr. Solomon suggests that the price of these units will be $200,000; houses there are normally in the $300,000 range.

If any of you have specific concerns about this development, please let me know! I can forward your concerns to the PC in whatever way you would like.
  1. Information re: Historic Preservation: At my request, we received a large number of documents from the Historic Preservation, including an inventory of specific homes/buildings that are already on the Ohio Historic Inventory, sample historic preservation ordinances, and information about how to work towards being a certified local government. Most of Yellow Springs, including the Antioch College campus, are part of a national historic district, but we don't currently have a historic preservation ordinance.
  2. 2 requests to "vacate" (i.e., as far as I can tell, essentially "close") an alley or portion thereof: 
  • One of these requests is relatively noncontroversial--it's essentially only a "potential" alley on a currently empty residential lot on the east side of N. High St. (409 N. High) that connects to alleys that have already been closed. Since there's no alley there, except in the most abstract sense,"vacating" this alley really just affirms the current reality.
  • The second request involves the regularly-used alley behind the library, which runs parallel to Xenia Ave., connecting Davis and Limestone. The problem is that current use causes noise, dust, and higher speed traffic than is appropriate for the gravel lane, which is annoying to the neighbors and potentially dangerous (particularly since children, pedestrians and bicyclists also use it, and cars often "confront" each other on this narrow lane, and need to back up, etc. This agenda item allows us to "explore alternative solutions to existing problems," rather than simple closure. 
That's about it, except for agenda planning for our next meeting.

I hope a lot of you caught Vick Mickunis interviewing Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. (Here's a link to his interview on today's WYSO weekend.) Klein's book focuses on the way "free market" approaches are often rammed through on the heels of disasters, whether natural or man-made, by "disaster capitalists." Those who seek to profit from disasters, typically paint a picture of the original destruction, plus the destructive processes of their own desired (very profitable) takeovers, as positive: as creating new, utopian, blank slates on which they will create improved worlds, institutions. It's a "Rapture" fantasy--promising a (profitable) heaven after the end of the world as we know it. So here's a quotation from the conclusion of the book, which focuses on "people's reconstruction" movements that seems especially relevant to our village's current challenges:

[P]eople's reconstruction efforts represent the antithesis of the disaster capitalism complex's ethos, with its perpetual quest for clean streets and blank slates on which to build model states. . . . [These people's movements] are inherently improvisational, making do with whoever is left behind and whatever rusty tools have not been swept away, broken, or stolen. Unlike the fantasy of the Rapture, the apocalyptic erasure that allows the ethereal escape of true believers [the myth that underlies disaster capitalism], local people's renewal movements begin from the premise that there is no escape from the substantial messes we have created, and that there has already been enough erasure--of history, of culture, of memory. These movements that do not seek to start from scratch, but rather from scrap, from the rubble that is all around. As the corporatist crusade continues its violent decline, turning of the shock dial to blast through the mounting resistance it encounters, these projects point a way forward between fundamentalisms. Radical only in their intense practicality, rooted in the communities where they live, these men and women see themselves as mere repair people, taking what's there and fixing it, reinforcing it, making it better and more equal. Most of all, they are building in resilience--for when the next shock hits. (Klein 466)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

VC this week + Summer Reading: Corn & Me

The picture to the left is my grandparents' farm, ca. 1940.  My parents live there today, but it looks very different (except the house).  All the fences, and most of the small buildings, are gone; now there's a large system of grain bins and elevators on the east end of the farm, past the barn, which is still (barely) standing.

Dear People--As usual I'll be in the Emporium on Monday at noon, for anyone who wants to chat with me about Village business ahead of our next meeting, which will be held in the Bryan Ctr. this Monday, July 7, 7 pm.

There's not a lot on our agenda, but it's all pretty important.

First, we'll consider five resolutions relating to:
1) renewing the Village Treasurer's employment contract (a small raise included); 2) establishing green pricing in Yellow Springs; 3) initiating the employment contract with our interim Village Mgr.; 4) authorizing the interim Village Mgr.'s signature on our bank accounts; 5) authorizing the hiring of an administrative assistant for the Village Mgr.

Second, we'll hear a special report from Don Vermillion of the University of Dayton who has been suggested as a consultant for helping us initiate a search for a new village manager. It's my hope that someone like Professor Vermillion, who is a local consultant in this area, may be able to provide us better, vetted candidates than we could get from depending on our own stretched resources, and, reportedly, at a considerably lower cost than the fees many head-hunting firms charge. I will appreciate your thoughts and input on this process.

Third, we'll be discussing two items of "old business": 1) The director of our Wastewater Treatment Plant, Joe Bates, will be on hand for a discussion of where we stand in regard to the EPA's concerns about the plant. (The YS News's article on this issue is here. I'm happy to answer any questions about my quoted statements in that piece.)
2) John Grote, our chief of police, will help us understand security issues, etc. raised by the Antioch Closure and what is being done to address those issues. (We also received a letter from Colin Altman, Miami Township Fire Chief, directed to Tom Faeke, related to the issue, which is in our packets this week, which was also reported on in the most recent issue of the YS News.)

Fourth, under "new business" we'll be discussing and developing a "Work/Action Plan" for the village, for the next several months while we are in a state of transition under interim manager Weithofer. During this time we are planning to attend to several items of work that need our most immediate attention. Given our stretched resources and the uncertainties represented both by the Antioch and other situations, and the need to find a new manager, we need to think very carefully about what we can realistically accomplish at this time and how to best set up our next manager for success here. The main things, as I understand it, that we are likely to focus on include the WWTP issue; the Antioch situation and its implications for the village; and some specific issues related to streets/infrastructure--repairs and construction within already established new developments (e.g., the already-promised infrastructure for the CBE), in addition to hiring a permanent manager.

If you have thoughts or concerns about what we as a village should prioritize over the next several months, or how we should approach these challenges, please do attend, listen, ask questions, and speak up.

Summer Reading. (A longish biographical aside, which you may not have time for.) These last two weeks, I've been gobbling books. I read Don Delillo's Falling Man, Wendy Lee's Happy Family, and have just started in on Louise Erdrich's A Plague of Doves. Each of those works of fiction from the past two years or so has me intrigued.

But I've also finally been reading the Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Early in the book he visits an Iowa farm and traces not only the path that a typical bushel of corn takes these days, into beef feedlots, high-fructose corn syrup, ethanol, and chicken mcnuggets, but also the strange long history of that plant, worshipped by the Aztecs for centuries, now spilling recklessly into the mud by the grain elevator in my home town, and profoundly profitable to Cargill and ADM (not so much to the actual farmers).

This book has particular resonance to me, as a person who grew up on a corn and soybean farm in Iowa, and who now lives here in Ohio, surrounded by a summer sea of grain commodities. Corn has probably contributed most of the carbon atoms in my body (and yours). Corn also paid for my education. Virtually every job I had through college was directly related to grain commodity production and consumption. Corn literally made me who I am. But its mass production also literally obliterated the house and farm I was raised on (you can see my family standing in front of our old, now demolished home, if you want to pay to see this New York Times article from 1970. Or email me and, if you're polite, I'll send you an electronic copy.)  The vagaries of the corn market nearly plunged us into bankruptcy during the farm crisis of the 80s. As I was growing up and away from the farm, corn production was dramatically re-shaping the whole layout and architecture of the farm my grandparents bought and on which my parents still live today, as well as the nearby towns. The area is much emptier (of people) and a less sustainable place than it was 70 years ago when my immigrant grandfather purchased that property. 

At a party several years ago while I was in graduate school, I was explaining to a man I'd just met (and have never seen again) how I had rejected farm life and all it entailed, and my guilt about that abandonment. He said blandly, "Ah, but it also rejected you." I was a little shocked, at the time (me? a reject??), but it stayed with me today because, as it happens, it's true. 

That region has been deliberately cleared of people and farm animals and communities. Of people like me. This happened through technological "advances" and federal policies designed to promote the overproduction of this one beautiful, highly manipulated plant. The tidal wave swept me here, amongst you, even as I thought I was making my own decisions. Yet, I carry the corn inside me. It is me. And of course, here in southwest Ohio, we are still surrounded by it.

Today, the fields upon fields of even rows of identical green plants remind me (and Pollan) of erect, uniformed soldiers. And rightly so, as soldiers in sand-colored uniforms fight and die in Iraq for the petroleum resources, at least 25% of which go to growing our industrial food supply, Pollan explains. And yet those fields are still achingly beautiful to me, summer evenings, glittering fireflies.