Jul 8, 2014

Historic Homes

These are all homes from the Freedom Festival home tour event. I was only in town for one day of the interior tour portion, but loved seeing historic homes to the south of our neighborhood. Hopefully next year the event organizers will mix it up and I'll get to see more historic homes in our neighborhood. In any case, I got a booklet from the Provo Library (Free!) that has pictures of historic buildings in Provo that I can go look at anytime. Sounds like a good date night...



Jul 2, 2014

How to go to a City Council Meeting

Last night I went to my very first City Council Meeting. I've never been involved in city government before, so going to a council meeting was outside my realm of experience and a little intimidating. However, I felt it was important to support our neighborhood so I went and had a great time! Here's the inside look:

The building where the city council meets is between the Covey Center and the Police Station. (350 W Center St.) I parked in their big lot on 100 South, then went inside and just followed the signs to the Council Chambers, where the meetings are held. It was more formal than I was expecting, with somewhat of a courtroom atmosphere. It reminded me of 4-H meetings growing up!

The two main things discussed were the South Downtown Community Development Project Area and the Joaquin Neighborhood plan. Everything that was discussed was opened up to the public at some point to make comments on. I felt like the council was interested in what people had to say and tried to address concerns...I might have been nodding off after a couple hours but the councilmen and woman were still trying to stay sharp! If you want to make comments to the council, you have to go to a podium with a microphone front and center, which is a little intimidating. You state your name and address then give your comment. You can also write it down beforehand if you want. It was a little hard to hear some people, I don't know if it was their nerves or just not standing close enough to the microphone.

Also, these meetings are long! Some people brought a book, knitting, phones, etc. to while away the dry parts of the proceedings. Apparently these meetings can go much longer than the 3 hours it lasted last night, but it is pretty easy to come and go as you please.

I loved seeing so many people from my neighborhood and hearing their comments and concerns. It makes me proud to be part of such a caring community.

Some things that came up were:
The problem of the vacant warehouse in our neighborhood. (Ernie's Market).
Safety issues--the intersection near the Village, pedestrian safety crossing streets, etc.
Preserving historic homes in our neighborhood
The owner of Brick Oven wanting an exemption from the proposed zoning in the plan so he doesn't have to build retail along with student housing.

I was impressed with comments made by our neighborhood chairperson, Leo Lines. He chose to focus on safety as the place to start implementing the neighborhood plan, and had some good suggestions for funding for these ideas. 

If you have a problem with something in the neighborhood or city, I suggest that you contact Stephen Hales on the city council. Not only does he live in the neighborhood, but I felt like other council members respected his viewpoint and calm demeanor. Follow the council blog! Follow them on Facebook! See when the next meeting is, all here.

Some final words: Going to a council meeting is like taking a behind-the-scenes tour. It will help you understand how the city functions and help you feel more in control of the decisions that affect you.

Jun 30, 2014

Tomorrow Night!

Vacation is over! Tomorrow night, July 1, 2014, around 5:30 there is a public hearing on the Joaquin Neighborhood Plan. (City Council Chambers 350 W Center Street next to the Covey Center). Please come and show support!

Jun 4, 2014

Historic Provo Tours 2014

One of my favorite events of the year is coming up: Provo's Freedom Festival! I got my catalog of events in the mail today and browsed with great anticipation. This year I plan on going to an event that encompasses our neighborhood--the Historic Provo Tour.  Just follow the link for all the info, but basically it's a "self-guided tour of buildings listed on the Local and National Historic Registers." There are two open houses where you can see the interiors of historic buildings in and around our neighborhood. These are on Thursday, June 12 and Friday, June 13, at 5:30. Look online for more info and hope to see you there!

May 28, 2014

Behind the Scenes at Ladies' Night

Wow, what a great night! Our neighborhood represented well, and we had a great turnout. I'm not exactly the queen of social events, but it was so great to have the women I know and love (thanks for coming, Mom!) visit in my home and share with each other and the Mayor our thoughts about the city.

I felt bad; the Mayor was recovering from an emergency root canal earlier that day, but he soldiered on, looking sporty in his dashing orange-checked shirt with checked suit ensemble. (Had to put that in there as a nod to gender equality--we always hear what female politicians wear to events :)

I was glad that three women brought their toddlers and got involved even with small kids. If they can do it, you can! Especially given the late hour, I thought all three kids did great.

As a little bonus to the night, all my random renovation projects for the next couple of months got done early--nothing like the mayor coming to your house to give you a kick in the pants!

The mayor should be posting this on the city blog soon, but I just wanted to share with the neighborhood the report from the evening. Here it is:

Ladies' Night with the Mayor!

Moving back to Provo last year, I found that a lot of changes were happening in the city. Downtown had gotten a lot more interesting, residents had discovered that the great outdoors was within walking distance, and a new recreation center had transformed an entire section of the city. Little old Provo had morphed, like an awkward middle-schooler suddenly becoming a confident sports star in high school.

However, I was worried that Provo was stuck in past when it came to women. I’ve read some negative articles recently about women’s pay and the lack of women in politics here. Were women’s voices being heard when it came to the important issues in the city?  I emailed Mayor Curtis and expressed my concerns to him, and was pleasantly surprised by a quick response. He acknowledged that the city could always do better and suggested that I get a group of women together to meet with him about getting involved in the city and making a difference. So per his proposal, I hosted Ladies’ Night with the Mayor—a fun way for women to move from a vague interest in the community and complaining about problems to taking action.

Our group included the Mayor, 17 women, and three toddlers. First the mayor shared how women were already involved in the city in a positive way, and then he discussed how we could start our personal involvement in the city. I thought the questions he brought up were great for everyone to consider. He suggested we ask ourselves: “What bugs me about the city?”, “What can I improve in the city?”, and “What are my natural talents and abilities?” The answers to these questions can be a good guide to narrow down an area where we can make a difference.
We discussed using the Internet to get involved by contacting our city council members, following them on their Facebook pages, joining various Provo Facebook pages, following the mayor’s blog and city council blog, and various specialty groups within Provo. We also talked about our volunteer work, the groups that we are involved in, and our topics of interest as women. We even had time to dive into our random questions, touching on a wide range of topics—the city 311 line, recycle cans, the mechanics of the city council, Dumpster Days, zoning, and the new school bond. We covered a lot of ground in an hour! I enjoyed the practical suggestions such as shortening city council meetings, calling 311 when we see an overflo​wing recycling dumpster, and contacting city council members as a place to start with neighborhood questions.  
Hopefully everyone left with some good ideas. A lot of the women that I talked to about coming to Ladies’ Night were unexpectedly interested in what’s going on in the city. I thought that maybe women here just didn’t care, but I think that many just don’t know where to get started.  Most decisions are better when the people affected by them help to make them—we women need to get involved in Provo City so we can make and influence the decisions that directly affect us. Ladies’ Night provided an opportunity for us to hear what women are doing now, learn how women can get involved even more, and draw more women into the general process of making Provo a great city. Thanks, Mayor!

How can I get involved in Joaquin Neighborhood?

If you really want to get involved in the neighborhood, you should start by joining the Joaquin Neighborhood Facebook group. You can see what residents are talking about and find out about meetings and plans that affect our neighborhood. Under "About" there's also some useful information about who to contact about various problems. (Zoning issues, junky neighbors, graffiti, etc.)
Then you should come to neighborhood meetings.  
The neighborhood has a citizens group, the Joaquin Improvement Association, that has meetings every so often to discuss issues affecting our neighborhood. It's a great way to meet neighbors, let your voice be heard, and find out how you can get involved. The meeting times are listed on Facebook or you can sign up for the email list:

  •  "For many years residents of the neighborhood have been using a Yahoo Group as an email list. You can subscribe and unsubscribe to this group at any time. You must send an email (a blank email is fine) to: myjoaquin-subscribe@yahoogroups.com Then you should receive a confirmation email and just follow the instructions. That's it! There hasn't been much action on the email list lately, so don't worry if you don't see a lot of emails from it."  
To get involved in the city at large, follow this link to a page on the mayor's blog with some great suggestions. Also, if you live near a school consider going in and seeing where they could use some help!

May 23, 2014

Sustainable Gardening Meeting Report

Last night we got to listen to Alex Grover talk about sustainable gardening in Joaquin Neighborhood. I was only able to stay for an hour, but it really got me excited to learn more! Here are some quick notes and some resources for your gardening.

Here in Provo, we are charged for our lawn water by the gallon, so we need to use it wisely. Since we have about four months of watering, it's good to do a few things with your lawn to be water-wise.

-Mow as high as you can, avoid fertilizer--most of it isn't absorbed and goes into the water supply, and enjoy the clover--it adds nitrogen to your lawn! Part of this is a mind-set, shifting from competition for the neighborhood lawn that looks most like a golf course to having an inexpensive and earth-friendly lawn.

-Water once a week. The soil in our neighborhood is generally a light clay, so it holds water well. Your grass will get deeper roots and withstand drought better.

-Upgrade sprinklers to MP rotors and ask for a state rebate in the sprinkler store. (Sprinkler World, Irrigation Supply Company, etc.)

There are alternatives to the water-hungry lawn.

-Plant lots of perennials! (Perennials come back every year from the same root, annuals live one year and then die or reseed themselves). Perennials have deeper roots than grass so don't need watered as much. Water deep and seldom to encourage deeper roots. We live in a tree-lined neighborhood. A lot of perennials are full-sun, but we get such bright light that some will do fine in the shade. Consider a drip system to water perennials.

-Plant herbs, many are drought resistant!

-Plant a vegetable garden instead of a lawn

-Plant with native plants

Some warnings

-Don't do weed fabric and rocks. Weeds will grow there!

-Keep whatever you do looking nice so you don't get complaints from the neighbors.


Utah Sustainable Gardening Blog by Alex Grover

Add yourself to Provo Permaculture group on Facebook.

Check out "Waterwise: Native Plants for Intermountain Landscaping"(USU Press) or "Landscaping on the New Frontier: Water wise Design for the New Frontier"(USU Press) and other great books from the library.

Personal notes: I've checked out a lot of books on water-wise design. I have this park strand that I don't want to water and that I want to do something experimental with, like plant with native plants. However, my house is very traditional, so I'm not sure how that would work. I want to research more and do a separate post on having a water-wise park strip!