Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Councilman Oliver Jenkins and Former Councilman Calvin Lester Attend First ABS Meeting at Cohabitat

CoHabitat Shreveport
Originally uploaded by trudeau
In attendance: Oliver Jenkins, Calvin Lester, Dan Marcalus, Maurice Loridans, Caroline Majors, Feico Kempff, Stephanie Pedro, Cynthia Keith, David Aubry, Loren Demerath.

Notes by Loren Demerath -

Councilman Oliver Jenkins reported that SPAR Director Shelly Raigle said her expectation was that the city would likely maintain it and provide the land and basic infrastructure, but with the additional costs of walling, benches, and fountains being funded through private donations. Jenkins wasn’t sure about how much revenue we could get for it. He said we need concrete deliverables and timelines; more fidelity on roles and steps involved. We need an “operational plan” in military terms. Jenkins said he thought the Hammels area was an improvement over Stoner/Veterans. He also noted, though, that while an elected official can support a idea, there are significant budgetary constraints. He said there have been many deferred maintenance projects of streets, sewers, water, and drainage; to make this work we would need it be a public-private partnership. Jenkins and Aubry both thought the bond issue is not the place for it; it would get lost with the other stuff. Aubry said people have been supportive of the dog park, but it hasn’t had a political champion. Given what has happened to Spar with all budget cuts, no one will make a decision right now. Jenkins said he is happy to be the promoter of that particular ordinance; he’ll sign up for that role, though he noted it’s not a blank check; it depends on budgets what would happen. But he also said there should be no trouble getting private funding for it. Jenkins noted that the Greenwood cemetery project was able to raise a significant amount of money in a short period of time once the offer to match funds came in. Jenkins and Aubry said we can’t put it in SPAR to track, we’re the ones that have the passion to track it. Jenkins said he had someone in mind.

Keith said Raigle said she feels she’s got the money in her budget to take care of it. Ron Webb had earlier said please wait until after the elections. Lester said just because something is the right thing to do, it doesn’t mean there will be support enough get it done. The thing that’s important is to create an advocacy group to help Jenkins help us; but when it come to spending city council resources, coucilpersons become parochial and territorial. By definition the funds used to complete it are surplus funds, there is no category; someone else could say why is yours more valuable than mine? When Shelly says we have leftover money; someone else could make a bid for that surplus money. The more the group comes to the table with, the easier it makes it for him. Put a condition on it where if they raise a certain amount; their hard work is rewarded. Demerath asked if it could be promoted as a pool of money that could be used for dog parks throughout the city, but Jenkins said multiplying it by seven makes it unfeasible. Lester said he was trying to support bayous and linear parks since there are as many bayous in his part of town as another. It was also noted that the riverfront is seen as a city-wide area, being contiguous to downtown and a major recreational space. Lester said if we were to actively solicit pet owners by district and have them email and write their councilpeople, real momentum could be created, and, in addition to private fundraising, could make it happen relatively easily. Keith noted the development of the riverfront is easily inexpensively helped by this. Ford Park, among other spaces, have also been mentioned as places where low scale dog park areas could be set up; places where there can be fenced in areas. Jenkins reminded us that the more you can get done from a resource standpoint the easier it is to sell it. Jenkins knows what his deliverable is, and he’s got Keith’s email. He said we need a timeline; there are too many moving parts, particularly ones we don’t control. We might find a particular contact who’d be amenable to supporting it.

Aubry said we can get sponsors for things like the benches. And, the more groups that are supporting it financially and otherwise, the better. Aubry said there needs to be a non-governmental person who likes to do tv and interviews and can be outspoken. Keith has been good at that but has a governmental affiliation in the tax assessor’s office. Carolyn Manning was mentioned as being a good spokesperson. Stephanie noted that some of us are better at different aspects; writing letters, etc. Let’s start raising some money.


The group then discussed how the rules of the park would work, and generally agreed it can follow the models that have been used so successfully elsewhere. Can have some sort of gatekeeping function; big signs will post the regulations. It will be fenced with large and small dog areas, removing the predator-prey aspect. And if you decide it’s not for you as you look at it with your dog, you’ve got the whole rest of the park to walk with your dog.

Lester asked who we saw as the custodian; we saw SPAR; it would mainly involve cutting the grass, which they do in these places already. Liability is taken care of in rule and regulations that people agree to when they enter the park. A tag is not done elsewhere, and may not be necessary. Lester said it may be better to be safe than sorry. There are things you can do to zero the risk and make any suit a frivolous suit. For out-of-town visitors, could have the paperwork at the tourist information center; put it on the web; can make it in addition to the rabies tag; or it could work on the same principle that public playgrounds use – there’s no paperwork there to protect the city from suits, but it is somehow protected.


Majors and Pedro met again with Kent Rogers of NLCOG last week about the bike-ped plan, and they are enthused about developing partnerships and getting governmental leadership support; NLCOG is on board. They’re in the process of seeing if the city and parish would be on board with it, and working on find a home for the plan once its delivered; also to maybe partner with Bossier; non-profit groups would be good targets as well; benefits of public health, environmental health and appreciation, economic development, all reasons for the plan that are in the state bike-ped plan already are in the rationale for this plan as well.

Pictures were passed around of an architectural salvage store Feico found in Fort Worth. A nice old building that is now used for people to drop off reusable building materials (often for money) that other people can come and buy very cheaply.

Demerath announced the Centenary Urban Sociology Student Service-Learning Project on December 9th, next Thursday at 6:00 at Cohabitat. Among the projects will be a photo inventory of downtown buildings, a compilation of oral histories about downtown, a survey of residents surrounding a potential greenway, and a project linking high schools with higher education. The public is invited.

Sportran is getting a number of new buses that burn natural gas.

Grace Peterson was noted as doing cool stuff with recently with community gardening and schools and educating about local food systems. (She had been on the radio show that night with community gardeners!)

Maurice mentioned an Allendale food coop to target the food desert problem; it wouldn’t sell alcohol, tobacoo, or lottery tickets, but just healthy food. Lester noted he happened to help make that happen; part of working to use the over-abundance of adjudicated properties.

Demerath noted Leia Lewis’ program of Green Circles, with its first orientation meeting going on that night. It’s looking to provide stipends during training of low income, unemployed, and formerly incarcerated people in urban agriculture techniques and then employ them in urban agriculture. Lester noted that pushing supply and a more active Farmers Market pushing demand, could be a good combination.

The meeting went so well there at Cohabitat, a number of us decided to continue it there for the foreseeable future! Here’s to working collaboratively on downtown (and such), in a collaborative workspace, downtown! Hope others can make the shift.

See you next Monday at Cohabitat, 6:00 to 7:00, as usual!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Inspiration from abroad: Carolyn & Huw Thomas of Shelterbox

Shelterbox, an international disaster aid foundation, was founded in England by one fellow, says Huw Thomas. The founder's Rotary Club took up the idea - of distributing a box containing tent, food, kid pack, etc to those in dire need - and today the organization is active in 18 nations.

Carolyn & Huw Thomas
are bicycling ambassadors for Shelterbox. They are crossing the country by tandem.

They were guests of Carolyn Manning as they passed through Shreveport. And were articulate guests on Time for A Better Shreveport.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Meetings with NLCOG, Sportran discussed; next meeting at Cohabitat on 29th

In attendance: Caroline Majors, Jon Soul, David Aubry, Cynthia Keith, Deidre Hewitt, Stacye Palmer, Loren Demerath, Steph Pedro, Feico Kempff, Dan Marcalus, Robert Currie


Caroline Majors described the earlier meeting that took place between Loren, Steph, herself and Deidre Hewitt and Stacye Palmer of the National Park Service. They developed the following expectations for what would happen: 1: get a list from NPS on what they can help us with (a scope of services); 2: get a handout (half-page or so) of marketing pieces that help describe Coates Bluff and bike-ped plan respectively; 3: relying on volunteer time has kept us back in putting out promotional pieces, but Stacye will come up and help us give the presentations; her doing that, in addition to Ian (solicited earlier for that purpose) and any others who are willing to promote, will help us reach more people. Stacye’s involvement will add more legitimacy, since she represents the National Park Service; 4: brainstorm on best practices on Coates Bluff trail and how to make it sustainable.

PEDRO MEETS WITH NLCOG AND KENT ROGERS – May help find funding for bike-ped plan. ABS to have cheerleader and public communication role.

Steph described her latest meetings with Kent Rogers, Director of NLCOG (North Louisiana Council of Governments) which is our region’s official Metropolitan Planning Organization (every region’s “MPO” is responsible for developing long-term transportation plans). Her meetings have yielded a good relationship with NLCOG where Kent sees possibilities for support for the bike-ped plan, both through governmental funding, and partnerships and private support. Hope and optimism were expressed that Kent Rogers and NLCOG will help find funding for the plan.

It was noted that our role at ABS can be to publicize the value of a bike-plan. As we all know, making our city more bike-able and walkable will enhance the quality of life here, and thus also increase the likelihood of businesses locating here. (This is particularly true of any industries such as technology or entertainment that employ many members of “the creative class” (Richard Florida, 2002) who are more likely to know about and adopt progressive, innovative lifestyle patterns that have succeeded elsewhere.) Suffice it to say that the benefits of planning for human powered transportation in a city are strong and diverse. Health, environmental responsibility, economic development, and more can be improved by making a city more bike-able and walkable, and a bicycle-pedestrian plan is an essential first step. Shreveport’s never had one!

It was noted that ABS can serve a vital role in the process by serving as a cheerleader and a communicator to the public of the plan’s importance. And not, it was noted, with a negative griping tone (“gotcha journalism” and “throw the bums out”) can be self-defeating, making people feel like success isn’t likely or possible. There are always things to do. When we emphasize what’s possible, and the steps to take, people feel empowered, take action, and positive things happen!

Aside from our hopes of assistance in finding funding from NLCOG, though, it was noted that ABS has not developed a fundraising strategy. NPS could help us with that as well.


Steph Pedro described her recent meeting with administrators of Sportran, and recounted Gene Eddy’s positive responses to our group’s concerns and willingness to help. The gist of the meeting is that Sportran now sees us as an ally in helping improvements happen. Here, again, one of ABS’s roles can be as a cheerleader in increasing awareness of how our area’s public transit system can be better, and how it would help things like, yes, again, quality of life, health, environmental responsibility, economic development, etc.

Steph noted we may also be able to help collect data for Sportran on what riders would like for improvements. Although we were previously asked not to conduct a survey, we now may be asked to help.

Gene Eddy hasn’t spent certain monies yet. So, he’s going to have a public input process to find out what people want. Would be a public open meeting. Could be surveying people as well?

This week 14 CNG buses are being put into service (out of how many total for the fleet?). This is out of the ammenities fund. 40 stop improvements are going be constructed at some point. (It’s on the web site.) Gene said he liked how ABS is promoting public transit improvements on the radio show and the blog. He didn’t agree to be on the show but would consider it. He talked about the extended routes into nighttime (Night Owl Routes); Sharron Swanson worked with the interfaith group to get that implemented; Reconnecting with that group would be good, headed by Barbara Jerrell. CM: one fo the major issues is that it’s very narrow market that its serving only them only partially well; in places where it works it’s better invested and works better; it needs to be broaded; Feico said they could be given college student passes; the schools could support it; if they committed to a certain number of cards, the buses would follow. It would be a coordinating exercise that would constitute a strategic approach. Gene said he wanted surveys at the bus stops themselves rather than on the buses; e.g. students or ABS people. We could do it next semester.


Involving city and other partners early helps; otherwise they feel imposed upon.

David Aubry reported they have worked on the 70th to Automall bike path.


Dan Marcalus: “A Taste of Highland” in May with food and music on Robinson and Thornhill. Meant to show off Highland and the restaurants within it. The plan is to do it every other year.

Robert Curry said in the first week in March they’ll have “Everything Crafty” lining up with a ten-bus load tour of the country. At the Little Shanty pavillion on Line and 71st. It’ll be a southern/Louisiana fair. Planning a commercial arts center to link art and business together; existing artists will recieve instruction on how to market and brand their work; property donations in progress--may be in Cedar Grove; working with ARTnews to put in 25 local artists who have to have their own web sites to increase exposure of local artists and connect them to ecommerce web sites. Caroline may know of other sites.

It was suggested that ABS have a meeting at Little Shanty someday. Cynthia asked and Robert said we could talk about it for sure.

The model of the convention center would work for the Makers Fair for how people might reserve tables and pay for them in advance. That said, the digital divide is prevelant.

John Grindley has invited us to come down and have meetings at Cohabitat.

So next meeting at Cohab! Would be the 29th. Won’t have meeting next Monday due to Thanksgiving break.

Because of faculty meetings, Loren is considering polling the email list about moving meetings to a different night. (Not Thursday, people say; others say Monday is best.)

GROUP CONVINCED DOG PARK SHOULD BE PUSHED FORWARD – People wonder, “what’s the hold-up?”

Cynthia is confused about the dog park. We wanted to put Tim Wachtel on the radio as the SPAR planner. One woman who has a fundraising degree contacted Tim about how to help with the dog park. Tim said it was on hold due to funding and site selection. But Cynthia had just heard that we were green light on the dog park and that it would be at Hammel’s Park. Shelly had told Cynthia that she’d like to have all the amenities there that they now have at Veteran’s Park; it would be something the city would be proud to have. The Mayor has told Cynthia that she will not have to wait forever. But she hasn’t heard from him since writing him just today. Cynthia talked to one influential person who said the Mayor rules but also Tim Wachtel knows what he’s talking about. No clear if the city council votes on this. Steph said we should get the city council to author it, then only 4 people have to vote for it. Jenkins is the new councilperson in that district. He might be hesitant but it would be a feather to bring the first one to the city.

It was agreed that we should set up a meeting with Jenkins. Should be a focused meeting. 5:15 at Cohab the Monday we meet at Cohab.

Cynthia reported that Liz Swain wants to do a downtown homes tour and also wants to take people through buildings.

Cynthia described how homeless people get in the Johnson building through a certain way. Liz agrees that we need to save those buildings.

Next meeting is Monday the 29th. For the first time, we’ll meeting downtown at Cohabitat! 6:00-7:00, as usual.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sankofa Announces Urban Agriculture Job Training Program!

Now here's an idea for a better Shreveport, and a better world! Better, that is, through more fulfilling work, healthier and tastier food, and a more entering into a more symbiotic relationship with one's natural--and social--environments. That's what you get when you take community gardening seriously, and it becomes urban agriculture.

And that's what Leia Lewis Henderson and Chappelle Henderson of Sankofa are doing, with support from Caddo Parish and community partners. It's started to happen in New York and California, among other places in our country, not to mention India and Thailand. The real success story is Cuba (pictured here), where citizens are not only eating better and healthier than they previously, but they're earning more money as well.

The plan of Sankofa's "Green Circles" program is to offer people who are low income or unemployed the opportunity to receive a $150 stipend while they are trained in a urban agriculture techniques. That could be empowering for those individuals, and tasty for the rest of us. Can you picture a daily farmer's market in Shreveport someday? (Don't laugh, they've already got it in Monroe!)

The public information meeting for the Green Circles program will be:
Monday, November 29, 2010
6:30-8:00 PM
Wallette Branch Library
363 Hearne Ave.

Spread the word!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Montessori School for Shreveport: Coates Bluff Nature Trail tour, plus gardens, bees, recycling on Sat, Nov 13, 9 to 11:30 am

MSS Outdoor Ed
Originally uploaded by trudeau
"The one-half mile Coates Bluff Nature Trail will be open as part of the Montessori School for Shreveport's Outdoor Education event," says Jon Soul. "Students will begin using this trail daily as part of their outdoor education at our school. The plan is to extend this trail to Magnet High School and work to gain access for Stoner Hill Elementary and Valencia Rec Center children as well."

Soul adds, "The ecological and historical significance of this magnificent area cannot be overstated. Already, A Better Shreveport and other community groups and individuals have played a critical part in reclaiming this urban treasure from years of neglect and abuse. Now you can come grab a trail map and key and enjoy."

Sat, Nov 13, 9 am - 11:30 am.
See a video with Jon Soul on the Coates Bluff Nature Trail.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Holiday Lights Ride, Makers Fair, Regular Farmers Market, Radio Shows on Community Gardening and Diversity Discussed at Last Meeting

In attendance: Robert Trudeau, Carolyn Manning, Kari Brownholland, Maurice Loridans, Loren Demerath, Cynthia Keith, Feico Kempff


We discussed possibly having a Holiday Lights ride, touring lights a night by bike in a given neighborhood; maybe distributing fliers along a route that we choose to publicize telling them in advance.

People could submit nominations for lights; we could plan our route after the lights have gone up. Robert noted that in Austin there’s a three block area that’s intense. Broadmoor is very bikeable. Saturday night two weekends before Christmas. Maurice noted that to ride at night people can get cheap LED flashlights at any autoparts store to be seen and legal; he said they’re easily mounted with piece of old inner tube (which he showed us).

Maurice might not be able to lead the Christmas Light Ride, he’ll be out of town, but Carolyn and others can lead it; we all know Broadmoor. Kari said she could volunteer to greet the group with homemade cookies when we pass by her house. Loren said he could volunteer to cook gumbo at the end. The date was tentatively set at Saturday the 11th, meeting at the Gold Dome at 4:30, then heading down Alexander and coming back by 6:00 or 6:15 in time to have gumbo then go to the Centenary Chorale concert at 7:00, for any interested.


As we discussed neighborhoods, Robert mentioned that the Broadmoor Neighborhood Association perhaps ought to be coming to our meetings and building a laeison. Maurice said neighborhood associations tend to turn out in droves to oppose requests for permission to sell alcohol.

We noted that our members tend to be white, middle class, living in Broadmoor, Highlands, South Highland, or Downtown. We discussed west Shreveport neighborhoods and organizing rides there. Robert noted that Pamoja Arts Center the oldest black arts organization in Shreveport; that it’s good resource for shows, lessons, and drum circles; it’s on Linwood, just above Midway; Leia Lewis’ Sankofa Gardens is another notable organization. Both are places where there is an Afrocentric culture and could provide open doors into the west side of Shreveport. Very friendly and warm people and atmosphere there. Sankofa also includes one of Shreveport’s community gardens.


The group discussed the Makers Fair both this past and upcoming Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It was a great success and April Dahm deserves all the credit for organizing it. Loren said it would be nice to be able to standardize the organization of it so that it can become a regular event--perhaps quarterly. Feico suggested that Robert interviews with video and make a facebook video for the Makers Fair.


The group then turned to a discussion of the farmers market in Ruston. Arden and Kevin Kennedy used to live there and said it was a wonderful source of freshly picked produce that operates nearly every day of the week! Arden was curious as to why we didn’t have a similar market here and speculated if it was because our farm land is used differently in this part of the state. Maurice said it is mostly small scale gardeners and large-scale cash crops here. Ruston is in hill country and have intensive farming vs. extensive farming. In intensive farming you can’t handle acres of a vegetable crop. Feico noted that this area started with truck farms; people who sell produce to the cities; Italian and Greek families who started truck farming; they still have them.

Maurice also noted that one of the goals of community gardens is to have excess; people who might have much knowledge and skill and operating gardens and a sort of “urban farming” might some of the recent Mexican immigrants in town; many of them come from communities in Mexico that have markets based on local produce.


Feico suggested we invite Grace Peterson to our radio show. The question sits before us: what do we need to marshal labor and land to recreate what they have in Ruston?

Since the meeting, Carolyn and Loren decided to work to have this week’s radio show devoted to diversity. How can an awareness of diversity issues help us make a better Shreveport?

Before the meeting, Carolyn, Robert, and Loren decided to try having the show go a whole hour. We’ve already been given permission by the KSCL directory station manager Cazes Verbuis and faculty advisor Michael Laffey to do it. We always seem have more to talk about with our guests!

Next week, as always: discussion and organization on new projects and ideas, and updates on ongoing ones!