Kentucky Affordable Housing Conference 2013

Let me first get some musings out of the way:

I love it when conferences have a twitter hash-tag with no intended use or purpose, it reminds me of the sort of pseudo embrace the practice of planning has often (but not always) given social media (we’ll use it, but we’re not sure if its actually participation). The 2013 KY Affordable Housing Conference had a hash-tag, #KAHC13. Of course, I and a few other people immediately got it wrong with #KAHC2013. Afterward, I think I saw maybe a handful of tweets in the correct hash-tag (with my tweet of all things being the “top tweet” for that hash-tag). Clearly if a conference wants to have a hash-tag it might also be prudent to have a plan or strategy. For instance, I think allocating one of the door prices to a random user of the KAHC hash-tag might have been a useful driver for more tweets.

The Conference

The conference itself left me a little disappointed, which doesn’t say much since I found myself disappointed even by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning Conference I went to last year. But more on that in a second.

The keynotes were both great, Rick McQuady, CEO of the Kentucky Housing Corporation, was both an excellent opening speaker and a great emcee. His conversational tone and light humor kept things lively. The final keynote was given by Nancy Welsh, current chair of the Board of Directors (and founder) of Builders of Hope in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her message was clear, her slides easily connected to what she was trying to teach, and her presence on stage was engaging if not engrossing. I left her keynote feeling excited.

The sessions I attended, however, fell bellow my expectations. Session descriptions were farther reaching than their execution. The content of every session failed to match the breadth promised in its respective description. Reflecting upon it now, I think that perhaps given the time limitations (an hour and a half) that many of the sessions did the best they could given the opulence of backgrounds found in the attendees. Even still, I often find myself taking notes on a slide only to find that the slide and the elements being discussed overlapped nearly to the word. Public speaking is not easy, but I’m not entirely sure that reading from your slides can be called public speaking as opposed to a reading.

With my laid out, I should also talk about the the silver lining. The sessions I attended were a good refresher on what I learned in school. As well the networking was pretty decent with plenty of opportunities to meet others on Wednesday night. Even the screening of Potter’s Field proved interesting and entertaining.

Overall the KAHC conference was a worthwhile attendance, but the sessions of this conference (like most conferences I’ve attended) needs a tighter grip on presenters to ensure they deliver what they’ve promised. Though my experience with academic conferences remains supreme in this category as often presenters would have completely changed the topic of their presentation or not done any of what the talk had promised.

This week I’ll be attending a retreat for those with a similar title in other Area Development Districts. One thing I’m eager to find out more about is the implementation of KY HB1.

KY APA and the Awesomeness Mini-conference

Last update, Sept. 19th? Yikes!

Since the 19th I attended the Kentucky APA conference down in Louisville and the Awesome Collective’s mini-conference in Covington, Ky.

The government also shut down and the ACA’s health care exchanges went live. Its been a busy few weeks.

Kentucky APA

The Kentucky APA conference was held on Friday, September 27th, and it was my first state APA conferenc. The buffet lunch was hearty and almost broke my calories budget for the day! Luckily I came in 100 calories below my goal thanks to a long evening walk.

We ended up arriving late and missed the Ethics session but arrived right on time for the Law session. The presenter was interesting and the topics covered all centered around how to stay out of court and whether you could be charged with practicing law without a license.

The session over lunch discussed the successes of various groups and their urban redevelopment projects in and around Louisville. I found the delicious lunch a little more than distracting.

The afternoon started with a round table on rural development. Everyone had something to say about “poo” (waster water treatment). However, the session was marked by a lack of depth as each presenter shotgunned through data, maps, and discussion point.

Finally, the conference ended with a presentation from the NKAPC (and friends) to discuss the Crittenden-Piner Tornado, which I’ve heard about in other venues. The breakout success of the presentation was Andy Hatzos of the National Weather Service, whose sheer passion kept my interest throughout.

Be Awsome! A Mini-conference for Community Change-makers.

Held yesterday, October 3rd, the Awesomeness Mini-conference was held at various locations around Covington, Ky. Highlights from the parts I attended (there were breakout sessions at time) included Griffin Van Meter, whose epic beard nearly stole the show, Tarek Kamil, who inspired my to start tracking my own awesomeness index, and Seth Beattie and Brian Friedman from Collinwood in Cleveland, Ohio.

Seth and Brian’s presentation was near and dear to my heart as an ex-rust belt native. Their project and its success was worth hearing about. Redevelopment attuned to the creative class is working for them on both the engagement and revitalization levels.

Tarek Kamil had excellent presenting skills and had a topic that anyone could relate to. The major take away is, in a nut shell, track something (like happiness) because tracking something is better than knowing nothing. And when you track something you can change try to change something.

Griffin Van Meter was perhaps the most disorganized but also the most engaging. His oratory style is unique and his passion is contagious. His success with the NoLi CDC was interesting to hear about if only because I’m an Economic Developer/Urban Planner, and that type of work is our bread and butter.

Overall the conference was interesting, informative, and inspiring. Hopefully some community change does arise from the conference.

Government Shutdown

You never realize how much you need government websites until they’re gone. For work I find myself cruising Census.gov and other data sources at least weekly. Tuesday morning, a midst the growing pains of the ACA Exchange websites, I found myself stopped from completing a good chunk of work on my current projects.

Hopefully the whole shutdown is resolved sooner, rather than later, and without any major concessions on the Affordable Care Act. I’m not a hardcore liberal, but the stories I’ve heard on the ground here in Kentucky suggest that its as necessary and prescient as Gov. Beshear says it is.

Health Care Exchanges

I’ve managed to get quotes from both Kentucky and Ohio’s exchanges now, and in both states my healthcare costs would be less than a third of my employer’s current cost to provide health insurance with similar benefits, similar deductible, and the same provider if I lived in Kentucky (where I currently work).

Stories have been coming out all week about the demand placed on these exchange websites alongside success stories of people from all over the political spectrum. Though, the one that caught my eye was that of an Alabama man who voted for Ron Paul that is touting the insurance he gets through Alabama’s exchange a success. Take this with a grain of salt, though, it comes from ThinkProgress.

Reggae Run

This weekend I’ll be running my first official 5k race, which I’m calling the Hell Hill Run. The 3.1 mi course takes place mostly up hill and will likely be the death of me.

I’ll report back Monday with a completion time (supposing I survive).

That about covers the last two weeks, now its all smooth sailing to the weekend.

UPSTART “street party” helps local entrepreneurs connect to startup resources

What: UPSTART, an innovative, entrepreneurial networking event and showcase

Sponsored By: NKY Tri-ED, NKY Chamber of Commerce, ASWD Law, Republic Bank, BLDG, West Sixth Brewing

When: September 19, 2013  | 4:30 – 8:00pm

Where: Pike Street, Covington, KY 41011
Free parking available next to Artisan Enterprise Center located at 27 West Seventh St.

Cost: Free to attend

RSVP: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/7394991619

Description: (Covington, KY) – On September 19, beginning at 4:30pm, the City of Covington will close Pike Street to launch UPSTART, a street party designed to inspire the entrepreneur in all of us. The purpose of the UPSTART event is to connect entrepreneurs with local organizations who provide resources to startups.

October Training Smackdown

Beginning this week and continuing for the next month I’ll be heading off to various training, certifications, and seminars including CDBG, Affordable Housing, and KY APA. I’ll be doing my best to catalog things I learn, insights and anecdotes, as well as resources here.

Because of that oncoming train-pocalypse, I have not made time like I should to draft a proper post for this week.

Instead I’ll leave you with a short story about a city council meeting I attended last night:

After having just finished my presentation on tax rate calculations, several ordinances are given their first reading. Among them was an ordinance about nuisance and All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs and Dirt Bikes).

Upon the reading of said ordinance, a couple stands up at the back of the room and starts throwing accusations that this ordinance was crafted specifically to target them. They suggested that city council could perhaps control the train whistle and dust that trains kick up, likening the power to stop dust and noise to godly power.

A heated exchange followed where shouting, finger pointing, and emotions ran high. At one point the couple decided that it was a sad day when people could not do what what they wanted on their own property. Finally the couple stormed out of the chambers while the city council proceeded to pass the ordinance.

A few moments later, a car begins driving by city hall blaring its horn every few minutes. As I walked out of the building at the conclusion of the meeting I saw that it was that same couple.

Whether the ordinance was right or wrong, I found the meeting entertaining.

Quantifying (and Qualifying) Self

Another recent hobby of mine is looking at data about my life. I think we can all agree that sometimes we just don’t remember things the way they happened. More often than not, this is observable in disagreements I have with my fiancee over various sequences of events. Given that problem, we become unreliable narrators of our own lives. In order to get at and understand some of the minutia of daily living it becomes important to have instruments, sensors, and data collection methods that fulfill a few criteria:

  1. Accurate – that these measurements are taken in parallel to qualitative information inputed by the user (me).
  2. Automated – that data collection takes place with little need for my direct involvement.
  3. Analyzable – that data collected present some meaning or capture something worth understanding.

On a quest to understand, how do you get all that data?

Undertaking this quest, I’ve fallen into the rabbit hole and found a web of services, solutions, and self-guided practices that have allowed me to begin tracking more.

I started early on with google calendar, excel, and a notebook. This required too much effort from me at times and was often forgotten in light of more important or immediate issues. Slowly I moved to using smart phones apps. Many of them I’m still using, but in more complex ways than before:

Saga: Probably the first thing I needed to get myself off of google calendars. It tracks the where, when, and how long while integrating information from other connected applications. It is both an end point and an entry point for much of the data I’m now collecting.

Sleep-bot: Sleep bot was a newer find, and was something that replaced a similar app I was using on my iPhone earlier last year. When I got an android phone I went without any sort of smart alarm/sleep analysis. Now that sleepbot has about three months of data, I’m starting to see trends and am slowly improving both the quality and quantity of sleep I get.

MyFitnessPal (MFP): I’m a bit off and on with this service, it integrates well with other apps and programs, but it requires attention and manual entry of food. There isn’t yet a good solution for calorie and food tracking, so this is about as close as I can expect anyone to get. I had originally used Lose It! but lost interest after some changes to the application and discovering MFP.

RunKeeper: The first app I started using (and began using again recently), RunKeeper has come such a long way since I first used it. It logs more than just running and now has support for a heart rate monitor. Easy to use, nice customization options on the audio cues, and definitely a main stay on my phone.

Have data, want additional data.

Recently I’ve also done some research into getting a fitness tracking device like fitbit flex, jawbone up, or basis. I’m currently waiting on an invite to purchase basis due to the additional sensors offered there.

The major problem with “quantified self” is the difficulty in pooling and analyzing data across systems, programs, and devices. Currently no simple solution exists, but Saga, MFP, and RunKeeper are all integrated via API/integration features. Basis is still fairly closed, but offers what I feel is the most robust device. An API would do much and more to help me pool my data and for developers to connect the services.

Where are we going here?

I’m really hoping that in the next few years I’ll be able to pool my data, and run regressions like crazy on it (the one really useful mathematical skill I learned in the PhD Program I recently left). In addition, I’d love to be able to take this information and show it to my doctor. As you’ll likely come to know, I’ve got a bit of a problem with weight (really its not that bad), and being able to show my physician whats going on, what working, and what is not would be nice.

I currently don’t have anything in place to help me understand how stress relates to my psoriasis, but that’s something I’m exploring for the future. I know stress and certain diets are affecting it, but I don’t know how. We don’t know as much as we could about psoriasis, and this might be one way of starting toward the big-data approach to understanding commonalities among people with psoriasis instead of the voodoo-like-advice I see on internet forums about it.

And another thing..

Two things I think are worth mentioning: the spatial dimension and the lack of qualitative data.

Spatiality is something I’ve talked about quite often in my (former) PhD program. Space, whether we like it or not, has interesting and unique impacts on the way we live. Even something as simple as bid rent theory suggests a complex relationship with economic thinking, sociological concepts that operate and motivate breaking or imposing social barriers, and psychological patterns of how we understand the world. Tracking some things without understanding the where will prove fruitless.

Qualitative data is also something I feel is worth logging alongside quantitative data. Some of my most insightful exploratory questions have come from looking at personal, group, and internet-consensus qualitative trends. Even something as simple as looking at a thread on Reddit can prove useful in finding new avenues of exploration and preliminary insight into how the question might be answered.

Every app and service I mentioned above has rudimentary elements of spatial and qualitative data collection, but it is not as robust nor as integrated as I would like. Hopefully that’s also in the future.

Homebrewing

Another thing I’ll likely be writing about consistently is our home-brewing.

By our, I refer to the list of people I collaborate with to brew beer:

  1. Rebecca (my fiancee) and I brew small all-grain batches (1 gallon) in our kitchen.
  2. Matt, Nikki, Mike, and Emily brew as a “guild” doing all grain batches.
  3. Rebecca, her father, and I brew extract kits together in his driveway.

Overall we’ve completed:

  • A failed Russian Imperial Stout that became the Midwest Godfather Hoppy Stout.
  • A going away gift to our friend Seth, the Going Away (Mosaic) IPA.
  • A Dunkelweiss we call the imBiber/imBieber,
  • A Maple Chocolate Porter, I call the MCP (Maple Chocolate Porter) Contingency Plan.
  • A Vanilla Porter we call Mad Maddie’s Porter.
  • An American Amber I called Papa Nezzy’s NumerUno.

We’re currently planning:

  • A pecan or almond brown ale (1 gallon all grain)
  • A pepper chocolate stout (5 gallon all grain)
  • A clone of the White House Honey Ale (5 gallon extract)

Most recently we finished the Dunkelweiss listed above. We opened the first bottles last Friday and overall we were a bit disappointed. Everything leading up to then had been promising, even Matt (the major skeptic), was waiting with bated breath for this beer. What we drank that night was good, if not promising, but not what we had anticipated.

We’ve resolved to let the beer condition for a month now and see if that mellows out the fruity/spicy/banana flavors and reveals some of the maltier flavor.

The Dunkelweiss definitely had our best brewing process to date, we resolves issues with mash efficiency and even created a yeast starter. There is, however, something we missed. Matt blames abnormally high fermentation temperatures due to summer heat. I think that may be part of it, but I wonder what else might have gone awry?

The Going Away IPA is still my favorite beer we brewed, it was so enjoyable and complex that we ended up drinking all of it the day we were able to being drinking it. We found a rogue bottle a month later and it still tasted great.

Anyway, more updates (with pictures!) to come as we improve and plan more beer.

Tax Rate Calculations

Recently, I’ve been working on tax rate calculations for cities in Northern Kentucky. This is a yearly service the ADD provides for free. Kentucky cities and special districts utilize these tax rate calculations to ensure they receive at least the same amount of revenue each year from real property and tangible property taxes. This helps provide a stable amount of cash flow to the city or special district each year. One danger in this calculation is dropping values, or if a property falls off the tax rolls for various reasons, this can spike the rate that is calculated in a given area.

The city does not necessarily have to take the tax rate that these calculations provide. They are free to choose their rate, with some limitations provided by the Kentucky Revised Statutes. Therefore the calculation sets the rates used to benchmark some legal requirements in the tax rate adoption process.

Beyond the compensating rate, the rate that would provide similar revenue, I also calculate a “substitute rate” and a “Rate +4”, which provides for 4% more revenue. There are some procedures engendered by taking a rate above the compensating rate, including public hearings and, if the city goes beyond the Rate+4, the opportunity for a recall vote on the rate. (Note: the recall can only be for the portion above 104%)

Being an Ohio native, this process has been a bit foreign to me. Luckily I’ve been able to pickup and understand the process and the purpose of the calculations fairly quickly. Though they are not perfect, I think there is some merit to what Kentucky is doing via this process. Ensuring cities remain viable would do much and more in Ohio where the 2008 economic crisis doomed many cities to debt or bankruptcy. I should be clear, however, this process does pose a possible strain on the citizens of Kentucky cities in that rates fluctuate to accommodate revenue year to year. Because of this the loss of businesses or, as I mentioned above, the falling off of property from the tax roll can adversely affect local tax rates.

I do not feel like I know enough yet to make a firm conclusion about whether the tax rate calculation process is more beneficial than harmful, but it is certainly a unique idea.