Monday, August 4, 2008

On the Road

"The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream." - Jack Kerouac

So I'm off for a couple months to explore some of the other regions of this immense continent. Thanks for reading and enjoy the Cascadian Summer!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Seattle Staircases

Seattle is certainly a city of hills. Local lore would have it that Seattle, like Rome, was built on seven hills, but as the city spread outward, many more were encompassed. In fact, outside of San Francisco, Seattle may be the hilliest city in the United States. Seattle's relatively recent growth put technology on the side of development and allowed urbanity to essentially disregard the area's topographical variation.

And yet, although it certainly doesn't feel like it, there was a time in Seattle's past when getting up and down these hills involved more effort than simply pressing harder on the gas peddle. The Queen Anne Counterbalance is probably Seattle's most famous mode of ascencion, but a much older and simpler mode, was the staircase. Just like, streets, lamps, waterpipes, and electricity, stairways were, for many years, part and parcel of the city's infrastructure. In some of the cities steepest areas, steps have been a necessary part of transportation.

Sadly, as car culture has consumed us, Seattle stairways have been neglected and underused and money towards continued building, or even improvement, has been altogether diverted. Nonetheless these wonderful pieces of construction still remain hidden away in every neighborhood of the city, each has it's own distinct feel and character.

And so, in an effort to revive the love of these foot-friendly passages, I give you a photographic Ode to the Seattle Staircase. Enjoy!

[ Mount Baker]

[ Horton Hill]

[Beacon Hill]

[Upper Queen Anne W.]


[Golden Gardens]

[Upper Queen Anne N.]

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Question of Urbanity

[5th and Madison]

I recently finished reading The Life and Death of Great American Cities. This monumental work, written by the Urbanist Jane Jacobs in 1961, is an informative, and almost poetic read. If you haven't read it, do! Here are a few exerpts in the meantime:
  • "So many people want to make use of [successful city areas], so many people want to work in them or live in them or visit in them, that municipal self-destruction ensues. In killing successful diversity combinations with money, we are employing perhaps our nearest equivalent to killing with kindness."
  • "Life attracts life."
  • "To approach a city, or even a city neighborhood, as if it were a larger architectural problem, capable of being given order by converting it into a disciplined work of art, is to make the mistake of attempting to substitute art for life."
  • "Big-city government today is nothing more than little-city government which has been stretched and adapted in quite conservative fashion to handle bigger jobs. This has had strange results, and ultimately destructive results, because big cities pose operational problems that are innately different from those posed by little cities."
  • "Attrition of automobiles by cities is probably the only realistic means by which a better public transportation can be stimulated, and greater intensity and vitality of city use be simultaneously fostered and accommodated."
The fact that she argued so vehemently for the minimization of automobiles in 1961 is true evidence of here contemporary relevance.

Nonetheless, while her goal of a healthy, livable city (opposed to a town or village) still survives today, the obstacles and challenges are much different now then at mid-century. Preeminently is the debate of a sustainable planet. The issues of global climate change, dwindling resources, and overpopulation were not nearly as dire in Jacobs' days as they are in our contemporary world. With these problems in mind it is not only necessary to make cities livable, but also to minimize their impact on the global environment.

The dominant theme in Cascadia today is that density = sustainability. There are many obvious benefits from a more compact urban environment, specifically the increase in walkability and effective mass transit, thereby minimizing carbon emissions. But I think these arguments tend to miss a greater, and perhaps more important issue. Derrick Jensen, in his recent book, Endgame, points out the problem nicely:

"The story of any civilization is the story of the rise of city-states, which means it is the story of the funneling of resources toward these centers (in order to sustain them and cause them to grow), which means it is the story of an increasing region of unsustainability surrounded by an increasingly exploited countryside."

Jensen's point brings up a frightening question: Could it be true that cities themselves are inherently unsustainable? My soft spot for cities makes me answer, optimistically, no. But, at the same time, I know we are going to have to wholly redefine the way we visualize urbanity if we intend to save this planet. In any case, this daunting question is something I intend to explore constantly in posts to come.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Help our Parks!

In 2000 Seattlites agreed to spend $198.2 million on green space in the form of the Pro-Parks Levy. Actually, the name is a bit misleading. Certainly the levy helped to acquire and renovate parks (Fremont Peak and MLK Memorial Improvements). But, oh, it did so much more! This Levy facilitated in environmental rehabilitation (Ravenna Creek Daylighting), community building (International District Community Center), walking/biking connections (Burke-Gilman Extension) and even historic preservation (Belltown Cottages). In total the park helped fund over 150 projects all throughout the city: North (Bitter Lake Open Space), South (Kubota Garden), East (Seward Park Audobon Center) and West (Me-Kwa-Mooks Natural Area).

Unfortunatley the Levy expires at the end of the year and, in spite of all its accomplishments, Mayor Nickels has decided it is not worth renewing. This relatively inexpensive Levy helped bring dozens of neighborhoods and communities together to make our city a better place. Not only should this Levy be renewed, it should be a permanent fund for social and environmental improvements.

Luckily, you can help! Attend the upcoming citizens' meeting and voice your opinions on why we need a Parks Levy and what it should be used for.

2008 Parks Levy Meeting
Tuesday, June 17th 5:30PM
Lopez Room, Seattle Center

For all the Pro-Parks projects check out the map.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Historic Preservation

[Lusty Lady at 1st and University]

A few days ago, Knute Berger, a proud and longtime Cascadian who writes for Crosscut, wrote an article criticizing the green movement in Seattle. The article, entitled Unsustainable Seattle, argues that construction in the name of density or sustainability is simply cloaked consumerism, while historic preservation is the true key to limiting our energy consumption. Unfortunately Berger uses limited contemporary facts and his biases stick out like a Sasquatch in Seattle. But deeper down I think he does raise some valid points, however poorly communicated.

His main argument revolves around his criticism that the energy costs in constructing new buildings is far greater than saving already existing ones. Siting a talk given by Donovan D. Rypkema, a D.C.-based economic development consultant, he points out that old buildings were usually built with "brick, plaster, concrete, and timber" which are much less energy consumptive that contemporary building materials, generally, "plastic, steel, vinyl, and aluminum". Further, he points out that when tearing down a building, we not only waste all the material, but also the "embodied energy", or the original energy used to construct the building. Near the end he deounces "greens" for not fully supporting preservation by quoting Rypkema:
"When you rehabilitate a historic building, you are reducing waste generation. When you reuse a historic building, you are increasing recycling. In fact, historic preservation is the ultimate in recycling. At most perhaps 10% of what the environmental movement does advances the cause of historic preservation. But 100% of what the preservation movement does advances the cause of the environment."
Now, while Berger is right in saying that preserving existing structures is an energy-effective building method, his argument isn't completely coherent. First of all, criticizing the materials used in new construction is not an argument against new construction, it is an argument against how new construction is done. The best ways to build are constantly argued and discussed within the "green" circles and certainly many would argue that a return to better, stronger, less energy -intensive materials is a must. Second, materials can easily be reused and yet still be reconstructed into an entirely new building. Rollins Street Flats, in South Lake Union boasts 81% recycled materials. Similarly, the Sabey pain-stakingly donated tons of bricks to the community when it demolished the original Rainer Brewery Storage Facility.

[Rendering of the Ice House at Airport Way and Nebraska]

Berger also fails to account for renovation and restoration work needed for historic preservation. These buildings are old. Wood frames can rot and need replacing, stairwells and improved water systems might need to be added. Oftentimes, entire interiors are gutted and replaced with an new floorplans. These types of things certainly take some energy consumption. It is probably less than constructing new buildings but in no way carbon neutral.

But no matter how energy intesive new building may be, the fact is that Seattle is a sprawl city and without major redesigning the city itself will be unsustainable. There is only so much you can do with a single family home, the structure that makes up nearly 70% of the city's area. Berger blasts Sound Transit for destroying, "a slew of wonderful old Capitol Hill apartments". But what does he expect? Should we abandon any thoughts of a real mass transit system in the name of preserving a few apartment complexes? Truth be told, Seattle is a young city and even our oldest buildings are infants in the eyes of the world.

These arguments are so poor because Berger's real reasons for criticism are entirely different. The fact is that Berger can't come to grips with the fact that the 50's style suburban neighbors of the past are not going to be staying around much longer. He laments that current construction will "transform the city beyond all recognition". This statement is absurd. Cities are constantly changing and growing, just like the people that make up their populations. It is irrational to wish for a stagnant, unchanging Seattle cityscape. But, as unreasonable as this idea may be, it is statements like this that are truly detrimental:
"Pioneer Square and the International District will be squeezed by encroaching high-rises. And residential neighborhoods are feeling pressures from a building boom enabled by city policies allowing taller, denser, and faster-track development."
It is exactly this time of mentality that will prevent Seattle from becoming a progressive, sustainable city in the future. Pioneer Square and the International District are the two most historically preserved areas in the entire city, and this will not change. But without new development in the area these neighborhoods are doomed to remain underutilized and underpopulated. As I mentioned before, single family neighborhoods are abundant in Seattle and these relics of a car-centric past are the dominant obstacle in our efforts towards sustainability. As Berger says, "greens and preservationists need to be allied" and for this to happen he is going to have to acknowledge the problem with a single-family city.

[Sodo Park at 1st and Hanford]

But aside from Berger's personal reasons for preservation there is a valid argument to be made here. Adaptive use and preservation do need to be a major part of future construction. Adapting a new development to the existing buildings can foster a much greater amount of creativity compared to the cookie-cutter designs that are constantly being thrown together. For example, as North Aurora becomes less of a highway and more of a city it should embrace it's road-side past. Many of the hotels and motels can be converted into affordable housing or SRO's, things that are in dire need in this city. Similarly the Duwamish Valley's industrial past has provided a slew of large, warehouse like buildings. These can be utilized in many different ways giving the neighborhood a distinct flavor and character while maintaining a structural record of its manufacturing history. Sodo Park, used by Herban Feast is a fantastic example of this type of adaptation.

What we need to do, and what has already been done in other Cascadian cities such as Vancouver and Portland, is leverage historic preservation through height and density incentives. Currently Seattle has an incentive program that allows developers extra height in return for public amenities. This means that the developer writes a check to the city of which 60% goes towards future affordable housing (not necessarily near the development) and 40% goes towards "the community", a vague concept that generally never materializes in much more than a better landscaped sidewalk and a few more benches. What we need is a "menu options" program which includes very specific ideas such as: community center, park space, historic preservation, environmentally friendly building, etc. Frequently a number of these options can be combined in creative ways allowing a much more colorful city. Such a system was used to develop Portland's Pearl District and the result is internationally praised.

I am excited to watch Seattle mature in my lifetime. A denser, taller city, with better transportation is certainly the goal of our generation. But in our efforts to accomplish these aims it is important to be prudent and creative to ensure a city that is not only more sustainable, but beautiful and unique as well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Joe Metro

"Take six quarters out of the pocket
And drop it in the box, hop the 48.
Off to pay homage.
It stops often.
I jot my
watchin' citizens walkin' off the Joe Metropolitan.

Proletariats and wayward sons,
With old Filipino men speakin' in they native tongue.
And the day is just begun
Greeted by the smell of a bum,
smelling something like beer, bar, and dung.

A brother in repose in the back,
All alone
Marinatin' in a pair of half-broken headphones.
Muddled in Rhymes...

...The Northwest fills my lungs, kills the pain in my chest."

-Joe Metro, Blue Scholars

Monday, June 2, 2008

Seattle Stencils

Seattle's intellectualism manifested in street art.

(Queen Anne Ave. between Aloha and Highland)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Seattle's Neglected Past

The picture above is of the Historic Hotel Seattle. Built in 1890, directly after the Great Fire, the triangular-shaped building stood in the heart of Pioneer Square until 1961. In that year the hotel, possibly the oldest building in Seattle, was razed for a parking garage in the name of Urban Renewal.

Now, I don't want to dwell in the past here, and I will acknowledge that, in fact, the demolition of the Hotel Seattle did have its benefits. It initiated the development of the Pioneer Square Historic District. It also, arguably, helped motivate Victor Stienbrueck and others to stand up against a simlar "urban renewal" of the Pike Place Market, now Seattle's biggest tourist attraction. In addition, the constructed parking lot is probably as close to architectural beauty as you can get with a resting place for cars. It even has a nickname, The Sinking Ship.

What I do want to quibble over is the poor state of Pioneer State today. In the past half-century Pioneer Square seems to have remained stagnant as the rest of Seattle has bustled on. It is as if the Historic designation of the area has utterly baffled developers and property owners, who would rather leave the land as is and look to less permanent neighborhood properties for their far flung ambitions (ie. Belltown, Cascade).

Take, for example, Occidental Park.

Looking West this is probably one of the most beautiful areas of the city. The ivy-infested brick building hints at a classic European city, while the native Totem Poles to the left prominently say Cascadia.

But facing East the picture is starkly contrasted. The noses of parked cars creep uncomfortably close to the pedestrian's space and the uninspired buildings have their backs turned, as if the street, rather than the Park, is a better place to attract clientele (and unfortunately this is quite possible).

Why has nobody had the adventurous desire to take advantage of this amazing spot, to seamlessly integrate the square with the rest of the space? Perhaps adding some arched brick structures while removing the cars, refacing shops and cafes to pour out onto an extended square, and renovating or adding loft apartments, with balconies peering down into the contained activity.

This same problem of neglected beautfy typifies most of the Historic Pioneer Square District. While appointment-oriented art galleries and game-day pubs have flourished with cheap rents, fine dining restaurants and luxury condos are rare to say the least. With a lack of solid pedestrian traffic the soft red-brick streets and plazas are only utilized by the homeless and others, too busy looking out for the law to enjoy the charm underfoot.

Perhaps the relative infancy of Seattle has given rise to a set of architects who have only learned to create something out of nothing. Perhaps these developers have never been taught the prudence of working within limits. Whatever the case may be, as we Seattlites continue to cry fowl against sprawl and the creation of new suburban communities it may help us to look back into the heart of our oldest neighborhood and challenge ourselves to provoke a true Urban Renewal.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The history of Cascadia, (then known as Oregon Country) reveals a very ambiguous power structure. As one of the vestiges of the frontier, men (and women) made the long journey to the Pacific Northwest as a way to escape established institutions and try their hand and a better (and wetter!) life. For many years the lucrative Hudson's Bay Company acted as a proxy government for the Cascadian people, of which the vast majority were employed under. The governments of both Britain and the US had agreed to share the land, essentially seeing it as nothing more than an exploitable resource base for their affluent Eastern cities. But as the population grew, and in turn, diversified, Cascadians realized that a structure of governance was necessary. A series of meetings were held in Champoeg, Oregon (halfway between Salem and Oregon City), which culminated in the establishment of the first government of Cascadia.

On May 2, 1843, in the bustling prairie town of Champoeg, prominent settlers of Oregon Country debated about how to establish law. Finally, a line was drawn on the ground. All those in favor of establishing an independent government were asked to cross the line. The vote was close, 52-50 but the settlers decided on a new government. Thus, the First Provisional Government of Oregon was established. The government existed for almost six full years, providing a legal system as well as a common defense for the Cascadian pioneers. On March 3, 1849 the government was absolved as the Oregon Territory was established under the United States Government. Nonetheless, Cascadians did in fact rule themselves before anyone else got the chance.

To commemorate this historic event the Cascadian Commons is hosting a Founder's Day Event in Champoeg State Park. Although the town of Champoeg no longer exists due to a devastating flood, a marker has been laid down to mark the place of the Champoeg meetings. The Cascadian Commons intends to reenact the line in the ground and ask all who believe in an independent Cascadian Government to cross it. Find out more information at their website:

Friday, April 18, 2008

Still More Car Freeness

Apparently Cascadians have taken Peter Newman's advice to heart. In a new report released by the Sightline Institute, the combined states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho have decreased per capita gas consumption in seven of the last eight years. This means we are now using less gas per capita than at any time since 1966.

Of course, the news isn't all good. Increases in population almost directly offset the amount of gas that individuals are consuming, meaning that total gas consumption has pretty much remained flat since 1997.

Nonetheless in less than a decade per capita consumption has declined by a whopping 11 percent, making it the fastest reducing region in the nation. In fact, in the mid '90s Cascadia was one of the most gas guzzling areas of the country, but now we are at about 9 percent less than the national average.

As more people step out of their cars its our job to make sure that development and infrastructure promotes non-car use. Without some major investments in land management and public transportation we will see a major gentrification of our cities. The lower class will be pushed out of the urban and into the suburban; places that were built to to escape the poor in the first place! Oh the irony. The days of huge highways and suburban sprawl are over. Let us usher in a new era of public funding that is directed at healthy, livable communities for everyone.

Get Involved:
Seattle Great City Initiative
Bicycle Transportation Alliance (Portland)
Carfree Portland
Smart Growth BC

Friday, April 11, 2008

Car Free Cascadia!

Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square, courtesy of Wikipedia

The Oregonian published this great interview with Australian Professor, Peter Newman. He studies what he has dubbed, "car culture" in America and Australia. Here are a few excerpts:

Q: We have a $4 billion proposal to replace a six-lane highway bridge on Interstate 5 with a new bridge that would have six highway lanes, plus six auxiliary lanes. It would also extend light rail to the northern suburbs and have generous pedestrian facilities. It's been billed as having a little bit for everyone. Is that kind of project worth pursuing?

A: Four billion dollars is what you're going to need for building these transit lines and subcenters.

Keeping the traffic moving is what you have to stop doing. VMT (vehicle miles traveled) reductions are not going to be promoted by that bridge.

There will be a whole series of freeways taken down when they reach the end of thei life in cities around the world. The one in Seoul (South Korea) came down. Now it's a beautiful river, and a park with transit. The mayor who did it is now the president.

Q:What's the difference between a sustainable city and your latest term, a resilient city?

It's moving more directly into this climate change and oil agenda. In many ways, the sustainability word is being made to mean "green." But the agenda of oil and greenhouse gases -- the consumption of resources -- is about resilience in the city.

Resilience means you can have options so that we can achieve a 50 percent reduction in VMT, so that we've got capacity in the transit system, you've got destinations clos by that you can reach biking and walking, and if you need to use a car you don't need to go far.

Suburbs on the fringe built with all the certainty of the future are now very uncertain, because people living there sometimes have to spend 40 percent of their household budget on transport, and 40 percent is not sustainable.

If you're going from $3.50 a gallon gas to $6 a gallon, which is the price of fuel in Europe ... many of these suburbs will be abandoned. They are not resilient.

Q:Every month or so, another magazine names Portland the most sustainable city in America. They tend to cite the renewable energy we use, the commuters who don't drive to work and the number of green buildings. What should the next challenge be for us?

On those sustainability ratings, it comes out on top, and I would agree with that. But on a resilience rating, it's not. New York comes out on top.

There are whole regions of New York that are just as bad as Atlanta. But the core of Manhattan is very resilient. It's got enormous ability to take people other than by car.

Portland now needs to lead the way in the exponential decline in VMT, and there can be no complacency anymore in saying, "Well, we're already there."

Check out the whole interview with some videos here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cascadian Drinking Song

Blue Moon Tavern in Seattle, courtsey of Wikipedia.

Here's a short Drinking Song I came up with while bored at work the other day. There's no real tune for it yet. If anyone has any ideas, suggestions, or additions let me know.

From the Emerald City to Bridgetown down South
An Ode to Cascadia I sing from my mouth.

With it's mountains so mighty and its trees oh so tall,
We drink to Cascadia 'cause it's got it all.

Cheers! to Cascadia with all of it's green,
Where the women like it dirty and the waters are clean.

Cheers! to Cascadia let the rain fall outside,
We'll dance in the puddles while the foreigners hide.

We've got breweries a plenty, the best pot around,
and Autumn brings magical fruit from the ground.

In winter the snow piles high on the peaks,
and long summer nights let us stay out and drink!

Cheers! to Cascadia with all of it's green,
Where the women like it dirty and the waters are clean.

Cheers! to Cascadia let the rain fall outside,
We'll dance in the puddles while the foreigners hide.

We pour,
One for the Salmon who's homes all got dammed,
by greedy capitalists here in this land.

But now we have wisdom, we've learned from the past,
We must work with nature to make this land last.

Cheers! to Cascadia with all of it's green,
Where the women like it dirty and the waters are clean.

Cheers! to Cascadia let the rain fall outside,
We'll dance in the puddles while the foreigners hide.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

BC becomes North Cascadia?

Mt. Robson in BC, courtesy of Wikipedia

So I haven't posted in a while but this was too good to pass up. The Times Colonist, a major newspaper in British Columbia, recently held a renaming contest for British Columbia. Of course, the results are merely for fun but interestingly "Cascadia" and "North Cascadia" were the most common, with "Pacifica" close behind.

Check out the full story here.

Thanks to Sightline for the find (and for naming their post Cascadia Rising).

Monday, January 28, 2008

Friday, January 25, 2008

Geothermal under the Cascades

By Les Blumenthal
McClatchy Newspapers
Jan. 24, 2008

Deep beneath the Cascades Mountains, where molten magma heats the Earth's crust and occasionally bursts through cracks and fractures in violent volcanic eruptions, lurks an energy source that scientists think could be tamed to help power the Northwest.

Though there's been little exploration, and no deep test holes have been drilled, the geothermal potential of the Cascades — which run from Washington state south through Oregon into Northern California — is starting to attract a buzz. In the next 10 or 15 years, some say, commercial-sized power plants could start generating electricity.

"As this area is predicted to contain vast geothermal resources, development plans for the Cascades are becoming an increasingly frequent topic of conversation," said a report late last year for the Department of Energy.

Behind Iceland, which gets more than 26 percent of its electricity from geothermal plants, the United States is a world leader in geothermal development, with plants pro
ducing more than 3,000 megawatts of electricity.

California is No. 1, and resources in such other Western states as Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Oregon are being developed. Nevada has been dubbed the "Saudi Arabia of geothermal."

A recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found that the amount of geothermal power that could be recovered from deep drilling would represent almost 3,000 times the amount of energy currently consumed in the United States.

Last year's Energy Department report said the Cascades contained "potentially significant" geothermal resources, but it cautioned that the effort to tap these resources — including drilling miles into volcanoes to tap "supercritical fluids" — won't be easy.

Even so, the hunt is under way, and some energy companies have zeroed in on certain areas.

Near Baker Lake, north of Seattle, an Oregon company is waiting for leases from the Forest Service and considering a 100-megawatt geothermal plant that could provide enough electricity for 100,000 people. The power it would produce would be cheaper than the electricity from a new natural gas-fired generating plant.

"We are very serious about this," said Steven Munson, the chief executive of Vulcan Power Co.

In the rough triangle from Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams in Washington state to Mount Hood, east of Portland, there's enough geothermal potential to develop 1,000 megawatts of electricity, the equivalent of three or four gas-fired generating plants, said Susan Petty, president of AltaRock Energy in Seattle.

The Cascades are part of the so-called "Ring of Fire" of active volcanoes and earthquake faults that surround the Pacific Ocean.

Southeastern Washington, eastern Oregon, southern Idaho, eastern California, Utah and Nevada are in a zone marked by deep fractures in the Earth's crust that tend to be pathways to the deep circulation of hot water.

Though that water is hot enough to run steam turbines, Petty and others said the temperatures of the geothermal water and hot rocks underlying the Cascades might be even better for producing power. And because magma is closer to the surface in the Cascades, the drilling holes there might not have to be as deep.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Honoring Dr. King

From HistoryLink:
On November 8, 1961, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), the great civil rights leader, arrived for his only visit to Seattle. He spoke at the University of Washington and at Temple de Hirsch on Thursday, November 9, and at Garfield High School and the Eagles Auditorium on Friday, November 10, 1961. A reception followed at Plymouth Congregational Church.

In his lectures, the civil rights leader stressed creative protest to break down racial segregation and discrimination, and called on President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) to use the executive order to declare all segregation unconstitutional. All of his talks were inspirational and promoted the concept of brotherhood.

After the last lecture, he requested that McKinney take him to a barbecue restaurant in the Central Area where they spent several hours eating and talking and reminiscing. He left on Saturday, November 11, impressed, according to McKinney, by the progressive attitude he saw in the city, especially in the African American community.

Cascadian MLK Events:
Poetry Reading and Open Mic in Bellingham
Workshops, March and Rally in Seattle
Unity Breakfast in Tacoma
Rally and March in Spokane
March and Rally in Boise
Rosa Parks Monologue in Vancouver
Rally and March in Portland
MLK Health Care Forum in Medford
Buddhist Peace Walk in Salem
Bowl for Beans Benefit in Arcata

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cascadian Eco-Beer

So at work today, enjoying the old Seattle Weekly, I came across Aimee Curl's article on eco-friendliness in the coffee industry. Although there weren't too many surprises (guess what, Starbucks doesn't recycle, aaah!) it's always interesting to see product comparisons with respect to greenness. Originally I thought I would just post a more generally Cascadian version of Curl's article, but then I got to thinking...

Coffee isn't the Cascadian, or even Seattle icon that so many claim it to be. Starbuck's may have started here but its popularity has little to do with coffee and much more to do with service and marketing. This is exactly why they went global and have been just as popular everywhere else. They had an effective business model that they perfected in Seattle and that's about it. Sure we like our caffiene fix everyday but were not a bunch of coffee connoisseurs who can determine the country of origin with just one whiff. In fact, if that were the case, I would expect that Starbucks would have done worse around here because people would realize that Starbucks' Grande Mocha is nothing more than the Big Mac of java.

But Beer. Now that's something that Cascadians truly take seriously. It's common knowledge that microbreweries prosper here like shrooms in a cow patty. In fact, the top five states with the most craft breweries are as follows:

1. California 200+
2. Colorado 101
3. Oregon 91
4. Washington 87
5. Michigan 69

And this is good beer too. As I mentioned in a previous post British Columbia dominated the show at the Canadian Brewing Awards. Likewise, California, Washington, and Oregon are first, third, and fifth respectively in most medals won from the American Brewer's World Beer Cup. Even in international competitions Cascadians show their talent. In the 2005 International Brewing Industry Awards the only winners from the entire North American continent all came out of Cascadia (Bridgeport Brewing, Oregon; Rogue's Brewing, Oregon; Sierra Nevada, Northern Cali; and Pacific Western, BC)

So, with inspiration from Aimee Curl and an added PNW twist, I give you the greenest beers in Cascadia!

If there was an award for greenest brew practices (which there sure as hell should be!) it would most certainly go to Anderson Valley Brewing Company. Based in Boonville, Ca, at the heart of the Emerald Triangle, this brewery is so eco-friendly I don't even know where to begin! Let's see, the company really took off in 1999 when they built their new, three-story, state-of-the-art brewhouse . They situated the building so that only one tree had to be removed, and they planted two more in its stead. The new facility boast a fully solar-powered brewing process as well as a three-pond effluent waste water treatment system. This means that water used to brew the beer is also used for heating and chilling beer, cleaning the facilities, and eventually irrigating all 30 acres of the company's property. The brewery also utilizes and supports its local community. All water used by the brewery is taken from wells on their property. The hops are all certified organic and grown in the Pacific Northwest. In addition, after using the grains for brewing they clean it, then donate it to local livestock owners. They estimate that they give away approximately 2000 tons of nutrient grains a year. These efforts have gotten them numerous awards from California's Waste Reduction Awards Program. In fact, AVBC is so environmentally conscious that they recently acquired four shire horses which they use to haul beer to local stores and pubs in the area (fed with the spent brew grains of course!).

Down in Oregon Country the Full Sail Brewing Company, based in Hood River, has gained recognition for its social responsibility. In 1999 after 12 years of brewing and 47 workers the company became an independent, employee-owned company, dividing the company between all workers. Under this ideology the company has been able to implement a number of innovative practices that have helped them reduce their environmental impact. For example, the company runs 4 10-hour work days which saves 20% on water and power consumption. 85% of hops and 95% of barley used in Full Sail Ales are grown in the Northwest and through various minor fixes they have reduced their water consumption to only 3.45 gallons of water for every gallon of beer (the industry average is between 6 and 8).

While nothing to date can compete with Anderson Valley, Olympia, Washington's Fish Brewing Company has been giving back to the environment since 2002. As their name suggests they try to promote the protection and rehabilitation of salmon habitat's throughout Cascadia. Their three main beers, amber, Pale, and IPA are all certified Organic. Their signature beer the Wild Salmon Pale Ale uses hops from a Yakima, Washington farm which was the first farm to producecomercially organic hops in the United States. A portion of the proceeds from this beer also goes towards salmon restoration and watershed protection. I also must mention the fact that all six-packs of Fish beer contain the proclamation, Brewed in the Republic ofCascadia. You gotta love that!

Of course, lets not leave BC out of this! Crannog's Ales has the dubious title of Canada's only certified organic farm brewery. Crannog's is similar to Anderson Valley, but on a smaller scale. They brew on a 10-acre farm which feeds and sustains the brewers as well as contributes to the brewing process. They also use water from their own wells and reuse grains for livestock feed. They claim to have created a harmonized, zero-waste system. While the brewery pledges to only deliver beer within driving range of the brewery this makes it difficult to secure outside of British Columbia. Nonetheless they deserve credit for standing behind their beliefs.

Juneau's Alaskan Brewing Company is also a committed green brewery. It is their goal to have a zero-net impact on the environment. To this end, in 1998 they were the first craft brewer in the country to install a carbon dioxide recovery system, which captures and reuses the greenhouse gas naturally produced in the fermentation process. Of course, they acknowledge that working in the harsh Alaskan environment they cannot be quite as eco-friendly as other places. Thus, they have pledged a portion of their proceeds to promote the health of the Pacific Ocean via their coastal CODE (Clean Oceans Depend on Everyone) Organization. The company has also recieved numerous awards for its outstanding health and saftey practices among its employees, thereby promoting healthy environments externally as well as internally.

While these five microbreweries have shown tremedous leadership in environmentally friendly beer making, their are many Cascadian craft breweries working to make their companies greener. Check out a full list of Activist Brewing Companies here.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The State of Jefferson

Via Magazine
By Christopher Hall
September 2003

Barreling north on Interstate 5 in the late afternoon, with the Siskiyou Mountains before me slipping into shadow and lofty Mount Shasta glowing orange in my rearview mirror, I suddenly find I'm no longer in California. Not so strange, perhaps, except for one thing: Oregon still lies a good 20 miles ahead.

In a pasture just off the highway, the words STATE OF JEFFERSON appear, painted in eight-foot letters on a barn roof. A few minutes later, I pass a sign confirming that this stretch of road, traversing a 2,500-foot-high valley of hay farms and cattle ranches, is litter free thanks to the State of Jefferson Chamber. On the car radio, an announcer reminds me in his soothing baritone that I am listening to Jefferson Public Radio. Clearly, I have entered some real-life Twilight Zone called Jefferson.

A quick check of the history confirms that Alaska was the 49th state to enter the union. But if events had unfolded a bit differently, the State of Jefferson—carved from the border counties of Siskiyou, Del Norte, and Trinity in California and Curry in Oregon—might have beaten the northern giant to the punch.

Partly serious bid, partly publicity stunt run amok, the Jefferson movement spawned impassioned rallies, highway blockades by a self-appointed border patrol, and the election of a governor who posed for inauguration day photos with a bear named Itchy.

Today in these counties it's unlikely that you'll encounter serious secession sentiment, or even a tame bear. You won't be stopped by the border patrol—only by natural wonders like the rushing jade waters of the Smith, the last major undammed river in California. During my four-day drive through modern Jefferson, I pulled my car over plenty of times. I gawked at soaring bald eagles. I stood in awe before an army of insect-eating, cobra-headed California pitcher plants rising from a misty forest floor. I felt the spray of water where rivers meet ocean surf, and I ate salmon within view of the boat that caught it only hours earlier. And all along the way, I learned about this almost-state that was born in a small Oregon town.

With its peaceful, slightly funky feel, Port Orford, Ore., hardly seems a cradle of revolution, but in 1941 it had Gilbert Gable at the helm. Gable described himself as the "hick mayor of the westernmost city of the United States" when he met Stanton Delaplane, the San Francisco Chronicle reporter who penned a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning stories about the Jefferson movement. Gable was actually a transplanted Philadelphia public relations man who had headed west with a wad of dough and big plans for extracting the region's timber and ore and for transforming his sleepy new hometown into a bustling seaport. One of the things that stood in his way was bad roads, many of which were no more than oiled dirt lanes that turned to sludge in rain and snow.

Perhaps hoping to get a good new road or two, Gable announced in October 1941 that Curry, Josephine, Jackson, and Klamath counties in Oregon might merge with California's Del Norte, Siskiyou, and Modoc counties to form a new state. "It was more publicity stunt than serious secession movement at that point," says Jim Rock, historian and Jefferson expert. "After all, under the U.S. Constitution, they had to get the approval of Congress as well as the legislatures of both states."

Port Orford today has a small fishing fleet and an unusual open-water port, where boats are hoisted out of the ocean rather than tied to a dock. The population is a mix of fishermen, old-time lumbermen and ranchers, and newly arrived retirees. A good number of artists live and work in the area, selling pieces at galleries and gift shops like Port Orford Pottery, which is open "most days" from April to October, "unless the fish are biting."

Drive slowly through town or walk the bluffs in Port Orford Heads State Park to take in the stunning views up and down the coast and you'll see that booming development, as Gable envisioned it, never came. "We get visitors throughout the year, but mostly in the summer," says current Port Orford mayor Gary Doran, who is as low-key as Gable was hard charging.

Visitors come to stroll along sandy Battle Rock Beach, the site of a fierce 1851 fight between pioneers and Rogue Indians, or to explore Rocky Point tide pools that brim with flowerlike anemones and deep purple and bright orange starfish.

Humbug Mountain State Park attracts scuba divers and windsurfers, as well as those who are up to the challenge of a hike through old-growth forest to the mountain's 1,756-foot ocean-side summit.

Full story here.

Learn more about this little rebel state at

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Weekly Alternative

Its that wonderful time of week again. This time let's do South to North.

[The Guardian]: San Fran Politicians have unanimously backed a $185 million parks bond called Proposition A. While many hail this as a uniting environmental pursuit some question the sum of this project. Many argue that the $110 million bond passed in 2000 only helped for repairs and didn't do much for additional green space. As well, a recent analysis identified at least $1.7 billion worth of backlogged park needs which the $185 million could only begin to puncture. The bond needs a 66 percent voter approval in February to pass.

[Editor's note: I just wanted to draw a comparison to Seattle on this issue. While Seattle has about 250,000 people less than San Fran, it passed a $198 million Pro-Parks bond in 2000 and many hope to see that renewed if not increased in the next year or so.]

[The Source]: The City of Bend has seen significant financial troubles as homebuilding in the area continues to slow. Wrestling with a $2.7 million shortfall this year the city decided to lay-off Pat Kliewer, historic preservation planner for the city. Historic properties are abundant in Bend and its neighboring cities and some fear that this could change with Kliewer as a "watchdog".

[Eugene Weekly]: What's better Bus Rapid Trasit or Light Rail? Eugene politicians claim BRT but some citizens aren't buying it.

[Portland Mercury]: While Oregon was suppose to allow same-sex marriages starting January 2, recent events have complicated the process. A number of legal hearings, as well as number of rallies, are now scheduled through February about gay rights issues. In related news, Dan Savage has endorsed Sam Adams for Mayor of Portland.

[The Stranger]: Class issues in Seattle come to the front again as the City of Seattle denies commercial space in Sodo. While the city claims it is protecting industrial companies and, in turn, blue collar jobs, the concentration of industry in South Seattle means a much greater percent of air and water pollution in the area.

[The Inlander]: Apparently news takes a while to get over the mountains because Spokane still seems to think they are immune from the housing slump.

[Boise Weekly]: A nice little preview of 2008 Idaho politics.

[Monday Magazine]: Some Langford residents are upset by a loan taken out by the city from the Province of BC for nearly $25 million to fund a new overpass. Citizens claim that the overpass will only cater to specific upper-class developments, namely Bear Mountain, Totangi Forestry, and Goldstream Heights. Further, people are questioning the city's bylaws which allowed the decision without any public meetings. Activists hope to get enough citizens on board to block the loan and the overpass.

[The Georgia Straight]: Does BC save enough agricultural land? Provincers weigh in.

[Anchorage Press]: A few Anchorage residents are lobbying to get Alaska a law school. Currently it is the only state in the Union without this higher educational facility. As Alaskan oil interest is on the increase, Wally Hickel and Craig Agliatti feel that Alaskans need to be more educated about their state's legal rights, environmental issues, and concerns about native peoples.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ramblin' by Rail

Trains came to Cascadia in the mid-1800's with the first real rail company, Oregon Steam Navigation, beginning in 1861. Throughout the rest of the century railroad barons held huge sway in the Northwest as their decisions could literally make or break a city. This was evident in the later 1800's as Tacoma and Seattle battled who would become the final leg of a short line from Portland that connected them to the transcontinental railroad. After the advent of automobiles trains fell out of favor since they could not provide the freedom of personal transportation. Many railroad companies went out of business and abandoned their rails leaving them to rust in their place (Many were later turned into walking trails, such as Bellingham's Alabama Creek Trail and Seattle's Burke-Gilman). Well, this morning I took the train from Seattle to Bellingham and I believe its time that we bring rail travel back, bigger and better.

Riding the train Northbound from Seattle is a truly relaxing experience. As historical happenstance would have it (or perhaps the fact that locomotives were invented over a century before automobiles) the existing rail lines have by far and away some of the best right-of-ways in all of Cascadia. Unlike I-5 which runs from strip mall to strip mall, the train runs almost directly along the Puget Coast, allowing unhindered views of the San Juans and Olympic Mountains. As the train chugs past Everett it heads inland, meanerding along the Snohomish River and then dropping into the farmlands of the Skagit Valley. Surprise relics pop up along the route as well, such as an old beached tugboat just north of Edmonds or a colorful Welcome to Mt. Vernon sign, tucked under an old 99 bridge.

Of course, the train isn't perfect. The typical journey by rail can take up to almost twice the time of driving and the price is not yet competitive to a car (unless those gas prices keep up their trend). Talking to some fellow Cascadian Independents we decided that Cascadia really needs to take rail travel seriously. Geographically it makes sense as we are much longer North-South, than East-West. As well, demographically, we are almost entirely concentrated on the already existing I-5 corridor, which railways already run the length. By putting in a high speed train, such as the Eurostar connecting London and Paris, we could have service from Vancouver to Portland in under three hours! And this isn't like 3 hours to an airport where you then have to wait for your baggage, wait for a shuttle or taxi, and then spend 15 to 20 minutes driving into town, this is literally downtown to downtown.

Plus, you get the benefits of being eco-friendly. In a recent press release from Eurostar it was approximated that traveling by train emits roughly 10 times less carbon dioxide per passenger than traveling by airplane. Not to mention that high speed trains run on electricity, and thus have the ability to come from renewable sources, opposed to burning jet fuel.

Well, as it turns out my friends and I weren't the only ones to realize how brilliant train travel would be in Cascadia. The Cascadia Center, a project started through the Discovery Institute, has been trying to increase efficiency in regional transportation since 1993. Although the Discovery Institute is continuously harassed (rightly) for their promotion of Intelligent Design, the Cascadia Center has actually worked hard on a few important transportation projects in the past, such as helping negotiate a second train between Vancouver and Seattle. Sure, they aren't always right and they haven't yet promoted a high speed train, but at least the ideas are out there.

So what can the average Cascadian do to help promote better train travel? Well, check out the Cascadia Center's webpage and send them a letter showing your interest for high speed rail. The classic letter's to your congressmen and women is also always good. But most of all get out their and ride the rails! Trains are expensive and there will never be financial support if there isn't any consumer support. So pick a destination, charge up your ipod, and go enjoy the Cascadian landscape from the big windows of the old steel pony.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cascadia in Sports

At the request of a fellow Cascadian living in Virginia Beach, Va I have decided to look at how Cascadia has been utilized in sports. I also feel that since the only Cascadian NFL team sucked it up pretty horribly in the playoffs yesterday, losing to Green Bay, we could use a little sports bolstering. So lets begin:

There are a number of teams who use the Cascadian name but the oldest has to be the Cascadians' hiking and climbing club based in Yakima, Wa. The group was founded in 1920 with 104 members and has been the eastside equivalent of the Seattle-based Mountaineers by popularizing snowshoeing, tobogganing, and skiing for all the outdoor lovers on the eastern slopes. They are currently involved in numerous trail restoration projects throught the Pacific Northwest and play, "an important role in the designation of Forest Service Wilderness Areas".

Another Cascadian team is the Zabinski Racing-Team Cascadia. Although I believe the team ceased after 2001, it was the only West Coast based American LeMans sport racing team. The team was headed by 5 time champion Ed Zabinski and their best overall finish was 4th place in the Sebring competition in 1998.

While maybe not a traditional "sport" (but just as fierce!) is the World Crossword Puzzle Championships. Yes that's right, Cascadian brains teamed up to create a team for this hard fought competition. Their results are here. (If anyone has any ideas on how to make sense of these scores, let me know, thanks.)

There are also a few competitions named in honor of our great region. The most prominent is the Cascadia Cup. This is a season long competition between the three Cascadian First Division Soccer Clubs: the Portland Timbers, the Seattle Sounders, and the Vancouver Whitecaps. Started in 2004 it has been won twice by Vancouver and twice by Seattle (maybe next year Portland).

In 2007 another Cascadia Cup was established in Bellingham, Washington. The competition, hosted by local biking club, Worms, involved nine events and had a premier showing of 35 bikers. They intend to make this a yearly event.

And finally, what Cascadian sports summary could be complete without mentioning the wonderful Cascadian Bike Porn Tour. This group of Porn/Bike Enthusiasts rode from PDX to Van City showing the world the wonders of bicycle porn. Their slogan: "We Intend to Offend". Sigh, only in Cascadia I guess.

Well, unfortunately that about sums it up for Cascadia in the sports world. Perhaps in the future we can get some more teams named after our unqiue region. If you know of a team out there, pee-wee soccer to club water polo, please post a comment and let us know about our Cascadian warriors.

Cascadian Myspace

Thats right, Cascadia has joined the rest of the 13-25 year olds and gotten itself a myspace page. The offical page name is the Cascadian Independence Project (CIP) and was put up by Brandon Letsinger in 2005 as a way to promote his political movement. There was a wonderful article about the CIP in a 2006 edition of the Eugene Weekly, I highly recommend you check it out. The offical CIP site is (Editor's Note: The site is currently down and under repair) If you are a current a myspace user I suggest you befriend this group ASAP!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Most Livable City

A Post to make Seattlites jealous.

Courtesy of NYC's StreetFilms. (If you have the time, check out the feature on Ciclovia, in Bogota. Probably one of the most creative intiatives any city has ever taken.)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Billionaires make Crappy Vids too

You just gotta love local multi-billionaires who makes goofy ameteurish (aside from the ridiculous amount of celeb cameos) videos like these.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Cascadian Mayors

Over half of the world's population resides in cities and this number continues to increase. Many cities are known not only for their large populations, but their high densities of wealth, culture, and diversity. As anyone from a small town knows, there is no experience like going to the city where niche markets flourish; they tend to be the last strongholds for small shops not yet strangled by the ever increasing chainstores. But these places, with so many different groups of ,can certainly be a challenge to oversee. The job of mayor is usually one of constant criticism and slow progress. But important nonetheless. Sometimes, when a mayor is successful in motivating these huge bodies of people, incredible things are achieved. Today I want to take a look at some of the major Cascadian mayors, their histories, achievements, and future agendas. As we continue to fight the federal government for more regional control mayors will become increasingly significant in political spheres. So, let's get to know some of our region's big-wigs.

Sam Sullivan

City: Vancouver
Hometown: Vancouver
Occupation: Non-Profit Organizer
In Office Since: 2006

Probably the most notable thing about Mayor Sullivan is that he has been a quadrapelegic since a skiing accident at age 19. Instead of looking at the accident as a hinderance, Sullivan used it for inspiration to acquire a BA in Business and subsequently start a number of non-profits for disabled people. He was recruited by the political elites and soon won a seat in city council. He won the mayor's chair in hard fought contest in 2005 against Jim Green.

Soon after becoming mayor Sullivan introduced EcoDensity (a term pantented by Sullivan himself). The intiative was designed to increase density in Vancouver through affordable housing, better public transportation, and other methods so that suburban sprawl would not destory the density of the lower mainland. As the Olympics come upon Vancouver Sullivan developed Project Civil City intended to reduce homelessness, panhandling, and open drug use by 50% by 2010. Many of criticized this policy for its lack of substantial help, saying that it is just displacing the impoverished and troubled.

Sullivan is also known for his academic achievments and is the first Vancouver mayor to learn Cantonese as well as Punjabi. There are large Chinese and North Indian populations in the Vancouver area.

Greg Nickels

City: Seattle
Hometown: Chicago/Seattle
Occupation: Politics
In Office Since: 2002

Although born in Chicago, Nickels was raised in Seattle from a young age. He graduated from the University of Washington with a Law degree and quickly became legislative assistant to Councilmember and future mayor, Norm Rice. He was elected to City Council in 1987 where he served until his mayoral stint in 2001. He beat incumbent Paul Schell who was flailing from his mishandling of the 1999 WTO riots.

The two biggest issues for Nickels have been the environment and transportation. He is nationally known for starting the US Mayors Climate Action Agreement which asked US Mayors to adopt the Kyoto Protocol even while the federal government did not. His allegience to public transportation led to the failed monorail scheme in the early part of the century, which wasted millions of taxpayers money for nothing. But, on the flip side, he did manage to start construction on a light rail system from Sea-Tac airport to downtown Seattle, projected to be complete by 2010. He hopes to increase its area by extending through some of the North Seattle districts as well. Another of Nickels' accomplishments includes giving equal rights to Seattle public employees in same-sex relationships.

In recent years Nickels has been criticized for his relationship with Seattle Police Department. He has stood fully behind the SPD in the face of numerous scandals and accounts of police brutality and has even pledged to add over 100 officers to Seattle streets over the next few years.

Tom Potter

City: Portland
Hometown: Bend, Or
Occupation: Police Officer/Chief
In Office Since: 2005

Potter is best known for his role at Police Chief. He worked as an Officer for over 20 years and was Chief for 4. During this time he gained a national repuation for his hard work in building trust between the Police Department and citizens. He was the first Portland officer to join a Neighborhood Association and helped develop a set of trading cards so that children could better recognize their public servants. As Chief he managed to reduce crime while the city of Portland was growing quickly. In addition he took a strong stance against prejuidice and discrimination. He dissuaded a number of African-American officers from filing a lawsuit against the city by starting a "Bias Crimes" unit to investigate hate crimes. He was also the first officer to march in uniform at the gay PRIDE parade in Portland. He was elected mayor in 2004 by an overwhelming majority.

Stemming from his experience in the police department, Potter's mayoral goals have focused on reconnecting city government to its citizens. He initiated Vision PDX which aims to build a 30-year strategic plan for Portland by listening to community and neighborhood input from all areas of Portland. Potter also aims to increase diversity in Portland's public workforce and help open communication for stronger shared goals.

Last year Potter announced that he would not be running for a second term even though his apporval rating remains high. He has not said what he intends on doing in the future.

Gavin Newsom

City: San Francisco
Hometown: San Francisco
Occupation: Restauranteur
In Office Since: 2004

Newsom has had an interesting career in an interesting city. He first grew to prominence after starting a small wine shop that eventually turned into a milti-million dollar company with five restaurants, a Napa Valley winery, a hotel, and two retail stores. In 1996 he was appointed by Mayor Willie Brown to a number of small governmental comissions. He gained public attention by advocating major reform for the city's beleaguered regional rail system, MUNI. He decided to run in 2003 for mayor as a Democrat against Matt Gonzalez of the Green Party. Many people believed Newsom, as a businessman, would be too sympathetic to big business. But with a number of national endorsements he was elected and took office in 2004.

Shortly after assuming office Newsom gained national attention for allowing same-sex marriages in the city of San Francisco. It was subsequently challenged by federal courts but remains a prominent issue in the city and has bolstered the criticism of President Bush. To add to his radicalism, in 2007 Newsom took a very liberal stance on illegal immigration, stating that he would do everything he could to discourage raids in the city. In 2007 he had a sexual scandal with an aide's wife as well as going into treatment for alcoholism but nonetheless, he was reelected for second term.

The 2007 San Francisco mayoral election was one of the most unqiue races in Cascadian history. There were 12 candidates including a nudist activist, a homeless cab driver, Josh Wolf, and the eccentric artist, "Chicken John" Rinaldi.