Welcome to my planning blog

Welcome to the Folio Design Studio blog, for all things environmental, scientific and community. Ever wonder where we get our water, how long our water supply will last, or what the State is doing to preserve its grand open space and clean air? This forum is for you if you want to share information with others about things you have learned and want to see happen in your community. Topics such as Low Impact Development, Smart Growth, Legislative Agendas, Water Conservation, Water Management, Afforestation, Farming Practices, all will be covered in one way or another. This blog is a community effort, so we welcome your ideas and information, thoughts, opinions, and campaign initiatives and events. Controversial topics are especially welcome. This blog is to present controversies and generate dialogue that can help us all reach our goals of a better, safer community. Just as a watering hole provides water and respite to animals in search of a haven, this blog will serve as a gathering place around a common resource: our minds and desire to make better communities happen.


Katrina tacos?

Katrina Brought a Wave of Hispanics
Monday, July 2, 2007 3:02 PM EDT
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — For proof that Hurricane Katrina is transforming the ethnic flavor of New Orleans — and creating altogether new tensions — look no further than the taco trucks.
Lunch trucks serving Latin American fare are appearing around New Orleans, catering to the immigrant laborers who streamed into the city in search of work after Katrina turned much of the place into a construction zone.
The trucks are a common sight in barrios from Los Angeles to New York, but controversial in a city still adapting to a threefold increase in Hispanics since Katrina.
Officials in suburban Jefferson Parish recently banned the trucks as eyesores and health hazards. New Orleans officials said they welcome the new business, but promised to make sure the number of vehicles does not exceed the municipal limit.
The mobile luncheonettes are operated mostly by Mexican and Central American families.
“I’m looking for an opportunity. That’s why I left my country, and that’s what led me here,” said Maria Fuentes, 55, who came to the United States from Mexico a decade ago and settled in New Orleans after the storm. “This is the first time I’ve owned my own business and my dream is to have traditional restaurants, not trucks, all over this town.”
The six-wheel vans have Spanish names emblazoned on their sides like “La Texanita” and “Taqueria Buen Gusto,” and, like street vendors in Latin America, serve such dishes as carne asada, or grilled steak, pork and chicken, garnished with sliced radishes and diced cilantro.
Beverages include tamarind- and guava-flavored drinks, often in the old-time bottles that require an opener, just as in Latin America.
The trucks usually park on street corners in areas with heavy construction activity, attracting laborers and native New Orleanians alike.
“It’s better than Taco Bell. I can tell you that,” said Michael Gould, 53, who lined up at Fuentes’ truck during a recent lunch hour.
Still, the Jefferson Parish councilman who restricted the trucks characterized them as unwanted residue from the hurricane.
“We’ve been trying to handle blighted housing, FEMA trailers, abandoned housing,” said Louis Congemi, whose zoning ordinance takes effect this weekend and is expected to clear the parish of taco trucks. “This is just one more thing we’re trying to get under control to make sure we bring our parish back to normalcy.”
Congemi added: “You have to be concerned about the cleanliness of these vehicles.”
Louisiana state records show licenses for about 40 taco trucks in Jefferson and Orleans parishes. They are inspected annually, like all street vendors.
“They’re up to speed with their licensing,” department spokesman Bob Johannessen said. “We haven’t received any sort of complaint about food quality, anything that would indicate a public health concern.”
New Orleans officials said that because of the Jefferson Parish ban, they will watch the number of trucks that move to their city and will enforce rules limiting the number of food vehicles to 100 on non-festival days.
Nevertheless, “I’m more than sure it is welcome in the city,” said David Robinson-Morris, a spokesman for Mayor Ray Nagin. “It is providing a service, and it is a part of our sales tax revenue.”
New Orleans has seen its Hispanic population rise from 15,000 before the storm to an estimated 50,000 now, according to the city. The city’s overall population has dropped from about 450,000 before the storm to about 250,000 now.
In the months after Katrina, the mayor created a furor when he was quoted as saying: “Businesses are concerned with making sure we are not overrun by Mexican workers.” In his subsequent re-election campaign, however, he praised Hispanics for their work ethic.
Fuentes operates her truck with daughters Karina, 31, Carolina, 20, and business partner Pedro Reyes, 57. They said they rise every morning at 4 a.m. for prep work, then set up shop at the corner of Canal and Robert E. Lee boulevards by 8 a.m.
Their workday ends at 6 p.m., after they have cleaned up the mobile kitchen for the next day.
It took $52,000 in savings to start the business, including $25,000 for the used van. Fuentes said the start-up costs have recently been paid off, and now the family is saving for their first restaurant without wheels.
“That’s what they call the American Dream, isn’t it?” she said. “I really like the people here in New Orleans and we want to live here and have our business here.”

Flood insurance


Does flood insurance pay for your housing while you wait to buy another house, or how does that work? How long does it take for people to get their money? I guess they get enough to pay off the mortgage, but what about having a house to sell? How can they get another house?

Insurance if they have the right one will pay for content, cleaning or rebuilding the house and any repairs. It possibly allows you to build a new house at the cost of today’s prices. But a lot of flood insurance doesn’t pay for the right stuff because they don’t tell people. The basic insurance only pays for structural damage. For some reason insurance agencies don’t tell people this. No it maybe different once a federal disaster area is declared the FEMA may pay for more.

First published July 3, 2007

The moral of the true story of the Kansas flood

This is from a Civil Engineer (!):

Just recently the Federal Government passed the law that three strikes and you [sic] out. So if you get flood [sic] four times they wont [sic] pay. People try to control mother nature and you can’t so you tell me how smart we are as a society.
Moral of the story: Respect Mother Nature and don’t buy a house in a flood prone area.

First published July 3, 2007

Rebuilding Greensburg, Kansas

Greensburg is slated to be the premier energy efficient and environmentally-friendly town in Kansas, following the tragic tornado event on May 4, 2007. In light of this, I asked the resident engineering team a few things. Below is the conversation.


Is Greensburg, Kansas planning to build heavy industrial upstream from town?

Engineers’ Response:

Greensburg is planning to build heavy industrial upstream from town. That is WHERE it has always been due to proximity to rail service and 4-lane adjacency. The heavy industrial is not that terrifying – considering that the required grain elevators and fertilizer services have always been on the north edge of the City. They are just enlarging the industrial tracts somewhat because of the relocation of the proposed Highway 54/400 issues with KDOT; and the funding opportunities resulting from Rural Development and FEMA programs. They want to be ready with some parcels to offer industries who wish to move back OR industries they may be able to attract for future growth.

Planner’s Response (Mine):

About the industrial initiatives, they need to make sure that possible hazards are mitigated – would like to see how the Hazard Mitigation Plan due to FEMA is incorporating those industrial growth plans, in light of what happened in Coffeyville. I think from now on, planners should advise cities to try to locate potentially polluting industries (in event of a breach, accident, etc.) downstream, to avoid having contaminants travel downstream THROUGH town.

So much for the environmentally friendly and energy efficient cutting-edge new town in Kansas.

First published July 5, 2007

Ecuador’s constitution grants rights to environment

It is gratifying to read on this 11th day of September that Ecuador is proposing a new constitution that grants inalienable rights to the environment.

A 130-member Ecuador Constitutional Assembly, charged with re-writing the Constitution, has proposed five articles aimed at protecting the environment and granting individuals standing in court to defend these environmental rights, if the government were to fail to do so.

Chapter: Rights for Nature

Art. 1. Nature or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution.

Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognitions of rights for nature before the public organisms. The application and interpretation of these rights will follow the related principles established in the Constitution.

Art. 2. Nature has the right to an integral restoration. This integral restoration is independent of the obligation on natural and juridical persons or the State to indemnify the people and the collectives that depend on the natural systems.

In the cases of severe or permanent environmental impact, including the ones caused by the exploitation on non renewable natural resources, the State will establish the most efficient mechanisms for the restoration, and will adopt the adequate measures to eliminate or mitigate the harmful environmental consequences.

Art. 3. The State will motivate natural and juridical persons as well as collectives to protect nature; it will promote respect towards all the elements that form an ecosystem.

Art. 4. The State will apply precaution and restriction measures in all the activities that can lead to the extinction of species, the destruction of the ecosystems or the permanent alteration of the natural cycles.

The introduction of organisms and organic and inorganic material that can alter in a definitive way the national genetic patrimony is prohibited.

Art. 5. The persons, people, communities and nationalities will have the right to benefit from the environment and form natural wealth that will allow wellbeing.

The environmental services are cannot be appropriated; its production, provision, use and exploitation, will be regulated by the State.

56 per cent of Ecuadorans are said to support the proposal which will go to a vote on Sept. 28. The world is watching.

Sources: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2008/09/04-7


First published September 11, 2008

Environmental groups respond to biofuels lobby

Apparently, environmental groups today sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calling on the agency to reject industry efforts to weaken global warming standards for ethanol. The letter comes on the cusp of EPA calculations of greenhouse gas emissions that are the result of the use of biofuels. In keeping with the energy bill set into law last December, these calculations are expected to include indirect externalities such as land use changes as they affect greenhouse gas emissions.

It has been found that emissions from land use changes, such as deforestation activities that surround biofuel production, are twice the emissions released during gasoline consumption.

The bottom line is that ethanol production causes the significant release of greenhouse gas emissions, leading to further global warming and climate change, consequences that biofuel production ironically intends to address.

Source: http://www.enn.com/top_stories/article/38554

First published November 3, 2008

Thomas Jefferson’s wisdom applicable today

“We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our selection between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debts as that we must be taxed in our meat in our drink, in our necessities and comforts, in our labors and in our amusements, for our callings and our creeds…our people.. must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, give earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses; and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live.. We have not time to think, no means of calling the mis-managers to account, but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow suffers. Our landholders, too…retaining indeed the title and stewardship of estates called theirs, but held really in trust for the treasury, must…be contented with penury, obscurity and exile.. private fortunes are destroyed by public as well as by private extravagance.

This is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle becomes a precedent for a second; that second for a third; and so on, till the bulk of society is reduced to mere automatons of misery, to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering… And the fore horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in it’s train wretchedness and oppression.”

— Thomas Jefferson