Planes, No Trains, and Automobiles

Sunrise 31 Dec 2011 (looking northwest over Lansing City Hall)

Terry and I attended the local City Council meeting this past Thursday night.  We opted to attend in person first because agenda item number seven directly affected us (see my previous post on the ‘no parking’ sign installed and uninstalled last month on Bambi Court) and, second, because we cannot watch the ‘reruns’ of the council meetings on Channel 2 since we do not subscribe to Time Warner Cable (we are DirecTV customers, at least for the time being).  However, after digging around on the City’s website, I found their media center and discovered they had already posted the video from Thursday night’s council meeting for viewing online by the time I started composing this post on Saturday morning.  Regardless, we arrived about thirty minutes early because we did not know how well attended the meeting would be.  We also thought we would be searched for security purposes, but we were not (a sign posted next to the council chamber entrance stated the obvious restrictions – no weapons, etc.).  A printed agenda lay before the sign, but no printouts of supporting documentation (in particular the two ordinances placed on the agenda).

Prior to the meeting, I overhead a performing arts tidbit of note: The Vienna Boys Choir will perform not one block away from my house next month (February 19, 2012 at 3:00pm ~ Lansing District Auditorium).  I may stop by the Carnegie Arts Center while running errands later today and purchase tickets.

During the Audience Participation portion of the meeting, we heard a report on the success of the past two year’s Kansas Sampler Festival.  At the conclusion of the report, I expected the Mayor to ask if anyone else present had a non-agenda item to present, but instead he immediately skipped to the first agenda item, that of the presentation by Coffman and Associates of the results of their Site Selection Study for the Leavenworth County Regional Airport.   Rather than repeat their entire presentation here within my blog post, I will instead refer you to the public website hosting all the studies (including the Site Selection one):  Leavenworth County Airport Study

Exhibit 3F (Site Selection Study)

I was surprised (well, perhaps not) that the recommended site, of the three sites found feasible, happened to be just a mile or so south of my residence in Lansing, referred to as the Gilman Road Site.  Probably not the most ideal spot from my perspective as a home owner (prop planes flying directly overhead at much lower altitudes than the large commercial jets that fly over to land at KCI on the other side of the river), but I can appreciate the positive economic impact this site would have for Lansing in general and Leavenworth County at large.  Apparently, though, the Leavenworth City Council, and Commissioner Phil Urban in particular, does not agree with my take on the recommend site. He was quoted in a Leavenworth Times news item (published the day before the Lansing City Council meeting) that he ‘hated seeing everything going south.’  He further stated he would vote against the City of Leavenworth ‘being involved in building an airport at the Gilman Road site’ but would vote in favor for either of the other two sites (Coffin Road northwest of Leavenworth or Eisenhower Road to the west – see map above).  The lone commenter to that Leavenworth Times article observed the obvious, but did raise some points of interest.

The regional airport for Leavenworth County is by no means a done deal.  Two more studies need to be completed, but first a sponsor needs to step forward.  A regrouping with the other municipal and county entities looks to be the next action item before anything further can proceed.

The meeting proceed apace soon after the Site Selection Study presentation, with the tabling of agenda item number three.  I did not completely follow the gist of the conversation between the Mayor and the City Administrator, but someone vital (either from the LCDC or another local organization) had planned to attend but obviously had not made it to the meeting.

Agenda item four was quickly approved (unanimously) and we moved on the agenda item five, a request to purchase police vehicles (specifically two Dodge Chargers and a Tahoe).  After a brief explanation by the Chief of Police (at least I assumed he was the Chief of Police … we were not formally introduced) and some questions and discussion from the Council Members, the item was approved (again unanimously).

The next two agenda items dealt with city ordinances (specifically numbers 899 and 900).  Having worked in the legal field for over twenty years, and read many legal documents (including statutes, regulations, municipal codes, briefs, etc. etc. ad infinitum), I really wanted to get my hands on the text of the ordinances.  I held my piece, however, since I had no real options as an observer.  Yes, I could have stood up and inserted myself into the discussion, but I refrained (or restrained) myself as the Council Members were doing a good job of asking appropriate questions and stimulating debate.

Ordinance No. 899 was a rezoning action request for several lots in the Carriage Crossing area.  Greenamyre Rentals owned the lots and needed them rezoned and replatted.   Many questions and concerns were raised, including the ‘chicken and egg’ observation that replatting couldn’t be done without rezoning, but ultimately the action passed (with one dissenting vote by Council Member Andi Pawlowski).

Ordinance No. 900 was a proposed amendment to the Lansing City Code regarding the regulation of parking on public streets during snow and ice removal within the corporate city limits.  Obviously, this is the moment we’d been waiting for.  And although neither Terry nor I stood up to partake in the discussion, we were pleased with the Council Members questions, concerns and actions.   While our two Council Members (for Ward Two) cast dissenting votes, the amendment passed.  My concerns about parking in the cul-de-sac during the other ten or eleven months of the year were alleviated earlier during the debate.   I was again shocked though by the Mayor’s assumption that the discussion had concluded, without opening the floor up to others for questions or comments.  If I had felt very strongly, I would not have hesitated to stand and assert my opinion, regardless of any resulting embarrassment or impoliteness.   The Mayor asked if there were any further questions, but then immediately, without taking a breath, called for the vote.

The meeting quickly wrapped up and adjourned soon after the last agenda item approval.  No reports were delivered by the City Engineer, the City Attorney, the City Administrators or others.  I made my way to the secretary (at least I assumed she was the meeting secretary since she appeared to be taking down the minutes for the meeting) and asked if the ordinances were available for review online.  She said no, at least not until signed, but she would gladly e-mail me a copy of Ordinance No. 900 as soon as it was available.  I left her my business card.

Terry and I returned home, sooner than we thought, the meeting only taking a little more than an hour to complete.  I need to reach out to our Council Members and thank them for listening to their constituents and representing their interests well during the council meeting.

Our brief foray into civic participation ended on a more upbeat note than we originally thought it might.  Perhaps we’ll do it again next month, just for fun.

Rain Showers Instead of Meteor Showers

Photo1005.jpgI got a strange call this afternoon from my daughter’s boyfriend.  I let it go to my voice-mail because I happened to be in the middle of a meeting at that time.  When I got a chance to listen to his voice-mail, I nearly laughed out loud.  I always fear the worst when I get calls out-of-the-blue from my kids (or their significant others), but this time he just wanted to let me know he had heard a blurb on NPR about the peak viewing opportunity tonight for the annual Geminid meteor shower.  I called him back to thank him for the heads up, but I already had at least four other feeds (from various astronomy magazines, clubs and websites) keeping me up-to-date on all things astronomincal.  My biggest hurdle to viewing anything in the night sky this week is the non-stop rain and overcast huddled over Kansas.  Check out tonight’s hourly forecast for my viewing area:

The star Castor in the constellation Gemini nearly coinicides with the radiant point of the annual Geminid meteor shower

So just like what happened last month with the Leonids, I guess I’ll be missing the Geminids this year.  I sure hope 2012 allows me better viewing opportunities for meteor shows, comets and the planets.  I remember May being especially disappointing with overcast skies nearly every weekend.  I finally gave up in August and stored the telescope in the basement because the weather just wouldn’t cooperate with my observing goals and schedule.  I almost retrieved it for last weekend’s lunar eclipse, but since the eclipse coincided with moonset and sunrise, I decided looking through the hazy atmosphere with my camera’s telephoto lens would be sufficient.

Parking Temporarily Returns

Photo1006.jpgLast week I reported my home town Public Works Department had installed a ‘no parking’ sign in my court (and twelve other cul-de-sacs spread across the city).  This afternoon when I turned into my driveway, I noticed the sign had been removed from the pole.  Terry will need to let the band members know they can park in the usual locations for tomorrow night’s weekly rehearsal.  I’m just happy I won’t be juggling cars tomorrow or worrying about where to put them, especially since the wet yard would rut if I had to park some of them off the street.  I doubt my previous blog post could have caused so much fervor that it necessitated the complete removal of the sign by the City.  I know they planned to add an addendum to the ‘no parking’ sign to indicate only during snow, but I assumed a second sign would be attached below the first one.  Apparently, something else is planned and I will keep an eye on the sign post for the next few days to see what develops.

Tips and Teaks

I continue to experiment and enjoy the enhancements of the Nook Color software update 1.4.1 released yesterday.  I encountered some diminished functionality from a couple of websites I frequented.  After trying the usual things (clearing cache, cookies and history and powering the device off), I chatted with a customer service representative at Barnes & Noble.  I didn’t agree with his proposed solution and while he went seeking advice from a higher power (second tier tech support), I stumbled upon a solution.  I updated yesterday’s blog post to include my findings.

Continued Prayers Please

My husband saw the specialist today and a biopsy is scheduled for three days before Christmas.  Your continued prayers for healing, strength, understanding and patience are greatly appreciated.

Heads Up: No Parking Allowed in Bambi Court

New Signage for Bambi Court (07 Dec 2011)

I came home to a new sign on my court yesterday.  I had wondered why the back corner of a neighbor’s yard had spray paint and yellow flags stuck in it.  Now I know.  My husband had quite the adventure yesterday dealing with our City‘s employees, ranging from the Public Works Department guy who attempted to hand-deliver an undated letter to our Rottweilers and the Police Department who seemed conveniently unaware of what the ‘left  hand’ at the Public Works Department was doing to the ‘right hand’ of law enforcement.

But let me back up a bit.


View from Sign Facing Back Towards Our House

Terry had left the front door open, but the screen door (with the glass recently installed instead of the screen to help weather proof the front entry) because he was watching the Public Works employees install the sign across the street from our house.  He went back downstairs, either to the band room to check something on the computer, or downstairs to the basement to the laundry, when one of the Public Works guys attempted to attach the aforementioned undated letter to the front door.  Roxy and Apollo definitely had something to say about that, in their usual loud and assertive manner.  Terry hobbled back upstairs to rescue the guy and accept the letter.  He wasn’t up to answering Terry’s questions, so my husband paid a visit to the Police Department at City Hall (just a couple of blocks south of where we live).

Bambi Court - Before
Bambi Court - After

Terry asked the receptionist for the Police Department about the new no parking zone, showing her the letter he had just received. She was not aware of the change. She joked that she had not receive that e-mail (similar to the old ‘didn’t get that memo’ line). Terry also confirmed he had not received an e-mail. She sent him across the street to the building that houses both the Lansing Community Library and the Public Works Department.  He finally got clarification of exactly where the ‘no parking zone’ in our court started and stopped (see before and after aerial photos above – courtesy Google Maps and MS Paint).  Basically, you can safely park to the south of my driveway and directly across the street from there on the east side of the ‘straight’ part of our court.

For added drama, last night happened to be band rehearsal night, so I rearranged all the vehicles to accommodate the return of the percussionist and his drum kit.   The Firebird shivered out of the garage and huddled behind the vanpool van, both of which took up the entire left hand (south side) of my driveway, leaving the garage and the right hand side open for loading and unloading of equipment.  The Bonneville hunkered down in the yard under the pin-oak next to the van and the Firebird.

After juggling the cars, I gave Roxy and Apollo some attention before sitting down to read the letter.  I snorted at the sentence claiming they took ‘the initiative to post the areas, with confidence that the benefit to residents outweighs any inconvenience’ (see link to full letter above for context).  I can understand the City’s concern with respect to snow removal.  Last winter, we had an unusual amount of snow fall, more than I can remember going clear back to the 70s.  And, our court hosted an uninvited guest for several months (see nearly buried white pickup in photo below). Yet most of the year (ten months at least) I don’t need to worry about snow removal or ice accumulation.

Groundhog Day 2011 Blizzard Cleanup

Even if the white pickup truck had not taken up residence on our court last winter, the operator of the snow plow still managed to gouge a portion of my yard not a part of the circular court, and where no one dares to park (because it’s too close to the stop sign as you exit Bambi Court):

Groundhog Day 2011 Blizzard Cleanup and Yard Gouging

So I resolved to myself to take the letter with me to work today, where I can easily scan it and convert it to a searchable PDF file format.  After scanning the letter, I went searching around on the City of Lansing’s website and found the e-mail address of the Director of the Public Works Department.  I wrote down several questions I had thought of during the commute to work this morning and quickly composed an e-mail to him asking for a response at his earliest convenience.  Here are the questions I posed in my e-mail:

  • Was a public meeting held to discuss this change to the parking policy as respects cul-de-sacs in the City of Lansing?
  • If there was a meeting, was public notice posted? If yes, where (newspaper, website, etc.)
  • Was a special effort made to contact those who would be most affected by the policy change (namely anyone living on a cul-de-sac)?
  • Where are the minutes from said meeting (if it occurred)?
  • How many cul-de-sacs were affected by this parking policy change? Please list them.

His response, while brief, came in a timely fashion (within thirty to forty-five minutes of receipt).

Thanks for your e-mail.  We are in the process of ordering supplemental plates for the No Parking signs that will add the legend “During Snow.”  The decision was made based on the history of difficulties as reported by the operators.  Thirteen locations were identified.

Public Works Director, City of Lansing

I don’t know why I expected to get actual answers to my questions, but I am encouraged that citizens’ voices have been heard as a results of this tempest in a tea pot.  I can only infer from the brief response above that no public meeting was held (or even thought of for that matter).  The City employees (i.e. snow plow operators) unilaterally ‘voted’ these parking zones into existence based on past problem areas.  At least a caveat is in the works, but for the time being, the parking availability in my little corner of the world is in limbo.

If you stop by for a visit, please don’t hesitate to park in my driveway or along the street to the south of my driveway.  Just don’t park in the obvious spot in front of my house next to the mail box, at least until the second new sign is tacked on to the existing new sign to limit the no parking times to snowy conditions.

Thanks to the City of Lansing for this early Christmas gift.  It will make holiday gatherings so much more enjoyable.

Corner Yard Saga Continues and Other Updates

Storm Takes Out Streetlight 04/15/2011
Storm Takes Out Streetlight 04/15/2011

A little more than a month ago, on the ides of April, one of the early spring thunderstorms took out the streetlight that graced the corner of my yard.  At the time, I jumped for joy at the prospect of stargazing with less light pollution than ‘normal’ in my over-illuminated urban area.  Ironically, except for a handful of nights, the sky remained overcast for the past six weeks.  I began to wonder if I’d been transported against my will to the Pacific Northwest.  I’ve completely missed the pre-dawn planetary line-up (Mercury, Mars, Venus and Jupiter), even on ‘clear’ mornings thanks to haze, humidity and wispy clouds just thick enough to obscure the eastern atmosphere.

New Streetlight, Same Over-Illumination
New Streetlight, Same Over-Illumination

This week, the power company installed the new streetlight pole and rewired it to the leaning pole in the southwest corner of my yard.  That’s the pole they really should have replaced as with the current thunderstorm activity, I predict it will be the next victim.  Either the City of Lansing or the power company opted to continue over-illuminating the neighborhood by installing a standard cobra drop-lens fixture instead of the flat-lens cobra luminaire, which is a full-cutoff fixture, is very effective in reducing light pollution, ensuring that light is only directed below the horizontal, rather than directing light outwards and upwards.  Not only are the nights getting shorter (and more humid), I now get to look forward to seeing less stars, constellations, planets, galaxies and nebulae.  At least the moon has some chance of competing for a few days each month.

I snapped a couple other photos of the state of that corner of the yard, mainly the huge pile of dirt around the base of the new streetlight:

What to do with the dirt?  Tamp it?  Water it?
What to do with the dirt? Tamp it? Water it?

I wonder what type of grass seed the City chose for the patch of yard the snow plow scraped off earlier this year:

The Grass is Greener ...
The Grass is Greener ...

I’ll leave you with my final photo of the evening, a bit of flowery brightness to lighten the mood:

First Day Lillies
First Day Lillies

Plowed Yard Update

Back in early February, when all of northeastern Kansas was being bounded by a blizzard of ice, snow and frigid temperatures, the overeager local City maintenance personnel thought to help me with snow removal not only in my court, by in the my yard as well.  (See my previous blog post for the ‘before’ photos).

The City stopped by sometime this week and ‘repaired’ my plowed yard so here’s on the ‘after’ photos:

City Repairs Plow Damage to Moss Yard
City Repairs Plow Damage to Moss Yard

We’ll see if the grass takes root.  I don’t have a hose long enough to reach from the front of the house clear to the corner of Bambi Court and Fawn Valley so I can’t readily water it.

Since I had my ‘good’ digital camera in hand, I wandered back up to the house and took a macro photo of some of the persistent early spring flowers growing on the south side of my house:

Pretty Pink Early Spring Flowers (I have no idea what it is)
Pretty Pink Early Spring Flowers (I have no idea what it is)