TT with HD: Richard Wickboldt
HD: Before we actually start tottering let me get the picture taken, because I think the sun is actually going to wreak havoc with the shadows if we wait ... [Ed. note: photography ensues] Okay, let's see if we can actually get some tottering motion going. Now, you are well over 6 feet.
RW: Ehh, six-two.
HD: Okay. So are getting adequate leg extension there? Is that going to be comfortable for you?
RW: Yeah, it's fine! It's good.
HD: So, welcome to the teeter totter!
RW: Well, thank you! I'm glad to be here!
HD: And since this last February, you marked your fifth year here in Ann Arbor, I can't really welcome you to Ann Arbor anymore. You're sort of approaching long-timer status.
RW: Yes, and I hope for many, many more years.
HD: Oh yeah? You like it well enough to stick around?
RW: Oh, yeah! It's one reason why I came here. It's a beautiful town. We were back in New York City--my wife is a city person, so for relocation she had her requirements. And Ann Arbor's got diversity, and the University, and a lot of culture going on here, and it's small.
HD: So your wife had to be 'sold' on the idea of relocating outside of the greater New York City area?
HD: But you not so much?
RW: No, not me. I'm more of a small-town person.
HD: Did you grow up in a small town?
RW: No, I was born in New York City and I enjoyed it there. But when it got more crowded, very noisy, very stressful, so I decided to leave.
HD: As long as you brought up noise, you posted a comment on [1st Ward Councilmember] Ron Suarez's blog ...
RW: ... yes ...
HD: ... related to the noise ordinance--and I have to share with you that just recently--this last Sunday--I looked up the noise ordinance for the second time. The first time was prompted by the sound of the University of Michigan drum section on a Saturday morning--woke me up. And this last Sunday, the backyard right over the fence there, it was about five o'clock, and I think it was a lawn service that was unleashed on the back yard. They had a lawn mower, and a weed whacker, and a blower. The guy with the blower seemed to be just redistributing the clippings from the lawn mower. So they had three pieces of power equipment going, just wrecking the peace and quiet of the neighborhood, and I thought, Man, can you really do that on a Sunday evening? And you can it turns out! But you know, the original person who commented [on Suarez's blog] about the noise ordinance--I forget the name, Cy something?
RW: I don't recall.
HD: But they described it in terms of 'loophole'. But it's not really a loophole would you say? It's special exemption for 'power equipment'.
RW: Yeah, it's not a loophole, I would say. You know, the law is written the way it is. And of course the law goes together with people putting their input in. So somebody may have had some input to allow certain exceptions.
HD: To me, if I think about lawn care equipment, maybe a better approach than revising the noise ordinance would be to take a similar tack to what they've done with rain barrels [and give green credits]. I mean, you can't really give a credit for not using gasoline-powered mowers, but you could require a permit or license for a gasoline-powered lawn equipment. What would your reaction be, if the City of Ann Arbor passed an ordinance that said if you're going to have a gasoline-powered piece of lawn equipment, then you're going to have to register it, get a permit for it, and pay 50 bucks a year, or some amount per year? Would have an impact on your life?
RW: No, it wouldn't have a direct impact on my life. I try to use the least amount of polluting equipment anyhow. I have a lawnmower. But of course I use a service. I don't have one of these big services that uses all the equipment--it just comes in and cuts the grass. I don't ask them to blow, and all kinds of stuff, or any extra. But I think that would be a worthy ordinance in several respects. One, for the environment itself, because these little gasoline-powered things spew out a lot of pollution--they have no sort of controls on them. I think it'd be appropriate to if you want to say some kind of tax or some kind of fee on it.
HD: Well, I don't think you could sell it as a 'tax', though. You'd have to say, 'license' or 'permit' ...
RW: ... or however you want to call it, you know!
HD: Yeah, let the opponents of it describe it as 'nothing more than another tax'.
RW: You know, the way our world is, and the whole issue of climate change, greenhouse gases, I think that it's appropriate that we start approaching these type of issues. People, if they don't want to take their own initiative and alter their habits or whatever you want to call it, why not put a license fee or something on it, and generate income at the same time? If you want to, earmark it at the same time to some environmental area.
HD: So have you lived the whole time you've been in Ann Arbor up in the First Ward?
RW: Yes. Well, actually when I first came here--my wife didn't come out right away, because she was a teacher and she needed to finish the school year--and I was living up on off of Plymouth on the other side of town.
HD: So that's still First Ward, though maybe?
RW: No, I don't think it was, I'm not too sure.
HD: Might be Second. Ward boundaries are an interesting thing. I didn't know what ward I lived in until I started riding the teeter totter, and then I figured I needed to sort up bone up on what's what in this town. So has anybody knocked on your door circulating a petition, who's running for First Ward City Council? I mean that seat is going to be wide open now that Bob Johnson has stepped down.
RW: Yes, it is. Nobody's come with a petition yet. But I'm thinking that I'm going to go around with a petition!
HD: Are you really?!
HD: Well, you better get cracking, man! [laugh]
RW: I know! I know! I have a number of people who are urging me, and who support me, so actually today I'm probably going to make my final decision. When I'm finished here, I'm probably going to go over to the Clerk's office and pick up the paperwork.
HD: Okay, so the 25th [of June] is the deadline?
HD: And it's 100 signatures that you have to have, from all people in the First Ward, right? So [as a 5th Warder] I couldn't sign your petition, even if I wanted to?
HD: Well, I would encourage you to run. Just because, you know, I think it's better to have contested races than non-contested races. And I think John Roberts, who was on Council already briefly, has taken out petitions, and Sabra Briere has also taken out petitions. So it would be nice to see three, four, or even five, because this [primary election] will be the race, right?
RW: Of course, yeah. [laugh]
HD: You've been in Ann Arbor long enough to know now that the Democratic primary is going to determine it!
RW: [laugh] Right!
HD: So. Was it the Huron River Drive issue specifically that sort of lured you out into the public discourse?
RW: I would say, Yes. Because the issue was close to home and ...
HD: ... is that normally the route you take into town?
RW: Oh, yes. I use that road every day, several times. Definitely going back and forth to work. So yeah, getting involved in that sort of opened my eyes to some of the civic activities and government that's going on. And I thought that maybe I could add some value to it by becoming involved.
HD: So if you were to win, then you and Ron Suarez would tilt the balance heavily in favor--or exclusively in the case of the First Ward on Council--of former New Yorkers!
RW: I believe so, yes!
HD: So did you go to both of the meetings about Huron River Drive, the first one up at Forsythe [Middle School]?
RW: Yes, I went to both public meetings. And I attended all the Design Advisory Committee meetings after the first public meeting. And then one of my neighbors, Warren, was on the committee, but he couldn't make the final one, so he had me sit in his place. And made the final decision on the options that were put forward.
HD: I thought it was unfortunate that the closing option was foregrounded as much as it was for the initial meeting. Because I think it caused people to think maybe a decision had already been tentatively made in favor of closing it, or that there was some momentum behind that. So I think there was a negative reaction that, if nothing else, didn't allow a lot of more interesting ideas to be explored. The first meeting at Forsythe was, I thought, not particularly useful in terms of exploring creative ideas that people in the community might have. I think it was dominated by people wanting to make clear that, Hey, we're against closing it! As opposed to saying, Okay, what's the real range of options here?
RW: Well, I spent most of my time at the University. A good deal of that time is at the Power Plant. I'm in a management position, so I'm involved in other areas of staff functions as need be.
HD: Well, for example, the new building [North Quad] that they're putting up in place of the Frieze Building, it's going to have totally different power requirements, I would think?
RW: Yes, it would be.
HD: So are you consulted at all, when they decide to put up a building like that? Or do they just assume that whatever its power requirements are, you're just going to have to figure it out?
RW: No, the power plant is part of a larger organization called Utilities and Plant Engineering, which is made up of several groups. And that group is intimately involved in all this type of planning to make sure the power requirements--whatever's going on--is looked at, and there's guidelines that are set up. There's things that designers design by. And then there's final trade-offs depending on design.
HD: From my background reading, my conclusion was that the real prime directive of the Central Power Plant is to essentially make hot water ... ?
RW: ... no ...
HD: ... or provide thermal energy? I mean as opposed to generate electricity even though you do that, too. Or have I misunderstood that?
RW: You have a good idea. But you may have misunderstood what our primary product is. And basically from the inception of the power plant going back decades was to produce steam to be distributed out to buildings ...
HD: ... to heat them?
RW: To heat them in the wintertime and also to power air-conditioning units during the summer.
HD: So even back in 1914, when it was originally planned, they had air-conditioning?
RW: That's a good question. I'd have to take a look. It was mostly heating steam then. Back at the turn of the century, air-conditioning wasn't that big a technology. So it probably wasn't in direct support of it. But as the technology came, they used steam to drive the prime movers and compressors for air-conditioning. But the concept of the Power Plant is that our main product and service is steam. And to produce that steam you use a lot of energy.
HD: And natural gas is what you burn?
RW: Right now it's natural gas, yes. We have a backup of liquid gas, our number two fuel, for emergencies. But basically natural gas is the fuel. And what we do is we try to use all this energy in other ways by producing other energy products. And one is electricity. And then we also do hot water.
HD: So the hot water that's flowing out the tap in some building on campus would have been heated at the Central Power Plant?
RW: Yeah. Most of the hot water within our service area, which is basically most of Central Campus and the Medical Campus area, and housing.
HD: So the name Central Power Plant might lead one to conclude that there are other power plants, that are just not central, or?
RW: Well, the Central Power Plant originally arose because we have the concept of our own distribution system--it's centralized. There's another way to do it with each building having its own little boiler and equipment. Now, not all campus growth over the decades connected with the Central Power Plant. So there are other areas, like North Campus, that have more localized boilers. But getting back to the Power Plant. We have a power plant that uses the concept of combined heat and power. We make heat and steam, and we make electric power out of it. We also use what we call a co-generation type of technology, where we utilize the heat formed by the fuel of combustion as much as possible to gain the maximum efficiency. Most general power plants, especially big utility ones, may be in the anywhere from 45 to 55 percent efficiency range. In our operation, the way we put it together, it's up in the 82 percent range, and is one of the more efficient plants of this type in the country. We have an award from the EPA.
HD: So large utility power plants, why can't they just design and build them, so that they achieve this 82 percent?? When I look at that, I just think, well, Who's making the decision to go for the 50 percent only efficiency??
RW: [laugh] Well, you can't take every power plant and gain that high efficiency. Basically it's the concept that we're a central power plant and we provide more than one energy service. We have steam and everything else. These large plants, they may be located far away, they don't have a big residential area or an industrial park that could use a distribution system, and use all the energy.
HD: Have you followed the development at all--and it could be just talk at this point--with the City thinking of establishing itself as its own electricity authority--whatever that means? Have you been following that at all?
RW: Not in detail. But I'm a big advocate that going forward, any type of organization, government or private, if they can, should look to see if they can within their own company or organization produce electricity. And I think it's a viable option for the City going forward if they do it properly. And it's even possible, if they can get the proper regulations in the state passed, that you could set up windmills in the U.P. somewhere and just transport the electricity.
HD: So who owns those lines, though, over which the electricity would be transmitted? Is that like Detroit Edison, do they own the power lines? Is that a public asset?
RW: Oh, it's not necessarily a public asset. But especially the last 15 years or so--it's getting closer to 20 years now--there's been a lot of deregulation of the power industry. And the distribution system has been sort of broken into its own entities from the power plants, so that the power companies break them into separate units. So some of the transmission lines are owned by a different entity. Sometimes private. Or a subsidiary, depending on how you tool your organization. Very few of them are actually publicly owned. Now the University owns its own distribution system. We actually run our own little electric company.
HD: And that's what, 50 percent of the usage of the campus, you guys generate?
RW: At the Power Plant, yes.
HD: So maybe this is limited to just the automotive industry, this talk of alternative fuels--you know bio-diesel and ethanol and whatnot--and maybe those are not even an appropriate kinds of fuel to be burning at a power plant. But how big a deal would it be to convert over to an completely different kind of fuel from natural gas or liquid gas?
RW: It's mostly engineering. You just have to engineer it in. You may need to change the combustion equipment, just to gain the most efficiency out the process. For combustion, you want to have your equipment customized to your fuel source. You can design it for more than one type of fuel, but you do some trade-offs in terms of efficiency, the need to switch back and forth. Going to those other type of fuels, is one. To have a supply is the other one. And some of them require a large storage space. And it's difficult within the physical confines.
HD: So you'd have to have like big huge tank somewhere.
RW: Or if you wanted to do wood chips, you'd need a big area to store wood chips.
HD: [laugh] Wood chips isn't really a viable option, is it at this point??
RW: It is a viable option, it's something we look at. We look continuously at every option, and especially at renewables and alternate types of fuel. Matter of fact, the Power Plant initiated a trial project right now, we're going to install a solar collector to make hot water.
HD: Really!?? You know I have my own little solar oven experiment going! That's what's sitting in the driveway. I got an electric oven someone didn't want through CraigsList. Because all these do-it-yourself solar cookers, they start with the assumption that you've got to build a well-insulated box, and I thought, well, I don't want to build a well-insulated box, I think somebody's already figured out that problem already. I think I'll start with an oven. And the metal off the sides, which I hacked up using a very large and loud reciprocating saw--and I did think about the noise ordinance as I was hacking it apart ...
HD: ... but I was doing it during the middle of the day and I figured there's no other way to do this really. I mean, I'd be at it for weeks on end if I went at it with just a hand-powered hacksaw, so I justified it that way. At any rate. The excess metal, I'm going to fashion into reflectors, and then I just need a piece of glass to sit over the top to create the greenhouse effect.
RW: What is this going to be used for again? For a stove, you say?
HD: Yeah, just to bake stuff, to cook stuff. The idea would be that I'd throw stuff in around this time of day, and by evening it would be done.
HD: Let me ask you a question--maybe you have some expertise here. I don't know, I mean, you went to school for stuff like this I assume--so is it an engineering degree you have?
RW: I have a bachelor of engineering degree with majors in naval architecture and marine engineering. My original career aspiration when I was very young was to be a naval architect. And I went though a specialized school for the whole marine type industry. And I enjoyed working on ships, so I spent a number of years as a merchant marine officer and a commissioned naval reserve officer. And ships, I was an engineer on there, and they have basically a small power plant! So I gained all that knowledge of operations and everything. When I quit going to sea, Con Edison, the public utility in New York City--because I was living in New Hampshire at the time--called me up and offered me a job. So that's how I got into power. For 18 years.
HD: So here's my question that may or may not tap into some of your expertise. This oven I've got, I did an experiment without any outside reflectors and just laid a piece of glass over the top and put a cast iron dutch oven in there. Let it sit for I dunno two to three hours in the direct sun, and the inside air temperature got up to around 190 degrees. I was hoping for something in the 250 to maybe 275 range. And the water that I put in the dutch oven only got up to about 150 degrees. Really, the thing that I'm trying to heat up is just the dutch oven inside this larger box of the oven. The inside of the box is regular oven gray. And I was trying to figure out whether I should try to make that more absorbtive, should I blacken that? Or should I make that more reflective because I really want to be reflecting onto the black dutch oven?
RW: Well, where you want to collect the heat should be as dark as possible, preferably black. In the areas where you want to collect the sun, two main things you want to worry about in this type of application. One is to be able to always have the optimal angle to the sun. Which really means it needs to move all the time. The other one is to have a proper form of the reflectors, so that it concentrates more of the heat coming in, into a smaller area onto your stove.
HD: So the shape that you were describing with your hands there was roughly parabolic.
HD: Hmmm, I'm not skilled enough in working metal to have any hope of achieving that. So I think I'm going to settle for having it flat. And as far as moving continuously, maybe I'll go out and check it every hour or so.
RW: Yeah, if you're here, you can continuously move it around. If you do enough research, it wouldn't be too expensive to buy a device that will track the sun. Especially if you look for ones that they have for telescopes--they always continuously track. If you're really serious you know, and want to utilize this for the long term, it'd be a good investment. If you're serious about using the sun, and gaining some advantage, I can suggest a few other things, some of which I've done myself in my own home.
HD: Suggest away!
RW: One, to save on natural gas costs and the pollution involved, is to pre-heat your hot water. And you can probably do it yourself. When I moved into the house, the bills for energy were going up and it was cold in the house. And I looked and the insulation wasn't very well in the rafter area. So I went to improve that. And when I was working up there, I saw the sun beating on the roof, which is a solar collector itself, especially when you have dark shingles. The temperatures you get up there: 110, 120, 130 degrees. As an engineer, I just thought, Energy!! So I just piped with PVC pipe--which is pretty easy to put in--and just hooked it up to the water system, so that it heats the water before it goes into the hot water heater.
HD: So you have a reservoir on top of your roof?
RW: I actually have it underneath. If you looked at the house, you wouldn't see it at all. It only works during the summer, fall and springtime, because it gets ice cold up in that area [in the winter]. But basically it's underneath the roof. If you look underneath the roof underneath the shingle area, I just ran PVC pipe, and depending on how much capacity you want, you put the number of pipes in.
HD: So there's not a actual tank up there, there's just sort of a network of PVC pipe going back and forth ...
RW: ... yeah, I tapped off the water as it goes into my hot water heater, and then sent it up there. It runs several hundred feet in loops and comes back down and goes into the hot water heater.
HD: So do you have to manually switch that off in the wintertime?
RW: Yeah, in the wintertime, it's off. I just turn it off and drain it down. You could set it up automatically, but to do an automatic on-and-off monitoring you would have to spend another couple of hundred bucks and, you know, the payback. This way, I reduce the natural gas energy requirements by one third at least, depending on how much sun you get. Matter of fact my last utility bill was 102 dollars.
HD: That's for electric and gas? 102 dollars? Hmm. I can't tell you right off the top of my head what mine was.
RW: That's with 3 people in the family, one young daughter, and 2700 square feet. And then I have another ...
HD: ... wait a second, I want to ask you about this pre-heating project. Now I think of myself as a fairly handy guy, and I'm not easily daunted by do-it-yourself kind of projects. But to me, that just sounds like something that I wouldn't even try to attempt.
RW: It's simple, it's just a matter of gluing pieces of PVC pipe together and hooking up the line!
HD: But attaching it to the hot water heater is the part that--I guess that big cylinder that's powered by natural gas, I'm hesitant to touch it, because I'm afraid it's going to explode basically. [laugh]
RW: Well, you don't have to hook it directly to the hot water heater, because that's not what I did. Just the supply piping, it's about three feet before the hot water heater. I put some T's in with some valves so that I can direct it back and forth, and just T-ed it off. Then it goes up to the roof and collects the heat comes back down right in the same area before it goes to the heater. So you don't have to touch the heater at all. It's fairly simple. The most difficult part is maybe on the piping that's originally in the house. It's copper tubing, you've got to sweat it in, you know?
HD: And that's something that's in your skill set, sweating pipe?
RW: And probably in your skill set, too. It's not that difficult. [laugh]
HD: I've never done it before.
RW: Well, instead of using glue, you just put the pieces together, heat it up and when it gets hot enough, the lead just melts and goes right into the crevices.
HD: I think the Ann Arbor District Library has a do-it-yourself workshop series--is that something you'd be willing to do a workshop on for the community? Here's how you can ...
RW: ... I think the idea and putting something together to tell people how to do it, is good.
HD: So what was the other thing that you were going to tell me about?
RW: I actually have three things that I'm working on. Two have been completed. The other one is all that hot air that's up there that I was talking about. My house has two roof areas, one over the garage, that's where the hot water heater goes and then there's the main house.
HD: So is this a one-story dwelling?
RW: It's a two-story. I said, Well, why can't I use that hot air in the house itself? Part of the project I was working on was installing new vent fans for the bathroom. I decided, Well, I'll put them up above the ceiling so that you don't hear the noise in the bathroom! And I was doing the duct work or whatever for that with this large PVC pipe. And I had bought these fans--they're energy efficient, they're like 23 Watts. You know, that's nothing, that's hardly any energy. And I thought, Why don't I just use one of these fans and blow this hot air into the house when I need it? And I actually bought a differential temperature control that measures the temperature in the house and the temperature up there. And once there's a four degree difference between the two --so when it's hotter up there--it'll automatically turn on and starting blowing hot air into the house.
HD: So wait, let me make sure I understand. If it's four degrees hotter in the attic than in the house, then it will blow air into the house? So this is only in the wintertime.
RW: No, it doesn't work very well in the wintertime, only in the spring and the fall.
HD: Like now for example, you don't want hot air, ...
RW: ... no, it doesn't work now, it's just shut off. But up until we finally got our warm summer weather, we didn't use any heat going back to March.
HD: Back to March? Wow.
RW: As long as you have sun, you know? And the temperature up there, once the sun gets going, it'll get at that time of year, 90, 110 degrees. It blows in the house and raises the house temperature up two to four degrees.
HD: So the feed to this is just right out of your attic? There's no filtration at all?
RW: No filtration.
HD: See, I have that blown cellulose insulation blowing around up there, so I think I'd have to maybe just slam a simple air filter over the end.
RW: Well, I have a screen over it, because I have blown cellulose, that's what I put in. That was part of the job to put blown cellulose in. I put a couple of feet in there.
HD: So those are two projects that are implemented, executed, they are online?
HD: What's the third one?
RW: The third one, it's an old idea. With new technology and materials, I hope it's going to work better. But it's another one that would work in the winter to produce hot air. And it's actually a box, similar to what you're talking about with your stove. You have glass over it and it collects the heat. And the idea is to maximize through design. It would hang outside the window, and collect the heat, just through convection. It would heat up, and the hot air would just rise into the house.
RW: It's an old design. It was in Earth Magazine all the way back in the 70's or so. And it's been improved over the years. It's something you can do yourself. I remember my younger brother had one as a science project. He built one just out of cardboard that worked very well.
HD: So this would entail cutting a hole in the side of your house, though, right?
RW: No, no. It's actually something that you would hang out your window. You would raise your window up a little, and it would fit in there, similar to if you had a window fan--it wouldn't take up as much space. And you would take it out in the summertime and install it during the winter.
HD: Huh. Well, the fact that it wouldn't require you to violate the side of your house, and that it's essentially a temporary fixture, would be crucial in this neighborhood, because this is a historic district. So if you started talking about building something onto the side of your house, no matter how environmentally friendly, it's not going to get past the Historic District Commission.
RW: Yeah! [laugh]
HD: Alright, so this I assume would have to be on the south wall to get maximum, ...
RW: ... yeah, it would be your areas where you get your most sun.
HD: So is that something you're just thinking about, or have you already started to gather materials?
RW: Well, I haven't gathered the materials, I've done the research on the materials I want to use. And started putting in my head how I'm going to construct it. Maybe this winter I may try to put one together, or sometime next year if I get the time.
HD: So these would be devices you could use all through the winter, not just the spring and the fall.
RW: Yes, this would be all winter.
HD: Well listen, has riding the teeter totter sort of helped you cement your decision one way or the other about running for Council?
RW: [laugh] I don't know! I wasn't thinking about it while we were teeter tottering, we had some other good discussion. Today, I'm going to make the final decision. The only thing that's holding me back is the time that it's going to take. I have a young daughter and a lot of things on my plate, and if I do it, I want to put the proper time into it for the constituents.
HD: Have you talked to other people on Council to find out, What would be the time investment?
RW: Well I speak with Steve Kunselman, he's a peer--we work together over at the University--and I have talked many times to Ron Suarez.
HD: So you've got a pretty good idea of what the commitment would be. So what do they say about the time commitment? I'm just curious. If I had to guess, before you say anything, I would guess they spend probably on average about 20 hours a week? So like a half-time job?
RW: Yeah. It all depends on how much time you want to put in and how involved you want to get. There are about four meetings a months minimum, between the caucus and the council meeting ...
HD: ... and the working session ...
RW: ... right, and you've got to do some research, ...
HD: ... yeah, you can't just show up and read the packet at the table.
RW: You've got to spend some time talking to people, you have constituents, issues they want to have taken care of. So definitely it's almost like a half-time job.
HD: Alright well, good luck with the decision, and if you decided to run, then good luck with the campaign.
RW: Thank you!
HD: Anything else on your mind before we hop off?
RW: [laugh] Probably a thousand things. I was just going to go back to the discussion we had on noise. I feel, going forward, if we want to have a good community--we talk about being one of the best places to live--I think it's an issue we have to handle. When I come home at the end of the day, there's all this noise from all these lawn mowers, even the people who are bringing the services in. And there needs to be some regulation in that area, timewise. I feel there shouldn't be anything going on Sunday. And a limited time from Monday to Friday. And I would say five o'clock, six o'clock at the latest. I mean, a beautiful day like now, you just want to sit in your backyard and do a little barbecue, or at least eat outside, you know? [laugh]
HD: That's something I actually struggle with. Because on the one hand, I agree that when I'm in the mood for peace and quiet and a little contemplative reflection, or just enjoying the neighborhood, sitting on the porch, maybe the neighbors will join you--on this street if you go sit on your porch with a beer, generally people will start to gather, hoping that you'll give them a beer as well--then I want quiet. But on the other hand, I think, Man, I sure wouldn't want somebody legislating to me, Okay, Dave if you've got a do-it-yourself project you're working on and you want to hack apart that metal, then well you can only do it during these confined times, so.
HD: So I wonder if it's me just becoming a crotchety old man or if there's a really good rational basis, a good argument that transcends my general irritation with hearing this stuff, when I don't want to hear it. Because yesterday, in addition to the metal cutting, I was probably two or three hours with the belt sander, sanding trim that I'm stripping and refinishing and putting back up on the inside of the house. So I imagine that for somebody who's not really interested in my historic preservation effort, and doesn't really care about it, listening to that is probably excruciating.
RW: Mmm hmm.
HD: Even though it's in the middle of the day, you've got people at home in their houses working from home or whatever. Anyway, it's something I struggle with. That's why with the lawn equipment, I think you can take the angle that that's something that you really can do reasonably with manual muscle power in about the same time--I mean if it's a 3-acre lawn you're mowing, then maybe not. But like this lawn, the time gain using power equipment is minimal. I mean you really can do it just as fast with an old-fashioned reel type mower. So I think in that case there's an environmentally-friendly, quiet, time-efficient alternative [unlike the belt sander and metal saw], so that's why you can justify the licensing. I dunno.
RW: Licensing isn't going to convince a lot of people to change much. But I think it would be appropriate, if people choose to do certain things that are not better for the overall environment, then I think they should start paying a premium for it.
HD: So if you're going to do it, then there will at least be some revenue the City would get.
RW: And when it comes to noise, it's not straightforward. And you really have to formulate the final law not to be as restrictive--there's a certain amount of freedom, of course. But I think there are some things that can be done to at least minimize or reduce noise, especially the businessses that do it--these lawn services. They're a business. I think a business, somebody who's making a profit, a certain amount of control can be there. Or tell them listen, you gotta put mufflers on these! [laugh]
HD: Actually, I think it's possible with the right kind of licensing and permitting, that would apply some pressure to lawn service businesses to change their manner of doing business slightly. They'll have to offer a human-powered option. Like I say, for a 3-and-a-half acre lawn, that might not be a realistic option, but there's plenty of jobs that they do, where they could just hire some folks who are looking for an aerobic workout. But you know, it would at least make them think about that as an option.
RW: It's a cultural thing, too. You've got lawns. Why do people want this perfect looking lawn? To get the perfect looking lawn--you mentioned like the other day--after the guy cuts it, another guy comes out with a blower. And just blows over the whole lawn to get every little speck away so that it looks perfect. I mean from my perspective, that's just a waste of energy.
HD: As you can tell [from the raggedy patch of lawn], I don't use such a lawn service.
RW: [laugh] Lawns are totally bad for the environment, you know. It's nice to have a green space like here near your living area, but when you look around at the industrial parks or some of the larger homes, what does that lawn end up doing? Nobody's sitting on it all day! It becomes an area where you're throwing down pesticides and all kind of chemicals just to make it look good, and then you've got all this machinery coming in just to make it look good. Why not just plant trees there?
HD: Well, then we couldn't see the building, and we couldn't see the sign with the name of the company on it!
RW: Yeah. [laugh] There's plenty of open areas where they should just plant trees. Because trees are a CO2 dump. If want to solve some of these problems, we gotta get the CO2 out of the air. I mean if you look at the two high schools we've got. [laugh] Right? There's a huge lawn that's just open. As a city if you want to be environmentally responsible, you need to start planting some trees in there.
HD: You know, something I learned at this rain barrel meeting that I went to, which I didn't know before, was that this new high school, Skyline High, is going to have zero storm water runoff--that's the plan. They're going to detain all the water that falls on the property on site. So I didn't realize that before. It's kind of ambitious.
RW: Ehh, I wouldn't say it's ambitious, it's proper engineering. If you want to make it happen, you know?
HD: Of course, they cut down untold numbers of trees in order to build it where they built it.
RW: I think that was a travesty, really. The two schools we have, on the lawns of one of those schools, we could have built this school. [laugh] And saved a lot of operating cost.
HD: To me, the option that wasn't given enough serious consideration is the idea of a downtown high school. If you want to inject activity into the downtown? I mean a bigger downtown high school, not just Community High--I'm not sure what the status of that is, is it a magnet school? You have to apply to get in at any rate. It's a small student body. But I think the equity issue of participation in sports was the dominating consideration against a downtown high school--because those kids, if they wanted to participate in soccer, football the big field sports, they would be at a disadvantage. Well, Community High has a waiting list to get on every year, and they manage the sports some way or other.
HD: Listen, my behind is getting a little sore. How are you doing?
RW: [laugh] I'm doing just fine!
HD: I was going to say, well, Council meetings go way longer than this!
HD: Listen, thanks for coming over to ride.
RW: Well, you're very welcome, thank you for having me it's been a pleasure, I enjoyed it very much.