Friday, July 30, 2010

How some South Koreans will be living...and how abandonment of U.S. rust belt cities stands in contrast.

Not meant as a future vision for Lake Worth and I am not condoning the filling swampland or promoting the construction of high-rise buildings, but showing that the real "growth" in the world is taking place on the Asian continent.  More on China shortly - excuse the commercial before the Good Morning America segment.  Remember, ABC is owned by Disney.

Click here for a review of the economic and residential abandonment of cities such as Flint, Michigan and a unique response to those challenges - quite a contrast.  If you read the article, some of these approaches could be used in Lake Worth, but they would have to be tailored quite differently to our circumstances.

Click here for a slide show of just one of 400 such residential blocks in Flint.

We are much more at risk becoming the Flint example than the South Korean example.

What I did on my summer vacation - Part One

I am still in Madison, Indiana and will be headed back to Lake Worth towards the later part of August.  In the meantime, I thought it would be good to share some of the experiences that relate to historic preservation and planning that I have had during the time away.

The first edition is my trip to West Baden Springs, Indiana.  The historic resort is AMAZING!  This is the second time I have been there and have highlighted it in 2007 on this blog after my first visit.  It's worth another look and there is a new video that you can watch which summarizes what it was and is.  This video was produced by the resort itself.

Here is a slide show of my visit there.

I am concerned about the future economic viability of the building and its operation as a resort.  When I visited in late June, there were not many people there and I got the sense that the economic times that have affected everyone else have taken their toll here too.  The reason for its initial decay and under-utilization is still there - its remote location.  Gambling was approved in Orange County as a way to provide an economic engine for the hotel, but that apparently has its limits.  I would urge you to set aside time to travel and stay there to support the maintenance of this magnificent building - and have a good time while you help preserve one of our nation's unique historic structures.

Here's a video on the mineral water that made the resort famous.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Oil amendment: Hypocrisy big winner in failed special session - South Florida

Click title for op-ed piece by Tony Plakas in the Sun-Sentinel.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Back from Springfield, Illinois...

This is a little parade of the cars that made up the National Meet that I attended.  Springfield, IL is also known as one of the cities along the famed Route 66 and displays the following signage along the route through town.
Click here for article on Springfield reaching out to car clubs for tourism - here is a quote.

Organizer Marty Brackin said the decision to bring the national meet of the American Austin Bantam Club to Springfield for the first time was pretty simple.

“We were in Williamsburg (Va.) two years ago, and the club president said we don’t have a place for 2010, but Springfield, Illinois, has sent something. I was dumb enough to say, ‘Let me take that on.’ It’s how we ended up in Springfield. They asked us to come,” said Brackin, who lives in the northern Illinois community of Rochelle.

Something else to think about, if we were to ask car clubs to visit and make Lake Worth their headquarters - some would have hundreds of attendees - where would they stay?  With the Gulfstream Hotel closed and limited space in our fine bed and breakfast inns, there wouldn't be enough "quality" space for these out of town groups to stay.  Palm Beach County would be a great location, but what would make Lake Worth a destination for them?  I can see groups like this spending an evening in our downtown - sort of like "Bike Night", but we really wouldn't be enjoying the full economic benefit of a tour of this type.  So, that says to me, that we need to open up more opportunities for redevelopment beyond the Park of Commerce held out as an economic panacea by the current City Commission.

Dixie Highway?


Is there ever a time when someone who is elected to public office not a public figure? 

It's a question worthy of asking and discussing since Lake Worth has a former elected official in the headlines, one that was in office seven years ago.  In reading the Palm Beach Post and their emphasis on this fact, it seems to be just another negative story about Lake Worth that they can use to sell papers.

If you add their recent headline on Mayor Varela's budget speech - highlighting one comment of his half hour talk about "drunken spending' of previous commissions, what is the Post actually trying to get at here?  Does it help our existing dire situation?  I don't think it does.  

And, unfortunately, I think that in this day in age especially, once a public official, always a public figure - for better or worse.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Japanese Village Creates Art From Hues of Rice

This article was in the New York Times on Sunday.  Click title for link.  I immediately thought of our Street Painting Festival, but beyond that, it really shows that the sky is the limit - or the earth in this case - about how communities can create destinations and economic benefits for many.

Japanese Village Creates Art From Hues of Rice
Published: July 25, 2010
Every year, villagers create large and complex images using rice paddies as canvas and plants as paint.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Where is Wes now?

More pictures added today to slide show - 7/27

I happen to be in Springfield, Illinois at the National American Austin Bantam Club meet.  So far, I am finding Springfield not to be the epitome of urban planning, but that is not why I am here.  My father is a car collector and many of you know that I am spending some extended time with him over this summer.  Back in 1940, my grandparents bought a "second car" - a used 1939 American Bantam Standard Coupe.  My father was 15 at the time and he drove it quite a bit - from Ohio to Massachusetts, from Ohio to Florida - with and without my grandparents.  They kept the car and used it regularly as a second car in the years that passed after my father moved out of the house.  As my grandparents aged, they transferred ownership of the car to my father and it remains in the family to this day - some 70 years later!  It's name is "Baby B."

This is how the car looked this morning.  We were moving some other vehicles and I caught my father maneuvering the wheel. We did not bring it to the meet.
Just coincidently, we moved another Bantam, this one a 1938 Roadster, yesterday morning to another location in Madison,, IN - where my father lives.  This is a picture of it getting tied down on a trailer.
Bantams, and the American Austins that preceded them were ahead of their time - they represented the introduction of compact and economical cars to a marketplace that wasn't quite ready to accept them.  The company did design the "jeep" and made about 3,000 during World War II, but production demands spread the duty to Willys and Ford due to their additional manufacturing capacity.  You can read more about it with the link provided above and do your own poking around the Internet if you are interested..

For me, they are more like roller-skates than a car - they are all of ten feet long and at 6' 5", it's just not possible to drive one - unless one was built around me.  Anyway, the following is a slide show from the welcoming barbecue today we had at a local park with pictures of some of the cars.  I will add more to the slide show as the week progresses if you want to check back.

Here is a link to the club's website.

Click here for transcript of Mayor Varela's Budget Speech from 7/21/10

Sunday, July 25, 2010

During the travels of our Commissioners Jennings and Mulvehill...

Let's hope they didn't forget about the plight Lake Worth faces related to at-risk youth and the effects of concentrated poverty on a city already overwhelmed on many levels.

In case you missed it, the Lake Worth 33460 zip code is in last place among other Palm Beach County cities according to the above factors as compiled by the Palm Beach County Children's Services Council.  This chart was included in the City Manager's 2010-2011 budget transmittal letter.

Received in e-mail from planning colleague...

A new Chinese train innovation - How to get on/off the bullet train without stopping.  

No time is wasted. The bullet train is moving all the time. If there are 30 stations between Beijing and Guangzhou, just stopping and accelerating again at each station will waste both energy and time.

A mere 5 min stop per station (elderly passengers cannot be hurried) will result in a total loss of 5 min x 30 stations or 2.5 hours of train journey

The Chinese are innovative enough to come up with a non-stopping train concept. When the train arrives at a station, it will not stop at all.

 The passenger at a station embarked onto to a connector cabin way before the train even arrive at the station. When the train arrives, it will not stop at all. The Train just slows down to pick up the connector cabin which will move with the train on the roof  of the train.

While the train is still traveling away from the station, those passengers will board the train from the connector cabin mounted on the train's roof.

After fully unloading all its passengers, the cabin connector cabin will be moved to the back of the train so that the next batch of outgoing passengers who want to alight at the next station will board the connector cabin at the rear of the train roof.

When the train arrives at the next station, it will simply drop the whole connector cabin at the station itself and leave it behind at the station.

The outgoing passengers can take their own time to disembark at the station while the train had already left. At the same time, the train will pick up the incoming embarking passengers on another connector cabin in the front part of the train's roof. So the train will always drop one connector cabin at the rear of its roof and pick up a new connector cabin in the front part of the train's roof at each station.

One most positively hopes that...

...while Commissioner Mulvehill is visiting her Southend-on-Sea, UK friends, she studies the information and input made available through that community's website and works on how we can employ such a comprehensive array of options for Lake Worth residents.

Furthermore, she should study the vast compendium of advisory committees and the ease by which information is accessed regarding meetings by those advisory committees and the fact that nearly 100% of them have sets of minutes available on line as recent as mid to late June.  As of July 25, 2010, the most recent set of minutes available for the City Commission in Lake Worth is:

Notice too that each individual decision-making body has an individual search engine.  To experience how confusing the search function is on the City's website, enter "pier" in the search window on the homepage.  How could you find anything you are looking for related to "pier" in the 81 items - 62 documents - that come up in the results?

Looking a little further into the Southend-on-Sea site, you can see that development applications are available for review and comment.

Notice too that they even ask about how useful the page is so that they can make continual improvements in the services offered on-line:
When will we see something like this on the Lake Worth website?

Check out their special "Invest in Southend-on-Sea" website.

Yes, we could learn a lot from this sister-across-the-sea, but will we?   

It's worth noting there is very little promotion and mentioning of names of individual "councillors" on the website.  In fact, you have to enter your address to find which "councillor" you should consult about your problem.  No publicity at the taxpayers' expense.

Southend-on-Sea also had its own Casino-like building at the end of its pier. This is a picture of what they refer to as the Pier Pavillion from 1923.  
According to Wikipedia, it was destroyed by a fire in 1959 and replaced in 1962 with a bowling alley.  After a fire in 1995 it wasn't rebuilt.  Instead, they held an International Competition and selected one design after reviewing 73 entries.  The winning design is not a "pastiche." Instead, it will be a new piece of architecture that reflects its Victorian roots, and is not an imitation.  It will contain a restaurant, a theater and public assembly space.  It is unclear what the status of the design is relating to a timetable - I'm still looking.

 Yes, we could learn a lot from our sister city-on-the-sea.

Sister Cities

Click here for list of Poland's Sister Cities - Where is Lake Worth?

Click here to read about Southend-on-Sea, UK - currently  on the itinerary of our District #4 Commissioner Mulevehill.  An excerpt:

Southend Borough Council was criticised as one of the worst financially managed local authorities in England by the Audit Commission report for 2006/7 one of three to gain only one of four stars, the others being Liverpool and the Isles of Scilly. Areas of criticism were the use of consultants and the spending of £3.5 million on taxis during the 2006/7 financial year.[3]

And this on its economic condition:

Southend, with its forlorn, empty 1960s office blocks, shopping centres and amusement arcades, appears an unlikely destination for hip, creative types. Yet the Essex town's aspiration is to become the creative capital of the East of England and Pecha Kucha is only one way it is trying to make a name for itself.

Perhaps Lake Worth does have something in common with Southend-on-Sea.

Somewhere, my love,
There will be songs to sing
Although the snow
Covers the hope of spring.

Somewhere a hill
Blossoms in green and gold
And there are dreams
All that your heart can hold.

Someday we'll meet again, my love.
Someday whenever the spring breaks through.

You'll come to me
Out of the long ago,
Warm as the wind,
Soft as the kiss of snow.

Till then, my sweet,
Think of me now and then.
God, speed my love
'Til you are mine again.