Monday, April 15, 2013

[dog] Parks and Rec: Shreveport Edition

Stop me if you've seen this episode of Parks and Recreation (if you haven't seen Parks and Rec, stop reading.  You probably aren't my target audience).  During the episode, some of the town's citizens decide they want a dog park.  You know, a fenced in area where dogs can be let off the leash to run about and socialize with other dogs.  The group of citizens works hard, builds grassroots support, raises funds, secures funding from appropriate sources that will result in no cost to the city for park construction, and identifies a suitable site.  Then, the city council votes and unanimously approves a measure to complete the dog park.  Then, right before the credits, the Mayor vetoes the measure, saying he wants the money for something else.

Oh, wait--that wasn't an episode of Parks and Rec.  That is the basic story of the past few years of the Shreveport Dog Park.  The Shreveport Dog Park Alliance (Facebook) has worked hard for several years now to bring a dog park to Shreveport, and the events that have unfolded seem ripe for adaptation to a TV sitcom.  Do you remember the first season of Parks and Rec?  When Leslie and co. work hard to turn an abandoned lot--and it's giant pit--into a park?  It seemed like a great idea, an open and shut project for Ms. Knope.  However, as she soon found out, nothing is that easy in local government.

In Shreveport, Mayor Cedric Glover has become the primary obstacle to the dog park.  The funds have been secured from the Red River Waterway Commission (read:  not costing the city a dime), the people have demanded it, and the City Council has approved it.  Why is Glover not on board?  Mainly, he wants the Commission's funds to be used for other riverfront improvements.

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(The Mayor and City Council eyeing the $280,000 appropriated for the dog park).

These may also be worthy projects, but there's a catch that the Mayor doesn't seem to recognize:  the people of the city have decided that the most worthy improvement to the riverfront is the dog park.

As seemed destined from the start, the matter has now headed to the courts.  The Alliance has filed a lawsuit and Mayor Glover has been compelled to testify at a hearing as to why he has yet to act on the wishes of the city and approve the dog park measure.  Seriously, it sounds like a TV plot.  The city of Shreveport is actually about to go to court and expend who knows how much in legal fees to defend an indefensible decision to reject free money in exchange for building a dog park that has almost universal community support.

So why do we need a dog park?

In the current age of people clamoring for smaller government and budget constraints, it can be easy to say no to a dog park.

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(How park opponents view spending money on a dog park)

After all, dogs can't vote, so who cares about them.  Well, the park isn't for the dogs (it is, of course, but not just them), it's for the dog owners.  Dog owners care greatly about their dogs, and having a park to run, play, and socialize is great for the dog's overall health.  The dog park helps improve physical, mental, and emotional health for dogs.  It's also a great place for dog owners to socialize and gather.  You build the park for the dog owners, and there are a lot of them (and a lot of voters).

But you aren't even building it for the votes.  You're building it for the people, to get them to live here.

The dog park has become a central part of a modern urban landscape.  Having one shows that, as a city, you're serious about joining the 21st Century, that you're serious about attracting young, intelligent, talented individuals to your city, and that you know what it takes to appeal to the hundreds of thousands of college graduates entering the workforce and looking for work.  It may have been that many years ago, college graduates found a job, and the job determined where they would live.  This isn't the case today.  More and more it seems that young adults choose where they want to live, move there, and then find a job.  Ask any business owner today what you can do to create a more business friendly environment, and one of the top answers will be, "Make this place more attractive to young adults and recent grads."

Shreveport could be a great option for many recent college grads.  As discussed in my post on civic pride, Shreveport has a lot going for it:  good weather, low cost of living, good nightlife, grad school options, the River, and a location that makes it easy to get away to Dallas, Houston, or Austin for a long weekend.  On the surface, I think Shreveport would be a natural destination for any recent grads in North Louisiana, East Texas, Arkansas, and even parts of Oklahoma.  However, our location also puts us in competition with some real heavyweights:  Austin, Dallas, Houston, Baton Rouge, Oklahoma City, and New Orleans are all within a six hour drive, and all have tons of appeal to the same demographic that Shreveport should be striving to attract.  And these places have great dog parks.

Auditorium Shores Dog Park in Austin, Texas.  Mr. Glover, what part of this picture do you not want in Shreveport?

Would all those potential new residents have dogs?  No, probably not.  Probably not even half.  But that's not the point.  The dog park is an integral part of the modern city, and even people without dogs can recognize that something is missing.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bracketology: The Bracket

Well, here it is.  The bracket of contenders for The Joffrey, aka title of Worst Street in Shreveport.  It's also been brought to my attention that I should clarify something.  This is not a battle for worst street to live on, street with worst crime, worst neighborhood, or anything like that.  It's a battle for which road is the worst in terms of the road's quality, it's purpose, use, and friendliness towards bikes and pedestrians.  So if you're surprised Sprague street isn't on the bracket, that's why.

Some of the seedings and selections may seem a little strange.  For instance, you may be wondering why Youree Drive, Bert Kouns, or others didn't make the list.  Well, this is based on the unique perspective of a cyclist for one, and for another, living in Chicago and Austin has given me a different perspective of traffic in general.  For instance, you may think that Youree Drive traffic is bad, but it's not.  Trust me on that one.

Hopefully the selections will become more clear as the matchups play out and my summary of the match explains how each winner (or is it loser?) gets the nod to move on.

Everywhere my phone (read: me) has been over the past two weeks.

Also, I'm open to some input on the North and West Shreveport sections.  As you can see from my Google Latitude map, I don't make it to those areas of town as often as others.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

See-Saw-a-Thon: Bring your own chafing ointment

April is one of my favorite months of the year.  It's warm and sunny during the day, slightly cool at night, and all of a sudden there are tons of outdoor activities going on--things that you forgot existed during the cold and dark of winter.

My favorite April activity involves something you probably haven't been on in years:  the see-saw.

Each April, the members of the LSUS chapter of Kappa Sigma Fraternity hold their annual charity fundraiser, the See-Saw-a-Thon.  No--don't stop reading--it's not a fundraiser for the fraternity chapter.  None of the funds raised go to the chapter.  All the proceeds--usually in the neighborhood of $3,000--are donated to a charity.  Some of the charities supported in the past include:  Wounded Warrior Project, Right to Play, and The Fisher House Foundation.

So how is the money raised?  Well, that's the fun part.  There's a giant see-saw.  Like 30 feet long giant.  And it starts moving Friday at noon and it won't stop again until Sunday at noon.  Two straight days of see-sawing.  The majority of the see-sawing is done by the members of the fraternity, but if you want to stop by and take a ride, or bring the kids to ride, you are more than welcome.  And if you haven't been on a see-saw since elementary school, you might be surprised just how much fun it is.

Of course, if the see-saw isn't your thing, there are other activities--and food--so come out anyway, and drop off a few bucks while you're at it.  The sight of grown men see-sawing is worth the trip.

The Details:

When:  Friday, April 12th at 12:00pm until Sunday, April 14th at 12:00pm.
Who:  The members of LSUS Kappa Sigma
What:  A giant see-saw.  For 48 hours.
Where:  The front lawn of LSUS, at the northeast corner of Millicent and Youree Drive.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bracket Madness: Crowning the Worst Street in Shreveport

In case you haven’t heard, an annual collegiate roundball tournament of some sort just recently ended.  I’m not clear on the details, but it was something involving peach baskets and tall college kids.  Also, it seems as if the main reason the tournament exists is not so that fans can cheer their teams, but rather so that employees across corporate America can spend their March wasting time completing a bracket that will be shot to hell as soon as the first games end.

But, it did get me to thinking:  What if there was an NCAA Basketball style tournament to crown the worst street in Shreveport.  It would no doubt be a hard fought battle.  There are some pretty bad streets in Shreveport.  So bad that Mayor Glover has been campaigning on that one issue for years now.  If only there was someone with enough time on his hands to waste it creating a pointless bracket for exactly this purpose…


Guys, I think this is a job for yours truly.  After all, I spend quite a bit of time riding a bike on the streets of Shreveport, and the bike gives you a perspective that you just can’t get from behind a car steering wheel.

The first step is deciding which streets will be included in the tournament.  In order to keep the number of candidates to a manageable quantity, only major streets will be included.  By major, I’m not saying it has to be on the level of Youree Drive, but it has to be a road that sees a good deal of traffic or provides a particularly important route of travel (even if that route doesn’t see too much traffic).  So, if I leave your street out, sorry (maybe I’ll do a second tournament for the smaller ones, an NIT worst street tournament, if you will).

Next, we set up the bracket.  Just like the NCAA tournament, we’ll have four regions:  North Shreveport (including Downtown), West Shreveport, South Shreveport, and Bossier.  Each region will have its selected streets seeded, set up in a bracket, and faced off against each other.  Once we’ve got a winner of each region, there’ll be a final four showdown to determine the worst street around.

Of course, there needs to be criteria by which the streets will be judged.  Again, we’re looking for the worst street in Shreveport.  Here are the factors that will determine how each street ranks:

·      Road surface—the streets here are pockmarked worse than my face in the 8th grade, many featuring craters that swallow bike wheels whole.
·      Traffic conditions—this one could get tricky.  We’re looking at traffic conditions relative to each road.  For instance, if traffic is 10,000 cars an hour at 75 mph, then that’d be no big deal on I-20.  However, it’d be a huge deal on Fairfield.
·      Bike/pedestrian friendliness—This could almost be a subcategory of traffic conditions, but I’m going to separate it.  Also, this will be relative to the street.  Bert Kouns doesn’t need to be very pedestrian friendly—but East Washington should be.
·      Purpose—this might be the most vague of all, but it’s an important consideration.  Why is the road there?  Is there a need for it?  Does it serve a purpose other than costing money?

Each street will be scored on these categories for each round.  In each matchup, the two streets involved will only be competing against each other, and will be judged accordingly; previous scoring won’t matter once the street advances to the next round.

And finally, of course there needs to be a prize.  A crown.  And since this is a contest for worst street, what better prize than The Joffrey:

 I can feel the suspense building already.  Who will take the crown?  Will it be a perennial powerhouse for worst street, like Airline Drive and its traffic or Bert Kouns and its high accident rate?  Or, will a Cinderella step up and make a run (I think Southfield could be a dark horse contender)?  March may be over, but the madness is just beginning.

If you have a vote or comment, let me know.  If you're a regular reader you know I'm lazy and this is a lot of work, so if you want to help out with a street suggestion, I'm all ears.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Going Micro

Last December, I took a trip with some friends to Boston.  On the surface, the purpose of the trip was to go see a Patriots football game.  For me, though, I was mostly going to see a city I'd never seen and to immerse in the renewing energy of a city.  (Some people take camping trips in the country to recharge; for me, it seems most effective to do the opposite).

Anyway, the trip was a blast.  We did a lot of the things you're supposed to do when you visit Boston (Cheers, anyone?).  We went to the game.  The Patriots won.  It was all fun.  But without a doubt, the most fun experience of the trip was a visit to the Boston home brewery of Harpoon Brewery.  For $5, we got a full tour of the brewery, including this storage area, where bottled beer waits for a truck:

The tour finished with complimentary tastings of their full product line (and a few experimental batches).  Of course, this was the whole reason we went.

(The brewer/tour guide giving the rundown on the 14ish available brews)

Microbrews, once isolated in niche markets of Colorado, Utah, and Oregon, are gaining lots of attention nationwide.  Even as the alcohol conglomerates of the world are swallowing up many regional favorites, Americans are shunning the idea that their only choice of beer is Bud or Miller.  And now, it seems that Shreveport is getting in on the action.

First, New Belgium Brewing Company secured distribution in Louisiana, bringing arguably the best known craft beer to the Shreveport area.  You can use their Libation Locator to find a store/bar stocking it (as of now, no results in Shreveport, but I'm sure that will change soon).

Second, a better, is that two breweries are slated to open in Shreveport:  Red River Brewing Company (facebook) and Great Raft Brewery (facebook).  Red River does not plan to have a tasting room, but Great Raft's plans do include a tasting room.  Unfortunately, the location is not as close to downtown as would be ideal, but it's just a short bike ride away.

Having these two breweries is a great step in the right direction for Shreveport.  As Shreveport residents branch out and try the new local beers, they will hopefully be inspired to discover other great small, local businesses.  In addition to the jobs and revenues directly generated by the beer sales and distributions, this attitude change could send ripples that will have a positive effect for small businesses throughout the area.