Brave snowdrops

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… that the City will purchase seven vehicles for the Public Works Agency: a Kromer Field Commander Chameleon, a Vermeer BC1800XL Chipper, a Jacobsen HR800 Mower, a Ventrac 4500 Tractor, a used Hamm HD 12VO Roller, a Ford F550 4×4 and a Ford F450.

… that, since parking is always on everyone’s mind, the City may relax the time restrictions for parking on parts of Central – allowing a four-hour maximum for parking at the meters on Central between Hurd and Central Park. And up in relatively the same area. Around Welsh-Ryan Arena and Ryan Field, there is a proposal for resident-only parking restrictions in the neighborhoods – a new zone, the SE (special event) zone. The restrictions would be applicable only during men’s basketball games, graduations and special events at Welsh-Ryan. The proposed SE zone would include “the residential blocks west and north of the North Shore Channel, east of Green Bay Road, and south of Isabella Street,” according to information from Seventh Ward Alderman Eleanor Revelle. On Event Days, the information states, “a Residential Parking Permit or a Special Event Permit will be required for any car parked on the street within the SE Zone. Contrary to the suggestion made at the Jan. 16 community meeting, we cannot rely on the License Plate Recognition (LPR) system to know whether a vehicle belongs to a resident within the SE Zone. The LPR only knows whether or not a vehicle is registered in Evanston.” There would also be a way for residents in the area who do not have a residential parking permit to register their vehicles and as well as purchase guest passes so they and their guests can park on the street on Event Days, she said. The maximum number of guest passes permitted is 40 per quarter. Transportation and Parking Committee members will discuss this at their Feb. 26 meeting, and City Council will likely consider it in late March or early April.

… that, speaking of parking, here’s the scoop about a comprehensive parking study. Residents may remember that an alderman proposed this last year and was nearly booed off the dais, because it would be “too expensive.” Well, it’s $33,000, and Evanstonians can decide later whether that was too much. TG awaits the results with some trepidation, believing that too often parking favors were handed out indiscriminately – or if not indiscriminately, then, at the very least, without regard to the collateral cost to the community. And more: Under a new ordinance a vehicle that blocks “part or all of a bicycle lane” will be subject to a $75 fine and the possibility of a tow. This is $50 less than Chicago charges for the same type of violation. Seems City officials like to compare Evanston to Chicago when they’re implementing fines and fees, such as this one and the parking rates; otherwise, it’s Arlington Heights or Oak Park.

And from the streets to the sidewalks. The City has a new snow-clearing proposed, and this one, well, packs a lot in. property owners would have to clear away ice and snow after any “weather event.” The idea is to keep the sidewalks clear so pedestrians of any ability can make their way easily. Here’s what City staff had to say about the situation: “After winter weather events from January 17-18 and January 22-25, the City received a total of 153 complaints regarding sidewalk conditions throughout Evanston. Following [sic] the first event (Jan. 17-21), the City had a total of 3.5 inches of snow and 0.22 inches of ice and received 99 complaints.” The threshold to trigger the snow-shoveling ordinance then was four inches, so there was no way to make the property owners clear their sidewalks. A few days later, there was the requisite accumulation and the City issued 16 notices of violation on Jan. 24. Fortunately, a few clear heads in City Council spotted some of the problems and put off consideration for a couple more weeks. TG hopes that there will be snow again when Council takes up the matter, so the new ordinance, if there is one, has a chance of being tethered to reality.

… that consultants from Kimley Horn will discuss a new proposal for the Green Bay Road improvement project from 7 to 9 p.m. on Feb. 20 at the Ecology Center. They will likely have a revised proposal based on feedback from the Dec. 11 meeting. 

… that coyotes continue to make themselves visible around town. Two were seen recently in northwest Evanston, and one here around the RT office. And early risers have heard an owl or two. No skunks yet seen yet, though TG and others have had a whiff from time to time.

… that State Climatologist Trent Ford at the University of Illinois’ Illinois State Water Survey reports that January was likely the 17th warmest on record, going back to 1895. The statewide average January temperature was 31.4 degrees, 5 degrees above the 30-year normal. The preliminary statewide average total January precipitation was 4.41 inches, 2.34 inches above the 30-year normal and the ninth wettest on record. And, were additional proof needed of climate change needed, snowdrops are already breaking through the winter’s jetsam.

 … that, speaking of the Earth and its wonders, Paul Scott Anderson posted on Feb. 11 in Earth that an experiment at the University of Cambridge “how sand dunes ‘communicate’ and interact with each other as they move.” Dunes move, in that they “migrate across the ground due to blowing wind or flowing water,” and as they do this, they “repel their downstream neighbors,” Mr. Anderson wrote. The University of Cambridge researches published their findings on Feb. 4 in Physical Review Letters.

Using high-speed cameras, the researchers were able to track the movements of the sand down to the scale of a single grain. Mr. Anderson quotes their statement: “the researchers observed that two identical dunes start out close together, but over time they get further and further apart. This interaction is controlled by turbulent swirls from the upstream dune, which push the downstream dune away.” Mr. Anderson notes that the “variable speed of movement with respect to each other” is what the researchers are calling “communication.” TG wonders if the same would be true of the dunes at Lighthouse Beach, which were essentially created by hauled-in sand.

… that, dunes were prominent in the sky as well. Also writing in Earth, Debra Byrd noted that citizen scientists have identified a new form of northern lights and are calling them “dunes.” Finnish amateur photographers working with space researchers discovered green-tinged aurora, which they termed “dunes, because, they said, it appears as an evenly spaced pattern of waves, resembling a striped veil of clouds or dunes on a sandy beach.”

The Traffic Guy thinks …

… that proposed the new snow-clearing ordinance has one section that is draconian: the fines: $150, second, $400, third, $750. Fines are not necessarily the most civic-minded way to ensure compliance – and compliance is a stated goal of the ordinance. So now the City suggests that neighbors call and complain about their neighbors – instead of, say, offering to help clear the walk?! TG was walking in the arboretum the day after the most recent snowfall, and, guess what – the City hadn’t cleared the path well; there were patches of ice all over (click on the pix in the rotating photos).

Another section is not just unfair but downright alien: Property owners are supposed to clear their sidewalks – OK. But they are also supposed to shovel out the intersections where the snowplows pile up sometimes considerable ridges of ice, snow, dirt, leaves and chemicals. The City, not nature, causes that problem, and the City should have to solve it. Throwing those unreasonable burdens onto property owners makes TG wonder what non-Evanstonian came up with it.

… that, although it’s not Women’s History Month, kudos to U.S. astronaut Christina Koch, who made history by staying 328 days in space aboard the International Space Station and participating in six space walks, one of which was the first one ever performed only by women.