Archive for July, 2009

This October 9, we’ll elect a new mayor of the Fairbanks North Star Borough, three members of the Borough Assembly (seats A, F, and G), and two members of the Fairbanks City Council (seats A and B) .  I’d like to make some endorsements — but I’ll need your help, first.

It may be naïvely hopeful, but I’d like to put out questionnaires to the mayoral and assembly candidates, asking their philosophies, knowledge, and goals about issues addressed in this blog.  I would publish the results and make endorsements here; I would also try to publicize these results in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.  As I say in my “About this blog” page:

The Fairbanks Pedestrian is a discussion of community-building, social capital, downtowns, neighborhood culture, city planning, domestic and civic architecture, public and private transportation, and the pleasures and difficulties of city living in Fairbanks, Alaska.

On that page, I also lay down five ideas central to this blog; you may want to refresh yourself.

Here’s an example of one possible question:

Social capital, which is written about most notably by Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone, is considered a source of personal and social wealth.  It is measured by the density of an individual’s and a community’s social connections, by the degree of organizational membership and social or civic participation.  Greater social capital is linked with greater health, increased public safety, improved educational outcomes, and less corrupt, more efficient local government.  (More here.)

What have you done, in a political capacity, to foster social capital?  And what will you do as [mayor / assembly member] to foster the growth of social capital in the Fairbanks North Star Borough?  Please refer to actions within the purview of the [Mayor’s office / Borough Assembly].

So… What else would you like to know about your local candidates?  What would you want to ask them, with regards to civic life, city planning, urban architecture, transportation, neighborhoods, public space, and rights of the car-free?

The filing deadline is August 17th.  I would like to have list of questions ready by then.  Let hear them!


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The red couch (and chair) of Red Couch Trading Post

The red couch (and chair) of Red Couch Trading Post

I write this from the latest treasure to open downtown: Red Couch Trading Post, where I write on my laptop while enjoying a blueberry cream-cheese cake, a cinnamon pull-apart (a small monkey bread), and a coffee.

Red Couch is part cafe, part bakery, part deli, and part convenience store. They have a simple deli counter, where you can have sandwiches made to order. At the same counter is their selection of pastries: not only the cinnamon pull-aparts, but cakes, pies, cobblers, and cookies. (I have tried both the peach and the blueberry cobblers, and they are excellent.) The espresso bar offers Fair Trade Certified coffee, both in prepared beverages and as bags of beans.

Most exciting, I think, is that Red Couch is a locally owned, neighborhood convenience store. Not only coffee beans are for sale, but also milk, butter (by the stick), single-serving breakfast cereals, crackers, chips, canned soups, canned milk, toothbrushes and toothpaste, toilet paper, laundry detergent, and cat and dog food. (In fact, I first stopped into Red Couch a couple of weeks ago, when I was clean out of cat food. I made the mistake of driving to a popular national chain first and getting what I needed, then visiting Red Couch because I’d read about it in the newspaper. I kicked myself afterwards for depriving myself of a nice walk and the chance to support a neighborhood business.)

Now, the two or three national chain groceries closest to downtown have a far greater selection than Red Couch — but having the greatest selection is not the point of a convenience store. The point is that it’s in your neighborhood, and going there is faster and easier than getting in your car to drive to a major grocery store. In fact, the major grocery stores near us are within walking distance of practically nobody (which, if you’re without a car, really makes them inconvenience stores). Red Couch is actually in a neighborhood, where people live. They are right behind Golden Towers public housing and within especially easy reach of the east side of downtown (Clay St., etc.).

The fact that they offer wireless internet access (in addition to lunch, coffee, and snacks) means that they are a great place for downtown business people to spend time getting work done in a bright, relaxed atmosphere. My wife, for example, often has to be in the courthouse, and she could do a good bit of e-mailing and report-writing while enjoying tea, coffee, or lunch — or while just relaxing on the cozy red couch for which the store is named.

(Today was my first time trying to connect to their wireless access point, with no success.  My computer told me that the connection was established, but nothing was ever transmitted or received.  If anybody reading this has some wireless networking expertise, could you please pay them a visit to see if there’s anything they might change to make the wireless work better?)

I think it’s always a good thing when a local business gives people reasons to get out of their houses and walk around their neighborhoods. In fact, the best neighborhoods are full of such destinations, and can be identified partly by the number of people on the street moving from one useful place to the next. Red Couch Trading Post gives downtown another such destination — a place to do something useful and to relax (and perhaps to run into neighbors). As long as they’re open, I’ll happily give them my custom.

The building is unremarkable, but the location is great -- as are the cobblers

The building is unremarkable, but the location is great -- as are the cobblers

Red Couch Trading Post is at 309 Second Avenue (where Second crosses Dunkel), in downtown Fairbanks.  They are currently open Tuesday – Friday, 6:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.  Their telephone number is 374-3414; their fax number (they take fax orders for sandwiches) is 374-3430.

Article from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Thursday, May 7, 2009.

In sadder news, Gambardella’s has now closed their breakfast service. A manager told me that they got almost no business at that hour, and it just wasn’t cost effective to keep three or more people on staff for the extra hours. That’s too bad: I thought they lent breakfast a touch of class, a chance for the morning crowd to take a step up from the readily-available diner fare. I wish Red Couch better luck.

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