• City representatives earlier this month blocked a $155,000 funding request for an outdoor public art project at the transportation center, saying the money would be better spent cleaning up South State Street.

    Director of Economic Development Laure Aubuchon said she will fight for the StamfordLights project, which failed to garner enough votes for final approval and was sent back to the Board of Representatives Fiscal Committee for further review. The capital appropriation is a matching fund request, which would be used along with a $155,000 grant already awarded to Stamford by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.

    The state grant was one of several conferred to Connecticut municipalities through the CDECD’s $1 million City Canvases initiative, which seeks to enhance public spaces through large-scale works of art. Mayor Michael Pavia’s administration has decided to use the funding to illuminate Stamford’s transportation center with environmentally friendly LED lighting, Aubuchon said.

    “We thought about what a great project to do something around the train station, as it is the gateway to Stamford,” she said. “To illuminate the train station, rather than putting in something static, would be much more dramatic.”

    Aubuchon’s office received five responses to a request for proposals from lighting and electrical companies, and has winnowed the pool of candidates to three. The project’s designer will be selected in about a week, she said.

    Aubuchon said the transportation art project will be a permanent light show that catches the eye but doesn’t distract drivers on nearby 1-95.

    “It’s not just static lights against a wall, which would be boring,” Aubuchon said. “They involve color and movement. It will be very tastefully done. We want everyone to be proud of it in Stamford.”

    The matching appropriation request passed easily through the Board of Finance and Board of Representatives Fiscal committee this spring, but was stopped just short of final approval during the full Board of Representatives meeting May 7.

    City Rep. Mary Uva, R-1, opposed the funding, which she said should be used to clean up the streets surrounding Stamford’s transportation center.

    “I think the idea of lighting and art at the train station is a wonderful idea,” Uva said. “But it’s $150,000 out of a precious capital budget. South State Street is blighted, dilapidated mess. It is strewn with trash, weeds, broken fencing along the Metro North property and I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to get attention to this problem.”

    Aubuchon said she understands city representatives’ complaints over South State Street. Capital funding has not been appropriated for the road because it will likely be ripped up during the construction of a new parking garage, she said.


  • The recent running battles between street vendors and the Malawi Police Service, under the auspices of the Lilongwe City Assembly, convey one clear message about policy makers in the country: They consider street vending a problem that needs to be controlled. Quite an unfortunate perspective, it has to be said from the outset.

    Without getting too much into conspiracy theories, it is obvious that attempts to control, oppress, bully and harass street vendors from the sidewalks and public spaces are not in anybody’s political interest. It may therefore be safe to suggest that the animosity against the vendors could be a way of protecting and maintaining the interests and privileges of certain groups in society, particularly those of shop owners (foreign and local), who fear competition from the local informal traders. Whether those shop owners have any political machinations is for the reader to judge.

    Pretexts of security, sanitation, traffic obstruction or “eyesore to towns” due to street vending are no-brainer scapegoats, as certain institutions exist and thrive on our taxes in this country for the exclusive purpose of dealing with those issues. The incompetence and subsequent failure of those institutions to perform their duties should not be blamed on street vending.

    Street vending in Malawi has, to a large extent, been one of the unintended consequences of structural reforms of the 1980-90s, which have forced people to expand their survival strategies. The reforms led to drastic cuts in social spending and privatization of public enterprises, thereby shrinking opportunities for formal employment, particularly in the public sector.

    Unemployment has further been aggravated by poor economic policies of recent governments, which have led to bankruptcy, massive retrenchments and closure of some processing factories. The situation is most likely to get worse, if current trends in Malawi’s economy are anything to go by.

    Street vending has acted as a sponge that sucks up the surplus labour from the precarious labour market generated by these economic policy gaffes. The phenomenon should, therefore, be lauded for yielding a positive impact on poverty, entrepreneurship, (un)employment, domestic security and political stability.

    Street vending has been a livelihood option for the urban poor, including poor women, and is one of the most important avenues for youths and women to support their families, including providing for the education, health and nutrition needs of their dependents.

    City and town bye-laws should regularize street vending and give street vendors a clear legal status. In this way vendors will be able to claim their rights to economic livelihoods and their right to space.

    When they legally exist, street vendors can be registered, may easily be identified and may establish vibrant mechanisms for collective voice, self-regulation and participatory governance. More so, authorities can collect legal taxes from the vendors with little room for extortion and rent-seeking, as may currently be the case.

    Tags: ,

  • Perhaps one of the few things that most Republicans and Democrats in Washington can agree upon these days is the reality that our economic recovery does not solely depend on taxing and spending, but on the vitality of innovative small businesses.  As the debate rages about the best way to reduce our debt, it seems that a fundamental principal of business and sports has been forgotten.  To win, sometimes you just need to hit singles and doubles.

    A clear example of this disconnect can be found in Congress’ repeated failure to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which has been in a holding pattern for over three years.  The bill, which would fund the day-to-day operations of the nation’s aviation system, would also transform the nation’s antiquated 1950’s style ground-based air traffic control system to a “Next Generation” satellite-based system.

    The benefits of making our air traffic system both safer and more efficient are both obvious and manifold.  However, another key benefit to passing this legislation is that it would allow airports and businesses to make long-term plans regarding infrastructure projects.

    This is more important to an airport or business than stimulus and more important for our economy in the next few years than anything that will come from the Debt Relief effort.  Perhaps most importantly, unlike the Debt Relief bill, the funding of Next Gen would come directly from industry, not the taxpayer.

    Moreover, Congress and the key stakeholders agreed on the formula many months ago.  Passing the FAA bill would be a solid “double” for our economy and Congress should set aside the partisan fringe issues holding it up and pass it now.

    Despite the fact that major aviation projects and all long term planning have been in limbo for several years, the FAA and small companies are doing their best to innovate and modernize our airports as best they can.

    In many cases this has been dependent upon businesses developing new technologies to address pressing needs on their own dime in the hopes they will be adopted.  Doing it this way can be incredibly risky, particularly for smaller, family-owned businesses in this economic climate.

    In this vein, our company was proud to announce the launch of a new partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration that will revolutionize energy usage and efficiency at our nation’s airports.

    Beginning next year, we will begin to replace legacy navigational lighting systems (PAPIs) powered by antiquated incandescent lamps with up to 400 systems that are by powered by Light Emitting Diode (LED) lamps.  Once implemented, this program could cut energy costs for PAPI systems at U.S. airports by 75 percent.

    Under normal daytime use, the existing FAA incandescent PAPI requires approximately 3500 watts of power, while the Next Gen PAPI draws about 850 watts, or 75 percent less energy.  The Next Gen PAPIs are much more reliable than the current PAPI systems and require less maintenance. The LED lamps last over 50,000 hours while the incandescent lamps last approximately 1000 hours.

    In addition to being a solid “single” for our nation’s aviation economy, the green lighting initiative is also a “triple play” for our nation’s ailing economy. The program will dramatically drive down airport energy, maintenance, and environmental mitigation costs and represents significant savings to airports and taxpayers over time.

    Tags: ,

  • led light 05.09.2011 No Comments

    This reminder from the Prime Minister of one of our major regional trading partners, was enough to prompt the Coalition to back down. According to media reports, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said to his party room last week that he would no longer pursue the plan to overturn the WTO ruling, because “at the end of the day we…cannot pursue short-term political gain at the expense of the long term national interest that Australia has as a trading nation”.

    The irony was, he’d already done so. In the media interviews the Opposition had already given, in the public alarm that they had already caused about the dangers posed by New Zealand apples, and the message they’d already sent to our trading partners, the damage was done.

    But it’s the Coalition’s support for another bill, which seeks to make it compulsory to label all products sold in Australia that contain palm oil, that is more alarming for Australian business and trade relations.

    This bill, sponsored by Senator Nick Xenophon and the Greens, is likely to pass and become law if the Coalition continues their support for it, and don’t re-enact the backdown they’ve displayed over apples.

    Again, this is a bill that could also breach Australia’s World Trade Organisation obligations.

    But what the Opposition knows is that this is potentially an emotive issue and another way for them to tap in to voter anxieties.  The reason why there’s a call to require compulsory labeling of palm oil is because palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia are seen as a key driver of the rampant clearing of native vegetation in those countries.

    Preventing deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia is a worthy aim. But this bill is the worst possible way of going about it.

    Leaving aside the costs that this bill would impose on Australian business, two countries, Malaysia and Indonesia, have already indicated that they will take a dispute against Australia to the World Trade Organisation if the Parliament proceeds with the palm oil bill.

    And if we lost that dispute, we would expose ourselves to the threat of retaliation on any of Australia’s significant exports to those countries.

    Tags: ,