Monday, February 23, 2009

Feb. 23rd “Shovel Ready” - or A New Perspective on Buzzwords and Clich├ęs

I participated in a panel at the Food Security event this weekend and began my remarks with this phrase. I’m guessing it’s set a world record to buzzdom, getting there in about two months or so. But the reason I used the term is because I believe it should apply to everything new we want to do, in City government and in our community.

"Shovel ready" means thought through all the way - so that, if somehow the necessary funds turn up, we can put out an RFP or set the start date tomorrow, at the latest. Whether it’s a community composting system, a proposal to re-brand Ashland as a center for sustainability, film-making, and geo-tourism, as well as our traditional OSF-based identity, or a shuttle service for Mountain Meadows and the other senior residences in town, we should have everything worked out and ready to go.

Events are moving so fast these days that we can’t do things in a step by step process. To often good ideas get blocked because we don’t know where we’ll get the resources to implement them. I say pursue every good idea as if we can afford it. This is our only chance to keep pace with the changes sweeping through our world.

Maybe it’s a case of "Build it and they will come."

Or "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.""

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What happened to the Feb. 10 posting?

To tell the truth, I’ve been trying to write a response to Jeff Golden’s recent ADT column in which he challenged me to find a way for the City to provide $25,000 for small sustainability grants. I may have
something on that next week. In the meantime, here’s a comment/question from Jo French, Sr., whom I doubt would favor Jeff’s proposal...

Mr. French writes: “I'm interested in your view as to the purposes of local government; e.g., I believe "’The fundamental purpose of government is the maintenance of basic security and public order — without which individuals cannot attempt to find happiness’" (Wikipedia) which is derived from our national and state constitutions. At the local level this translates into Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and involves budgets, staffing and such issues as water availability beyond our current sources...

I think any discussion on "sustainability" or opinions on how external economic forces may affect Ashland are secondary to the issues, above. Suffice to say that I believe that "cost effectiveness" should be more of a criteria for more of our local endeavors than is currently the case.”

Dear Mr. French,

I believe some sustainability issues fall clearly within your Wikipedia prescription - for example ensuring the future security of our water supply, preparing for wildfires in the watershed, providing electrical power that doesn’t depend on fossil fuels, etc. Other issues, such as localization of agriculture may fall both within and without the ‘fundamental purpose’ statement you quoted.

I’m not yet clear about whether or not sustainable economic development is something in which the City should become directly involved but bringing the community, including its public institutions,
together in planning for it is as essential for the public’s basic security as police and fire services. And every city I know of has it's wastewater system provided by a government entity. But we shouldn't get involved in activities that can be carried on better by private entities, such as garbage collection.

So on what specifics do you and I differ?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Some Questions for You This Time

If you attended the first Council meeting of the year or viewed the streaming video you have some idea of my perspective on the national/global economic situation and its implications for our own local economy. I, on the other hand, don’t know much about *your* impressions of these same events and processes. What’s more, they seem to be unfolding at a rapid pace so that this week’s version may be significantly different from that which I described in my Jan. 6th State of the City presentation.

Therefore, if you care to share, I would like to know the following:

1. What is the current condition of the U.S. and world economic system and where is it trending, so far as you can tell?

2. How much faith do you have in our government’s efforts to deal with this situation, both those of the Bush administration and President Obama’s proposed actions so far as you understand them/

3. How are these external forces affecting Ashland’s economy?

4. How bad do you think things could get before they ‘turn the corner’?

5. To what degree do you think, Ashlanders in general share your views described above?

I look forward to hearing from you.