Monday, February 25, 2013

Why the silence

At the joint City Council/Planning Commission meeting two weeks ago, the topic of financial impacts of development was discussed at my request. You can see the minutes from the discussion below...

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I have been struggling with this for two weeks. Is it really inappropriate for me, as a sitting member of the Planning Commission, to continue to speak out publicly on this issue? I can understand how city officials don't appreciate being chided for for simply doing their jobs as believe best, but to ask me to stop seems wrong.

When I agreed to stop talking on the point about financial impacts of development, I let myself, and the purpose behind "A Place in Mound", down. I apologize to all of you who have participated in the conversations here.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Quicknotes

- WECAN Omlette Breakfast is this Sunday, 9-noon at the American Legion. Tickets are $9.00 and are available at WeCAN or call 952-472-0742.

- The Mound/Westonka Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC) is having a FREE Family Open Gym for families of children of Special Needs at Grandview Middle School on Saturday, 3-5. This council is made up of staff and parents from the school, and are doing great things to help make our school and community a great place for people with disabilities.

- Thursday, Feb 21st at 6:30 another meeting on drug abuse in our community will be taking place called, "Heroin: It's in Our Community". This meeting will be mostly the chance to break out in smaller groups, and get information and have a discussion that may relate directly to your situation. It will be held at the Gillespie Center.

- Westonka Community and Commerce (formerly Celebrate Greater Mound) is having their monthly luncheon Thursday next week at Bethel United Methodist Church at 11:45.

- A unique meeting is happening Monday night at Mound city hall. The Mound Planning Commission (which I sit on) is having a joint meeting with the Mound City Council to discuss a couple of issues. I am looking forward to discussing some of the financial aspects of developments I have written about here a couple times. Unfortunately the idea of discussing "Complete Streets" was not included on the agenda. I was a little slow to suggest the topic, so it's probably my fault, but I intend to keep pushing the issue... especially as we are about to rebuild several of our MSA streets. Look out Three Points Blvd, you're first on the docket!

- Everytime I talk about the Open Mic night at Threshold with someone, their eyes light up. It will be cool to be hanging out in Downtown Mound on Saturday night, starting at 7:30. Please come and enjoy some snacks or drink, and watch our talented youth perform. It will be a fun night!

- It's been a great week, and I've already shared how humbled I have been by Strong towns earlier this week. Here's a video of a speech Chuck Marohn, from Strong Towns, did a few weeks ago. As much as I am uplifted by how he shares my story, the bigger message is important. The message that we can continue to improve and make Mound a great city, a great place.

Please watch this video, not because it has pictures of me in it, but because it's about the possibility of the things we can do together. Especially if you are a Mound city official.

Mission - Flowers on Emerald Drive

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Emerald Drive, between Avon and Glendale Drive. A pleasant place to walk.
This is a place my daughters walk through every day, to and from school. This is Emerald Drive... the part of Emerald Drive you can't drive on. It was originally platted to be a street, but the city, in its wisdom some time ago, decided to just have it be a simple walking path as you can see above. It's fairly short... less than a hundred feet... but it's a safe place for people.

The city does a decent job clearing snow from it. The neighbors take a bit of pride in it, and often clear it before the city gets there. Below someone cleared a path before my daughters headed to school on the day this photo was taken.

It also is marked by four sign posts, or stakes. I suppose they are there to mark the path so a snow plow will know where exactly to go. After a while, my daughters and I started talking about the sign posts, and how they should have signs! We joked about making "No Parking" signs, which lead to "No Running" and "No Licking Ice Cream" and other obnoxious things.

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A pretty place, but those stakes are kind of obnoxious.

The more we talked about it, the more I realized this would be a cool neighborhood beautification project.  My daughter's school "Imagination Fair" (like a Science Fair) was approaching, and my 8 year old, Maeve agreed to make this her project, or mission.

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She takes on the task to give this sign posts some purpose! Let's call her "Agent Maeve"!

So we had a discussion about what kind of signs she wanted to create. She thought about making pictures of snacks and food (I think she was hungry while we were talking) and we talked about making pictures of kitties, stars, rainbows, and finally settled on making pictures of colored flowers.

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Agent Maeve showing off her signs.

She wanted to do blue, green, red and yellow flowers. She created three drafts, and than a final product.

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"I did this!"
   Her father secured the signs firmly to the posts for all to enjoy.

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Maeve showing Mound some love!
 Is this Guerrilla Urbanism? Is Maeve a Tactical Urbanist?

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Maeve showing her work at the Imagination Fair. Great job Sweets! (photo from Kristyn Hewitt)

No matter what, she makes her daddy proud with her efforts to make our neighborhood a better place.

Mission Success!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Happy Curbside Chat Anniversary!

I've actually had this date on my calendar for a couple months now. It was a year ago today when I managed to convince a handful of city officials and a few community members to attend a "Curbside Chat" at the Gillespie Center. A lot of what has happened here at "A Place in Mound" is because of Chuck Marohn's wiliness to take some of his valuable time to come here and share his information.

I am very... very humbled that the small things we are trying to do here are being watched around the region and country. People recognize the need for anything to happen at all to improve our cities, need to happen at the local level. It takes people... ordinary, average people, to create change. The ideas I write about here are not my own. People much smarter, more well written, better articulated and way more persuasive come up with the ideas and concepts to improve cities and our lives, I just try to take them down to a level where Mound can use them, and actually create an environment where people have a choice how to get around in our neighborhoods and city, where their children can play safely, and have a city that is resilient.

I'm sure it was entirely a coincidence that Chuck shared this project with me yesterday. I am honored he shared my story today on the Strong Towns blog, and hope that there are other ordinary folks in other ordinary cities out there with a little bit of gumption to try to make the world a better place.

If you, local Mound citizen, believe in many of the things I write about here, and want to DO something, instead of just complaining, you should join "A Place in Mound" found on the right side of the website. This isn't a place for complaints, this is about learning about Mound, and implementing changes.

I'm sure Chuck won't mind me copying and pasting his post here today.

Today is the one year anniversary of the Mound Curbside Chat. In terms of the nearly 100 speaking events I've done over the past 30 months, it was pretty ordinary; a handful of people gathered at a town hall on a standard, chilly Minnesota weeknight. That being said, what has come out of that event has been anything but ordinary.
I've written what follows as part of a larger initiative we are working on here at Strong Towns, one that I so very much wish I could share today (not quite ready yet, but soon). It is the perfect way to celebrate the anniversary of the Mound Chat.
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George Matthew Linkert, IV is just an average resident of an average town. He is married, has two young kids and lives in a modest house in a suburbs. He drives a modest car. Has a modest income. Even his general demeanor is, as they say in Minnesota, quite average.
But despite being anything but extraordinary, George is doing extraordinary things.
I first got to know George as GLM4, the online moniker he uses when he posts comments on the Strong Towns Blog. And, boy, did he ever post comments. In what felt like a continuous stream of questions, comments and inquiries, George pushed and prodded and struggled to reconcile the Strong Towns vision I was sharing with what he saw in his own community.
At times it was painful. At times, beautiful. George’s background is in music -- a far cry from city planning or engineering -- and so very little of our message was in his professional wheelhouse. Yet, he persisted.
Ultimately the public comments turned to personal emails, the personal emails to instant messages and texts. Every now and then we’d have a break though. “Oh, I think I get it now.” He was working really hard.
I was invited by George to come to his city of Mound, MN, and do a Curbside Chat presentation. This is the first time we met in person. He showed me his town, asked my opinion on some specific things he was experiencing and then, after the Chat, he insisted we go out to eat. I remember sitting there thinking, here’s a very nice man, but besides the pleasant conversation, what is going to come of all of this time I am spending?
Little did I know that George would change my entire thinking about what needs to happen to build a nation of strong towns.
Shortly after the Curbside Chat, George started getting more active in his community. He joined his planning commission and became vocal as a volunteer. He started a blog and began consistently writing about the details of growth and development in Mound. Soon he was taking pictures and videos of roads and parking lots and posting them online, generating some good discussion locally. He would organize neighborhood meetings and schedule coffee discussions with others locals. There was even a newspaper article about his activities.
Then George went and made a presentation to the city council that mixed in slides from Strong Towns with snapshots he took of his community. It was a beautiful narrative about how Mound could be so much better and how a different approach -- a Strong Towns approach -- could make it happen. It was the Mound Curbside Chat that only George could make.
This is when it became clear to me what was going on. George Matthew Linkert IV, by all outward appearances a very average person, was driving the agenda in his community. This part time musician and full time dad was filling the intellectual void in the city’s growth and development approach. He was asking the right questions, making the right challenges and using his energy and positive vision to mobilize people for change. He is exactly what Mound needs.
And as I watched him share his message -- our message -- I realized that George was exactly what we needed.
I realized that every city needs a George.
 A special thanks to George Matthew Linkert IV and everyone working to make Mound, MN, a Strong Town. You've inspired us to do more and to work even harder to make our shared vision a reality. We love you guys. If you want to follow what they are doing, head on over to GML4's blog, A Place in Mound. 


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Monday, February 4, 2013

Saturday Night in Downtown Mound!

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Bring your talent and passion to the stage, or sit back and enjoy the show. We are hoping to attract musicians, bands, poets, free-stylers, magicians, and any other live forms of expression. Whether this is your first time on stage, or you are a professional entertainer...your efforts will be respected and appreciated.
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Location: Threshold Performing Arts Center
Cost: $5 cover (under 12 free)
*Drinks and snacks available
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If you are interested in performing, please contact me via personal message on facebook, and we can arrange a time for you to take the stage. Include this information:

-Name of the performer(s) or group
-Type of performance
-If musical, what style or genre (including instruments that will be utilized)
-Level of experience performing live
-Desired length of performance (3-30 minutes)
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*Profits from these events will support the 'Lake Minnetonka Regional Arts Council'

Mission: "To nurture the soul of the community through cultural arts education, outreach, and performance opportunities for all ages and abilities"

Website: http://lmrac.org/LMRAC.html
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See you there!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Walking to school on the coldest day of the year

Just another bitterly cold day in Minnesota. I woke up to my wife telling me that she's pleading for me to drive the children to school  on Facebook.

I was ready for this, and had looked at the weather report before going to bed with said,
 "A WIND CHILL ADVISORY MEANS THAT VERY COLD AIR AND STRONG WINDS WILL COMBINE TO GENERATE LOW WIND CHILLS. THIS WILL RESULT IN FROST BITE AND LEAD TO HYPOTHERMIA IF PRECAUTIONS ARE NOT TAKEN. WHEN VENTURING OUTDOORS...MAKE SURE YOU WEAR A HAT AND GLOVES." 
So I reasoned that as long as they were bundled up properly (as they do every morning I send them off to school) they would be fine. Several of my wife Facebook friends clearly agreed with my wife (and one with me). In the end, I get to make the decision.

So I walked to school with them.

We got ready for school. They were bundled up before I was, so I suggested they could start without me, and I would catch up. I figured they would rather stay with me in the warm house. However Cecelia said, "Ok!" and then told Maeve, "Let's hurry and try to beat him!" And off they went.

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Girls try to take off  without me!
Yes it was cold, but we had appropriate hat, mittens, and footwear.

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It was a rather pretty walk. We heard Chickadees along the way!
We talked about school and selling Girl Scout cookies this weekend.

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Playing with our shadows.
The girl's school has "Imagination Fair" next week... kind of like a Science Fair. Maeve's project will be finished along Emerald Drive (the walking path she is standing on in the picture below). So we talked about that, and imagined what it will look like when it is done.

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Maeve is showing us where her Shirley Hills Imagination Fair project is going to be installed next week. A small neighborhood beautification project she is working on.
The girls were clearly comfortable, and not in a hurry. There was an extremely cold day a week or two ago where I truly worried if it was too cold to send them walking. I had an appointment to drive to shortly after they left, so after a few minutes, I got into my car, and as I was on my way to my appointment, I drove by the school to be sure they successfully got to school. They had not gotten as far as I hoped and appeared to be walking in circles in the Shirley Hills field! So I parked by the school door as they were finally walking up to the door. I asked them if they were ok, and they looked at me like I was crazy. "Yeah, were fine." They said, and walked into the school like it was any other day.

After that, I decided not to worry about these really cold mornings. Especially when the weather forecasters are clearly telling us to be sure to bundle up.

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Yes, this is kind of dangerous. I tried discouraging this for a while last year, but then realized this is one of those time honored kid traditions that they will not be denied. If there is a lesson they will have to learn, they will learn it the hard way.
Not a whole lot of traffic on Bartlett this morning. A couple of cars that were driving too fast as usual, one kind of slowed down as my kids were waiting to cross. The more I think about the way the "Safe Routes to School" program has been implemented in our community, and more shortcomings I see in it. This is something that needs to be addressed.

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Crossing our neighborhood stroad (Bartlett Blvd). 
Getting across the Shirley Hills field, my daughters were still not in a huge hurry. Maeve walked a bit through the playground, Cecelia took us on a tangent to show me something.

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Cecelia showing me her "Construction site" at the playground. 
It was fun to see someone had been playing out here. There was a snowman, and several large snowballs.

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A snow fort on the playground. 
After seeing my daughters into the building, I turned to head by home, and saw a friend parking his car to drop off his preschool aged daughter. She didn't have proper head gear, he was in worse shape, without gloves. He knew we had just walked to school, and he just shook his head, said hi, and hurried into the building.

This all reminds of a guy I knew a few years ago who worked in construction. When Fall was turning to Winter he talked about purposely stay out working a bit longer, not putting on gloves, keeping lighter jackets on, delaying turning on his furnace, and letting his body adjust to the cold. He strongly felt our bodies adjust to these temperatures if we let them. So when it would get even colder, his body was better prepared to work well in that weather.

Even though the school is not letting kids out for recess or Phy ed, my kids are walking every day, and they are used to it. It's clear they enjoy the walk, and it is part of their routine. I am proud of them, and their attitudes about this, and am glad to continue to support their efforts.