Monthly Archives: December 2007

Can new commissioner steer the GDOT in the right direction?

GDOT LOGOThe Georgia Department of Transportation was all over the news last week. According to the new commissioner of the agency, the place is like Thunderdome. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution story cuts right to the chase:

“The state Department of Transportation is a mess, its new leader said Wednesday, after learning over the past month that no one knows how many hundreds of projects it really has going —- but that just one group of them will cost a staggering $4.2 billion more than estimated. Gena Abraham, eight days in office as commissioner of DOT, said Wednesday that her new staff couldn’t tell her how many projects the department has on its books, giving her answers ranging from 1,100 to the latest answer: 9,211, of which 2,470 are active.”

I think the Department of Bridges and Highways would be a better name for the agency. While it does have a bicycle and pedestrian program and a picture of train on its Web site, the GDOT’s main goal is to maximize the flow of automobiles. This is almost always accomplished by the installation of larger pipes, meaning wider roads. In this regard, it’s not unlike transportation departments in other parts of the country. Take, for instance, this description of the New York City Department of Transportation:

Run mostly by engineers, the DOT treated streets as an engineering problem: How do you move as many motor vehicles as possible, as quickly as possible? The streets themselves have mostly remained grim, unattractive, and (ironically) jammed.

That’s from a New York Magazine story about “Reasons to Love New York.” No. 35 on the list is transportation chief Janette Sadik-Khan. How do her views diverge from those of other transportation officials?

“According to Sadik-Khan, New York streets should be brimming with activity, not cars. She wants to see broad sidewalks filled with people and elegant street furniture, public plazas with places to sit and chat, and bike lanes where children feel safe on their bikes.”

Could Abraham be our Sadik-Khan? Opinions are mixed. A story in the Albany Herald doesn’t provide too much to get excited about:

“Emory Morsberger, a Gwinnett County developer and chairman of Georgians for the Brain Train, the head cheerleader for a planned commuter rail line linking Atlanta and Athens, noted that Perdue’s strong backing of Abraham isn’t a positive sign for rail enthusiasts. ‘She’s the governor’s person, and the governor has been our main roadblock,’ Morsberger said. ‘(But) I’m optimistic that she’s going to be able to get the governor to realize we’re falling behind other states and cities.’”

The Gilmer County Times Courier is a little rosier:

“According to Abraham, the majority of projects have been focused on road and bridge building and maintenance as opposed to developing methods of public transportation. Public transit is a definite consideration in the future of the department of transportation. Additionally, Abraham emphasized that she is deeply concerned about preserving the integrity of the environment.”

Either way, the current chaos at the GDOT provides an important opportunity to refocus the agency on projects that serve all Georgians, not just those who own and operate automobiles. Here’s hoping Abraham is the woman for the job.

It’s about more than produce…

The map at localharvest.org still doesn’t show much happening in community gardening or Community Sustained Agriculture in Savannah or Chatham County.

Nonetheless, there are people around here who are and who have been bringing organic farm products to their families and this community all the while. They are working on the community garden thing and even residential communities too.

Meet Michael Maddox, an organic farmer/gardener in the Bloomingdale area who sits on a 25-acre organic homestead. Maddox has presided over this land and tended it, organically, for some 15 years. Using learned tricks of the trade and tending a passion for gardening, he has provided produce to local restaurants and stores while also working a day job all these years. … Now, Maddox is looking to develop his land into a sustainable community. At this site, no more than a dozen 1.25- to 2-acre lot owners will commit to and share the concept of sustainability. Residents will have access to the gardens and orchards on the property and will be encouraged to take part in the growing process and harvest. The community garden could be opened to the public as well.

Maddox’s vision is to have the project ready to roll this spring. It could well serve as a template for small sustainable communities in the area. Maddox posted a comment under community gardens on this site and provided his e-mail address for those interested in more information.

Connect Savannah on Tommy Linstroth’s “Local Action: The New Paradigm in Climate Change Policy”

Local Action CoverSummer Teal Simpson writes about Tommy Linstroth’s new book, “Local Action: The New Paradigm in Climate Change Policy” in the Dec. 11 issue of Connect Savannah. Linstroth is head of sustainability Initiatives at Melaver, Inc. and president of the Savannah Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.

“Linstroth’s book transcends the traditional dialogue on climate change to present approachable, community-level solutions to an international crisis. Linstroth’s tactic is manageable and empowering, asserting that the unwillingness of the federal government to take action does not equate defeat for the masses. He takes something that is so unequivocally caught at the global level and addresses it through the local lens. To be sure, he says, ‘there is pressing need to take action now to fight climate change — and if it won’t happen at the federal level, let’s do it all across the nation at the local level.'”

The story includes quotes from Sean Brandon, assistant to the city manager, and Patty McIntosh of the Georgia Conservancy. Read the full text of Simpson’s story, “Fighting climate change at home,” here.

Georgia Organics 11th Annual Conference begins

The theme of the Georgia Organics Annual Conference is “Quantum Leap: Taking Food and Farms back to the Future.” The event will be held at the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center in Dalton. The Keynote presenter is George Siemon, CEO of the nation’s largest organic dairy cooperative, Organic Valley. The conference continues through March 1.

For more information, visit the conference Web site.