Spring Cleaning

 

It was time to do a little Spring Cleaning on the blog and I’ve re-launched the blog. Happy February!

There are a few new features on the latest version of edwardjensen.net that you should know. First, page organization is handled a little differently. I’m beginning to focus on three key areas: bicycling, downtown Phoenix, and technology. Those key areas are in the header bar above. You can also find my current biography (under biography) and the latest posts (under blog).

Over on the right-hand side are other links to other resources that I’ve found useful online and to my various profiles on various networks. Find and follow me there.

There might be a few hiccups along the way. In exchange for that, I’m going to be introducing some new features. Bear with me…and we’ll all win.

My new bicycle!

…in which I share the good news: I have a new bicycle!

I decided to get a bicycle! It’s a 1980’s Kabuki bicycle made by the same people that make Bridgestone tires. The crew at The Bicycle Cellar in downtown Tempe meticulously refurbished this cycle with new cables, new brakes, new accessories, and an extended seatpost and handlebars. It’s an absolute thrill to ride!

Over the coming weeks, months, and hopefully years, part of this blog will be dedicated to my adventure with cycling in downtown Phoenix. I’ll write down my hints that I’ve learned as a new cyclist, share advice I’ve learned from others, review some interesting technology, rant about the Phoenix metropolitan area’s bicycle infrastructure, and share some miscellaneous ephemera.

With that, I invite you to join me on this ride. Getting to our destination doesn’t have to be solely about arriving. It’s about the journey. Put the helmet on, pack up, and let’s get moving!

Why I’m opposed to a First Street dog park

…in which I express concerns and reservations about the latest iteration being thrown around of a downtown Phoenix dog park.

There’s been a lively debate on Facebook about the merits of yet another incarnation of a downtown Phoenix dog park. The latest iteration has the dog park as a series of two linear parks on 1st Street between Hance Park and Roosevelt Street. One of the latest plans is seen in the very long diagram to the right. At the top is Moreland St and Hance Park. At the bottom is Roosevelt St. North is up.

I have to admit that I’m not a dog owner and that I’ve never had a pet (save for a fish that I “rescued” — yes, Virginia, there’s a VERY long story to that one). I did support the first iteration of a downtown Phoenix dog park when it was proposed to be built on the site of the former Sahara/Ramada Inn at 1st St and Polk. I was supportive of a dog park when it was considered to be built at Hance Park, although with growing reservations.

But this latest iteration, put forth by Sean Sweat, the urbanist and downtown Phoenix resident, seems to fall short on a few different levels.

One of my qualms is that this location is not located in any current residential areas. The major buildings near this proposed location are the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS in the former KPNX building, the 1001 N Central Ave office building, and the Firehouse art space.   The Post Roosevelt Square apartments and condominiums as well as Portland Place are on the west side of Central Avenue and the heart of the historic Roosevelt neighborhood also falls to the west of Central. For those living in Post Roosevelt Square, the Portland Parkway is leaps and bounds more suitable. For residents of the Roosevelt neighborhood, there is Roosevelt Park on 3rd Avenue. To access this location, residents and their dogs would have to cross (at least) Central Avenue. I don’t see this happening.

Another major qualm that I have is that it creates inconsistency in 1st Street. 1st Street is a very wide street all the way from Washington to Hance Park, and then north of Hance Park to McDowell. Although some blocks of 1st St have been altered with new car parking facilities, this would be a great opportunity to have some sort of a grand linear mall that extends over a mile. I remember that when I visited Boston last May, I was so impressed with the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, a grand linear park that runs from the Boston Public Garden to the Back Bay neighborhood. Although 1st Ave isn’t as wide as “Comm Ave,” it could be a grand statement for Phoenix. In fact, an idea put forth for the redesign of Hance Park is making 1st St from Roosevelt to McDowell a linear park that includes the existing Cancer Survivors’ Park.

My biggest qualm, and one that I have expressed repeatedly and continually about Phoenix’s construction habits, is that this project spurns existing infrastructure in favor of building new infrastructure. We have great park spaces in downtown Phoenix that could be absolutely grand for this. Instead of building a new facility, how about taking a part of the Portland Parkway and making that a dog park? Or what about Roosevelt Park? Or even Hance Park? Why must we not look to our existing stock of infrastructure and see what we already have? As a preservationist, we are taught that “the greenest building is the one already there.” So, too, the greenest park is the one that’s already there. Or, if we have our hearts set on building a dog park east of Central, let’s use one of the dirt lots that are a scar on the community.

There is a lot more to urban vitality than dog parks. I think that any urbanist or student of urban design and urban policy knows that. We must look at different ideas and not pin downtown Phoenix’s salvation du jour to be a dog park.

DVC presents: State of Sustainability in Metro Phoenix

A panel of local experts and Andrew Ross, author of “Bird on Fire,” will discuss the current state of sustainability in Phoenix at a public forum on Tuesday, January 17, 2012.

PHOENIX, Arizona – A panel of local experts and Andrew Ross, author of “Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City,” will discuss the current state of sustainability in metropolitan Phoenix at a public forum on Tuesday, January 17, 2012.  The event, free to the public, will be held at the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center at 415 E. Grant Street. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., panel discussion 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., audience Q&A 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., and reception with complimentary refreshments 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

RSVP on Facebook / Join DVC on Facebook

Panel moderator will be Charles Redman, Arizona State University (ASU) Virginia M. Ullmann professor of Natural History and the Environment and founding director of the ASU School of Sustainability. The current slate of panelists (with two to be added soon) includes:

  • Steve Betts, former president/CEO of SunCor Development and current Arizona District Council Chair of the Urban Land Institute;
  • Terry Goddard, former Phoenix mayor and former Arizona attorney general who now teaches a course at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus: “Phoenix and the Art of Public Decision Making;”
  • Taz Loomans, architect and writer/blogger on sustainability issues;
  • Eva Olivas, executive director, Phoenix Revitalization Corp
  • Andrew Ross, professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University.
  • Silvia Urrutia, director of Housing and Healthcare Finance, Raza Development Fund

According to Susan Copeland, steering committee chair of Downtown Voices Coalition, “Issues of sustainability are paramount to the future of Phoenix. Ross’ book is a great springboard from which to begin, or continue, discussion.”

The Downtown Voices Coalition is sponsoring the event with in-kind support from the Lexington Hotel in downtown Phoenix, Four Peaks Brewery of Tempe and the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center.

Bird on Fire” is available at Made Art Boutique, 922 North 5th Street in downtown Phoenix and at Changing Hands Bookstore at 6428 South McClintock Drive in Tempe. It is also available at Burton Barr, Cesar Chavez and Mesquite Branch libraries in Phoenix.

Downtown Voices Coalition is a coalition of stakeholder organizations that embrace growth in downtown Phoenix, but is mindful that healthy growth should be based upon existing downtown resources — the vibrancy of neighborhoods, the strength of the arts community, the uniqueness of historic properties, and the wonderful small businesses that dot downtown. For more information, visit downtownvoices.org.

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Facebook oversharing

Chalk this one up in the list of things that Facebook is encouraging: oversharing information for all to see.

Chalk this one up in the list of things that Facebook is encouraging: oversharing information for all to see.

Facebook’s revamped profiles to be timelines. The idea is that the Facebook timeline is an annotated biography of your life complete with links to people, pictures, and more information than should be shared.

There’s one big issue with Facebook’s new timeline feature that I see that I don’t think has been explored too much: no matter what your existing privacy settings are for other content, your privacy settings for adding in your life events (e.g. jobs, relationships, where you live, etc.) is set to “public.”

Here’s a screen capture of the prompt to add a life event:

If you can’t read the annotation on the screen capture, this is what I said: “Here’s where you change things. Bear in mind that there is no Facebook global setting to limit the privacy/visibility of your life events. If you want to restrict who can see what, you’ll have to change it ON EACH ITEM.”

This is my big beef with Facebook. The default privacy setting for new content, it seems, is “public.” People don’t necessarily check permissions settings (in a rush to share things) and so stuff that might be intended to be seen only by a handful of individuals ends up  being shared with the whole world. I don’t know if this is an oversight or something that Facebook’s doing by design. Whatever it is, it’s annoying.

That leads me to my First Axiom of The Internet: Anything you post online (be it on a social media site, a forum posting, or a site that requires a login) will end up being shared with more people than you originally intended.

Just keep that in mind the next time you’re going to post something.

Film screening to explore history, benefits of park development

A documentary on the urban park development movement titled “Olmsted and America’s Urban Parks” will be the subject of a free, public screening at Civic Space Park’s A.E. England Building, 424 N. Central Ave., on January 12, 2012 at 6:30 p.m.

A documentary on the urban park development movement titled “Olmsted and America’s Urban Parks” will be the subject of a free, public screening at Civic Space Park’s A.E. England Building, 424 N. Central Ave., on January 12, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. Doors open at 5:30. The documentary explores the park architecture of Frederick Law Olmsted and the evolution and history of urban park development in the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries. The event will also feature the TED talk short video by artist Janet Echelman about her work, including Civic Space Park’s signature art piece, “Her Secret Is Patience.”

Viewers also will be able to meet one of the filmmakers of the Olmsted documentary, Rebecca Messner, and participate in a short presentation and discussion on local and national Red Field to Green Fields initiative to convert economically depressed “red” private property (residential, commercial and industrial) into public park property “green.”

The screening is a presentation of No Festival Required’s Building Community Cinema series with the support of the Speedwell Foundation, the City Parks Alliance, Arizona State University, Butler Housing Company, Phoenix Community Alliance, Phoenix Parks Foundation and the City of Phoenix.

Local experts and national author to discuss state of sustainability in metro Phoenix, Jan. 17

Downtown Voices Coalition hosts a sustainability forum featuring local experts and Andrew Ross, author of “Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City” on 17 January 2012

PHOENIX, Arizona – A panel of local experts and Andrew Ross, author of “Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City,” will discuss the current state of sustainability in metropolitan Phoenix at a public forum on Tuesday, January 17, 2012.  The event, free to the public, will be held at the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center at 415 E. Grant Street. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., panel discussion 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., audience Q&A 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., and reception with complimentary refreshments 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Panel moderator will be Charles Redman, Arizona State University (ASU) Virginia M. Ullmann professor of Natural History and the Environment and founding director of the ASU School of Sustainability. The current slate of panelists (with two to be added soon) includes:

  • Maria Baier, state land commissioner, Arizona;
  • Steve Betts, former president/CEO of SunCor Development and current Arizona District Council Chair of the Urban Land Institute;
  • Terry Goddard, former Phoenix mayor and former Arizona attorney general who now teaches a course at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus: “Phoenix and the Art of Public Decision Making;”
  • Taz Loomans, architect and writer/blogger on sustainability issues;
  • Kris Mayes, former commissioner of the Arizona Corporation Commission and current director of the ASU Law and Sustainability Program and professor at the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law;
  • Andrew Ross, professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University.
  • Silvia Urrutia, director of Housing and Healthcare Finance, Raza Development Fund

According to Susan Copeland, steering committee chair of Downtown Voices Coalition, “Issues of sustainability are paramount to the future of Phoenix. Ross’ book is a great springboard from which to begin, or continue, discussion.”

The Downtown Voices Coalition is sponsoring the event with in-kind support from the Lexington Hotel in downtown Phoenix, Four Peaks Brewery of Tempe and the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center.

Bird on Fire” is available at Made Art Boutique, 922 North 5th Street in downtown Phoenix and at Changing Hands Bookstore at 6428 South McClintock Drive in Tempe. It is also available at Burton Barr, Cesar Chavez and Mesquite Branch libraries in Phoenix.

Downtown Voices Coalition is a coalition of stakeholder organizations that embrace growth in downtown Phoenix, but is mindful that healthy growth should be based upon existing downtown resources — the vibrancy of neighborhoods, the strength of the arts community, the uniqueness of historic properties, and the wonderful small businesses that dot downtown. For more information, visit downtownvoices.org

 

Why I’m voting for Greg Stanton

…in which I endorse Greg Stanton to be the next Mayor of Phoenix.

As I am sure you have noticed by the endless campaign signs on Phoenix’s streets, there’s a major election on Tuesday, November 8. All Phoenicians will be voting for mayor, and the final two candidates are Greg Stanton, a former city councilman and assistant attorney general, and Wes Gullett, an erstwhile corporate lobbyist.

If you’ve been following my tweets on Twitter or my occasional update on Facebook, you’ll note that I have been emphasizing the importance of getting involved in local issues. Much has been made about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations that have spawned regional events around the globe, including in our own city. I’m an ardent believer in the belief that true, honest, and sustainable change begins at home.

We want change to happen. We crave change. Other than a very few people, nobody is content with how things are going. And rather than look at things from the big picture and agonize over how we’ll change things (ultimately settling with the status quo), let’s look here. Let’s look at our own Phoenix.

It’s probably redundant to say that Phoenix has fallen behind in many things over the last decade. We have let side conversations drive our political conversations instead of looking at the major issues. If you read The Arizona Republic‘s endorsement of whom they want to be Phoenix’s next mayor, they identified changing the city’s pension system and revising its employees’ benefits package as the two big issues that will face Phoenix in this decade. And while these are important issues, as you and I know, there are far more important issues that need to be not only addressed but tackled by Phoenix’s next mayor.

In its next decade, Phoenix has to address many issues that are far more important than how the city compensates its employees. Our local leaders have to look at how we can move forward far more sustainably. And I mean absolutely more than just installing solar panels on parking shades: I mean looking at supporting things that can and ought to be sustained. We need to look at expanding and enhancing the region’s public transportation, we need to look at making historic preservation a top priority because “the greenest building is the one already standing,” we need to encourage people-friendly pedestrian development, and we need to develop networks for alternative modes of transportation. My list could go on and on.

These issues aren’t conservative issues nor are they liberal issues. Nor is this race about garbage collection, water rates, or permitting processes. The race is about advancing LOCAL issues like thoughtful investments in our local economy, including education, quality jobs, and smart economic development. We want a leader who will advocate for Phoenix first and use the bully pulpit afforded to the Mayor to challenge and to change this state’s regrettable education policies, missed action on advancing clean energy, and reputation in the nation and around the world.

By the City of Phoenix’s own laws, this election is a nonpartisan race. One can argue how the election has turned extremely partisan. One sees signs about whom “taxpayers support” and what sides the public safety employees support. Or one sees which candidates are being supported by political parties and by political action committees.

For me, although endorsements are nice, it’s not about that. At the end of the day, it is about two things: it’s about the candidate who dreams outside of our community’s collective comfort zone and it’s about the candidate who works with all sides and builds consensus.

If our civic leaders didn’t dream outside of our own collective comfort zone, we would never have seen a strong bioscience presence in downtown or not one but three vibrant colleges and universities in the heart of our city (four of the constituent colleges of Arizona State University, the University of Arizona College of Medicine, and the Phoenix School of Law). If we just looked at numbers, Phoenix would never have blossomed into the city that it is. If we just looked at numbers, there would be no reason to save this city’s history or to build a strong downtown and midtown core. And certainly, if we just looked at numbers, we would never have seen METRO light rail, whose ridership numbers continue setting records.

Also, it is about supporting the candidate who will build consensus and support in the community. It’s about the candidate who will bring all sides to the table in issues like the city budget or how to deal with unions, not just attack them and disenfranchise them because it’s politically expedient to do so.

The candidate that will build consensus in Phoenix, bring all sides to the discussion, and lead Phoenix forward by dreaming outside of our collective comfort zone is Greg Stanton. I encourage you to join me for voting for Mr. Stanton and making Phoenix’s next decade its best decade. Mail-in ballots have been mailed out and voting ends on November 8. For more information, check the City of Phoenix’s Elections website.

Thoughts on 99, 1, 53, and 100

…in which I argue for simplicity as the true answer to “occupying Wall Street.”

I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about this whole Occupy Wall Street movement and corporate influence. And I have to agree with the movement that there’s too much influence of big companies in American politics and other institutions that make life possible.

But I think that the problem lies within ourselves. We live in a society of consumption that has, unfortunately, dictated that unless you have the latest and greatest of anything, you’re looked at with a bit of disdain.

(And yes, in writing this, I’m know that I’m a bit of a hypocrite in saying what I’m going to say. I’ve got a new Macintosh notebook and an iPad. Plus I have the requisite accessories for these various devices, like printers, headphones, trackpads, and mice.)

Anyway, I believe it’s a cause-and-effect thing here. We (society as a whole) have purchased so many things from big corporations that these big corporations have gained so much influence in national politics and in the national economy. This is why I’m prepared to argue that we, the people, have only ourselves to blame. In exchange for cheap prices on basic goods and services or the latest and greatest in technology, we’ve purchased from national chains or multi-national technology firms, who in turn have co-opted our interests into their own.

I’m prepared to argue that the best way to occupy Wall Street (or whatever region you so choose to occupy) is to change your habits and not buy everything. And when you buy, buy locally.

Instead of purchasing food from a mega supermarket, there are many great local alternatives. Instead of getting the newest, latest, and greatest iPad or Kindle, use the current one you have. Or, if you must, purchase a refurbished model (which not only is cheaper but better for the environment!). With the December holidays coming up, consider getting your gifts from a local store.

In addition to helping the LOCAL economy, it helps LOCAL interests as well. These businesses are here for the same reasons why you are.

I’m sure I’ve probably lost some of my progressive liberal credit here. I sympathize with the movement and I believe that people rallying around a cause is noble because the First Amendment to the Constitution gives the “right of the people peaceably to assemble.” I also believe that we need to consider some Constitutional amendments to limit the amount of corporate influence in government and politics and overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case.

And the last thing: VOTE. In Phoenix, we have a mayoral election coming up in November. Mail-in ballots have been mailed out and voting ends on November 8. If you’re not informed, get informed. Your vote is your voice, so VOTE!