Wim Kuijken, the Dutch Delta Programme commissioner to speak at FAU on Monday, September 12

The School of Urban & Regional Planning, a part of the College for Design and Social Inquiry, will host a presentation by Wim Kuijken, the Dutch Delta Programme commissioner, on Monday, September 12, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at FAU’s Higher Education Complex, 111 East Las Olas Blvd., 11th floor, Fort Lauderdale campus.
Kuijken will discuss the role of the Dutch Delta Programme, the Netherlands’ intricate national water supply and protection program, and the Netherlands’ collaborative approach to water management. He also will address the significance of decoupling politics from natural resource issues of long-term consequence.
“The Delta Commissioner’s presentation will be particularly relevant to the water and coastal issues we face in South Florida,” said Jaap Vos, Ph.D., associate professor and director of the School of Urban and Regional Planning. “The Dutch have been successful in formulating a collaborative and comprehensive approach that integrates long-term planning for land use and water management while protecting investments, ecosystems and people.”
Margaret Leinen, Ph.D., executive director of FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and the associate provost of marine and environmental initiatives at FAU, will present opening remarks and welcome the Delta commissioner and his delegation to FAU. The delegation will consist of Delta Programme staff and top officials from the Dutch Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the Dutch Consulate General in Miami. A question and answer session will follow the Commissioner’s presentation.
For more information, contact Dan Morris at 954-871-9522 or dmorri47@fau.edu


Published in: on September 11, 2011 at 7:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Fountainhead – A Cinematic Analysis of the Urban Form

The Fountainhead is immersed in the city. The movie is (Objectivism and Collectivism aside), about the city. Specifically the urban form and the public’s stake in it.  Set in New York in the 1920’s and 1930’s the city is growing rapidly with the introduction of new building materials (steel) and techniques; buildings are attaining new heights.  The protagonist is Howard Roark, an individualistic, stubborn and determined architect who has his mind set firmly on nothing but his own expectations of himself and creating the best he can.  Discharged from a university architecture program for not conforming to the established architectural styles he grapples with a lack of success until later.

The dominant theme in the film of classical architecture vs. modern architecture is deeper than an argument of styling. The argument that unfolds parallels the lack of acceptance of Roark’s modern architecture with issues we face in cities today. The idea of one being able to design and build what one desires while the societal mores dictate another is an issue we deal with here and now.  Some downtown areas focused on “identity” and “branding” dictate the urban form right down to architectural themes and roofing materials (CRA Boca Raton).  The question of the “ownership” of the urban form, (individuals or society) was somewhat spoken to in a closing scene of the film, but remains a source of divergent opinions in today’s reality.

Roark’s potential clients recognize the genius in the simplicity and efficiencies of the designs achieved by using new construction methods, but are more than hesitant to commission him due to the certain public outcry mustered by the film’s antagonist Ellsworth Toohey, an architectural critic with his own agenda.

There were quite a few interesting visualizations used featuring images of the city.  Scenes traumatic or injurious to Roark (the wedding of Dominique Francon, the newspaper stands being overturned) take place at ground level.  For me, the most notable was the collapse of Henry Cameron, Roark’s mentor and early modernist architect.  During the ride to the hospital in the ambulance Cameron is a broken and beaten old man.  In a dramatic scene, the camera was positioned filming upward from the floor of the ambulance with lower (mostly, save for one or two) classically designed buildings flashing by the windows of the ambulance the buildings appeared to be standing silently, windows appearing to be eyes, almost as if they were peering down into a coffin.

Many panoramas were used in feature scenes and mostly employed as background effects, but they seemingly upstage the actors on the screen.  Wide picture windows in offices provided for even more expansive vistas to be projected beyond.  With an interesting skyline, the eye wanders from the actors to the individual buildings in the wide expanse beyond.

Physical heights in the movie appear to have a direct correlation to Roark’s current position or “altitude” in society.  For instance, when Roark first starts out with his own firm, there are buildings directly adjacent to his office.  When he loses his firm, he is working as a laborer in a quarry (under ground level) and has he builds himself back up, the height of his office increases and increases until the final scene (spoiler alert) when he stands atop the tallest building in the city that he himself designed and built.  Dizzying perspectives of a city far below and on the horizon are presented when Roark’s love interest, Dominique Francon, rides a construction elevator to the top of the building in the film’s closing scene.

Published in: on June 30, 2010 at 5:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Amendment 4…yikes!

Alright, there is this amendment on the coming election ballot this year.  It is called Amendment 4.  It requires that a change to a city or town’s master plan be ratified by a vote.  Sounds good and easy doesn’t it? It will cut down on “junk” development and “protect the environment”…what could be wrong with *that*?

I am voting 100% NO on Amendment 4.

Please visit this website and watch the video on how a like/kind ordinance in the Tampa area has decimated the community.  The amount of time and resources (human and $$$$) involved in a community referendum for a land use change amendment for a master plan would be a severe strain on local government funding – indeed ANY change that would affect the town or city’s master plan would be required to go to referendum.  I agree that bad development has been rampant however that is why there are city council meetings, community appearance boards and countless other tools governments use to ensure bad development doesn’t happen.  The problem is that people have refused to become involved in the process.

Amendment 4 is a knee-jerk reaction to the problem.  If it passes, it will thrust Florida into a worse depression than it has ever seen. Builders or developers will not build in Florida. Also, the properties already platted in “the old manner” (bad planning promoting sprawl) will be grandfathered in as the use has already been decided.  Amendment 4 will do nothing to remedy existing bad land uses.

I encourage you all to read and research the effects that a realized Amendment 4 would have on the economy and make up your own mind – for me as an urban planning student, this is a very serious issue.

Published in: on June 29, 2010 at 11:16 am  Leave a Comment  

Finished the introduction to this research paper…can you tell where I’m goin with it?

The City of Boca Raton was, at the dawn of the twentieth century, a quiet, rural, even exurban pineapple farming community. The economic boom years of the nineteen twenties brought wealthy vacationers. The Second World War brought an Army airfield and thousands of servicemen. The nineteen fifties brought development of homes for the very wealthy. From that point forward there was no turning back. Development was the order of the day. Boca Raton became a retirement Mecca to thousands and services flocked to rapidly sprawling South Florida. With strong demand for land and the feel of a country house in paradise, homes became larger. Development trends, both residential and commercial were leaning toward park like settings; winding roads, cul-de-sacs and large greenbelts were favored over more traditional grid like street patterns and development. Homes and households grew larger and with that growth came more cars, families now had had two or more cars. As the great migration from the Rust Belt in favor of the Sun Belt progressed, families proliferated and the American Dream was alive and well in Boca Raton. At the dawn of the twenty first century, Boca Raton finds itself a corporate town, no longer dependent on Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach or Miami for jobs. No longer a bedroom community, in fact, more of an employment destination, Boca suffers from heavy traffic, overburdened transportation infrastructure and a transit design philosophy rooted deeply in the twentieth century.

Published in: on April 13, 2010 at 7:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Do you have a child in Florida’s public school system?

This is an incredibly powerful essay from Jamee Cagle Miller, a teacher here in Florida. If you have kids in school here or if you know someone who will benefit from reading this, I hope you will pass it along.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I rise before dawn each day and find myself nestled in my classroom hours before the morning commute is in full swing in downtown Orlando. I scour the web along with countless other resources to create meaningful learning experiences for my 24 students each day. I reflect on the successes of lessons taught and re-work ideas until I feel confident that they will meet the needs of my diverse learners. I have finished my third cup of coffee in my classroom before the business world has stirred. My contracted hours begin at 7:00 and end at 3:00. As the sun sets around me and people are beginning to enjoy their dinner, I lock my classroom door, having worked 4 hours unpaid.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I greet the smiling faces of my students and am reminded anew of  their challenges, struggles, successes, failures, quirks, and needs. I review their 504s, their IEPs, their PMPs, their histories trying to reach them from every angle possible. They come in hungry – I feed them. They come in angry – I counsel them. They come in defeated – I encourage them. And this is all before the bell rings.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am told that every student in my realm must score on or above grade level on the FCAT each year. Never mind their learning discrepancies, their unstable home lives, their prior learning experiences. In the spring, they are all assessed with one measure and if they don’t fit, I have failed. Students walk through my doors reading at a second grade level and by year’s end can independently read and comprehend early 4th grade texts, but this is no matter. One of my students has already missed 30 school days this year, but that is overlooked. If they don’t perform well on this ONE test in early March, their learning gains are irrelevant. They didn’t learn enough. They didn’t grow enough. I failed them. In the three months that remain in the school year after this test, I am expected to begin teaching 5th grade curriculum to my 4th grade students so that they are prepared for next year’s test.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am expected to create a culture of students who will go on to become the leaders of our world. When they exit my classroom, they should be fully equipped to compete academically on a global scale. They must be exposed to different worldviews and diverse perspectives, and yet, most of my students have never left Sanford, Florida. Field trips are now frivolous. I must provide new learning opportunities for them without leaving the four walls of our classroom. So I plan. I generate new ways to expose them to life beyond their neighborhoods through online exploration and digital field trips.

I stay up past The Tonight Show to put together a unit that will allow them to experience St. Augustine without getting on a bus. I spend weekends taking pictures and creating a virtual world for them to experience, since the State has determined it is no longer worthwhile for them to explore reality. Yes. My students must be prepared to work within diverse communities, and yet they are not afforded the right to ever experience life beyond their own town.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I accepted a lower salary with the promise of a small increase for every year taught. I watched my friends with less education than me sign on for six figure jobs while I embraced my $28k starting salary. I was assured as I signed my contract that although it was meager to start, my salary would consistently grow each year. That promise has been broken. I’m still working with a meager salary, and the steps that were contracted to me when I accepted a lower salary are now deemed “unnecessary.”

I am a teacher in Florida.

I spent $2500 in my first year alone to outfit an empty room so that it would promote creative thinking and a desire to learn and explore. I now average between $1000-2000 that I pay personally to supplement the learning experiences that take place in my classroom. I print at home on my personal printer and have burned through 12 ink cartridges this school year alone. I purchase the school supplies my students do not have. I buy authentic literature so my students can be exposed to authors and worlds beyond their textbooks. I am required to teach Social Studies and Writing without any curriculum/materials provided, so I purchase them myself. I am required to conduct Science lab without Science materials, so I buy those, too. The budgeting process has determined that copies of classroom materials are too costly, so I resort to paying for my copies at Staples, refusing to compromise my students’ education because high-ranking officials are making inappropriate cuts. It is February, and my entire class is out of glue sticks. Since I have already spent the $74 allotted to me for warehouse supplies, if I don’t buy more, we will not have glue for the remainder of the year. The projects I dream up are limited by the incomprehensible lack of financial support. I am expected to inspire my students to become lifelong learners, and yet we don’t have the resources needed to nurture their natural sense of wonder if I don’t purchase them myself. My meager earning is now pathetic after the expenses that come with teaching effectively.

I am a teacher in Florida.

The government has scolded me for failing to prepare my students to compete in this technologically driven world. Students in Japan are much more equipped to think progressively with regards to technology. Each day, I turn on the two computers
afforded me and pray for a miracle. I apply for grants to gain new access to technology and compete with thousands of other teachers who are hoping for the same opportunity. I battle for the right to use the computer lab and feel fortunate if my students get to see it once a week. Why don’t they know how to use technology? The system’s budget refuses to include adequate technology in classrooms; instead, we are continually told that dry erase boards and overhead projectors are more than enough.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am expected to differentiate my instruction to meet the needs of my 24 learners. Their IQs span 65 points, and I must account for every shade of gray. I must challenge those above grade level, and I must remediate those below. I am but one person within the classroom, but I must meet the needs of every learner. I generate alternate assessments to accommodate for these differences. My higher math students receive challenge work, and my lower math students receive one-on-one instruction. I create most of these resources myself, after-hours and on weekends. I print these resources so that every child in my room has access to the same knowledge, delivered at their specific level. Yesterday, the school printer that I share with another teacher ran out of ink. Now I must either purchase a new ink cartridge for $120, or I cannot print anything from my computer for the remainder of the year. What choice am I left with?

I am a teacher in Florida.

I went to school at one of the best universities in the country and completed undergraduate and graduate programs in Education. I am a master of my craft. I know what effective teaching entails, and I know how to manage the curriculum and needs of the diverse learners in my full inclusion classroom. I graduated at the top of my class and entered my first year of teaching confident and equipped to teach effectively. Sadly, I am now being micro-managed, with my instruction dictated to me. I am expected to mold “out-of-the-box” thinkers while I am forced to stay within the lines of the instructional plans mandated by policy-makers. I am told what I am to teach and when, regardless of the makeup of my students, by decision-makers far away from my classroom or even my school. The message comes in loud and clear that a group of people in business suits can more effectively determine how to provide exemplary instruction than I can. My expertise is waved away, disregarded, and overlooked. I am treated like a day-laborer, required to follow the steps mapped out for me, rather than blaze a trail that I deem more appropriate and effective for my students – students these decision-makers have never met.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated by most. I spend my weekends, my vacations, and my summers preparing
for school, and I constantly work to improve my teaching to meet the needs of my students. I am being required to do more and more, and I’m being compensated less and less.

I am a teacher in Florida, not for the pay or the hardships, the disregard or the disrespect; I am a teacher in Florida because I am given the chance to change lives for the good, to educate and elevate the minds and hearts of my students, and to show them that success comes in all shapes and sizes, both in the classroom and in the community.

I am a teacher in Florida today, but as I watch many of my incredible, devoted coworkers being forced out of the profession as a matter of survival, I wonder: How long will I be able to remain a teacher in Florida?

-Jamee Cagle Miller

Published in: on April 9, 2010 at 2:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

An Off Switch

Just last week while at home for lunch I wandered around the outside of the house and happened to pause by the electric meter. I noticed something that astounded me. The platter built into the electric meter that spins ‘round like a record when we are at home, when the air conditioner is on, when we’re doing laundry; when we are LIVING in the house, was spinning at a dissing pace for an empty house. An incredible waste of energy, worse in this economy, an incredible wast of MONEY!

What I want is a single switch that shuts down and discontinues delivery of an electrical current to any and all vampire electronics that happen to be lurking in the house. Vampire electronics; you know, the coffee maker with timer in the kitchen, the microwave with a clock in the kitchen. The cell phone chargers that lurk in two rooms, the cable boxes, the alarm clocks, the cordless phone handset. That list goes on and on.

I would love to have an Off Switch to eliminate that electric meters spin when I am not home.

Published in: on April 2, 2010 at 11:51 am  Leave a Comment  


The following quote hangs on the wall of a friend’s office. I am into motivational quotes as some of you know. Really these “silly” little sentences have kept my spirits up (stupidly some would say) for roughly the last year. But this one takes the cake.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” -Calvin Coolidge 30th President of the United States

Published in: on September 22, 2009 at 8:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Transit? Here? C’mon. No Way.

My recent experience with mass transit has been: stopped at the railroad crossing waiting for the Tri-Rail to finish boarding and move on down the line. I mostly curse when I get stuck at the gates. You? Actually once about 25 years ago, I was at Atlantis, an old water park down around Ft. Lauderdale with a friend and my mom told me to take the bus home. No big deal right? Yeah, well….anyway…it’s a long story.

Suffice it to say, I don’t take use mass transit unless I am in:

A. New York.
B. Europe.

Because it works there.

I haven’t been to either location above in the past few years, so my car is getting getting its legs stretched. I love my car. It is a Volkswagen Golf Diesel. I like the mileage I get, especially on the highways with no air conditioning, I love the smell of the exhaust, like a Kenworth. I love the big belch of black acrid smoke emitted when I am up shifting (particularly when there’s a Lamborghini convertible behind me (OK I am petty and jealous, I admit it – is that SO wrong?) Mostly, I love the freedom of getting into my car and determining my own destiny(ation). It is the American way. Individualism. I think there are a couple of reasons why transit (at this point I am talking about mass transit) hasn’t caught on here in South Florida. First, we love our freedom. Second, it is not convenient. Third, it is still more expedient to drive ourselves. I recently heard a story of a five hour journey from Plantation or Pembroke Pines to West Palm Beach using mass transit. For these reasons, transit has remained underutilized by the masses.

Item three above is really why I went to the 2009 Transportation Summit in Ft. Lauderdale this past weekend. I know that the region is going to grow A LOT in the next twenty years. Single family homes will be considered luxury property and the majority of new product designed, built and sold will be townhouses and condos. Dense. The location: Eastern stretches of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties and within walking distance of shops and services. Here in South Florida, we are bounded by the Atlantic to the east and the Everglades to the west with a relatively thin strip of developable land. Almost all of this land has been built on over the past 90 or so years and now a good portion of our Shangri La is ripe for redevelopment. Not necessarily gentrification, but redevelopment. This is another post entirely.

Current economic conditions aside, economies are cyclical (i.e. this too shall pass), Florida is poised to take the number four most populous state status from New York by 2030 if not by 2010. In fact in 2000 the total Florida population was 15,982,378 people. In 2030, our population is estimated at 28,685,769 (http://www.census.gov/) that is a net gain of 12,703,391 people! Many of those people will end up here in South Florida. That is housing for all those people, schools for the children and college students, offices for employees, shopping centers etc etc. The important thing to realize here is there is just no room for another I-95 or another Florida’s turnpike. The acquisition of this land would be a nightmare scenario for the government organizations the courts, the property owners etc. PLUS the amount of money it costs to build this kind of infrastructure is absolutely astounding. Michigan DOT puts the cost at $39 million per mile. Add the cost of maintenance on a new roadway like this and well…just forget it. All the extra cars, all the extra costs. With the above considered, a cohesive and interconnected transit infrastructure that is comprehensive and accessible to everyone is a no brainer. OK enough of my hot air. This is the gist of the meeting this weekend. The region has buses and a train….but it was not instituted in a holistic pragmatic manner. Currently, our regional rail runs along a set of tracks that are a good distance west of the CBD’s far enough so that after you get off the train, you have a twenty minute bus ride TO the CBD after the train ride. Most if not all cities have their priorities, counties have theirs and MPO’s and Regionals, their own plus face an battle integrating all the subordinate pieces into one.

In order for any project like a regional transit solution to be successful the user experience must be seamless, efficient and effortless for the rider. A minimal amount of connections and punctuality are tremendously important if South Florida is to embrace a transit solution for our coming masses. This is what is coming!

If you will note, I did not use the words “sustainable” or “green” once in this post. This new system passes entirely on its own merits without any talk of global warming.