Local officials are asked to plan for climate change and sea level rise but MTC is ignoring this and prioritizing urban growth instead. Corte Madera councilperson, Jim Andrews asks the PLAN BAY AREA 2040 planner about the conflict and receives this evasive answer using vague terms like "resiliency" and "priority development areas". Diane Steinhauser of the Transportation Authority of Marin closes the meeting shortly thereafter.
Saturday, May 6, 2017
The south-east Asian city-state has been hailed for its urban policies – and condemned for the authoritarianism that underpins them. So what do Singapore’s residents make of life there?
A Sign of daily life in Singapore.
Imagine you could remove all the daily irritations from the city in which you live. No one pushing or talking loudly on the efficiently run public transport system; no rubbish or sticky gum to be trodden underfoot on the well-kept, clean streets. And virtually no crime.
Such a city would, probably, resemble Singapore, one of the wealthiest per capita metropolises on the planet – a city-state that gleams with abundant material goods. “Nothing goes wrong here,” says Eric, a German expat. “Which sort of means that nothing really happens here.”
Singapore, once swampland, is now a multicultural hub of commerce. The old colonial facades remain – such as Raffles, the hotel where you gulp SingaporeSlings in a nutshell-strewn bar among superannuated cruise ship tourists – but it’s the glitz that catches the eye.
The huge Prada store on Orchard Road is capitalism in steel and electric form, while the Marina Bay Sands hotel dominates the skyline, looking like a boat has been carefully dropped upon it. There is colour and bustle in Chinatown, with its handsome temples and excellent food, but otherwise Singapore feels like it’s been scrubbed to within an inch of its life.
FacebookTwitterPinterest Marina Bay was quick to mark the 50th anniversary of Singapore in 2015. Photograph: Mohd Fyrol/AFP/Getty Images
Day-to-day life is famously governed by a series of rules that maintain this clean, well-ordered city. The import of chewing gum is banned, therefore globs of the stuff aren’t found on the street. There are fines for irritating people with a musical instrument or your own drunkenness. Uttering an obscene song lyric or obstructing someone as they walk carries the threat of jail.
The result is a low-crime, scrupulously run city – with none of the incomprehensible, exciting chaos of cities found in neighbouring Indonesia or Malaysia. Aspects such as Singapore’s “intelligent” congestion charge system are held up as triumphs of urban thinking – but such achievements are made altogether easier by the authoritarianism that is evident as soon as you scratch the surface of life here.
“If you grow up in a first world country, you make the automatic assumption that economic development and basic freedoms go together,” says Alex Au, a Singapore-based writer. “But as you can also see in China, they are two separate things. Singapore likes to pull the wool over people’s eyes. It likes to say, ‘Oh, don’t we look like the west, with our glass and our skyscrapers, how developed we are.’ But it just serves as a mask.”
FacebookTwitterPinterest Singapore’s low crime rate is underpinned by authoritarianism. Photograph: WestEnd61/Rex
Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, launched legal action against Au last year for comments made about the government’s integrity on Au’s blog, called Yawning Bread. Despite making a retraction, Au is still being pursued through the courts.
It’s a fate that also befell Leslie Chew last year, who was arrested and charged with “sedition” over the content of his cartoon strip, called Demon-cratic Singapore. Yet another man, Roy Ngerng, is being sued by the prime minister for defamation over a blog. Ngerng was recently fired from his job at a local hospital, a dismissal he claims is politically motivated.
The effect of all this is a kind of semi-freedom. According to the Freedom House watchdog, Singapore, ruled by the same party since 1959, is only “partly free”. The government doesn’t drag people off the streets, but the populace acts as if it could be a possibility.
“I wouldn’t criticise all the rules in Singapore,” Au says. “If you step on dog poo on the pavement, you’d appreciate a rule against that. If anything, we should ignore the little things and talk about the censorship of the media and the arts. That creates a climate of self-censorship that wouldn’t be obvious to a tourist.”
There are other rules that may surprise the outsider. It’s difficult to buy public-adminstered housing in Singapore unless you’re married or over 35, which presents a further barrier on top of the high cost of dwellings in the city. Car ownership is also banned, unless you purchase one of a set number of expensive permits first.
“You can’t buy a flat if you’re single, which my generation isn’t too happy about,” says Samantha de Silva, a 31-year-old entrepreneur. “You feel you have to get married to get a flat, which is a strange economic transaction.”
FacebookTwitterPinterest Singapore’s huge Prada store is capitalism in steel and electric form. Photograph: Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images
De Silva said she felt quite oppressed when growing up, never quite sure how far she could push seemingly arbitrary authority before it pushed back. Things are changing now, however.
“Social media has changed a lot; it’s changed everything really,” she says. “Kids now see things differently; they don’t have the fear of the older generations. They are used to expressing themselves – there are quite a few poets and fiction writers now. People have a real passion for creative things.
“A friend of mine teaches in a polytechnic and he said these kids dream big. He asked them what they want to be when they grow up and they say ‘a Korean pop star’. The other kids don’t laugh at that. They don’t feel any limitations.”
Some do feel the heavy weight of state sanction, however. Chew, the Demon-cratic cartoonist who was charged with sedition, had his computers seized, his passport frozen and spent three months in detention.
“I have long suspected that the ruling party was a bunch of power-abusing hypocrites, and that encounter merely confirms the notion,” Chew says. He likens the control of the media as similar to that of North Korea. The wealth gap is getting worse, Chew says, fuelled by an “open door” approach to immigration.
FacebookTwitterPinterest ‘A city that has been scrubbed to within an inch of its life.’ Photograph: Alywin Chew/Reuters
“Day-to-day life gets harder and harder,” he says. “We are now one of the most expensive countries in the world with the highest cost of living, and no minimum wage to ensure that a person who puts in a honest day work can afford even the basic sustenance.
“We have elderly scavenging cardboard to sell for 10 cents a kilogram to make their next meal. The woes faced by the common folks are endless. There are just too many examples. Life is a horror if one does not belong to the rich.”
“It’s all about the money,” says De Silva.“I think we are way too materialistic as a nation. If you are a barista or waitress, you could be proud in other places for being the best in your job. Here it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re a waitress.’ I’d like to see a Singapore where you aren’t judged by how much money you make.”
Others would like to see further changes. Au, who is gay, would like to see homosexuality decriminalised and the government remove itself from the ownership of the media, for starters. But he accepts that a Hong Kong-style uprising isn’t imminent.
“It depends on your horizons,” he says. “If you keep to yourself, life is very comfortable here. But if self-expression is important, you will be stymied at every turn.
“Increasingly, young Singaporeans are finding that the comfortable life is not enough, and they are rubbing up against those structures. It’s a Faustian deal. Some citizens are prepared to make that deal. Some are not.”
• This article was amended on 6 January 2015 to correct a statement that it is “forbidden to buy property in Singapore unless you’re married”. To buy through Singapore’s public Housing and Development board, you must be at least 21 and purchasing with someone in your “family nucleus” – such as a sibling or spouse – or at least 35 if you are single. There are exceptions for orphans and the widowed.
Friday, May 5, 2017
Diane Furst, Corte Madera Mayor and TAM commission members asks MTC planner why Corte Madera is again given such a high amount of housing in Plan Bay Area 2040. Corte Madera Mayor, The MTC planner doesn't really have an answer except to say, "we will look into that" . The problem with all central plans is that it is impossible to know the nuances of every locality. This is why Plan Bay Area 2040 is destined to fail. Filmed at the Plan Bay Area information session held in Marin Civic Center on April 27, 2017. To find out more and submit comments see www.planbayarea.org
Novato councilperson, Pat Eklund asks Plan Bay Area 2040 to take a close look at Marin's economy BEFORE mandating change on our communities. The planner was evasive in his answer. I believe the answer is no. Regional plans have priority.
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Charles Kaufman of Sausalito points out that Plan Bay Area 2040 assumes that undevelopable land is not really inventory for housing. The MTC planner, Ken Kirkey admits that the Urban Sim model may have flaws yet the REGIONAL plans are more important than local planning objectives. This is a key reason that Plan Bay Area 2040 is fatally flawed. Central planning does not work
Pam Drew, Novato Councilperson shares concern about the "one size fits all" software used across nine bay area counties for millions of people. Marin has unique topography that limits development and residents prefer low density development. Plan Bay Area recommends intensive high density development along Highway 101.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Editor's Note: Although Marinwood CSD is currently replacing the sodium halide streetlights with LED streetlights for dramatic energy savings, we have no reason to suspect that they will have this technology here. Still the fact that this technology is in use in a free society, it is worthwhile to consider the impacts on our liberty. For us, this is a chilling reminder of Orwell's "Big Brother" and dangers of a omniscient powerful central government. They already are installing license plate readers on the Golden Gate bridge and the highways...
Full story: San Francisco gets Spy Streetlights
In the Netherlands city of Eindhoven, the streetlights lining a central commercial strip will glow red if a storm is coming. It's a subtle cue that harkens back to an old phrase about a red sky warning mariners that bad weather is on the way. The automated color change is possible because satellite weather data flows over a network to tiny processors installed inside the lampposts, which are linked by an integrated wireless system.
Lighting hues reflecting atmospheric changes are only the beginning of myriad functions these so-called "smart streetlights" can perform. Each light has something akin to a smartphone embedded inside of it, and the interconnected network of lights can be controlled by a central command center.
Since they have built-in flexibility for multiple adaptations, the systems can be programmed to serve a wide variety of purposes. Aside from merely illuminating public space, possible uses could include street surveillance with tiny cameras, monitoring pedestrian or vehicle traffic, or issuing emergency broadcasts via internal speaker systems.
The smart streetlights aren't just streetlights — they're data collection devices that have the potential to track anything from pedestrian movements to vehicle license plate numbers. And, through a curious process distinctly lacking in transparency, these spylights are on their way to San Francisco.
LUMINARIES IN LIGHTINGPhillips Lighting, which was involved in installing the Eindhoven smart streetlights system, played a role in launching the San Francisco pilot. Paradox Engineering recently opened a local office. Oracle, a Silicon Valley tech giant, is also involved — even though it's not a lighting company.
"Oracle, of course, manages data," Haselmeyer explained to the Guardian when reached by phone in his Barcelona office. "They were the first to say, 'We need to understand how data collected from lampposts will be controlled in the city.'"
According to a press release issued by Paradox Engineering, "Oracle will help managing and analyzing data coming from this ground-breaking system." Oracle is also a corporate sponsor of the LLGA program. It has been tangentially involved in the pilot project "because of a longstanding relationship we had with the city of San Francisco," Oracle spokesperson Scott Frendt told us.
Paradox was selected as the winner for San Francisco's "sustainability challenge" through LLGA, which is now housed under CityMart.com, "a technology start-up offering a professional networking and market exchange platform," according to the company website.
In May of 2012, the SFPUC sent one of its top-ranking officials, Assistant General Manager Barbara Hale, to Rio for the LLGA awards summit. There, technology vendors of all stripes showcased their products and mingled with local officials from Barcelona, Cape Town, Glasgow, Fukuoka and other international cities. San Francisco was the only US city in attendance. San Francisco will even host the next summit this coming May at Fort Mason.
In Rio, Paradox was lauded as the winning vendor for San Francisco's LLGA streetlights "challenge." It didn't take long for the company to hit the ground running. "Soon after the Rio Summit on Service Innovation in Cities, where we were announced winners for San Francisco, we started discussing with the SFPUC the objectives and features of the pilot project," Paradox announced on the LLGA website. "Working closely with the SFPUC, we also had the opportunity to build solid partnerships with notable industry players such as Philips Lighting and Oracle."
WINNERS' CIRCLEOn Nov. 15, Paradox hosted an invite-only "networking gala" titled "Smart Cities: The Making Of." The event brought together representatives from Oracle, the SFPUC, Phillips, LLGA, and the Mayor's Office of Civic Innovation, "to learn about the challenges of urban sustainability in the Internet of Things era," according to an event announcement.
"The project we're piloting with the SFPUC is highly innovative since it puts into practice the new paradigm of the 'Internet of Things,' where any object can be associated with an IP address and integrated into a wider network to transmit and receive relevant information," Gianni Minetti, president and CEO at Paradox, stated in a press release.
The event was also meant to celebrate Paradox's expansion into the North American urban lighting space, a feat that was greatly helped along by the LLGA endeavor. But how did a Swiss company manage to hook up with a San Francisco city agency in the first place — and win a deal without ever going through the normal procurement process?
San Francisco's involvement in LLGA began with Chris Vein, who served as the city's Chief Technology Officer under former Mayor Gavin Newsom. (Vein has since ascended to the federal government to serve as Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer for Government Innovation for President Barack Obama.)
To find the right fit for San Francisco's wireless LED streetlights "challenge" under the LLGA program, a judging panel was convened to score more than 50 applicant submissions received through the program framework. Judges were selected "based upon knowledge and contacts of people in the SFPUC Power Enterprise," Tienken explained. The scoring system, Haselmeyer said, measures sustainability under a rubric developed by the United Nations.
Jurists for San Francisco's streetlight program were handpicked from the SFPUC, the San Francisco Department of Technology, Phillips, and several other organizations. An international jurist is designated by LLGA for each city's panel of jurists, Haselmeyer said, "so as to avoid any kind of local stitch-up."
He stressed that "the city is explicitly not committing to any procurement." Instead, vendors agree to test out their technology in exchange for cities' dedication of public space and other resources. Tienken, who manages the city's LED Streetlight Conversion Project, noted that "Paradox Engineering is not supposed to make a profit" under the LLGA program guidelines. "We'll pay them a $15,000 stipend," she said, the same amount that will be awarded to the firms that are now in negotiation for pilot projects of their own.
"San Francisco is using this to learn about the solution," Haselmeyer added. "This company will not have any advantage," when it comes time to tap a vendor for the agency's long-term goal of upgrading 18,500 of its existing streetlights with energy-saving LED lamps and installing a $2 million control system.
At the same time, the program clearly creates an inside track — and past LLGA participants have landed lucrative city contracts. Socrata, a Seattle-based company, was selected as a LLGA winner in 2011 and invited to run a pilot project before being tapped to power data.SFgov.org, the "next-generation, cloud-based San Francisco Open Data site" unveiled by Mayor Ed Lee's office in March of 2012.
The mayor's press release, which claimed that the system "underscores the Mayor's commitment to providing state of the art access to information," made no mention of LLGA.
PRIVACY AND PUBLIC SPACEThroughout this process of attending an international summit in Rio, studying applications from more than 50 vendors, selecting Paradox as a winner, and later issuing an RFP, a very basic question has apparently gone unaddressed. Is a system of lighting fixtures that persistently collects data and beams it across invisible networks something San Franciscans really want to be installed in public space?
And, if these systems are ultimately used for street surveillance or traffic monitoring and constantly collecting data, who will have access to that information, and what will it be used for? Haselmeyer acknowledged that the implementation of such a system should move forward with transparency and a sensitivity to privacy implications.
"Many cities are deploying sensors that detect the Bluetooth signal of your mobile phone. So, they can basically track movements through the city," Haselmeyer explained. "Like anything with technology, there's a huge amount of opportunity and also a number of questions. ... You have movement sensors, traffic sensors, or the color [of a light] might change" based on a behavior or condition. "There's an issue about who can opt in, or opt out, of what."
Tienken and Sheehan downplayed the RFP's reference to "street surveillance" as a potential use of the wireless LED systems, and stressed that the pilot projects are only being used to study a narrow list of features. "The PUC's interest is in creating an infrastructure that can be used by multiple agencies or entities ... having a single system rather than have each department install its own system," Tienken said. The SFPUC is getting the word out about the next batch of pilots by reaching out to police precinct captains and asking them to announce it in their newsletters, since "streetlighting is a public safety issue," as Tienken put it.
Haselmeyer acknowledged that public input in such a program is important: "It's very important to do these pilot projects, because it allows those community voices to be heard. In the end, the city has to say, look — is it really worth all of this, or do we just want to turn our lights on and off?"
LIGHTS, BUT NO SUNSHINEOne company that is particularly interested in San Francisco pilot is IntelliStreets, a Michigan firm that specializes in smart streetlights. IntelliStreets CEO Ron Harwood told the Guardian that his company was a contender for the pilot through LLGA; he even traveled to Rio and delivered a panel talk on urban lighting systems alongside Hale and a representative from Oracle.
A quick Google search for IntelliStreets shows that the company has attracted the attention of activists who are worried that these lighting products represent a kind of spy tool, and a spooky public monitoring system that would strip citizens of their right to privacy and bolster law enforcement activities.
"It's not a listening device," Harwood told the Guardian, when asked about speakers that would let operators communicate with pedestrians, and vice-versa. "So you can forget about the Fourth Amendment" issues.
Harwood seemed less concerned about the activists who've decried his product as a modern day manifestation of Big Brother, and more worried about why his company was not chosen to provide wireless LED streetlights in San Francisco. After being passed over in the LLGA process, Harwood said IntelliStreets responded to the RFP issued in the weeks following the Rio summit. Once again, Harwood's firm didn't make the cut.
Since his company provides very similar services to those described in the RFP, Harwood said he was "confused" by the outcome of the selection process. IntelliStreets' Chief Administration Officer Michael Tardif was more direct. "Clearly we think this was an inside deal," Tardif told the Guardian. Tienken, for her part, declined to discuss why San Francisco had rejected IntelliStreets' application.
We found out about www.intellistreets.com which boasts new LED technology and are passing this on to you. The Marinwood CSD is installing new LED lamps but to our knowledge they do not possess any of this surveillance technology.
This Orwellian technology down right spooky and learned that San Franscisco has similar snooping cameras on its buses. Other communities nationwide are looking into this technology and are expected to install it in 2013.
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.- Ben Franklin
|The above graphic is from the company's website www.intellistreets.com|
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
"If you want to preserve your power indefinitely, you have to get the consent of the ruled" - Aldous Huxley
Interview by Mike Wallace on May 18, 1958, from the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin
"This is Aldous Huxley, a man haunted by a vision of hell on earth. Mr. Huxley wrote a Brave New World, a novel that predicted that some day the entire world would live under a frightful dictatorship. Today Mr. Huxley says that his fictional world of horror is probably just around the corner for all of us." - Mike Wallace
In this remarkable interview, Huxley foretells a future when telegenic presidential hopefuls use television to rise to power, technology takes over, drugs grab hold, and frightful dictatorships rule us all.
Enjoy the journey and tell us in the comments whether he was right.
Learn more about Aldous Huxley, including his connections with The Doors and Carl Sagan, on our website:
Monday, May 1, 2017
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Beware of the Financial Trap of "Affordable" Housing. Based on the true story of Susan and Diane.
TAM director Diane Steinhauser seeks support for a sales tax increase in Marin. She is one of the highest paid employees in Marin. The sales tax will hurt people with low income the hardest. Shrimp cocktails for our political elite and stale crackers for the public.
The survey was flawed and had multiple submissions per computer IP Address. It is another example of manipulation of data by TAM . How can trust TAM?? They have consistently hidden embarrassing data, misappropriated funds meant for road repairs for the SMART train and bicycle lanes.
They must either do their job or disband and redirect 100% of the revenue to road maintenance.