Pipeline Whack-a-Mole

Didn’t I write this column already?

The one where I say, hey, it’s so awesome that New York state banned fracking, but companies are still trying to criss-cross our state with new pipelines that allow gas fracked in other places to get to market—whether that market is New England, or abroad via tankers.

The one where I explain how these companies who care for nothing but a quick buck and destroying the climate in the process are using eminent domain and federal regulations to force us to allow them to transport stuff across our state that (a) does not benefit us and (b) needs to stay in the ground for the future of humanity.

Oh right, I did. Continue reading

Zone It Right

In case you missed it, Albany is redoing its zoning code. Given that portions of it date back to 1968, conflict with each other or are too vague to consistently interpret, and are scattered through about a dozen different chapters of the city code, this is a good thing. Just by making something consistent and accessible, the city will vastly increase its friendliness to people who want to open businesses, rehab houses, and otherwise participate actively in the ever-evolving landscape that is a city. Continue reading

On Flags and Losing

I am glad the Confederate Flag is coming down in so many places. I am also glad that the attention on it has allowed its actual history as a explicit symbol of race hatred and resistance to civil rights and desegregation, rather than a battle flag, to become more widely known. It is good that we having an opportunity to clear up the “it was about states rights” lie, even if some politicians are avoiding it.

I have been more uncomfortable with the number of people in my own social networks who have been arguing that one of the reasons that the flag should come down is that it is a symbol of treason and after all, “the South lost!” Continue reading

The Anti-Bucket List

I’m turning 40 soon. Like so many of my cohort who are doing the same, I never expected it to be a big deal. I remember being really turned off by “over-the-hill” jokes when my parents turned 40, and never quite understood the desire to stay 29/39 forever. I’m not so sad to put my 30s behind me.

And I stand by that. But the passage is notable, perhaps more notable than I expected to be, and I have found myself thinking for a while about how to mark it. This idea has been at least a year in the making. Continue reading

Stitching the City Together

The map of Albany on the screen, at quick glance, looked a little like a heat map of poverty and distressed neighborhoods, with one large red area over the Sheridan Hollow, Arbor Hill and West Hill neighborhoods, and another over the South End. There was a knowing intake of breath among the various neighborhood leaders and civic activists attending the Albany Roundtable’s May 21st event.

But the map that Dr. Mindy Fullilove (left), the evening’s keynote speaker, had put on the screen was not a current map. Nor was it a descriptive exercise reporting on building conditions or poverty.

No, that map was a cause. Continue reading

Safe Trains

As regular readers may know, I’m a big fan of train travel. I intend to be taking a train home from New Orleans in less than a month. It will pass through Philadelphia, as do the trains I take to and from DC regularly.

And given the awful derailment of last week I’m sure all of us on the train will have a moment of held breath as we approach that curve, even though we know that statistically we’re probably still safer than if we were driving on a highway, and even though we know that the disaster has finally prompted long-promised speed controls on that curve, even while it hasn’t shaken loose the bare minimum funding we need to upgrade the whole system to keep pace with the rest of the world.

Many people have in response to the derailment held forth at some length about the terrible shame that is the underfunding of our train system, and how it not only makes us the laughingstock of the industrialized world, but also is, clearly, dangerous. So I won’t repeat what they had to say.

But here’s what else I’ll be wondering on that trip: when I return home to Albany, will my kids be able to meet me at the top of the stairs? Will they have been allowed to watch my train pull in, and others out, and feel the magic of the train yard, and imagine as they watch where a train might take them? Continue reading

Beware the Self-Defeating Prophecy

Yesterday I saw a link to a set of well-wisher cards intended to be sent to people with serious illness, like cancer. Some were unusually blunt (“happy last day of chemo, let’s eat anything that doesn’t seem gross”) or brutally honest (“I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch, I didn’t know what to say.”) But the last one really resonated with me: “Please let me be the first to punch the next person who tells you everything happens for a reason.” I think most people who have had something really shitty happen to them or to a loved one can relate. Continue reading