Saturday, August 27, 2011

Park(ing) Day Is Coming Up

This year I am getting ahead of this.  

I have written about this annual event before but always after the fact.

Park(ing) Day is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 16, 2011 and that is just over three weeks away.  Park(ing) Day is when you can take over a parking space for the day and turn it into your idea of useful urban space.  More information is available here as well as a downloadable license (pdf). 

I don't know that Lexington has participated in this annual event before but I cannot think that some of you folks will not try it sometime.  We have some very fine parks here in Lexington and many of you will probably agree that there is a large unused park right in the middle of town, but this is your chance to create your very own park for a day.

I would not go for placing one in the Hamburg Pavilion lot or even along Southland Drive.  Chevy Chase shopping center or Meadowthorpe seem like more appropriate candidates.  Downtown would give you the most exposure, but who wants to set up right on Vine St?

So, who wants to set an urban park in a parking slot for a day?  Let me know where yours is and I will try to get as many photos as I can and will post them here.

Get ready, Park(ing) Day is coming.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Are You Driving Less?

The New York Times is saying that we, as a nation, are driving less than we used to.  Here in Lexington, I am not sure that is the case.

The Times is basing its conclusion on the weekly gasoline report put out by MasterCard in what the call the Spending Pulse.  The gasoline report is one of several reports which look at the transactions gathered from around the country.

Demand for gasoline is down and, according to the report, falling rather steeply.  As of Aug. 19, the weekly demand is off 4.2% compared to a year ago and 0.8% compared to last week.  I don't think that it is due to high prices as the national averages there are declining also.  While up over last year, the prices have fallen 4 cents from the week before and the price for oil itself is falling recently.

America is consuming at least two million barrels of gas per week than we did last year.  Did we just quit taking our Sunday drives or are we driving more fuel efficient autos?  Did we stop driving to work or are we making more efficient trips when we do?  Lexington streets still look like they are clogged with traffic at the same times every day and it still take a while to get across town during rush hour, so are WE driving less or are others doing a better job than we are?

The Times concludes that, as an economic indicator, less gasoline pumped = fewer miles driven and economic activity has declined.I think the we have just decided to quit wasting so much of it and we are better off for it.

What do you say?  Are you driving less these days?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Some Of Today's Gleanings

Just a few things that we picked up this week.

As we all know, the W. Short Street corridor has become the hotbed of activity and dining lately and is the de facto heart of Lexington's entertainment these days.  The Fifth Third Pavilion has been a catalyst as well as the demolition of the CentrePointe block, and things are not done yet.

A new sign went up on the building at the corner of Short and Broadway announcing the anticipated opening of Shakespeare & Co.  While I have heard about this for almost a year, this is a little firmer indication of another fine dining experience in downtown.  Visiting the website menu really makes me wish that it was just a little closer to being open.

Shakespeare & Co. began in the Dubai, United Emirates in 2000 and has grown to nine in Dubai, several in Abu Dhabi as well as Syria, Qatar, Bahrain and other international locations.  On Monday, June 06, 2011, a U.S. federal trademark registration was filed for SHAKESPEARE AND COMPANY. This trademark is owned by  Edward T. Saad, and a mailing address of Lexington, KY 40507 and remodeling work has been ongoing for longer than that.  This will be another welcome addition to Lexington.

On the other end of the corridor we have the former site of Mia's which has also been undergoing some construction work.  The roll-off dumpster is gone and the facade has been painted, so something is going on.  I recently heard that a former chef from Bakers 360-the casualty of being at the top of a building and alienated from the street- is planning to open sometime this fall.  I am continuing to gather information.

Mia's, of course, took their revised concept across from the Soundbar on South Limestone and are joining the college crowd just in time for school to start.  Ole Hooker's Bait n Tackle Bar n Grille apparently has been working the kinks out over the summer and is now ready to roll.

Speaking of exciting corridors for new dining and entertainment, I cannot leave out what is happening on Jefferson St.  Stella's, Nick Ryan's and Wine + Market are now joined by the Apiary catering company (who also want to add a sit down restaurant) and a burger joint where Cuppa: used to be.  The Green Tavern is still doing well with the Transy. crowd but I hear that even bigger thing may be in the works.

In anticipation of the BCTCS campus being occupied soon, I hear that Alltech (the WEG sponsor) is looking to do something with the old Rainbo bakery building at the intersection of Sixth and Jefferson.  Some sort of adaptive mixed use which would include a restaurant and some retail.  The Coolavin Apts. may change to student housing and with the park right there(so is the Hope Center) there is certainly a way to bridge the railroad tracks so that they could get to school safely.  Alltech would be clearly looking ahead.

Several blocks away at Sixth and Lime, of course, is Al's Bar and if all of this takes place, just think of the trolley loop that could be created for a decent "pub crawl".

So, there you have it.  Any thoughts?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Welcome To The New Reality.

It has been a while since I have posted but there have been so many things going on.

The debate in Washington about the "crisis" of the long term debt problem has everyone quarreling about how one side has let the other down.  That there will be no let up in the demand that we live within our means, that continue to grow more and more meager everyday.

The TEA Party and many of the Republicans state that we are a nation of people who should be self reliant who will rebuild our nation from the ground up.  Very many of those same folks cannot even feed themselves should the grocery stores fail to receive their truckloads of supplies. 

The American people have become more and more reliant on the Highway Trust Fund (HFT) to finance the road infrastructure in America and that Fund is reliant on the Federal Gas Tax.  Our demands that our car get better gas mileage and that we keep fuel prices low, and especially, the demand that we NOT increase the gas tax, have rendered the HTF insufficient to repair, much less expand, the national road system.

Now we hear that most of the 18.4-cent tax per gallon of gasoline set to expire Sept. 30th.  That is at the end of the Federal fiscal year.  If the wrangling over extending this is as rancorous as the debt ceiling issue, we may not have a gas tax this time next year.  The individual states would have to enforce their own increases and allocate for their own highways.  50 different ways of calculating the fees, 50 different methods of collecting it and 50 versions of allocating toward transportation projects.  This could have a devastating effect on the trucking industry.

States which currently have a sparse population could see their highways wither away and become dirt roads.  Parts of states with larger cities (think of the area from Washington, DC. to Boston) may get their roads paved but the paths to other portions of the state may be just that - paths.  Lexington, Louisville, Bowling Green and Northern Ky could see all the road growth - or we could actually see regional rail.

But what if we followed the lead of Mitch and Rand and did not raise the fuel taxes in any way?  The Federal government could then no longer help us, nor could the State.  Each individual would have to fend for themselves. Rugged individualism would have to be instilled in all of us.  Can't you just see it now, Mad Max right here in Central Kentucky?  No, somehow I think that we would all have to cooperate and pull together.

Melissa Lafsky has it right when she says that "our inability to raise the gas tax is at the heart of our economic decline" . We want to cut taxes on all the wrong things.  We only tax about 60% of the total tax base and that is leaving a lot of cash on the table. 

Today, the City of Williamstown granted tax breaks to the creationist theme park to the tune of 75% over thirty years in addition to the $40 million in incentives from the State.  If this project is not good enough to go it alone, then why do it at all?  I'm just saying that that is a lot of money for something which may be dated and faded in 30 years, then need new incentives to "freshen" it up - or replace it.

The hard liners on not raising taxes are adamant that they will not inflict higher taxes on corporations.  The same corporations who are sitting on $2.5 trillion in liquid cash and not expanding or hiring because they don't have local customers.  Those local customers are not showing demand for products because unemployed(or underemployed) folks cannot pay for stuff.  Nor can they borrow the funds to pay for things.

So, the final results are, private industry will not create jobs, the Government is not allowed to create jobs, the gas tax will not pay for transportation construction jobs, the social safety net jobs will be reduced and our rugged individuals will rebuild America. 

Welcome to the new reality.