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...]