Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mark O'Brien said it perfectly

Mark O'Brien's O'pinions

City windfall going fast
Posted 8/15/2009 4:49 AM EDT on pnj.com
Windfalls go fast, as anyone who squandered one can attest.

The City of Pensacola is busy spending $800,000 that it will receive as the first payment on the $3.3 million it gets for selling the old Army Reserve Center on College Boulevard to Gulf Coast Regional Airport.

Thanks to this shortfall and that need, more than half the money already has been committed, and more is about to be spent.

The latest chunks include $41,000 for a variety of local agencies and $35,000 for parades in downtown Pensacola, although some council members are upset.

"I feel like we found a $20 bill and can’t wait to spend it," said Councilwoman Maren DeWeese, who objected in vain to the transactions.

In one episode, the council agreed — over the wishes of DeWeese and colleagues Diane Mack and Sam Hall — to use $41,000 to underwrite programs for numerous causes. They include $5,000 for the Gulf Coast African American Chamber of Commerce for economic development as well as $30,000 for United Way agencies, $2,000 for St. Michael’s Cemetery and $2,000 for the July Fourth fireworks organized by the Sertoma Club.

Objections came on a couple scores.

Mack wondered if these were efforts that City Hall should undertake.
"How much of it is the proper function of this government?" asked Mack, shrugging off critics who call her "a grinch, Hard-Hearted Hannah."

DeWeese felt the council should not use the money from the property sale for these causes. She noted that many employees are going on their second year without a raise.

Councilman Ron Townsend defended the expenditures as investments in community services.
"All of these services provide quality of place, quality of life," he said.

Council members got another jolt when City Manager Al Coby informed them that parade-organizers refused to contribute any more money to help defray the costs of police officers and other city workers needed for downtown events. He said the city could absorb the $35,000 cost by taking the money from the property sale, which will leave the city with a net of barely $250,000 from the first year’s payment.

Deputy Mayor Jewel Cannada-Wynn was taken aback by the stubbornness of parade organizers. She feels the parades contribute little to the downtown economy yet absorb a large amount of city money.

She turned to Coby and said, "They just wanted the city to pick up the costs?""Yes, ma’am," Coby said.

Mack, however, said the city should take a harder line and put the onus on the parade supporters.

"They’ll find a way if they want those parades," she said.

Finance Director Dick Barker said the economy eventually will improve.
"Everything runs in cyles," he said, assuring council members that finances will get better in time.

Friday, August 7, 2009

New Urbanism

The concept of new urbanism is age old in other countries. In Europe there is not sprawl into rural areas just for the sake of low cost land. Forests are only forests, and fields are simply that without man made enhancements. No Billboards to clutter the landscape...just the best of nature for your eyes to enjoy. Cities are well planned and highly functional, allowing for pedestrian traffic throughout.

On another scale, new urbanism is planned development and creates usable communities. Please take a look at the following and let me know what you think.

The New Urbanism is a reaction to sprawl. A growing movement of architects, planners, developers, and others, the New Urbanism is based on principles of planning and architecture that work together to create human-scale, walkable communities. New urbanists take a wide variety of approaches — some work exclusively on infill projects, others focus on transit-oriented development, still others are attempting to transform the suburbs. Many are working in all of these categories. The New Urbanism includes traditional architects and those with modernist sensibilities. All, however, believe in the power and ability of traditional neighborhoods to restore functional, sustainable communities. The trend had its roots in the work of visionary architects, planners, and developers in the 1970s and 1980s that coalesced into a unified group in the 1990s. From modest beginnings, the trend is growing to have a substantial impact. More than 500 new towns, villages, and neighborhoods are built or under construction in the US, using principles of the New Urbanism. Additionally, hundreds more smaller-scale new urban projects are restoring the urban fabric of cities and towns by reestablishing walkable streets and blocks in communities throughout the US.

On the regional scale, the New Urbanism is having a growing influence on how and where metropolitan regions choose to grow. Large-scale planning initiatives now commonly incorporate new urban planning ideas — such as walkable neighborhoods, transit-oriented development, and sociable, pedestrian-scale streets. Form-based codes and better-connected street networks are two instruments by which new urban ideas can be implemented at the scale of the region.

Principles of the New Urbanism

Seven key principles have been identified by Richard Bernhardt, a leading new urbanist who heads the Nashville-Davidson County Planning Department in Tennessee.

1. The basic building block of a community is the neighborhood.

2. The neighborhood is limited in physical size, with a well-defined edge and a center.
The size of a neighborhood is usually based on the distance that a person can walk in five minutes from the center to the edge — a quarter-mile. Neighborhoods have a fine-grained mix of land uses, providing opportunities for young and old to find places to live, work, shop, and be entertained.

3. Corridors form the boundaries between neighborhoods — both connecting and defining the neighborhoods. Corridors can incorporate natural features such as streams or canyons. They may take the form of parks, natural preserves, travel paths, railroad lines, major roads, or a combination of all these.

4. Human scale sets the standard for proportion in buildings. Buildings must be disciplined in how they relate to their lots if public space is to be successfully demarcated. Because the street is the preeminent form of public space, buildings are generally expected to honor and embellish the street.

5. Providing a range of transportation options is fundamental. For most of the second half of the 20th Century, transportation agencies focused almost exclusively on optimizing the convenience of automobile travel, and dealt with transit riders, pedestrians, and bicyclists as little more than afterthoughts. We must give equal consideration to all modes of transportation to relieve congestion and to provide people with useful, realistic choices.

6. The street pattern is conceived as a network, to create the greatest number of alternative routes from one part of the neighborhood to another. This has the effect of providing choices and relieving vehicular congestion. The streets form a hierarchy, from broad boulevards to narrow lanes and alleys.

7. Civic buildings (town halls, churches, schools, libraries, museums) belong on preferred sites such as squares or neighborhood centers, or where the view down a street terminates. Such placement helps turn civic buildings into landmarks and reinforces their symbolic and cultural importance.

For more “Think Green” ideas visit our website at www.wfrpc.org/environmental-education.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Council Strategies

Each council member has ranked a listing of potential strategies to address our recent goal setting session. Ranking from 1 to 5 is given with 1 being the most important. We will discuss the rankings at next weeks Committee of the Whole meeting and finalize our initiatives and focus for the remainder of our term.

Goal 1: Sustainable Govt

1. Appoint a Taxpayer Advisory Committee on the Budget by Oct. 1, 2009 in preparation of the FY 2011 budget.
2. Ensure that our employee compensation packages are in line with local employers and provide incentives for employee innovation which reduces costs.
3. Enhance SBE program as recommended by MGT study to encourage participation of local businesses in city work.
4. Enhance Council Goals on our city website with additional information on each goal including actions taken, timeline, future actions to be taken, and staff contact info.
5. Agenda for committee meetings to state which goals are being addressed by proposed actions and cite specific strategy being used.

Goal 2:Public Safety

1. Address connectivity for pedestrians and bikes throughout the city and with in our larger parks and mapping areas on our city website.
2. Increase xeriscaping and native planting in parks to reduce maintenance, fertilizer, pesticide use.
3. Early warning system for the city.
4. Streamline financial and other operations by increasing online usage (online bill pay, electronic pay stubs, online RFP submittals).
5. Identify the worst intersections for red light violations and put in a pilot program of camera surveillance and ticketing ( funded by private firm)

Goal 3: Annexation
1. Develop data sheet comparing cost/benefit of city services to cost of living in the county. (MSBU/MSTU/insurance, etc.) …most will be surprised that cost/benefit may more often than not prove annexation worthwhile for property owners.
2. Compile a list of individual properties and blocks with split jurisdictions, non-city properties on streets only serviced by city.
3. Explore different approaches to annexation.
4. For those areas where it is in the city’s best interest to pursue annexation, get the citizens involved and informed as to the benefits of being a city resident.
5. Identify enclaves.

Goal 4: City aesthetics
1. Enhance LDC to better manage commercial usage along major roadways. i.e. Waste containers, buffering near residential areas and aesthetic requirements.
2. Establish and Enforce community overlays to protect our heritage, our neighborhoods, and natural resources.
3. Develop plan for under grounding utilities with priority given to downtown and main thoroughfares.
4. City Website add a Neighborhoods edition each month and expand the Mayor’s beautification award into all districts. Post pictures and bio of owners.
5. Develop a schedule for phasing out advertising bus benches and begin installing landscape-quality benches at bus stops where they are most needed.

Goal 5: Education opportunities
1. Consider Councilwoman DeWeese’s Pensacola Promise proposal.
2. Establish an Education Committee and have a quarterly briefing to council from ECSD, PJC, UWF.
3. Work with stakeholder groups to explore creation of city charter/ magnet school.
4. Facilitate and encourage city employee volunteering in education
5. Youth Council

Goal 6: ED Directives
1. Partner with Chamber to hold Supplier Conferences for renewable energy companies to attract new industry at our PORT.
2. Establish a Port Development Plan for Renewable Energy and Green Collar Jobs.
3. Initiate green programs including becoming a Florida Green City, creating a dark sky ordinance, piloting integrated pest management, and encouraging recycling, reduction, and reuse of waste for both residential and businesses ( including recycling goals for commercial franchises and recycling cans in parks.
4. Have shovel ready sites available to the ED strategy
5. Market unused and underused city property on the city.

Goal 7: Quality of Place
1. Create a walkable/bikeable community by creating an inventory of existing sidewalks and plan for upcoming construction, design citywide bike map, and ensuring that areas that should attract high amounts of pedestrians (near schools, links between neighborhoods, etc.) are safe and inviting to pedestrians.
2. Hold property owners accountable with a “Bring it to the street campaign” enforcing care and maintenance of city easement and city right of ways.
3. Invite HOA’s to attend council committee of the whole to address their needs and discuss ideas for improving their neighborhood.
4. Evaluate density of public parks and plan for the sale of under used parks with proceeds improving the entire parks system.
5. Identify public areas in need of trees, prepare a phased tree planting plan, and complete implementation of the first phase by April 30, 2010.