Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Meeting: Bypass, Grants, Forestry, Curitiba

7-9 pm First United Church on 3rd St.

Meeting 7:007:45 pm

  • Efforts to engage with the bypass project
  • “Aging-In Place” community forming here
  • Small and Simple Grant and sign toppers
  • Neighborhood Improvement Grant topics
  • SPEA graduate “urban forest” project for Green Acres
Featured Program: 8 – 9 p.m.
DVD presentation of “A Convenient Truth: Urban Solutions from Curatiba Brazil”

Ann Kreilkamp, Georgia Schaich, Al Ruesink, Kathy Ruesink, Jessica Gaus, John Gaus, Jelene Campbell, Kevin Polk; Special guests Vickie Provine and Jo Stong from Housing And Neighborhood Development (HAND) and IU Urban Forestry students Kendra Vorenkamp, Sarah Sutton and Gavin Vandergriff.

The Process
Ann began with a report on various efforts to engage with the bypass project. Ed Hartke has agreed to go to the MPO meeting on the bypass (held, by amazing coincidence, on the same night each month as the GANA meeting), and said he would contact Ann and give an update. (Look for it here!) Also Tim Mayer is working on it.

Ann also discussed a new “Aging-In Place” community that has been meeting for six months here in Bloomington. It is interested in helping people who want to grow older in their own homes find ways to do this, and to make Bloomington a “liveable community” for all ages. They meet once a month, and Ann will attend their meetings.

Next came a discussion of grants. Kevin announced that he had turned in the small and simple grant proposal for the sign-toppers, and Vickie announced that it was accepted!

Two more grant deadlines are pending: Letters of Intent for another round of Neighborhood Improvement Grants are due March 7, and the application for a Neighborhood Clean-Up Grant is due on March 17. Kevin agreed to prepare these proposals, too. In both cases, however we will need volunteer participation!

For the Neighborhood Improvement Grant, we would place a permanent sign at a prominent neighborhood entrance where meeting and event announcements can be posted. So we need volunteers to visit and talk with neighbors at potential sign locations, work on the design, solicit bids/donations, and help build it.

For the cleanup grant, Jo explained that if approved, the city would bring heavy equipment and dumpsters to the neighborhood for 4 hours on a Saturday (probably mid-May) to dispose of bulky items including tires, as well as some hazardous substances (NOT wet latex paint, however! To get rid of this, you need to pour it out on a flat sheet and let it dry, or treat it with a hardener often available at hardware stores). A shredder will be available for heavy yard waste (tree trimmings), and neighbors will be most welcome to keep the mulch if they wish.

Next, we heard from three students from Burney Fischer's Urban Forest Management Class, who spoke about what they might do in Green Acres for a Term Project. Kendra had read our Neighborhood Plan and thought a brochure on sustainable yards or on the advantages of planting trees would address one of our objectives. Sarah asked if there were any historically significant trees in the neighborhood, and Ann said the Plan actually mentions one on the grounds of the Raintree House. This might be a focal point in the brochure. Another option involved planting trees. Gavin passed around an SPEA survey of trees in Green Acres that showed 33 spots where trees could be planted on the public right-of-way. Georgia pointed out that Lee Huss with the City of Bloomington had recently committed to getting us mature trees if we provide the labor. Ann noticed that many of the plantable areas are near rental houses. "How do we contact the landlords?" Vickie said she can get a list from HAND, though it may take awhile to generate. In the end, it looked like the students may provide us with both a short, custom brochure and some tree plantings. Hooray!

We adjourned for refreshments at 8:00 pm and began watching A Convenient Truth: Urban Solutions from Curatiba Brazil. It told the story of how a land-locked city in Brazil took a pro-active design approach to traffic, trash/recycling, housing, poverty and parks as its population swelled to 2 million people. (A 15-minute online talk by Curatiba's three-time Mayor, Jaime Lerner, also touches on some of the points in the video).

For traffic, the Mayor declared major areas of the inner city car-free zones. Shop keepers threatened to sue, but when the changes took effect, increased pedestrian traffic improved business so much that neighboring areas petitioned to become car-free, too. To get people into and out of the city, planners used dedicated bus lanes and one-way streets to move people rapidly through the city. To keep the articulated buses moving, architects designed shelters where people bought fares before boarding. These were elevated, with wheelchair access, so the buses would not need to lower special ramps for handicapped passengers. The result: a transit system as efficient as a subway for less than 1/100 the price.

Trash/recycling improvements began when planners noticed that the poor were dumping their trash in their own neighborhoods. They could not afford city services. So the city began buying bags of trash from them in exchange for bus tokens (the buses were paid by the mile, not by the rider, so it cost the city no money and greatly improved the mobility of the poor). Very quickly, the poor neighborhoods spruced up. When planners pushed for city-wide recycling, they had no budget and everybody said that Brazilians would never recycle. So they came up with a "trash that isn't trash" publicity campaign for the schools and painted the slogan on the side of the collection trucks. Volunteer labor built the sorting facility on city land. The volunteers, many of them poor and illiterate, were "paid" in bus tokens and literacy and job training. Within a year (this was 1988), Curitiba had become the first major city where everybody recycled.

Rather than build uniformly depressing low-income housing at the outskirts of the city, Curitiba chose to develop compact, visually varied mixed-use villages along the major transportation and utility corridors. There people rent-to-own apartments directly above their own businesses (the application process and fees include entrepreneurship classes).

Curitiba faced the threat of flooding from thin rivers that ran through it. Rather than channelize these with concrete structures as so many other cities have done, the Brazilians took a far less expensive approach: they bought out and relocated the people living in the flood zones. Then they built parks that would act as flood basins, using such sustainable maintenance techniques as grazing sheep to keep the grass trimmed.

At this point (perhaps 5 minutes before the end), the DVD froze up, so we called it a night. But it was very inspiring to see how even a huge city chose not to roll over for the blind pressures of growth, traffic and economic swings. In each case, creative thinking and a refusal to give up led to greater abundance, humanity and security for everyone in Curitiba.

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