November 20, 2007

City Strobe

The dumb leading the dumb toward the apocalypseState Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence, held a committee hearing last week in Frankfort to dispel the myth of global warming, that hideous tall-tale concocted by Al Gore, Hollywood and the United Nations that says our world is in danger because of the incalculably large amounts of pollution and greenhouse gases we continue to offer into the sky in service to our cars, appliances and the economy of coal.Gooch, who chairs the Agriculture and Natural Resources committee (seriously), brought in a pair of non-scientists to tell his colleagues that we’re OK burning all this coal in the Bluegrass because scientists are liberals who are anti-business. One of Gooch’s hacks, a Briton named Lord Christopher Monckton, a former adviser to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, mocked Gore repeatedly during his presentation, the aptly titled “Apocalypse NO — Global warming is not a global crisis.”Monckton, for those who aren’t familiar, is the guy who argued in the 1980s that people with HIV/AIDS should be locked away so the disease wouldn’t spread. He reiterated that point to the committee last week.The other guy, James Taylor (not that JT), spoke on behalf of the Heartland Institute, a “free-market think tank” — funded in part by Exxon and the tobacco industry — that claims to fight “junk science.”Just days after the Gooch Circus of Flaming Bullshit dropped into town, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released part four of its major climate change study. The study, written by more than 1,200 contributing scientists and combed over by more than 2,500 scientific expert reviewers, says humans have failed to curb carbon emissions and, as such, hastened near-certain environmental doom. If the governments of the world do not act within the next decade, the report says, billions of people will be at risk for catastrophic weather, including floods and droughts, and mass starvation. This could happen in 50 years. But that’s just a U.N.-backed group of 4,000-plus scientists from 130 countries. What do they know? As if The Gooch hadn’t shamed the majority of halfway-literate Kentuckians enough already, he ambled over to the “Good Morning America” program last weekend to attempt a defense, which bombed with predictable vainglory.“(The hearing) was just to get the debate going that not everyone is in agreement, that there is another side to the story,” Gooch told GMA as he emerged from under a large rock. He got a little defensive when the interviewer reminded him that his family is in business with the coal industry. And that pretty much derailed the Gooch Circus of Flaming Bullshit, at least for now. —Stephen George8664 gets first council hearingA special Metro Council committee heard the first round of testimony on an alternative to the Ohio River Bridges Project Monday evening, before more than 100 people packed into council chambers.8664 is the still-growing citizen movement that proposes replacing a waterfront stretch of I-64 with a ground-level parkway and building only a bridge in the East End to divert heavy traffic around downtown. Its chief purveyors, local businessmen Tyler Allen and J.C. Stites, appeared before the five-member committee with their first feasibility study, which was presented by retired highway engineer Walter Kulash. Kulash was in town last September as the keynote speaker for the Smart Growth Conference, sponsored by — you guessed it — the Bridges Project.Among other things, Kulash told the committee that many road construction projects across the United States are being “right-sized” now, or scaled down to match available funds. According to the 8664 study, that plan would cost $2.2 billion, about half of the estimated cost of the $4.1 billion Bridges Project. There is currently no funding structure in place for the Bridges Project.Kulash told committee members — some of whom are clearly skeptical of 8664 — that the alternative sits in the environmental footprint of the existing Bridges Project and, thus, the process for state and federal approval — particularly on environmental standards — could be done in months, not years, as some in the anti-8664 crowd still argue. “Clearly (the committee) got more technical info than they’ve had before, and that’s a good thing,” Stites said after the meeting. The next meeting is Monday, Dec. 3, at 5 p.m. All of the meetings are open to the public. —SGTARC creates online trip planner Riding the TARC bus last week, I saw a woman tell the squirming baby in her lap, probably not even a year old, that she had “better recognize.” While I’m not so sure the directive is terribly successful with infants, it’s a phrase that’s come to mind countless times when dealing with Louisville’s public transportation system. “TARC, you better recognize,” I’ve thought while spreading out half a dozen unwieldy paper bus schedules, or opening as many different files online, simply trying to figure out how to get from one part of town to another.Apparently, TARC got the message. Last week, the agency announced a new online trip planner (www.ridetarc.org) that’s so easy to use that it makes a regular bus user giddy. There are still a few kinks in the system, but it is an exponential improvement over the old days, when a potential rider had to know not only where he or she was going, but also the nearest cross street, in order to figure out an exact route.The trip planner works like Mapquest or Google Maps, where all that’s needed are starting and ending addresses, and what time you want to leave or arrive. You can even search by landmarks like movie theaters and churches. Most major cities have similar offerings, and they are increasing among mid-sized cities, according to Nina Walfoort, director of marketing and planning at TARC. She said she hopes the online option will appeal to the computer savvy, and also lure some car drivers who might have found the confusion of the clunky older system off-putting. Word. —Jennifer OladipoContact the writers at citystrobe@leoweekly.com