Friday, November 27, 2015

Landlines are for the Happy

The forecast says it will rain until Tuesday of next week and it's barely noon on Friday, so the usual four day Thanksgiving weekend weather is crap. It is a grey, wet and cold, black Friday. It will be solely up to me to make the best of it.  I am by myself, as I usually am on the weekends, sitting, sipping sumatra at the restaurant I used to own, trying to figure out what to write about.

I have lots of memories from the Wolf, a business that was part of another company that I haphazardly built out of nothing more than good timing and the psychosis that I thought I knew I what was doing--thought I was cut out for the life of an entrepreneur. I had a good run, 15 years, and lots of memories. I sold all of it for no other reason than I was just simply tired of the complicated lifestyle. I had gotten there, had been there long enough, I thought.

The best memory I have of being in business is the day I walked out the door of my office for the last time--having cleaned out my desk and handed over my keys.  It was the end of something great and the beginning of something new (or vice versa). I do wish either one of the two would reveal themselves soon.  It would be nice to have something to look forward to.  It's like finding enrichment on this rainy holiday weekend.  It is solely up to me.

This is what we do; hurry to plan, plot and navigate the things we strive for;  taking risks, building relationships, losing relationships; working on the future without a whole lot of time spent on the present.  So when the present comes, we risk being disappointed.  So here is a cliche: it's about the journey; a collection of vignettes that make up our happiest experiences; often the simplest things that yield the best memories.


Today I will gather my shirts and take them to Happy Cleaners!  I could use some "happy" and there certainly isn't anything more satisfying than knowing I have an a fresh batch of neatly pressed shirts to choose from upon the arrival of another upcoming workweek. It is indeed, about the future and I am purposed, temporarily, to accomplish this task.  

A bell rings upon my entry to Happy Cleaners.  The window looking through the front counter gives way to the many tables and presses with steam seeping from hoses and hundreds of shirts hanging, waiting to be picked up by their owners.  Thon, I call him, comes out from behind the presses and greets me with a big smile and the familiar kind words, as he always does--out from behind where he stands all day, every day but Sunday, from 7:00 AM until 7 PM.  He knows my account number, an old telephone number, and plugs it into the conveyor that rotates and delivers 20 or so heavily starched shirts.  

Thon knows it's an old telephone number from years ago, from one of the old houses, miles away from Happy Cleaners and years away from me being able to afford the use of a dry cleaner. It occurs to me that I probably sold that house for the same reason I sold the business. And I am not sure if landlines even exist anymore. 

Thon rings up the usual 30 or 40 bucks worth of shirts and I wrestle them into the car.  He returns to the steam and I drive away looking to find something more to do.  #ifyouknowhatimtalkinbout. #theralphaccount

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tunneling the Spiritually Rich

Thanksgiving Story—the week before Thanksgiving 2013

I met Robert Dowdy Jr., (dancer), in front of McDonalds across the street from the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.  My cheap motel, the Diamond Inn, was just down a bit, right next to the Airport where my 6:00 AM flight would take me back to St. Louis the next morning.

I was stuck in Las Vegas for a few days and it was just not a good place to be, not at that time of year. Oh, great fun for one night, then it sets in and you want to run home to family and friends.  The weather was dreadful.  It wasn't the journey that I had in mind.

I had to scrub my Grand Canyon hike, the Rim to River and Back, due to an unusual snowstorm.  It was to be my fourth time doing the canyon hike.  On a previous trip, my good friend and traveler, John Manning, muscled through it with me and we ended up doing sports book for a day while we waited for our flights home.  I chose to fly in and out of Las Vegas without John this time because I had my flight booked in advance and he bailed. Sometimes this happens.  I thought, what the hell, “go by myself and make the best of it”. 

But upon arriving at the rim, the snow had already started, and the forecast was predicting 10-14 inches by morning.  I didn't even make it down to Indian Springs before turning back.  While it was really quite interesting descending in the snow, it was dangerous on the trail and the footing was terrible, and I was the only one there.  By midnight it was really getting bad so I left the hotel just after 2:00 AM and headed back to Las Vegas where it would rain and snow in the regions coldest and wettest spell, in like, ever?   The following is what I wrote on my device on the plane on the way home and posted on facebook. It's been two years to the date since then, so why not reflect back on my thanksgiving story from 2013.


In the Tunnels with Robert Dowdy Jr. (dancer).
I am sure Robert said he was a dancer. He told me he suffers from schizophrenia, and also has bad bouts with anger and sadness, but I do remember him introducing himself “Robert Dowdy Jr.; dancer!

Robert is called by his friends "the landlord of the Las Vegas storm drainage tunnels". They sit adjacent to the Las Vegas airport, and right behind the motel that I was staying in that Sunday night. It was the week before the Thanksgiving Holiday.  I was pissed because the snow and rain killed my dessert canyon trip, and I was stuck in Vegas for two days without being able to get a flight out. One day is enough in Vegas, btw, if you are taking the city in, great. One-day-is-enough!

It rained for four days straight, so the tunnels (basically a series of spillways and culverts where the homeless live) had filled and washed of their stuff down stream.  "They call this flushing the toilet", when the water comes through and cleans out all the belongings of the tunnel dwellers.

I met Robert while doing an early evening urban hike. Something I like to do to get the feel of a city.  It’s a great way to assess the social conscience of a community, seeing who’s on the streets and what resources they have. Las Vegas seems to be a fairly decent city for the homeless; so many of them, too.  There is good weather, many resources.  "Outside of the tunnels being filled with scorpions", Robert says it's really not that bad.  I wasn’t told this right off the bat, not until much later.

I am drawn to this type of experience for some reason, the homeless and the mentally ill and their struggles. I'm not a martyr and don’t try to exploit a condition by any means, but I have sensitivity towards the misunderstood. Often the most incredible people are the most complicated and Robert is certainly no different.

Sometimes on these urban hikes I'll stop at Subway and get a bunch of 6 inch and hand them out. Some times the people are thankful. Sometimes they share with others who need it.  Sometimes they'll talk.  Sometimes they'll tell me to fuck off. The experience has changed me, because you really cannot take these folks for granted. They function, some better than others, in a culture that has meaning.  Some are certainly nicer than others and Robert made this clear several times.

Robert had just retrieved a discarded McDonald’s bag from the trashcan on the perimeter of the McDonalds parking lot.  I also saw a car roll down a window and hand him a large Dr Pepper on the way out of the drive through. I watched the whole thing as I walked up the street, just after checking in to my hotel. I noticed that he didn't venture too close to the McDonalds and kept his distance.  He later told me he was "banned for life" for getting into it with the manager months ago. This is a total drag for Robert, his main source if food came from this building; handouts, the dumpster and the trashcans on the perimeter.

I surprised him when we met. I asked him how he was doing from behind and he spun around quickly and said:  "God is love Brotha, I couldn't be better"!  Since I had nowhere to go, and it appeared that he didn't either, we just stood there chatting for a while.

I offered to get him some food but he adamantly declined. He had all he needed for the night but mentioned under his breath how much he so likes those Christmas Cherry Pies. He wouldn’t take a hand out from me so I asked him if I could hang out with him for a bit. He eagerly told me about where he lived and how he functions day to day, so when I asked him if he could show me where he lived he lit up like a Christmas tree. We immediately walked down a hedgerow to an opening in a fence leading down a dirt path into a vast network of spillways, people and territories.

We were to meet some of his friends, "but only the nice ones" he said. "Up stream one of the guys is real temperamental". It was apparent that Robert was the one who helped the others get settled. "Seven blocks" he said, "that's my territory".

He told me that he doesn't drink or smoke or do drugs anymore. Doesn't need to. He also told me that there are three rules for living life on the street.  Rule #1, never piss anyone off who knows where you sleep! "That is also rule two and three" he says with a very serious look.

Robert is genuinely happy, and a perfect host as he wondered deeper into his world that seems guided only by the basic principal that Robert lives by:  "God provides, and God is love". Robert says that regardless of whatever God you choose to believe in, Love is all that matters "Then good shit happens", he says. He reminded me of this several times, like he could tell that I hadn't quite gotten that part yet.  He liked it when we talked about his faith.  It was his affirmation and I was his student for those brief couple of hours. He knew this and made sure he was driving home the message, one on one.

Robert had a smell about him, cheap cologne, not repulsive, but distinctive of unwashed clothes and cologne dowsed to cover up his body odor. His sleeping area was set up with a whicker couch and a mirror. His belongings weren't tidy at all.  How could they be after the flushing? I asked him how he took care of basic hygiene needs. He took me on another walk to one of the "bailouts" he calls it; a hole in the fence cut for access to and from the tunnels, hidden around every hundred feet or so. He showed me two water sources on the back of my hotel building. The manager allows them to use this; hot and cold. I remember the manager when I checked in to the place; an Asian fellow. I remember thinking how nice of a man he seemed to be, unusually accommodating, for such a low rent motel. Robert's stock isn't any better at the hotel than McDonald's, apparently.  He is only to use the shower at night as he has been banned from there too.

Walking up the grade of the cement spillway is kind of a chore, and he kept telling me how to do it without spraining an ankle or falling over and hurting myself. At one point he grabbed on to my coat to make sure I didn't fall. He does this many times a day, and is always helping the older residents as a result of seeing them hurt themselves making the journey in and out of the tunnels each day.

Robert is 65 years old and very, very fit. He looks homeless, there is no mistaking his condition.  He spends time on the street, looking for things to eat.  He loves finding gems tossed away by tourists, according to him, "God put the cheeseburger in my stomach and love gave me the Dr. Pepper". While we walked, he ate.

Then an ambulance went by.  It was so upsetting to him that he he held his ears and crouched down until it passed. He was in considerable pain and told me that it hurts his head, and changes his mood. He was angry because he was enjoying my company and he didn't want things to change.

He told me that he has good days and bad days, particularity with his anger. I asked him if I caught him on a good day. He told me that I made his day and that any day he is able tell his story and talk about his faith, he has good days. I could only smile and think about how profound that was. I was on the receiving end, not Robert.  I am not even remotely religious.  I thought about that for a while.

Towards the end of our time together, I asked him again if he wanted something from McDonalds. He wouldn't let me buy him more food but I kept asking him. He said "Man those Christmas Cherry Pie's sure are good". So I went in and got him two of them so he could stuff them away.  I am pretty sure he planned on giving at least one of them away.

I learned a couple things that night. First, Robert is there by choice. He is able to be who he is, regardless if his illness and regardless of what anyone might think if him. Had I judged him I wouldn't have "gotten" his message--one that I was glad to be reminded of, and needed to be reminded of. He would rather be himself and, in his own authentic spiritual realm, put his love and kindness to best use, making sure that the others don't have to suffer too much.  Second, I get the feeling he thought I was suffering some way, and that (that) was the reason he offered up his kindness. Whether it was then or now, who knows?  There is a time when we all suffer in some way. Gifts like this just don't come that often.  

As I turned to go back to my hotel he gave me a big hug and thanked me. Cheers to Robert, and his big ass Dr. Pepper filled to the rim! Happy Thanksgiving #Ifyouknowhatimtalkinbout.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I am: White pale male 50

For the past the past several months I have found myself frequently using the term "white pale male 50+"  (WPM50).  I usually get pulled in to a dialog on the topic somewhere around where I live, my small village out in West St. Louis County.  In most cases, it comes up when describing the lack of/or varying degree of diversity and equity among the local community leadership. I feel the need to promote equity in community and, since it is an important part of my work, I try to be authentic. I am conditioned to see the occasional missed opportunity here and there, and it bothers me.

But let's expand outside of my bubble, way out where I live in Chesterfield.  Let's travel out to the rest of the region and look down on things a bit.  Think St. Charles County, South County. Let's also head down highway 70 to the rest of the state.  How about my "ole" hometown of Columbia, MO? Just off their own "do we have your attention yet" exercise on matters pertaining to equity.  Did this really just happen?  Hell yes it just happened, and we better grow from it.

I am: white pale male 50+ .
My question is this:  Do we the WPM50--now sometimes referred to as the "white and privileged" by minorities and millennials alike--consider the fact that we are boxed up, labeled and institutionalized in a way that is not all that complementary? Do we not care about the progressive community, so present and energetic in other thriving peer cities.  Do we find it acceptable that others think we live in a vacuum?  And by living in that vacuum we are actually responsible for negating the chances of resolving the regions most complicated problem? We are relevant, after all.  It is shocking how we perpetuated our own personification; reluctant and apathetic.  Why do we settle for this? It's our brand, we are relevant and we should be present.

Let's say that we wanted to improve things; improve the WPM50 brand. What if we were to personify with new words; inclined and interested.  Prior to that maybe we should do a quick deep dive and tally up all the things that keep us from embracing things like:  diversity, acceptance, equity and the understanding that it is our responsibility to enter the space relating to helping solve problems.  We might as well put it on the table now, the reason why we haven't yet participated; fear.

But lets do educate people on the WPM50.  It is prudent.  The fact is, we don't really understand what is being sought from us. I mean, we kind of get it.  People are angry, we have been labeled, we are in defense mode for a reason. We are on our heals and we don't really think that we did anything wrong. If we come to the table, will things be of civil or better said, our interpretation of civil?  What is it that we need to grasp at the conclusion of our meeting? Will it be centered on protest and conflict and drive a wedge, or will there be an agenda? Will it be collaborative or will it have demands?  What rules might best describe how the process is managed, what measurements can be put in place and what dividends might we expect? Shouldn't we, at the very least, agree to a plan together and then execute it...together? This is how we think, we the WPM50.

I take ownership of my demographic and encourage others like me to do so.  Since I am WPM50 I am a stakeholder and what I think matters. And I really do think the we could use a little help understanding exactly what people want from us, given the fact that our values have been handed to us no different from how anyone else has been handed theirs, regardless of personal experience or adversity. I am thinking this latest round of events got the attention of the WPM50. It was encouraging seeing the comments in various media. I think this was a bit of an awakening.  I also think that we should be present at the table, and are the ones most likely to help solve the problem.

The events that led up to Ferguson and what now sits front and center on the desks of Mizzou administrators should teach us how dangerous it is sweeping issues beneath the carpet.  It perpetuates cultural mistrust, and it is always destined to boil over.  Equity is best described as full participation by all in the political and cultural life of community--a concept that cannot be maintained for a few at the expense of the many.  Successful, progressive and vibrant communities are learning this each and every day.

I had the pleasure of working in the historic JeffVanderLou neighborhood recently.  Do take the time to click on the link and learn a little about it.  Fascinating stuff.

We had a demonstration to calm traffic in a neighborhood that has many problems.  In this case it was to promote road safety in consideration of children attending school nearby.  It was a comprehensive effort; setting up temporary roundabouts, curb bump outs, all sorts of things illustrating how slowing traffic enhances a communities confidence.  There were lots of people representing many ethnic backgrounds working together.

I looked around to see how well the WPM50 was represented.  It was basically the Mayor and I. Mayor Slay shaking hands and tending to the media.  Me doing my best not to look awkward and trying to fit in. And I did!

I remember thinking how enriching it was to be around such a diverse group of people sharing stories on the rich cultural significance of the area. It occurred to me that I was in their home and they were excited that I was there.

 Later in the day my staff and I got an email from one of the residents.  It pretty much says it all.  

..."I wish I could bottle and share with the world, the collaboration, spirit and friendship we felt yesterday, during the demonstration!  Getting teary thinking about al the goodness in my neighborhood.  The folks who cleared the sidewalk...omg.  Thanks for all the hard work you do.  Tears...I really needed that life affirming experience, it's weary fighting for peace, justice and equality.  This is how we (as my pastor says) do life together!..."

#ifyouknowhatimtalkinbout #theralphaccount #WPM50

Friday, November 6, 2015

Football Stars don't block Metrolink

I get asked all the time if I actually ride bikes as part of my job. And just about as often, I get asked if I use Metrolink as a part of my commute to my job. I am, after all, the Executive Director of Trailnet, our regions most prominent walk/bike/active transportation advocacy.  "Absolutely" I tell them, "All the time".

In case you are unfamiliar with Trailnet, we do a lot of the planning and programming centered on helping make the region better for biking and walking.  We also advocate for the use of our transit system. We write policy for better streets and crosswalks and the connectivity between it all. We also host a ton of events that "get people moving". Whether it's a group ride art studio tour, or a bike ride to brew pubs, or even a 100 mile "century ride"--we inspire people to get out, live and move.  We also like to throw parties associated with the active living culture. We are a progressive community development project.

So yes, I ride my bike or take public transit any time I can. It is a lifestyle thing and a very interesting way to live.  It is fun being an active transportationist. I look forward to doing it, and and hell yes it's about being authentic!  
Also in my work I find myself surrounded by people much smarter than I; planners, transportation experts, educators, engineers, politicians and advocates.  One of these smart people is Jessica Mefford-Miller, Chief of Planning and System Development at St. Louis Metro Transit. We talked not long ago about Metrolink, and how participation was down for 2015. When I asked why, it came as no surprise the demographic most responsible for the downturn was my own; white suburban professional middle class.  

Our conversation went on to how there was a general perception of fear that was driving the numbers down--that Metrolink was dangerous and that the lack of perception of personal security was to blame. 

I am sorry folks.  I simply disagree.  Cultural misunderstanding perhaps, but not dangerous. But then I thought of an experience that might have put me into a different mindset; changed my perception of things. Perhaps you will see what I saw...

As I have done a couple times before, I got on the wrong train leaving from Eighth and Pine. The red line and blue line alternate arrivals every 6 minutes.  If you get on the red line headed west, instead of the blue line, you have to get off at Debaliviere and wait to get on the blue line that takes you out west instead of up north on the red line. If you have ever ridden the train, this will make sense. Bottom line, I forgot to change trains and found myself in the middle of this story.

It was dark and cold, early February, around 8:00 PM.  When I realized what I had done, I immediately got off the train at the Rock Road.  If you didn't already know, there are two heated lights at every platform, where, if you are lucky, you can take the edge off while waiting for the train.  There was a pretty good sized crowd of people, all African American, mostly young men, women and children.  

I am not going to lie.  I was a little bit nervous.  I was miles away from my home West St. Louis County; the people and the places that I am most familiar. I didn't really have a clue as to where I was or what to expect, other than the conversations around me sounded very loud, angry and yes, intimidating.  But I was interested in what was going on around me.

I remember that there was a young woman so very under dressed for as cold as it was, around 16 years old.  I was thinking about my own child, how I would have not wanted her to be out in the cold at a train stop like that.  She was cold and tough, and was doing her best to get the attention of a guy who was standing under the heated light right next to me. She was vying for his attention and obviously wanting to be close to him for his warmth and a space under the light. Almost fatherly, he let her in, and helped her warm all while she maintained her tough demeanor. I knew she was nearly freezing. The guy was around 30, a solid grill of gold teeth, long braided hair and tough as nails.
We were all kind of miserable lights or not.  There was a lady with a small child who everyone made room for without thinking about it. I was in a long wool overcoat with a baseball cap on, about as 50 plus white male Chesterfield as one could get. I was freezing my ass off, sticking out like a sore thumb, not feeling all that comfortable. 

And that is when it happened.  All of the sudden, the guy with the teeth takes his arms from around the young woman and stands up to me and looks me right in the eyes.  What he said changed my life forever.  He said:  "Yo man! You look just like Peyton Manning".

A silence fell over the entire platform until I processed what I had just heard.  Then he grinned real big with those gold teeth and we both started cracking up. The whole crowd broke out in laughter, standing there freezing watching two men from different places goofing on it. After a short while I noticed the whole group inching a little closer to one another, myself included.  We were all accepting of what we could all benefit from; being close together.

The train pulled in and off we all went to our destinations.  I couldn't stop smiling until I got back to the County. #IrideMetrolink.  #Ifyouknowhatimtalkinbout.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Transportation Directors Shoes to Fill

St. Louis news of late has been filled with death, tragedy and crime. We know that’s not the entire story. There is a lot of positive activity happening below the surface of the news cycle. St. Louis has become an entrepreneurial hub. Our region has talented, creative, and energetic people working every day to create a vibrant, active region. Organizations and agencies are collaborating at an increasing rate. Together, we are focusing our collective activities towards the same targeted outcomes – economic inclusion, talent attraction, and increasing transportation options.

We are in a moment of great opportunity with significant changes in City and County staff. County Executive Stenger is working to fill high-level positions in his administration, and the selections he makes will shape the future of the region. Mayor Slay announced this week a new Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, and Director of Operations. We applaud his decision to promote the next generation to positions of power. They know better than many which assets will bring new residents and businesses to our region.

Both City and County are working to fill vacant Director of Transportation positions. The importance of placing the right people into these positions cannot be overstated, as they will determine how streets are designed throughout the region and who can safely use them. The Directors of Transportation can choose to continue on the current path of car-centric road design or choose to diversify transportation options. They can help make St. Louis a more livable region with a North-South Metrolink line, protected bike lanes the whole family can ride, and pedestrian crossings that accommodate all people regardless of age or ability.

We are counting on our leaders to choose wisely, selecting staff who are innovative, with a collaborative and transparent nature, and are willing to work hand-in-hand with private and public businesses for the betterment of the region. We need a 21st century vision and plan for the St. Louis we want to become, and stand ready to support our leaders and put in the work to take the region to the next level.

As we plan for our future, we should always focus our energies towards principles that ensure community advancement.  We must collaborate, be inclusive, and promote transparency to meet our region’s highest potential. Together, our region can lead in fostering a healthy, active community where walking, biking, and public transit are a part of our daily lives.

–Ralph Pfremmer, Trailnet Executive Director

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Undercurrents, Ethics and Disasters Together

There is an undercurrent brewing in St. Louis (no, not a story on malt beverage).  It's hidden, tucked beneath the radar of local, regional and national media who appear to be working hard to deliver the #ferguson #riotous doom and gloom.  Since all of us seem to be wearing the lead vest of uncertainty , I find it appropriate to mention a couple things contradictory to the abysmal spiral of all things St. Louis.  I am hoping this piece will turn out that way...

There are things happening!  Strategies being put forth and worthy of replacing the ongoing negativity; things centered on recovery and promise, not death and destruction.

Has there ever been as obvious an appetite for blood letting on behalf of the media?  Seriously.  It's as if a shift towards optimism is too risky; too dangerous for opportunistic media, in troubled times. Does highlighting positive change destine alienate readership? Perhaps a "Joplin like" tornado needs to hurry up and hit in order to make way for the story telling of perseverance and the recovery of a city held hostage.  

The difference between the St. Louis disaster and the Joplin disaster is obvious.  Joplin had little or no warning, the other, well... it's complicated.  St. Louis is ready to take the hit and get it over with, regardless of how complicated. The sirens have been wailing for quite a while. 

It's a pity that our sister cities see St. Louis within the ranks of others deeply rooted in conflict that they point to us and simply say "hopeless". It's from a social and economic development perspective that we fall short, among other things. This while the Grand Jury decision holds us in .  And, while we continue to be reactive to all things unfolding. 

With the politics, it's the status quo and St. Louis is no stranger to it. We have come to expect and accept it. It is just not that easy to break out of complacency or it likely would have occurred by now. Other cities and their regions have bottomed out as a result of the same problems: Detroit, Memphis, Birmingham, Cleveland and even Kansas City to name a few.  They had no choice but to organize in a forward motion once their community had had enough.  What's consistent among these cities is the fact that they are notably on the way back with boosted economies.  None are perfect but all are getting better.  The leadership is including everyone in the planning and they are very careful when executing things.

Here in the Lou we have not realized that which is surely our destiny and that which is the result of a sweeping under the carpet.   It is our disaster and we will need to overcome.  We will need to embrace the concept of failure in order to move forward in recovery. We have allowed the system to manage our destiny; on that writes plans and policy for the people vs. the people writing plans and policy for themselves.  

Our contemporary cities might ask: "Is there true cultural inclusion and equality of power"?  

Here it gets complicated too.  St. Louis leadership defaults in to an alignment that masquerades in the form of political and ethnic buffering. As a result things center a little more on keeping power in office rather than focusing on community advancement.  Again, the power making plans for the people, versus listening and helping the people write the plans for themselves.  It is a big hurdle for progress.  It is a functional government impact gap.  

No agenda (or lack of an agenda) can be forced on a community forever. The result is certainly where we are today.  We are in the midst of disaster. My guess is that  most of the people making up the St. Louis region (divided among 91 local municipalities not including IL), would agree.   

As for ethics, one could argue that there are varying levels of ethical standards in government.  We get reminded of this; our local municipalities so often reported on by the media...thanks for that Elliot Davis and others.  The issue of city and county working together and sharing resources is taking place outside of the politics surrounding this issue.  

How about we really hone in on community performance and measure progress outside of political context? The good folks in office have their hands full and are centered on some very important issues during this crisis. They are important to the mix of things but what if choose to utilize our advocates in order to become better united and represented adequately.  There is a difference between a vote and an advocacy membership.  Most advocates are mission driven, purposed, monitored and transparent for all to see.

Lets focus on our vitals without the complications of sorting out the political stuff. Let's define the benchmarks.  Let's monitor our performance by engaging the public for the purpose of writing plans and letting our advocates help get them into policy.  This is the way it should work.  City and County government has much to do, they will get on board. 

How about we create a category to benchmark relating to attracting and retaining young people?  We need to focus on the millennial generation.  They're centered on all things creative and innovative and centered on social conscientiousness .  If we ignore this we will fail.  They will leave. We need infrastructure that lends itself to their comfort and their ability to thrive.  Who would argue that?

How about we focus diligently on alternate transportation?  We can continue to focus on multi-mode transportation and the assets needed to accommodate movement.   This demographic appears centered on returning to the city.

How about an all out focus on the pedestrian?  Let's make accessibility and connectivity to our neighborhoods a priority.  Let's strengthen this infrastructure so that they can become vibrant again. And what about the economic inclusion piece--the people residing in our historic neighborhoods so rich with the spirit of cultural storytelling?  Let's give them access to advocates that listen and introduce opportunities to endeavor while celebrating their heritage. What's keeping us from helping get this stuff moving forward? Lets help them write their plan while helping transcend one generation to the next.

Is the undercurrent brewing powerful enough to embrace the things that will help our community? I think so.  Can we embrace each other and our differences in order to repair this stuff? This is the key.  Are we capable of being more "together" than ever before?  I think the disaster will reveal the goodness of our collective community.  Are we capable of writing a plan together that will celebrate, unite and ignite our future...together?  Yes.