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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NEW YORK'S TAXI OF THE FUTURE TO FEATURE WHEELCHAIR ACCESS



NEW YORK'S TAXI OF THE FUTURE TO FEATURE WHEELCHAIR ACCESS

When New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to work directly with the auto industry to design a taxi cab specifically for New York City, he wisely made sure that wheelchair access is a core requirement of the "Taxi of Tomorrow."

Today's fleet of more than 13,000 taxis is made up of 16 vehicle models from nine different manufacturers. Fewer than 250 of the cabs now on the road can accommodate a wheelchair user.

When the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) put out a request for proposals (RFP) for the exclusive right to make the Taxi of Tomorrow, it emphasized that it was seeking vehicles that could easily accommodate people with disabilities.

"The TLC is committed to providing taxicab and car service that is accessible to all New Yorkers, as evidenced by the fact that accessibility is an explicit specification of the Taxi of Tomorrow request for proposals," Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky told us in an exclusive interview.

The competition to manufacture New York City's next taxicab has been narrowed to three finalists: Karsan USA, Ford Motor Co., and Nissan North America Inc.

As frequent visitors to New York, who have suffered because of inadequate cabs that cannot accommodate a wheelchair user (and whose shoddy trunks have damaged a stowed manual wheelchair), we are thrilled with accessibility being a key requirement.

While all three finalists claim to have wheelchair access, only Karsan's proposed model features a wheelchair ramp as a standard piece of equipment.

Some disability activists have railed against the fact that if Karsan isn't chosen, full accessibility will be a promise, not a designed reality, from either Ford or Nissan.

We strongly recommend that all disability advocates, not just New Yorkers or frequent visitors to the city, visit the Taxi of Tomorrow website at:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/media/html/news/taxioftomorrow.shtml


Also, click on the Taxi of Tomorrow Survey (you don't have to be a New Yorker) and sound off on the need for the City to choose the Karsan model, or if it picks Ford or Nissan, to demand that those makers meet or exceed the ADA access designed into Karsan's proposed model:


http://nyc.gov/html/media/html/contact/taxi_of_tomorrow_survey.shtml

TOMORROW: K
ARSAN IS PROUD TO BE ACCESSIBLE

Monday, November 29, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: CROSLEY Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation -- part 4


Lewis Crosley

CROSLEY
Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation


Powel and Lewis Crosby also led the way toward more affordable home refrigerators and freezers -- buying the patent that allowed their brand to be the first with shelves -- a long-standard feature that was both innovation and domestic godsend when unveiled.

Lewis, who had served with the Amy Corps of engineers, even worked on secret projects with the military to develop technology used in the European theater when the U.S. joined in the WWII battle.

Powel, who was always obsessed with the automobile, had crossed paths with the legendary Carl Fisher and his Indianapolis Speedway during Crosley's booms and busts as a young entrepreneur.

That obsession led Powel to sell the Crosley companies in 1945, so he could rejoin his consuming desire of being a major builder and seller of compact cars.

Always ahead of his time, Crosley was developing cars that could get 50 miles to the gallon -- at a time when a gallon of gas barely cost 20 cents.

Though some rival dealers -- particularly Nash with its Rambler -- had success with compact cars, Powel Crosley might have been too far ahead of his time.

A half century before hybrids and Smart Cars, Crosley was spending his millions on innovative engines, gas mileage and small car affordability.

But America, finally free of WWII and its rationing of everything, was ready to show its wealth and power...right down to the everyman who was willing to spend more for big engines, long fins and powerful sedans that commanded space and attention on the vastly expanding network of roads to suburbia.

Never able to satisfy his craving to be America's No. 1 automobile innovator, Powel Crosley died in 1961 at the age of 74 -- perhaps the most unheralded great entrepreneur and developer of consumer goods in the 20th century.

Lewis Crosley, the publicity-shy, gentleman farmer, younger brother Crosley lived all the way to 1978.

Living till a few weeks shy of his 90th birthday, Lewis got to witness back-to-back world series championships by the Reds, under the guidance of the recently deceased Sparky Anderson and the on-field excellence of Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and other stars.

Hometown heroes and world-class industry innovators, the Crosley brothers finally get their due in McClure's riveting ($24 hardback, Clerisy Press) 21st century publication: Crosley.

Wright is the author of more than 5,000 published articles on urban life, architecture, public policy, planning and design. He is active in working to make sure universal design, which provides barrier-free access to people with disabilities, is incorporated to the essential and rapidly-evolving practice of sustainability.

RESOUCES:

http://www.crosleybook.com

http://rustymcclure.com/novels/crosleybook.html

Sunday, November 28, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: CROSLEY Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation -- part 3


Powel Crosley

CROSLEY
Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation


By Rusty McClure with David Stern and Michael A. Banks

Review by Steve Wright

Together, the brothers Crosley teamed to sell their famous radios to consumers around the globe.

They didn't invent radio, nor were they the first to sell them. But the strived to make radios much less expensive than the others on the market.

Author McClure dubs this Powel's business model of selling to "the masses, not the classes" -- a method of selling under-priced, well-built products and profiting on a high margin of sales.

It is little wonder with this Model T-like business plan, that Powel himself put his formidable public relations and marketing skills toward creating a national image as "the Henry Ford of Radio."

To program those radios, and to have a means of advertising their product over the air waves, the Crosleys created one of the first radio stations in the nation.

WLW, right from the start, became a giant in the industry. Along the way, it launched the careers of the Mills Brothers, Doris Day, Andy Williams, Red Barber and countless others.

To this day, WLW is one of the most powerful and popular AM radio stations in America and it continues to create larger than life on-air personalities.

It also is flagship of the Cincinnati Reds, the team the Crosleys saved during the depression by purchasing the basically bankrupt local team.

When attendance was sagging, Powel fought with baseball's tradition-bound old owners and commissioners and eventually won the right to hold the first-ever night baseball game in 1935.

The brothers Crosley had earlier pioneered another mainstay of pro baseball -- the broadcast of a live game.

The Crosleys owned the Reds for nearly three decades, guiding them to a World Series victory and changing the name to Red Legs during the Cold War intensity of the mid to late 1950s -- when Red sounded a bit too communist to a city that had forced the changing of streets with German names all the way back at WW1.

TOMORROW: Automotive Dreams & Unheralded Legacies

Wright is the author of more than 5,000 published articles on urban life, architecture, public policy, planning and design. He is active in working to make sure universal design, which provides barrier-free access to people with disabilities, is incorporated to the essential and rapidly-evolving practice of sustainability.

RESOUCES:

http://www.crosleybook.com

http://rustymcclure.com/novels/crosleybook.html

Saturday, November 27, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: CROSLEY Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation -- part 2


Author Rusty McClure

CROSLEY
Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation


Impacted greatly by their father's loss of fortune, home and status during the Great Panic of 1893, the Crosley brothers formed a bond that only could be broken by death.

However, each brother's reaction to their prominent attorney/investor father's virtual bankruptcy was as different as day and night.

Lewis remained a rock -- living in a walk-up apartment building when his brother was living the millionaire's life. Lewis was frugal, grounded, balanced to the point where even though he did the work of dozens of me, he was always home to his family by 5.

Powel was the risk-taker, the gambler, the one ready to leap off the tall cliff in hope of bighting onto the brass ring before falling into the abyss below.

Powel suffered many a setback in his 20s, losing large sums of cash and blowing up opportunities to the point where no one in the family could have imagined him a wealthy and powerful man just a few years later.

Through the 500-page historical journey, McClure puts a very human face on every twist and turn.

Before we see a single black and white image of Powel in the pages of Crosley, we see a powerfully-built and driven man using every bit of his 6-foot-4 frame to dominate, business deals, press events and even clashes with the highest ranking members o Washington D.C.'s government power elite.

Lewis, also over 6-foot-tall and as capable man as one ever born in the hills above the mighty Ohio River, is warmly portrayed as the rooted family man with the soul of a Midwestern farmer, not a captain of industry.

Powel, the true moneymaker and leader of the brothers, was a family man too -- but flying about the U.S. to work hard on business and play hard at sea and he hunting range didn't exactly mean he was home for dinner at 5 every weeknight and around play father and husband on the weekends.

Nevertheless, he was crushed by the death of his first wife and the eventual lost of his namesake son (Powel III) and grandson (Powel IV.)

TOMORROW: Innovation & Selling to the Masses, not the Classes


Wright is the author of more than 5,000 published articles on urban life, architecture, public policy, planning and design. He is active in working to make sure universal design, which provides barrier-free access to people with disabilities, is incorporated to the essential and rapidly-evolving practice of sustainability.


RESOUCES:

http://www.crosleybook.com

http://rustymcclure.com/novels/crosleybook.html

Friday, November 26, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: CROSLEY Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation



CROSLEY
Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation


By Rusty McClure with David Stern and Michael A. Banks

EDITOR'S NOTE: Black Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving Sales, the Kick-off to the Christmas Shopping Season...whatever you want to call today, it is the No. 1 day that revolves around the American consumer. In honor of innovative consumer goods -- through boom times and depressions -- we launch a four-part series today that examines the lives of Powel and Lewis Crosley. The Cincinnati, Ohio brothers were great leaders in the early 20th century development of affordable radios, home appliances an even radio broadcasts into the homes of millions of American consumers.

Review by Steve Wright

Among the great names of American entrepreneurs, innovators and success stories of the Industrial Age, Crosley is lost.

Though not as wealthy or influential as the Rockefellers, Fords, Carnegies or others, brothers Powel and Lewis Crosley made their mark on the early American consumer age -- let they are fairly anonymous even in their home state of Ohio, not even a half century since their deaths.

I spent the first 35 years of my life in Ohio. My grandparents very well could have had an old Crosley radio.

I listened to superstation WLW, 700-AM and enjoyed the pageantry of Major League Baseball's home open played in Cincinnati -- a decades-old tradition in tribute to the first professional franchise in the history of America's Pass Time.

I may have vaguely heard that before WLW was bought up by a giant conglomerate, that a local Cinci family had owned the powerful, 50,000-wat radio station.

I'm sure my avid following of baseball history must have uncovered some mention of a Crosley Field -- the fabled old home of the Reds/Redlegs.

But it was abandoned and demolished by the time the Big Red Machine was terrorizing the National League from the early to mid 70s at the sterile confines of the new Riverfront Stadium on the Oho River.

To give the Crosley name its proper place in 20th Century American history, Ohio author Rusty McClure -- son of Ellen Crosley McClure, the daughter of Lewis M. Crosley, the surviving direct descendant of the Crosley brothers.

Crosley (Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation) escapes the pitfalls that could have swallowed an author writing his family's own history.

But McClure, along with David Stern and Michael A. Banks have produced a highly-readable book worthy of its New York Times, Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek bestseller status.

In Crosley, we meet brothers Powel and Lewis. Powel, older by two years, was the dreamer, schemer, restless innovator who used his boundless energy to tap into emerging American consumer trends before they became trendy.

Lewis was the steady, quiet brother -- a gifted engineer who guided a team of fellow engineers, designers, assembly line workers and others.

He was the rock-steady, can-do cog that oversaw every aspect of production -- whether the item being produced was a radio, automobile, large appliance, radio station or piece of equipment to help the Allies win World War Two.

TOMORROW: A brotherly bond & putting a human face on greatness

Wright is the author of more than 5,000 published articles on urban life, architecture, public policy, planning and design. He is active in working to make sure universal design, which provides barrier-free access to people with disabilities, is incorporated to the essential and rapidly-evolving practice of sustainability.

RESOUCES:

http://www.crosleybook.com

http://rustymcclure.com/novels/crosleybook.html

Thursday, November 25, 2010

SAVE MIAMI'S HISTORIC WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN PARK


It is unconscionable that the City of Miami would even consider paving over this little angel's paradise to put up a parking lot. But that's exactly what will happen if Bryan Park's green space is ripped from the grasp of the public that has played on it for nearly a century -- and handed over to a tennis club that will kick out families and pave over everything for tennis courts, club house and parking.

SAVE MIAMI'S HISTORIC WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN PARK

On this Thanksgiving Day, we have a lot to be thankful for as residents of urban Miami's historic Little Havana neighborhood.

While Calle Ocho is famous around the world, an unsung little two acre park five short blocks south of SW 8th Street is under siege.

For nearly a century, Historic William Jennings Bryan Park has served as a rare urban oasis for the working class families of Miami.

In overdeveloped town with the least amount of park space of any city in America, Bryan Park is an asset the should be duplicated in dozens of other neighborhoods aching for open space with a green, grassy play field to serve thousands of children and families.

Sadly, a small group of politically-connected tennis players are lobbying hard and forcefully to pave over the entire park to make it there personal tennis club.

The idea of taking away public land for one privileged group is ludicrous, but the tennis lobby has frightened many people into signing petitions in favor of the tennis center -- by falsely telling them that if the park isn't given over to globe-trotting tennis teams, it will be abandoned and taken over by gangs and violent criminals.

We live on Bryan Park, we see thousands of children and families playing and exercising on the one acre of green space left in a park already half paved over with tennis courts, hitting wall, park office and playground equipment.

We will fight the good fight to protect this park for the people.

We hope readers will forward this link and tell city officials to protect neighborhood parks.

If tennis players want a private club, they can secure sponsors, grants, public private partnerships and other means to build their compound on a piece of commercial land large enough to accommodate the parking, traffic, lighting, noise, stormwater runoff and other impacts that are out of scale for the tiny houses and narrow streets of the Bryan Park neighborhood.

We trust that the Honorable Francis Suarez, the Miami District 4 Commissioner who represents our area, will honor his commitment to preserve the rare and valuable green space in the beloved Bryan Park.

We trust the Mayor of Miami, who used to represent this area when he was a Commissioner, will honor the will of several hundred Bryan Park residents who signed petitions against the tennis center five years ago -- and were lead to believe that they had successfully protected their park forever.

We trust that the Miami City Administration and remaining four City Commissioners will hear the voices of hundreds of thousands of City residents who have voted again and again to preserve what little green, open space is left in the Magic City.

We trust that other neighborhoods throughout the City will join our cause for preservation, just was we will come to their defense when needed.

We trust this threat to parkland for children will be resolved before the press -- television, radio, newspaper and on-line - will be forced to expose the piggishness of tennis backers who would toss kids into the street to pave over a playfield for a single-use sport and the foolishness of anyone who would support such a land grab by the few to the severe detriment of the many.

We trust that the hardworking people of the Bryan Park neighborhood -- many of them immigrants to this country who believe in a Democracy that protects their public park from hostile takeover and preserves their right to play soccer and flag football, to fly kites and play catch, to bring their toddlers play safely and freely on the green urban oasis that is Bryan Park -- will not have their park stolen from them.

EMAIL MIAMI CITY COMMISSIONER FRANCIS SUAREZ AND TELL HIM TO SAVE BRYAN PARK AND THE LITTLE NEIGHBOHROOD AROUND IT -- fsuarez@miamigov.com

OR PHONE COMMISSIONER SUAREZ AND TELL HIM TO SHOW GREAT LEADERSHIP BY FINDING A PROPERLY-SCALED SITE FOR A TENNIS CENTER -- (305) 250-5420


Please forward the link to this blog posting to everyone you know who cares about parkland preservation in America.

To help our cause, please contact me at stevewright64@yahoo.com


Politically-connected tennis supporters would pave over the precious green grass --used by this and thousands of other families dependent on this respite from the concrete jungle - to sate their piggish hunger for a tournament-caliber tennis complex.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

SAVE MIAMI'S HISTORIC WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN PARK


This family, playing on the green playfield, will be tossed out into the street if the City of Miami paves over Bryan Park to turn it into a tennis club.

HISTORIC WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN PARK:
AN URBAN OASIS THAT MUST BE PRESERVED


On the eve of Thanksgiving, we have a lot to be thankful here in our 1920s home in the heart of Miami's fabled Little Havana.

This year, we launched this unique blog on land use, planning, sustainability, wheelchair-access and travel.

While all of our articles have been global, we regret that we must dedicate some space to a very local concern.

For the second time in five years, a group of selfish tennis parents are trying to rip an historic little park from its working class neighborhood -- so it can be paved over as a tennis club for the exclusive use of a handful of elite tennis players.

This bullying attitude toward any and all users of the green space at Bryan Park nearly succeded in destoying a rare urban oasis.

A group of valiant activist residents shamed city officials into doing the right thing five years ago and Bryan Park was spared.

But now the threat is greater than ever, so we present these bullet points that lay out the reasonable and just case for preserving Bryan Park:


• Miami has the least amount of parkland of any major city (according to the Trust for Public Land) and needs to be creating more grassy playfields, not less.

• Pavement is not park land. Tennis courts can only be used for tennis and only a few people can play on a court at a time.

• Bryan Park's acre of grassy play space is an urban gem because it can be used for dozens of things -- including soccer (hundreds of kids practicing or a full-out game with portable nets), flag/touch football, kite flying, playing catch, exercising on a soft surface and many more impromptu games not restricted to a specific playing field.

• Bryan Park is the perfect blend of space right now -- half is active with tennis courts, a hitting wall, barrier-free playground, comfort station, park benches and tot lot. The other half is heavily-used open space.

• Bryan Park is entirely surrounded by small single family houses. A tennis center would overwhelm it with parking, light, hours of use, traffic and other issues when a semi-private club takes over a park.

• If the thousands of kids and families who use the green play space are driven from a park paved over for the exclusive use of tennis, they will have nowhere else to go.

• If City leaders work wisely, they can located a tennis center on any of the dozens of commercial sites that would not suffer from pavement for courts and parking, a clubhouse, grandstand and other impacts.

• Southwest 13th Street already floods frequently. Covering the western half of Bryan Park with impervious surface would cause very damaging flooding of the small, single story homes along the park.

• A tennis center would completely take a nearly century old park and urban oasis of play space away from its working class neighborhood.

• In a democracy, the government does not take away the peaceful enjoyment of thousands (everyone who uses and enjoys the safe green grass) for the benefit of the few (tennis -- a single use sport that forever destroys the green space whether it gains, or quite possibly loses interest and players in the years to come.)

• If there is a groundswell of support for a tennis center, then the tennis supporters should work with pro tennis, tennis associations, sponsors, foundation grants and sources to generate funding for location that would not take away park land and negatively impact a low-rise neighborhood with narrow streets and little parking.

• A tennis center would be ripe for a public-private partnership. If such a partnership cannot materialize -- and none of the above funding sources can be tapped -- then there is not enough support behind a tennis center to justify its construction.

• The Bryan Park neighborhood has already compromised greatly. For more than half its long life, the park was a wide open green and play space with no pavement within its two acres.

• Over the decades, neighbors have compromised again and again while a comfort station, basketball courts (later tennis), enlarged playground and hitting wall were built over the green play field.

• Neighbors of Bryan Park are simply asking to preserve the half the park that hasn't been altered from its intended use as open space.

• Many residents are so tired of being promised their park would be saved (like we all were promised five years ago) then put under siege again, that they simply stop coming to meetings to protest.

• A decision to pave over a park cannot be made simply because a few dozen tennis coaches and parents want it to happen and the old neighborhood is too bewildered and battle scarred to fight.

• Preservation is a legacy issue for an elected official with a legacy surname. Protecting an historic park and finding an alternate, properly-scaled site for a tennis center is hard work. A young commissioner with a bright future will prove himself by establishing a track record of going the extra mile to create such a win-win solution.

EMAIL MIAMI CITY COMMISSIONER FRANCIS SUAREZ AND TELL HIM TO SAVE BRYAN PARK AND THE LITTLE NEIGHBOHROOD AROUND IT -- fsuarez@miamigov.com

OR PHONE COMMISSIONER SUAREZ AND TELL HIM TO SHOW GREAT LEADERSHIP BY FINDING A PROPERLY-SCALED SITE FOR A TENNIS CENTER -- (305) 250-5420



TOMORROW: A Thanksgiving Day essay that tells the real story of our beloved Bryan Park.

Please forward the link to this blog posting to everyone you know who cares about parkland preservation in America.

To help our cause, please contact me at stevewright64@yahoo.com



Bryan Park is in a very old neighborhood with small, single-story homes that flood when it rains. This picture shows how bad the flooding is after ten minutes of rain. If the acre of grass is foolishly paved over, can you imagine how many millions the bankrupt city will be paying to homeowners for willfully contributing to the flood hazard?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

THE GREAT RESET: HOW NEW WAYS OF LIVING AND WORKING By Richard Florida -- PART 3



THE GREAT RESET: HOW NEW WAYS OF LIVING AND WORKING
By Richard Florida


Review by Steve Wright

Author Richard Florida is a big fan of alternate transportation -- anything from bicycles to safe pedestrian routes to better local and regional trains.

Florida reasons that even if more people are telecommuting, they still will benefit from the ability to conduct commerce by transportation means far less costly and restrictive than the automobile.

The Great Reset says young people, the innovators who will drive our human creativity-based new economy, already are forming new attitudes toward ownership that are less centered on houses and cars.

Florida makes said connectivity will be key to our economic future. He envies European and other nations that are far ahead of the U.S. in terms of high speed rail.

He states that Boston-New York-Washington have already become a super-productive mega-region because of relatively fast trains that connect the densely-populate cities.

Economic figures prove our that these mega-regions have a much higher economic output per capita when compared to sprawled areas.

Florida believes high speed rail could be a key toward reinvigorating the Great Lakes/rust belt region.

Chicago and Pittsburgh -- cities that have successfully shaken off their industrial pasts to become high-tech, high creativity centers -- could help uplift their still-struggling post-industrial neighbors, such as Detroit and Cleveland, with high speed rail connectivity.

Secondly, rail connectivity within the mega-regions.

There are the fast trains along the Boston/New York/Washington corridor that have allowed Washington, in effect, to become a commuter suburb of greater New York.

If you buy into Florida's theories, it is extremely disheartening that several governors and other politicians elected earlier this month are making noise about rejecting billions of dollars of transit funding.

Whether you accept all of Florida's ideas or not, you will enjoy his wit, vigor and clear writing that turns the most mind-numbing of economic research into a feast of thought for the future.

We highly recommend The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive the Post-Crash Prosperity.

Wright is the author of 5,000 published articles on urban life, architecture, public policy, planning and design. He is active in working to make sure universal design, which provides barrier-free access to people with disabilities, is incorporated to the essential and rapidly-evolving practice of sustainability.

RESOURCES

http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Great-Reset-Richard-Florida/?isbn=9780061937194

http://www.creativeclass.com/

Monday, November 22, 2010

THE GREAT RESET: HOW NEW WAYS OF LIVING AND WORKING By Richard Florida -- PART 2



THE GREAT RESET: HOW NEW WAYS OF LIVING AND WORKING
By Richard Florida


Review by Steve Wright

Author Richard Florida writes that we must admit that the U.S. is a service-based, not factory economy, so we must work to convert low-paying, unrewarding service jobs into middle class careers that engage workers as a source of innovation.

Florida, the director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, cites some innovative companies that empower even their lowest level retail workers and provide them with the opportunity to be rapidly promoted.

Florida, founder of the Creative Class Group, also believes the American Dream should no longer be homeownership -- it should be mobility.

Mobility, he said, can be achieved by making more people renters instead of homeowners.

Florida states that research proves that government policies incentivizing home ownership can actually be detrimental to the new economy.

He said a family underwater on its home loan is unlikely to sell at a huge financial loss to move to another region or state for better job opportunities.

But that is exactly what it must do in the era of the Great Reset and if more people rented, they could pick up stakes and more to prosperous regions much more quickly and easily.

While he is a progressive known for praising cities that accommodate gays, artists and other urban pioneers, Florida is no fan of the lion's share of the Obama
Administration's stimulus billions being spent on road projects.

Florida said road building is a short-term fell good, not a long-term plan in an era prolonged austerity in which many families will not be able to spend tens of thousands of dollars per year on a two or three automobiles.

He writes that it is better to focus on transportation infrastructure that is not automobile-centered.

Florida prefers big spending on airports, because most of these essential transit hubs for business in America have fallen into disrepair and our nowhere near as efficient or innovative as their foreign counterparts.

TOMORROW: PART 3 -- SALVATION THROUGH TRANSPORATION, INCLUDING HIGH SPEED RAIL

Wright is the author of 5,000 published articles on urban life, architecture, public policy, planning and design. He is active in working to make sure universal design, which provides barrier-free access to people with disabilities, is incorporated to the essential and rapidly-evolving practice of sustainability.


RESOURCES

http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Great-Reset-Richard-Florida/?isbn=9780061937194

http://www.creativeclass.com/

Sunday, November 21, 2010

THE GREAT RESET: HOW NEW WAYS OF LIVING AND WORKING By Richard Florida



THE GREAT RESET: HOW NEW WAYS OF LIVING AND WORKING
By Richard Florida


Review By Steve Wright

Class: our assignment today is to read 200-plus pages written by an economist who takes us back to the Great Depression of the 1930s and Long Depression of the late 1900s to find answers to what ails us during the Long Recession of the early 21st century.

Sounds about as enticing as sock drawer rearranging or dental work, doesn't it?
Trying to decipher the thoughts of an economist could be a painful exercise in these painful times.

But not if the economist is Richard Florida, author of the highly readable bestsellers The Rise of the Creative Class and Who's Your City?

Florida is an urban thinker who urges us to get past our handwringing over lost factory jobs that are never coming back and peak home values that are not going to rebound.

He would rather that we use the current economic collapse as a catalyst to motivate ourselves to finally focus on a future dependent on creativity, human capital, mobility and innovation.

His The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive the Post-Crash Prosperity calmly and clearly tell us that all the bailouts in the world will not save manufacturing in America.

The Great Reset (Harper Collins, $26.99 in hardback) also explains that while foreclosures are gut-wrenching, we never were better in an era of artificial wealth that inflated the price of a concrete box condo in the Miami sky to half a million dollars when its true value was likely half that.

Florida argues that Americans have to understand that a manufacturing-based economy has been declining for half a century and we can no longer expect to measure prosperity in terms of automobiles being made in Detroit.

TOMORROW PART 2 -- MOBILITY, THE AMERICAN DREAM


Wright is the author of 5,000 published articles on urban life, architecture, public policy, planning and design. He is active in working to make sure universal design, which provides barrier-free access to people with disabilities, is incorporated to the essential and rapidly-evolving practice of sustainability.

RESOURCES:

http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Great-Reset-Richard-Florida/?isbn=9780061937194

http://www.creativeclass.com/

Saturday, November 20, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: AMERICA'S MAYOR JOHN V. LINDSAY AND THE REINVENTION OF NEW YORK -- PART 3



Lindsay's creation of the Urban Design Group brought in dynamic young planners to look at open spaces and zoning as a way to preserve and enhance city life.

He strengthened Community Boards to give them power to review neighborhood land use issues before a decision could be made by the City Planning Commission or forwarded to the City Council for final approval.

The urban gem that is today's SOHO is a result of the Lindsay administration's work to preserve the old industrial structures and allow them the right to be adapted for residential, artist loft and other modern urban uses.

Lindsay lead a bicycle brigade to Central Park on a car-free Manhattan street -- decades before the New Urbanists and others have battled for bike lanes, wider sidewalks, better transit and other elements of the physical city unburdened from car dependency.

Though many New Yorkers labeled Lindsay as a failed dreamer, history should be much kinder in how it evaluates the soulful and energetic fighter for equality and livability.

Lindsay revolutionized urban planning and reminded us that urban cities -- even when they were on the verge of becoming unlivable from the mid 60s to mid 70s -- are places to be celebrated, enjoyed and energized.

For its fair examination of his triumphs as an unflinching urbanist -- especially to the benefit of the economically and politically disenfranchised -- America's Mayor: John V. Lindsay and the Reinvention of New York ($29.95 paperback) deserves hallowed space on the book shelf of anyone and everyone who cares about cities.

Wright is the author of 5,000 published articles on urban life, architecture, public policy, planning and design. He is active in working to make sure universal design, which provides barrier-free access to people with disabilities, is incorporated to the essential and rapidly-evolving practice of sustainability.

RESOURCES

http://www.cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-15260-0/americas-mayor

http://lindsay.mcny.org

http://www.thirteen.org/lindsay/video/full-program/fun-city-revisited

Friday, November 19, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: AMERICA'S MAYOR JOHN V. LINDSAY AND THE REINVENTION OF NEW YORK -- PART 2



BOOK REVIEW: AMERICA'S MAYOR
JOHN V. LINDSAY AND THE REINVENTION OF NEW YORK


By Steve Wright

Lindsay, the consummate reformer, scored huge victories in the area of empowering blacks and Hispanics -- greatly rising the number of minorities in the upper, middle and lower ranks of New York government.

He also created mini City Halls throughout the boroughs and neighborhoods to give a voice to millions who were previously ignored by their government.

Perhaps Lindsay's most courageous act in 1968 when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. A shirt-sleeved Lindsay walked the streets of Harlem well into the night, mingling with tens of thousands of justifiable outraged people, and simply repeating the words "I'm sorry" while pleading for calm.

In an era of the 60s when Watts, Newark and dozens of other cities burned and rioted, Lindsay succeeded in keeping the most densely-populated city in America from erupting in violence -- because the people knew he cared and because it wasn't the first time the WASP mayor had walked the streets passionately listening to the protests and concerns of poor and minority neighborhoods.

While many cities responded to downtrodden neighborhoods by simply bulldozing dozens of city blocks in the misguided urban renewal programs of the times, Lindsay worked to preserve and invigorate the urban fabric of historic, yet crumbling neighborhoods far beyond the influential reaches of Manhattan.

In an era when many believed the solution to America's big cities was basically abandoning them for the suburbs, Lindsay's charisma kept alive the passion for urban living.

Though the press chided him at the time for a comment that New York was "Fun City" at a time of so much economic, labor, racial and political strife, Lindsay was one of the very few big city mayors who were visionary enough to see cities as great repositories of wealth in the form of diversity, cultural offerings, public transit, density and walkability.

While Robert Moses had spent decades tearing down affordable housing, turning parks into sterile places and pushing superhighways through livable neighborhoods -- idolized Jane Jacobs fought and defeated the Power Broker over his plans to destroy parts of Greenwich Village with freeways -- Wagner put the brakes on wholesale block clearing of New York's neighborhoods rich and poor.

TOMORROW PART 3 -- LINDSAY THE URBAN VISIONARY

Wright is the author of 5,000 published articles on urban life, architecture, public policy, planning and design. He is active in working to make sure universal design, which provides barrier-free access to people with disabilities, is incorporated to the essential and rapidly-evolving practice of sustainability.

RESOURCES

http://www.cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-15260-0/americas-mayor

http://lindsay.mcny.org

http://www.thirteen.org/lindsay/video/full-program/fun-city-revisited

Thursday, November 18, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: AMERICA'S MAYOR JOHN V. LINDSAY AND THE REINVENTION OF NEW YORK



BOOK REVIEW: AMERICA'S MAYOR
JOHN V. LINDSAY AND THE REINVENTION OF NEW YORK


By Steve Wright

Poor John V. Lindsay.

He came into office as the 103rd Mayor of New York City as a youthful, fresh and tireless leader -- ready to empower the disenfranchised in America's biggest city.

A patrician of privilege, he was bound and determined to show a Republican could be a progressive, liberal leader.

While now Republican on U.S. soil in the year 2010 would want to be labeled a liberal, times were different in 1965 and Lindsay felt his calling was to be a champion of civil, Hispanic, black, gay and women's rights.

The two-term mayor, riding a wave of antiwar sentiment, even took a shot at being president of the United States. But sadly, by the time Lindsay left office, he was a saddened, aged and somewhat broken man.

His idealism and enthusiasm couldn't withstand a turbulent era every bit as brutal and barbaric as today's recession-impacted political climate.

America's Mayor: John V. Lindsay and the Reinvention of New York examines Lindsay's legacy through 224 pages of individual essays from journalists, insiders, activists, staffers and others who witnessed Lindsay's work in what has been called "The Second Toughest Job in America."

Edited by Sam Roberts, the urban affairs correspondent of The New York Times, the Columbia University Press book gives an unvarnished look at the triumphs and failures of Lindsay, who died in 2000.

While the book will be cherished by anyone who loves urban issues and is intrigued by the churning good, bad and ugly that is New York, Roberts had his work cut out for him trying to sew together dozens of personal essays that don't always follow a chronological progression.

Sometimes America's Mayor fails in its attempt to sew together the strong opinions of contributors Pete Hamill, Nicholas Pileggi, Jimmy Breslin and Mario Cuomo into one flowing narrative.

While the sum of the parts could sometimes be better, the book triumphs in its capturing of the endlessly nightmarish issues that pounded away at Lindsay's ability to manage a huge, unwieldy city crushed by labor strife and challenged by a huge demographic changes that saw a huge influx of black and Puerto Rican residents while white ethnics were fleeing the city.

TOMORROW: PART TWO -- CALM IN THE EYE OF THE STORM

Wright is the author of 5,000 published articles on urban life, architecture, public policy, planning and design. He is active in working to make sure universal design, which provides barrier-free access to people with disabilities, is incorporated to the essential and rapidly-evolving practice of sustainability.

RESOURCES

http://www.cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-15260-0/americas-mayor

http://lindsay.mcny.org

http://www.thirteen.org/lindsay/video/full-program/fun-city-revisited

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

SELLING LIFESTYLE CENTERS -- part 6



SELLING LIFESTYLE CENTERS

Smart Growth, New Urbanism, Traditional Neighborhood Development?

Lifestyle Center, Town Center, Planned Community?

What do these phrases mean to Realtors in Florida?

Well, in a state with all kinds of ecological issues from river corridors to wetlands to sensitive beach areas to water recharge fields to the granddaddy of all ecosystems – the Everglades – good land use practices are more important than just about any place in the nation.

Whatever the buzzword is of the day, Smart Growth is very important to home buyers and even retail, office, commercial clients.

Florida Association of Realtors past president Michael Dooley, of Illustrated Properties in Hobe Sound, puts it this way:

“The obvious benefit of Smart Growth, with respect to the mixed used concept, is you conserve infrastructure and save energy,” he said. “You also tend to get more of a community harmony, where neighbor knows neighbor. Abacoa (in Jupiter) is a bustling community day and night.”

Dooley said he believes over time, statistics will show that compact developments deter crime, because they have more neighbors to watch out for trouble, more constant activity and a stronger sense of community.

“One of the challenges is a lot of cities have 30- to 40-year-old growth plans. Even though they have been state-mandated to create growth management plans, they have created them under the old (suburban) model. So when an innovative concept comes along, the local code prohibits it,” he said. “It is a real challenge to rewrite codes and it is important for Realtors to stay involved in the process.”

Dooley has worked to educate communities about Smart Growth. He said governments need more educating than buyers.

“The buyer that comes into the office today is a new culture of buyer. The youth today are a different breed, they are much more sophisticated. They come looking for that type of housing,” he said of residences close to transit, pedestrian activities, commerce, offices, parks, education and other amenities.

Wright is an award-winning journalist who has written about growth, development, architecture, town planning and urban issues for two decades. He works in a traditional, walkable, sustainable community in a restored historic home in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

SELLING LIFESTYLE CENTERS -- part 5



SELLING LIFESTYLE CENTERS

In the northeast corner of Florida, between Jacksonville and St. Augustine, the Houston-based Hines Company -- one of the largest privately held real estate development, investment and management companies in the world – has created the planned community of Palencia.

Palencia is built to conserve wetlands and other precious acreage around the homes and compact Village Center. Jackie Ross, a Realtor from nearby Ponte Vedra Beach, said lifestyle centers are a relatively new concept in the Jacksonville region, but they are rapidly growing in popularity.

“It is clearly evident people like this concept. Sales have soared, and appreciation has been wonderful in Palencia to this point. It is expected to continue. Buyers like the idea of walking or bike riding to neighborhood shopping and amenities.”

Realtor Cheryl Grieb, of Olde Kissimmee Realty in explosively-growing Osceola County, said Smart Growth embraces high density, so a community can preserve land for open space, water recharge and recreation.

“It’s a live, work play as a whole concept. It creates a stronger bond, a huge sense of community,” she said. With health in everyone’s mind, it’s great to (live where you can) walk to grocery store, the movies.

“With Smart Growth, you have a myriad of choices: the unit over a retail center, a townhouse, a single family home, a condo,” she continued. “Walkability, environmentally friendly, variety of choices, cutting down on use of automobile, public transit, revitalization -- that’s Smart Growth.”

Wright is an award-winning journalist who has written about growth, development, architecture, town planning and urban issues for two decades. He works in a traditional, walkable, sustainable community in a restored historic home in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana.

TOMORROW: Smart Growth Sidebar

Monday, November 15, 2010

SELLING LIFESTYLE CENTERS -- part 4



SELLING LIFESTYLE CENTERS

Realtor Michael Dooley -- a Smart Growth advocate, former president of the Florida Association of Realtors and former member of Martin County’s local planning and growth agency – said there is no way to put an exact face on the typical lifestyle community buyer.

“Look at Abacoa, Traditions, Disney’s Celebration -- all of these communities have a good mix of young, active professionals and active retires,” Dooley said, adding that the only group that sales are low in is older retirees, who may be uncomfortable with the concept of new-build town centers with mixed use.

In Orlando, just three miles east of the center of downtown, developers continue to build compact urban forms, such as the live-work unit, on the site of the former Orlando Naval Training Center now known as Baldwin Park.

Realtor Matt Harkins, president of Harkins Development Corporation, built 23 urban buildings, each containing a pair of live-work units in the downtown section of Baldwin Park. The live-work units accommodate to attorneys, CPAs, therapists and other professionals.

The units can be built out three different ways, but the most pure urban form has an office space of about 600 square feet, a studio apartment of about the same space above the garage and 2,000 square foot primary residence. Each has a separate entrance, so a person could live in the main space, have his office in the separate but attached space and rent out the studio apartment for additional revenue.

TOMORROW: St. Augustine-Jacksonville

Sunday, November 14, 2010

SELLING LIFESTYLE CENTERS -- part 3



SELLING LIFESTYLE CENTERS

In Central Florida, the city of Altamonte Springs has completely bought into the Smart Growth concept of compact development with a mix of uses. The city is partnering with several developers to create a Town Center, Main Street and structures as tall as 20 stories.

Located 10 miles north of Orlando, Altamonte Springs decided it didn’t want to be a sprawled-out suburb.

Frank Martz, director of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency and Planning Services, said the Altamonte decided its urban core would be located on at a pair of major state routes and a picturesque body of water – Crane’s Roost Lake.

“We call it True Urbanism,” Martz said of Altamonte’s take on New Urbanism. “It is transit-oriented, very dense, and pedestrian friendly.”

In a city with a population under 50,000 where the tallest buildings for ages stood at only three or four stories, plans now call for 15- to 20-story office structures, apartments and condominiums built around Crane’s Roost Lake. The Altamonte Town Center, on the sight of a former conventional retail plaza, will feature a dense urban mix of uses.

“We feel real strongly that a true town center requires somebody to live there,” said Michael Lant, president of Suwanee, Georgia- based MJ Lant Developments, which is development manager for Altamonte Springs Investments, a major player among the several companies developing in the Seminole County city.

“But you can’t just plop these down anywhere,” Lant said of town or lifestyle centers. “The right elements exist in Altamonte: a gorgeous lake -- with a boardwalk, benches and millions of dollars of city improvements -- sits right in the center of the development.”

Lant's firm developed a mixed use condominium enhanced by having restaurants on the ground floor on Crane’s Roost Lake.

“Altamonte rezoned an entire area because it had a vision for the urbanism it wanted to create,” he said. “Only a few cities are catching on that there is demand for well-done town centers. A lot of cities are still afraid of density and height. They don’t understand it can work in a city that is even suburban in origin that needs to create a town center. Altamonte is ahead of the curve.”

TOMORROW: Martin County

Saturday, November 13, 2010

SELLING LIFESTYLE CENTERS -- part 2



SELLING LIFESTYLE CENTERS

In Tallahassee, the St. Joe Company – Florida’s largest private landowner – is building a very urban town center with a YMCA on its second floor in Southwood. Southwood also features an education center, a central park on a lake, walking trails and more than 1,000 acres of green space.

Speaking when he was Vice President of Sales at St. Joe, Realtor Chris Drury said with a professional on-staff serving as an Art of Living Director, Southwood is clearly “a lifestyle experience, not just a place to purchase a house.”

“We are selling a lifestyle and creating a place where you can truly live, work and play. People love these developments because they have a sense of community where you can walk to things and know your neighbors,” he said.

For Realtors interested in lifestyle centers, Drury said the key is educating the buyer about a product that goes far beyond the initial buyer request for “shelter that I can afford.”

“Once you learn about town centers and planned communities, you combine that with your local knowledge and experience,” advised Drury, now president of Kiawah Island Real Estate. “We are focusing on the entire community, not just the single residence.”

Jackie Moalli, St. Joe’s development director for the Capital Region, serves as the commercial Realtor at Southwood. She said the mix of uses in proximity makes the development more attractive for commercial and residential users.

“It is very appealing for a company to be able to attract their employees with an environment where you can work out at lunch time, where you can walk downstairs to a café after work,” she said. “For retail and restaurant uses, you not only have a built-in market because of people living right there, but you also have a sense that the local shops are part of the homebuyer’s investment. People want these to do well, so they can frequent them.”

Moalli also noted that Southwood has a very healthy office component, including the state-of-the-art headquarters of Datamaxx Group, one of the fastest growing technology companies in the country. The 32,500-square-foot facility includes a 24/7 Network Operations Center and technologically advanced video conferencing center.

TOMORROW: Central Florida

Friday, November 12, 2010

SELLING LIFESTYLE CENTERS



SELLING LIFESTYLE CENTERS

By Steve Wright

More than half a century ago, pioneering developer Don M. Casto Sr. opened the one of the nation’s first regional shopping center in a suburb east of Columbus, Ohio.

He negotiated with famed retailers James Cash Penney and Sebastian Kresge to open stores far from the familiar Downtown/Main Street environment in his Town & Country shopping center.

Now, six decades after starting the trend toward suburban retailing, the Casto Company is part of a large trend to rebuild a sense of Main Street in lifestyle centers.

Lifestyle centers, which feature a mix of uses in a planned development that allows residents to be less car-dependant, are becoming very popular in Florida from the big cities to the small towns.

Drew Smith, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Sarasota-based Casto Lifestyle Properties, said lifestyle centers are a fabulous tool for residential and commercial Realtors. Casto has lifestyle centers underway in Sarasota, Lakeland, Winter Park and the Bradenton-Sarasota border. The mixed use developer is looking into a fifth Sunshine State project in Daytona Beach and a sixth one in an urban part of Sarasota.

“The commercial Realtor can tell his client (that the lifestyle center’s) tenant base can be 10 percent of sales -- that’s gravy,” Smith said. “The advantage to the retailer is the customer never gets in their car. Once they get in their car, they can go anywhere, but keep them from their car and you own them!”
One Hundred Central is a very urban lifestyle center in the heart of downtown Sarasota. It takes up a city block and features condos above 60,000 square feet of retail including a Whole Foods Market.

Casto is also developing lifestyle centers in less dense urban settings, such as the huge planned community of Lakewood Ranch on the Manatee-Sarasota County border. Casto is developing the Main Street portion into a town center with an art cineplex, gourmet grocery, office above retail and lakeside condominiums within a short walk from the retail-office mix.

TOMORROW: St. Joe Company – Florida’s largest private landowner

Thursday, November 11, 2010

WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE CARIBBEAN CRUISING -- part 5



WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE CARIBBEAN CRUISING

By Steve Wright

We know dozens of older and/or disabled people who love the fact that when you cruise, your hotel room moves with you.

That makes it possible to visit three different island nations in as many days -- a logistic impossibility for even the most savvy and rugged of travelers with mobility limitations.

Whether you are a fan of Azamara, Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Crystal, Cunard, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, Radisson Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn or Silversea, you can create a perfectly-accessible Caribbean Cruise departing one of South Florida's two giant seaports.

Simply do your homework in advance and you’ll be sailing into wonderful waters and creating memories that will last much longer than that winter tan.

Wright is an award-winning journalist.

RESOURCES:

http://www.azamaraclubcruises.com

http://www.carnival.com

http://www.celebritycruises.com

http://www.costacruise.com

http://www.crystalcruises.com

http://www.cunard.com

http://disneycruise.disney.go.com

http://www.hollandamerica.com

http://www2.ncl.com

http://www.oceaniacruises.com

http://www.princess.com

http://www.rssc.com

http://www.royalcaribbean.com

http://www.seabourn.com

http://www.silversea.com

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE CARIBBEAN CRUISING -- part 4



WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE CARIBBEAN CRUISING

By Steve Wright

The most difficult aspect of cruising for wheelchair users is the hit-and-miss access of the shore excursions.

These little adventures are huge moneymakers for the cruise industry, but the majority of shore and sea side excursions are provided by companies that contract independently with the cruise lines.

Very few of these tour providers invest in making their vehicles or activities barrier-free.

If you want to book an excursion begin inquiring about wheelchair access the minute you book your cruise. Don't wait till you've set sail, or even worse, until you depart your ship only to learn that an accessible adventure does not await you.

Ask detailed questions to find out if the transportation from port to the site of the excursion is inaccessible. Email the cruise line's accessibility/special needs department to find out if it is possible for a wheelchair users to safely board and enjoy the ride on a helicopter, catamaran, etc.

The best approach is to be flexible.

If you can climb several steps onto a bus or if you don’t mind being carried on and off a catamaran – then you might try one of the organized excursions.

Or once in port, you can hire a taxi -- with a trunk large enough to accommodate your wheelchair -- to take you to a destination.

Another option is renting a car for the day to explore colorful restaurants, shops, beaches, museums and natural wonders.

We've tried that option and it is both harrowing (balding tires, doubtful insurance coverage, traffic jams almost preventing a return to the ship in time before it sailed from our port!) and rewarding (traveling between Dutch and French sides of an island in little time at all, observing the real daily life for islanders beyond the cleaned up tourist areas, sampling genuine local cuisine).

The bottom line: cruising is a very enjoyable – and convenient -- way to vacation.

TOMORROW: RESOURCES

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE CARIBBEAN CRUISING -- part 3



WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE CARIBBEAN CRUISING

By Steve Wright

Once you’ve studied the cruise literature, asked all of the questions about access and selected the ship and cruise just right for you, it’s smooth sailing, right? Not exactly.


Sometimes ships can pull right up dockside at a port. This means they simply fold down a gangplank -- which is like a giant ramp -- and you walk or roll down it onto the ground at your port of call in San Juan, St. Maarten, Nassau, Cozumel or wherever.

But some ports will not accommodate such large vessels, or the weather conditions will not allow docking.

In these cases, passengers going ashore must transfer from the ship -- often down a steep stairway -- onto a small tender, or boat. Passengers then ride the tender to the port, disembarking there.

Even for able-bodied folks, transferring from ship to tender is a bit tricky.

For wheelchair users, it typically means being carried in your chair by crew members down a stairway, and being lifted onto a little inaccessible boat bobbing like a small cork in a giant, churning sea.

Arrival in port means being lifted – wheelchair and all – from the tender to the dock. At the end of the day, you get to do it all over again when the process is reversed.

In all fairness, the cruise lines are becoming more aware of the difficulty of tendering for passengers with disabilities, and some are attempting to address it.

Cruise lines that care about their mobility-impaired passengers are creating ways for them to board tenders either directly from a platform or via an internal lift -- thus eliminating the need to descend an external stairway.

Some tenders are equipped with stair-climber devices that attach to a wheelchair, then safely allow chair and user to be moved up or down the steps in the tender.

You must first decide if shopping for emeralds on Grand Cayman or seeing St. Martin’s famous beaches is worth the hassle.

If you are a wheelchair user and decide to give it a go, it’s best to make the attempt in a lightweight manual chair and with an able-bodied companion to steady you and to run interference between you and the crew members who try to lift your chair by the (too easily) removable armrests.

TOMORROW: SHORE EXCURSIONS

Monday, November 8, 2010

WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE CARIBBEAN CRUISING -- part 2



WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE CARIBBEAN CRUISING

By Steve Wright

When you’re planning your cruise, make no assumptions about wheelchair access.

Be sure to ask specifics about stateroom door widths, dimensions and thresholds, as well as access to public areas.

Some ships have areas that are not accessible, but perhaps you can have a wonderful vacation even if you can’t negotiate the steps to the lap pool.

Find out if there are automatic doors to public areas. Inquire if there’s a pool lift. Ask before you book if the ship has raised lips on the floor at door thresholds.

Research the specific ship you’d like to sail on, and ask specific questions about the features that interest you.

Most cruise lines strongly advise people with disabilities – especially wheelchair users – to travel with an able-bodied companion.

In a perfect world, this wouldn’t be necessary. But just because a situation isn’t perfect doesn’t mean you can’t have a great time.

Having someone to lend you an arm into the shower or bump your chair up a step or two to the pool deck can make all the difference.

If you decide to heed this advice, be sure to find out if your cabin will have one bed or two -- so you’re comfortable with the sleeping arrangements, especially if you are traveling with an attendant who is a professional caregiver but not your significant other.

Sometimes cruise lines make cabins more roomy for wheelchair users by equipping them with only one bed. Many feature queen or king beds that can be broken into a pair of small individual beds.

TOMORROW: THE TROUBLE WITH TENDERS

Sunday, November 7, 2010

WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE CARIBBEAN CRUISING



WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE CARIBBEAN CRUISING

By Steve Wright

You know the joys winter can bring: slippery roads, frozen fingers and car doors that won’t budge.

So why not keep the winter blues at bay and plan some fun in the sun on a Caribbean cruise?

Easier said than done when you’ve got accessibility needs.

Dreams of sipping fruity drinks while sunning poolside can fade faster than a winter tan if the cruise you’ve chosen can’t meet your access needs or doesn’t mesh with your idea of a swell time.

To help in making that all-important decision of how to spend your hard-earned dollars on a trip to remember, here are some tips on winter Caribbean cruising.

First, decide what you want out of a cruise.

Do you prefer subdued décor, a refined atmosphere and sophisticated diversions?

Or is your idea of a good time hitting the bars, casino and nightclub partying the night away?

Each cruise line caters to a particular demographic and you need to match your taste to the right one.

How you plan to spend your time on the cruise makes a big difference in the accommodations -- and price point – that are right for you.

If you expect to be out on deck while at sea and exploring the sights while in port, a small cabin with no view can work just fine.

Some of the lines have ships with small but very accessible inside cabin featuring wide cabin and bathroom doorways, roll-in showers and more.

Such accommodations are typically quite affordable.

All the major cruise lines that sail the Caribbean out of the Port of Miami, or Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, have accessible cabins in all price ranges -- allowing people to choose an experience that matches their budget.

For those who shun crowds and prefer quiet time for relaxation, it’s advisable to spend more for a larger cabin, especially one with a balcony verandah.

Typically, the newer the ship, the more balconies there are. Portable flip-down ramps provide access to the verandah, where a clear-glass wall provides safety and a good view of the blue waters for people seated at wheelchair height.

Like hotels, the rule of thumb is the newer the ship, the better the overall access.

TOMORROW: ACCESSIBILITY SPECIFICS

Saturday, November 6, 2010

AMERICA, THE OWNER'S MANUAL, MAKING GOVERNMENT WORK FOR YOU -- part 2



AMERICA, THE OWNER'S MANUAL, MAKING GOVERNMENT WORK FOR YOU
BY SENATOR BOB GRAHAM WITH CHRIS HAND


Review By Steve Wright

Preservationists, architects, planners, travelers, photographers and other lovers of Miami Beach's fabled Art Deco district will enjoy Chapter 3 of AMERICA, the Owner's Manual, Making Government work for YOU.

Author Bob Graham reminds us that before Crockett and Tubbs, glitzy condos and gastro pubs, fashion and clubs -- Ocean Drive and the rest of South Beach nearly bit the dust.

The book recounts the 1976 plan to demolish the aging deco district and the iron-willed widow, Barbara Baer Capitman, whose Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) battle to preserve South Beach and place the 1930s and 1940s Deco structures on the National Register of Historic Places.

While the still-active MDPL and the late Capitman deserve hero status in Miami Beach, Graham carefully points out their wise and unwise strategies. The book is, after all, a manual for effective government interaction.
Using one of his favorite catch-phrases, Graham said "the MDPL did its best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory."

"Given the opportunity to shape Miami Beach's comprehensive plan, the MDPL submitted a historic report that professional planners found confusing and unorganized and never took seriously," the book recounts. "When the city updated its state-required comprehensive plan in June 1978, the proposal did not include historic preservation."

"Then, rather than attempting to work out their differences with the city, the MDPL sought to reverse the omission through sympathetic local newspapers. Miami Beach leaders saw this media strategy as an end run designed to embarrass them, and the reacted angrily. This was a grave development."

"The MDPL would need the city's cooperation and support to implement historic preservation in South Beach. Less than six months before, that cooperation had seemed assured. Now it was in serious peril. "

Graham credits Capitman, who had focused too much on the support of federal and state officials while neglecting to continually grease the local wheels, for stepping into the breach and shepherding the issue toward ultimate approval in 1979.

In less than three years after the Miami Beach Redevelopment Agency announced plans to demolish the Art Deco district, the National Register of Historic places in Washington, D.C. officially designated a one-square-mile area of Miami Beach as a National Historic District.

For the Miami Beach hands-on lesson and dozens of other real-life examples of everyday people using government to better their communities, AMERICA, the Owner's Manual, Making Government work for YOU, is a must read.

http://www.cqpress.com/product/Graham.html


Friday, November 5, 2010

AMERICA, THE OWNER'S MANUAL, MAKING GOVERNMENT WORK FOR YOU



AMERICA, THE OWNER'S MANUAL, MAKING GOVERNMENT WORK FOR YOU
BY SENATOR BOB GRAHAM WITH CHRIS HAND


Review By Steve Wright

Whether this week's election results have you rejoicing, repulsed or retreating -- you cannot relinquish your duty to get more active in government.

Whether you are a old enough to have voted in more presidential elections than you care to admit, or you are a civics student not even old enough yet to cast a vote for township trustee, you can benefit from AMERICA, the Owner's Manual, Making Government work for YOU.

Retired Florida Senator Bob Graham, with assistance from his longtime staffer Chris Hand, wrote the 272-page guidebook for CQ Press (cover price $16.95.)

Graham, a middle of the road Democrat, obviously took great pains to make the straightforward book as non-partisan as a blank sheet of paper.

In these times of cutthroat party politics, the book is refreshingly objective.

The red, white and blue cover is so dull as dishwater, that we feared the pages inside would be a dull, dry and dusty tome assembled by a longtime politician famed for serially journaling his everyday life.

AMERICA, the Owner's Manual, Making Government work for YOU, is anything but arcane and outdated.

The book triumphs by using real-life examples, short paragraphs, clear writing and humor to keep the subject matter lively.

Graham's bottom-line point is that you don't need to be a former presidential cabinet member or a CEO with a seven figure budget for lobbyists to make an impact on government.

Each chapter is filled with examples of how everyday people made an impact on government decision making. In every success story, the key was hard work and a firm understanding of process.

Graham, in a non-patronizing tone, agonizes over the fact that most Americans don't know who to phone for a simple problem. The book educates folks on how to identify the proper elected and appointed persons to approach about local, state, federal, school district and other issues.

Because the book is advertised as a manual, it does have a "checklist for action" and exercises at the end of each chapter. But do not thing of this as a school book.

The publication is just as valuable in the hands of homeowners' group fighting the city hall's foolish squandering of park land as it is in the mitts of a school kid learning the basics of the Constitution.

AMERICA, the Owner's Manual, Making Government work for YOU demystifies polling, fundraising, campaigning, lobbying, media influencing, issue focusing, coalition building, researching and other building blocks of working with government.

This easy-to-read book is a must for everyone who cares about the future of our nation at the crossroads.

TOMORROW: Preservationists, architects, planners, travelers, photographers and other lovers of Miami Beach's fabled Art Deco district will enjoy Chapter 3 of AMERICA, the Owner's Manual, Making Government work for YOU. Graham reminds us that before Crockett and Tubbs, glitzy condos and gastro pubs, fashion and clubs -- Ocean Drive and the rest of South Beach nearly bit the dust.

http://www.cqpress.com/product/Graham.html

Thursday, November 4, 2010

MALAGA



FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY OF ANDALUCIA SPAIN

Malaga – Spend a day in the birthplace of Picasso strolling the streets, exploring the plazas and savoring fresh grilled fish at a beachside chiringuito.

Editor's note: This concludes our 13 days of showcasing the fine art photography of Steve Wright -- focusing on the region in Southern Spain known as Andalucia.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

JUBRIQUE



FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY OF ANDALUCIA SPAIN

Jubrique - On the road to Jubrique, a colorful bullfight poster captivates the traveler, its bright colors almost as beautiful as the wild poppies in the nearby valley.

Editor's note: For 13 days, we will showcase the fine art photography of Steve Wright -- focusing on the region in Southern Spain known as Andalucia.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

OJEN



FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY OF ANDALUCIA SPAIN

Ojen – This town, situated in the El Juanar Valley, is surrounded by orchards. The first humans settled here during the Stone Age. Ojen beckons with its limestone caves, with ancient artifacts that can be found inside.

Editor's note: For 13 days, we will showcase the fine art photography of Steve Wright -- focusing on the region in Southern Spain known as Andalucia.

Monday, November 1, 2010

GAUCIN



FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY OF ANDALUCIA SPAIN

Gaucin – Visit this charming town on a clear day and you’ll be treated to views of the Rif Mountains of Northern Africa. Its castle’s origins date to Roman times. Eagles are drawn to the structure, frequently riding the up-draughts above the towers.

Editor's note: For 13 days, we will showcase the fine art photography of Steve Wright -- focusing on the region in Southern Spain known as Andalucia.