January 19, 2018

The Friday File~ Veronica Moss, Auto Lobbyist

From StreetsBlog comes this cameo from  Saturday Night Live actress Kate McKinnon depicting Auto Lobbyist Veronica Moss. As StreetsBlog observes: “we were granted unfettered access to Veronica Moss, lobbyist for Automobile Users Trade Organization (AUTO). Veronica gave us a few precious moments inside her SUV to talk about roads, traffic, cyclists, and big cities. After instructing us on proper honking techniques for “old people” and children, she also offered up some choice bons mots. Here’s a sample: “People need to be able to drive their cars – that’s an American right!” “Bikers are a pimple on the butt of any city.”
More here.

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“It took Gates seven years and $63 million to build his Medina, Washington, estate, named “Xanadu 2.0” after the fictional home of Charles Foster Kane, the title character of “Citizen Kane.”At 66,000 square feet, the home is absolutely massive, and it’s loaded to the brim with high-tech details.

The property is worth $124.99 million as of this year. Gates purchased the lot for $2 million in 1988.Per public filings, he paid $1,080,443.17 in property taxes in 2016.

Half a million board-feet of lumber was needed to complete the project.The house was built with 500-year-old Douglas fir trees, and 300 construction workers labored on the home — 100 of whom were electricians.

A high-tech sensor system helps guests monitor a room’s climate and lighting.When guests arrive, they’re given a pin that interacts with sensors located all over the house. Guests enter their temperature and lighting preferences so that the settings change as they move throughout the home. Speakers hidden behind wallpaper allow music to follow you from room to room.

The house uses its natural surroundings to reduce heat loss.You can change the artwork on the walls with just the touch of a button.Situated around the house are $80,000 worth of computer screens. Anyone can make the screens display their favorite paintings or photographs, which are stored on devices worth $150,000.

The pool also has its own underwater music system.The 60-foot pool is in its own separate, 3,900-square-foot building — the large brown building in the photo above. People in the pool could swim underneath a glass wall to come up to a terrace area on the outside.

The 2,100-square-foot library has a dome roof and two secret bookcases, including one that reveals a hidden bar. On the ceiling you’ll find a quote from “The Great Gatsby” that reads: “He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it.”

For more on this abode, please check out The Independent article here.

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From The New Yorker:
The idea of Trump writing an autobiography didn’t originate with either Trump or Schwartz. It began with Si Newhouse, the media magnate (of) Advance Publications …
Newhouse called Trump about the project, then visited him to discuss it. Random House continued the pursuit with a series of meetings. At one point, Howard Kaminsky, who ran Random House then, wrapped a thick Russian novel in a dummy cover that featured a photograph of Trump looking like a conquering hero; at the top was Trump’s name, in large gold block lettering. Kaminsky recalls that Trump was pleased by the mockup, but had one suggestion: “Please make my name much bigger.”

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On Tuesday I cracked myself up in prep for an evening with Janette Sadik-Khan (JSK), former NYCDOT Transportation Commissioner and author of Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution. Here are the highlights.
Whether you livestreamed it under the covers or attended at the Vancouver Playhouse, you probably had at least one moment of inspiration, imagining the delight that street transformation can bring to where you live. What if the City of Vancouver became the largest real-estate developer in town like JSK was for NYC?
Her statistics were all US based but we’re used to that. When we translate their numbers to our population, the information is uncomfortably more relevant than we would like. She included in her slides pictures of Vancouver and local examples to go with them. For those of us who attended her last visit, a few of the NYC successes were the same and still had a stunning, audible impact on attendees; she has more data to back her up now. She is confident and motivating.
Gordon Price is consistently a top-notch moderator and interviewer. He was a gracious Canadian host, animated, and entertaining. He had a great rapport with JSK. Price asked the pertinent questions and got solid answers.
What’s as interesting is who attended. At $5 a ticket, there were all ages and abilities present. I wondered how many business owners or BIA staff were there. Did Nick Pogor attend?
Unfortunately, I didn’t catch all of the electeds who introduced themselves from my perch on the balcony. I was pleased to see Vancouver’s Deputy Mayor Heather Deal front and center, who is also a Councillor Liaison to the City’s Active Transportation Policy Council and Arts & Culture Policy Council, among others. It was announced for the first time publicly that Lon LaClaire is the new City of Vancouver Director of Transportation. He introduced JSK. At least one Park Board Commissioner attended.
There was at least one City Councillor from New Westminster, Patrick Johnstone there – a fan of 30kph. I was tickled that Nathan Pascal, City Councillor for Langley City was there in his first week on the job! I was even more delighted to hear that the Mayor of Abbotsford Henry Braun was there. It symbolizes a shift in decision-makers toward at least open ears and at most safer, healthier city centres in the Lower Mainland.
The first rule of Hollywood is: Always thank the crew.
JSK started by thanking the 4500 within New York City’s Department of Transportation. She acknowledged that they implemented the changes her team tried – often quickly. Being fast and keeping the momentum up is key.
Interview well. Be yourself. Be bold.
When JSK was interviewing for the top transportation job with then NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he asked: Why do you want to be Traffic Commissioner? She answered: I don’t. I want to be Transportation Commissioner.
A City’s assets – the public realm – need to reflect current values. Invest in the best use of public space.
JSK on streets: “If you didn’t change your major capital asset in 50-60 years, would you still be in business?”
“We transformed places to park [cars] to places people wanted to be…we created 65,000 square feet of public space with traffic cones.” “Broadway alone was 2.5 acres of new public space.”
JSK talked about the imbalance between the space for cars and space for people. Crowded sidewalks of slow walking tourists that fast-walking New Yorkers were willing to walk in car lanes to pass or avoid. In Vancouver, we already see this imbalance in our shopping districts and entertainment corridors.
She appreciated working for a Mayor who would back her up on her bold suggestions and who asked her to take risks because it was the right thing to do.
Consultation + Visualization = Education + Transformation
People find it hard to visualize from drawings and boards. Create temporary space and program it.” Basically: traffic cones, paint, and planters are your friends.
“We need to do a better job of showing the possible on our streets.”
“Involve people in the process…Just try it out. Pilot it.

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Janette Sadik-Khan, former NYCDOT Commissioner and new author of Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution, best known for making New York City’s Broadway car-free, will give a talk in Vancouver this evening at the Vancouver Playhouse.
For urbanist geeks this is the event of the year. Like a Blondie concert for Blondie fans or a Back Street Boys concert for BSB fans. You get the idea.
Some City of Vancouver staff will get a chance to have a private Q&A with her today. What will they ask without the eyes of the public on them? Chances are they’ll be inspired to take action.
Tickets are sold out. The last time she was here a venue of 350 free tickets sold out. This time, with tickets at $5 each and a venue of 668 seats, it’s still a sold out show. If you’re lucky enough to be going tonight, here’s how to seem cool about it.

  • Read a local review of her book by Yuri Artibise
  • Read the 6 strategic takeaways from her book by Melissa & Chris Bruntlett
  • Call her JSK when referring to her, assuming everyone knows who that is, like a true urbanist.
  • Dress urbane but without cultural appropriation. Wear a maximum of 1 scarf if you have a short neck.
  • Buy 2 tickets and arrive alone. Pick someone hovering hopefully at the event, ask them what mode they took to get there, and invite them to go with you regardless of their answer. It’s an easy way to seem super generous.
  • Be seen. Arrive early, grab a good seat, then stand to schmooze with others as they arrive. Totally ignore the SCARP student you gave a free ticket to. You’re from the Lost Generation and they don’t know how good they have it.
  • Use the following phrases and matching gestures: “This is not Amsterdam.” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge); “If you can remake it here, you can remake it anywhere.” (pistol wink nod); and “In G-d we trust, everyone else bring data.” (look serious but patient-with-others, adjust prescription glasses with one hand).
  • Know that the last phrase above was said by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Or everyone at the Mayor’s Office. Call him Mike Bloomberg.
  • Bring a list of 10 new projects, find any decision-maker or even minor influencer at the City and demand that all 10 be built before the end of 2018. Make sure Kingsway and Commercial Drive are on your list.
  • Go to the mic to ask a question but instead announce your Bike Rave. Explain it’s not the official Bike Rave and not the alternate bike rave but your own bike rave.
  • Bring your copy of JSK’s book. Wait for an hour after the talk to get it signed, while preparing an intelligent question. Get dragged out by security when they announce Ms. Sadik-Khan can’t sign any more books because her hand has cramped.
  • Have a drink with friends, comparing her last talk to this one. Say “last time her focus was on making it seem simple and doable – a lot of paint and planters. This time seemed more strategic”. Confess you’re jealous of her lack of public consultation.
  • Drunk on ideas and inspired with a vision of what you’d like your City to look like, send an email to to tell them to go ahead, do more. You support it. After all, jesting aside, a misspelled-slightly-incoherent note is better than no note at all.


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