Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's Not The Depression

Faithful readers will note that this isn't the first post to rail on traditional media's fear tactics in comparing the current economy to the Great Depression. I must commend the Free Lance-Star for the article in today's paper about how the city of Fredericksburg made it through the Great Depression.

On November 14th, one of the wisest men that I knew passed away, my grandfather. This is the man that spend numerous hours taking my brother and me fishing, hunting, or just spending time telling stories about his childhood. One of the things he didn't talk much about was the Great Depression. However, when he did, you knew to listen closely. It's the story about why he owned the family farm, since he was the oldest son, and when the depression hit, he returned from college to help make ends meet. There was no extra money for college. The family raised what they could, and saved wherever possible. He spent time as an organizer for the CCC, which resulted in many public works projects in their rural area. It wasn't a time when they thought much about what they wanted to be, but rather took what work was available.

I've been thinking about how to write this post for a while. My first thought was how disgusted my grandfather must be that our generation is even thinking about comparing the current economic stumbles to that of the Great Depression. Even compared to the Gas rationing in the 70's, this doesn't come close. Maybe there are a few comparisons the real estate crash in the 80's, but I haven't seen much in the papers. In general, a large proportion of American (and world) society is more impacted by the negativity in the papers than anything else. Many of us have seen losses in the market, and are experiencing reduced values in our homes, but there is still food on the table, we still have our cell phones, and cable TV.

Lets look at how the blow has been softened. The good 'ol gov't has upped the saving deposit insurance to $250k, so that your bank account (and your business's) are safe. They have stepped in to bail out a number of reinsurers and certain large financial institutions to ensure continuing coverages and services. They have extended certain unemployment benefits, so that if you get let go at work you can draw unemployment for a longer time. At the same time, the market has finally started showing that bad business plans don't need funding, as evidence by the tightening credit market. Real estate mortgage rates are still at historic lows, and all those foreclosures are bringing back 'affordable housing'. Softening the blow even more is the return of $1.50 a gallon gas prices. Break out the Hummer!

Jeremy Siegal at Kiplinger has a great column in the Dec '08 issue, "It's Not a Depression:
We are better off today as we confront the current credit crisis".

Is this our spring cleaning for the economy? Having been employed through the 'dot com' bubble and bust, lets just say that back then we pointed out how stupid it was to finance invest in companies that had no plan for profitability.

So in a tilt of the had to my grandfather (who would also tell me we had it easy compared to taking the 'cart' to school in the snow), I completely agree that we have it easy compared to the Great Depression.

Monday, November 24, 2008

2008 Candlelight Tour

Join HFFI for the 2008 Candlelight tour
38th Annual Candlelight Tour (View Info Summary Page)

Saturday, December 13, 2008
11 a.m. to 5 p.m.( for general admission)
6 p.m. to 9 p.m.(for Private Tour Ticket holders)

Sunday, December 14, 2008
12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Featured Homes this year:
99 Caroline Street – “Steamboat Landing”
101 Caroline Street
129 Caroline Street
133 Caroline Street – “Sentry Box”
134 Caroline Street
201 Caroline Street – “Pink Lady”
205 Caroline Street – “Victoriana”

Monday Rant: Is it that bad? Really now?

On a Monday when I open the paper, and read about yet another bailout, I think back to the weekend and wonder if we aren't getting just a bit of fear 'vertising. That's my new word for how the government pitches anything now that they want the entire country to back. First it was weapons of mass destruction, now its the economy.

Let me give you a few concrete Fredericksburg shopping examples. In the current bad economy, I could not for the life of me locate a $250 blackberry Storm. This is admittedly a splurge. Yet I must not be the only one willing to throw away some hard earned cash. Neither could I locate a Wii Fit, another non-necessity.

What the hell? Aren't people supposed to be saving up, skipping the fun stuff in exchange for doom and gloom?

So let's say it like it is! Retail has been spoiled by opulence and over abundance. Will the lesson be learned this year? For some reason I doubt it, but quit your whining and get on with it. I see smart businesses making much needed improvements now. I also see worthless businesses going under. A steak house in central park closed. Why? People like us never ate there because there were better places to go.

Consider 2008 a spring cleaning of the economy. And if anyone sees a Wii Fit in stock, email me.

(ps, before anyone slaughters me for being out of touch, we do have close family that has been affected by layoffs and/or closings. Everybody needs a rainy day fund.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Events this Weekend - the Holiday Season Is Upon Us

A bevy of plays are floating and twirling around town this weekend. We have it good authority that it's well worth the trip to go see Christian Youth Theater perform "Willie Wonka Junior" at Spotsylvania High (I'm branching out of city events for this one). Friends attended this performance last weekend and offered to baby-sit Bennett for the night so that we could see this weekend's edition. Looking forward to the experience.

Reading the paper this morning, the FLS has a great article about the various versions of 'The Nutcracker' around town. The one by the Academy of Ballet at James Monroe High looks like a winner. I was surprised that there are four other regional choices, fitting for a variety of ages and wallets.

Ok, so I don't leave out the adventurous types, it looks like KC's downtown (central station) is having a variety of bands on Thursday night, and are also doing their Friday Night Rocks. Along with the normal open mic nights and free bands at your favorite hangouts.

Anyone else notice that on several event calendars there is Salsa dancing almost every night of the week? Friday night there are Salsa lessons at no less than three places.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mixed Use May Finally Be Coming to Fredericksburg

I just received notice of the Dec 10th planning commission meeting, and item number 4 on the agenda is particularly interesting:

4. Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment- Amendment to the City Code Chapter 78,
Zoning, Planning and Development, Article III, Zoning, by adding a new division,
Division 34, Planned Development Mixed Use. This new mixed use district is being
proposed to assist in implementing the goals and policies of the 2007
Comprehensive Plan.


Finally, like many of us that have been discussing zoning issues with the city have been arguing, the city needs to allow mixed use zoning. This is a classification that is popular in many localities both urban and rural. I've heard it was discussed once for Central Park, walkable communities. We've heard words like this from several council members. Yet the discussions seemed to be dominated by oversized housing and parking. Here is a zoning change that makes sense.

FYI - Mixed use zoning just allows for what used to be common sense building, putting markets in residential areas, so that people could walk down the store and pick up what they needed. Why we ever got away from this, and instead went for cookie cutter neighborhoods is beyond me.

Dine At Chili's for Charity

The Fredericksburg Boy's And Girl's club and Chili's are combining forces on November 26th for Spirit Night. If you print out this flyer (link) (it's 3.5Mb, so it may take a little while to load). 10% of your check will be donated to the Boy's and Girl's Club. This is good at all three Fredericksburg, VA locations:

Fredericksburg
3104 Plank Road
540-548-4270

Fredericksburg
10010 Southpoint Parkway
540-898-6666

Stafford
1030 Stafford Market Place
540-288-1212

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Medicorp ID Theft

WOW, what a huge mistake by our local hospital. They need to have a serious talk with their PR person. This quote was in today's FLS about an lapse allowing personal info out onto the web for all to see. Jina Kaikey is the privacy officer for Medicorp. (from the FLS, see the entire letter here):

"We have been assured by this individual that he did not download, copy,
distribute, save or otherwise utilize the information he accessed," Haikey
wrote.

Oh yes, we can trust this one individual because he said we can trust him. Ok, but what about all the people that aren't telling you the truth. You've got to be kidding me. I'm appalled. I'm so, so, so very glad that when we went to pre-register for the birth of our son, there was a confusion and we registered by phone.

Maybe I'm paranoid, but in my line of work, that's what keeps you safe.

VDOT politics as usual

That's how I read this article about porous friction course, a porous asphalt alternative that is being tested out by VDOT. This came to my attention through this FLS article, but was actually reported last month in the Washington Post. In the article, VDOT spokesman was quoted

"Noise barriers are expensive, not to mention some people don't like the look of
them," said McGhee, referring to the walls that line highways near residential
areas. Such barriers can cost $2 million to $3 million per mile.

Now I'm angry, VDOT care's more about some snot complaining about noise after they CHOSE to build their house next to a roadway, than the benefits of using porous surfaces to prevent environmental disaster. If VDOT incurs expenses of 2-3M per mile of noise barrier, they should turn around and bill the developers. One caveat, if a new road is constructed next to existing houses, then I'm all for those barriers being part of the deal (look at what might be happening here with the Rappahannock Parkway, and a link here for a picture).

I know some readers like to see data to ensure benefits are real, so here is a link to a study on particulate conentrations in stormwater before and after the use of P.F.C. It sure would be nice if there were some incentives to using this stuff for parking lots in the area. It will also be interesting to see what VDOT's five year studies show for the improved bonding compounds and whether they can withstand wear and tear as expected.

[10pm update] A commenter also suggested this link for the Potomac River watershed stormwater runoff analysis:
http://www.potomac.org/site/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/pc_sonr_web.512kb.pdf

I'm getting more and more concerned that actions today to 'wait and see' are risking huge future borrowing in order to fund corrections to major environmental impacts for either my generation, or my son's generation.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

UMW, many love you

I was disturbed by the front page story in the FLS today about a UMW commissioned study about the amount of financial benefit the college brings to the area. Why? A number of us live here, partly due to the vibrance that the university provides to the community. The article indicated the study was commisioned in response to comments about the recent real estate purchases by UMW. There was a comment from city council about the recent request for a special use permit to use a house next to the university as business offices. The house is nothing special, and I thought I remember that when it was purchased it was for future access to additional parking for the fields. Who exactly is complaining about UMW?

Really, does UMW feel that there are that many people that don't like it in the community that they had to hire a consultant to perform this analysis? Well let me state it here, in this house hold the university has two huge fans. I'd love to see the city partner with UMW on an arena (example 1 and 2) where national artists could come for performances. We have recent proof of the capability of the city to handle rapid influxes of people from the area.

According to the study, the conservative impact is $115 over all of the regional localities. I doubt if Spotsy or Stafford have complained at all about the university. Even looking at the conservative estimate of several million here in the city, shows what a huge impact, not to mention the ability to draw President Elect Obama. The Obama rally cost the city even less than the Palin rally at the city's own park.

So whoever is taking issue with UMW, consider what the pitiful value of your home would be without the draw of students nationwide. Without the regular influx of new faces, families, and friends that keep interest in this city high.

Meet the New City Commonwealth's Attorney

Technically, you will be meeting the three candidates, but after the election in December, one of the three candidates will be the one. According to City Beat, Dec 3rd at 7pm, there will be a forum at city hall where you can meet all three candidates.

http://www.fredericksburg.com/blogs/view?blogger_id=20&p=1226586342

Want a city Grant?

Have a business? Run a non-profit? Ever wonder how some businesses got their grants in the City of Fredericksburg? The city has posted an official document on the EDA grants, which cover four areas:
• Non-Profit Grant Program
• Event Grant Program
• For-Profit Corporation Grant Program
• JumpstART! Grant Program

EDA grants will be done on a cycle three times a year, the applications must be received by either March 1, June 1, or October 1.

These are not the large multiyear incentives packages, there are limits on total funding costs.
http://www.fredericksburgva.gov/notices/EDA_grant_criteria_rev111008.pdf

1st Annual Tree Planting Weekend

Still looking for something to do today? The city is trying to create an annual tree planting day. The first one is this weekend.
First Annual Fall Tree Planting Event
Saturday, November 15, 1:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Rain date: Sunday, November 16, 1:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Volunteers are needed to plant 100 trees (3 gallon containers) throughout the City of Fredericksburg. Meet at Maury Park (corner of William Street and Kenmore Avenue) at 12:45 p.m. Please bring gloves and a shovel. This event is sponsored by the Fredericksburg Department of Public Works, the Fredericksburg Beautification Commission, and Tree Fredericksburg.

We will be planting trees in the utility strips (grassy areas between the sidewalk and the street) throughout the City. We are looking for locations where neighbors will agree to water the trees for a year. We are also looking for individuals who are interested in planting a tree in their front yard (in the City) that will be watered and thrive and become a canopy tree. This event is open to all individuals free of charge. If interested in more information, call Anne Little 373-4594.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Google Street View has Arrived in Fredericksburg

Check it out! You can now view street level images from google maps in and around Fredericksburg. Some residential areas are not mapped, but most all other areas are.

LINK


I particularly like this picture downtown. How many lanes are there, five? Doesn't matter that the previous images show plenty of parking, some people just have to be right up front. And before you say that person is backing into a spot, the next image doesn't show back-up lights.

image courtesy google maps



View Larger Map

Freebies This Weekend

Looking for some excitement this weekend. I was updating the events listing for this website and pulled out a few freebies that I thought folks might be interested in.

First, start off with First Fridays. Even though the weather has turned a bit colder, the art galleries and businesses downtown that support artists are still putting on this great series of shows this Friday. Come out and check out your favorite artist, or find something new that you haven't seen before.

Then head out for a little post First Fridays camaraderie and listen to these NO COVER bands:
The Griffin Bookshop - Laura Shepherd, 7:30pm
Colonial Tavern - Ashland Miller Band , 9pm
Bistro Bethem - Bucky & The Blues Buckets, 10pm

Saturday, if you have children, or are a big kid yourself, you might want to head over to Spotsylvania Towne Center for the arrival of SANTA at 10am. If you're the artsy type, there is a craft show at the armory. Finally, if you missed the good music on Friday night, Shoredigger's Cats is playing at The Griffin Bookshop for no cover at 7:30pm.

While you're out spending a little dough, don't forget to get your Boys & Girls club raffle ticket. Drawing is November 12th.

City Tree Planting Volunteers Needed 11/15

First Annual Fall Tree Planting Event

Tree Planting Event - Saturday, November 15, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Rain date Sunday, November 16th 1:00 p.m.- 4:00 p.m.
Volunteers needed to plant 100 trees (3 gallon containers) throughout the City of Fredericksburg. Meet at Maury Park (corner of William Street and Kenmore Avenue) at 12:45 p.m. Please bring gloves and a shovel. This event is sponsored by the Fredericksburg Department of Public Works, The Fredericksburg Beautification Commission and Tree Fredericksburg.
We will be planting trees in the utility strips (grassy areas between the sidewalk and the street) throughout the City. We are looking for locations where neighbors will agree to water the trees for a year. We are also looking for individuals who are interested in planting a tree in their front yard (in the City) that will be watered and thrive and become a canopy tree. This event is open to all individuals free of charge. If interested in more information call Anne Little 373-4594.

Events In The 'Burg

2009 Events Posted HERE.

I'm adding a link right under the title banner on the website so that visitors can immediately find this posting at InTheBurg.info

2008
Nov 28 - Children's Christmas Tree Lighting @ Hurkamp Park
Dec 4-5 - Holiday POPS @ 7:30pm Dodd Auditorium UMW
Dec 6 - 23rd Annual Fredericksburg Christmas Parade
Dec 13-15 - 38th Annual Candlelight Tour
Dec 31 - First Night Fredericksburg

Open Mic Night happens every Second Thursday of the month @ the Wounded Bookshop

(Shows listed on this page are gathered from other websites, and are subject to change. Check the original links to verify.)

If anyone events, contact me and I'll gladly add them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Proud Election Day Dad

Proud of getting the chance to take my little guy to vote on Tuesday. What a historic day!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama Wins Fredericksburg

http://fburgnews.com/2008/11/obama-wins-fredericksburg/

Future Voter, and comments on polling places

Wow, it's been over a week since I could get away from family business to write a post. Had to get back to town in time to cast a vote. Very good experience this year. Check post here.

"At 2:30pm, the city’s ward 1 polling station was operating well.
There was no line, the multiple stations to check ID was working much better
than the last election, and people were friendly. There was a full parking
lot. There were more than 2100 ballots cast by the time I finished,
considering that in 2004 there were only 3284 registered voters in Ward 1,
that’s a nice turnout.

Hopefully the city registrar will keep up the good work, and we don’t end
up with any issues like Richmond
VA
.

Way to go Fredericksburg!"


Bennett snagged a Future Voter sticker as soon as he went in. I know he won't remember this historic election, but hopefully he will read about it in the history books.

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