Planners on the web - oooh, shiny!

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Over on PLANetizen's Interchange, Rob Goodspeed asks, How Can Planners Use The Web? (As if he doesn't know, bearing all or significant responsibility for Exhibits A, B, C, and D.) One of his categories is "Providing information regarding specific projects."

Recently, Mark noted a student project's online presence, a ten-minute long time lapse video of a week's worth of construction in Second Life that the student did up to demonstrate his concept development plan for the Motor Wheel site. Since the creator doesn't have a permanent site in Second Life to host the development, he removed it from Second Life after completion, but the video can be viewed here.

Salomon, "Little House on a Small Planet"

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Since 1950, worker productivity has more than doubled. That means, roughly and theoretically, that if we could somehow maintain a 1950 standard of living today, we could each work forty hours per week for less than six months each year, or twenty hours a week for a full year. But we have chosen instead to channel the benefits of increased productivity into more consumer goods for workers, and higher profits for corporate executives, directors, and shareholders.

Trade unions and a variety of civic organizations are working to lighten our load, but in the meantime, unless you move to Europe or take a time machine back to a prehistoric era or at least the fifties, you'll have to be creative if you want to live more of your life at home.

-- Shay Salomon, Little House on a Small Planet, Ch. 7 - Live at Home.

Environmentalism means jobs.

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For a post with a lower screed-content, I'll point you to Grist's interview with Oakland, CA, social justice advocate Van Jones. Jones notes that while the environmental movement is often seen as a self-righteous fixation of upper middle class white aging hippies and hippie wannabes (and that impression is too often correct), an environmentally-friendly economy can be and will need to be something that provides economic opportunities for the working class and poor. As I've noted before, a more environmentally sound economy will involve more "skilled service" jobs, and less focus on cheap energy and global flows of disposable goods.

Drowning the Great Lakes State in a bathtub

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Taking their cues from the New Orleans experience, certain portions of Michigan's government seem to think that we can cut or starve our way to health. (Ask a mental health professional for a name for this sort of thing.) Language denouncing "tax hikes" and fiscal recklessness abounds when these folks talk about our Governor. Fortunately, though, at least some people seem to have figured out that the facts don't support slashing our way to solvency. In the words of the Michigan Municipal League's Executive Director:

Despite the supposed tax "relief" of the last decade it is hard to find anyone who is not employed by the Mackinac Center that actually feels better off.

Keep St. Louis Weird

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Miss me? Thanks to a death in the family, I've been out of touch and out of town the past little while, and am just now getting home and catching up. If you had tried to get my attention at any point in the past week and it didn't work, try again.

I spent the weekend and a little in the St. Louis area for the burial and visiting family, and managed to snag a free afternoon. Before leaving, I asked a St. Louis native for some destinations, and was pointed towards the University City Loop area. When my mother suggested visiting the Arch (again), I was therefore prepared for an escape, having verified with a cousin that I could get to U.City by rail (It's almost like a civilized country or something...), and was dropped off by the family caravan on their way to the arch.

"Eminent domain in Detroit"

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For whatever reason, a lot of traffic to this site comes from searches for "eminent domain in detroit" or similar. ("Whatever reason" is probably my post in November arguing against Proposal 4 as poor lawmaking.)

Now, I am not a lawyer, nor have I ever been involved in a takings case in any capacity - I'm just someone who has taken the requisite one course in land-use law during grad school. But I can tell you what I know about where eminent domain came from and why Detroit is an important datapoint. (If I'm wrong, complain to my professor - he is a lawyer, after all.) If you need advice on a real-life example of eminent domain, consult a real-life lawyer.

And if you squint one eye...

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Last weekend, I had the always-somewhat-sad experience of wandering around downtown Ann Arbor on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and then coming back to Ypsilanti. Downtown Ypsi looks a little lonely after the throngs near the Diag. Sigh.

But then, yesterday evening, I had the opposite experience. Driving home from the Suburbs Alliance's Regional Redevelopment Summit, I decided to take Michigan Avenue rather than 94. Driving through Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Wayne, Inkster, Canton . . . and then, all of a sudden, you come up the hill over the Huron River bridge, and you're in a real downtown! Wowie!

The political bubble of the Ann Arbor News

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In an Ann Arbor News letter to the editor this past week, an Ann Arborite stated the following hope:

We need solution to health care woes

So, same-sex partners can no longer enjoy the benefits of their partner's employer health plans. Truly sad. However, I see the situation on another level. What of the growing numbers of the self-employed, the unemployed and the underemployed who are unable to enjoy the largess of a deep-pocketed employer? While many same-sex partners have been enjoying employer-provided health care, others have been left out in the cold, some for years. Now that same-sex couples have joined these ranks, perhaps it will become apparent to all of us that we as a society need a better solution to health care, one that does not depend upon how and where one is employed. (Emphasis added.)

Praying for structural change

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About 18 months back, Ann Arbor's Mayor Hieftje held a session of his public policy class entitled "Is Ann Arbor overrated?", with various blogger guest discussants. He commented that the cities of Michigan are lined up and running towards a cliff of fiscal crisis. Yes, all of them - Ann Arbor's more or less bringing up the rear, but it's running the same direction as all the rest. Some cities have already gone over - Flint, Highland Park, Hamtramck - and have survived the fall with various degrees of injury. Detroit's just a matter of time, and not much of it. But many people are hoping that Ypsilanti will serve as a bellwhether of Michigan's fiscal problems and a catalyst to change, as Ypsi is recognized across the state as being much more well-run than its predecessor's into crisis. When well-run cities start going over the brink, this theory states, people will finally realize that something's broken, and that it's not just Flint. I've since heard basically this same view echoed by a number of other regional and State leaders - when Ypsi goes, that's when our State can be expected to decide there might be a problem with our municipal structure. Thanks, guys. We love you too.

"O, RLY?" electrical bills

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So I just got the DTE bill for February.

Average temperatures for this billing period were 23 degrees colder than last billing period.

(Trust me, I noticed)

As a result, your appliances may be working harder to make you feel more comfortable.

Indeed, our average daily gas use was up 54% from the previous month. (ps, I appreciate that DTE provides this information right on the monthly statement.) Our average daily electricity usage, however, was down by 41%. I asked the ladies, "Have you been doing anything different? All I can think of is that we're not running the dehumidifier in the basement 24/7 because the ground is frozen, so the crawlspace isn't pumping wet into the basement."