Monday, June 30, 2008

Wastewater Treatment Plant Issues

 Sanitation is dignity! The motto of an exhibition sponsored by the German Toilet Organization, who have declared 2008 "International Year of Sanitation."  [Image from the NYTimes' "Dot Earth" blog entry for March 20, 2008, by Andrew Revkin, entitled, "2.6 Billion with No Place to Go (to the Toilet)"]

Dear People: I will be holding my office hour today--12-1:00 (or so) at the Emporium.

While our agenda for our next meeting has not been finalized, we will have some information about the ongoing issues with our Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP). The YS News interviewed me about the WWTP last week, and I'd like to share what I said. The Village had been publicly informed that the plant was out of compliance due to lack of needed upgrades to our sewage-system's handling capacity, particularly during storms, because we get a lot of inflow of surface water.

All of our discussions of this matter have been public, most recently on Nov 19, 2007, when the matter was particularly raised by a villager, Vicki H. From then until our executive session at our last meeting, we didn't discuss it because we believed that we, as a Village, were were doing everything we possibly could to move forward on this issue. Before my time on the Council, the manager had already applied for a successful Issue 2 grant for a significant part of the plant upgrades, money that is scheduled to be released in the next year, and we had taken on an engineering firm, LJB Engineering, a top firm in Ohio for handling wastewater plants.

So Council was under the impression that we were on track with this serious issue. However, we have discovered this month that, in fact, our response to the EPA has not been adequate, and we could be subject to a substantial fine. We are now working very hard to rectify the situation. We have taken on an excellent environmental attorney--not to fight the EPA's concerns and assessments, but to help us work with the EPA to get us into compliance as soon as possible. That's our goal, and that's where our focus is: getting into compliance.

A Villager, I believe it was Chris R., said something key to me after this issue came up for discussion on Village Council at one of my first meetings. I know I won't get her words exactly right, but she said something like: other people and groups can work on economic development, artists can live here and make art, etc., but you are the ONLY ones who can work on things like keeping our sewage system and our water system, our infrastructure, safe and functioning.

I have been very aware of that responsibility this week, especially, and I thank all the villagers who help keep us aware of what our priorities are and should be--even the ones who are being critical. It's what we need.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

No office hours this coming Monday (6/23)

Due to a family commitment, I won't be holding office hours this Monday.   Upcoming meetings include:
  • Environmental Commission, rooms A&B in Bryan Ctr, 7 pm, Thursday 26th June.
  • Village Council, Council Chambers in Bryan Ctr., 7 pm, Monday 7th July

Sunday, June 15, 2008

VC this week, dangers of high-speed pursuit

Two of my favorite "Odd Fellows"! (From Street Fair 2005)

Dear People: It was good to see so many of you at the Street Fair yesterday. I helped set up and take down the Tecumseh Land Trust booth and attended more of the fair than usual (often I just hide in my house on Street Fair day). I thought it was especially well organized and fun this year, great music!, so kudos to the Chamber of Commerce.

1) We have several fairly straightforward resolutions to consider during the "public hearings/legislation" portion of our meeting, 7 pm Monday night, Bryan Ctr:
  • Approval of the 2009 Tax Budget
  • Purchase of a used street sweeper
  • Designating our official agent for the receipt of FEMA money from last winter's storms
  • Installing a new HVAC system in the Bryan Center.
2) We will have short special reports/presentations from:
  • Run for Life
  • Records Commission--regarding the posting of official public documents on our website
3) And we'll have several commission appointments to consider, before ...

4) ... we retire into Executive Session

We are still hoping that John Weithofer will agree to be our interim manager. He is currently acting as a manager-consultant for the village on an hourly basis and helping us to assess our current situation and the challenges we face.

FINALLY: High Speed Chase Concerns: I want to also share with you all a corrected copy of a letter that I drafted for the whole Council, which has been forwarded to the Dayton City Manager, regarding the high-speed chase through town, and the public safety issue as I see it, which is an issue that the media nor the Dayton Police have addressed. If any of you feel strongly, please consider writing a letter to the DDN or other media outlets to express your concerns:

Dear Colleagues: From what I can tell from these emails and the report in the Dayton Daily News, [edited to add: after the perpetrator deliberately backed into an arresting officer's vehicle (6/17/2008)] the [Dayton] police chose to continue this high-speed pursuit:
  • on a simple drug offense 
  • by an unarmed fugitive who the paper was able to describe in some detail (i.e., they had a good physical description and, I understand, actual films of his initial apprehension),
  • of an already identified vehicle 
  • in the middle of the day 
  • through a busy business district of a small town 
  • into the the parking lot of a public building with a significant teen recreation facility 
  • when there were almost certainly alternative means of capturing the criminal available through better use of modern telecommunications systems, etc.
  • at speeds of up to 90 mph
If all that is true, this borders on criminal irresponsibility on the part of the Dayton Police force.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police published an article in the last few years 
in which they note that pursuit-related crashes result in the deaths of at least 300 officers and innocent bystanders every year. (Other citizen action groups note there's no required reporting on this phenomena, so the numbers may actually be higher). The Police Chief Magazine article advocates that police not put themselves and the public at risk through a dependence on high-speed pursuit. They note that there are other means of pursuit available, particularly given the development of modern telecommunications, particularly when the perpetrator is not a violent offender.

What is Dayton Police policy on high-speed chases? What is ours?

Unless compelling information is produced that alters the public narrative of this event or my understanding of it, I can see no excuse for this dangerous chase. The Dayton Police deliberately turned both cars into deadly weapons and drove them into our midst, and they should be held accountable for this irresponsible decision.



Thanks for all the kinds words and support I continue to get from so many of you. It helps a lot!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

<--This picture is Harriet McBryde Johnson, disability rights activist, who died this week.

Dear People--I always think of Garrison Keillor when I start writing these memos, "Well, it's been a quiet week in Lake Woebegone..." But, well, this isn't Minnesota, there ain't no lake, and, as usual, it hasn't been all that quiet.

1) Antioch alive?  The Antioch saga has apparently taken another interesting, potentially positive turn. In their meeting in Keene, NH, the university trustees apparently voted to work with the Alumni to create an "independent and separate college", as soon as possible. . . .? . . . But I admit I want to read the fine print before I actually celebrate. (Color me a cool shade of "jaded," I guess.)

For more information about this latest head-scratching turn of events, see the Alumni website--and/or the text of the Antioch Alumni "breaking news" newsletter, below my signature (dated 6/7/2008). [As far as I can tell, the University has not yet issued a separate press release.] 
This comes at a time when:

* Faculty are being forced to move out of their offices this week--and would love your help moving at 10 AM tomorrow (6/9)! (Contact Amy Maruyama to help!)
* So far as I know, tomorrow evening (6/9) we're still planning to have a picnic and speakers (including me!) about the impact of the closing on the village, at the "U" drive in front of Main Building, 5:30 (potluck) / 6:30 speakers. I will speak first, and then race off to the Planning Commission meeting, see below.

2) Consulting Village Manager: Meanwhile, back at our little ranch, many of you probably read that we've hired John Weithofer to serve as a "consulting" manager to the village during these last two weeks of Eric's work with us. We hope that he will also agree to be our interim manager. He's a very experienced manager with long-term connections in the Dayton area, who has had the experience of helping Miamisburg successfully deal with the closing of a major employer, a crisis he describes as not dissimilar in scale and implications to the Antioch situation that we face. He's intrigued by the opportunity. I am impressed by him.

Also at our last meeting we also approved the Barr property plans, which I know is not what all of you wanted. I feel at peace with the decision, but am nevertheless aware of the burden of responsibility I bear for helping to make this project work as best as it possibly can for our village, and to make sure that the developers live up to their promises about minimizing negative impacts on the neighborhood, and possibly even improving the drainage situation. I pledge to do my very best on this.

3) Monday: 6/9, 7 pm: Planning Commission: We'll be discussing our Comprehensive Plan update, the Bike Committee's Management action list, our amended goals, and, finally, and most importantly: Historical Preservation. This is the crucial issue facing our village, long term, as we grapple with the potential for a closed or seriously down-sized Antioch College. We want to make sure that key historic buildings are preserved. Please consider coming to this meeting!

4) Next: Village Council Meeting: 6/16, 7 pm, Bryan Ctr: We will have many things to take up--including, we hope, addressing our concerns about the University's plans for temporary(?) closure of the college buildings, a few resolutions that we postponed from our last meeting--e.g., reappointing our village treasurer and signing up the village utility accounts for Green Pricing, and appointments to several commissions. We'll also approve the Tax Budget for the village, hear a Run-for-Life presentation, and discuss economic development concerns. I will have more details next week, however.

Death remains mysterious.  How can I imagine a world without me?  How can I have survived so many friends, so many family members, so many heroes?  Why can't Mel Brooks live forever?  Death is natural and necessary, but not just.  It is a random force of nature; survival is equally accidental.  Each loss is an occasion to remember that survival is a gift.  I owe it to others to make good use of my time.  When I die, I might as well die alive.  ~ Harriet McBryde Johnson,  8 July 1957-3 June 2008

Monday, June 2, 2008

Barr property, Antioch closure concerns

Dear People: There will be several important items on the agenda at our Village Council meeting on Monday night, 7pm in the Bryan Center (second floor, Council Chambers) so I suspect it may be a packed house.

Public Hearings/Legislation
Friends Care Community's proposal for the Senior Apts on the Barr property. I have been hearing a good deal from both sides on this question. I am planning to press further on the question of how affordable these apartments will be.
Village Treasurer-Employment Agreement
Green Pricing This will be a resolution signing up the Village's utility-user accounts for green pricing. (NOTE: We also agreed at our last VC meeting (5/14) that we were close enough to the 10% sign-up figure to go ahead with green pricing, so the contracts will be sent to villagers soon.)
New Business:Antioch closure concerns: We have heard from our county fire marshall about fire hazard concerns and will be discussing this at our next meeting.

We will also be going into executive session regarding our hiring process for the interim village manager. We are making good progress.