Beware when it’s quiet

The problem with getting a lot of stuff done is that there’s often little time left to blog about all the stuff that’s getting done.

I’ve got a project at work I’m finishing up this week, after which I should have time to catch up on all the blog posts I’ve been meaning to write. Stay tuned!

WRAL interview about recycling theft

Renee Chou rummages through my recycling

WRAL’s Renee Chou came by the house this afternoon to do a story tonight on Raleigh’s proposed recycling theft ordinance. As far as interviews go I was a bit uncomfortable as I was seated and I’m not used to doing interviews that way. I was also uncomfortable with having the contents of my recycling bin displayed for all the world to see. Then again, watching Renee rummaging through my recycling bin reminded me that this ordinance will actually help protect everyone’s privacy by keeping people out of bins. That’s a good thing, I think.

As typical, I though of my best talking point after the interview concluded, and that’s this: just like when I put a letter in my mailbox I expect that a postal employee will collect it, when I put something in my recycling bin I expect the city’s recycling crew will collect it.

Look for the interview to air at 6 tonight.

Triangle Transit circulator buses

I’m not a huge fan of RTP but you have to admit that it’s a formidable economic engine and home to a large number of the area’s high-paying jobs. Try, though, to actually take mass transit to it. It can’t be done in any reasonable fashion.

I live near a bus line in Raleigh and would love to be able to hop a bus and take it into work. I can easily get to the Triangle Transit bus from Raleigh’s Moore Square Transit Station and from there out to Triangle Transit’s hub in RTP. From there, though, I’m on my own! Despite working in a large business park (Perimeter Park) with many companies nearby, I’m forced to walk over a mile from the nearest Triangle Transit stop near the Morrisville factory outlet mall.

This is where the Triangle Transit model falls down: there are no circulator buses which connect the various RTP office parks to the hub. Sure, if you’re a large employer like Cisco you can command your own circulator bus. The rest of us are destined to waste an hour or more each day, staring at taillights on I-40.

I’m curious why Triangle Transit doesn’t invest in more circulator buses instead of buying up land for a light-rail system that’s many years away. Yes, I’d love to ride the train into work, too, but why not first sell people on the practicality of mass transit by implementing a bus system that actually works?

Lining pockets

Last summer, I participated in a one-day community discussion facilitated by a local institution and including folks from all over the county. One of my fellow participants was a former politician of a fast-growing Wake County municipality.

As we were chatting about some subject (I don’t remember which), he nonchalantly mentioned how, while he was serving, he had learned of development plans for an area of town and had promptly bought up property there.

I nodded as he said that but internally I was shocked that this man would blatantly take advantage of his position for his own financial gain. He had no shame about it, either, which was what really stunned me. Hell, he seemed proud of it.

Looking back on that moment, I suppose I should not have been so surprised as I’m now convinced that these shenanigans take place more often than I first realized. Politicians have been lining their pockets for centuries and there’s no reason to think it will end anytime soon.

Raleigh might criminalize recycling thefts

The N&O’s Matt Garfield wrote up a story in the Midtown Raleigh News about the city’s response to recycling thefts. My blog got a shout out, too.

Mark Turner thought it was odd when a blue pickup truck stopped in his neighborhood one recent morning. A man hopped out, collected aluminum cans from a curbside recycling bin and continued down the street.

When Turner returned home later in the day, he spotted a man in a different truck doing the same thing.

The banditry was unusual for its brazenness. But city officials say recycling theft is becoming more common as marauders seek an easy, if time-consuming, way to make money.

via Raleigh might criminalize recycling thefts – News –

Update 8:55 PM: My friend Mitchell in Santa Cruz, CA tells me the City of Santa Cruz has had a big problem with recycling theft. The city passed an ordinance similar to Raleigh’s proposed ordinance, making anything put in city bins city property and a misdemeanor to remove anything. Mitchell sent a link to a recent City of Santa Cruz newsletter which discusses the problem (PDF).

I think some of the dire warnings by the Santa Cruz police chief are way overblown (“gateway crime?” Come on.) but it is absolutely true that pilfering aluminum cans jeopardizes the entire recycling program.

Sustainability: riding out the boom and bust

Falls Lake, December 9, 2007

Here’s another thing about how crucial sustainability is for Wake County. We’re one of the fastest-growing areas in the country. We’re not the sleepy little county we were just 20 years ago. With more people arriving every day we need to ensure we have the resources to support them.

Above is a photograph of Falls Lake taken a little over four years ago when it was near its record low depth. It was a scary time. People here don’t normally think of our natural resources in Third World terms, but our frequent droughts present real, growth-killing crises. Falls Lake is Wake County’s primary water supply: if the lake disappears it will take Wake County’s future with it. How many companies do you think will want to set up shop here if all we’ve got is a muddy hole for a water supply? How many families will want to move here if their daily water rations number in the dozens of gallons?

As a community it is crucial that we smartly manage our limited natural resources or else we put our quality of life at risk. That’s what sustainability is all about. It’s not some amorphous, tree-hugging, UN-flag-waving creed, it’s prudent planning for an uncertain future. It’s certainly not something to be dismissed for the gain of short-term political points.

Coble throws volunteers under the bus

I’m still in disbelief over last week’s meeting of the Wake County Commissioners in which chair Paul Coble completely dissed a report on sustainability that the Commission itself requested and whose task force Commissioner Joe Bryan chaired.

I have served as an unpaid, volunteer member of various city boards for over three years now. I don’t do it for the money, or to enrich myself, or for the prestige. I do it because I love Raleigh and want to help it grow. The countless hours I’ve devoted to these causes; all the evenings I missed tucking my kids in for bed; all the soccer, baseball and basketball games I’ve missed; those are sacrifices I’ve accepted because I feel its important to serve the greater good. Like everyone else, I have only so many days to live on this planet and I like to know that my time matters.
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Making the “Open Source City” a bit more open

I was away from my home the other day and wanted to tune into the streaming video of the Raleigh City Council meeting using my smartphone. Lo and behold, the proprietary Microsoft Silverlight video format that the Granicus service uses to stream Raleigh’s government channel does not have a player for my Android phone. I’d be surprised if a client exists for iPhone, either, for that matter. It seemed I would need to be glued to my desk if I wanted to keep up with Raleigh politics.
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Three trillion in change

As I was contemplating the $5-per-gallon gasoline price forecast by the end of the year, my mind turned to the three trillion dollars America has squandered over the past decade fighting two Middle Eastern wars.

What if America had invested that $3,000,000,000,000 in making our country more energy-independent rather than in blowing people up? What if this enormous nation of ours had used that money to build a first-class, high-speed passenger rail system that would keep us globally competitive as fuel prices continue to skyrocket?

Instead, we have thousands of dead and wounded American soldiers (kids, really), hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians killed, two battle-scarred countries of questionable stability, and a huge mountain of debt with little to show for it.

It has not been America’s finest moment.