Sunday, July 03, 2005

My Continuing Attempts at Community Activism

Here's a letter I want to send to my local economic development leader. I haven't sent it off yet....the same night I typed it up I read engineer-poet's amazing new discovery solution to peak oil. I thought if this really was a solution to the peak oil dilemma then this economic developer will eventually deem me crazy.

Dear Mr. XXXXXX:

My name is XXXXXXXXXXX and I am a lifelong resident of Logansport. I am an RN who has worked nights at the Logansport Memorial Hospital on the Medical Floor for 10+ years. As I’ve become older I’ve become increasingly civic-minded and wish to better our local community for future inhabitants. That is why I decided to write to you. I have many ideas but I don’t know who to give them to or how to make them a reality. I’m not a pillar of the community who has lots of wealth or prestige with which to carry out my wishes. However, I am very encouraged to see what you’ve been trying to do for our community since you’ve taken the position, and some of your publicized ideas are similar to some of mine.

You are probably aware of energy-related concerns already, but I have great concern for the sustainability of our local community in the face of future energy predicaments. The ethanol plant is a wonderful beginning and could become beneficial to our community in the “energy independence” sense. However, we are far from being a fully sustainable community at this time. I’m aware that it is beneficial at this present time to reign in large businesses which would provide an increase in local employment, a decrease in certain taxes, and which would create local economic growth. What I feel is even more important is the need for locally-derived businesses and attractions which could buffer the event of any large business leaving for different reasons if they so choose to which has happened often in the recent past.

Some of my ideas are two-fold in purpose. Number one is to create businesses and attractions that could sustain us in the event that transportation and distribution of goods from outside sources becomes too expensive and harder to come by in the future. I am a proponent of this scenario. More expensive transportation costs would mean higher prices and cuts in supplies and deliveries to our small locale. It would not be cost-effective for larger businesses to locate here or remain here if this became a reality. One of the lesser but just as important purposes for my ideas would be to encourage area tourism which would also boost local economic growth and create local sustainability in the process.

My first sustainability concern is food production. For example, if transportation costs skyrocketed, as I believe they will, the salad trucked in from California or those oranges coming from Florida or the bananas from South America might not be quite as affordable here and may also become limited in supply. For this reason, I see a need of support, economically, for locally-grown food. Not only through the farmer’s market, but I would like to see some sort of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). This has become a growing phenomenon on the coasts and upper Midwest. The closest one to Logansport is almost 3 miles away in Valparaiso. The closest one south of us is in Bloomington. I may be a little slow at this because I’ve never done it but I’m attempting to gather names of local producers to see if there’s any interest in such a thing. If you have the time, visit and you can see all of the CSAs, coops, and farmer’s markets in the nation. The growth in just farmer’s markets since 1994 has been at 104%.

Another thing I’m going to try and do is to contact a grocery called Trader Joe’s. Now this is a larger business but one that’s doing quite well in parts of the country. They test-taste all their own food before putting it in their store, they use non-brand named foods, emphasize organic and non-genetically modified products. This is a service that is not available anywhere around here for miles as far as I’m aware. There is one located in Indianapolis near Castleton right now. Their website is I think this would be a really neat store located in the downtown area somewhere that would draw people into town. I don’t have the money, resources, or know-how to create my own business, so I thought this might be the next best thing.

My second sustainability concern is local transportation. We’re on our way to a great trail right now. What we also need, in my opinion, are more biking paths and a light rail system. My grandpa is 96 years old and has lived here since the days of the interurban and trolley systems. The interurban used to transport people to and from area towns including Kokomo, Peru, Royal Center, etc. With the advent of an ethanol plant in the city and also the potential for soy diesel on a large scale so readily available, we could create a system run on biodiesel which would be locally derived. This would make a unique tourist attraction at first and create revenue for the city. Eventually, as transportation costs increase to the point where it will be too expensive for the less fortunate to have their own transportation, our community could fall back on this light rail system initially developed for tourism. Both uses would help to pay for it. Instead of a poorer individual pouring his/her expenses into owning a vehicle and its expenses, the expense would be poured back towards the rail system for the community’s own benefit. I realize many auto dealers/makers might be against this idea but it is what is going to happen in the future and I would like to address it before it occurs. People could have cheaper transportation and businesses would not lose employees due to lack of a means of transportation. Here is a link to a history of interurbans: Indianapolis, in fact, had one of the largest interurban stations in the world. Wouldn’t that be a great historical attraction, source of employment, and source of revenue? This may not concern your role but you may be able to find someone interested in re-developing something like this in our city?

Lastly, in my concern over energy independence, I would like to see extra local tax incentives for existing and new businesses that locate here to encourage the use of solar, wind, or another of several forms of renewable energy in addition to the incentives already provided by federal and state government. This would lessen the load on our locally-owned utility plant which might not be able to handle it otherwise. I’m thinking large energy-consuming businesses in this case. Here is a link to business incentives for renewable energy already: and our community could provide something on top of this. If you haven’t seen this already, please take a look! It could be something you can add in your incentive package to those businesses shopping for a place to locate, and it would help our community as well.

These are some of my ideas. As you can tell, I’m an internet “nut” and I’ve studied a lot of websites with information based on economic development and urban revitalization because it‘s just that important to me. If these things do not concern your area of expertise then I would ask to whom may I direct my ideas? Maybe also the new urban planning director from Jamaica as well? Please feel free to share this letter to those who might be interested. If you would like to have a meeting to discuss whatever it is that I can do to help, I would be glad to meet with you or the right person., if not you. My phone number is XXXXXXXX or I work in the evenings/nights at XXXXXXXX.

Energy independence and community sustainability may not be at the top of your list of economic development priorities but I feel that is one of the most important upcoming issues facing our community in the near future which will affect every aspect of our community‘s existence. I want to be a part of tackling this problem before it gets here if I can. Thank you for your time.


So that's it. Is it too alarmist? As always, we Cassandras mustn't be too alarming, you know. We must be politically correct!

There is also an opening for a local executive director for
Logan's Landing which is a non-profit downtown business revitalization group. It requires a degree and computer experience which I have. It will consist of managing the fundraising, grant writing, public relations, and volunteer coordination which I don't have any experience. I'm also a nurse, which isn't really related to this type of work. So, I don't think I would be one of their first picks if I applied. It sounds like whoever got this position could do alot of things if they knew how and if it was the right person! I'm interested but kind of afraid because I don't know how to do the grant writing thing.

Anyone have any experience with sort of thing?

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