Sunday, July 22, 2007

On certifying my habitat

So I went to the meeting at Jen Cline's house the other day. A fellow from the National Wildlife Federation talked about how getting your yard certified is easy and, more importantly, why it's a good thing. We're not talking about encouraging raccoons, possums or feral cats. In an urban setting the wildlife we're after is mostly birds, bees and butterflies.

To attract this kind of wildlife, you need to offer the same essentials outside your house that you offer the wild life inside: Food, water and shelter. Most of us have some plants that produce seeds or berries or pollen. Planting native species can offer more alternatives and cut down on watering and fertilizer use. And a water source can be as simple as bird bath or a terra cotta dish that fills up when it rains.

I'm going to take another serious look at the mess that is my yard, and see if I can come up with a plan that will improve not only its looks (wouldn't be hard to do) but also its value to birds, bees and butterflies. And then I think I'll spring for the $15 fee and see if I can get certified. Maybe you'd like to too?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

8th Street: Certified wildlife habitat?

Should 8th Street become the first street in Charlotte to be named a certified wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation? How should I know? I'm going to try to attend a planning meeting tomorrow, July 19, at 6 p.m. at Jen Cline's house at 2025 E. 8th St. to find out. Maybe I'll see you there.

Whole Foods CEO not anonymous

The latest news from the Whole Foods front is discouraging, although it has nothing to do with the company's Charlotte locations. Apparently Whole Foods CEO John Mackey thought he was anonymous online and used Yahoo message boards to "assail competition and promote his supermarket chain’s stock," the New York Times (login required) reports. You know it's bad if the Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into your sock-puppetry.

This report does nothing to burnish the reputation of Whole Foods. When taken together with the recent realization that Elizabethans who have emailed Whole Foods won't be getting a personal reply as promised, well you start to wonder if Whole Foods is a special outfit or just another big company.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Dancing for school bonds

In case you missed it, Mecklenburg County commissioners chairman and Elizabethan Jennifer Roberts danced a jig after the board unanimously agreed to a school bond plan. Talk about dancing with the stars.

While the subject is school bonds, remember that despite what seems to be constant bickering between members of the school board and the county commissioners, the only real disagreement among them was over the size of the school bond package. There is no disagreement on the need.

A gift to early Elizabeth settlers

Remember the Revolutionary War-era graves that were unearthed during the construction going on at Mercy Hospital at Fifth, Caswell and Vail? The remains of those settlers are being re-buried today in a west Charlotte cemetery, but there's more to the story than that. Bill Merritt, the project manager of the $100 million Mercy project, got to know the descendants of the settlers and apparently felt some kind of connection. On his own time he hand-built four oak coffins in the style of the 1770s: "wide at the shoulders and tighter at the toes like the outlines found in the clay at the construction site."

Thank you, Bill Merritt, for going beyond your duties, and thank you for your humanity.

Friday, July 13, 2007

New restaurants coming

Word on the street is that the Recognition Plus building on Central Avenue (near Hawthorne) will be converted into not one but two restaurants, one of which is described as "upscale Mexican." Clearly the folks who'll reside in the 400+ apartments being built on Hawthorne between Independence and Central will need a place to eat.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Reward offered for missing ring

A friend reports losing a wedding ring while strolling through Elizabeth last Sunday. He had enjoyed a movie at the Manor Theatre and decided to go for a walk through Elizabeth. His route covered Laurel, 8th, Kenmore, Greenway, Vail and Ridgeway, and perhaps streets in between. It's a plain gold wedding band with no inscription, and how it fell out of his pocket -- where he put it while washing his hands at the Manor -- he doesn't know. But he says he'll gladly pay a $50 reward. If you see it, let me know by commenting to this post and I'll get the two of you together.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Small area plan still large

I hope you've had a chance to read Andrew and Becca Nesbit's excellent article in the Summer 2007 issue of the Elizabeth Community Association newsletter. If you haven't, I encourage you to check it out. It is an concise summation of why the original Elizabeth Small Area Plan was so important to our neighborhood and why we need to do another one. Here are a couple of highlights from Andrew and Becca's article:
  1. "As a result of our engagement in [the project to update the ESAP], we've learned that many of the things we love about Elizabeth were not accidental, but instead were the result of cooperation, dedication and extensive planning."
  2. "The original Elizabeth Small Area Plan, which took five years to complete, was the first small area plan adopted in Charlotte."
  3. "Today... there is no reference to the Elizabeth Neighborhood Plan on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department website nor is a copy available in the department's office."
  4. "There exists no officially recognized document to guide development and provide a framework for evaluating and providing input to the constant changes that face Elizabeth."
  5. "Elizabeth has an identity and will continue to have one, but that identity should be determined and developed by those who care for Elizabeth, not those who see Elizabeth as a place... to make a profit."
With some comments from yours truly, referring to the points above by number:
  1. I hope everyone realizes that Elizabeth would not be Elizabeth -- that is to say it would be a lot less than it is -- without the original ESAP. I don't think this point can be overstated.
  2. The group of folks -- Ken Lambla and others -- who brought you the original ESAP were visionary ground-breakers. Can we fill their shoes?
  3. These things are living documents. If we don't care and feed them, they will expire. Ours has expired, leaving us vulnerable.
  4. This means every time a Blockbuster wants to put a brightly-lit, big-box, huge-parking lot edifice in your backyard and unscrupulous local business owners start tearing down houses in the middle of the night, we have to fight it with little support.
  5. Either we do it or someone else will. Someone else may not have our best interests at heart.
I encourage everyone to volunteer to help design the new Elizabeth Small Area Plan. Call Andrew Nesbitt at 704-344-9725 if you'd like to help.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Storm damage

I hope yesterday's brief but powerful storm left you unharmed, although clearly lots of folks suffered damage to their homes and other property. We were very lucky at our house, no damage and no power loss in what several long-time Elizabethans are calling a "mini-Hugo." And if you drive or walk down some of the streets, the resemblance to that storm is striking. We'll be talking about this one for years, I imagine.

This house on the corner of East 8th and Ridgeway was lucky when the tree in the front yard (below) missed it, but then part of another tree landed on the roof (above).

A huge tree fell on pecan (above) but didn't appear to damage any surrounding houses. "I'd call it a miracle," said one observer. It was still blocking one lane on Sunday.

This fallen tree on Bay (above) managed to get both house and at least one car, although you can't see it in this photo.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

We're No. 1,755,354!

Your favorite blog, UTWT natch, is the 1,755,354th-most popular blog in the blogosphere, according to Technorati. Huzzah! I shall not rest until it becomes the 1,755,353rd-most popular.

Leaky no more

I have been remiss. I have neglected to mention that all the leaks I reported to the city have been fixed. I wish I had been more diligent in following up on them so I could report exactly how much time passed between reporting and fixing. I can say this: I noticed some time ago that they were fixed. I just never got around to posting it here. Since I drive on East 7th Street several times weekly, and that leak was hard to miss, I'm reasonably sure that one was cleared up quickly.

Biofuel man also an Elizabethan

Elizabeth's own Bob Teixeira converted his '81 diesel Mercedes to run on vegetable oil -- and then got nailed by state and federal governments for not paying fuel taxes. I'm still feeling the patriotic buzz from yesterday's festivities, but let's face it: The laws that penalized Bob for attempting to do something about our dependence on oil are just wrong. You might mention that the next time you see Dan Clodfelter, Jennifer Roberts, Dumont Clarke or any other elected official wandering around Elizabeth. Should we start a collection to pay Bob's fines?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fabulous Fourth

Two things distinguished this year's Elizabeth 4th of July parade and party: Cooler weather and fewer people than recent years. Also, the traditional lead car -- Hardin Minor's Blue Heaven Mustang convertible -- had a flat tire and saw no duty in the march. (That's Hardin at right, getting the marchers fired up at the parade's start.) In fact there were fewer vehicles of all stripes this year. But what we may have lacked in wheeled entrants, we more than made up for in hot dogs. Burp.

Parade notice

The annual Elizabeth 4th of July parade is at 10:30 a.m. today. Corner of Clement and Bay. See you there.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Parade coming

Don't forget the annual Elizabeth 4th of July parade coming up Wednesday. Just because the Observer forgot about it doesn't mean you get to. More details to come.