I was called eloquent last night commenting on the Wake County Transit Plan. Other people complimented me also. I was one of about a dozen speakers commenting on the plan, most of them in favor of it. Each of us were given 2 minutes to say our piece. The board passed the plan.

I was proud of the comments too. Here they are:

Good evening. My name is Helen Tart and I live near downtown Raleigh.

I’m a past chairperson of the Raleigh Transit Authority and long-time user of both the local and regional bus and rail systems. I’ve been advocating for improved transit since 1989.

This plan is the closest I have seen in all those years to making my dreams come true.

The dedicated source of funding is the key to the success of this plan. Not just to pay for the service but to demonstrate Wake County’s commitment to a better future. That future is one that gives some people choices in how and where they want to go and provides new opportunities for work and homes to others.

No plan is perfect. This one misses opportunities to not just chase growth but to focus it. It leaves the development around the stops up to chance. The full value of the investment in CRT and the BRT is lost if the growth around the stops doesn’t support them. That growth needs to include transit-oriented development–sidewalks, retail, open green space, and a range of housing. It also includes integrating the bus stops with the development. Even rail can be included into developments to a lesser extent.

Maybe that was just not in the scope of the plan, but we all need to be thinking about how we get, not just mobility, but community out of the effort that is going into this plan.

Part of the effort that has gone into this plan is being wasted by not having the Advisory Committee, or some version of it, to continue to be involved. You have 70 some people who are now educated in the intricacies of transit planning, but have the insight of being part of the public. I know that CAMPO and the GoTriangle board have members of the public involved, but most of them are also elected officials, who one step removed from the public. Most people that come out to meetings like this one, don’t have time to learn all the details and don’t usually have commitment to get into the details.

The one thing I’ve learned in my years as a transit watcher is that the details matter. They can make the difference between a good ride and a bad one.


My New Neighborhood

Yesterday I realized something I’ve known in the back of my mind for a while now.

I don’t live in the same place I moved into in 1989. This place has has at least a dozen kids living in it and nearly that many young couples that came out to a neighborhood potluck. The food reflected the changes as well. Pasta salad, veggie plates and dips, bean burgers, healthy fruit salad, not a fried food in sight. The organizers provided the standard burgers and hot dogs, grilled on a gas grill they brought from home. And the one person attending who was in the neighborhood when I moved in here provided the touch of old fashioned Southern cuisine–banana pudding.

I was one of the old timers too. As I told horror stories about the old neighborhood and the stories of how it had changed, I wondered if I was being conceited to think that some of those positive changes would not have happened had I not moved into my little house when I did. There were so many people that added their little bit of energy to the improvements. Now the new people don’t have to worry about those problems. They can concentrate on enjoying the park, the trees, the cemetery and the neighbors they got to know at the potluck.

I know I won’t remember all the names and faces yet, but each of the streets was represented. I even learned some news about old friends from the neighborhood.

There’s another get together planned for next Sunday. I’m happy that I stuck with this neighborhood for so long.

My Day on TV

My day was on the evening news on WRAL-TV.

I was very busy for most of the day. An empowerment workshop at the Junior League and a 2 hour walk through what will someday be Dix Park. Women’s concerns and parks are two issues close to my heart. I just didn’t realize that what I think is important matched WRAL’s priorities. I’ve been marching to my own drummer for so long I haven’t noticed that the rest of the world has joined me–or at least enough of them that the premier news channel in the area is covering the same things that I spent my day doing.

I was eating my supper and resting my feet after getting home, while watching the news. A very normal thing to be doing. Suddenly they are interviewing the Junior Leaguers about the workshop and then there’s the back of my head on TV. Ten minutes later they are interviewing the person that guided our tour of Dix. That’s more empowering than my empowerment workshop.

Not that the workshop was not worthwhile. I learned a lot and felt encouraged to take action on things I have been putting off–such as finances. I took away some information that will help me take action. I even learned that that kind of thing is called a “take away”. The same woman that taught us that also taught us about SMART goals and to limit the places you put your To Do lists. It was also nice to be in a room full of women to practice making conversation with. It gives me hope that I can form connections with people. I wish I had exchanged info with some of the women at the table with me.

The tour was another opportunity to converse with people. It was set up just for Sierra Club members, so it should have been a good opportunity to meet people but most people brought someone with them and were not that interested in talking to a random lone person. I did talk a good bit  to the woman who guided the tour. She moved to Raleigh from Charlotte just to head up the development of the park. Turns out that she is one of the Oakwood Dog Park people. I also made friends with a boxer that accompanied us on the tour. I talked to the boxer’s owner a little too.

Our tour was one of several similar tours that the city is doing to let people know about the park. There is a lot to know about the park, starting with where you are allowed to park. There are still State of NC workers located on parts of the property and they don’t want to have compete for parking with people recreating. I guess it would be especially annoying to be inconvenienced by somebody having fun when you have to work and can’t have fun.

Now that I know where to park, maybe Ali and I will go out there some time and explore–but only on the weekend. And without TV cameras.

My Eternal Resting Place

I found my forever home today, under a willow oak. I’ll finally be able to return to the earth naturally like we are meant to do. I’ve been looking for a spot like this since my daddy died and I found out that we had bury him in a concrete vault so his spirit will be trapped forever. I thought there was no other way.

There is such a peaceful feeling to have found my place in Oakwood Cemetery so close to my neighborhood that has been home for so long. It is just perfect.

I’ve always had a warm spot in my heart for Oakwood Cemetery ever since Don and I and our dog Giselle discovered the creek. There is a special spot where you can get down to the water and stand on the rocks watching the water flowing by. The dog can play in the water without you dropping the leash. We spent hours there, until the cemetery had to ban dogs.

Even after dogs were banned, it was nice knowing cemetery was there with its rolling hills and quiet atmosphere. Then there’s the other creek that separates the grave sites from the Oakwood Park. It is its own little ecosystem that the cemetery people have let be wild. I’ve seen rabbit and racoon prints along the creek. I even saw a fox once in the cemetery proper. That creek is probably part of the reason there is so much wildlife in this little part of downtown.

So much of what makes the neighborhood special is connected to the cemetery. They own the land that the park is on and lease it to the city. They had to give permission for the dog park to be built. The downtown buildings tower over it and give us the view of the city without the noise.

I guess I’ve always been grateful for the cemetery and now I’m part of it.

Sneaky Canines

I’ve discovered why dogs want to keep going out and in constantly when you are occupied on the computer. Eventually you lose track of whether they are inside or outside. Then while you think they are out, they can go into the other room and pig out on chocolate, peanuts and whatever else they can find.

Such things led to a busy morning for Ali, the pit bull, and me. I woke up early for a change, helped by a pitiful whine from his crate. He kept going out and in until I lost track of whether he was in or out. Turns out that he was in and eating brownies from my corner of the living room. I wasn’t sure what else he’d gotten hold of — or how much chocolate was in the then-empty container. So we made a trip to the after hours clinic. They induced vomiting and found out that he hadn’t eaten anything that would hurt him. That was a relief.

By the time we finished at the vet, it was pouring down rain. We drove around waiting for it to stop. I figured a trip to Pet Smart was in order so we headed that way. Which went right by Sonic and their curbside service. So I had a Coke float and chicken tenders for breakfast, and Ali had water they brought out for him. I even gave him a bite of chicken and ice cream. Next we got to Pet Smart and they didn’t look open. Plus it was still pouring down.

We drove over to Lowe’s and waited out the rain. Ali even stretched out in the back, quietly waiting. It finally slowed down some, and we went shopping at Lowe’s. Ali was a good dog. He enjoyed the Christmas decorations, especially the stuffed Mickey mouse in a Santa hat. Luckily nobody saw him grab it and he gave it up without a fight. He waited while I had a key made and shopped for LED flood light bulbs for the backyard. The fellow that helped me pick out the bulbs was charmed by Ali. He even went with us to the check out counter and held Ali’s leash while I checked out.

By then I figured Pet Smart would have to be open. (Turns out they open at 7am because they have a Pet Hotel. They still didn’t look open.) We got a small bag of pricey food, in hopes that he would like it better than the Alpo. Of course we had to get a couple of chew toys while we were there. After a quick stop at Phydeaux (pronounced Fido) for a sample of even higher priced food, we finally headed home.

It was still raining but Ali was determined to go to the park. So we both got soaked, head to foot. My shoes still aren’t dry. Turns out you could grow rice in certain parts of park that we walked through. He did have to do business so it was a productive trip.

He’s been a lot calmer and more cooperative. He’s laying at my feet in the office with an old shoe beside him.

Book Store Open Mike

By a strange coincidence, So-and-So Books–the bookstore close to my neighborhood–is now the host for an open mike that I have gone to several times. I even read a poem there once. The “Main Street Rag Open Mic Series” met at the Royal Bean off Hillsborough Street when I started attending it. (The Main Street Rag is a poetry magazine published by the Main Street Publishing Company.)

There were thirty-some people there. I was surprised that there were so many attending. This open mike didn’t usually have more than 15 or 20 people when it met at the coffee shop. (What else would Royal Bean be except a coffee shop.)

Many of the people got there an hour early, at 6:30pm instead of 7:30pm. Luckily So-and-So books is across the street from a funky restaurant and bar with lots of outside seating. The bar has fire pits and gas heaters scattered around the patio, so it was warmer than the rest of the world. We all enjoyed the not-too-cold, clear night by introducing ourselves or, for some, greeting old friends.

Knowing ahead of time the people reading made the open mike more interesting. The school teacher’s short story, possible novel, was more intriguing knowing that she spends much of her time with third graders.  The Star Wars poems were more surprising and funnier from having met their author as a normal type person–if there is any such thing. The range of talent and styles makes the idea of reading in front of the crowd less intimidating.

Wide-ranging world

Last night, it occurred to me that we live in a place with extensive opportunities for entertainment and enrichment.

I was listening to a free chamber music concert at Peace College and reflecting on the past week. I went to an Urban Design Center presentation, a Small Business Expo, WakeUp Wake County’s annual meeting, a networking lunch, a litter clean up at Moore Square, an Irish music jam, and then the chamber music. Tonight I’m going to an Open Mic poetry reading. Wednesday is 2 social gatherings and social media workshop. Thursday is lunch with an old friend and another poetry reading. All free, except for the lunches and you have to eat anyway.

When there isn’t anything planned, there are the Museums: Nature, History, Art. Plus the gallery and shops. And for me, the show at the dog park. All for free.