12 October 2009

An Open Letter to Hillsborough County Commission

I do intend to keep posting on other subject, but here is another open letter I sent to Hillsborough County Commissioners, except Kevin White (since I feel he should be removed immediately):

I am calling on each of you to review the case of Pasco County selling a cheap, cheap, cheap permit to a large private bottled water company, which exploits over 235 million gallons of natural spring water (think about this) every year, and disrupts a fragile ecosystem, an epically important ecosystem of the Hillsborough River and other estuaries/bodies of water that support wildlife and other natural habitats. Further, this pristine water does not enter the river, further jeopardizing the water quality of these rivers and in the end our counties drinking water.

Think about the ridiculousness of the privatization of a natural spring, taken from completing it's intended journey, and rather than promoting/improving/nourishing our natural waterways and ecosystems (think community health, tourism, commercial fishing, water treatment, etc.) it is bottled in plastic bottles created in China no doubt, and sold for millions of dollars each year.

As a potential end-user of that exploited fresh/clean water, I object to our government selling it's right for $750 for a 10 year permit. That is a slap in the face, and an abuse of power that I feel should not be allowed to happen.

What can WE do? What can YOU do?

13 August 2009

Open Letter to Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commmission

Members of the PTC:
I find your recent decision to require permits for FREE electric carts that transport people in the downtown and S. Tampa markets to be incredibly short-sighted and anti-business.

While I understand your position as a regulatory commission, within Special Act - Chapter 2001-299, Laws of Florida-the document that defines "taxicab" as: "any motor-driven vehicle, equipped with a taximeter, with a capacity for 9 or less passengers, including the driver, for the transportation of for hire passengers, which operates within Hillsborough County, but does not include sight-seeing cars or buses, streetcars, or motor buses operated pursuant to franchise." Words were bolded by me to show you where the carts should be excluded from your regulatory reach.

Further, I understand that the attorney for Yellow Cab addressed the Commission asking that the Electric Carts be regulated in the same way as cabs. While I will lightly touch on the fact that not only do these carts emit no emissions, tread lightly on our roads, promote historic sights in the downtown/S. Tampa area and provide a FREE service that has come in high-demand, I will not do so on your decision to punish an entrepreneur that is finding a way to create a better business than the gas-guzzling, emitting, and, might I add expensive cab industry (ever tried to ride a short distance in a yellow cab?).

Instead of finding a way to allow a progressive business to find it's way in a reviving downtown area--through setting boundaries, or making a small change to bring them into the regulatory fold--you decided to ban them, and let the strong arm of the cab industry affect your ability to encourage, even promote a better way forward for short-distance transit in Tampa.

Once again Tampa has shown it's disinterest in becoming a progressive city that promotes new technologies, ideas, businesses, and bows to those that may have a more entrenched, politically active role in our public policy.

I trust that in the coming weeks there will be a healthy discussion that quickly leads to a resolution that does not reward an industry that controls the market (monopoly?), charges exorbitant flat rates for short trips, and produces an exorbitant amount of emissions through idling and operation.

Electric carts should be welcomed in the downtown, Ybor City and South Tampa areas. They create an excitement in visitors to the city and gives citizens that want a more responsible alternative to a cab ride. The offer an option for people thinking about a short-trip from one business to another, and even help people reach the TECO trolley and parking locations.

Please do the right thing and be the solution, not the dead end.


**E-mail the PTC here.

30 July 2009

The Broken Windows Theory: Alive and Well in Downtown Tampa

What is wrong with this picture? A beautiful bridge, leading into a downtown that had been forgotten about for so long, instead is seen an unsightly graffiti-covered mess for years. Ever heard of the broken-windows theory? What a stain on downtown's revitalization, and a result of the lack of care Tampa has had for it's downtown for years.

The graffiti is the result of the University of Tampa's crew facility which hosts some of the nation's best rowing teams, and apparently advertises that they can paint the bridges, sea walls, and anything else near/on the Hillsborough River (another neglected asset in Tampa). Isn't this illegal? There is no way they could be legally allowed to do this, because, I don't believe the University of Tampa owns all of the property, certainly not the Kennedy Bridge or sea walls on the downtown side of the water.

Now that downtown is in the middle of a re-birth, I have called upon the Tampa Riverwalk organization to address this unsightly mess, and I've been told they are drafting an ordinance to make this a "fine-able" offense if on city property, and hopefully requires any business-owned sea wall to be kept clean of graffiti as well. Businesses/building owners will have to step up too.

The Tampa Riverwalk organization is organizing a great thing for Tampa-giving the river frontage back to pedestrians/citizens-and when fully built it will become a needed connector for the amenities of a revitalized downtown Tampa.

But, take the graffiti away from this bridge, and their renderings of the bridge improvements/lighting that they are looking to fund will be that much more impactful.

Maybe the Tampa Downtown Partnership can help enforce?

27 July 2009

Which (Light Rail) Line Comes First?

The recently announced update to a light rail study in the Tampa area will evaluate the best options for a "first line." It's either a USF to downtown route, or a Westshore to Downtown route.

Photo from: http://www.tamparail.org/

My thoughts:
The Westshore route to Downtown must include a connection to the airport, and the USF to Downtown route must be routed down Florida Avenue instead of through East Tampa.

Florida Ave runs through a bevy of commercial, residential and community amenities (Lowry Park Zoo/Sulphur Springs Water Tower Park) that would add to the attraction of that line--and a lot of these areas just need that extra push to become highly-regarded neighborhoods in Tampa. They CAN become encouraging places for those that want to live close to the "urban core" can realize their desire, in fact it's already happening.

The East Tampa route admittedly runs through some of the poorest areas of Tampa, does not really reach any area of promise until it hits just north of Ybor, which already has a street car that goes through Channelside into downtown. The one plus is that the right of way is already available from CSX, but I do not feel that getting right of way down Florida Avenue could be a huge issue.

For now, I'll wait for the study to be conducted before I go into any more detail, I will be happy either way...as long as tracks are going in the ground in the best-most impactful-route.

25 July 2009

Closer to Kings of Leon

I was asked to attend a Kings of Leon show a few months back. I had heard of them (their sound fit my musical tastes more or less), seen a few live shots (they were wearing skinny jeans), heard some concert review (they are emotionless) and thought they were OK. In leading up to the show, I bought their new album "Only by the Night." I listened to the songs I knew, then took it to track 1 for a complete listen-my normal routine with new albums-and I was hooked. The concert ended up being top notch, leaving me thoroughly impressed with this outfit from the South.

In addition to me listening to this imaginative, envelope-pushing album (probably over 50 times through), I have also read a lot of articles and scoured their website looking at their operation--their band members, styles, recording techniques, etc. I have to say, these guys have a hold onto who they are and where they want to go...a very important trait to a band these days.

Long story short, I recently read an article in Guitar Magazine, and a few quotes really stuck out from the band's front-man, Caleb Followill:

"Who in their right mind forms a band with the goal of being totally average?"

"People want you to stay as you are. They want your fourth record to be just like your first. They get nervous when you change your haircut or tamper with your sound. But we have had to evolve. We don't wanna be this little cult band. Our hunger is bigger than that. Our destiny is larger than that. We want the world. I don't think that's a bad dream to chase."

Kings of Leon: Closer
Water restrictions are no match for green building principles
I wrote this piece for the Florida Green Building Law Blog a few weeks back, and thought I would share here as well. Look for more contributions from Tampa Bay area green building enthusiasts, including myself, in the future.

While the rain begins to hit our roofs almost daily—those afternoon showers that simultaneously cool things off yet make our air more humid—consider the fate of this precious source of water for our region…

Our water infrastructure includes the design of expensive, and extensive, storm water management systems that add huge costs to new development, require expensive/disruptive repairs, and transport the toxins, debris and trash that comes from water hitting our impermeable driveways, streets and gutters. It then goes into the sewer, enters the storm water pipes, is filtered with powerful chemicals at treatment plants, and eventually reaches (and negatively impacts) the precious ecosystems and waterways that Floridians and (and tourists) visit and enjoy daily.

In response to this unsustainable method of collecting and treating surface waters, green building advocates, environmental organizations and individuals mindful of the complicated and costly requirements of an impermeable environment have started advocating for more permeable site design, and employing conservation strategies that once were common remedies when water wasn’t as readily available in the home—rainwater storage/use and grey water recycling.

Tampa Bay Water defines grey water as “untreated household wastewater that has not come in contact with toilet waste and includes wastewater from bathtubs, showers, clothes washers and laundry tubs.” Grey water makes up roughly 50-80% of the water heading down our drain, leaving a large capacity of reusable water that could be filtered easily and efficiently…reducing overall water use in the home by 30% or more!

We are still in a drought; homeowners, businesses and municipalities have been required to eliminate their use of potable water for irrigation and maintenance in order to conserve our dwindling water reserves. People learned quickly that these kinds of limits are not fun for water-hungry landscapes, and cringe at the thought of higher water surcharges—taking a second look at our everyday use of water.

Those that weren’t concerned had already prepared for this predicament—with their rain barrels/cisterns, drip irrigation systems, Florida-friendly landscape and low-flow fixtures helping keep their yard lush and monthly bills low.

Transportation Alternatives Should be the Solution

You learn a lot when you attempt to traverse a city using a form of transportation that has not been catered to for decades. Walking, biking, even 'bus-ing.' The ease with which our cities have attempted to solve the problems of congestion with an added lane on the highway, or roadway, calls to mind many other unimaginative choices that our cities/governments make. Further, the lack of attention to those that choose to get out of their car and use some human-power to move through cities, proves just how lazily our cities continue to use our tax dollars.

As much denser cities are finding, the addition of a lane-and the removal of a lane-do not effect the congestion levels on the road. Let me say that again--neither adding or removing a lane makes a proven improvement on congestion. Examples include the removal of a lane in Midtown NYC for a pedestrian park (video below) and the conversion of an auto lane in Vancouver for pedestrian traffic.

It is difficult to understand how these experiments can prove something that seems to have eluded our city planners, governments and, yes, commuters for so long. Nevermind the unexplained abandonment of street cars, trolleys, meaningful bus services and even responsible growth initiatives in many of our cities-adding a lane is an unsustainable, and highly costly choice that our cities make over and over and over. Never learning that simply adding a lane does not have a lasting impact on traffic.

I recently attended a meeting where the Tampa Downtown Partnership presented the progress and programs of the previous year, and at the very mention of light rail and high-speed rail, coming to Tampa and Florida respectively, and the room lit up.

People are hungry for the sexier, more progressive and "green" transportation alternative that Obama has made a priority. But, I wonder if they really understand the effects that a true commitment to mass transit will have on the city.With examples like Denver, Portland, Charlotte and even Phoenix, it seems that the results are speaking for themselves-now it's time to change the solution.

Why, you ask?

Photo above courtesy Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization

Midtown NYC takes away lane, adds pedestrian attraction:

29 May 2009

Tea Leaf Green- Mountain Jam- 5/29/09

Tea Leaf Green
Hunter Mountain, NY
Mountain Jam 5:30pm

Taught to Be Proud
Carter Hotel
Wooden Ships>
2 Chairs>
One Reason>
These Two Chairs
Snow Days
Relax and Get Naked
Garden (Part III)

08 April 2009

Tea Leaf Green Welcomes 'Green' Community to their SF Earth Day Weekend Shows

Tea Leaf Green Welcomes S.F. ‘Green’ Community for Two-Night Fillmore Party Over Earth Day Weekend

And I was lookin’ up
at them tall redwood trees,
like looking up the skirt
of my destiny.
- Tea Leaf Green, “Zoom Zoom”

On Friday and Saturday April 17-18, San Francisco’s Tea Leaf Green returns to the historic Fillmore for what promises to be an epic Earth Day Weekend party for the Bay Area’s ‘Green’ community.

Known for its triumphant brand of psychedelic rock ’n’ roll – which has been likened to its San Francisco forebears – Tea Leaf Green’s music is characterized by the Earth-inspired lyrics and poignant vocals of keyboard player Trevor Garrod, a botanist who grew up on a northern California farm. The tension-release solos and soul-piercing blues guitar of Josh Clark trigger bursts of confetti to explode from the crowd at peak moments, while one of the filthiest rhythm sections in rock ‘n’ roll – bass virtuoso, Reed Mathis, and drummer, Scott “Ice Man” Rager – hold down the deep end.

Playing hometown shows in a city consistently ranked among the ‘greenest’ in the nation, the band is reaching out to the Bay Area’s ‘green’ community, and has invited two environmental non-profits to be a part of the event each night.

“Respecting the Earth is really important to Tea Leaf Green,” says the band’s long-time entertainment coordinator, Todd “Sauce” Wallenbrock, who is known to hike 30+ miles deep into wilderness areas of the American West. “You find out what is important in maintaining this world really quickly. Spend a few days in the back country catching three pound goldens [trout] for dinner, and things make little more sense.”

Wise men are hiding in the mountains
while most of us are working too hard
- Tea Leaf Green, “Kali-Yuga”

Friday night, rising Indy/Newgrass band, Or, the Whale will open the show on the main stage, while guitar maestro, Sean Leahy, plays the poster room before the show and during set break.

Seattle superstars Flowmotion open Saturday night, and Eugene, Oregon’s Freedom Tribe will play its vaunted mystical soundscapes in the poster room.

Click here to purchase tickets to what promises to be a historic pair of Earth Day weekend shows:

* Friday, April 17:

* Saturday, April 18:

10 February 2009

Job Creation and the Stimulus Package

Saw this today, and thought it was interesting in relation to the "bipartisan" debate going on in Congress over the Stimulation package, remaining TARP funds, etc. The amount of jobs created from a $1 billion investment in some of the areas mentioned in the original, and current, stimulus--as it relates to the effects of the same amount of spending in our nation's defense:

(you might want to click on the image to see the numbers--showing that a $1 billion investment in mass transit would create the more jobs than a similar investment in health care, defense, education, and home construction/weatherization)

10 January 2009

Shovel Ready Shmovel Ready

With the latest round of "stimulus" headed for all of the "shovel ready" projects in cities across the US, I can't help but remain skeptical that those dollars are really being spent in the most useful way. I mean, sure we have billions of dollars of possible road expansions, paving projects, etc. etc. (and I understand that serious attention is needed for our bridges, levees and other important "connectors."

But, are we really going to tout the efficiency, convenience and city-altering positives of mass-transit while completely abandoning that important infrastructure investment because it is not a "shovel ready" project?

The Mayor of Minneapolis--of crumbling bridge fame says it well in the 12/13 Washington Post's Stimulus Package To First Pay for Routine Repairs:

"The quickest things we can do may not be the ones that have the most significant long-term impact on the green economy," he said. "Unless we push a transit investment, this will end up being a stimulus package that rebalances our transportation strategy toward roads and away from [what] we need to get off our addiction to oil."

Why not also consider projects that put the city/transportation planners, architects, engineers, contractors and, eventually, construction workers to work on mass-transit projects that have proven the ability to revitalize blighted areas, encourages real estate development, attracts Fortune 500 companies & young professionals and transforms cities?

I fear that our short-sighted haste will cause us to lose sight of the important infrastructure investment needed to bridge the gap into the 21st century. The failing automakers need more roads, and they've already gotten their first bailout. Let's not let this be their second...Public transportation needs it.

10 December 2008

Stopping the Bleeding, or Creating a New Strategy?

Obama, Congress, heck even the Automakers are saying that the auto industry needs to create a new model to be viable in the 21st century. Yet, little is really going to change with this first stimulus (though seems it may be in doubt today) to the big 3--it will be the first of more than one, depending on bankruptcy, and Thomas Friedman in his Op-Ed in the NY Times today has a good point as to why this will not work:

our bailout of Detroit will be remembered as the equivalent of pouring billions of dollars of taxpayer money into the mail-order-catalogue business on the eve of the birth of eBay. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into the CD music business on the eve of the birth of the iPod and iTunes. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into a book-store chain on the eve of the birth of Amazon.com and the Kindle.

The problem I have with his column (which can be read here.) and the idea of the "car 2.0" is that our problems don't start and stop with autos. It starts and stops with the way that we depend on automobiles, the way we live too distant from our normal daily activities (work, school, errands, etc.) and the way that we travel distances that could be more efficiently traveled (en masse) by high-speed rail.

These automakers are responsible for killing the sustainable transit options of the early 1900's, Americans were all too happy to drive alone and live further from the city-center and the oil/gas industry has been reaping the rewards--and using that money to line the pockets of government.

It is time for a paradigm shift--it is not about the most efficient car, it is about the most efficient forms of transportation and more sustainably built cities and lives.

I'm going to have to finally watch "Taken for a Ride" a film about an "auto and oil industry campaign, led by General Motors, to buy and dismantle streetcar lines. Across the nation, tracks were torn up, sometimes overnight, and diesel buses placed on city streets.

08 December 2008

Tea Leaf Green New Years Eve in San Francisco

Tea Leaf Green will be rocking on teh 30th and 31st of December at the Mezzanine in San Francisco's Mission district. On New Years Eve they will be playing 3 full sets, with set 2 starting at 1:30am and music going into 4am!

19 November 2008

My First Note to the Obama Team

Today I received an e-mail (along with thousands of others) from the Obama Transition team asking to watch a video of a meeting that took place with his team for Energy and Environment. It also asked the reader to send a message to the team (which you can do here.). My message went something like this (thought it was a bit shorter, I think):

Before attempting to make renewables a large portion of our answer to energy dependence, we must encourage all Americans to do their part. Asking--or requiring--Americans to make small energy efficiency changes to their homes, or even larger renovations to make the home better insulated, will be the most effective way to increase the "net effect" of renewable energy. By decreasing dependence on energy producers we will be able to make renewables go much farther.

In order to make renewables the most effective we will need to improve infrastructure--transport lines for this new kind of energy--and also change the rules for homeowners. Incentives for solar (PV) power are a good start, but we must mandate "net metering" so investments in solar panels will allow a homeowner, if creating excess energy, to inject that energy into the grid and receive payment for that energy. This payment should be EQUAL to what utilities charge their customers--a 1 for 1 trade that will make entrepreneurs out of homeowners...increasing their homes energy efficiency, purchasing solar panels to create enough energy for the home, and even creating more energy to make money back on their investment.

The transportation of energy will need to be improved to meet the needs of a new energy future, but the transportation of people will be a required investment in order to change the way that people live, move and interact. We need to be able to look towards the larger cities--the New York City's, London's, Paris'--cities that are changing the game by offering public transit, dense, mixed-use urban environments and even free bicycles. No, most American cities are not going to be these cities, or can find logic in mimicking the development of these large cityscapes. But, we can take these ideas and adapt them to the local environment. It's not just about making cars more fuel efficient. It is about reducing the amount of cars on the roads, decreasing the number of trips taken solo in a car and making the need for a car unnecessary.

We have to re-think the way that we create energy, use energy and get outside of the box as to what the future holds. The future is here, it is time to start developing new ways to sustainably live in this challenging world.

For more on this check out this article:
Energy at a Tipping Point Part 1: A Conversation with Worldwatch's Chris Flavin

05 November 2008

Obama Wins!

It is an amazing time in our country's history. The political landscape is changing, and a record number of Americans participated in this change. We must work together to achieve greatness--no longer can we battle for only "our" side...because we are all on the same side.

18 September 2008

Trevor Garrod Plays "I've Got a Truck" 3/24/07

This project has been on a shelf for a while, but is finally seeing light. Bronson Lamb shot and edited the video, while I did some light direction. Fitting, because "I've Got a Truck" is a track on TLG's new album "Raise Up the Tent" which can be previewed and purchased here.

08 June 2008

The Problem With Corn

A fairly recent article called "Grains Gone Wild" by Paul Krugman in the NY Times Opinion section briefly outlines the problems facing the world's food supplies; and, as no shock it has a lot to do with oil prices, the shortcomings of corn-based ethanol and the effect of global warming across the globe.

Whether or not you agree, the idea of gas prices raging as more and more catastrophic weather events rage and financial distress from the top to the bottom in the U.S. feels like a perfect "storm" that will not pass for some time. The US dollar continues to lose value while Americans are forced to pay $4 for a gallon of gasoline--caused by our dependence on personal vehicles, a lack of infrastructure to support mass-transit and the "American Dream" requiring one to live in a box in the suburbs.

It is time to take a good long look at what we are requiring from our leadership, what they are promising to deliver and if they have the competence to actually deliver. No longer should politicians be able to make headline-grabbing statements with little to back them up-a la corn-based ethanol's ability to fill American's gas tanks.

24 December 2007

My Year in Music (2007)

It's been a pretty good year for music, though I have not gotten out to see live music as much as I have in past years. Here's to hitting the road more in 2008, and learning about new music as readily as I have in '07.

Favorite Albums of 2007:
1. Wilco-Sky Blue Sky
Glad that they went back to the more alt-country side of things, though I DO like the noise jam/spacey stuff as well.

2. Radiohead- In Rainbows (for the music and the marketing)
Just genius from conception. I remember when their guitarist, Jonny Greenwood announced "We're finished recording the album, now we have to figure out what to do with it." They had no label at the time, and I thought-"Wow, what a position to be in (if you are Radiohead)." What a marketing move, and what an album to back it up. Arguably their best, but can't really beat out OK Computer, for me, due to nostalgia.

3. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss- Raising Sand
Some really smooth, soothing stuff. Plant in a relaxed setting along with one of the most beautiful voices around. A great pairing.

4. Feist- The Reminder
Solid album, sharp voice, interesting sounds.

5. Editors- The Back Room (released in 2005, but found it this year.)
These guys really bring it on this album. I can't tell you how many times I've listened to it this year-one of those "from beginning to end" albums.

Favorite Shows of 2007:
1. Tea Leaf Green | 8/17/07 | Malibu Inn | Malibu, CA
Last show w/ Ben. Ben's custom mike stand. Invasion>POGL (for the last time w/ Ben for me) & the Reservoir I called for. My whole family was there as well, and they had a great time (as they always do, but this was all of their first FULL TLG show!)

2. Rose Hill Drive | 4/19/07 | Smith's Old Bar | Atlanta, GA
Rock 'n' fucking Roll. These guys put on a hell of a show.

3. Dave Matthews Band/Allman Brothers | 9/8/07 | Piedmont Park | Atlanta, GA
Say what you want about DMB, but the Allman Bros. w/ Warren and good friends & girlfriend in the Park for some beers and good times! DMB put on a great show as well I thought.

4. The Trainwreks | 8/3/07 | Rafters | St. Simon's Island, GA
size=9]Was in town for a wedding, and we all went out after the rehearsal dinner. Great band, lap steel guitar, good times.

5. Tea Leaf Green | 1/13/07 | The Social | Orlando, FL
This was a one set opening gig for a reggae band that was booked last minute after the Galactic cancellation. The boys played one of the most high-energy sets I had seen in a while and really got the unexpecting crowd into it.

Some Favorite Songs in 2007:
Band of Horses-Is There a Ghost?
Amy Winehouse- You Know I'm No Good
Spoon-Cherry Bomb (Alternate Version)
Ray LaMontagne- How Come
Radiohead- 15 Steps
Wilco- Impossible Germany
Editors- Lights
Tea Leaf Green- Forgiven, Doin' It Over and Over Again, Slept Through Sunday
Trevor Garrod- Where the Forest Was