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Along the Mississippi: Tax thyself

Guess what happens when communities cough up cash?

Earlier today, we met with three folks from the Great Rivers Greenway District in St. Louis. Their organization owes its very existence to a voter-approved one-tenth of one cent sales tax that generates $10 million each year. As a result, they've been able to complete about 100 miles of trails and greenways in a 1,216-square-mile area over the last few years, and have plans to create a network of 500 miles more. Not all of their financing comes from the sales tax, but it was the jumpstart the region needed to add to its open space. As I thought about …

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Along the Mississippi: Same trip, different rivers

Reflections on a changing river

Having spent three days on the Mighty Mississip, I am beginning to see just how mighty it is. In Dubuque, we experienced a river that seemed to meander at a manageable pace. We saw a riverfront plaza with steps leading right into the water, and walked down the steps to reach out our hands to touch the water. It was idyllic and calming. The river here in St. Louis is an entirely different beast, meeting up with several major tributaries -- the Illinois, the Missouri, and the Ohio -- each confluence adding interesting twists and a whole lotta volume. Looking …

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NYT revs up special package on cars

The New York Times published a gazillion-story special section on autos today, with many articles covering the green angle. Read up about General Motors' electric dreams, the difficulty facing Hummer marketers, waterless car washes, and more.

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Even more of what 'bike friendly' looks like

Danish picturebook, Portland video show how to respect bicyclists

What bicycle-respecting streets, intersections, and neighborhoods look like is largely a mystery to most people, even those who cycle regularly. I've offered descriptions twice before. Since then, two wonderful new tools have been completed. StreetFilms.org, the awesome, New York-based outfit that makes movies about cycling, has posted a 30-minute ode to Portland's bikability (linked above). It makes Bicycle Respect visible. (Other, shorter StreetFilms works on Portland are collected here, but most of them are incorporated in the main piece. I suggest you start the film, then press pause to let it download before you watch it.) Among American cities, Portland …

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Sprawling homes susceptible to flames in California

The impact of the still-raging California fires on humans and their homes is tragic and lamentable -- but far from unexpected, thanks to homeowners' tendency to sprawl out and nestle right up to the fire line. Some two-thirds of new building in southern California in the past decade was on tinder-dry, fire-susceptible land, says historian Mike Davis. "You might as well be building next to leaking gasoline cans," he says. Many homeowners are not deterred. "We'll stay," says Richard Sanders of Escondido from a fast-food restaurant, awaiting news of how his house fared. "We like the community, we like the …

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Along the Mississippi: Ponyshoe edition

$5 could be yours

It's morning in St Louis, and we're getting ready to talk with some of the movers and shakers in the world of riverfront greenways. While preparing, we ate at a greasy spoon where Jimmy Kimmel was on the teevee talking about his daily cross-country flights for this week's double-hosting duty. Yikes. On a side note, this meal was my third in a row involving white food products slathered in butter -- I've gotta be careful about that. But my health loss is your gain: I will send $5 to the first person who can correctly guess the four ingredients in …

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Along the Mississippi: So long, Dubuque ...

… we’re off to St. Louis

Despite the whirlwindiness of our visit to Dubuque, Sarah and I feel like we got a good picture of the work that's going on there. It helped to have a view from the country's shortest, steepest railroad: We'll write about all of this in more detail later in the fall. But for now, it's off to the glories of St. Louis ... bigger city, same river. Stay tuned.

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Along the Mississippi: Driving Miss Doris

Exploring Dubuque by boat

What floats our boat? Um, we're not quite sure, but that didn't stop us from taking the helm like two river rats making our way downstream. Thanks to the (very Dubuque) hospitality of Trish McDonald and her "chick boat" Doris Day, we were fortunate enough to spend the day out on the Mississippi River. Trish took us on the grand tour as we sped down to the locks and dam, meandered through Ice Harbor, and puttered past ginormous barges waiting to fill up with corn, soy, and coal. She was even gracious (or crazy) enough to let us take a …

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Brit's Eye View: The future becomes us

Envisioning possible green futures helps create a greener future

Peter Madden, chief executive of Forum for the Future, writes a monthly column for Gristmill on sustainability in the U.K. and Europe. There has been much discussion lately of the need to turn the green agenda from a negative to a positive one. I think that an important part of this is developing some more positive visions of what living in a sustainable future might be like. My organization, Forum for the Future, has set itself this task. Partly because we think the green movement needs more credible and aspirational stories of the future if we are to take people …

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Along the Mississippi: Quote of the day

Granted, it’s early yet

Just met with Laura Carstens, planning services manager for Dubuque. The money quote: "For years, we turned our back on the river. Now we're making it our front door." Later today, Sarah and I will get out on the river for the first time. The tourist riverboat stopped running this weekend because the weather turned, but yesterday one of our sources called a friend with a boat. The friend agreed to pick us up this morning and take us for a ride. And that right there tells you plenty about Dubuque.

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