Friday, June 30, 2006

Now That's a Plan!

Salt Lake County is currently working on a plan for the "west bench" -- the west side of the Salt Lake Valley and the foothills of the Oquirrh Mountains. It is essentially the area owned by Kennecott Land.

What a plan! It anticipates the eventual homes and communities for over 500,000 people. There isn't a city in this state that I think is planning for that number of people. The only plan comparable to that number that I can think of in Utah were some of the earlier Salt Lake County plans that were developed in the 1960s and 70s, but in those instances they were more regional in nature, as the area was covered by several municipalities that all had their own plans for the portion that would be in their communities.

Is it even practical to plan for such a large area and number? The plan covers all sorts of things, ranging from community centers to schools to recreation areas. We are constantly reminded of Daniel Burnham's call in the late 1800s to "make no small plans," but can plans on such a scale really have any meaning and efficacy? The guest opinion piece in this month's Planning magazine by a planning professor at the University of Illinois (I can't link to it yet -- it won't be available on the web until next month) suggests that lots of "smaller" plans work better than one large one, and there is some validity in that view, in my mind.

The one difference with the grand West Bench plan is that virtually all of the land is held by one owner who is planning it as well, and has started development. This may make it more likely that the "vision" of a grand plan can be acheived. But even then, it will take many years for an areas of this size to build out, and in all likelihood the plan will change several times before then as conditions change and new ideas come about.

Still, it's got to be one heck of a ride for the Salt Lake County planners and residents who are working on it. Good luck, it will be interesting to see what comes out of the process.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

It's All Just So Simple...

A recent letter to the editor in the DesNews from Steve Blackham of Salt Lake City got my dander up a little bit again, because I think so many of us oversimplify the issues that are before us -- in this case about the topic of suburbanization and what to do about it.

Though I've given the link, let me just quote Mr. Blackham's letter here in full:

"For years now, people have been flocking to suburbia, displacing cheap farmland and open space and clogging up transportation corridors meant for interstate travel, all for their benefit of obtaining supposedly 'cheap' housing. This has been possible because of low energy cost to power their commute and subsidies from the general public to build their infrastructure.

"Now gasoline is $3 per gallon and will soon be $5 to $6 per gallon. Their suburban 'bargain' has become a fool's paradise. They are screaming bloody murder, and politicians are running around frantically to try to satisfy them.

"Officials are proposing a general property tax to fund these transportation projects and are asking the urban Salt Lake City neighborhoods to subsidize their suburban neighbors at a ratio of roughly three to one. Urban neighborhoods are already paying more for their fair share. Suburbia needs to face up to its obligations and carry its own load."

OK, let's take some of the arguments that Mr. Blackham makes and look at them a little more closely.

First, he's right in that people have been fleeing to suburbia for years now. In fact, that has been happening since the days of the trolley cars. With most of the jobs in the urban core as well as the tenements and crowded conditions, as soon as there become a means for people to get out to nicer conditions, they did so. Shocking.

What, however, would things be like if everyone were prevented (how would you do that?) from moving out to the suburbs and instead were required to live in the urban core? What would the environment in that core be like? What about the price of housing?

Where would the work for these people be? Would that also continue to be concentrated in the urban core? My, that would make for an interesting environment. Los Angeles, interestingly enough, is one of the most densely populated urban regions in the country -- is congestion for travel there any less because of it? On the contrary, it is much greater (partly, I do concede, because they haven't put the investment into transit that would help that situation - but wait, one of the objections of Mr. Blackham is that we are proposing more investment in transit to make things work better).

What do we do now, "force" everyone back into urban neighborhoods? Again, what would happen to the price of housing in those areas? How would everyone get to their jobs out in Sandy and Lake Park and Hill Air Force Base -- wouldn't the commute just be in the opposite direction then?

I don't do this to make fun of Mr. Blackham and his views -- their are some valid points in the issues he raises. But, as in most topics we deal with these days in our sound bite world, there is much more complexity and subtlety to them than we realize or seem to be able to take the time to recognize.

But, hey, at least someone is paying attention to this topic!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Are We a Region, or Just a Bunch of Little Towns?

The DesNews reported this morning that the funding proposal to advance transit was given short shrift in the Utah Senate caucus yesterday. Talking to Lane Beattie, Salt Lake Chamber President, yesterday at the Davis COG meeting where he came to present the funding proposal, he indicated that the issue was brought up for a vote in the Senate caucus without being on the agenda or even any warning that they were going to be discussing and voting on it. LaVarr Webb also commented on this turn of events on his Utah Policy Daily website.

It's fine for legislators, mayors and others to have their own opinions on proposals and ideas that are put before them for consideration and discussion, but they should get due consideration before they are just dismissed out of hand. No question, this is an "outside the box" kind of proposal, but dealing with the need for our transportation infrastructure is going to take that kind of thinking to deal with the transportation crises we face. Maybe there are other ideas out there, but they need to be flushed out with a full discussion, and soon! UPDATE: See Friday morning DesNews editorial on this topic.

Something that I am starting to hear as part of the reaction to the Chamber's funding proposal is, "Why should we tax ourselves for something that we won't have right directly in our town? Most of that money is going to go elsewhere to build those transit improvements, so why should we support it?" These kinds of arguments are in the same vein as those made by people who say, "Why should we vote in favor of the school bond? Our kids are all grown, and we aren't going to be putting any more kids through the education system."

Well, did you ever think of your grandkids? Did you ever think about who is going to be making those payments into the retirement system to keep those checks coming to you once you've quit working and want to go fishing?

Same thing applies to our regional transportation system -- the key word here is "regional." It all inter-relates. Sure, we may not have a TRAX line or commuter rail station right in our home town, but we still travel throughout the region, usually on a daily basis. I get frustrated all the time when I try to travel to Salt Lake or (heaven forbid) try to get to Provo during commute times. Doesn't it benefit it us all, wherever we live, to have a system that works throughout the region? Not every community gets a freeway exit either, but we seem to support the building of the highway because we can see its benefit!

Come on, folks, we need to think and work together to provide a regional system, not just look at bringing home the bacon to each individual community. If we start acting like that, we're sunk. Does the term "Balkanization" mean anything? Is that the model we want to follow?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

It's Transportation, Stupid!

The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce launched a campaign yesterday to increase funding for transit -- see stories about it in the DesNews and the Trib. And in the coming weeks, the chamber-initiated group called 2015 Transportation Alliance will also unveil proposals for increased funding for roads.

It is interesting to me to see the business community lead such a push for transit. Not that long ago, transit was a dirty word, something most politicians and business leaders stayed away from. I've always thought that the transportation system is the "skeleton" on which we build our regional character, a la the writings of Alex Marshall -- see my previous blog entries on that topic here and here.

Now the issue comes down to the brass tacks -- how to actually make things happen. In this case, it will take a substantial change in the way we invest in and build our transportation system, and amazingly the chamber is pushing forward to lead this effort. But, as with all such matter where money is involved, there will be a lot of disagreement and debate, because someone else will want that money to do other things, or spend it differently. That's what politics is all about, allocating who gets what, and thus effective planning is tied to politics.

Take a look at the 2015 Transportation Alliance website for more information. Lane Beattie will be coming to the Davis County COG meeting tonight to talk about this to the Davis County mayors and county commissioners.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Great Bi-Polar Sprawl Debate

Outstanding commentary in the San Francisco Chronicle by John King reviewing the book This Land: The Battle Over Sprawl and the Future of America, by Anthony Flint. Whether you agree with the review or not, King expresses the same thoughts that I have about how the sprawl debate is too often conducted -- extreme, polarized positions from which the proponents lob salvos at each other.

"That's what is refreshing about This Land -- and frustrating about the general level of debate about our nation's changing landscape," King writes. "We've reduced the blueprint for how we live to a handful of absolutes: Suburbs should sprawl in all directions or housing tracts should be banned. Zoning should be abolished, or the color of windowsills should be proscribed by law."

I experienced much the same thing a couple of years ago in the battle over the Legacy Parkway. Those opposed to its construction gave absolutely no quarter -- there was no middle ground, construction of the road would be the great Satan, resulting in complete destruction of the environment and would unleash extreme and unlimited sprawl. This approach virtually forced you to take the opposite extreme position in an effort to achieve some kind of balance of views.

"I'm not really worried about sprawl. The question is, are there going to be alternatives," Flint says. "We can build suburban neighborhoods where people still have their car, but they won't need to drive it as much. ... It's a nuanced argument."

I'm right there with him!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Commuter Rail Revitalizes?

I attended the ceremony Friday at the Farmington Station site, where U.S. Transportation Secretary Norm Maneta announced the full-funding agreement for FrontRunner, UTA's commuter rail project from Pleasant View to Salt Lake City (see here and here for stories.) It was a fun event, showing the support that exists for the project. No question in my mind that we need commuter rail, light rail, and additonal highway capactiy to handle future demand. All will be needed.

However, the hype about commuter rail stations being the focus for new development or revitalization is, I suspect, more hope than reality. Visit some of the commuter rail lines currently in operation around the country -- there's not a lot of development that really can be attributed to the station. Unlike light rail stations, where trains come and go several times an hour all day long, commuter rail stations are much more intermittent. They do not produce the steady stream of riders trickling through the station as is seen in light rail stations.

Look closely at the plans for the Farmington Station development -- there is easily as much parking as you would find in any similar new commercial development like Jordan Landing, probably more because of the parking that is needed to accomodate riders coming to catch the commuter train. The station itself is a key design component, a marketing feature, and something that will indeed result in several hundred people coming through the area each day, which will help. But to make the proposed development succeed, several thousand people need to come each day, and most of them will come by car to shop or eat or see a movie, not because of the commuter rail.

The outlook is even weaker for someplace like "downtown" Clearfield, where city officials are pinning their hopes for revitalization on moving the commuter rail station from its proposed large vacant site to their old downtown. The characteristics of commuter rail make such hoped-for renewal not very likely.

There seems to be some evidence pointing to the viability of enhanced housing development near commuter rail stations, but commercial use is elusive. In a story about the need to encourage transit oriented development in the Boston metro area, the following is noted: "'In selected areas, [TOD] works well. But the major focus of commuter rail is to take people from the suburbs into Boston, where the employment is,' said Dennis DiZoglio, director of planning for the MBTA. 'For most stations outside the core, it's parking lots, so people can get on trains and go into Boston. They are not usually located in a center of commerce or where there are a lot of jobs. Most people come in from the surrounding area, and are not looking at a reverse commute.' Local wishes have must have priority as well, DiZoglio said. Most outlying towns associate stations with traffic and parking problems, and prefer locations outside the town center."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Charters -- The Gift That Keeps on Giving

I wondered how long it would take to involve the Property Rights Ombudsman in the Alpine charter school controversy. The Daily Herald reports this morning that Craig Call has indeed been brought into it, under the provisions in the bill passed this year's legislative session for an advisory opinion.

"A state ombudsman is now weighing the question of whether the charter school's single-building site plan was vested before the (Alpine) moratorium began, meaning the new ordinance (setting standards for charter schools) would not apply to the site plan," the story said.

The way charter schools are locating and conducting themselves is raising a lot of eyebrows. I talked with staff at North Salt Lake today, and they told me about a charter school that has started constuction west of Redwood Road on a dead-end street, across from a sewage treatment plant, surrounded by a new industrial development, and just to the west of the Legacy Parkway alignment, where heavy construction will be taking place for the next couple of years putting in an overpass for the Legacy. This is an ideal location for a school? North Salt Lake officials say they are frustrated in that they cannot apparently do anything to prevent the school from going in at that location.

The stories are racking up, and will surely come back to roost in the near future.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Unfair Housing Suit?

The Federal District Court for Utah ruled recently on the lawsuit filed against Summit County by the law firm of Hutchings, Baird and Jones charging violation of fair housing laws because of the county's policy on zoning. Stories in the DesNews and the Trib summarize the action.

Neil Lindberg, legal committee chair for Utah APA, wrote this brief summary of the case.

"The Federal District Court for Utah has dismissed Anderson Development's proposed class-action lawsuit against Summit County. The suit, which got considerable press coverage when it was filed, alleged housing discrimination in unincorporated Summit County and violation of LUDMA's moderate income housing rules.

"Anderson submitted several 'property plats' to the county but expressly did not request the county to process its submission. Instead letters were submitted which claimed the county's development code was legally defective and unenforceable. The county responded that it had no choice but to enforce the adopted zoning law and offered assistance in understanding the county's planning process. Instead of seeking assistance, however, Anderson filed the complaint alleging the county code violated constitutional and statutory rules and asked the court to invalidate the county's 1998 development code... .

"The court ruled Anderson and other plaintiffs had no standing to bring the suit because 'they have not alleged and cannot prove that the county has utilized the zoning ordinance or other challenged policies to deny andy specific project containing housing which would allegedly benefit [them].' In addition, the court said 'plaintiffs have not demonstrated that it is likely that any alleged housing discrimination injury would be redressed by a favorable decision. They cannot identify any particular housing project that will be built, nor any personal housing benefit they will receive if the court granted their requested relief... .

"Without standing to litigate their claims, the court dismissed the case. A related state court case is still pending."

Sunday, June 11, 2006

It Could Be Worse

You hear so many complaints from some in the development community about how bad planning and development approval is in Utah. But they could be in California.

According to California Planning & Development Report, a number of "interesting" measures were approved in voting on June 6 in that state. Note the following:

Voters in the City of Santa Paula rejected a proposed 2,155-unit 800-acre housing project. The City Council had approved the project last year, but rescinded that approval and placed the matter on the ballot when opponents pushed a referendum. In April, Santa Paula voters rejected a different housing and country club development proposal elsewhere in town.

In San Francisco, voters overwhelmingly rejected an initiative that would have permitted development of nursing homes as conditional uses on land zoned for public use.

Residents of the City of Yorba Linda approved a controversial initiative that requires general plan amendments, rezonings, specific plans and development agreements to be decided by voters. The initiative also establishes a height limit of 35 feet.

Some sanity did reign, however.

City of Apple Valley voters backed a referendum that amends a 1999 ballot measure prohibiting rezonings without voter approval. The new measure gives the City Council the final say on general plan amendments and zoning.

Voters in the City of Morgan Hill repealed a 1987 voter-approved zoning limitation that prohibited grocery stores a the Cochrane Plaza Shopping Center.

And, most notable for its similarity to Oregon's Measure 37, Napa County voters widely rejected the Fair Pay for Public Benefit Act, a property rights initiative that would have required the county to compensate a property owner "who suffers an established decrease in value of that property due to the impact of a new Napa County land use restriction."

Now, what was it about planning and zoning in Utah that was so bad?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

More on Charters

Another story in yesterday's Trib on the charter school dust-up in Alpine. Not much new, just threats of lawsuits now, though Alpine did take kind of a unique approach to stopping the charter school construction, at least temporarily, by placing a two-month moratorium on the construction of all buildings 20,000 sf or larger. Really a good question as to whether that can apply to a use that is permitted in all zones by state code.

However, I do need to correct an attribution made to Glenn Way in the story, which says that state law makes charter schools permitted uses in all zones. "He (Way) says the city legally can do nothing to prevent or halt construction (of the charter school.)" As noted in a previous entry, that is not quite right. There are certain issues the city can set standards for, and that may be the purpose of the moratorium, to allow the city to adopt such standards.

Want to bet whether this topic comes up again in the next legislative session?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Making Tracks, Making Places

Pretty good column in this month's Governing magazine by Alex Marshall on the relationship between land use and transportation. He tells the story of proposed construction of a new bridge across Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore to the DelMarVa peninsula, and how such a new transportation link would likely change the character of the communities on that isolated eastern shore. Most importantly, he describes how officials failed to recognize or understand how such an action would have such a result.

In the current update of the long range transportation plan for the Wasatch Front and Mountainlands regions, there is a greater recognition of this concept than ever before. In part because of the visioning effort undertaken by Envision Utah, the new LRT plan will be better coordinated with land use (both as cause and as effect).

The longer we live, the more we learn.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Follow the Money...

We always suspected as much... now there's proof. A story in this month's issue of Governing magazine says the Utah legislature has the greatest concentration of realtors among its members of any legislature in the nation. Some pretty frank comments from their chief lobbyist, Chris Kyler, are included as well.

Some quotes from the story:

"...(W)hat do Realtors dream about doing next? If they live in Utah, they may be dreaming of a career in politics. Chris Kyler, CEO of the Utah Association of Realtors, sounds quite animated as he counts off the many members of his organization who hold high office in the state. 'I've got people who are on county commissions, mayors, state senators,' Kyler says. 'Our lieutenant governor was president of our state association about 20 years ago. Our people are involved in the parties, too. We've got precinct chairs and vice chairs and county delegates throughout the state.'"

"No fewer than 22 people who make their living in real estate also serve as members of the Utah legislature. Not surprisingly, Utah has some of the toughest real estate laws in the country -- protecting both private property rights and the business interests of Realtors. When Realtors hope to get favorable legislation passed, they know there is one legislator in particular who will lend a friendly ear. Al Mansell was president of the Utah Senate until he dropped his leadership role to serve...as president of the National Association of Realtors.

"Utah might have the most Realtors serving as legislators, but there are Realtors in virtually every legislative district in the country -- and they make their presence felt."

"Ask lobbyists for the industry to name a time they failed to get their way and the only sound you hear may be a long pause. Chris Kyler has been with the Utah Association of Realtors during the state's last seven legislative sessions. 'Of the bills that we've opposed since 1999, we've been able to defeat 100 percent o them,' he says. 'We either defeated all of them or we amended them so that it made our position neutral.' The group's rate of success on bills it actively supported isn't quite as high, Kyler says, but it's still 'well over 90 percent for seven years running.'"

"Realtors are careful to mix assestions of clout with arguments about sound public policy. They invariably say they are representing not just their own industry but the property rights of homeowners in general, and that those are a fundamental tenet of American democracy. 'I don't have to be that skilled as an advocate,' Kyler says. 'I don't want to sound cocky, but I think the primary reason we win is that we're right."

"The association backs up that analysis with a lot of money. During the 2004 election cycle, the Utah Association of Realtors donated $226,930 to state-level political candidates and causes -- a figure matched almost dollar for dollar by individual Realtors and other people in the business. That made real estate the largest single donor to Utah politicians that year, except for political parties and self-financing candidates."

"Realtors have lost a few minor property-rights battles recently... . But Realtors are still mostly getting their way, whether in bills that affect them directly or broader fights over growth restrictions and other land-use policies."

Now how could that be?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Is It Real, or Is It...?

In light of the recent publicity about the Salt Lake Chamber's downtown visioning and revitalization effort, it's interesting to read this piece in last week's Wall Street Journal called Fake Towns Rise, Offering Urban LIfe Without the Grit.

While I heartily support strengthening our metro area's urban center and keeping it a vital source of our regional identity, I also think that we will need to see more "urban villages," sort of downtowns lite, because of the size and complexity of the region and the increasing difficulty in getting around easily.

So the Journal's story focuses on the creation of such faux downtowns, in some ways complimentary and in other ways not. "Legacy Town Center (outside Dallas) is ... spurred by a demand for urban living scrubbed of the reality of city life. A careful mix of retail, residential and office space built with traditional materials such as stone and brick, Legacy looks like a city but has neither panhandlers nor potholes. Many residents rarely venture even to downtown Dallas, which has been trying to turn itself into the place to live for almost a decade. 'There's too much riffraff down there,' says Ron Pettit, a 36-year old contractor, as he snacks on brie and grapes at a table outside Bishop Road's Main Street Bakery and Bistro."

The challenge for the Wasatch Front, as it is for many other metro areas, is to make downtown someplace people want to be, at least for some things.

"Houston has poured some $4 billion into downtown stadiums, roads and light rail in the past decade. But 27 miles to the north, the Woodlands Town Center has sold out of newly constructed lofts and replica brownstones in the midst of an affluent planned community. 'The question is whether this demand for urban-style living -- density, transportation alternatives, proximity to work -- is broad enough to accomodate the resurgence of traditional downtowns,' says Bruce Katz, founder and director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution... ."

And that will be the trick for us as well. Can we build new urban villages in Sandy and Daybreak and Layton and Pleasant Grove and wherever, and also make downtown Salt Lake City succeed? Some careful thought and planning will be called for in this efffort.

Monday, June 05, 2006

For Whom the Road Tolls

Lots of discussion lately about the future of toll roads along the Wasatch Front. It's gotten to the point where it is being somewhat touted as the "savior" of getting the transportation system built -- relying on the typical taxation model just won't cut it.

Well, any time something is put forward as being the "better" way to do things, watch out. A little work and common sense will tell you that there are indeed some benefits -- but there are down sides, too.

Take the series in the Denver Post last week on the collaboration of state transportation agencies with private investors to build and run new roads. Apparently, everything isn't just coming up roses for toll roads. A number of projects have come in over cost and underused, resulting in some serious financial issues. In the worst case, a couple of major investors (New York Life and John Hancock Life Insurance companies) foreclosed on a failed road in Texas, leaving the state and adjacent property owners holding an empty bag.

There are success stories, too -- the point is, we must go in to such future endeavors with our eyes wide open to what can happen (because it has happened in some places). Transportation for our regional future is a critical component. Buyer beware!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Planning Through Intimidation

Item: In a recent article in the Washington Post's Sunday magazine about the debate over global warming, writer Joel Achenbach (author, with a wry sense of humor, of Why Things Are, a great book that helps make science understandable) notes, "Let us be honest about the intellectual culture of America in general: It has become almost impossible to have an intelligent discussion about anything. Everything is a war now. This is the age of lethal verbal combat, where even scientific issues involving measurements and molecules are somehow supernaturally polarizing. ... Human beings may be large of brain, but they are social animals, too, like wolves, and are prone to behave in packs. So when something ... comes up, the first thing people want to know is, whose side are you on? ... Are you with us or against us?"

Item: A federal judge ruled Friday that there is no evidence that Summit County used its zoning ordinances to discriminate against minorities and the disabled. Anderson Development, with the support of groups like the Utah NAACP chapter, Utah Coalition of La Raza, and the Disabled Rights Action Committee, filed suit against the county last year accusing Summit County officials of using zoning laws to block the development of affordable housing, forcing many low-income workers who work in Park City to commute from Salt Lake County.

As noted in previous blog entries, the goal of such a move seems laudable, but it also appears self-serving for a particular developer who isn't getting what he wants from local officials.

The point of my linking these two stories together is, as Achenbach notes, there seems to be little middle ground in discussing real issues any longer -- there is often an immediate move to the extremes of positions, and the rock-throwing begins. In the Summit County case, instead of working with county officials to address a legitimate need, it becomes an immediate fight of extreme positions. It gets complicated, however, because of the involvement of an aggresive developer with a particular interest. At least the court recognized that in this case.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Redoing Downtown

I attended a couple of the kick-off activities for the Salt Lake Chamber's Downtown Rising program on Wednesday. Lots of interesting ideas and discussion floating around about it. Both the DesNews and the Trib have stories about it, and the Trib has editorialized about it as well.

Downtown Salt Lake City is an important part of our metropolitan region's identity and vitality. In recent years, it seems like things have slowed down in downtown, but there are plenty of things planned that will help to revitalize and maintain the core's importance to the region.

I don't think the downtown will ever again be the retail hub of the region as it once was many years ago -- suburban malls and activity centers are too common and spread around to ever make that possible again. But there are other things that the core can be important for -- business headquarters and important regional business centers, headquarters of organizations and institutions, arts, tourism and conventions, celebrations (Olympics, First Night, etc.), and so on.

Just as an example, a story in the Boston Globe about a year ago about two nearby downtowns -- Providence and Worcester -- give some object lessons about the importance of maintain a center for regional identity and focus. "Although downtowns have lost importance as commercial centers, they remain focal points for cities, venues where activities and interests intersect, and ultimately create a sense of place," the story says. "I know of no great city, or even a good one that has a bad downtown," says John Mullin, director of the Center for Economic Development at the University of Massachusetts in the story.

Robert Land, director of the Metropolitan Institute College of Architecture and Urban Studies in Virginia, was one of the speakers at the Downtown Rising kick-off. He did talk about how many metro areas now are moving towards having a series of "mini-downtowns" scattered throughout a region as activity centers and focal points for the suburbs. But the core, historic central downtown is always important for the region and its vitality, he said. It plays a different role today than what it did 25 or 50 years ago, and we have to clue into what that role should be.

Take a look at the Salt Lake Chamber's website which will give you some info and an opportunity to provide some input. This will be an interesting effort. More to come.