Monday, August 5, 2013

Artsy Trash Cans, Alley Bike Trails, and Crandall Jones

 I think this may be Zoning Week here on the Diary. With the first workshop approaching on Thursday night, we ought to go in informed and ready with questions.  But first, today, I need to pass on info and ideas from Shae Ashe's Norristown Project meetings this weekend, and a little news from Muni. Hall.

I went to the morning meeting on Saturday. It was so nice to meet other Norristonians so interested and positive about making a difference in our borough that they'd get up early and come out to discuss it.

While talking about how to encourage people to keep the town cleaner, one innovative idea was to have an art contest in the schools, to decorate public trash cans, thereby making them more noticeable and sending a message that we don't want litter in on our streets. The trash cans could be creative and humorous, and actually be a first step getting our homegrown art out where it can be seen. The project would also engage the community, particularly our students.

Another idea that combined kids and the arts was to have some concerts specifically for children at the band shell in the summer, or maybe show family movies there. It was noted that the zoo had started showing free family movies, but that they needed publicity.
For those trying to cut down on driving and ride bikes instead, it was suggested that the alleys could be used as bike lanes in much of the town, though many need to be paved or repaired. That brought up the amazing fact that the municipality claimed that they didn't own all the alleys, and (here's the kicker) had no way of knowing which ones they own.

Now, I KNOW they own my alley. I remember when it was dirt and when all the homeowners on our block signed the alley over to the borough back in the late '60s. (All of us kids thought paving the alley ruined it for bike riding because it was so much more exciting to ride over all the ruts.) Since all of the surrounding alleys were paved at the same time, I just assumed they did the whole town. Still, if all those homeowners signed over the alleys, the paperwork must be SOMEWHERE in the borough archives. So I think the burden of proof falls on Norristown in this case. And honestly, isn't it time for the town to take over paving and maintenance of all the alleys, even if they have to do it over several years?

The last bit of news is that Council has hired a new municipal administrator (actually, the final vote will be Aug. 15). His name is Crandall Jones and he's from Georgia. According to Councilman Caldwell, Mr. Jones “had the best experience with urban cities of Norristown’s size. He was quite familiar with generating an arts district in East Point, Ga..”

So I googled East Point, Ga. I couldn't find any mention of an arts district, though they do have a Cultural Enrichment Commission that holds an annual arts festival, similar to our Arts Council and Arts Hill festival (I couldn't find that they were much more active or developed than we are). East Point does have a population remarkably like ours, at about 35,000, though it's spread over 4 times the area and their density is only about 2,000 residents per square mile (compared to our average 9,000).

I hope Mr. Jones will settle here in town, and (unlike many of the people making our decisions) make an effort to really get to know our people, our community, and our history.

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