Friday, August 15, 2014

Advocacy Tips and New Orleans Bike-Ped Highlights at Last Week's Big Meeting

What a meeting it was!  And pictures to come!  Promise! 

In attendance: Lani Duke, Loren Demerath, Maurice Loridans, Stephen Pederson, Garrett Johnson, Cynthia Keith, Marion Collins, Ila Broyles, Dina Utter, Caryn Jenkins, Elka Anderson, Jim Broyles, Melisa Smith, Chris Chandler, Emilie Harmeyer, Cathy Smith, Katherine Sailer, Patrick Furlong, Matthew Ellis, Jonathan Toups, Victoria Provenza, Matthew Linn, Robert Trudeau, Feamula Bradley, Jennifer Ruley (via speaker phone).

GOVERNMENT MEETING REVEALS BIG OPPORTUNITY

Loren kicked things off with a description of the meeting he and Ila Broyles had last week with government officials, and how tonight’s meeting could help us take advantage of a significant opportunity.  As co-chairs of the HGIO Advocacy Committee, Loren and Ila met with Caddo Parish Commissioner Matthew Lin, NLCOG Director Kent Rogers, Caddo Parish Administrator Woody Wilson, Caddo Parish Engineer Ken Ward, and Metropolitan Planning Commission Interim Director Stephen Jean.  Kent Rogers gave us the welcome news that as part of revising our region’s overall transportation master plan, a kind of bike-ped plan would be created as well, and this could include a plan for a network of multi-use paths.
NLCOG has already selected the firm, Alliance Transportation Group, that will create the overall transportation master plan.  That firm has the contract for doing the LA DOT plan as well, and a bike-ped advocate Loren knows, David Levinger, said that those kinds of firms tend to be automobile focused.  In looking at the firm’s website they don’t appear to have the background in bike-ped planning that other firms do that specialize in that.  But it was noted that citizens groups like ABS might be able to request that the bike-ped component be sub-contracted out.  The city has an opportunity to create a better quality of life and a unique value that can lead to economic development if it’s done well.  A bike-ped master plan in Shreveport could include an extensive network of paths, not to mention bike lanes, and pedestrian safety components.  All are those features are relatively inexpensive and could be developed out of existing funds.  A good plan will make it easy for create those benefits for the city, but a bad one would make it hard, even impeding improvements into the future.  

ADVOCACY TIPS OUT OF THE LOUISIANA PUBLIC HEALTH INSTITUTE

Feamula Bradley, of the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI) shared advice on how to be an effective advocacy group.  Feamula was one of the main people behind the smoke-free policies that have been established in the state, not to mention the ordinance passed in Shreveport, the first city in the state to pass one like it.
Feamula described how LPHI and the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco Free Living was able to get “boots on the ground,” and talk to decision makers in local governments and businesses to point out to them that they were all on the cusp of going tobacco-free, and would be able to do it if they all did it together.  Once the movement started, others joined too, not wanting to be left out of it.
Feamula described the various ways non-profit groups can advocate for an issue.  The point of advocacy is to distribute information on an issue, and that can be done through letters to editors of newspapers, articles and feature stories in news media, and posting on social media.  Calls to action are important to, where people are asked to share their points of view by commenting on a webpage, or by emailing decision makers.  Feamula noted that effective advocacy groups can end up shutting down the email accounts of decision makers that way, their accounts becoming so overwhelmed with incoming email.
Feamula pointed out that while non-profits are not allowed to lobby—where one requests that government officials make certain decisions on legislative issues—they can give officials information on the issues for which they advocate.   She described the effectiveness of sharing such information is facilitated by referencing issues which they find important.  And so, Feamula noted, as an organization, it helps to research decision-makers, and record what you find out. 
But maybe the most important thing Feamula advised (at least to this dimwit!) is that organizers need to set goals and timelines at their meetings, and to distribute the duties needed to reach those goals according to those timelines.  (Got it!)
Another tip Feamula gave for advocacy groups is not to overlook the small details and get distracted by the excitement of reaching the big goal at the end.  (Hmm.  Might be guilty of that one too.)  The more you tend to the details and little to-do’s the faster you’ll get there.
Feamula noted how important community mobilization was to the success of the Tobacco Free Living campaign.  When she’d give out t-shirts at festivals or shopping centers, she pause to ask the person, “hey, if you’re really interested in this, can I get your contact information?” and that info will later let you ask them to show up at city council meetings (“You don’t have to say anything, just your standing there will mean something,” she’d tell them), or to email decision makers (TFL has been known to stimulate so much email that officials’ accounts have crashed).  Helping community mobilization can be having a youth component, as well as using focus groups to projects.
Another of Feamula’s important points is looking at who’s NOT “at your table.”  That’s certainly a point our largely white, upper-middle class ABS should consider.  (Talking with Feamula later after the meeting, she emphasized the importance of diversifying our base.  This resonates with plans ABS had made before our summer break, to “take our act on the road,” and meet in other neighborhoods, pointedly inviting leaders of neighborhood associations and the like.  The plan was that ABS would learn neighborhoods different needs, interests and resources to see how they might fit with ABS projects, and in turn, to share what ABS is working on to see if they’d like to get involved and help us.  And, because it can be intimidating to come on to Centenary’s campus to meet, reaching out to the neighborhoods would involve meeting at various library branches.
Reaching out to decision-makers was another topic Feamula addressed.  She said it helps to develop profiles of such people, to research what it is they care about by attending to what they’ve spoken about, proposed, posted in social media, etc.  One can then look to connect to them through those interests.
            Last but not least, Feamula pointed out there are professional organizations out there ready to help, like LPHI.  Other organizations, like the Louisiana Association of Non-Profit Organizations (LANO), are there for the offing as well.  In the end, it’s all about partnerships.
            And as an example of the advice and expertise professionals can provide in such partnerships, next up was Jennifer Ruley!

PLANNER SHOWS OFF NEW ORLEANS BIKE-PED ACHIEVEMENTS

To give us a taste for what’s possible, Jennifer Ruley, an urban planner with the Louisiana Public Health Institute, then spoke to us over speaker phone, walking us through a powerpoint showing what she’s helped to do in New Orleans.
One of the highlights has been new bike lanes; they’ve gone from having 5 miles of bike lanes to 92 miles now in 8 years.  (Shreveport has zero miles, as readers may know.  So far.  Caddo Parish recently installing some on North Lakshore Drive. It’s a start!)
Another has bike enhancement in New Orleans has been bike parking: they’re about to add 500 more to an already substantial 4,000 spaces.
They’ve also added safety improvements like pedestrian refuge islands and crosswalks in the French Quarter.
And there’s been programming, too.  The first “Cyclovia,” (titled “Play Streets in NOLA) was held recently, (where a street is temporarily blocked off from automotive traffic).  And Better Block Demonstrations have shown on one set day how you can transform a block.  Using just temporary paint, artificial turf and planters, spaces can be provocatively repurposed.  Theirs were done by the Center for Planning Excellence.  And Bike to Work Day was a made into a party by organizing social events around it.
Although Louisiana now has a complete streets policy for state roadways (though it’s debatable how strong it is), New Orleans has passed a Complete Street Ordinance for the city “requiring that all transportation improvements are planned, designed and constructed to encourage walking, bicycling and transit use, while also promoting the full use of, and safe operation for all uses of the City’s transportation network.”  (Not a bad model, eh, Shreveport?)
As to the Shreveport Bike Ped cause, particular our interest in creating a network of multi-use paths out of our drainage ditches and levees, Jennifer said that the first steps should include targeting some relatively easy early successes (and heads nodded in the room).
Ila Broyles asked Jennifer Ruley what we might expect from the planning process, the kinds of early successes that can be done, and what communities have done this well? 
Jennifer said often there are projects approaching on the horizon, such as roadway projects coming up that are in the design process and might be amenable to accommodations.  You can do those projects sooner rather than wait for the whole city wide plan to be completed.  Once done they help the community come to expect such changes, even galvanize it to demand them.
As to what communities have done it well, Jennifer suggested we look at Jefferson Parish, which just completed their bike plan; she noted that it was pretty expensive and that there was a national expert that was part of that team;   Lake Charles has a good bike plan too.  Interestingly, Jennifer said Albuquerque New Mexico is worth a look for us in Shreveport, because it has a similar water layout with “arroyos” that work much like our bayous.
            Jeff Welborne asked how Jennifer maps the information on bike ways and make it all available to the public to see where all the bike ways are.  How do you keep track of that?  Jennifer said they track paths and lanes with Public Works in New Orleans and also refer people to the Master Plan.  But she noted one can also use GoogleMaps to consider where they’d be useful.  Victoria Provenza noted that Jill Mitchell at LA DOTD is a good resource for that.

NEXT MEETING: AUGUST 25TH AT 6:00 TO HEAR GUEST PANEL ON USING MEDIA & SOCIAL MEDIA

Jan Elkins and Clay Kirby of KTBS will be our special guests on August 25th from 6:00 to 7:00 at the Wright Math Building.  Clay is head of social media at the station and Jan, a former news anchor, has been a longtime community media leisson there.   The topic will be how to use broadcast, print, and social media for advocacy.  Join us!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What a meeting it was!

Summary to come... soon!  But just briefly: about 30 folks attended, Loren gave great news from NLCOG, Feamula Bradley rocked with advocacy advice, as Jennifer Ruley direct from New Orleans with images of what they've done down-state and we can consider planning to do up here, including examples of bike-ped plans.  But it's all coming!  With pictures!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Meeting Tonight on Converting Drainage Ditches to a Bike-Ped Path Network!

Reminder of the meeting tonight on how to convert our drainage ditches into a network of bike-pedestrian paths! 

We'll be at the Wright Math Building on Centenary's campus, 2907 Woodlawn Ave. from 6:00-7:00. 

Join us!

Here's path along a drainage ditch in Los Angeles. 
Looks like they started with the same thing we've got here in Shreveport.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Local History Education Organization with Global Aspirations is Off and Running!

In attendance: Maurice Loridans, Susan Keith, Lani Duke, Feico Kempff, Loren Demerath, and Chris Chandler

GRATEFUL FOR GOVERNMENT PARKS

Susan Keith reported on her recent travels to Mertyl Beach and said it was bumper to bumper traffic everywhere all the time there.  She didn’t like the board walks and souveneer shops and crowds.  Two of the three days they didn’t see the beach, since the coast is lined by hotels and condos.  Only when they found the state park could they get access to a beach.  It was noted that a good function of government is to provide the public with general access to those things, as through parks.

On that note, Loren Demerath reported on how well Brown County State Park in Indiana served as the site for his extended family’s recent reunion.  Loren noted that state parks (and federal and city for that matter) are nice for the way you can be in a place that isn’t pushing you to buy stuff and telling you how great everything is since profit isn’t the point.

ADVOCACY TRAINING MEETING NEXT MONDAY!

Loren also announced that the advocacy training meeting will be next week.  Hopefully all who are interested in helping improve bike-ped facilities in Shreveport will attend.  The particular focus will be on advocating for a network of multi-use paths.

SITES FOR A YEAR-ROUND FARMER’S MARKET?

The group discussed possible locations of a year-round farmer’s market.  Feico had the idea of putting it right on the Waddel Truss Bridge (one of only two it’s kind left in the U.S.),  while Maurice favored the site under the Texas Street Bridge right next to free parking provided by two casinos.  The truss bridge sure would have a great view and ought to be used for something.  Seems a great opportunity .  Under the Texas St. bridge has two other things going for it: parking (in the casino lots) and shade.

{Speaking of Farmer’s Markets, no doubt the new one starting up at Provenance will be a topic of conversation at coming meetings.  The more the better?}

THE AMERICAN MILLENIUM PROJECT HAS STARTED... IN SHREVEPORT!

For the main attraction of the night’s meeting, longtime ABetterShreveport attender Chris Chandler presented on his own non-profit organization, the American Millennium Project (with their Facebook page).  It’s a project that offer students of various ages the opportunity to learn history, geography, and culture through adventure travel and field trips, while at the same time developing pride in their locality, and a capacity for leadership.
Chris Chandler speaking at the Rotary
Club of South Shreveport earlier this year

Chris described how the idea started.  His college graduation gift from his grandparents (who raised him, and were of modest means) was a Eur-Rail Pass and a plane ticket to London in 1992.  Traveling by train, he carried a backpack, stayed at hostels, and it was a life changing experience.  When he came back he used the rest of his savings to do the same thing in the U.S. for another three months, traveling by Amtrack.  He said the comparison was night and day: completely different worlds in terms of the quality of facilities for travel; few youth hostels and disgraceful train service by comparison.

Chris later went to a leadership program entitled “Leadership Shreveport-Boosier,” sponsored by his boss, Lee Hall.  Chris also had a son around that time and made a commitment that he’d work on a structure to travel for people like his son by the time he reached high school (and he’s now a senior!).

In January of 2014 the program began.  The American Millenium Project has clubs with teacher sponsors in middle schools, high schools, and colleges.  Chris works with the faculty sponsors to organized field trips.  Chris is primarily using the Rotary Club format as a model, though he's also drawing a bit on the greek social fraternity framework.   There are no paid employees at this point.

The format of the field trips is the “adventure tour,” but there’s service wrapped into it as well.  As part of the tour, students often teach what they’ve learned, in one case to a local Rotary club.

OH, THE TOURS!

Chris has already developed twenty two total tours!  Among the tours: the Caddo Indians, local religions, “the Wild Wild West,” “Duck Pond and Beyond,” “Black Gold Rush,” “Cotton is King,” “Royal Mile,” “Gone but Not Forgotton,” (centered around local cemetaries), “Leaving a Legacy” (the Norton Art Gallery),  just to name a few!

{Nobody asked at the meeting, but now that I’m writing this, the thought occurs to me, couldn’t the rest of the city benefit from these tours too?  Might these tours be enjoyed by those of us not in school anymore?  Hmm.}

LOCAL IN, LOCAL OUT

Based on wherever the school is, students are given a tour within a three to five mile radius around the school.  The idea, Chris said, is to try to break down barriers with these tours.  For example, a lot of the kids who go to Caddo Middle Magnet go through the Cedar Grove neighborhood, but don’t know much about it’s history and culture.

Student members of the project have to complete 10 hours of service each semester, and they pick where they do it.  They also sign a statement of shared values.  And, each member pays dues of $25 per year. 

The organization’s board members include Gary Joiner, Keven Bryan, Ron Anderson, Mary Poteet, Jonathan Fox, Levette Fuller, and Jim Huckabee.

The focus is on Caddo Parish, and then duplicating it from there.

BIG GOALS & EVEN BIGGER ASPIRATIONS!

Chris said the organization has three goals:
  • Educate
  • Inspire Local Pride
  • Develop Leaders
It was noted that all three can be tied to together, in that seeing what others have done in a locale inspires an appreciation for that place, and can stimulate their own thinking as to how they might contribute to it too.
Loren suggested the wording "Leaders" might be changed to "Community Leaders" or "Involved Citizens" as leadership can mean directing people, like being a boss; or leading in something competitive, like the business sense of leading in market share.  Many students we all want to reach can’t necessarily imagine themselves ever being a leader or a boss, but can imagine being a contributer to a community, in that everyone knows they have something to offer. 

Chris said he has a five year plan and a ten year plan, and they’re both ambitious.  Eventually, the organization would… span North and South America!  The group agreed it was ambitious, but nobody suggested Chris was wrong to think big!

NOT REQUESTING GOVERNMENT FUNDS! ...EVER?

The group discussed the funding model, which is to rely strictly on private donations and corporate support and individual investors.  Chris said it’s a philosophical point of view where he thinks people tend to go to the government too often to solve their problems.  Loren said he agrees people can become dependent.  On the other hand, he also sees government as the appropriate place people to go share resources (through taxes) which they ask that their elected representatives distribute on merit.  He, for one, would want his tax dollars used on something like the American Millennium Project.  Loren said his dad once had a bumpersticker specially made and put it on his car that read: “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste.  Raise Our Taxes Please!”  The point being that some things are worth contributing money too, be they schools, roads, national defense, help for the poor, etc.

The group was generally very enthusiastic about Chris’ presentation.  We support you, Chris!

BIG MEETING ON MONDAY!

ABetterShreveport is gathering all the bike-ped advocates in the city to receive advocacy training this Monday, August 11, 6:00-7:00 p.m.  The specific goal we’re setting out sights on is a multi-use trail network to make our city more walkable and bikeable.  Highlights of the meeting will include:
  • Advocacy training run by experienced community organizer Feamula Bradley
  • A skype session with successful New Orleans bike path planner Janet Ruley
  • We'll be sharing very good news based on this week’s meeting of ABS and government leaders in regard to bike-ped facilities



Consider joining us for what should be a great meeting!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Open to Public Brownfields Workshop on Tuesday an Opportunity to Find Funding for Bike Paths and More!

At our last meeting before taking our summer hiatus (though they'll be a mid-July opportunity to engage in an exciting training opportunity described in a coming post) we met a new visiter, Megan Davenport, who coordinates a program at LSU Health Center.  She's interested in creating a better Shreveport-Bossier to help her recruit fellows for her program, and she agrees that more bike paths would help.


Megan spotted this federally funded workshop that's being held on Wednesday on how our city can get funding to use brownfields for economic development and revitalization.  The attendance of ordinary citizens would show we expect our city to seize these opportunities!


The EPA is funding this workshop, but a range of funding sources are available for actual projects.

But what are brownfields?  They're defined as "abandoned, idled, or underutilized properties ...the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presences of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant."  Considering that, drainage ditches would likely be included.

This is an opportunity.  Not only for creating our dreamed of network of bike paths for the city, but of revitalizing downtown or any neighborhood where properties lie in wait of better use.

Anyone can attend, including you, even if you're just a person who'd like to be citizen's voice in favor of creative use of our resources.  The more regular folks like us speak out in favor if this sort of thing, the more government officials feel obligated to respond and go for it.  

Here's hoping a number of city officials from a range of agencies attend.  We'd expect folks to be in attendance the Department of Operational Services, the Metropolitan Planning Commission, the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments (NLCOG), as well as the Caddo Parrish Commission, and the City Council. 

I left the Mayor's Office off that list since Mayor Glover will be out of office soon, but any political candidate would be smart to be well-schooled in specific funding possibilities for converting brownfields to community assets.  (Come to think of it, it'd be likely folks would be asking candidates about their knowledge of those possibilities at our upcoming city council and mayoral candidate forums in the fall, don't cha' think?) 

But regardless of what officials or candidates attend, the more we citizens do, the more we'll know of the possibilities, and the more we can ask that government takes advantage of them! 

It's free, but the registration deadline is tomorrow, Monday, June 2nd.  
The workshop is Tuesday, June 3rd, at Riverview Hall, from 9:30 to 3:30.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Visits to Neighborhood Groups and a Green Bicycle Tour Discussed

The following is an account of last Monday's meeting.

In attendance: Regan Horn, Feico Kempff, Stephen Pederson, Josh Fast, Loren Demerath, Katherine Brandl, Cynthia Keith, Maurice Loridans.


Byrd High School Concerns
Concerns were discussed about a change in policy at Byrd High School turning away ESL students.  A number of ideas were discussed including the “Minority to Majority Transfer” rule, and the resources of the Catholic Charities on 72nd St. in Cedar Grove.

Velo Dendro Evolves
How to make this year’s tree tour of the city “Velo Dendro” happen as good or better than before was discussed.  It was noted that it takes a lot of promotion, and ABS never ended up with the email list that Matthew Linn and Haley Dozier developed.  A to-do will be to try to get that. 

A "Cyclo Verde" could provide a chance to spread
the seed of MPC's big idea for nominating trail sites
One improvement to the tour might be to include other forms of notable plant growth, such as community gardens or wildflowers.  

(I write this I’m now recalling that the MPC’s exciting wildflower trailblazing project should be happening just around that time--early November---and this would be a great opportunity to prod people’s thinking about it and to invite their participation.)

An improvement might be to change the name. It was noted “Velo Dendro” doesn’t communicate the nature of the event as well as it could.  As the group brainstormed, the following names were developed as possibilities:

  • Tour de Greaux
  • Velo Verde The Green Cycle Tour
  • Cyclo Verde
The group thought we might post those options on facebook and ask for feedback or other suggestions.

Speaking of Cycling...
In hosting two Baltimore cyclists who were touring through town, Maurice recalled how one of them blew through a traffic light and he pointed out to them that a problem here is that auto drivers aren’t used to cyclists and we need to behave in predictable ways.  As people noted that various responses they’ve gotten from drivers around town when biking, Maurice noted that folks tend to be very accepting on the east side of town, but on the west, the car’s still a status symbol.

Speaking of Tours...
Several noted they attended edible wild plant walks: one on Clyde Fant, another in Highland and third in Bossier.  Josh noted that Pam Warhorst gives a ted talk on how we can design our landscapes to be eaten, as well as to educate children and raise awareness of gardening possibilities.  Planting key areas can lead to veggie eco-tourism.  Year ‘round, especially in our ArkLaTex part, there’s stuff to be eaten.  Noting the time of the “Tour de Greaux” (or whatever it might be called), Josh noted there’s persimon, peach, kale, and other greens that would be ready for picking then.
The range of veggie-tourism sights that could
be created is endless, all healthy n' tasty!


Monthly Neighborhood Visits
The group continued to discuss the idea of having a monthly visit to some neighborhood in Shreveport. The goal would be to empower Shreveport as a whole and that neighborhood in particular, by connecting it's concerns to other neighborhoods and the city overall. One group's concerns are often another group's too, and connecting ourselves to each other empowers us.

The purpose of the visits, then, would be to gather a neighborhood association's concerns, visions, and hopes, and to share ABS' simple model for advancing them: have meetings on public issues and publish the notes of those meetings.

It was noted that there may be some projects that would be especially appealing to lower income areas. For example, ABS has periodically held meetings on education inequality which have been very well-attended. Other frequent ABS concerns, like the city's walkability, are relevant too: there have been a many pedestrian
deaths due to crossing North Market St. in MLK area; there's a beauty shop that regularly sees them.

Miscellaneous Notes:

Stephen noted that one skateboarder rode the whole 5 miles on his skateboard with the Sunday Cyclo Femme ride that Stephen organized to celebrate Mothers Day. (Maurice noted that Stephen’s doing a great job of bringing local cycling awareness to his generation.)

The Red River District pub crawl is being held to promote pop-up businesses; each business will be judged by its success in two weeks; it's for a small business that has an idea in place; the space across from Cohab is used; the concept is like stalls in the middle of a mall; the idea is to have them at the riverfront.

Caddo Common Design Team is apparently in reference to the Shreveport Common art zone that has been renamed because of the parish’s new involvement.

Speaking of the common, a bicycle cooperative could be situated there; could even be run out of a shipping container; all one needs is the ability to secure the tools under lock and key.


The next meeting is tonight! Join us!