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Ellen
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PostPosted: Sun May 16, 2004 10:32 pm    Post subject: May to August 2004 Reply with quote

Wednesday evening (May 12) I had the pleasure of walking the 2-1/2-mile-long route of the planned Emory Valley Greenway -- a paved pedestrian and bike trail that will connect all the way to the Melton Lake Greenway (near the Marina) from the Food Lion shopping center at the corner of Emory Valley Road and Briarcliff Avenue.

This greenway project has been on the drawing board for a long time, but all the needed approvals are finally in place, and (if the construction bids come in on budget) it should be completed within the new year. Wednesday night's walk was an opportunity for City staff and the greenways design consultant to review some of the final routing details with volunteers active in Greenways Oak Ridge and members of the city's Environmental Quality Advisory Board (EQAB), of which I am chairman.

This will be a wonderful asset for the community. Almost the entire route is away from roads and streets, winding through city greenbelts and between residential subdivisions to follow Emory Creek and the Melton Lake lakeshore. We walked through a lot of brush and poison ivy to make the journey (I survived the experience with only a mild touch of poison ivy rash), but when the project is completed, commuters and recreationists should be able to enjoy the area without those hazards. Wearing my EQAB hat, I was pleased to see that the portion in city greenbelt can be built without substantial adverse effect on the natural values of the greenbelt area. A year or two ago, it appeared that this "greenway" would end up being little more than a sidewalk along Emory Valley Road, so it's great news that it will truly fulfill the definition of a greenway as a linear park that takes advantage of a natural corridor to provide low-intensity recreation activities for city residents and visitors.

I was sorry to have missed the public meeting that same evening about the Oak Ridge High School renovation proposal, but it was a delight to tour the greenway route. I look forward to the completion of this project, which I expect will be a source of pride for Oak Ridgers for generations to come.


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PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2004 11:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

On Thursday evening (May 20) the Environmental Quality Advisory Board (EQAB) sponsored a public meeting -- I guess you could call it a "listening session" -- for residents near the Mona Lane area to share their views on future use of the properties that the city bought in order to mitigate hazards associated with karst subsidence and subsurface water.

As chairman of EQAB and a resident of the affected neighborhood, I was especially happy that we had this meeting. About 40 people attended. Neighborhood residents -- who have complained they were in the dark about the project and about plans for the properties -- finally had a chance to discuss their concerns with each other and with city staff. I think that the meeting will lead to some good changes in the plans for future management of these properties.

I was particularly pleased with the involvement of our Oak Ridge city officials. Fire Chief Mack Bailey gave an informative report on the history of the project and plans for removing the rest of the damaged homes and restoring the properties. Our new City Manager, Jim O'Connor, showed himself to be refreshingly open to the concerns and suggestions of citizens.

The default expectation for the properties newly owned by the city was that they all would be rezoned as Greenbelt. This is a unique city zoning classification for land that is publicly owned and is to be maintained in its natural state. Neighborhood residents -- including me -- support this zone for most of the properties, but there are some lots -- particularly isolated lots on Robertsville and Montclair Roads -- where people would like to see a more tended, park-like condition. City staff said they are open to alternatives, and will work with adjoining homeowners to help make them happen. That's great news. Smile Neighbors of affected properties now have about a month to contact city staff if they are willing to assume responsibility for maintaining an adjacent lot, or if they have other ideas or concerns.
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PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2004 10:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This evening's Oak Ridger carried a nice short article about our Mona Lane neighborhood meeting last evening. Very Happy

==========================

I am pleased that the city has come to agreement with Roane County to work together on Industrial Development Board initiatives, and that the state legislature repealed the special law that gave Roane County veto power over "in lieu of tax agreements" to lure industry to the Oak Ridge portion of Roane County. Smile The city and the county need to communicate and cooperate, and I'm glad that's going to happen again.

However, I disagree with today's newspaper editorial ('Go West': DOE and Council on the right tract), which says (in part)
Quote:
Though DOE has transferred more than 2,300 acres of land to Oak Ridge, there still remains more than 10,000 acres, including Parcel D, to be transferred.
I haven't figured out which 2,300 acres they are referring to as having been transferred in the past (the total acreage that has been transferred for development over the past couple of decades is much larger than that), nor do I know which 10,000 acres of federal land the newspaper is hoping to have transferred in the future. Confused However, I do know that this is public land dedicated to a variety of uses for the public benefit, and I believe that it benefits us more as a federal resource than if it were conveyed to the city and private sector for development. Recent transfers of Oak Ridge federal land for private sector development have, on balance, cost us more than they have benefited us. I was a founding member and I serve as an officer of Advocates for the Oak Ridge Reservation because I believe that there is more long-term benefit in keeping the Oak Ridge Reservation intact than in breaking it up for the illusory benefits of private-sector development.

==========================

Today's newspaper also reports that former Councilman Jerry Kuhaida withdrew from the August election and endorsed Jane Miller. This is not entirely surprising, since both of these candidates could be expected to draw their main support from the same interests within the community. I expect that Jane will have a well-financed and professionally-run campaign, because she is now the consensus candidate of several local business and economic-development groups.
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PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2004 10:03 pm    Post subject: New Sidewalks! Reply with quote

I've been enjoying the newly built sidewalks in the Center City area of Oak Ridge. They are making it easier to get around without a car -- or to run several errands without having to repeatedly hop into and out of the car. Cool-Red
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PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2004 11:24 pm    Post subject: A new openness at TDOT Reply with quote

Today's Knoxville News-Sentinel carried an article about a Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) public meeting that was run like a public meeting should be.
News-Sentinel writer Don Jacobs wrote:
Even residents who had issues with details of the proposed project noted the change in how TDOT is responding to peoples' concerns. Now, attendees said, residents can speak with TDOT planners rather than just dictating their comments to a disinterested court reporter.

This is a change for the better. For several years, people attending TDOT public meetings did not have a chance to hear other attendees' views. Mostly, we could talk one-on-one with TDOT staff (if the crowd was small enough to allow us to get near a TDOT staff member, which didn't often happen at meetings on controversial highway projects). However, our exchanges with those staff members didn't count as official comments -- if we wanted someone to pay attention to our views, we had to dictate our comments to that disinterested court reporter.

Hurray for TDOT for taking a bold step toward more open government! This step should result in better decisions (because TDOT will have more information) and it should give people a more favorable view of the agency.
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PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2004 11:55 pm    Post subject: Congrats to the grads of 2004 -- & other good news Reply with quote

Oak Ridge High School held its graduation this evening. My congratulations to the graduates of 2004!

Post-graduate life is starting out well for you already. Unlike yesterday, this evening's weather was great. Smile

======================

The archers are in Oak Ridge once again this weekend. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (May 28-30, 2004) are the dates for the Bow Masters Tennessee Pro/Am tournament at the Oak Ridge Sportsmen's Association grounds in west Oak Ridge. For archery enthusiasts, this is a very big deal. It's expected to attract more than 1500 participants (that's a lot of archers Exclamation) -- and 4000 to 5000 people in total. One feature will be a qualifying event (one of just two) for the ESPN Great Outdoor Games, which will feature head-to-head competition between some of the top archers.

This is the fourth consecutive year for a major archery tournament in Oak Ridge. These tournaments bring a lot of visitors to town (people who stay overnight in lcoal hotels and motels) and give them a favorable view of the city. The Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Recreation and Parks Department, and the Sportsmen's Association have done an impressive job bringing these events to the city and making them return year after year. Smile

=====================

Today I had the opportunity to tour the Spallation Neutron Source construction site together with other members of the Local Oversight Committee Board of Directors. The SNS is on track to open in 2006, and many of the components are nearing completion. Project workers expect to move into the central lab and office complex very soon.

Seeing the size and futuristic architecture of the facilities and hearing about the capabilities they will have, it is easy to see that the SNS will keep ORNL and Oak Ridge "on the map" for materials scientists around the world for years to come.
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PostPosted: Mon May 31, 2004 9:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There was a nice-sized crowd for the Community Band Concert this evening. I figure that the excellent evening weather was a big attractant, after all the rain we had. The program of patriotic and Americana music was a nice thing for a Memorial Day when we are all aware that our fellow citizens are overseas fighting a war.

The band exemplifies one of the great things about Oak Ridge: that there are many people here with diverse talents and free-time passions (such as music), who devote themselves to things like practicing and performing in a community band.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 05, 2004 12:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm lagging on the "daily" aspect of this log, but it's been a busy week.

On Wednesday I flew up to Washington, DC, for the day, on business, and iI got to thinking about airline access to Oak Ridge. During my years here, the quality, frequency, and cost of airline service in and out of Knoxville has fluctuated a lot. Right now, we actually have good service to much of the eastern US -- assuming that you are willing to change planes at a hub airport. Furthermore, since the Pellissippi Parkway was extended, the travel time from Oak Ridge to the McGhee-Tyson airport compares pretty favorably with the travel times experienced by many residents of major cities. The new Independence Air service being started in late July will give us cheaper fares on some routes. The situation is not perfect, but I think Oak Ridgers are a lot more accessible to the world at large than we were 20 years ago.

Thursday evening, EQAB held its monthly meeting. Steve McCracken and Susan Cange of DOE gave a presentation on the status of DOE's Accelerated Cleanup of the Oak Ridge Reservation, and future expectations for cleanup and reindustrialization at the East Tennessee Technology Park (K-25 Site). In addition to EQAB and various DOE and Bechtel Jacobs folks, the audience included City Manager Jim O'Connor and several members of other local organizations interested in the cleanup process. We got answers to many of our questions and concerns, but there is still much to be resolved. More on this later...
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 08, 2004 12:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Comment started Monday, June 7, completed later. Oops

This evening (Monday) there was a public meeting for people from two federal agencies, the ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to present and discuss the results of the ATSDR Public Health Assessment of uranium releases from the Y-12 Plant.

This is a complex and confusing situation, not only technically but politically. It makes for a difficult meeting.

ATSDR has concluded that the past exposures to offsite members of the public could not have been high enough to have caused health problems for the public. Estimated exposures in the past were many times less than the lowest level where ATSDR would identify a possible health concern. This should be good news for us, but it turns out to be upsetting for local people who wanted firm answers on -- and someone to blame for -- the causes of their illnesses. Because it is seldom possible to tell why any one person got sick from a disease such as cancer, ATSDR cannot state for sure whether individual people might have been sickened -- or had their illnesses worsened -- by exposures to uranium. It is difficult for some of us to accept this -- as a result, people want the government to prove something that is unprovable.

Enter the EPA. EPA officials support the overall conclusion of the ATSDR work, but say they want some additional information to resolve some scientific uncertainties that still exist about conditions in Oak Ridge. As explained last evening, the law directs them to address different questions about contaminated sites than ATSDR is called upon to address, and they haven't finished their work. Unfortunately, however, their statements about uncertainty continue to fuel the worries some people have that someone is hiding something from them about their health. Sad

It's the nature of scientists never to give simple answers, and never to say "the matter is settled." I thoroughly understand this. However, in talking to the community about its health, it's time for some direct and straightforward statements -- so people can stop worrying about uranium and focus on other more urgent matters in their lives.

Al Brooks expressed similar thoughts in a letter to the editor in Monday's Oak Ridger.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 08, 2004 9:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wonder when Dick Smyser is going to publish his collected writings in book form.

Today's column was just one in the long series of his special contributions to the community -- telling the stories of the people and events that helped this city invent itself. Cool
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2004 9:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I spent the last week in Tucson, Arizona, on business. After the hot, dry air of the desert, I am surprised to breathe a sigh of relief to be back in the warm humidity of East Tennessee. Cool-Red

Dry air aside, Tucson could be a model for Oak Ridge to emulate. The city and surrounding region are booming because of retirees. These are financially well-off people from other parts of the country who move to Tucson -- or just spend the winter there -- for its warm climate and other amenities. Those amenities include cultural attractions, recreation opportunities (the Tucson area specializes in golf courses and spas, but it also has outdoor attractions, including mountain and desert scenery, world-class birding, and reportedly even skiing in the highest mountains), low-maintenance housing developments that cater to retirees, and urban amenities such as access to top-flight medical care. Community leadership also fiercely protect the scenery and the physical evidence of their cultural and architectural heritage.

Oak Ridge would not -- and should not -- become another "Sun City" in the southern Appalachians. However, we have -- or could have -- many of the things that attract well-heeled seniors from other parts of the United States:
    * a moderate climate (our relatively short and mild winters are attractive to people from more northern places), with four distinct seasons (unlike southern Arizona)

    * scenic surroundings

    * relatively low cost of living

    * a populace that is open and welcoming to newcomers (many of us came from somewhere else, which is not true of the typical Southern town the size of Oak Ridge)

    * a fascinating local history

    * urban services and amenities

    * a diverse variety of cultural activities and opportunities

    * near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other outdoor attractions
Not only that, but we have golf courses, too.

I think that even a modest effort to attract retirees to our community could pay off very well, if we also pay attention to maintaining city services and protecting our cultural and scenic heritage -- so that we have the types of amenities that these people seek.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 21, 2004 11:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many local workers are feeling pain these days. I'm saddened by the losses of jobs at Remotec and Boeing, and I know I would be pretty nervous if I were one of the federal-contract-site union workers whose contract negotiations are going so badly... Sad
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 25, 2004 12:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This weekend is the annual Secret City Festival. I should be there campaigning (meeting and talking with people), but I am out of town for the weekend for a special family occasion.

I do hope it's not completely rained out. I also hope it will return to the old May schedule next year -- the weather is no better in June than in May, and local people are more likely to be able to participate and volunteer.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 28, 2004 11:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm back home after my weekend out of town with family. Smile

It's good to know that the Secret City Festival was not completely rained out -- I hear that Saturday was nice. It sounds like the local history activities were particularly good this year. Congratulations and thanks to all who contributed.

Still, I would like to see the festival return to its old May schedule. Also, I hope that the organizers will see fit to provide better access to the disabled (meaning parking at the Civic Center) and return the civic organization tables to the paved Civic Center plaza, instead of the often-swampy ground next to the parking lot.

==================

Selma Shapiro is retiring from the Children's Museum of Oak Ridge. Selma and the institution she shaped are both exceptional. People of any age can get a lot out of a visit to the Children's Museum (my first visits were made without a child in tow, particularly to see the exhibits on Oak Ridge and the region). I had many enjoyable visits there when my son was younger. Also, he was lucky enough to participate in some great extracurricular classes and "camps" there, conducted by a variety of talented people who had arrived there because of Selma. Her shoes will be difficult to fill. I hope she enjoys retirement even more than she has enjoyed the Children's Museum, but that will be hard to do.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2004 10:40 pm    Post subject: Selma Shapiro Reply with quote

There's a nice article about Selma Shapiro in today's Oak Ridger. Click here to read it: Retiring from Children's Museum

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 03, 2004 8:20 pm    Post subject: Vacant homes Reply with quote

Knocking on doors and ringing doorbells around town, it is impossible not to notice the number of vacant homes in Oak Ridge.

This is worrisome to see, but statistics suggest that the vacancy rate here may be pretty close to the US average. National statistics indicate that about 10% of all "housing units" in metropolitan areas (Oak Ridge is part of the Knoxville metropolitan area) are empty at any given time, including some seasonal-only rental units. The national vacancy rate is higher than 10% for rental units in multifamily buildings and much less than 10% for single-family "homeowner units." Meanwhile, the 2000 Census counted 13,417 "housing units" in the City, of which 1,355 were vacant, for a total vacancy rate of 10.1%. (See http://oakridge.areaconnect.com/statistics.htm for details.)

Still, I'm concerned that there are too many vacant homes here -- particularly single-family and two-family homes in established neighborhoods.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 05, 2004 10:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The 4th of July has come and gone. I hope people enjoyed yesterday's fireworks and other festivities.

Today is a day off work for almost everyone. However, the morning paper reports that the Anderson County Election Commission is open today for last-minute voter registrations -- right on the deadline for the August 5 primary. Kudos to Jo Ann Garrett and her staff for "going the extra mile" for voters. Thumbs Up
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2004 11:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm falling behind on the "almost daily" aspect of this log. Embarassed

I was out of town Monday, so I missed the President's visit to ORNL. However, being out of the area that day, I can confirm that the event put Oak Ridge "on the map" nationally for a little while, and Oak Ridge was presented in a fairly positive light. Smile
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 18, 2004 11:46 am    Post subject: Storms, storms, storms... Reply with quote

Everyone in the area is getting pretty tired of the summer storm activity -- and resulting storm damage and power outages -- we have experienced in recent weeks. Oops

Several times now I've been caught outdoors in other parts of town (knocking on doors, what else?) when a downpour began. Yesterday afternoon, I got pretty wet on the way to my car, but made it home before the high winds started. Many people in the City lost power for extended periods. We were "out" for 7-1/2 hours yesterday, which seemed like a long time, but is much shorter than what some other Oak Ridgers and East Tennesseans have have to deal with. (I know it can be a disaster for a family on a tight budget to lose the food in the refrigerator and freezer.)

This kind of experience makes us all appreciate the modern conveniences our generations enjoy -- it is not all that long since people (many of them still living among us) lived a much simpler, but harder, life without electric power and other conveniences we too often take for granted. I also appreciate the City electric crews and emergency personnel who work long and hard to respond to these situations. Smile

One of the benefits of living in the City of Oak Ridge, instead of rural areas outside the city limits, is the quality and maintainability of the infrastructure. We may sometimes be frustrated by the time it takes to restore power after a storm, but the task of reconnecting people is much more difficult and often takes much longer in rural places where homes are spread farther apart.

ADDED ON TUESDAY, JULY 20: Today's newspaper reported that the Saturday storm was the worst in many years for the City electric system. About half of the city was "out" at one time or another. Shocked


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 18, 2004 12:50 pm    Post subject: News-Sentinel voter guide Reply with quote

Today the Knoxville News-Sentinel published a guide to the candidates in the August 5 election.

The information provided is somewhat superficial (it's not apparent to me why voters need or want to know a local candidate's favorite movie and restaurant), but it's still a useful glimpse at the people running for office. There's one interesting glitch (probably a simple typo) in my profile (online version at http://knoxnews.com/kns/election/article/0,1406,KNS_630_3044234,00.html): It says I've been an Oak Ridge resident and homeowner since 1971 -- in fact I've been here since 1981 (in 1971 I was a college student). Confused
Added on July 23: I found some more typos, specifically misrenderings of the names of Liane Russell and Diantha Paré (the first error was my fault Embarassed ). In my response to the News-Sentinel's questions I had said
Quote:
Most admired person: I can't pick out any one person I especially admire, but among the people I most admire are several living Oak Ridgers who have had and continue to have a positive impact on the community and world. Four who come to mind are Liane Russell, Diantha Paré, and Bob and Elizabeth Peelle.


At this time, it appears that The Oak Ridger will not be publishing candidate profiles for this election. I think this is an unfortunate turn of events. The local paper is many people's main (or only) source of information about local political events. In the past, the Oak Ridger has published interviews and profiles. The paper even produced an extensive online guide for last year's local election.

Editorial writers frequently lament the low voter participation in local and state elections. Earlier this year, Oak Ridger columnist Richard Cook wrote about his wish for a moderated forum where journalists could ask questions of all of the candidates. (He doesn't like the format of the League of Women Voters forums.) It seems to me that the newspaper is uniquely positioned to become part of the solution, instead of continually lamenting about the problem. They could sponsor their own forum -- I would be happy to participate, and I believe I could say the same for my opponents. At a minimum, they could conduct and publish their own interviews of the candidates. Exclamation


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2004 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Richard Cook has explained that he only contributes a column to the Oak Ridger -- he does not have any influence over the paper's editorial decisions. Neutral
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2004 11:10 pm    Post subject: Early voting! Reply with quote

Early voting has been happening for 7 days now, and it has another 7 days to go. I've been talking to a growing number of people who have already voted for me. Very Happy

This is prime vacation season, and it's just a little while before school starts up for another year (in most schools, that is -- Willow Brook and the Oak Ridge Preschool started classes earlier this month Exclamation ), so many people expect to be out of town on August 5. Early voting is a great innovation -- especially at this time of year, when it has a big impact on the level of participation. Thumbs Up

Anderson County voters can go to the Oak Ridge Mall any day Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. , or Saturday from 9 to 12 -- the voting station is near Sears, so enter near Rack Room Shoes.

Roane County voters need to go to the courthouse in Kingston to vote. Hours are 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Monday, 8:30 to 4:30 Tuesday through Friday, and 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday.

Saturday, July 31 is the last date for early voting (the election commission staff and campaign workers need time to mark off the names of early voters on the lists that will go to the polls on election day Wink )
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 31, 2004 9:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Campaigning is tiring, but rewarding. I've been meeting many interesting people, and I've had some great conversations about how people feel about the city, why they live here (or why they are planning to move away Sad ), their ideas, and their concerns. I've learned a lot, and the experience will be valuable to me, regardless of what happens in this election.

Thursday was the deadline for submitting pre-election campaign finance reports the Anderson County Election Commission. My report went in on Wednesday. In past elections, local papers have obtained these reports and run news stories on how much different candidates are spending, and where they are getting their money. I think this would be very informative for voters, but the Oak Ridger has not shown much interest in this election, so they may not bother to cover the "money story" either. Confused

Today is the last day for early voting. I've talked to several people who are planning to vote today, and are still making up their minds. Some of them may be visiting this website. Cool-Red I hope they are finding the information they need.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 01, 2004 11:06 pm    Post subject: Doors Reply with quote

Candidates learn the darnedest things. Razz One thing I've learned is that a large fraction of Oak Ridgers almost never use their front doors. (That includes me. We seldom use our front door...)

I've visited a few homes where the residents made it pretty clear that I shouldn't think about knocking on the front door. For example, a few homes have house plants arranged around the front door, so a visitor can't get to the door easily. That's an interesting idea -- but please don't try it unless visitors can easily locate the preferred entrance (for example, a door from the carport or side of the house). Smile

Also, there are many homes without doorbells. I don't mean that the doorbell is broken -- these homes never had doorbells, as near as I can tell. Many of these are homes or duplexes that date from World War II or the early postwar years. I am curious about the absence of doorbells. Did no one have doorbells in the early days in Oak Ridge? If so, why not?
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 04, 2004 11:24 pm    Post subject: Don't forget to vote! Reply with quote

Tomorrow (Thursday) is election day! Don't forget to vote Exclamation

The polls are open from 9 am to 8 pm. Smile
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