"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.

Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has"

Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
(used with permission)

"If you don't like the news .... go out and make some of your own !!"

Wes "Scoop" Nisker, Newscaster


Government is a slow and tedious process. While it often includes citizen and neighborhood involvement, non-governmental, private organizations have created movements and interesting groups which can create positive change in our cities and towns.

I am fascinated by the way groups are created and how they influence public decision making. This blog merely recognizes them and forwards the description of these groups from their own websites.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Historic Green

Location; New Orleans, LA

Website : www.historicgreen.org

In 2007, several emerging young leaders of the U.S. Green Building Council’s volunteer network rallied the green building industry to commit more knowledge and resources to rebuilding New Orleans, which was still in recovery mode in the aftermath of the 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

With more than 85% of its existing homes listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the need for environmentally responsible action was clear. So we started "Spring Greening", our annual greening event in the Lower 9th Ward.

We created an alliance with the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, who had set the objectives of carbon neutrality by 2020 and climate neutrality by 2030.

Our mission is to assist and lead in the transformation and restoration of under-resourced communities through education and service and with a focus on heritage conservation and sustainable design. All people are empowered to revitalize and sustain their communities, creating bright futures and celebrated pasts.

We do so by the following principles:

- Develop a healthy environment, sustainable living, equitable economic development and community empowerment, and conserve a community’s cultural uniqueness.

- Resource communities that have faced disaster or decline from natural and/or human causes such as social inequity, climate change and habitat loss. We help communities build civic and economic capacity through sustainable restoration of the built and natural environment.

- A community decides what is integral to its heritage and identity and needs to be restored and preserved. We educate our volunteers about the sense of place, and we value a community’s right to enjoy its natural surroundings and celebrate the local heritage.

- Share resources. We value collaboration, avoid competition and look for ways to become members, not merely volunteers, in the communities we serve.

- We respect the professional technical expertise of designers, builders, and tradesmen, and we treasure the deep local knowledge of community members and organizations. We engage professional design and construction experts who turn local values into the right ideas for the built and natural environments.

- We appreciate volunteer, partner and community member education. Community members, technical experts and volunteers all have valuable knowledge and skills to share, so we create many opportunities for learning.

- We help young, emerging talent become green restoration leaders.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Jane's Walk

Location: International

Website: www.janeswalk.org

Jane’s Walk celebrates the ideas and legacy of urbanist Jane Jacobs by getting people out exploring their neighbourhoods and meeting their neighbours.Free walkin g tours held on the first weekend of May each year are led by locals who want to create a space for residents to talk about what matters to them in the places they live and work.

Since its inception in Toronto in 2007, Jane’s Walk has expanded rapidly. In May of 2013, more than 800 walks were held in over 100 cities in 22 countries worldwide.

The main Jane’s Walk event takes place annually on the first weekend of May, to coincide with Jane Jacobs’ birthday. Jane’s Walks can be organized and offered any other time of the year by enthusiastic local people or organizations, although the first weekend in May is where we focus our organizational energies and resources.

Jane’s Walk honours the legacy and ideas of urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs who championed the interests of local residents and pedestrians over a car-centered approach to planning.

Jane’s Walk often takes Jacobs’ ideas to communities unfamiliar with her ideas, in order to advance local engagement with contemporary urban planning practices. The walks helps knit people together into a strong and resourceful community, instilling belonging and encouraging civic leadership.

Thousands of people have taken part in a Jane’s Walk. Past walks have explored a wide range of urban landscapes, from social housing slated for redevelopment to areas with a rich architectural and cultural heritage, to teen hangouts and secret gardens.

Walks are led by individuals and small groups. Some are focused around historical themes more than geographical areas, for instance, some strolls have been built around ideas like the urban forestry, gay and lesbian history, places of relevance to the homeless, the history of ‘skid row’, and urgent planning matters facing certain neighbourhood. The walks offer a more personal take on local culture and issues. They are not a tourist driven initiative but an insider tour of a neighbourhood that helps open up a friendly, engaged discussion amongst interested participants.

As always, people face a complex array of challenges and hazards in our social and built environments. The decline in physical health is a problem that is exacerbated by our reliance on mechanical modes of transportation that burden our environment and infrastructure.

When it comes to making improvements to the livability and vibrancy of neighbourhoods, people are often isolated or unaware of others who may share their interests. Jane's Walk attempts to do this by the following:

- Help bridge these gaps and encourages people to explore the sidewalks they use for the basic tasks of daily life – tasks like shopping, getting to school and work.

- Help make cities and streets safe for all users. We encourage people to get out and walk not just for recreation, but for basic tasks of daily life, shopping, schools and work. Walking not only improves health, it increases social cohesion and connection.

- Help pedestrians by providing a simple walkability tool kit, available on our website, which gives the basic tools for recognizing, discussing and improving local walking conditions.

Jane’s Walks are usually organized by a broad network of people and groups who share a common concern for making cities more livable but a spectrum of approaches and observations about the neighbourhood, the city, the past and future are welcomed.

As with all community organizing, the wider the network, the lighter the organizational load for everyone. A key principle of Jane’s Walk is that it is self-organizing and self-selecting. Tour guides don’t have to be familiar with Jane Jacobs’ work to lead a tour, but we encourage people to find out more by reading her books or consulting our website for more links and primers on her ideas.

Jane’s Walk was inaugurated on May 5, 2007 in Toronto by a group of Jane Jacobs’ friends and colleagues who wanted to honour her ideas and legacy. They decided upon a simple, adaptable, and what would prove to be, an internationally successful concept – free neighbourhood walking tours led by local volunteers. Mary Rowe, Margie Zeidler, Chris Winter, Alan Broadbent and Ann Peters made the first Jane’s Walks happen that year with 27 tours. Attendance and buzz exceeded all expectations.

CBC broadcaster Jane Farrow, one of the inaugural tour guides, quickly came on board to explore how Jane’s Walk could be shared with other cities. That fall, she organized the event in New York City, making sure to include a range of neighbourhoods outside the core and in the process showcased an exciting variety of perspectives on city-building and community organizing. It was clear that Jane’s Walk filled a need people had to talk about issues affecting their neighbourhoods, and as such, had unlimited potential in helping communities find their voice.

Since then, Jane’s Walk has been successfully exported and adapted to many more cities. The event and its namesake, Jane Jacobs, mobilizes local residents to get out and share the stories of the urban spaces they know and love, to meet neighbours, to explore common cause in making improvements and celebrating their successes.

Jane’s Walk has expanded beyond the confines of an annual event by researching urban and suburban walkability conditions in association with Paul Hess of the University of Toronto Geography Department.

We are also engaged in consulting with planning firms and municipal stakeholders in how to make the city more walkable and welcome the input of local residents. Jane’s Walk has been adapted in schools and used both in classes and as an extra-curricular activity.

The City of Toronto has made good use of our bank of neighbourhood tour guides, getting employees out on ‘discovery walks’ and getting to know how their policies have an impact on people and places.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Beautiful Downtown Lewiston

Location: Lewiston, ID

Website: www.beautifuldowntownlewiston.com

Beautiful Downtown Lewiston evolved from efforts of the Lewiston Chamber of Commerce, downtown business and property owners and the City of Lewiston to revive efforts of previous downtown organizations, including the Port City Action Committee.

As participation and interest in the downtown revitalization increased, the organization left the umbrella of the Lewiston Chamber to become a stand alone non-profit organization. Beautiful Downtown Lewiston is a 501(c)3 organization, directed by its own by-laws and board of directors. With support from citizens, property owners, business owners and the City of Lewiston, Beautiful Downtown Lewiston is spearheading the task of revitalizing Lewiston’s downtown district.

Through application of the Main Street Program, Beautiful Downtown Lewiston is working to create a vital downtown district which promotes quality business, cultural and community growth.

Beautiful Downtown Lewiston has adopted the principles of the Main Street™ program, due to its 30 year history of proven success across the United States. The comprehensive four point approach emphasizes:

Organization involves getting all stakeholders to work toward common goals. Proper financial and human resources need to be identified. The basic framework entails assembling a governing board and standing committees. This volunteer-driven design also needs coordination and support from a paid director. The outlined structure promotes cooperation and consensus building, thus providing stability to build and maintain a long-term effort.

Promotion creates excitement downtown. Special events, marketing, advertising and retail promotions all aid in showcasing the district’s authenticity and work toward creating a brand for downtown. In addition, the promotions create consumer confidence in the district, resulting in increased commercial activity and investment in the area.

Design enhances the attractiveness of the business district by capitalizing on its assets. Enhancing appearance, developing maintenance and design management practices, encouraging historic building rehabilitation, incorporating long-term planning are the cornerstones of this piece. Creating an inviting atmosphere where consumers gravitate to shop, work, play and live. Design improvements result in a reinvestment of public and private dollars to downtown.

Economic Restructuring involves analyzing current market forces to develop long-term solutions. Retaining businesses, recruiting new businesses, and sharpening the competitiveness of downtown merchants are examples of economic restructuring. Converting unused commercial space into economically productive property heightens the profitability of the district.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

California Forward

Location: California

Website: www.cafwd.org

Over the last generation, our systems of government have failed at dealing with our state’s challenges. We aren’t getting the results we need from public programs; lawmakers are mired in gridlock; and budgets are out of balance even during good times.

There is growing concern that this dysfunction is not only impacting public programs, but the economy and the confidence of entrepreneurs to do business here.

Perplexed by the increasing dysfunction of the state’s fiscal and political systems, five major California foundations –

The California Endowment
The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
The James Irvine Foundation
The David and Lucile Packard Foundation

– came together to create California Forward, charging it with reshaping the future of the Golden State by fundamentally changing the way government operates.

California Forward was created by combining projects from California Common Cause, Center for Governmental Studies, New California Network, and The Commonwealth Club of California's Voices of Reform Project.

The organization has established itself as a trusted, influential, and bipartisan public interest effort, with an unwavering commitment to making government work better.

Our early steps toward reform include:

- the fiscal mess through budget reform.

- Changing political incentives with redistricting and the top two primary.

Restructuring state and local government to drive innovation and results.

California Forward's mission is to work with Californians to help create a "smart" government – one that’s small enough to listen, big enough to tackle real problems, smart enough to spend our money wisely in good times and bad, and honest enough to be held accountable for results.

We’re different from other efforts to reform our state, because we believe in the importance of working together and understand that only robust public discussion and the creation of broad coalitions can move solutions forward.

California’s state and local governments must work better together for everyone. If Californians can come together to restructure the relationships between state and local governments, the experience of other states indicates that in five to seven years, we will begin to see the benefits of better governance and renewed private investment.

Continuous improvement in the performance of education and social programs will allow the state to shift resources from prisons back to universities. Efficiencies and innovation in regulation will allow businesses to pay higher wages, while still remaining competitive. Growing middle-income jobs will reduce demand for public services and increase tax revenue.

Restructuring California’s government can be the beginning of a cycle – improved education, increased employment, decreased poverty, improved health, and less crime – that can lead to the best possible outcome: A government that achieves positive social gains in a financially sustainable way.

California Forward believes we can revive the California Dream and turn our broken government into an efficient, effective body, focused on performance, accountability, and transparency. But we must all get involved.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Location: International

Website: www.appmycity.org

It’s official! Entries are now open for AppMyCity!, the New Cities Foundation’s annual competition for the world’s best urban mobile application. Mobile app developers from all over the world can submit their apps.

AppMyCity! promotes and rewards mobile apps that improve the urban experience, connect people, and make cities more fun, fair, vibrant and sustainable places. The winner will be selected and announced at the New Cities Summit in Dallas on June 17 – 19, 2014, and will receive a prize of US$5,000.

This year, we’re excited to be teaming up with Guardian Cities ;to launch the contest. Everyone, not just developers, is invited to join the conversation and suggest their favorite urban-related mobile apps via Twitter. Applicants have until April 18 to submit their apps. We’ll announce the 10 semi-finalists on May 6

A group of expert judges will assess the semi-finalists and select three talented finalists, which will be announced on May 21. The finalists will join us at the New Cities Summit in Dallas to present their apps. The winner will be picked via a live audience vote and walk away with the US$5,000 prize.

AppMyCity! winner, Bruno Aracaty, co-founder of Colab, Brazil, commented:

"Winning AppMyCity! was a tipping point for us and completely changed our lives. After the contest we had several meetings with the most important city managers in Brazil and we were invited to speak at numerous conferences. We had a surge in the number of new users and we managed to raise venture capital to further develop our app. After the Prize, our ‘project’ became a ‘company’.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Location: Sacramento, CA

Website: www.sactomofo.org

Sacramento Mobile Food (SactoMoFo if you wanna get familiar) wants a level playing field for mobile kitchens. We believe these entrepreneurs deserve the same opportunities for success that other businesspeople enjoy, and to further awareness and build support we produce street food-centric events throughout the greater Sacramento region, to showcase their product, and their positive impact in our community.

Their tasty food is only the beginning. These small business owners buy local produce, meat and bread products, pay local sales taxes, add affordability and diversity to the local food scene, hire local workers, and offer aspiring restaurant owners an entry point into the possibility of the American Dream. Some of the local food trucks are already well on their way there, and have opened local restaurants, created even more Sacramento jobs and have generated thousands of dollars in sales taxes.

Additionally, food truck owners are heavily vested in their local communities and generously give back. In 2013 alone, food trucks working with SactoMoFo raised thousands of dollars for organizations like the Rebuild McKinley Park effort, Toys for Tots Foundation, the California Firefighters Foundation, the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services, the Whole Foods Foundation, the Getty Owl Foundation and various others.

The Sacramento region is the farm to fork capital of the country, and offers a myriad of great local food opportunities by ways of the various farmers markets, the multiple ethnic restaurants and the wide variety of local gourmet restaurants that are owner operated.  We see food trucks as a natural extension of this great community, and hope you will love them as much as we do. Come join us at an event, and experience it yourself!

Some interesting facts about the food truck industry:

Food trucks were the #1 small business opportunity of 2011 according to Forbes Magazine. Food truck owners buy their products and produce, and spend their earnings in the communities they serve, creating a virtuous circle.

Food truck roundups are family-friendly community events, with entertainment and food geared to the entire family.

By discarding the formalities of a sit-down restaurant, food trucks encourage patrons to make new friends while eating a great meal and supporting local small business owners. 54% of food truck consumers said they otherwise would have eaten fast food.

Vanishing SF

Location: San Francisco, CA


In her recent article in the London Review of Books, Google Invades, Rebecca Solnit writes:

“The Bay Area is once again a boomtown, with transient populations, escalating housing costs, mass displacements and the casual erasure of what was here before. I think of it as frontierism, with all the frontier’s attitude and operational style, where people without a lot of attachments come and do things without a lot of concern for their impact, where money moves around pretty casually, and people are ground underfoot equally casually.

VanishingSF is an index of stories, events and not-so-random facts documenting the impact of this new frontierism on the people, communities, and cultural life of San Francisco. This page is for everyone who loves San Francisco. If you have an item that you would like featured on this page, please tell us about it.