Friday News Digest- "Feel Good" Edition

As Chuck and his family take their annual vacation to a warm weather destination (this time to the land of pandas, dolphins, beaches and Disney characters), I’ve been given the privilege to write the world-famous Friday News Digest.

Sometimes we here at Strong Towns are criticized for being “too negative.”  Last week all hell broke loose on Chuck’s personal Facebook page when he posted the following comment: 

"Strong Towns t-shirt slogan ideas from today's member chat (not my idea but the conversation goes where it goes): 

Nodes, not stroads.
The Standard made me do it.
Parking Lots don't Pay Taxes."

Some of the commenters rolled with it and came up with other witty/sarcastic slogans while another individual questioned what exactly Strong Towns supports.  Note: he requested an answer without any of the “fluffy marketing BS.”  Chuck kindly directed him to the “Mission” of Strong Towns and other material related to who we are and what we do. Pandemonium ensued between this individual and some of Chuck’s long-time friends.   There were some personal attacks (although I don’t believe the commenters actually knew each other) but overall, most of it was quite comical.  Chuck played the role of referee and in the end everyone kissed and made up.  In light of the situation and because we are often accused of being too negative, this week’s Friday News Digest is going to be of the “feel good” variety.  

  • Immediately after I was informed that I would be doing the FND this week I came across a complaint that a cow was being housed in a residential neighborhood here in Brainerd.  I knew right away this needed to be included in the FND.

    It turns out “Freckles” was near death but has since made a full recovery after escaping the extreme cold.  As of this weekend, she has been returned to her farm.  Moooooooo.

"Nebel said she knew cows aren’t allowed within city limits, but 'I didn’t want to let (Freckles) die.'"

  • Last year I went on a snowboarding trip to Keystone, CO.  I was amazed to discover that pets (maybe just dogs?) are allowed in bars/restaurants.  Apparently this is common in a lot of states out West.  I currently don’t own a dog but I do plan on having one someday and my neighborhood will be better for it.

"If you own a dog, it is almost certain that you will be out and about at least twice a day. Chances are good that you will run in to the same people and the same dogs whom are also out and about twice every day. Even if your daily exchange is as simple as a smile and a quick hello, you are building your own sense of community."

  • This is not really a news story but this week Strong Towns fellow Nate Hood posted a photo of a cool new device that separates bike lanes from traffic lanes.  They are apparently called “Zebra Bumps” here in the US and “Armadillos” in the UK.   They are reflective, low profile and made of recycled materials.  I’ll be pitching them to a small town here in north central Minnesota next week— fingers crossed.

  • Before visiting Pittsburgh, PA for the first time last year, I envisioned it as being a dark/dirty industrial and uninviting place.  I was completely wrong.  Here’s one example of a place we visited called Market Square.  It’s gorgeous.  Now they have their sights set on becoming one of the most bike friendly cities in the nation.  Good luck Pittsburgh…we are rooting for you.

"Now Bicycling Magazine rates Pittsburgh the 35th most bicycle-friendly city in America, and Peduto wants to see it shoot into the top ten. Thirty percent of Pittsburghers walk, bike, or take transit to work — only seven other American cities have a higher share. But 'we can do better,' Peduto said."

  • Again, this one is not so much of a news story but some of you transit-geeks will appreciate this new game called "Mini Metro." I’ll freely admit living in small town in central Minnesota I know very little regarding building and/or utilizing transit systems.  After about 10 minutes of playing this game my transit system looked like a handful of spaghetti was thrown onto my computer monitor.
  • The City of Houston, TX recently announced they are shutting down 2.5 miles of streets to automobiles “to test whether pedestrians, cyclists will use car-free streets.”  I think I know the answer to that but I’m excited to see their findings.   Good luck Houston!

"'It is a way to acquaint ourselves with what is around those streets in a way we don't normally experience it going by car,' Mayor Annise Parker said."

  • In what I consider the biggest news of the week, we have officially announced the Strong Towns National Gathering will be September 12-14, 2014 in Minneapolis.  If you have not done so yet, please take a quick one-question poll to help us guage interest for the event. 

"The Strong Towns Staff, Fellows, Members and local volunteers are going to create an event as a pilot-model to show what a Strong Towns ‘conference’ looks like. This will set the stage for similar events at a regional level so there can be 10-15 or so of these within carpool/train distance of everyone in the country in 2015 and 2016."

  • In other happy news- Denver, CO has announced an initiative they are calling “Imagine 2020.” Basically, the idea is to immerse the City with art of all kinds.  They are also going to be doing a review of their (presumably out-dated) plans, permits and codes in order to, “allow for more temporary art installations and to integrate art considerations into official development and neighborhood proposals.” Way to be Denver.  Way to be. 

"One of the plan's more interesting ideas is among its smallest: $40,000 in immediate grants for micro-art projects in neighborhoods to create public gathering places across Denver. The city's Arts & Venues department will begin taking applications for "P.S. You Are Here" in the next few weeks."

  • To close the “feel good” edition of the FND I originally had the “Between Two Ferns” video with President Obama and Zach Galifianakis queued up but since it’s been plastered all over the national news media- I’m sure everyone that wanted to see it has done so by now.  Instead, here’s a little something to get you in the mood for St. Patty’s Day.  Enjoy your “feel good” weekend everyone. 

If you haven’t already become a member of Strong Towns, please consider doing so. We had a great member event last week, have another small group event today and have lots more planned for the coming months. Help us to help you build a strong