Updates

SPRING CREEK HOMESTEADING Update

Upcoming Workshops –

  • January 31 – Seasonal Cooking – 1 – 4 p.m. Laura Zaino will help you figure out how to turn winter storage vegetables and high tunnel greens into tasty winter fare. Unlike a cookbook, learning in this class involves getting to taste the food before you’ve committed yourself and family to a whole batch of rutabaga and mustard greens.
  • February 7 – Milk Jug Greenhouses – 10 – 11 a.m. Justin Wheeler will help you get a jump on your garden by showing you how to build and use milk jug greenhouses. These clever little devices are cheap and effective seed starters that require minimal effort on your part, but get your garden going in February and March.

All workshops will be at Goldenrod Alley Farm, 156 West Hamilton Ave, State College, PA. There is a $12 sliding-scale registration fee.  For more information, please visit the Spring Creek Homesteading website.  Register by email or phone (237-0996)

FRIENDS & FARMERS COOPERATIVE Update

From September 2014 to early January 2015, I worked to help set up and then manage the Friends & Farmers Online Market. The market’s December launch was surprisingly successful. Revenue data from a December 31 launch update to the Co-op Board of Directors below; rent, insurance, supplies and other expenses not shown. On January 8, Melanie Rosenberger took over as the first paid market manager.

For more info, to register as a customer and shop, check out the market online.

Customer Payments Cost of Goods Sold (Payments to Farmers) Co-op Income Gross Profit (Co-op Income/Total Income Number of Orders Average Order $ Number of Vendors
Week 1 $579.80 $487.11 $92.69 16% 24 $24 7
Week 2 $772.03 $638.66 $133.37 17% 24 $32 9
Week 3 $1,382.44 $1,142.70 $239.74 17% 36 $38 9
Week 4 $1,704.25 $1,354.45 $299.80 18% 37 $46 11
TOTAL $4,438.52 $3,622.92 $765.60 17% 121 $36  

CITY-GREEN Update

PSU Energy Strategy Updates

Sent to Board of Trustees, Borough Council, Sustainability Institute and Office of Physical Plant:

Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program Report

Released Friday, January 23 via email by Denice Wardrop of PSU Sustainability Institute:

Denice’s cover letter

Community Email Discussion of HNMCP Report

Commenter 1:

A few initial comments:

“…Because so many stakeholders are concerned that an engagement process would be insincere, it will be important to emphasize that Penn State has not already set the energy-related goals that will be produced in this engagement process.”

It will be interesting to see how they manage this one when the most impactful energy decision has already been made (WCSP conversion and future CHP along with continued use of fossil fuels). This has set the path. PSU and timeline was reactive to MACT rule not proactive (or even creative) in addressing long-term energy goals.

The pipeline was not the result of an energy-related goal, but rather a non-creative, reactive approach to MACT compliance (avoidance).

Why only 1 local resident and 1 local government representative on the Task Force? The report talks about the task force being comprised of “local residents,” but only 1 resident is listed in the Task Force’s composition:

  • 4-8 faculty members (1 of whom is co-chair),
  • 2-4 OPP representatives (1 of whom is co-chair),
  • 2-6 students (2 of whom are the task force liaison and secretary),
  • 1-2 SI representatives,
  • 1-2 Penn State administrators,
  • 1 local resident, and
  • 1 local government representative.

What happens after July 2015 (after Provost issues the 5-year Strategic Plan which includes the energy-related goal)? Where is the next community (public) access point? What assurance is there to PSU’s committment to the energy-related goal?

Commenter 2

Many of you are more in tune with the energy discussions than I am, but I did attend the Sustainability presentation at the Borough on December 10, and it was clear the public was not much of a “stakeholder” in their endeavors.

[Borough Manager] Tom Fountaine opened with “We Are State College, We Are Penn State” (yes, this is a quote, and burned on my brain), and many of the presenters were open about the fact they were working with the Borough, who will decide what will happen, and when decisions are made, the public can be informed.

There is another Sustainability presentation Jan 29th.  Perhaps you could share some of your thoughts there. If this is to be a ‘town-gown’ initiative with ‘real world experience’, it seems more than one resident should be participating.

Commenter 3

The following excerpts from the report contain a pretty amazing error though. I wonder who at PSU conveyed this misinformation to the Harvard interviewers? Do Lara Fowler and Alex share this misconception? The Sustainability Institute?

“The University Park Campus is not subject to a local municipal government; instead, it is incorporated as a separate municipality from the surrounding community, which is divided among six different municipal governments. Despite this fractured governmental structure, the university and the communities are closely linked.

Because the university is not subject to the authority of any municipal governments, interviewees describe the relationship between Penn State and local municipal governments, particularly the Borough of State College, to be mostly hands off.” Page 18 (part 2)

Could it be that this is really the legal position that the Administration takes, that University Park is “incorporated as a separate municipality?” There is of course the University Planning District (UPD), but the State College part of the UPD is still subject to Borough zoning, and its regulations can be changed by us at any time. My understanding is that there is an agreement between the Borough and Campus security delegatingm certain police powers to PSU, but that this is a voluntary arrangement.

Perhaps the “hands off” description is still true, and has been the custom around here so far, but I don’t think it is legally inevitable.

Commenter 4

Wow! Not only might we wonder where that gem of misinformation came from, we might also wonder why the researchers took it a face value, and didn’t confirm it. Good question about Laura and Alex.

Katherine Watt Email to Student Researchers and Advisors

I realize that fact-checking wasn’t part of the assignment given to you by Denice and Lara at the Sustainability Institute – a design flaw I pointed out at the outset in September (see attached…9.8.14 Watt to SI, OPP, DEP, Borough10.23.14 Watt to Fogarty) – but as a result, misinformation is being inserted into the public record.

At a minimum, it would be helpful if you could provide a source individual and/or legal citation for the currently unsupported claim that Penn State is incorporated as a municipality.

Denice Wardrop Email Response

Thank you for your comment, we are currently looking into the matter.  Since this was a student project, Josh and Tara’s responsibilities to it were completed when they submitted the report.

Therefore, correcting any factual errors is the responsibility of the Sustainability Institute,  as the project partner.  We welcome additional comments, and given that it was not entirely clear in the email where comments were to be directed, please let me specify that they should be sent to me at dhw110@psu.edu. (1.27.15 Wardrop to Watt)

Nominations Open for Board of Trustees

January 15 Email to Eligible Alumni Voters from Janine Andrews:

…The alumni elect three trustees annually for three-year terms and the call for nominations is now underway. Just click on the link below to nominate up to three candidates for membership. Your unique election credentials are provided below–please visit the URL below and log in with the credentials provided. Once you have voted, your credentials will expire, so this message may not be forwarded to other individuals for voting purposes. Nomination Link

Once you reach the website, under the Instructions section, you will find the names of those trustees whose terms expire on June 30, 2015. Additionally, a link with information regarding who may be nominated; the number of nominating votes required; qualifications for membership on the Board of Trustees; Trustee responsibilities and expectations; and a current listing of Board members is also available.

The deadline to submit your nomination ballot is 5:00 p.m. (Eastern), on Wednesday, February 25, 2015. The names of all persons receiving 250 or more votes will, if eligible under the qualifications provided and with their consent, be placed on the election ballot (to be distributed April 10)…All alumni who receive the nomination ballot will automatically receive the election ballot….In the event you have technical difficulty accessing the URL site, need technical support or have questions regarding the election process, contact PSU Elections Support at 1-866-307-0041.

I nominated myself and Jordan Crolly.

Jordan Crolly, Class of 2013

“If elected, I will work with the BoT to bring together the expertise to implement aggressive energy policy to wean the University off of fossil fuels by 2030 by dramatically increasing investments in energy conservation efforts and incorporating significant on-site renewable energy generation. I will also advocate for complete transparency during the energy planning process, while encouraging participation from community members who wish to participate and learn from these efforts.”

Katherine Watt, Class of 1996

“I plan to continue working on the PSU Board of Trustees to wean the University from fossil fuels by 2030 by decreasing the size, scope and reach of the University in response to global economic contraction as we move into the post-carbon era.”

If you are a PSU alumni reader interested in supporting our candidacies and eligible to vote, please vote for us, and pass along the info to your networks of PSU alumni. I don’t anticipate campaigning much or getting the 250 votes needed to get on the April 10 ballot, but wanted to throw my hat into the ring.

Writing Plans

In addition to writing a monthly column for Voices of Central PA, I’m formatting my non-fiction pieces from the last few years (back to 2008) into a book and will send it out to agents starting next month.

I’m also planning to devote more time to fiction writing, beginning (I think) with a play depicting a fictional situation in which the seven Borough Council seats are occupied by Dave Stone, Susan Venegoni, Mark Huncik, Janet Engeman, Mike Rybacki, Johan Zwart and Smita Bharti, while I serve as Borough Solicitor and entirely made-up characters serve as Mayor and Borough Manager. Depending on how that project goes, I may try to get the play produced locally, perhaps in the Borough Council chambers…

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One thought on “Updates

  1. I really think Commenters 1 and 2, above, are very helpful. This is because they actually criticize the process. While fact-checking is important here (and I am embarrassed to see that some points were overlooked during the proofing phase – but, thankfully, the community has helped fix the record : )), the point of the report is to create a new process for more stakeholders to be engaged in Penn State Energy planning. So, comments focused on the process (Chapter V of the report) are absolutely the most meaningful.

    Commenters 1 and 2 are not alone in feeling that numbers of local community and govt representatives on the task force are too low. After the draft report was written, it was circulated to some folk (4 representatives from SI, 4 representatives of OPP, 2 Penn State Administrators, 2 students, 6 faculty members, with a preference on those who have expertise in both energy issues and engagement, 4 area residents/community members, 2 at-large attendees) who then attended a focus group to discuss problems with the report. The outputs of the focus group are included in Chapter VI. Among them, it states:

    “[T]here were significant discussions regarding the level of representation that different stakeholder groups would receive in the engagement process. A number of participants criticized the method of appointing task force members, because they thought that task force members should be nominated and that the appointment system proposed concentrated too much power in a few hands. Additionally, the proposed composition of the task force gave some participants pause: they claimed that important stakeholder groups, such as representatives of the fossil fuel and renewable energy industries, should be represented. Other participants observed that the proposed process did not make any special effort to engage people on the Commonwealth campuses, despite the fact that a university-wide energy goal would affect them as well. However, the size of the task force was also a competing concern for participants, since it can be difficult to make decisions in a group of twenty-four. One suggested solution was that task force membership be limited to only a few people who would represent broader groups. Some stakeholder groups could also form advisory committees who could oversee, but not participate on, the task force. Of course, since many members of the public would not be on the task force, some participants suggested that the process focus on additional avenues for public engagement, such as adding additional public meetings. Others suggested that proceedings, such as public meetings or task force meetings, be webcast so that everyone would be able to observe them.”

    Even more helpful is to explain why a change is suggested. Why should more community or local government representatives be included in the task force? What if that one community member is given full veto powers, and the ability to establish different Committees? Would that improve the representation? How would increasing community representation on the Task Force be more meaningful than the ability for any person to comment on the Task Force meeting agendas and minutes? Should, perhaps, the public comment mechanism be tweaked to work better – or dissolved altogether for a more robust mechanism? Should people be able to comment in person at Task Force meetings, or is it fine to just post online? Or, are other methods of public participation lacking, such as the Notice and Comment period, which leaves a lot of room for imagination? Comments like these backed by substantive rationale, I think, would be very helpful in improving the process.

    I actually have many of my own thoughts on the potential shortcomings of this plan. Many of these thoughts are reflected in the comments gathered in Chapter VI. For instance, to me, equally important to the Task Force composition is the method of choosing Task Force members. I think there is room here to make the process even more democratic. Nonetheless, I fear these changes won’t be made if people don’t take the time to read the Recommendations in detail and submit substantive well-reasoned criticism.

    Anyway, I really really really hope that local residents, local government, students, faculty, staff, industry, and other representatives come out in droves and overflow Denice Wardrop’s Inbox with thoughtful ideas on how to improve the process. If that doesn’t happen, it will be a missed opportunity.

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