Thursday, September 5, 2013

Barnwell, Independence Bowl, and a Productive Local Idea Festival

After the summer off, we're meeting again, every Monday night, 6:00-7:00, in the Wright Math Building on Centenary's Campus, just up from the Gold Dome.  Anyone's welcome to join us and discuss ideas for a better city!

In attendance last Monday, August 26th: Cynthia Keith, Katherine Brandl, Maurice Loridans, Loren Demerath, Lani Duke, Chris Chandler, Nick Runyon, Feico Kempff


The group continued a discussion from last week about downtown community gardening and farmery possibilities (see posts below for farmery description).  One thought is that having a center for shared social activity like community gardening would be a further lure for people to live downtown.  And even if they didn’t, the Barnwell is on the bike path, so it’s a convenient weekend ride destination.  Maybe downtown could become the center for our community gardening and fresh greens and herbs shopping?  Lani will be at the next meeting of Grace Peterson’s group and ask about it.  Lani noted that the farmery idea is too cool not to explore it.  Also noted that on 4th street off of Marshall is “Community Harvast,” a hydroponic gardening organization; they want to sell to restaurants.  


Loren described an idea he has for the Independence Bowl, and the group encouraged him to explore it.  He sent an email to Kelly Wells, and cc’d Mayor Glover, at his request.  The Mayor was encouraging about the idea when Loren approached him about it after Saturday’s meeting (see the post below).

The email describes the idea Shreveport would be the site of the first significantly safer football game.  It could be the Independence Bowl, but the Mayor suggested an all-star game, such as, perhaps, this year's high school all-star game that will played at Independence Stadium.

The Mayor pointed out that players are expected to bring their own helmets, partly as means of cutting costs, though also as a means of identifying players.  Apparently new helmets have been developed recently, but leagues like the NFL, CFL, or NCAA will have to adopt them en masse, everyone getting them all at once.  But a bowl game, or an all-star game, might be a way of demonstrating the equipment on a smaller scale first.  So, showcasing a new helmet might help further its implementation.

Loren noted that as a football fan he beginning to feel guilty.  He wouldn't let his own kid play it now, knowing what we do, and he feels bad that people who might not know any better are letting their kids play while he just sits there and watches.

Loren also asked future sponsorships of the Independence Bowl that could work more in our city's favor.  He asked if it’s possible to cobble together funding from, say, a non-profit industry which might pay for the benefit of publicizing their cause?

Loren’s received no response yet from Wells, but has just sent a follow-up.

In group’s discussion of the ideas, folks noted that Dr. Anil Nanda is a local neurosurgeon who’s been interviewed about this topic.  Maurice said Bicycling Magazine two months ago had an impressive article on helmets where they note that the standards haven’t changed since the 1960’s.  The tests all involve testing direct impact fractures, and not the movement of soft tissues within the skull, which causes concussions.  The bicycling industry is resisting changes.  Because of the fear of lawsuits, it appears football in the NFL and the NCAA are embracing greater awareness and change.  That said, Feico pointed out that any organization may be loath to be connected with a demonstration of safer helmet technology, since that’s an implicit acknowledgement that their sport is currently unsafe. Leadership is needed, and that’s often where government comes in.

On the idea of alternative funding, Maurice wondered how money would flow into the bowl.  Breast cancer awareness has been promoted through sports, mostly, perhaps through for-profit companies associating themselves with a good non-profit cause.  Later in the week, at a meeting of partners in the Healthy Green and Into the Outside coalition, it was mentioned that an insurance company might like that kind of association.  Blue Cross Blue Shield is the sponsor of HGIO, so perhaps we should talk to people there, and places like that, where they make a profit on health, and would benefit from the association with progressive health policy changes.

Loren has wondered privately: would politicians gain from taking a stand on this?  a school board?  can a community set equipment standards that apply to all folks playing that sport under their supervision, or using their fields, etc.?  Now that the NFL has settled with it’s players, movement on the issue may slow.  Hmmm...


Chris Chandler described for the group an idea he’s had about creating a local form of the Aspen Idea Festival, but one with more effective follow up and eye to making productive change.  The Aspen Idea Festival brings in top people to discuss a recent big idea for the world.  They broadcast the panel’s discussion around the world.  For the past few years, during February, the Community Foundation has sponsored it and run the video at the Robinson Film Center, and then had local experts discuss it, and invite the audience to participate.

Chris’ ideas include making a Shreveport Idea Festival.  It would involve programming a local forum, inviting interested people to come together and discuss the idea, to find a champion for the idea, and to divide those who want to help into follow-up teams to help push the idea forward.   

New technology can be used to sort out members of the audience who want to contribute to furthering an idea, and in what ways.  “Clickers” and now, just cell phones, using websites like Socrative, where audience members can respond to surveys and be tabulated immediately on the screen in front of them.  Chris was thinking that the technique could be used to find out who wants to work on what, how many support a given tactic, etc.  The audience gives feedback as the discussion proceeds and this can lead to more focused follow-ups in forming working groups.  Lani mentioned she’d seen that kind of thing done elsewhere to sort people out by the skills and resources they’re willing to volunteer, so there’s a precedent.

Chris also noted that the technique could cut down on the phenomenon of five people or so dominating the discussion to advance their own agendas.  Plus, the data collection can continue indefinitely online afterward.  A bit like having a facebook page built around a discussion group.  
Local foundations, organizations, and companies might be willing to help with funding for it.


The idea of having some sort of bike coop, or old bike depository lives on.  The group discussed some possibilities, including some spaces at Centenary.  Just padlocking a space that’s covered from rain would be sufficient.


Feico noted that the city’s 2014 budget is due to the council October 1.  Paint and labor for bike lanes and sharrows, and weed-eaters for dog parks and trails, are among the things we should make sure are in the budget.  No money in the budget to paint bike sharrows?  That’s why the only ones we have in Shreveport were painted by this very organization?  That can rectified.  And remember, just like a dog park, bike sharrows are now standard features in any city’s infrastructure for providing a healthy lifestyle.  Unless you want folks to leave Shreveport, you want bike sharrows, even if you don’t ride a bike!

Next meeting, September 9th, 6:00-7:00 p.m., Wright Math Building.

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