Archive for March, 2013

What the Steamship and the Landline Can Tell Us About the Decline of the Private Car

Emily Badger for The Atlantic Cities

Steamship

This prediction sounds bold primarily for the fact that most of us don’t think about technology – or the history of technology – in century-long increments: “We’re probably closer to the end of the automobility era than we are to its beginning,” says Maurie Cohen, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. “If we’re 100 years into the automobile era, it seems pretty inconceivable that the car as we know it is going to be around for another 100 years.”

Cohen figures that we’re unlikely to maintain the deteriorating Interstate Highway System for the next century, or to perpetuate for generations to come the public policies and subsidies that have supported the car up until now. Sitting in the present, automobiles are so embedded in society that it’s hard to envision any future without them. But no technology – no matter how essential it seems in its own era – is ever permanent. Consider, just to borrow some examples from transportation history, the sailboat, the steamship, the canal system, the carriage, and the streetcar.

All of those technologies rose, became ubiquitous, and were eventually replaced. And that process followed a pattern that can tell us much about the future of the automobile – that is, if we’re willing to think about it not in the language of today’s “war on cars,” but in the broad arc of time.

“There’s not going to be a cataclysmic moment,” Cohen says of what’s coming for the car. “Like any other technology that outlives its usefulness, it just sort of disappears into the background and we slowly forget about it.” The landline telephone is undergoing that process right now. Your grandmother probably still has one. But did you even bother to call the phone company the last time you moved into a new home? “It’s not as if we all wake up one morning and decide we’re going to get rid of our landlines,” Cohen says, “but they just kind of decay away.

“I think cars will kind of disappear in much the same way.”

They may still exist at the periphery (there are still canal boats out there). But, for the most part, in all likelihood we’ll move on. History is full of these “socio-technical transitions,” as academics like Cohen call them. The history of the steamship has particularly influenced this line of thinking. Society spent a good hundred years transitioning from the sailing ship to the steamship. “It wasn’t as if steamships instantly demonstrated their superiority,” Cohen says. There were problems with the technology. Kinks had to be worked out. Sometimes they blew up.

We often think of the car as having arrived with a flourish from Henry Ford around the turn of the last century. But the history of the automobile actually dates back more than a hundred years earlier to steam-powered vehicles and the first internal combustion engine. Early prototypes of the car used to blow up, too. People were afraid of them. You had to acquire a special skill set just to operate them. And then there were all the networks we needed to develop – roads, gas stations, repair shops – to make cars feasible.

“We tend to focus on the car itself as the central element,” Cohen says, “and we fail to recognize that it’s not just the car.” Like any ubiquitous technology, the car is embedded in a whole social system. In this case, that system includes fuel supply lines, mechanisms for educating and licensing new drivers, companies to insure them, laws to govern how cars are used on common roads and police officers to enforce them. In the academic language of socio-technical transitions theory, all of that stuff is the regime around the car.

“People who are part of that regime get up in the morning, put their shoes on and reproduce that system on a daily basis,” Cohen says. “So that system also has a profound ability to beat back any challenges to it.”

But we can already start to see cracks in the regime. New automobile registrations have plateaued in the U.S, even as the population has continued to grow. Rising gas prices have made some housing patterns predicated on the car unsustainable. Twentysomethings are now less likely to own cars and say they’re less enamored of them. The 1973 classic car flick American Graffiti, Cohen points out, would never be made today.

Within any social system, there also exist what Cohen calls “insurgent niches” challenging the regime. Niches are fragile, they’re underfunded, they’re stigmatized. The car was once an insurgent niche in the age of streetcars. Now in the age of the automobile, we might think of those niches as car-sharing companies or bike advocacy groups.

Some niches eventually grow to replace the prevailing regime, as cars themselves once did. But that process is equally dependent on so much more than technological invention. Look at how the cell phone has evolved to replace the landline. Our need for cell phones didn’t arise in a vacuum. Work practices changed. Commuting times got longer, creating the need for communication inside cars. Batteries got smaller. Cell phone towers proliferated.

These are the unnoticed events that happen in the slow course of technological transition. We didn’t even recognize that the car was a fundamentally new thing until around World War I, Cohen says. Until then, many people viewed the car as just a carriage without a horse.

“The replacement of the car is probably out there,” Cohen adds. “We just don’t fully recognize it yet.”

In fact, he predicts, it will probably come from China, which would make for an ironic comeuppance by history. The car was largely developed in America to fit the American landscape, with our wide-open spaces and brand-new communities. And then the car was awkwardly grafted onto other places, like dense, old European cities and developing countries. If the car’s replacement comes out of China, it will be designed to fit the particular needs and conditions of China, and then it will spread from there. The result probably won’t work as well in the U.S., Cohen says, in the same way that the car never worked as well in Florence as it did in Detroit.

We’re not terribly well positioned right now to think about what this future will look like. Part of the challenge is that, culturally, we’re much more accustomed to celebrating new gadgets than thinking about how old technology decays.

“And people don’t have the perspective that extends beyond their own lives,” Cohen says. “They were born into a society and culture where cars were everywhere, and they can’t envision – with good reason – living their lives without a car.”

He worries that in the U.S., we’ve lost our “cultural capacity to envision alternative futures,” to envision the Futurama of the next century. More often, when we do picture the future, it looks either like a reproduced version of the present or like some apocalyptic landscape. But this exercise requires a lot more imagination: What will be the next carriage without a horse? The next car without an engine?

Advertisements

March 21, 2013 at 8:24 am Leave a comment

LLCC Named One of Constant Contact’s 2012 All Stars

LLCC recognized for achieving exemplary marketing results

Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition Inc. has received the 2012 All Star Award from Constant Contact®, Inc., the trusted marketing advisor to more than half a million small organizations worldwide. Each year, Constant Contact bestows the All Star Award to a select group of businesses and nonprofits who are successfully leveraging online marketing tools to engage their customer base, and drive success for their organization. LLCC’s results ranked among the top 10% of Constant Contact’s international customer base.

We are happy to be recognized by Constant Contact for achieving strong marketing results and connecting with our community. Constant Contact’s tools have helped us in the following specific ways to better manage constituent relationships and engagement.

Constant Contact customers using either the company’s Email Marketing or EventSpot tools are eligible for this award. Constant Contact looked at the following criteria to select this year’s All Stars:

  • Level of engagement with email campaigns and events
  • Open, bounce, and click-through rates
  • Event registration rates
  • Use of social sharing features
  • Use of mailing list sign-up tools
  • Use of reporting tools
“We’re always delighted when small businesses and nonprofits are successful,” said Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact. “We’re honored to recognize Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition Inc. as an All Star, and to be able to shine the spotlight on its achievements in 2012.”

March 12, 2013 at 3:08 pm Leave a comment

Suburbs Secede from Atlanta

‘Detroit of the South’ bludgeoned by troubles

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/03/suburbs-secede-from-atlanta/#a2GLrG5Hub4sDTJG.99
By John T. Bennett

As Detroit – beset by violence, debt and social woes – prepares to  undergo a historic takeover by the Michigan state government, the city of  Atlanta could be sliding toward a similar fate.

Some are quietly wondering whether Atlanta is in danger of becoming “the  Detroit of the South.”

The city has experienced an ongoing succession of government scandals,  ranging from a massive cheating racket to corruption, bribery, school-board  incompetence and now the potential loss of accreditation for the local DeKalb  County school system.

For several years, problems of this sort have fueled political reforms,  including the creation of new cities in northern Atlanta suburbs. Due to the  intensification of corruption scandals in DeKalb, some state-level reform  proposals could become national news very soon.

‘Super-white majority’ cities

As a result of the unsavory politics in urban Atlanta, northern suburban  communities acted to distance themselves. Beginning in 2005, many communities  began the process of incorporating into cities.

Thus far, Milton, Sandy Springs, Brookhaven, Dunwoody, Chattahoochee Hills  and Johns Creek have done so.

These cities, after breaking away politically from urban Atlanta, have become  so successful that a libertarian think tank, the Reason Foundation, has featured  Sandy Springs as a model of effective government. The  Economist has also applauded the northern Atlanta cities for solving the  problem of unfunded government pension liability and avoiding the bankruptcy  that looms over some urban areas. The new cities may soon be able to create  their own school districts, which would free them even further from the  issues besetting Atlanta.

While incorporation has been popular with residents of the new cities, not  all of Atlanta is as satisfied. The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus filed a  lawsuit in 2011 to dissolve the new cities, claiming  they were a “super-white majority” and diluting the voting power of  minorities.

A key leader in the black community and a driving force in support of the  lawsuit, who wishes to remain anonymous, bemoaned the “disturbing tendency of  black electorates to not elect the smartest and brightest, or even the  cleverest.”

Nonetheless, he believes that there is a social contract between the northern  and southern parts of the county.

“So when you allow powerful groups of citizens to opt out of a social  contract, and form their own, it may benefit the group opting out, but it hurts  the larger collective,” he said.

The lawsuit would have canceled incorporation and tied the cities back into  the very county that they purposefully left.

State Rep. Lynne Riley, a Republican who represents one of the new cities,   called the lawsuit “frivilous” and “disrespectful to the citizens of these  cities who are most satisfied with their government.”

The federal trial court rejected the lawsuit, and the court of appeals  affirmed the dismissal. However, an attorney for the Black Caucus plans to file  an   amended lawsuit.

Meanwhile, the same concerns that spurred incorporation continue to  mount.

Failing schools

DeKalb  County contributed to what the  New York Times called “the biggest standardized test cheating scandal in the  country’s history” in 2011.

Now, the county is faced with losing its regional accreditation. Losing  regional accreditation is, by any objective measure, a devastating indictment of  a school board, with severe consequences for students and families within the  district.

When nearby Clayton County, Ga., lost its regional accreditation in 2008, it  was the  first school system in the country to do so in 40 years.

The result in Clayton, according  to the Pew Foundation, was that thousands of students left county schools,  the district lost millions of dollars and hundreds of teachers were fired.

In response to the Clayton County crisis, after witnessing the fallout and  the harm to the state’s reputation, the legislature acted to prevent a repeat.  In 2011, the Georgia legislature essentially gave the governor authority to  remove board of education members when a district was placed on probation by the  accreditation agency.

Last December, DeKalb was placed on probation. Then, in January, the governor  of Georgia used his new authority and removed six members of the nine-member  DeKalb Board of Education.

This year, well after the accreditation issue broke open, DeKalb school board  elections were held. Four of nine board members were up for reelection.    Voters in one of the four districts returned their incumbent board member  for another term, despite knowing that accreditation was at risk.

This week, a federal judge sided with the governor and agreed that the six  suspended board members can be replaced. The decision places the dispute into  the Georgia Supreme Court’s purview.

As the issue looms, the mere mention of losing accreditation has impacted the  housing market in DeKalb, with at  least one potential buyer directing his realtor not to search for homes in the  county.

School leadership

Recently, at the helm of the DeKalb school system stood Crawford Lewis. The  former superintendent has been   indicted on racketeering charges.

Along with several of his associates, Lewis is accused by the DeKalb DA of  fraud, theft by a government employee, bribery and a web of racketeering. The  charges arose out of Lewis’ practice of steering lucrative government contracts  toward favored companies.

According  to the indictment, Lewis also used government funds to pay for a hotel room,  which he used as the venue for an affair. Lewis had this affair with a person  who held the position of “Executive Director of the Office of School  Improvement.”

One of the numerous complaints about the DeKalb school board was that it  voted to pay for Lewis’ legal defense. There had been a $100,000 cap on the  costs allowed for legal defense, but the school board waived it for Lewis’ benefit.

The CEO in charge

At the very top, the head of DeKalb’s government is the position of CEO. The  current CEO, Burrell Ellis, is being investigated for a list of concerns,  including alleged bid rigging. Police searched Ellis’s home and office recently,  and local  news outlets report that while no charges have been filed, search  warrants are reportedly aimed  toward potential extortion, bribery, theft, conspiracy, and wire fraud in  connection with private vendors who contract with the county.

Most recently, Ellis sought approval from the county ethics board to  establish a legal defense fund to benefit himself. The board  rebuffed the request.

A corrupt school board becomes a civil rights issue

Instead of being treated as a story about rampant, inexcusable corruption,  the school board fiasco has morphed into a civil rights issue. Atlanta’s NBC  affiliate reports that the Georgia NAACP “accused Republican Governor Nathan  Deal of being part of an alleged conspiracy to get rid of black office holders  and deprive black voters of their rights.”

State Rep. Tyrone Books pointed out that criticism of the governor needed to  include a word about black politicians who supported the governor’s removal  authority.

“How can we complain about him when we have black folks standing there  embracing the removal of black officials?” asked Brooks, D-Atlanta.

The state legislature is trying  to prevent public funds from being used in the legal defense of the ousted board  members. Because the ousted board members see their positions as a civil  rights entitlement, the attorney’s fees required for their defense will quickly  rise, unless legislation puts an end to the entitlement.

One of the suspended board members, Eugene Walker, responded  to the judge’s ruling with a familiar appeal: “Minorities should not feel  secure if contrived allegations from anonymous sources with hidden agendas can  go to private agencies and to have their civil rights stolen away.”

DeKalb has changed from majority white to majority black over the last  several decades. As  the Atlanta Journal Constitution gingerly put it: “The county’s transition  from majority white to majority minority was politically rocky .”

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/03/suburbs-secede-from-atlanta/#a2GLrG5Hub4sDTJG.99

March 11, 2013 at 10:58 am Leave a comment

Resident: Don’t Allow Tucker Land Grab for Lakeside City

Plans for Lakeside cityhood are crossing the line, says a local resident.

By Michelle Penkava for North Druid Hills/Briarcliff Patch

You may have heard that some  neighborhoods to our west are trying to form a city. This city, now  designated as Lakeside City, began in Oak Grove. One of the three services  they plan to provide is parks and recreation. Being in need of  green space, they have included a very large portion of Tucker in their proposed  city map in order to acquire Henderson Park. This would also give them  access to some long-established Tucker neighborhoods and additional commercial  properties.

The Lakeside City Alliance would have you  believe that they are moving slowly. In fact, they were expected to “drop a bill” at the Capitol on Thursday, March 7, sponsored by Dunwoody state Sen. Fran  Millar.

This bill is a “placeholder” designed to allow a public  vote on the issue by the fall of 2014 even though they are just now in the  beginning legal stages of forming their city. The map is not set in  stone. But once it is, we outside their boundaries will have no vote  on whether or not they become a city and incorporate parts of Tucker. Our  local politicians and civic leaders have spoken out, asking them to use I-285 as  their boundary. Instead, they are land grabbing large areas of Tucker in  their initial attempt, stating that there are no obvious boundaries of  Tucker.

The state of Georgia district maps, including Millar’s  district map, clearly designate Tucker as a “census place,” and show our  boundaries beginning at 285 with just a slight dip inside the perimeter to  Henderson Mill Road.

As you know, the climate in DeKalb  is tenuous at best. We are all frustrated with the state of the county  school system and exhausted by the antics of the now-suspended DeKalb County Board of  Education members. Many citizens are further frustrated by the DeKalb  government as a whole. It is in this climate that the Lakeside city  proponents are able to accelerate what should be a well thought out plan that  considers long-term implications to all communities. Instead, they are  considering only their needs and are dissecting Tucker with no regard and little  communication with our communities.

While the Georgia constitution  prevents the formation of new school districts, the City of Dunwoody is seeking  an amendment to the constitution that would allow them to pull out of the DeKalb  County School System. Most consider it a long shot at best as it requires  support from the entire state. The Lakeside city planners state that  their plan has nothing to do with schools. However, if by chance  Dunwoody is successful, Lakeside city could follow. Their proposed  Lakeside City map selects Midvale and Livsey (not the neighborhoods on our side  of Chamblee-Tucker Road) but specifically excludes Pleasantdale Elementary, which is  currently a feeder school to Lakeside High School and is north of the Tucker  boundary.

Millar’s email  address is listed below along with contact information for our local  legislators. Please share your thoughts with all of them. It is  important for Tucker residents to be “on the record.” Also below are  the links to the proposed Lakeside city map and Millar’s district  map.

Penkava wrote this letter to her neighbors, and it was distributed to Patch.

March 8, 2013 at 9:35 am Leave a comment

Local Cityhood Movements to Hold Joint Meeting

The Lakeside City Alliance and the North Druid Hills Study Group on March 19.

By Jonathan Cribbs for North Druid Hills/Briarcliff Patch

Two groups investigating the creation of a new city in the North Druid Hills-Briarcliff area will hold a joint meeting later this month.

The Lakeside City Alliance and the North Druid Hills Study Group will answer questions from residents of the Sagamore Hills and Briarcliff Woods civic associations regarding their proposed city plans.

From the Briarcliff Woods Civic Association:

  • The  Briarcliff Woods Civic Association is joining with Sagamore Hills Civic  Association to hold a joint information session where residents may  address their questions to the two separate groups who are working toward a city in North DeKalb County.
  • Both  the Lakeside Alliance Group and the North Druid Hills Study Group will  be present to answer questions on their proposals for cityhood.
  • The  meeting will be held at Sagamore Hills Elementary School at 1865  Alderbrook Road, Atlanta, GA 30345 starting at 7 PM on Tuesday, March  19.
  • Prior to the meeting, please send your questions to briarcliffwoods@gmail.com and  we will compile them for the meeting. The Board of Directors has  formed a sub-committee to collect questions and focus on this important  topic.

March 8, 2013 at 9:21 am Leave a comment

Ellis: Continued Incorporation May Harm Critical County Services

DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis said this week the county has reached a point where incorporations could harm essential county services.

by Jonathan Cribbs for North Druid Hills / Briarcliff Patch

DeKalb County has reached a “tipping point” where continued incorporations of unincorporated county land could harm the county’s ability to fund essential services such as courts, elections and libraries, county CEO Burrell Ellis said this week. – services all county residents use regardless of whether they live in a city.

Ellis’ remarks were released in a statement to Patch, but, speaking at a community meeting in Tucker on Tuesday, he also said he  understands the desire for cityhood but that historically, new cities  often encounter difficulties meeting their fiscal goals, and end up  having to raise taxes just to meet basic needs.

“You’ll still be DeKalb  citizens,” he said, emphasizing that new cities cannot isolate  themselves from their counties.

Proponents of cityhood in the Lakeside area have said they believe  they can improve police services and local representation by erecting a  city government closer to its residents. District 2 Commissioner Jeff  Rader, who represents part of the area that would be incorporated under  several proposed maps from various cityhood groups, said he believes  he’s been responsive to constituents.

“You can’t speak in general, but I am not running across constients  who feel that our office hasn’t been responsive to them,” he said. “I  don’t know that you’re always gong to get what you want from another  government.”

Super District 7 Commissioner Stan Watson said he would like to see a  meeting   between residents and elected representatives of northern and  southern   DeKalb County to hash out issues that have lead to serious cityhood discussions in the Lakeside High School area.

“The  citizens don’t talk to each other,” Watson said. “We have to  get rid of  the barriers that separate and find the commonalities that  bring us  closer together.”

He said he supports the idea of cityhood but hasn’t appreciated the legislature’s efforts to squash a city of DeKalb that would incorporate all remaining unincorporated county land from north to south.

“I’m for cityhood but allow all the citizens to vote on cityhood,” he said. “But just don’t give it to a respectful few.”

But the county government doesn’t have much control over what happens in the Lakeside area. If the legislature approves a cityhood bill for that area next year, it will go to a vote before residents of that proposed cit as early as fall 2014.

“If we don’t control the legislature, there’s nothing we can do,” he said.

March 7, 2013 at 9:01 am Leave a comment


Calendar

March 2013
M T W T F S S
« Feb   Oct »
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Posts by Month

Posts by Category