Linked: The New Science of Networks, Review of Chapters 7 -10

It is my belief that the human species has always, intuitively, recognized the “network” and its place within it. From the earliest glimpses into modern man we have been organized along hubs, nodes and links. The strongest hunter-provider, was the hub, the nodes were the members of the tribe, the link was the need to survive. Not much has changed.

While humanity may not have recognized networks in a formal way, it has come-to-light that indeed, everything is interconnected and studying how that self-organizing phenomena may be the key to understanding the our world in ways that we could have never imagined.

As discussed in Albert-Laszlo Barbasi’s book, Linked: The New Science of Networks; we are only just now applying the understanding of how networks function and how they are at the core of ever meaningful interaction.

Developing a clear language with which to discuss it is imperative and the book starts bringing some of those terms and meanings to the forefront: The scale-free model, The fitness model, the winner take all model.  “The scale free model reflects our awakening to the reality that networks are dynamic systems that change constantly through the addition of new nodes and links,” writes Barbasi.

“The fitness model,” continues Barbasi, “allows us to describe networks as competitive systems in which nodes fight fiercely for links.”

That is the point of this class, that if we can get our networks in shape and understand how they work, how to feed them and how to keep them healthy we can create great opportunities to succeed in getting our information into the places we intend them to go.

Barabasi uses Google as an example of “the fit, not necessarily the first” getting richer, but still remaining a scaled network because despite its growth it remains connected to the whole instead off isolating itself.

The scale free network is in direct opposition to the “winner-take-all” network illustrated by Microsoft Windows which still is the OS of choice for more than 85% of computers on the market. The problem is that a network like Microsoft is dominant and eventually ends up imploding on itself because of a lack of connection to connected nodes.

That’s because nodes grow into hubs, hubs have strength, a hubs fitness scale determines if they will overtake other hubs. Hubs, nodes and links all have other hubs, nodes and links attached, following closely behind, poised to become a hub as well if the conditions are right, but also helping the original hub remain a hub.

I found particularly interesting the comparison of natural and man made networks, how failures and corrections are far more effective if a network approach is conceived.

One example that was used to illustrate the power of “hubs” and the disaster of not understanding the impact was the story of the infamous Patient Zero in the AIDS epidemic Gaetan Dugas who definitely left his mark on my network as my brother died of AIDS related illness.

The discussion of network economy gave great insight into viral marketing and the recipe for success; free service, low learning path, and rapid reach through consumer marketing. “Recognizing that passing a critical threshold is the prerequisite for the spread of fads and viruses was probably the most important conceptual advance in understanding spreading and diffusion. Alas, one caveat must be met if you are to succeed. People must want what your marketing or it stops the flow.

In all, for my money “Linked” is a great read and perhaps the most important book I’ve read in this program so far. I believe anyone would benefit from the explanations of networks and how they apply to every aspect of our lives.

Linked: The New Science of Networks, Review of Chapters 1 – 10

The power of networking has been long known. In fact, whole sections of libraries have been devoted to the topic. There are web pages that speak of nothing else http://www.entrepreneur.com/marketing/networking/index.html. From computing to business to job hunting the value of networking has been long understood.

However, the power of the network is different that networking and it is something that is just being realized in the world of journalism. We journalists have always depended on the haphazard creation of networks by others to distribute our works to viewers, listeners and subscribers; but this book illustrates with great clarity the awesome and sometimes intimidating power of the networks we can create for ourselves. What’s more it illustrates how to formulate those networks to our best advantage.

I was struck by the notion that, “networks are everywhere.” But I was even more fascinated by the notion of “how networks emerge.” Finally I am excited to understand how networks compress the distance between seemingly far away connections, as illustrated in the Kevin Bacon: 6 Degrees of Separation.

Perhaps just as meaningful is the realization that sometimes there are no shortcuts through the network as illustrated by the Konigsberg Bridge example that gave rise to Leonhard Euler’s “graph theory” that gave us the terms “nodes” and “links”

Though, as Barabási points out, degrees of separation, graphs, links and nodes are all terms that evolved from advanced mathematics, the network of greatest influence, the internet, came about because of a threat to humanity that still looms today, nuclear attack. Paul Baran’s understanding that a distributed communication system was the key to maintaining viability in an attack meant that “the Internet is not only an engineering or a mathematical problem,” but a social problem.

Barabási covers a lot of ground in the chapter entitled the The Awakening Internet, but the most important thing I got out of it was the question, what to connect and how would information be exchanged? I

In the early 60’s the most advanced lines of communication were telephone lines and ATT was the dominant force (the only force) and didn’t want anything to do with “distributed networks.” Like it or not progress happens. It just happened at that same time computers, big, expensive and unconnected were on the rise and as it turns out the perfect vehicle for distributed networks as envisioned by the Advanced Research Projects Agency and its director Charlie Herzfeld.

What no one could have imagined was that this thing called the “internet” would literally take on a life of its own, growing in ways that no one could have imagined or has yet to imagine. As Barabási writes, “…an increasing number of researchers are asking an unexpected question: What did we create?” And where did all these parts come from?

In the end it all comes down to understanding the network, if that is possible. That is really what will lead to the next great revolution, understanding the network. As journalists we have never been asked to engage in content delivery except to an editor with the understanding it would be distributed from there. As we go forward gaining an understanding of networks and their power will be as necessary as who, what, when, where or why if we are to remain relevant.

Linked: The New Science of Networks

The power of networking has been long known. In fact, whole sections of libraries have been devoted to the topic. There are web pages that speak of nothing else http://www.entrepreneur.com/marketing/networking/index.html. From computing to business to job hunting the value of networking has been long understood.

However, the power of the network is different that networking and it is something that is just being realized in the world of journalism. We journalists have always depended on the haphazard creation of networks by others to distribute our works to viewers, listeners and subscribers; but this book illustrates with great clarity the awesome and sometimes intimidating power of the networks we can create for ourselves. What’s more it illustrates how to formulate those networks to our best advantage.

I was struck by the notion that, “networks are everywhere.” But I was even more fascinated by the notion of “how networks emerge.” Finally I am excited to understand how networks compress the distance between seemingly far away connections, as illustrated in the Kevin Bacon: 6 Degrees of Separation.

Perhaps just as meaningful is the realization that sometimes there are no shortcuts through the network as illustrated by the Konigsberg Bridge example that gave rise to Leonhard Euler’s “graph theory” that gave us the terms “nodes” and “links”

Though, as Barabási points out, degrees of separation, graphs, links and nodes are all terms that evolved from advanced mathematics, the network of greatest influence, the internet, came about because of a threat to humanity that still looms today, nuclear attack. Paul Baran’s understanding that a distributed communication system was the key to maintaining viability in an attack meant that “the Internet is not only an engineering or a mathematical problem,” but a social problem.

Barabási covers a lot of ground in the chapter entitled the The Awakening Internet, but the most important thing I got out of it was the question, what to connect and how would information be exchanged? I

In the early 60’s the most advanced lines of communication were telephone lines and ATT was the dominant force (the only force) and didn’t want anything to do with “distributed networks.” Like it or not progress happens. It just happened at that same time computers, big, expensive and unconnected were on the rise and as it turns out the perfect vehicle for distributed networks as envisioned by the Advanced Research Projects Agency and its director Charlie Herzfeld.

What no one could have imagined was that this thing called the “internet” would literally take on a life of its own, growing in ways that no one could have imagined or has yet to imagine. As Barabási writes, “…an increasing number of researchers are asking an unexpected question: What did we create?” And where did all these parts come from?

In the end it all comes down to understanding the network, if that is possible. That is really what will lead to the next great revolution, understanding the network. As journalists we have never been asked to engage in content delivery except to an editor with the understanding it would be distributed from there. As we go forward gaining an understanding of networks and their power will be as necessary as who, what, when, where or why if we are to remain relevant.

Digital Journalism that Aims for the Heart: Chapter 13 Review

Journalism has always been a challenging endeavor. If you don’t think so just hit the following link: http://en.rsf.org. that connects to Reporters Without Borders and read about the real life perils of working journalism. If you ever considered pursuing a career as a journalist, the expectations will not change and in fact it is only becoming more challenging with the emergence of digital technology, social media and the internet.

Journalists have always been expected to understand the tools of their particular journalism sector and their delineations (broadcast, print, etc.), but in the past decade the toolbox has become much heavier with the arrival of digital innovations. Chapter 13 of Al Tompkins book, Aim for the Heart is all about how the convergence of all things digital and their impact on journalists. From my point of view, the most important thing he has to say I found online. I have provided this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWkh4LrGE28 so you can hear it too. Pay special attention to the quote at 00:43. If you don’t have an internet connection here is what Tompkins says, “We know that you are overburdened. We know that we are asking you to shoot and edit and do all the stuff all on your own with very little time and we want you to Tweet and Facebook and do all that. Don’t forget, your job is really important. We need for you to do it well.”

In short, what every news manager, consultant and executive want journalists to do, according to Tompkins, is “up their game.” If you ask most journalists who are worth their salt, their games are always up. The vast majority of journalists do what they do for a working wage, meaning that upping one’s game is a daily occurrence. One doesn’t last in the business unless their passion exceeds their paycheck.

That said, most journalists I know are also always up for a challenge, it goes with the personality type. So, loading on more processes, more workload accountability, more deadline challenges and more skill set obligations are just what’s expected now. I call this “back to the future” (sorry Michael J. Fox) as “one man bands” are now more the norm across the industry, where once it was something done only in the smaller markets. I know that makes news available in more formats, I’m not completely sold that it makes good journalism any better. However, if that’s the way the game is played now then we need to understand how it’s done, and sharpen our skills to meet the demands.

Chapter thirteen of Aim for the Heart covers it well by going over the “how to” of telling the story online. The following link connects you to a nice article that goes into more detail without giving away the farm. http://collegenewspaper.blogspot.com/2008/02/als-rules-for-online-storytelling.html

The following are some highlights from the chapter entitled, Rules for Online/Interactive Storytelling:

  1. Make it Interactive,
    1. Leverage your digital assets,
    2. Report for the web while you’re reporting your broadcast story,
    3. Tailor your video for the web
  2. Make a Front Page Promise
    1. Write lively and tight, Avoid text heavy web pages
  3. Make it Raw,
    1. But use news judgement too
  4. Leverage Your Digital Assets
  5. Tap into local Passion Groups,
    1. Find ways to meaningfully involved the public
  6. Map it,
    1. Map data to connect viewers to the story
  7. Feed Your Needs,
    1. Use analytics to understand your online audience
  8. Shine during elections, breaking news and special events,
    1. Link to your sources, but verify first,
    2. Focus on the whole story, not just breaking news and updates
  9. Save elaborate presentations for projects that have legs.

In essence Tompkins premise to aim for the heart can apply to the heart of the issue, story, audience, and analytics. People do remember what they feel. So, if your story makes them feel, understanding and mastering a multitude of delivery systems can only help one get the message out to a broader audience and Chapter 13 of Tompkins book leaves little to the imagination about how to do that.

Book Report – Ahhhhh!

As I endeavor to write this book report, something I haven’t done in a long long time, I hope you don’t mind if I don’t take the boring beaten path, or maybe it will be, and try to write something semi-entertaining, at least to me, before you print and place this masterpiece at the bottom of a bird cage or worse.

I hope you don’t mind if I take this chapter by chapter, but that seems like a good way to lay a trail of comments that might lead us back to the original goal of writing a thorough report and kind of showing that I really read the whole book.

I wondered why anyone would write a book called Don’t Make Me Think, because after all, isn’t that what a book is supposed to do, make one think? Even a book with just pictures makes you think of something. My Anatomy/Physiology text comes to mind immediately. I took that class when I thought I was going to be a doctor, yeah right!

Anyway, there was a male model in that book who did a bunch of weird poses in the nude, and he was alive at the time of the photos! Most of the time we worked on cadavers. The photos were very disturbing for me because he looked like Sgt. Carter from the hit TV show Gomer Pyle – U.S.M.C. I thought the actor who played Sgt. Carter, Frank Sutton, must not have been able to find a job after the show went off the air and had to do nude modeling to survive.  Anyway, I tried to find a picture of the guy on the internet so I could put a hyperlink here, but apparently he wasn’t worth archiving.

Back to Don’t Make Me Think, that stream of consciousness happened because of the books title. It made me go to the internet to start looking for all this Gomer Pyle, Sgt. Carter, male nude medical model stuff and I was struck at how easy and intuitive it was find some things, but not others. I also paid attention to how easy or hard some of the web pages were to navigate. Then, I got it. You really don’t want to think when using the web. The best pages are laid out like we breath, natural, like the autonomic nervous system.

As Krug describes in his intro and further on in chapter one, it’s as easy as clicking on a web page and just knocking around to discover whether a web page has good usability or it’s just a mess. Like Krug’s book, there is elegance in simplicity (no, it’s not mine. I heard it somewhere and can’t remember where so I can’t attribute it). But, simplicity doesn’t come easy. One has to work at it so that it get’s to the point where one doesn’t have to think about what you do to get what you want.

I think Krug makes a great point when he alludes to that age old journalism adage, see dog say dog, for clickable items on a web page. Buttons should be obvious and the text on them should be obvious as well. There is nothing worse than having to click, click, click, click to find what your looking for. I know, he said, “two clicks away.” Companies like Amazon have gotten it because their very existence depends on it. But what most other companies don’t yet realize is that their very existence depends on intuitive simplicity too.

Self-evident is the term that I take from Chapter one. It’s the most obvious way to keep your page, regardless of what it is, user friendly. How does one do that? Well, I guess you could pay teams of people lots of money to do it for you, or you could read chapter two.

Chapter 2 talks about web pages as billboards. I never really gave it much thought until I passed an electronic billboard on the freeway today. The way I experienced that billboard, one message after another, really is how I experience the web. Difference is, I flip from one page to the next while the electronic billboard does it for me. I think that’s why I enjoy Flipboard so much. It is literally a constantly updating electronic billboard on my phone and iPad that has created instant and unwavering usability in my endless search for knowledge. You know, like Superman. Alright, it’s not endless, but I do go searching. Really, it’s more like scanning, as Krug points out.

I once took a speed reading course and it as with the idea of training myself to retain every bit of information I read and quickly. What I soon learned is that I didn’t need to retain everything. Even if I could it would just fill my head with more useless trivia than I already havw. What the class was really training me for was the future when the web would allow me to point and click and take in as much or as little info as possible though an ever changing landscape that I could paint myself with a mouse or a touchscreen.

Cruising the web was great in the beginning until I realized that, again, most of what I was reading was clutter and trivial. People don’t like vacuums any more than nature and so they try to fill their webpages up with all kinds of stuff, but that doesn’t make it usable and it doesn’t make everything on it worth reading. So yes, we learn to “satisfice.” I really liked the fire field commander (Battalion Chief) example because I’ve seen it play out many times in real life situations. In a time of crisis one makes the best first decision possible because there isn’t time to weigh every option. Positive action, at least initially, is better than no action at all.

On the web, no harm no foul for making wrong clicks, unless it leads to malware, or getting hacked. But for the most part it’s just part of the discovery process and as Krug points out the experience becomes unique to the user, but the tools and their usability placed in front of the user determines their experience.

Chapter three talks about billboard design and that has to be as challenging a task as any when making a site user friendly. But like the example of the Royal Seal used as a nutcracker, the web makes us all innovators in how we use the tools available to us to accomplish what we want. That’s why it is so important to get the layout correct. Chapter three does the point of stating that more important things should be in bigger font. I get that, but I really believe that if fonts are going to be a link to more information then there should really be a two size rule; important and super important. Everything else would be related to the important and/or super-important. Anyway, just my two cents on making billboarding a little less confusing. I mean, we only really look at the big stuff anyway and then hone in after that.

Chapter Four let’s us know how far a klick should be after we click. Clicks are like the game show “Let’s Make a Deal.” Each time one clicks there should be something there worth clicking for, a prize if you will. And really that’s the key. If one is directed to click on something (except “click here”) there should be a pay-off. For example, I like bass guitars. So if I go to a bass guitar web site whatever I click on better lead me to a bass or information about a bass that is new and useful or else I will move on to the next web page. That’s how it should be with our stories. If we have clickable items then they should lead to a nice prize behind click number 1, 2,3 or however many there are.

Chapter 5 reminds me of the story told about Samuel Clemens. It’s said he wrote his father a 10 page letter and after his final salutation and signature he wrote a p.s. It said, I’m sorry this letter was so long. I didn’t have time to write a shorter one. (Opp’s, sounds like this book report). No doubt, needless words are the bane of all good writing. And of course, as Krug points out, web wordiness is often driven by the need to fill space. However, the web is space that is filled by itself. We only need to put things there that have meaning. So, zip it… In a literary sense.

Chapter 6 is about web site organizational clarity and attraction. Huh, did I just say that. I feel like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. Creating an organizational flow is like breathing. Such a simple thing in practice, but highly complex in execution. We need it, but how do we do it. Same with a web site. it needs to be clear and attractive, but most importantly, useful. Get it. I worked at Sears. The signs were great, the aisles were straight, but the shelves were messy. Just like Krug’s explanation of web navigation. He comes from the premise that we are forever lost on the web. I think it’s more we are forever discovering on the web and it’s up to the designers to make sure we don’t get too far off course, unless that’s where we want to go.

Chapter 7, heh, he stole my game show example. Not fair! Anyway, if ever there was a place to advance the notion that there is elegance in simplicity, it is the home page. Oh, by the way, there is no essential.com. There may have been, but not now. Anyway, I know there lots of temptation to make the home page as busy as possible because you want to say it all. This is where that old saying about first impressions really comes home to roost. It should be like a box of chocolates. You open the box and want to try each one. Anyway, that’s my analogy. Each click should be a tasty treat of information that relates to your primary message or branding and it should take you to other tasty treats. Think I’d better get a snack.

Okay, I’m back. Chapter 8. As Miss Prissy said in Gone with the Wind, “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ baby’s.!” I don’t really know what chapter 8 was about; something about cows and plows and developers and designers and pull down menus. As journalist, for the most part those things are out of our hands. We just give the stories to the web team with all the built in goodies and hope the heck they know how to put it up in its most useful way.

Chapter 9, really! I can barely get my stories in on time and now I have to test the web page for usability. I know, this is a what if you were a usability person. Really, I think that we all should have some experience with coding. It is amazing how simple, yet involved it can be. What’s more amazing to me is that some people actually find it exhilarating. Takes all kinds. Anyway, I read it I realized this chapter was way to long and I had no real interest in testing procedures for web site ease of use issues. Sorry.

I always wondered what a “mench” is so I’m glad Chapter 10 led me to actually look it up. It sounds like it should have a negative connotation, but it is actually positive. In case you don’t know what it means I will not tell you so you can experience the joy I felt in discovering on my own and not through my Jewish friends what it means by looking it up (on the web) myself. If I speak one word of Yiddish does that quality me as tri-lingual? If you say yes you are such a mench! I get it, web pages should be a mench.

John Frazee does not make sense with his buttered cat story. The cat lands on its feet, the toast lands on the buttered side. Neither one of them spins or hovers. I don’t get it. Chapter 11 and accessibility . I thought by linking to the ADA website on Standards for Accessible Design it would cover Chapter 11. Important stuff, but I have never thought about how it is accomplished when I am writing a story. May be now I will start thinking about cascading style sheets in my stories. Really.

Chapter 12, I’ll be you thought this would never end. I think if I have any shot to be employable in the future, I’d better have at least a cursory understanding of how a web pages usability impacts the users experience and what can be done to make that experience the best it can be in order to bring users back and draw more users to the fold. There is one thing. Krug states, Make all content accessible by keyboard. Remember, not everyone can use a mouse. I think he should remember that sometimes the only thing one can use is a mouse. so, it works both ways and touch screens are a way to make accessibility more viable.

Anyway, that’s it. What day is it? What’s my name? Where’s my car? Hope this meets the requirements. If not I’ll have to start all over and write an even longer book report for you to read. You don’t want that, do you?

Chula Vista Fun Run/Walk

<a href=”

” title=”Chula Vista Fun Run/Walk”>Chula Vista Fun Run/Walk

Planning is already underway for the 2014 Chula Vista 5k Fun Run/Walk. Once again it will be held in May at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in the City of Chula Vista. Be on the watch for more information as it becomes available.

This years 5k Fun Run/Walk attracted more than a thousand participants and numerous community sponsors and partners. Proceeds from the event go to fund recreation activities for the city and as a side fundraiser the Chula Vista Police Foundation hosts a pancake breakfast the morning of the festivities.

A vital partner in the success of the CV 5k Fun Run/Walk is the U.S. Olympic Training Center led by Director Tracy Lamb. Since coming to the Chula Vista facility in 2007 Lamb has been an engaged proponent of community involvement. Since his arrival the Olympic Training Center has grown in significance to the entire U.S. Olympic movement and to the community of Chula Vista.

CV Residents Work to Dismantle Transit Bridge Plan

People living in the newer eastern Chula Vista communities of Treviana and Monet share a narrow greenbelt that acts as an open space between the two densely constructed mixed residence communities. It is used by adults for walking and jogging and by children for playing. For many people living here the greenbelt was a key factor in buying or renting in the area. It offers room to move in the heavily developed community. However, it may soon be a memory.

BRT greenbelt Lady and dogs

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), the regional planning agency for transportation in the county, may replace the 900 foot long, 150 foot wide open space with an elevated bus bridge that will sit on a dirt and concrete burm that will reach nearly 30 feet in the air.
The project is known as the South Bay Bus Rapid Transit service (SB BRT). Planning for the system has been in the works since the mid 90‘s. It started out as a possible light rail system, but over the years SANDAG settled on the rapid bus option as a more viable way of adding mass transit services to the rapidly growing south San Diego County communities. The SB BRT will run from the U.S.-Mexican border, through south San Diego, Chula Vista and finally into downtown San Diego via bus only lanes on the 805 and 94 freeways.

According to SANDAG “The new system will be different than any other bus service in the region. The 21-mile route is funded through TransNet, a regional voter-approved half-cent sales tax for local transportation projects. The overall project budget for the TransNet Early Action Plan phase of the project is approximately $109 million. The budget includes costs for capital improvements, property acquisition, buses, and support costs for design engineering and construction. SANDAG says, once completed, the South Bay BRT will feature fewer stops, comfortable vehicles, and fast, frequent service. It will reduce travel time by using dedicated “guideways” and bus-only lanes, as well as special technology to get through traffic signals more quickly.”

In Chula Vista the BRT will run on existing roadways until it reaches the greenbelt at East Palomar at Magdalena Avenue. That, say residents, is where the problem begins and ends for them. Buses are slated to run every 10 minutes from 5 in the morning until 11 at night.

RTC Sign“We’re not just “Nimby’s,” (not in my back yard) said Treviana resident Basil Ohnesty at a recent public hearing on the project. “This could not be further from the truth. We have no problem with the Transit Project. In fact, some of the residents could, and presumably would use the bus line. Our issue is the 150 or so feet of land that divides our respective developments.”

At this point in the process there have been more than 20 community workshops and public hearings regarding the project and signs have marked the route where the BRT will run for years. The final environmental impact report is due to go to SANDAG’s Transportation Committee soon. Residents have until midnight on March 29th to submit comments. But SB BRT Project Manager Jennifer Williamson says, “we haven’t gotten any comments that will require us to do a substantial rewrite of the document.”

But residents say they have a petition with more than 200 signatures of people who want the greenbelt to stay as is. They say it will bring air and noise pollution, not to mention changing the character of their neighborhood. Ohnysty who is also the Treviana Home Owners Association Treasurer says, there are alternate routes that would better for everyone. “Why not go south, take the buses down Birch and turn after the 125 off ramp. It would eliminate 10 Million in costs to build the bridge across the 125 freeway. It will keep in place the bus stop at the end of East Palomar, something that is important to the master plan and ridership. And it will save the communities of Treviana and Monet from the eyesore, quality of life and  decrease in property values that residents will suffer from this crazy idea.”

South Bay Bus Rapid Transit Map

South Bay Bus Rapid Transit Map

The SANDAG EIR does lay out three options for completing the Treviana/Monet section of the BRT, but not the one Ohnesty is advocating. In the report the first option turns the greenbelt into a two lane bus bridge with a one lane pedestrian walkway supported by 30 foot walls constructed a little over 10 feet from homes on the west side. The second option also replaces the greenbelt with a single lane bus bridge with a pedestrian lane. The third option leaves the greenbelt intact with the BRT skirting around the two communities on Olympic Parkway from East Palomar. This is the option residents say makes the most sense for everyone. “We are not opposing public transportation in general, says Treviana Board President Alex Ocean, “but are proposing that our city council members and Mayor support us in bringing to light that the alternative Olympic Parkway route is a viable option that will still accomplish SANDAG’s long term BRT plans.

SB BRT

Olympic Parkway Work Around

Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox is on the SANDAG Board of Directors and the Transportation Committee. Her husband, County Supervisor Greg Cox chairs the Executive Committee. The Mayor has not made any public comment about the project, but residents say her silence speaks volumes. Meantime SANDAG says using the Olympic Parkway option would decrease ridership by taking buses away from more densely populated areas and add two minutes to the ride. But residents argue SANDAG’s own study says, the third option would save 5 million in construction costs and that it would only place the bus stop a couple of blocks away from where SANDAG now wants it.

Those opposed to the bus bridge have been going to city council meetings for weeks hoping to get support to change the plan, but so far the city hasn’t taken an official stand. However, two council members, Mary Salas and Rudy Ramirez say they are empathetic to the residents and wonder how the approval to build homes so close to the preferred bus route happened. “We need to see if there are ways to mitigate the problem,” said Salas. “We know that SANDAG has two other options on the table and one of them doesn’t use the green belt as a throughway. There is a plan in place to go around the community.” “I am against the bridge, said Ramirez. It must have been a big oversight when they put the plan together way back when they were planning this. It seems like a big mistake. Residents say the mistake was misleading disclosure about the future transit route.  Andrew Martin Associate Environmental Planner for SANDAG said, “the Otay Ranch area was planned with this type of commuter service.” Real Estate agent Erica Bass has mixed feelings about the project. “It does sound great, but I do know that my buyers in 2009 would never have considered buying those units had they had any idea that there was potentially a BRT project in the works.”

City and SANDAG officials say there has been full legal disclosure from the beginning and numerous community workshops throughout the process and that none of this should have been a surprise to anyone. None-the-less, Williamson says, “SANDAG is taking resident concerns into account and a final decision hasn’t been made.”

In the next step of the process the SANDAG Transportation Committee will take the public comments into consideration and then make a recommendation. Their findings will go to the SANDAG Board of Directors where a final decision will be made as early as May or as late as July. If the Transportation Committee decides to use the greenbelt option, the Executive Board can overturn that decision. However, Williamson says, “that is something that happens rarely.”

To see a video of the proposed route from East Palomar through Treviana and Monet click on or cut and paste this link in your browser. http://www.youtube.com/edit?video_id=4Ixz1YBxsOo&ns=1

To see the SANDAG South Bay BRT plan click on or cut and paste the following link in your browser. http://www.sandag.org/index.asp?projectid=297&fuseaction=projects.detail

If you have any comments regarding the project please post in the comment box.

Infrastructure: Framing the Cost

The City of Chula Vista has a $639,000,000 problem that most people would never even give a second thought to. Yet, according to city executives it is one of the most, if not the most pressing problem facing Chula Vista. In short, the city’s infrastructure is slowly coming apart at the seams and the money to fix it is sparse, at be

City of Chula Vista

City Public Works Director Rick Hopkins and city staff recently held an infrastructure workshop for council members and the Mayor. “Most of us take for granted the framework that holds a city together and contributes so much to our quality of life. Things like well-manicured parks, up-to-date police cars, squared-away and well-equipped firehouses, the latest books or movies in libraries, well maintained city offices open Monday through Friday, not to mention streets, lights, signs, sewer system, buildings, open space and the list goes on and on. Many people never consider what it takes to build, equip, maintain and replace the infrastructure that we seamlessly enjoy or benefit from in our daily lives; until things start to change, said Hopkins.” Click on link to see Hopkins interview. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNEc86pBtKE

And there is no doubt things have changed. The recession that started in 2006 hit Chula Vista first and hard. The city was at the leading edge of the financial storm with it’s many new communities and thousands of homeowners upside down on their mortgages. The cities response was a $50-million reduction in the city budget and the elimination of 320 workers in just 4 years. Those extensive losses lead to program cuts, service reductions and maintenance setbacks. Streets, parks, buildings, sidewalks and much more all had to go longer or even without upkeep in order to spread a dollar.

City Manager Jim Sandoval says there is no denying that the staff that remained did and continues to do an outstanding job with the resources and people who are left. But residents now see the hard evidence of those cutbacks in reduced park maintenance, cut library hours, fewer police hires, pothole pocked streets and cracking sidewalks; a slowly deteriorating infrastructure that results in more exposure for the city from a liability standpoint, resident dissatisfaction with city services and an overall perception of a diminishing quality of life.

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According to Hopkins the cost to get our infrastructure back to level ground is a resounding $639,000,000. Council member Mary Salas says “while many may rightly flinch at the thought of a $639,000,000 price tag, the good thing is we know the cost.” Hopkins explains, “with the right plan and tools, the city can begin to revive the public property and manage its assets.”

And Chula Vista has a long list of property :

  • 460 miles of paved public streets,
  • over 1,000 miles of sidewalks and trails and paths,
  • over 500 miles of sewer pipes,
  • 268 traffic signals,
  • over 9,000 street lights,
  • over 27,000 street trees,
  • over 500 acres of park land,
  • over 2,000 acres of open space,
  • over 4.2 million linear feet of curb and gutters,
  • 249 miles of storm drains,

…and the list goes on.

“The problem with such an abundance of infrastructure for the city,” Hopkins says, “is that it starts to deteriorate as soon as it is installed, and it deteriorates even faster if it doesn’t receive proper care.”

As do monetary assets. The city has tried to pass two tax increases in the past six years and both have failed. “The city must continue to be great stewards of the hard-earned money it gets from the public in order to take care of its infrastructure, said Salas. And in the past year there are signs that the economy is picking up. City Finance Director Maria Kachadoorian has reported that city revenues are inching up. Council member Salas says, “it’s time to start pro-active planning for the future instead of simply holding our ground, especially as it relates to city infrastructure.”

But as the city looks ahead to ambitious bay front, university and west side renovation projects it will have to be with an eye to even more infrastructure needs.

“We must not lost sight of our existing and future infrastructure needs,” said Hopkins. “Those needs don’t have to be met all at once, but at some point they do need to be taken care. The challenge becomes how to pay for it all.”

Major Projects Map

Chula Vista’s public works department has 222 full-time employees and a budget of 24.3 million dollars, a far cry from $639,000,000. The workshop revealed lots of information about deficiencies are and what it will take to get it up to speed. But now there is work to be done in identifying the financial mechanisms and resources that will be used to get the job done. More than that, a discussion to identify innovative ways of staying ahead of infrastructure issues instead of constantly falling behind.

Click on the link below for the Infrastructure presentation that was provided to city council by the Chula Vista Public Works

http://www.ci.chula-vista.ca.us/City_Services/Community_Services/Public_Works_Operations/About/pdf/Infrastructure%20Workshop%20Presentation%202013%20Public.pdf