John Nolen “interviews” Candidates for City Council

Lisa Austin

On Erie’s Zoning Hearing Board, one of five seats is reserved for “the building trades.” Having actual construction experience is considered to be an important viewpoint to have in zoning discussions, and this makes sense. In the last few weeks, there has been a lot of discussion about the current method of making appointments to the board of the Erie Metropolitan Transportation Authority (EMTA). Some propose to decrease City EMTA appointments and to increase County EMTA appointments. While the dialogue has centered around which governmental authority should make board appointments, this conversation doesn’t address the skill-sets of those serving on the EMTA board.

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Innovation Erie

Lisa Austin

InnovationErie (IE) is a product design competition that has been held annually since 2009 to encourage people to start a business by “making something.” Submissions are judged on their usefulness, attractiveness, marketability, and the ease with which the product could be manufactured in Erie. After displaying their ideas during a summer exhibit at the Erie Art Museum, a grand-prize winner will receive professional services – legal help, manufacturing advice, and marketing assistance – along with $2,000.

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Considering the City: Former Milwaukee Mayor and Author of the Wealth of Cities John Norquist Comes to Erie

Lisa Austin

John Norquist has some good news about cities. As mayor of Milwaukee from 1988 to 2003, John Norquist reduced property taxes while controlling the budget, demolishing a freeway, promoting light rail, and initiating reforms in education and welfare – all of which fostered a revitalized, less-impoverished city. One reviewer of Norquist’s 1998 book, The Wealth of Cities, noted that Norquist believed that U.S. cities are “on the verge of a renaissance.” Norquist noted that cities have always “fostered civilization” and “provided environments” for the “creation of markets and wealth.”

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Viaduct Moxie

By Lisa Austin & Adam Trott

In a year or two, once funding and planning is in place, the City plans to follow the recommendation of the LR Kimball (LRK) team and demolish the McBride Viaduct. However, there is still a glimmer of hope if a legal entity is formed to repurpose the bridge. Built in 1937 to get cars, trucks, and people over the railroad tracks, the Viaduct connects East Avenue from East 12th Street to East 19th Street. Neglected for decades (current water drainage is in disrepair), the hulking structure was closed to vehicles in 2010. Though the Viaduct is no longer capable of supporting cars and trucks, it remains a vital artery, and if we are good stewards this year, the gift from our Depression-era forebears may be enjoyed by our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

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Made in Erie Marketplace

Lisa Austin & Laurel Swartz

Do you make a point of buying things that are made in Erie? According to the American Business Alliance, buying locally “creates more local wealth and jobs.” Additionally, the Forbes’ Retail blog noted this November that 48 percent of purchases “at local independent businesses” are “re-circulated locally, compared to less than 14 percent of purchases at chain stores.”


Desperately Seeking Supermarket

Lisa Austin & Stephen Sonnenberg

By definition, a food desert is a neighborhood without a grocery store within one mile. When Bradley’s Shur-fine on West Eighth Street closes in a few weeks, downtown Erie will meet this criteria. Residents without the means (or ability) to own and drive a car will have to find a ride for the four to twelve miles round-trip to the nearest grocery store: Erie County Farms (2256 Broad St.); Wegmans (6143 Peach St.); Yorktown’s Giant Eagle (2501 W. 12 St.); Whole Foods Cooperative (1341 W. 26 St.), or a Tops Market (1520 W. 26 St., 712 W. 38 St. or 1702 E. 38 St.)


What a New Orleans’ Market Can Teach Erie

Lisa Austin

During the first week in October, a friend and I discovered the Crescent City Farmers Marketplace (CCFM) in New Orleans. Established in 1995, this Saturday-morning enterprise initially showcased twelve vendors. Almost twenty years later, the CCFM boasts more than thirty stands selling plants, edibles, and food-based products.


Four Ways to Improve Erie

Lisa Austin & Stephen Sonnenberg

Unsightly problems are ruining the urban landscape for Erie residents, and they are making a bad impression on visitors. We can improve the lives of residents, and make a better impression on visitors by addressing four common problems of dead trees, front yard and sidewalk parking, litter, and illegal or misplaced signage, as outlined below:


Waterfront Development

Lisa Austin & Stephen Sonnenberg

John O. Norquist (the Mayor of Milwaukee during that city’s dramatic revitalization) says that if communities “want their waterfronts to come alive [they should build] small cafes, bars, and retail outlets to reflect the people and the culture.” Marilyn Jordan Taylor, dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Design reports that “high-quality public spaces spur private development.” The renowned former Mayor of Bogota, Colombia, Enrique Penalosa, claims that “good pedestrian space” is the key to vital cities.


Urbanizing Gas Stations

Lisa Austin & Stephen Sonnenberg

Today, Erie drivers can pull in to a Country Fair to “Drink Up, Chow Down and Fuel Up.” At any Giant Eagle GetGo folks can “Get In, Get Out and Get Going.” Thanks to the “Kicked Up Convenience” of a new Sheetz on Peninsula Drive, motorists will be able to buy gas right next to Presque Isle’s gateway.

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