Tuesday, February 3, 2009

While ridership climbs up, transit options sinking fast

I know! Just when the economy is entering the most brutal economic conditions since the 1930s, let's cut Cherriots, like many other systems around the US. Brilliant. Not.

From the story, a profile of St. Louis that could just as easily be Salem:

St. Louis is in some respects unique. It was in the minority of transit systems that lost a ballot measure in November seeking more money; voters rejected a proposal to raise the local sales tax to help pay for more public transportation. Transit officials said they believed their efforts had been hurt by lingering public resentment over a light-rail expansion project that was delayed and went over budget, devolving into messy litigation with contractors that ended up costing the transit system even more.

Faced with a yawning shortfall, despite an 8 percent increase in ridership last year, the system reluctantly decided to cut nearly half of its bus service; lay off nearly 600 of its workers, or a quarter of its work force, and reduce service on its red, white and blue MetroLink light-rail cars — the modern successors of the clanging trolleys that Judy Garland sang about in “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Absent a windfall, the cuts are scheduled to take effect at the end of March.

Some people who worked on the failed campaign to raise the sales tax said their efforts were complicated because most local voters do not regularly take public transportation. But in the leafy suburbs west of Interstate 270, which are scheduled to lose almost all of their bus service, many people will soon discover that even if they do not take buses themselves, they rely on them to bring workers to their shopping malls, office parks, hospitals and nursing homes.

The Garden View Care Center, in Chesterfield, is part of a cluster of a dozen facilities sometimes called nursing home row. Rhonda Uhlenbrock, the center’s administrator, has been working with agencies that set up car pools and trying to coordinate with other businesses that will be affected to see if she can find other ways for her employees, many of whom do not have cars, to get to work.

“This place could survive without me,” Ms. Uhlenbrock said in her office recently, where she was assembling a collage to honor employees who have been at the center more than 10 years. “But not without them. They are the people who do the work.”

Ms. Nacoste, who rises at 3:45 a.m. for her two-hour commute to work in the housekeeping and laundry department, said employers closer to home either paid less or were not hiring. She shook her head at the thought that the weak economy was leading to cuts in bus service.

“They’re going to make the economy worse if they cut the bus,” Ms. Nacoste said. “There’s going to be unemployment, people running out of money. What are we going to do?”

What Chicken-Keepers look like

REAL fresh eggs, inexpensively. The payoff.

There's an unfortunate stereotype about the kind of people who, despite living in the city or suburbs, wants to keep chickens and enjoy healthier, safer food at lower cost instead of just sitting slack-jawed in front of the TV all night and getting their eggs from the Sprawl-Mart like they're supposed to.

The stereotype is that these strange beings who want an inexpensive source of protein that doesn't depend on imported oil and on keeping battery chickens in hellish condition are the kind of people who put couches on the porch and cars up on blocks with Confederate flags in the windows.

As a little reality check, the pix above are some of your neighbors who live in the Salem residential-ag zoned area (and can, therefore, already keep chickens legally).

All we are saying is "Give Peeps a Chance!"

After a brilliant effort by a 10-year-old girl, South Portland, Maine joined the list of more enlightened cities, allowing up to six hens per lot in fall of 2007:
South Portland allows chickens, with restrictions

The city says OK to 120 hens, which can't be slaughtered and must have 'harmonious' coops.

The city is lifting its ban on backyard chickens thanks to a 10- year-old girl who waged a summerlong campaign with slogans such as "Give Peeps a Chance."

Permits to raise domesticated livestock will become available Sept. 25, and Olivia Collins said she already is picking out names.

"I've come up with Phoebe, Olympia -- the list goes on and on," Olivia said.

The City Council voted 7-0 Wednesday to issue up to 20 permits a year, with no more than six chickens per lot. Roosters, who are prone to loud crowing, are still barred.

South Portland joins Cape Elizabeth and Biddeford in allowing pet chickens. Westbrook is considering changing its law to permit the birds.

Councilors in South Portland have set parameters to ensure that chicken owners don't run afoul of their neighbors. Odors and noise from the chickens, for example, must not be detected at the property lines.

Also, henhouses must provide adequate shade and be made of the same type of material throughout -- sheet metal and waste board are banned -- and painted uniformly so it "shall be in harmony with the surrounding area," according to the ordinance.

"I think it's important to have those things in place that protect the neighbors and protect the chicken, if you want to know the truth," said Councilor Maxine Beecher, who pointed out that the chickens cannot be slaughtered.

Permits will cost $25 a year, but an additional $25 is required for city approval to build a henhouse or chicken pen.

Olivia spoke six times before city councilors and helped collect more than 400 signatures in support of her initiative -- all in the name of helping the environment.

Getting fresh eggs from the backyard means the family won't have to buy eggs transported by fuel-guzzling trucks.

Olivia's mother, Stacey Collins, added that she will use the chicken droppings as compost for her garden, and then feed the chickens older vegetables.

"It's really quite a lovely circle of being able to use things and keep nature the way it should be," said Collins, a freelance writer and graphic designer.

Collins said she expects about 10 or so households will seek permits, including several families who have unknowingly been breaking the law by keeping chickens.

Collins said she will post more information about the ordinance for prospective hen owners on the family's Web site, www.sopochickens.org.

When Chickens are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will Keep Chickens!

Thankfully, Cleveland, OH has seen the light, albeit with a more cumbersome process than has been proposed for Salem:
Cleveland allows residents to keep farm animals
Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Cleveland's City Council on Monday approved two measures aimed at reshaping the city's urban landscape.

One ordinance will allow residents to raise and keep farm animals and bees. It's a step, proponents believe, toward finding innovative uses for vacant land. . . .

The "chicken-and-bees" legislation, as it became nicknamed, generated the most buzz, with several council members objecting to the plan. They cited concerns about noise and other complaints urban farms bring.

Councilwoman Dona Brady, one of three no votes, said she believes the matter is a zoning issue and should not be addressed by blanket legislation. Councilmen Martin Keane and Kevin Kelley also voted against the measure.

Councilman Joe Cimperman, who sponsored the ordinance, said urban farming is a growing trend.

He is aware of chickens living in his ward and has compared noise from chickens with noise from motorcycles, insisting that the latter draw more complaints.

"We want people to be able to grow their own food," Cimperman said.

The ordinance allows residents to keep chickens, ducks, rabbits and beehives but not roosters, geese or turkeys. A typical residential lot could have no more than six small animals and two hives.

Those wishing to raise and keep animals and bees will have to apply to the city's Health Department for a license. Neighbors would be mailed a notice and could raise objections, Cimperman said.