Sunday, January 20, 2013

Last Two Meetings Detailed, and Chance to Query MPC Planner Monday!

Remember that MPC Planner and Shreveport Master Plan Implementation Director Dara Sanders is speaking to ABS on Monday 21st, on MLK Holiday (see the post below this one for details).  What follows here are some overdue notes:

Back on January 7th, Maurice Loridans, Debora Allen Demaree, Loren Demerath, Cynthia Keith, Lani Duke, and Chris Chandler, discussed some of the topics the group might address this spring.


Loren is enthusiastic about potentially expanding the radio show to feature conversations with faculty about ideas they’ve been teaching or researching, partly as community outreach of Centenary, but also as a means of improving Shreveport quality of life by offering that kind of radio to the city.  The main purpose of it would be to share ideas with those outside the campus, or a given classroom, lab, or personal study!  There’s some cool stuff that faculty know about, are working on, and wouldn’t mind sharing.  Dr. Ed Ragan, is a Ph.D. in History who might be an optimal co-host for those kinds of shows.  The shows could also be preserved as a resource in the form of podcasts.


Debora has been a welcome addition to the group recently, and shared her knowledge of grant funding that might be available to a group like ABS.  The group discussed how money from the oil spill is being used by Shreveport organizations.  Also, Lani mentioned that USDA funds are available to help connect consumers with farms; so with through a food coop there may be a way to access USDA rural development. 


Kevin Kennedy is a former Ruston resident who has said Ruston’s market beats Shreveport’s by a mile.  The group mentioned what a great job Kip Holloway, and especially Noma Fowler-Sandlin have done with the market, but that it seems hampered by its location in the sense that festivals will always close it down for those weeks.  It was also questioned whether the market could remain open over Shreveport’s mild winter; there are other markets in Louisiana don’t close during that time. 

It might be that Shreveport’s market could be enhanced with funding that could help it establish a regular market up around Texas Avenue.  It was wondered if it might work where the Makers Fair is, but Maurice mentioned that company does use the parking lot M-F.  The Shreveport Commons group has the idea of moving them as well.  The moving force there is the arts going on in that area; a lot of which is David Nelson and Minicine and TACA; the Commons wants to put condos across from Minicine and next to the House for Hope.  SHRAC has asked us to help them in the sense of identifying what people like us would want to live down there, and a farmer’s market is a start.  Shreveport Organics is a form of a food coop, though you don’t get to pick.  There, you pay a monthly fee, and it was noted that it’s best to share your membership with a neighbor.

Liz Swain has said there’s a store coming in to downtown, and having Liz as a guest again at one of our meetings and/or on the radio is something we’ve been meaning to ask her about.  ABS sure supports the mission of the DDA, and thinks Liz has done an admirable job.


The next week, Maurice Loridans, Kathryn Brandl, Loren Demerath, Cynthia Keith, Lani Duke, and Feico Kempff discussed Mardi Gras’ “Cyclovias,” new local microbreweries and wine vinyards, a dog park spied inside a mall, misperceptions about Shreveport’s dog park funding, and what the city is doing about our need for new zoning codes.


It was noted that Mardi Gras is coming early this year: February 2nd and 9th will be the parade days.  Loren and Carolyn describe the “Cyclovia” on the radio show that day: how the blocked off parade routes make an ideal bicycling excursion, visiting with folks along the way, and just seeing the sites of ArkLaTexans out picnicking and getting ready for the parade.  Maurice and his wife Valerie have dressed for the occasion previous years, and the possibilities for bike decorations are endless!


We discussed local brewing excellence, and the unique tastes one can only get through micro/home brewing.  Kathryn’s award winning winter ale is but one example.  Word it there will be two mirco-breweries that will produce beers on site coming to Shreveport.  One of them believes they’ll be open in the summer.  Now word on where they’ll be yet.  They’re probably tight lipped on that until the paper work is done.  Maurice noted that Pensacola, Florida has more micro-breweries than we do, and they’re quite a bit smaller.  

That led to the comment that a number of cities have more amenities than us, like dog parks, which are common elsewhere.  Kathryn was in San Diego at a mathematics conference and happened to be walking in a mall.  There, lo and behold, she saw a dog park, right in the middle of the mall!

Cynthia noted we have a winery and vineyard coming on Greenwood Road.  There’s another one called “On Cloud Wine” on Bunkham Road.  They’ve planted a bunch of muscadine and are waiting for them to produce.  They’d been bringing in grapes in the meantime, but you have to producing a certain percentage of your own grapes to be a considered vineyard.  

Maurice noted that the wines that Arklatex locals tend to make are with muscadine grapes and tend to be sweet.  That said, Maurice has tried a friend’s blueberry wine that he reports was “quite dry and sophisticated.”  Kathryn’s grandmother used to make wine but not out of grapes: choke cherries, raspberries, plums, etc.  She said she didn’t know how to warn people about the type it was when they were offered it--that it isn’t wine like they’re used to thinking. That is, until her grandmother would say, “I like it with a little bit of 7-Up.”  Then they’d know! 


It was noted that The Watchdog section of The Times commented on recent tweets of the Mayor related to the dog park.  Someone tweeted there are things we need more.  Cynthia asked what they might be, and this person said, “gymnasium floors.”  Feico noted that that kind of thing is already covered by the bond election. Another person tweeted "education", and Cynthia noted that that’s something we’ll be busy with for a while, but has nothing to do with the money funded for the dog park.  People aren't understanding this money can only be used fpr riverfront recreation. 

It was noted that many people don't realize the funding includes more than just a dog park: it provides getting drinkable water there which makes it a more useful public gathering area for all people, dog owners or not.  Feico said he avoids calling it a "dog" park because it serves people.  Cynthia said Pam Atchison of SRAC visited her mother in Euless TX, where she is mayor; while there she showed Pam their dog park. Pam went on about it how great it was for pet owners to socialize, she focused more on the people than the dogs! She said she now gets it! Pam said she realizes now that the preliminary plan for pup park in the Shreveport Common may be too small.  They see now how it can be popular and a big draw for people, and a larger dog park can give the Common more bang for the buck.  Their current plan is to position it on the Texas Ave. side of the railroad tracks.  
Cynthia’s thinking has been, that if we can start building the one at Hamel Memorial Park, we could start on one at Princess Park.  

Unfortunately, the Mayor’s lack of action is holding up donors and volunteers.  If people give in to waiting out the last term of Mayor Glover, it could be four years--two years AFTER the next mayor takes office that the park gets constructed!  

Councilman Michael Corbin said all parties should sit down and revisit the dog park issue.  The Mayor hasn’t said explicitly what the greater priorities and needs are, and it may be hard for him to say since this is money that HAS to go to riverfront improvements.  People don’t understand that when they talk about roads, schools, and other parks being greater priorities--it can't go to those things--but the Mayor hasn’t corrected people on that misperception. 

It was noted that it seems odd that the Mayor accepted funding from the Red River Waterway Commission for Riverview Park, but has turned down funding for Hamel Memorial Park.  The Mayor got the half million dollar bathroom and half million dollar stage cover he requested.  But at Hamel’s there’s nothing, and the dog park funding is less than half the cost of either of the Riverview Park projects, and has been supplemented by thousands of volunteer hours, signatures, and dollars in private donations.

But, ABS is trying to stay optimistic something will be worked out.  We know Mayor Glover can be a creative problem solver, and we trust that he has the best interests of Shreveport at heart.

The group is looking forward to Dara Sanders serving as our guest-speaker at our meeting on Monday the 21st, on Martin Luther King Holiday.  We hope she’ll be able to shed light on what the city is planning on doing to address the need in revising our zoning codes, a need established in our approved Master Plan. 

There was an article in the paper recently, that, it was noted, wasn’t particularly informative.  That said, it appears they’re going to hire a consultant to do a study to make recommendations for zoning changes.  However, one the things that’s been noted by ABS (and TO ABS) is that there’s tendency in city government to use more expensive outside consultants than in-house people.  It’s been said that the pattern may be caused by self-interested motives, as it gives people bigger budgets to work with.  One person noted that the first thing the consultant will do is get a feel for what people want.  Another noted: “It’s consensus shoving again.”

Feico said he thought the use of consultants is due to a lack of staff.  They get squeezed down by taxes being cut that would otherwise fund more positions.  Loren speculated that this means the city is forced to go the expensive route for consultants because we’re not willing/able to pay for a full planning staff, a bit like how it’s always cheaper to own than rent, if you can afford it.  Feico noted that if our city government weren’t based on a strong mayor system, the MPC would develop a staff focused on planning, instead of doing just want the mayor wants.  Maurice said it’s a piecemeal approach, each zoning case responding to developers, religious leaders, etc., on alcohol sales (a bulk of their work).  It’s having a tenured MPC Board as opposed to two year terms appointed by the City Council or the Parish Commission.

Maurice noted that the other significant portion of MPC’s work is code enforcement issues is generated by complaints by neighbors.  Feico said they have special officers devoted to code compliance in middle-to-low income neighborhoods.  An example at the other end is how there’s been an argument over a commercial development on Ellerbe Road and local residents have been against it because of wanting keep the trees in the area.


Feico reminded people to pay their annual board dues of $40.  Loren received approval of the board members present to be reimbursed for the hotel room he paid for (though not meals and gas costs) when he was asked to go to Baton Rouge last month to observe the greenway design presentations

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