Thursday, February 28, 2013

READING WITH DR. SEUSS: His birthday is kickoff for Arlington literacy event




Children of all ages who love to read can celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday with puppet shows, crafts, a photo booth, cupcakes and free books! The University of Texas at Arlington Chemistry and Physics Building, 700 Planetarium Place, is the place to be on Saturday, March 2, 9 a.m. to noon.
Dr. Seuss’ Birthday: Blaze through Reading is part of the National Education Association’s annual Read Across America initiative to encourage children to read. A presidential proclamation kicked off the campaign at the Library of Congress, and 45 million children are expected to participate nationwide. The Arlington event is a collaboration between the Arlington Public Library, UTA’s Freshmen Leaders on Campus and UTA Volunteers.
Arlington is one of 124 communities nationwide working with the Campaign for Grade Level Reading to ensure that our students are reading on grade level by the end of third grade. If students are not reading on their grade level by this time, it becomes increasingly more difficult for them to catch up and be ready for the higher grades.
Programs such as Dr. Seuss’ birthday are created to bring awareness to families about the importance of reading together and to inspire children to be better readers.

Cary Siegfried, Director of Libraries for the City of Arlington says, “While schools play a huge role in teaching students to read, they can’t do it alone. Our Campaign for Grade Level Reading initiative brings together the schools, local government agencies, business leaders, faith-based groups and others to work together to achieve our reading goal.”
Citizens interested in helping achieve some of the goals of the campaign may consult the Library’s website, www.arlingtonlibrary.org to find ways to assist.
But in the meantime, bring the whole family on Saturday and join in the fun. Silly hats are welcome!
For more information, call the Leadership Center at 817-272-9220 or Freshmen Leaders on Campus at 817-272-2293. (Dr. Seuss art illustration at top by artist Donald Dusinberre)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

SUPER COOPER: Left turn adventures on busy street due for a major adjustment






For years, Keith Melton, Arlington’s public works and transportation director, has watched drivers use the wide center left turn lanes on Cooper Street for almost everything but turning.
“They dive into it and they speed up, they slow down, they cross over. Pretty much everything except what it was intended for,” Melton said.
Those central Arlington drivers can expect a slow down and a change of habit later this year when the state begins installing new medians.
Raised brick medians, traffic safety devices currently being used in south Arlington, will be extended north in a move that city and state officials hope will decrease the number of dangerous collisions and the number of pedestrians being hit by cars.
The open center turning lanes that now run along Cooper Street north of Arkansas Lane will be filled in with the same medians in place between Arkansas Lane and the southern city limits. The new medians would be added between Arkansas Lane and Mitchell Street.
Melton said the area currently presents a particular challenge because those who live in apartments near State Highway 303 attempt to cross Cooper Street on foot with sometimes fatal results.
City leaders asked the Texas Department of Transportation to install the same medians that the agency put in place in 2007 to replace the two-way continuous left turn lane on Cooper Street from central to southern Arlington.
After that project, the Texas Transportation Institute performed a post-construction evaluation and found that safety had improved and crash rates were reduced by 47 percent from Arkansas Lane to Pleasant Ridge Road and by 42 percent from Bardin Road to the southern city limits.
TxDOT is expected to bid out the roughly $8 million project this fall. Spokesman Val Lopez noted that traffic studies have shown that raised medians reduce head-on collisions—the most dangerous kind– by about 40 percent.
Lopez said without the medians, it can be difficult for turning drivers to anticipate the oncoming traffic flow and for oncoming drivers to know when and where cars will turn in front of them.
“Medians create an orderly, more predictable traffic flow,” he said. “And predictable traffic is safer traffic.”
Melton said medians provide structure, which is especially important in areas like Cooper Street where speed and unpredictable driving patterns are common.
“There are way too many unexpected movements going on at once in that area,” he said.
The City of Arlington is contributing $1.5 million toward the cost of the construction of sidewalks and drive approaches.
In addition to the raised median project, TxDOT also will repair concrete pavement from Arkansas Lane to Interstate 20 and build new Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalks, ramps and driveways from Interstate 20 to Mitchell Street.


Monday, February 25, 2013

RICHARD GREENE: A public education success story in so many ways




 Our fourth grade granddaughter, a softball player and avid Rangers fan, brought home evidence that our public schools just may be on the right track.

You will agree if you believe teaching the values of American exceptionalism and social justice through the study of baseball is a good way to learn these principles.

She and her classmates in their language arts class were assigned to read a terrific little book, In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord, first published in 1984.

Scholastic, Inc., the premier organization that has delivered reading material to classrooms for 90 years, explains that Lord, an acclaimed author, based this remarkable novel on her own experiences as a young immigrant. She unfolds a story that resonates with a special mixture of humor and seriousness that characterizes a child’s view of discovery and growing up.

The story takes place in 1947 when a Chinese child arrives in New York where she discovers baseball and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Richard Greene

The essence of the story sets up a learning opportunity not only for the characters in the book but for all its readers – young and old, then and now. Here is how it is described on Scholastic.com:

Proud of the American name that she chose herself, Shirley Temple Wong is optimistic that her new home will be the land of many opportunities. But it's harder than she expected. Though her classmates in Brooklyn come from a variety of backgrounds, Shirley is the only one who doesn't speak English, and she worries that she will never have a friend.
Then she gets in a fight with Mabel, the tallest, scariest girl in the fifth grade. Though Shirley winds up with two black eyes, she is faithful to the code of childhood and doesn't tell anyone what happened.
Her silence gains her the respect and friendship of Mabel, who gives her the gift that truly changes her life: baseball. Soon Shirley is the biggest Brooklyn Dodgers fan of all, listening to the radio to hear the triumphs and heartbreaks of the team and her hero, Jackie Robinson.

Midway through the novel, Shirley and Mabel’s teacher leads a class discussion on the topic of baseball by asking why it is America’s favorite pastime.

After the children respond with a few answers such as because it is a great game and that everybody loves it, the teacher follows up by asking, “But what is it about baseball that is ideally suited to Americans?”

She probed further, “I mean, is there something special about baseball that fits the special kind of people we are and the special kind of country America is?”

Puzzled looks around the classroom leave the students silent. “Baseball is not just another sport. America is not just another country,” she explained, answering her own question.

“In our national pastime, each player is a member of a team, but when he comes to bat, he stands alone. One man. Many opportunities. For no matter how far behind, how late in the game, he, by himself can make a difference. He can change what has been. He can make it a new ball game.

“In the life of our nation, each man as a citizen of the United States has the right to pursue his own happiness. For no matter what his race, religion or creed, be he pauper or president, he has the right to speak his mind, to live as he wishes within the law, to elect our officials and stand for office, to excel. To make a difference. To change what has been. To make a better America.

“And so can you! And so must you!”

Then comes the social justice part as the teacher explains that Jackie Robinson, the first African American player in the major leagues, is at bat standing for himself, for Americans of every hue, for an America that honors fair play.

“Jackie Robinson is the grandson of a slave, the son of a sharecropper, raised in poverty by a lone mother who took in ironing and washing. But a woman determined to achieve a better life for her son. And she did. For despite hostility and injustice, Jackie Robinson went to college, excelled in all sports, served his country in war. And now, Jackie Robinson is at bat in the big leagues.”

She illuminated the story of an unlikely hero making a difference by changing what has been and making a better America.

Then she nailed the lesson: “And so can you. And so must you.”

Shirley Temple Wong suddenly understood why her father had brought her 10,000 miles miles to live among strangers. Here, she was somebody.

Through this wonderful novel and the powerful story that unfolds inside it, Bette Bao Lord confirms the values that parents and grandparents everywhere try to instill in their children.

Our experience with our granddaughter is that the purpose of the assignment has been achieved. She read the book out loud to her Granny and, at particular parts familiar to things she often hears around the house, she grinned and said, “Seems like I’ve heard this before.”

It actually may mean even more to her for she was born in Russia where our son and his wife adopted her when she was nine months old. We are very glad that her teacher at Mary Moore Elementary chose to make Bette Lord’s book required reading for her students.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor, served as an appointee of Pres. George W. Bush as Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and currently is an adjunct professor in UT Arlington’s Graduate School of Urban and Public Affairs.

Friday, February 22, 2013

MOBILE FOOD TRUCKS: Eclectic rollings vendors may soon be common in city




The mobile food truck trend is rolling into Arlington.
The most recent City Council session involved discussion of a pilot program to allow food trucks to do business in Arlington. Mobile food trucks are increasing in popularity, offering unique gourmet dishes that involve on-site food preparation.
“This is an opportunity to bring a unique, fun and alternative food experience to Arlington,” said Roger Venables, assistant director for development services. “By easing food trucks into strategic locations around the city, we will be able to gauge their popularity and see if there is room for expansion in the future.”
The first chance to eat food truck cuisine will be the weekend of April 26, when the Texas Food Truckin’ Festival comes to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, courtesy of Experience Arlington, Texas Rangers Enterprises and U.S. Food Trucks. The first of its kind event for the city will provide 50 food trucks, live entertainment and other activities for the entire family.
On November 6, 2012, City Council unanimously approved final reading of an ordinance adopting the Division Street Corridor Strategy. The creation of a mobile food plaza was identified as high priority implementation strategy that would require zero public investment. The City has been working to develop a pilot program that would allow mobile food trucks to operate within the City at specific locations and under certain conditions.

The map shown identifies the Levitt Pavilion and parking lots near major sports complexes as the primary locations which would accommodate food trucks in conjunction with a special event.
The City currently allows mobile food catering trucks or hot trucks to operate citywide, but prohibits them from being stationary for more than thirty minutes. The pilot program would allow permitted mobile food trucks to stay in place for the duration of an event and require an invitation by the special event organizer. The City would also have the flexibility to allow them to operate on City owned property in association with a sponsored event.
(Article by Cheryel Carpenter, city release)


Monday, February 18, 2013

RICHARD GREENE: Lessons from my students and a recounting of blessings




There are recurring, almost predictable, reminders of the exceptional country we are privileged to share that happens inside the classes I teach at UT Arlington’s graduate program in the School of Urban and Public Affairs.

Most of the time these incidences involve international students – young adults who are here to learn and then return to their homeland with a determination to improve the quality of life for their fellow countrymen.

The remarkable thing about this experience is that it is about everyday things we take for granted. When questions like these arise, it also often causes American students to react. Sometimes they express surprise, and other times it moves them to recount their blessings.

In all my classes, regardless of the course topic, I use part of the first class session to review the basics of the form and structure of our government. That’s because the application of the course material in real life is possible to a great extent because of our freedom -- freedom that has been deliberately created by the most remarkable design of self-government in all human history and for which an awful price has been paid to preserve.

The most difficult part of our system to fully grasp by many students from foreign lands is the limitation on the powers of the president that they didn’t realize existed.

They see our president as the most powerful person on earth and can’t imagine that he isn’t in total control of the people of the United States. They assume he is, and that he rules without interference from anyone or anything.

When they discover the genius of our system that deliberately restricts his power so that he cannot behave like a monarch, or a dictator, or as an absolute ruler, they are often disbelieving. Tyranny aside, they just can’t relate to such limitations on the president of the world’s greatest democracy.

I’ve held after-class discussions to answer questions about our system of three separate but equal branches of our national government. We talk about the legislative branch where the laws are made and funding of the work of the government is authorized.

Students discover that the president has no power to simply declare a law into being. They learn he does not have the key to the public treasury to spend as he wishes.

I explain that the judicial branch is the arbiter of disputes within the government where the ultimate judgment is made on the test of whether some action of the government is authorized by our Constitution or not.

That judges have the power to strike down an action of the president is a realization that takes a while to develop in their minds.

But when this all sinks in, the reaction is almost universal. They smile.

As the semester progresses, other things happen that prompt me to have a moment of sober reflection on our collective good fortune in the land where opportunity for the betterment of life has been seized and multiplied.

Once, when discussing our nation’s energy policy and talking about the debate over the use of our natural resources being all about sustainability and wise decision-making, I acknowledged the raised hand of a brown skinned young man from a country with a name I cannot pronounce.

He explained that his community’s discussion was all about how to obtain electricity that lasted more than two hours a day. He described that those two hours occurred randomly and without notice once in a 24-hour period.

So, if the lights came on at 3 a.m., everybody interrupted their sleep and sprang into action doing the things that required electrical power around the home and hoped they would get it finished before it went dark again.

Another student once commented, during my discussion about the green roof experiment atop the UT Arlington science building, that his community had perfected that practice long ago.

He told us that all the homes where he lived had mud roofs and could grow all manner and kind of plants ranging from ordinary grass to the food they needed.

And then there was the engineering student who talked about his mission in life to learn about the methods of the management of human waste. His plan was to return to his home country with that knowledge and find a way to develop an even rudimentary waste disposal system.

His passion was driven by his desire to bring change so that so many children would not die in their early years of life from disease borne by unsanitary conditions. He described the constant presence of sewage in the streets of his town.

When he asked how we Americans had solved this problem, I explained the process of adopting laws, innovating methods and developing technology that led to longer, healthier lives for the people of our country.

His sad response was simply that none of that was possible where he lived because the totalitarian ruler of his country controlled all of that. The student’s hope was that if he found a way to make things better without his government’s approval that he would not get arrested.

The next time I flushed the toilet after that discussion, I didn’t just assume it worked the way it did because that was what was supposed to happen.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor, served as an appointee of Pres. George W. Bush as Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and currently is an adjunct professor in UT Arlington’s Graduate School of Urban and Public Affairs.