Aug 112013
 

August 24, 12-4pm, Woodland Park gazebo

By Martin Mudd

I don’t put much stock in material possessions. They can break, get lost, get stolen, or get outdated, and in the end, they’re just one more thing to schlep around with you on your journey through life. With that said, I must admit that there are a few items that I very much enjoy from day to day: my pearlescent red Italian accordion named Jeroma, a breezy (and stylish) white summer button-up shirt, the bottle-green hookah pipe with gilt fittings for the occasional social indulgence, an Aiwa stereo system, and a handful of other treasures.

The interesting thing is that all of the above were given to me as gifts, and all but the accordion I received by participating in Lexington’s Really Really Free Market. The RRFM is an experimental temporary gift economy, where rather than buying and selling, or even bartering, the rule is that you give and receive freely. Even though you aren’t trying to maximize your gain, as in a competitive market, I find every time that most folks end up happy: happy to sit near their blanket-o-stuff in the sun, happy to give away things they no longer need, and ecstatic when they walk away with things they do want or need—such as a functional rowing machine—for FREE!

Start collecting your unwanted treasures now. The next market will happen near the gazebo at Woodland Park on Saturday, August 24, 12-4pm. We would really love to see people offer up their skills—hair-cutting, bike-fixing, food-cooking, face-painting, what-have-you—as a free service during this festival of generosity. And it’s at the park, so bring your kids! Continue reading »

Aug 112013
 

By Michael Dean Benton 

When the news of the verdict of innocent for George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin was announced, there was an explosion of concern and comments on social media about how the decision reflects ongoing problems in regards to racism in American culture. At the same time, there was a counter-narrative that included paranoid declarations of arming for the coming race riots and lauding the verdict as a symbol of the rightness of self-appointed community policing.

Clearly there was a lot of confusion about the actual trial and the impact of laws, like Stand Your Ground, on the jurors’ verdict. This is why it was so important that communities across the nation immediately responded by gathering together to hold vigils, to actively protest the verdict, and to convene town-hall meetings to discuss the trial and ongoing racism.

In Lexington, Bianca Spriggs led the organizing of a town-hall style forum at the Carnegie Center on July 16. In the two days leading up to the event, despite her calls for civility, arguments concerning the verdict began to flare on the Facebook event page. It was quite obvious that Spriggs was scrambling to develop a sense of communal dialogue in order to avoid pointless, dismissive arguments. This was most clearly demonstrated in her continuous revision of the rules of dialogue and the decision, at one point, to remove long, rambling dialogues that violated the spirit of the gathering. Continue reading »

Jun 182013
 

Town Branch by rheotaxis, part two

By Danny Mayer

From the NY Time's "Mapping the 2010 Census." http://projects.nytimes.com/census/2010/map?hp

From the NY Time’s “Mapping the 2010 Census.” http://projects.nytimes.com/census/2010/map?hp

The root issue is land.

–Max Rameau

Writing in 1964, the sociologist Ruth Glass created the word “gentrification” to define what she saw at play in many of London’s working class neighborhoods. “One by one,” she noted, they “have been invaded by the middle classes—upper and lower.” What Glass saw should by now be familiar. Old Victorian homes long since broken into multiple blue collar domiciles begin to get restored to single family. Blocks of shabby homes transform into pretty domiciles with fresh paint. New businesses arrive weekly to serve the needs of the newly arrived residents. “Once this process of ‘gentrification’ starts in a district,” Glass observed of these London neighborhoods, “it goes on rapidly until all or most of the original working-class occupiers are displaced and the whole social character of the district is changed.”

In many ways, Glass was writing in 1964 about a topic of marginal interest to an American audience. Though gentrification did occur in select areas of large cities as far back as the 1950s, the general half-century trend that followed World War II here in the non-bombed-out United States was that of suburbanization. The middle class was leaving the city for the unclaimed spaces of newly ripped farmlands, and they were taking their public and private development monies and any other side-capital with them. Along with an aging infrastructure, the working class and poor were what remained behind. Only within the last two decades has this outward trend reversed, with American and global money, its sitcoms, media space, and middle classes now returning to the urban and near-urban core.

One of the first to note this switch was the academic Neil Smith, whose 1996 collection The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the revanchist city connects gentrification to the process of eighteenth and nineteenth century frontier land-claiming. For Smith, a geographer by trade whose first-hand observations of the gentrification of New York’s Lower East Side provide the framework for his book, both the present urban frontier and the past “western” frontier are economic and cultural things. Continue reading »

Jun 062013
 

By Sunny Montgomery 

 

Holler 52. Melissa Carter.

Holler 52. Melissa Carter.

It is no secret. I am Holler Poet’s Series’ biggest fan. In fact, if Holler handed out superlatives today, I would likely win “Most School Spirit.” The monthly series, which is held at Al’s Bar, includes an open mic, live music, and featured readings by local literary heavyweights such as Frank X Walker, Ed McClanahan, and Maurice Manning.

Over the years, Holler has also provided a truly grassroots opportunity to experience not just great writing, but also great artwork. Since its beginning in May 2008, Holler has relied upon the work of local artists John Lackey and Melissa Carter to help promote the literary gathering. The posters, distributed around town and offered at Holler for a nominal price, relate the time, location, gathering number, and featured presenters (two poets and a musician, normally). Beyond that, though, anything’s possible.

Continue reading »

Jun 062013
 

By Dave Cooper

In March I wrote an essay for North of Center about the excessive amount of outdoor advertising along New Circle Road in northeast Lexington.  My little screed, entitled “No more tube dancers!” was fun for me to write because I enjoy spreading awareness about the many insidious manifestations of our society’s corporatization.

Tube dancers are an advertising gimmick used by car dealers, check cashing firms, and other retail-oriented companies to attract the attention of motorists.  They are tall, brightly-colored, fan-powered “men” that wave and flail their arms as the traffic roars past.  I hate those things. Continue reading »

Jun 062013
 

The familiar Castro

By Beth Connors-Manke

 

You’re looking and looking at something for years. Eyes wide as they can be, waiting for the equation, or picture in the puzzle, or the kaleidoscope pieces to fall into place. So the problem can be resolved, so your life can move on. So that you can look at something else.

***

My husband usually doesn’t wake me up for breaking news. But there he was, beside the bed saying things my groggy mind couldn’t quite tie together: “Amanda Berry,” “Cleveland,” “found.” Nonetheless, before I went back to sleep, I did register one thing: he felt connected to the story.

All three women held by Ariel Castro disappeared after my husband and I had moved away from Cleveland: Michelle Knight in 2002, Amanda Berry in 2003, and Gina DeJesus in 2004. We were gone, so their disappearances weren’t stories that we woke up to every morning in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. But when the news broke on May 6, that didn’t seem to matter. My husband is a born Clevelander; he quickly placed the now infamous 2207 Seymour Avenue address; his father had grown up a few blocks away during the 1930s and 40s. The area of the abductions, near West 110th and Lorain Avenue, abutted my old neighborhood, where I walked the streets and took the bus. If nothing else, the geography of the story tied him to the Internet as events unfolded during that first week. Continue reading »

Jun 012013
 

Town Branch by rheotaxis, part 1

By Danny Mayer

Kentucke, once bloody ground, hunting Eden for native tongues apologetically eliminating buffalo for sustenance. Not sport or profit or pleasure.

–Frank X Walker

In the spring of ‘79, a pack of colonialists led by Colonel Robert Patterson exited their fort at Harrod’s Town, a bleak wooden western outpost incised into the recently formed Fincastle County of post-colonial Virginia, with orders to establish a garrison inside the vast canelands that temptingly rolled north off the palisades that lined the far banks of the Kentucky River.

For the Pennsylvania men exiting Fort Harrod, as for the North Carolinians immigrating to Fort Boonesborough and Saint Asaphs, dominion over the rich north land lying between the Kentucky and Ohio Rivers had proven particularly difficult. Shawnee, Mingo, Miami, and a clutch of other area residents had for some time made homes along several of the south-running Ohio River tributaries that debauched into La Belle Riviere from the north. These groups still claimed the commonwealth as a commonland, a hunting and commerce grounds held in usufruct by Indian, some French, and the odd colonial shareholder. Encroachment on the commons by tree-hacking, game-destroying, compass-wielding Pennsylvanians, Virginians, and North Carolinians had met some resistance. For the half decade preceding Patterson’s historic northern incursion, a cartographic truce had emerged: to the south of the protective girdle of the Kentucky River, colonists; to the north of the Ohio, Indians; and in between, the canelands.

From the General Dallas comic strip "The quest for the Dixie Belle" by Tim Staley.

From the General Dallas comic strip “The quest for the Dixie Belle” by Tim Staley.

Continue reading »

May 282013
 

Statement regarding corporate entity Kentucky American Water’s proposed rate increases on Fayette Urban County citizens.

(Editor’s Note: Great job Jim!)

“Thanks for holding this hearing tonight.

 

  • You are right to scrutinize this request from Kentucky American Water for another rate increase.

 

  • You are right to make it convenient for people to comment by coming here.

 

  • And you are right to make this process more transparent.

 

I was a businessman for almost 40 years. So naturally, business is part of my DNA.

 

  • As a businessman, I’ve made good business decisions, and I’ve made bad business decisions.

 

I can tell you Kentucky American is making bad business decisions. Decisions that are bad for the citizens of Lexington .

 

  • The decision to build the plant in Owen County was a bad business decision. Industrial demand is what drives water consumption. Industrial demand and consumption are declining all over the country. Conservation is the key strategy.

 

When I was in business and made bad decisions, I had to pay for them.

 

  • Kentucky American is not paying for its bad decisions. It is asking the Public Service Commission to make Lexington citizens pay for them.

 

  • It is asking you to sanction their bad decisions.

 

  • Lexington citizens are getting pretty tired of this.  I sent out a notice to encourage people to come to this meeting and got back an earful.

 

Where have these bad business decisions led?

 

  • As customers we are all paying 71 percent more for water than six years ago after three rate increases … and now Kentucky American is asking you for another increase.

 

  • The reason for all these increases is the $164 million treatment plant that opened in 2010 … Kentucky American insisted on building the plant even though its customers are using less water … that’s a bad business decision.

 

  • This project was sold to the PSC as a regional solution. But no other cities bought in. So now, Kentucky American is buying small water plants and selling those customers its excess capacity from the Owenton plant and asking Lexington to help pay for that expansion, too. It’s happening right now in Owenton. Nicholasville and Paris may be next.

 

  • Lexington gets a triple whammy

 

o                   We are asked to pay higher and higher rates.

 

o                   We are asked to help pay for Kentucky American’s efforts to sell its excess capacity.

 

o                   And we are asked to pay for a Kentucky American decision that is already costing the city $3.2 million this year alone.

 

Ø                  Let’s delve a little deeper into this bad business decision.

 

Ø                  Kentucky American chose to stop billing for the city’s water, landfill and sanitary sewer fees. Irresponsible corporate decision making. And, more importantly, it is irresponsible and outrageous civic behavior.

 

Ø                  We were paying Kentucky American $1.5 million a year to do the billing for us.

 

Ø                  We project that decision will cost Lexington $3.2 million this year, including $2.1 million in lower collection of fees, $700,000 in annual increased billing expenses and $400,000 in implementation fees this first year.

 

Ø                  As we move forward, this irresponsible corporate decision could easily cost our taxpayers millions every year.

 

Ø                  Now Kentucky American wants their Lexington customers to make up for the money the company lost when it decided not to continue our billing … in other words, to pay for another bad business decision.

 

Ø                  Although I try to separate issues related to Kentucky American I can say this was the single-most anti-Lexington action I have seen in a corporate citizen of our City … and this corporate citizen promotes itself as operating in the public interest.

 

  • I am asking the Public Service Commission:

 

    • To say NO to this latest rate increase in its entirety.

 

    • To say NO to Kentucky American’s request to automatically pass along the cost of capital spending, chemicals and electricity without PSC approval.

 

    • And, most importantly, I am asking the PSC to step back, take a look at this company’s recent actions, and consider at what point we stop paying for all of Kentucky American’s bad decisions?

 

Thank you.”

 

May 082013
 

By Joseph G. Anthony

Ohio-Street-1WEB

“Ohio Street opened up—300 block, then the 400 block. The powers-that-be would select certain streets or certain areas where we could live.” Amanda Cooper Elliot. Photo by Danny Mayer.

“The past is a foreign country; they did things differently there,” says the narrator in the 1970 movie, The Go-Between.

I certainly hope so.

I wonder if it’s a particularly American trait that the past so quickly becomes first a rumor and then something so dead we view it with the same amazement present-day Romans must feel when they try to extend their subway only to discover yet another lost civilization. But I am not speaking of ancient cities. I’m talking of the lifetime memories of many of our fellow Kentuckians.

I say this because I’ve been researching and writing a novel—Wanted: Good Family—timed mostly in 1948 with long visits to the 1920s. It’s set in Fayette, Scott, and Estill Counties. Three of my narrators are African-American, or—as was the still-respectable and self-applied appellation—colored. My other three narrators are white. My white narrators don’t have an easy time of it: being poor and white in the first half of the century in Kentucky wasn’t, as Bette Davis said of old age, for sissies.  But being poor and colored in Kentucky…well, if they had been Hindu instead of Baptists, they might have wondered just what the hell they had done in those past lives to be faced with so many challenges: spiritual, emotional, physical. Continue reading »

May 082013
 

By Marcus Flores

I spent my honeymoon in Curacao, an island in the southern Caribbean quite near Venezuela. Flying by commercial airline in the post-9/11 era entails security procedures that, while mildly inconvenient to some (my wife, for example), constitute civil rights infringements to others. As a libertarian, I think I needn’t bother saying to which camp I belong.

Perhaps it comes with the ideology, but I am also not scared shitless of the .00000004% chance of dying in a terrorist attack. No, what unnerves me is the chance that some drunken airline mechanic fails to notice a leaky hose, or that a recently divorced pilot brings his distractful personal baggage with him into the cockpit. (I am not at all reassured by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report on the Comair Flight 5191 disaster, which listed small talk among the factors that led the pilot down the wrong runway at Bluegrass Airport in 2006.) In short, I hope that more attention is directed at preventable dangers rather than the guy with the beard. Continue reading »