11 December 2009

It's simple, Just don't give them the water!

Waukesha County is about to get approval to buy water from the City of Milwaukee.  Apparently Racine and Oak Creek are also willing to sell to Waukesha County but they are less desired due to the higher cost and logistics of piping the water.  If Milwaukee does not provide water than it fears that Oak Creek or Racine will and Milwaukee will lose a source of revenue.  Additionally Milwaukee wants conditions for public transit and affordable housing fulfilled.
Link to Daily Reporter article "Housing, Tansit at Center of Water Sale"

A brief history of this topic:
The area of Waukesha that needs water lies in the Mississippi River Watershed (all falling rain water and ground water naturally drains west to the Mississippi River and eventually to the Gulf of Mexico). Developers are having a difficult time developing subdivisions in the remaining farmland of Waukesha County because the ground water (future well water) is contaminated or can not be reached affordably by drilling new wells (excessively deep drilling). Also the public water supply for Waukesha County can not supply any more water for new residents.

Milwaukee water comes from Lake Michigan, the second largest freshwater lake in the world. The supply SEEMS limitless (it isn't). Rain water and ground water from Milwaukee and Racine county flow east to Lake Michigan and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean. Any water that is pulled from Lake Michigan needs to be returned to Lake Michigan in the form of treated waste water, lawn sprinklers, etc. Water sold to the western 2/3 of Waukesha County will not be entirely returned to Lake Michigan. Instead it will go to the Mississippi River. What seems like a small detail or unimportant piece of information is actually a significant imbalance in our ecological system.
The Continental Divide runs through Waukesha County. Many of you may never realize that the big hill you drive over on I-94 between Hwy 100 & Moreland Rd. exits is the Continental Divide. From the top of this divide (which divides the continent from north to south) rain water either drains west or east depending on which side you are on. It has done this for millions of years with minor exceptions where man has interfered. The Mississippi river depends on its supply of water. Lake Michigan does also. Lake Michigan, in the last fifteen years, has been slowly lowering in height. This problem has been already causing significant coastal erosion. It is believed that human over consumption is one of the causes.
A decision to sell Milwaukee, Oak Creek or Racine water to municipalities in Waukesha County is also a violation of the Great Lakes Treaty which says that all water sourced from the Great Lakes must be returned to them.
In addition, the water is primarily needed for residential and industrial development of existing farmlands and forests. Not providing this water may make these unnecessary developments not feasible. Providing the water will open up the "flood gates" of development and turn undeveloped land into housing subdivisions that are not planned properly and should not exist in exo-suburban conditions. STOP SUBURBAN SPRAWL NOW! Besides there may be a large percentage of existing residents that may want their rural life preserved. If Milwaukee won't provide them water maybe Oak Creek

10 December 2009

Diesel Electric Hybrid! Finally They are Planning for Them

At the LA Auto Show VW is showing their first diesel electric hybrid. The Up! Light is designed to get 70 mpg and is not a "plug in" electric car. It will produce its own electricity and drive off primarily a 2 cyl. turbo diesel engine. About a year ago both VW and Fiat discussed to the press that they would not consider diesel electric hybrids because the cost would be too high and they predicted that consumers would not purchase them. Apparently they have changed their minds, this includes Fiat also. Remember that the VW, Mercedes Benz and Fiat are the technology leaders in diesel production. Their engines can also be found in other manufacturers' cars (example: Fiat makes the diesel engines that power the Ford Fiesta and Focus).

LA Auto Show 2009 Volkswagen-Up-Lite Photo Courtesy Road & Track

I have proposed them for the last several years and could not understand why nobody was developing them for cars. We see diesel electric hybrids in operation for over fifty years - they are diesel locomotives that exclusively power our modern day trains. Something nice about diesel electric hybrid cars is that the fuel does not have be a petroleum product. They can run on biodiesel made from used fryer oil and at 70 mpg you won't need a lot of that. My proposed car is actually propelled by (proprietary information not to revealed) similar to train locomotives.

There are "plug-in" electric cars proposed by some car manufacturers (and a few currently available) but these are usually a worse environmental choice than a car with really low fuel consumption. The reason for that is the majority of electricity available in the U.S. is produced from coal or gas. The quantity of noxious emissions created by the electricity generated to charge the batteries for an electric car is larger than the quantity of emissions from the average gas powered car (for coal or gas sourced electricity). Unless the "plug-in" electric car gets its electricity from a safe renewable source (i.e. solar, wind, hydro electric), there is a negative environmental impact. The only good point is the emissions of the plug-in car are zero, but the power plant will be spewing a higher quantity of emissions.

So, before buying an electric only car or an electric hybrid car, really research the information including where that electricity does come form to power that plug-in electric car that you may consider. Also research the batteries.

02 December 2009

Correction - Big Ed

Correction - The now former GM CEO Fritz Henderson is not "Big Ed the Texan" who publicly proclaimed he knows nothing about cars - that is Ed "Big Ed" Whitaker. Big Ed IS the Chairman of the Board of GM and now the interim CEO. Big Ed is the former CEO of AT&T whom is responsible for the current organization of it. Fritz Henderson was a life long GM employee/executive whom apparently could not shake off his GM family and atmosphere fast enough to satisfy the Board. Just a note, I read a recent story saying that AT&T has earned the status of having possibly the worst customer service this year (of any service providing company - not just phone). Big Ed was instrumental in setting up the current AT&T corporate hierarchy - that was listed as his greatest achievement to date.

Why do I update people on the status of GM? This is supposed to be a blog about architecture, urban community and environmentally friendly living. As one of the largest manufacturers of automobiles and other transportation vehicles, GM has probably the worst environmental track record of any its competitors. It has to be ordered by federal and state governments to clean up its act. It is now marketing itself as "green friendly" (see green washing definition) because it is trendy. Its lobbyists fight all types of governmental laws aimed at improving fuel economy, reducing emissions and increasing public transportation. If GM were truly concerned it would quickly address these issues and prove that it can exceed any proposed government regulations instead of fighting them. The choice, eight months ago, to hire Fritz Henderson as CEO and Big Ed the Texan as Chairman were amongst those bad GM decisions - no matter who made the decisions. GM and a few other large corporations are fighting against ideals that are important in this blog.

01 December 2009

GM CEO Ousted by GM Board at Monthly Meeting

Whitacre is interim replacement
Jamie LaReau
Automotive News
December 1, 2009 - 4:50 pm ET
UPDATED: 12/1/09 6:20 p.m.

Link to Automotive News Updated Article

DETROIT -- General Motors Co's board of directors ousted CEO Fritz Henderson after eight months, saying it wanted to chart a new course as the biggest U.S. automaker pushes ahead with its restructuring.

Frtiz "Big Ed" Henderson Resigns as CEO of General Motors!

Newsflash!!! Frtiz "Big Ed" Henderson resigns as CEO of General Motors! The man who publicly announced he doesn't know anything about cars has resigned during a GM Board meeting. Apparently after a few months of being GM's CEO he still doesn't know anything about cars. I am sure GM's press department has a better and "more appropriate" way of announcing this.
Link to Automotive News Alert Article

GM CEO Fritz "Big Ed" Henderson Resigns

Newsflash!!!  Frtiz "Big Ed" Henderson resigns as CEO of General Motors!  The man who publicly announced he doesn't know anything about cars has resigned during a GM Board meeting.  Apparently after a few months of being GM's CEO he still doesn't know anything about cars.  I am sure GM's press department has a better and "more appropriate" way of announcing this.

Link to Automotive News Alert Article

Definition: Greenwashing

Greenwashing (green whitewash) is the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly, such as by presenting cost cuts as reductions in use of resources.[1] It is a deceptive use of green PR or green marketing. The term green sheen has similarly been used to describe organizations that attempt to show that they are adopting practices beneficial to the environment.[2]

Definition of "Greenwash/Greenwashing" from Wikepedia

Link to site: Greenwashing Index, evaluate and news

25 November 2009

Factoid 2

Walking produces no toxic emissions.  And it is good for your health!

Factoid 1

The worse your car's fuel economy is, the more it pollutes!  No exceptions.

Sierra Club, Green Building Council Launch Cool Cities Project

MILWAUKEE- Wisconsin Green Building Alliance and Sierra Club’s Cool Cities
program on Monday announced the launch of the Green Building for Cool Cities collaboration.

The partnership will leverage Cool Cities’ more than 200 local campaigns and USGBC’s national network of 78 chapters to encourage new and energy-efficient buildings.

For the rest of the article click here


-From the Daily Reporter 25nov09

06 November 2009

Alderman Zielinski Getting Tough Again

Alderman: Go Green or Go Away

"Citywide Development LLC is the first private developer in Bay View to test a local alderman’s demand for green construction.
Tony Zielinski, the alderman representing Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood, refuses to support project plans unless they require at least half of a new building’s energy come from renewable or on-site sources. He is asking Citywide, which is planning a four-story apartment building, to meet the benchmark."

Link to the Daily Reporter story:

Thanks Alderman Zielinski for holding developers to what they claim they want to do, and/or convincing them to set good examples in the community.

More on Coal

Sierra Club Looks to Snuff Out Coal

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday published an order requiring the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources revise an air-quality permit for Alliant Energy’s Columbia Generating Station in Pardeeville. The order is in response to a challenge the Sierra Club filed last year."

Link to the Daily Reporter Story:

Thank You Sierra Club

03 November 2009

Clean Coal

Al Gore and I agree!  THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS CLEAN COAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Our Choice - New book from Al Gore

East Side Comprehensive Plan

Northeast Side Plan Adopted

A new land use plan for Milwaukee’s northeast side was adopted in September by the Common Council.  The 300-page plan includes detailed recommendations for seven sub-areas: Riverworks, Riverwest, Harambee, Milwaukee River, Upper East Side, Lower East Side, and the Lakefront. The planning effort was organized by the Department of City Development and directed by a contract management team and plan advisory group composed of property owners, citizens, business owners, and organizations from throughout the northeast side. The full plan is available at:

Planning work continues to update the 1999 downtown land use plan and create new land use plans for the west side, southwest side, and near north side

- From City of Milwaukee Press Release, DCD Commisioner Rocky Marcoux

Special Note from Darrin Engel: 

I have an original copy of the General Neighborhood Renewal Plan, East Side Renewal Plan (Revised - January 1961) which is the 1960's version of the plan mentioned above.  Beleive me, there are no obvious similarities!  It is absolutely disgusting the change that the 1961 plan proposed.  Realize that the title has the word "Renewal" in it - that is enough to make my heart palpitate, fall, gasp and make me black out!

The plan called for the demolition of most of the homes on the Lower East Side.  They were to be replaced mostly by interstates, green spaces and Cul-de-sac subdivisions.  The industrial district along North Avenue was to be expanded with interstate access (there's an industrial district there is the question most of you Milwaukeeans are asking).  The two previous homes that I owned and lived in (magnificent 2.5 story 2600 s.f. Queene Ann Victorians) would have been demolished to make an arbitrary but huge multi-block "greenspace" buffer zone between an exclusively zoned professional office district and a low density cul-de-sac subdivision.

There are many of these arbitrary greenspaces and public land scattered about the map.  Also lots of "expressway right of way" land use designation.  Basically the whole goal was to eliminate "urban blight", a.k.a. old buildings especially those with "undesireable" mixed uses, it was to create segregated zoning uses and move the traffic much faster.  There seems to be no concern for micro-neighborhoods, retail districts, historic landmarks (remember in 1961 there was no such designation) and other urban qualities.  Interestingly no public transit shows on the maps, yet miles of interstates, parkways, parking lots and other street work is shown.

There is one page titled "Urban Renewal Plan".  This is the page with the district map that shows the "Area to be Cleared and Redeveloped" and the "Area for Rehabilitation or Conservation".  The area to be cleared on the map is the majority of the resedential neighborhoods which is about 66% of the area map.  The area for rehab. and conserv. is generally existing professional office, existing industrial, existing high denity/high rise residential and existing park and public space - the remaining 33%.  This 33% must have also posessed all the political clout in developing th plan.

In Hindsight - Milwaukee was a very conservative city and had an aversion to taking federal funding (urban renewal and interstates were federally funded).  So only about 10% of the plan was carried out.  The interstate freeway was never built through the neighborhood - but the buildings were cleared and hundreds of residents displaced.  Currently The East Side has the highest land value per s.f. in the Milwaukee Metro area (outside of downtown).  This includes property with Victorian houses and retail buildings still on it.  It still has mostly mixed uses which contribute greatly to its character and desirability. The neighborhoods subject to the 1961 report are now the most desirable residential neighborhoods in the City of Milwaukee.  At the time of the report they were far from the worst neighborhoods in the city.  I am confident that if the majority of this plan was carried out this area would not be desirable It would have had a profound negative affect to the image of the city and the future of its tax base.  I have confidence that the new Comprehensive Plan will be more feasible.  I will comment on it in the future as I read it and get familiar with it

Now I hope you can understand why I cringe in disgust when some one says "we need more green space there" or wants to declare something as "blight".  A few years ago I sold one of my formerly "blighted" houses for twice the metro area's median home price - and less than ten days on the market!

Milwaukee's Olmstead Designed Boulevard Recognized

Newberry Boulevard Named “Great Street” *

The American Planning Association has named Milwaukee’s East Newberry Boulevard as one of America’s “10 Great Streets.” The designation, made through APA’s Great Places in America program, singled out Newberry as an iconic example of the boulevard planning concepts espoused by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead Sr., who designed Lake and Riverside parks in Milwaukee (and Central Park in New York City). The designation also noted the outstanding concentration of architecturally distinguished homes, built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that line E. Newberry Boulevard. The 12-block street showcases 101 fine residences and represents a veritable catalogue of residential styles, according to APA. Newberry was Milwaukee’s second boulevard, designated as such in 1897. Highland Boulevard was the first, designated two years earlier.

To learn more about APA’s Great Places program, click here:

- From City of Milwaukee Press Release, DCD Commisioner Rocky Marcoux

* I can agree with this designation as for several years I lived one block from this magnificent Boulevard that connects two Olmstead designed parks - one park on each end, Lake Park and Riversde. Originally designed to beautiful for promenading (walking) along and carraige riding. It is still magnificent street that can be enjoyed by walking and biking.

Streetcars Returning to Milwaukee!

Streetcar Lines Unveiled

Three possible routes for a downtown “starter” streetcar have been unveiled by Mayor Tom Barrett. The public is urged to provide comments on the proposed routes, which are designed to circulate the maximum number of riders throughout downtown and adjacent neighborhoods. More information about the routes and instructions for submitting comments are available at:

The streetcar would be largely funded by a $54.9 million federal grant.
-  From City of Milwaukee Press Release, DCD Commisioner Rocky Marcoux

02 November 2009

Lorelei 3 Halloween

Lorelei's First Halloween!  She is a little dragon that is just starting to walk.  (Click to enlarge picture)

Lorelei 2

Can't help myself again!  Here is Lorelei at 8 months 3 weeks.  Her mommy did a great job taking the pictures.

22 September 2009


I can't help myself - I must post these.  Yes, I am a proud Father and infinitely thankful to my wife for our baby girl.  She is about seven months old in the pictures.  Click for a larger view.

16 September 2009

Think - Do

In theory I am much more a thinker than a doer.
In reality I do much more than I think.

15 September 2009

Mass Transit Link

Q: What makes the United States look like a third world country? 
A: Our lack of national and regional mass transit. 
Some metro areas should be acknowledged for their success: San Francisco, New York City and Washington D.C.  It is a pitty that people keep protesting against mass transit.  In Europe it is possible to get to almost every corner of a nation by using mass transit.

Article: Mass transit can change lives

Note: Some third world countries do have mass transit.

Remember that not all Americans are physically and financially fit enough to own a well maintained automobile.  There also many Americans that will feel financially liberated if they could sell their car and live car free.  I remember my first visit to San Francisco and asking the hotel what parking accomodations they had.  Their response was "none" and he proceeded to tell me that I should not rent a car because it is a big hassle and easier to use the city's transit system.  I thank him for the advise (and cost saving) as we had no problem getting around, including going out to the wine country.

12 September 2009

Lorelei says...

General Motors will suffer! They hired this guy named Fritz "Big Ed (the Texan)" Henderson and you know one of the first things he tells the press is that he doesn't know anything about cars. Well my daddy got a good laugh out of that! Cause my daddy knows cars, all kinds of them and he even knows how to fix them and sell them too. After all that's how he paid to get through college. Now my daddy says we need to get the U.S. great cars with the little turbo diesel engines that get 50 to 60 miles to the gallon and pollute a tiny little bit - he said they use low sulfur fuel too like his turbo diesel car.

But now that Big Ed is running the show there is no talk of that kind of good stuff. Instead he's just released the new Camaro which isn't a family sized fuel sipper and now my daddy's read that Big Ed is going to redesign the Chevy Suburban and some other trucks (also called crossovers and formerly SUV's, ed.). You know how big the 'Burb is? It's big enough to fit 100 babies like me! Oh, and let me tell you! He read this article in the British magazine Car that tested that new Chevy Cruze which Big Ed says is "gonna turn around GM!". My daddy said the magazine said it was worse than its Korean made competitors and they said a better alternative would be public transport. And from what my daddy's heard the car is designed by Korean car company Daewoo and will be made in North America (that could be the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Haiti, etc., ed.). Funny thing - Big Ed says it will be a premium compact car for the U.S. capable of competing with Toyota, Honda and Volkswagen. But I am confused because in the European market the critics say it is not as good as a Hyundai or a Kia. Hmmmm, I got a lot to learn in the next eighteen years!

Oh and by the way, Big Ed's resume includes being the executive that is responsible for the merger of AT&T and Bell South. From what my daddy says, AT&T was a good company with great costumer service before that and Bell South was a great company with low rates. Now my daddy keeps complaining about how bad the customer service is and that the phone service is not cheap. Is this the success we can hope for from Big Ed the Texan when he achieves something significant at GM?

I just want to tell Big Ed this: put the trolley cars back on the streets! You know, back in the 1950's, the ones that GM bought from all the major cities and scrapped.

Definition: Cul-de-Sac or Cul de Sac

Cul-de-Sac - kul*de*sak; Arbitrary residential street, placed in well marketted residential subdivision (a.k.a. Community), that leads to nowhere often lined on both sides with garages and their attached homes; dead end street generally without sidewalks; confusion alley. Used in sentenance: ex. A: Where the f^*k is your sister's d*mn house, I know it is down one these stupid motherf$%*ing cul-de-sacs. ex. B: I'm sorry I got the fire truck stuck in this cul-de-sac, I know, I see the fire is in the next cul-de-sac and I'm sorry ma'm but were trying to get there as fast as possible - now let me repeat, you are Highland Court North not Highland Lane East? Synomymns: unfreindly, suburban nightmare, inefficient, huge infrastructure and maintenance expense, suburban sprawl. Opposites: Walkable Community, Urban Flow, feeder street, efficiency.
Cute little trees, where are the rest of them?

30 August 2009

Healthy Living and Working 1

Today’s media has picked up on the new term “Green”. In the 1980’s the word green was always associated with a color. Now when someone mentions green people usually think about things that are good for the environment. It is seems that the marketing gurus all over the nation have decided that it is trendy to be “Green”. You can now buy such things as eco friendly “Green” disposable plates. Or you can buy “Green” (partially recycled) PVC decking for your back porch.

Being “Green” does not mean going to the store to buy anything labeled “green” just because some marketing team decided that it had recycled content in it. Being green is all about lifestyle. If you are truly concerned about the environment you will never buy disposable dinnerware. You will also not purchase PVC anything for your house. Going back to those first days of environmentalism of the 1970’s, I remember all those little things I learned in school and I have built upon that with all my life decisions. In the future I hope to write topics that will enlighten everyone on how to be environmentally responsible in the built environment. Keep checking back…

25 August 2009

Walkable Neighborhoods 1

The automobile is perhaps mankind’s greatest invention. The personal computer is a nice invention but let’s face it, modern man can live without it. Most humans across the world still don’t have a personal computer. I can design any building with a pencil, paper and an eraser – it just might take me a bit longer than if I did it on a computer. But, in the metro area I live in, I can not go to work without a car. The electric light bulb is a great invention but with out it we might still have bigger windows, shorter working hours and beautiful oil lamps. Just think how technologically advanced candles could be if the light bulb was never invented or what other inventions we would use for artificial light.

Savannah, Georgia near Jones Street - August 2009

The automobile, for many people, has destroyed their quality of life. A few years back I worked in an office building with an underground parking lot. I didn’t think much more of it than it was a place to park my car. It was also nice because my car wouldn’t get snow on it in the winter. When the outside temperature fell below zero degrees (Fahrenheit) it was nice to be sheltered on my way to the elevator and to the office. In a discussion I had with a coworker I discovered he had an attached garage with his suburban house. It was possible for him to never go “outside” Monday through Friday; whether the weather was nice or bad. He, as well as the majority of my coworkers, lived similarly in suburban homes with attached garages in subdivisions with no sidewalks. They had no stores to walk to, no entertainment to walk to and their single entrance subdivisions (ironically called “communities”) were filled with cul-de-sacs. A trained rat knows that it should avoid a path full of dead ends. In Wisconsin, we have more good weather days than bad ones so it is usually nice to be exposed to the external elements. It is a known fact that exposure to the sun is required for human health yet so many of these people unintentionally avoid it.

The automobile has contributed to the freedom of the individual human to freely roam the world. And we can roam the world only encumbered by huge bodies of water, impassable mountains, other extreme geological features, and extreme weather conditions. This freedom is one of the great advantages to driving a car. The unfortunate downside to driving a car is the unsocial aspect it has. We rarely meet the other people we see driving. We often get upset at them for occasionally good reasons but mostly just because we don’t like their “driving style”. Old movies often show the social aspects of taking the train, bus or boat; even romanticizing the dramatic scenes. It’s true, in generations previous to us, many people met their spouses on the bus, did business networking on the train, etc. For some of us lucky enough to have lived in very walkable neighborhoods we have experienced the great social aspect of walking to the store. It can be extremely enjoyable to see and “stop for a moment” to chat. For me it became a way to meet my neighbors when you both discover you’re going to the same store together. It was also faster to walk than drive to some of neighborhood stores. It actually took more time to get into the car, unpark it, drive, find a parking space, get out and walk to the store and of course repeat again for the way home.

The automobile is also an incredible personal statement. We can all agree that a person that drives a small sporty British roadster with a four cylinder engine has a vastly different personality than someone that chooses to drive a huge pick-up truck with oversize tires, V-8 (or V-10) engine, bull bar and has the mufflers removed. I believe that I have placed enough adjectives there for your imagination to produce the different images. The majority of us agree that the image of the person that drives the little roadster is six foot tall and the image of the monster truck driver is five and a half feet tall (and they are both presumed to be male and have very different I.Q. levels). I am guilty, I love cars. I have several of them, each one very different from the other. One makes an eighteen inch snow fall look like child’s play. Another is so incredibly beautiful that it was one of the most sought after cars in its day and is now a timeless classic. Yet another is low to the ground, fun to drive and sounds incredible with its engine neatly tucked behind the front seats and in front of the rear trunk; its sound sneaking through a vent near my left ear – surprisingly it returns 35 miles to the gallon. But I will leave all my cars parked whenever I can walk to my destination because I love the exposure to the weather, the chance opportunity of a surprise conversation with someone, and the opportunity to see or learn something new.

22 August 2009


Tonight I start to blog. How much I blog and if I can find the time to blog can only be revealed in the future...