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Downtown Decatur Clock

The Election Results

I wasn’t terribly surprised by any of the election results for city council, except the large number of votes Chuck Kuhle received.  He seemed like a low-key candidate but I guess he must have made a good impression somehow.  He was the only candidate to visit my neighborhood and that did influence my support of him.  It makes a difference.

I didn’t endorse a mayoral candidate but the one that won was the one I voted for.  It was a close race but I expected it to be.

Congratulations to all the winners and best wishes to those who threw their hat in the ring.  I think we’ll have a good mix on the council.

As for the other races, I wasn’t surprised at all by the school board results.  Lots of new faces.  It was disappointing to see that there were no challengers to the one park board seat up for election.  It would be very difficult to beat a long time incumbent but the park district is doing some of the most  important work in the city right now.  I would have thought more people would be interested but again it’s a tough seat to win.

Forsyth’s TIF District?

Forsyth is pursuing creating a TIF district to attract new commercial and residential development.  Personally, I find it a misuse of what TIF districts were designed for.  I don’t think anyone would look at Forsyth and categorize it as blighted or impoverished.  Basically, it’s just an incentive for developers that will get to pocket a lot of money at taxpayer expense over a couple decades.  Yeah, I’d like more restaurant choices in Forsyth but not at the expense of improving areas that truly need help in Decatur.

The Mall

On the topic of Forsyth, the mall is in the headlines nearly every week for another store closing.  It isn’t the fault of the mall but national spending and shopping habits that have changed.  Online shopping is killing big retail but the bright spot, at least for Decatur, is that downtown areas are beginning to thrive again.  People love to shop online but they’re also returning to the heart of their city for social and cultural reasons.  Every city’s downtown is distinct and unique.  There’s no replicating it and a lot of people have realized that.

As for Hobby Lobby and TJ Maxx moving to Forsyth.  I hope they realize the mall is essentially the kiss of death for retail in this area.  Both stores should have stayed in Decatur.  I don’t know who is in charge of their business decisions but they sure don’t know Decatur well.  We want stores closer to home.  That’s another shopping habit that has changed and I think it’s a very good change.

 

 

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A couple months ago I sent off for DNA results to learn what I’m really made of.  I’ve been working on a family tree for several years and wanted to confirm a few things.  I got my results back and I was very surprised in that they both confirmed records I wasn’t 100% sure of and that they completely discounted some family stories that had been passed down for years and years. (See the update at the end of the post.)

It seems like everybody believes that they are Native American through some ancestor way back and the evidence seemed strong that it was true for my family.  My paternal grandfather always claimed that his mother was Cherokee.

I was sure that I had Native American blood but according to my DNA I don’t even have the smallest trace of it.  Instead, I’m 97% European and 3% West Asian.  Elizabeth Warren is more Native American than I am.  I learned I’m more European Jewish and Middle Eastern than Native American!

I wasn’t surprised by the high amount of British (English, Scottish, Welsh) and Irish DNA but I sure thought I had a lot more German in me. I also had no idea that I was part Scandinavian and Italian/Greek.

Though there were some surprises, the results did confirm much of the family history I had found through Ancestry.com and other records.  I had traced my father’s side back to the earliest European settlers of America in Virginia and my DNA results confirmed it.  So, my genealogical research was correct, even though our family stories of Native American roots were, well, just stories.

I’m still digesting the results, now that I’ve discovered I’m not quite who I thought I was.  I would have bet a lot of money that I was at least part Native American but Scandinavian is cool too.

The results also linked me to other family members that have taken the DNA test.  My aunt and a 2nd cousin popped up in my results and indicated that we are very close matches genetically.  That is pretty amazing.  Hundreds of 3rd, 4th and more distantly related cousins are also indicated and many are confirmed in my family tree.

So, if you’re interested in learning about who you really are genetically, I’d recommend the test through Ancestry.com, especially if you have already compiled a family tree through the site.  It confirmed much of what I had discovered but I guess I’ll have to come up with some Scandinavian family stories to pass down instead of Cherokee. That might be difficult considering I hardly know anything about Scandinavian history.

Update: I uploaded my raw DNA data to GEDMatch and it gives much more data than Ancestry.com.  Lots of interesting stuff!  I do have a little bit of Native American in me but more interesting than that it shows ancient DNA, including Siberian from 50,000 years ago, Denisovan, and Clovis from 12,500 years ago (which are thought to be one of the earliest groups of humans in North America).  The picture below shows just some of the data.  Anyway, I know my DNA isn’t that interesting to anyone else but if you have had or might have a DNA test done in the future, if you upload it to GEDMatch.com you’ll get a lot more out of it and it’s a free service.

For example, from GEDMatch,  I can tell when my ancestors entered different parts of the world.  The rest of the information doesn’t conflict much with what Ancestry.com indicated but the data through the different tests available on GEDMatch go back much farther in time.  Ancestry.com’s tests appear to focus more on recent human history, as in 500 – 1,000 years ago, which is what most people are interested in because if we keep going back we’ll find we all originated from pretty much the same places.

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I just wanted to share a video that I think has a lot of great ideas for improving Decatur’s neighborhoods and the city has a whole.  The first half discusses many things that could pertain to Decatur, while the second half is probably more for larger cities but there’s still some neat ideas in there.

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Well, I think I have made up my mind for who I will be voting for for council.  I had already stated that I’ll be voting for Chris Riley and David Horn and I’ll explain why.  The third vote was a little difficult but I have decided to go with Chuck Kuhle and I will explain why I chose him too.

I have found Chris Riley, who has been a park board commissioner for several years, to be very accessible and willing to listen to anyone.  I can’t tell you how rare that is.  He is undoubtedly a very busy professional in his day job but still makes time for any resident to speak with him.  That’s the number one thing I ask of any candidate.  We don’t have to agree all the time but there needs to be mutual respect and a conversation.  So, I feel very confident in my decision to vote for Riley.

I voted for David Horn the last time he ran and I believe he only lost by a small margin.  He’s very enthusiastic about the community and I think we share many of the same interests.  He’s a biology professor and I’ll be graduating with a B.S. in natural resources in a few months.  We share an interest in the environment, which I think is something that Decatur needs to focus on more.  I also think he’ll bring a new perspective and new ideas without a personal vendetta against any one issue or personality.

My choice for Chuck Kuhle was difficult because I also think highly of Marty Watkins.  He has also impressed me, so I wouldn’t be upset if either won.  I wish I could vote for both but I chose Kuhle over Watkins because I think we probably have a similar vision for creating a more healthy place to live, not that Watkins doesn’t believe in that too.  See why it was a difficult decision?

In one of my classes I just finished I learned about values mapping and essentially in values mapping you ask a person to point out 5 places on a map that have meaning to them.  Those meanings can be economic, spiritual, recreational, educational, etc.  For my map I had to select 5 places from Macon County that matter the most to me.  Two things I chose were Garman Park and the Stevens Creek Bikeway.  Both are within walking distance of my house and both are major reasons why I choose to continue living in Decatur.  I’m lucky that I live near them but other parts of the community don’t have the same things within walking distance and they’re far less attractive to residents because of it. Kuhle has called for more investments in bike paths and similar projects.  The park district has done a lot in this area but the city needs to step it up too.  I can’t speak for any of the candidates I’m supporting but I think they all would be receptive to a more walkable and healthy community.

I also like Kuhle’s idea of encouraging efforts without using tax dollars to help pay for college tuition for recent high school graduates in Decatur.  A big reason why families leave Decatur is because of our public schools.  We need to keep  involved families here to help schools and teachers.  We also need to expand the tax base.  It is absolutely essential and such a program would help encourage people to stay and produce a trained workforce that would attract new employers.  It’s a win-win across the board.

Of course, a biggie with me is neighborhood revitalization.  We have to improve our neighborhoods and especially our main corridors.  US 51 heading south into downtown Decatur should be priority number 1 in my opinion.  It looks awful.  Heading north from downtown on 51 doesn’t look much better.  Of course, it would help if the state would repave the hideous road.

I also absolutely agree in a targeted approach to improving specific areas of the city rather than doing a little here, there, and wherever.  We need specific plans for redevelopment for specific areas.  I hope the candidates I’m voting for agree.

I’m still going to keep my decision for mayor to myself because I don’t want any ideas I might have to be shot down by a mayor that thinks I don’t like him or her.  It has nothing to do with who I like or don’t like.  I think the council candidates I have chosen are already supportive, or at least receptive of many things that I care about and I think all three (and my fourth choice) have a very good chance of winning. However, I’m not that sure about the two mayoral candidates and that’s why I’m keeping that vote to myself.

 

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Something unusual happened while I was buried beneath a mountain of schoolwork this quarter (that I thankfully finished yesterday).  The city council race has become interesting and that’s something that hasn’t happened in a quite a few years.  Even more rare is a real competition for the mayoral position.  Things became really interesting when current city councilman Bill Faber openly threw has support behind John Phillips for mayor, over current mayor Julie Moore-Wolfe.

Before I learned of Faber’s endorsement, I had read a post on social media from current councilman Jerry Dawson endorsing Moore.  Dawson’s seat is one of the seats up for grabs but he chose not to run again.  The endorsement seemed a little strange in its logic because Dawson went after “liberal” politicians in Springfield and essentially blamed them for Decatur’s inability to attract business.

Bringing Partisan Politics Into a Non-Partisan Race

From Dawson’s Public Facebook Page“The real reason Decatur has a hard time attracting good jobs is due to the poor business climate in this state thanks to Bill’s (Faber) liberal friends in Springfield.” 

There’s a couple things wrong with Dawson’s statement.  The first being that our stellar governor is hardly blameless in our state’s stomach turning budget impasse and secondly, the city council race is supposed to be non-partisan.  Oh, and I should throw in a third.  Moore-Wolfe is a Democrat… that last I knew anyway.  And I’m pretty sure Phillips is a Republican, though don’t quote me on that.  So, how does Dawson think Moore is going to fight against “liberal” legislators in Springfield…when she’s a Democrat?  Aren’t Bill’s liberal friends Julie’s friends too?  And it’s not like it’s such an awful thing to have liberal friends in the first place.  What is awful is blind allegiance to a particular political party on either side. If you want to know what is wrong with our state (and nation).  That’s it.  Anyway….

I don’t think it’s smart to bring in partisan politics into a city council race.  A few of the people commenting on Dawson’s post were turned off.  It didn’t exactly make me want to run out and hammer in a Moore-Wolfe sign in my front lawn, even though she wasn’t the one who wrote the divisive statement.

Dawson also said that Phillips would be “scary and dangerous” for Decatur if he were to win.   That seems a bit extreme.  It’s not like he would have the codes to Decatur’s nuclear arsenal. Haha!

Phillips came to the defense of Faber’s endorsement and basically said that Faber’s suggestions on the council are ignored.  I would have to agree.  Faber is ignored.  It’s no wonder why he isn’t endorsing the current mayor.  I’ve watched several meetings in which Faber has tried to bring a topic up for a study session and nobody would second him. I’ve liked some of his ideas and I think they were worthy of at least a discussion.

Phillips Might Have A Good Chance

According to an article I read on the Decatur Tribune, many believe that Phillips has a good chance of winning.  Just driving around town, I’m sure seeing a lot more Phillips’ signs in people’s yards than Moore-Wolfe’s.  I don’t know if that means anything but that’s what I’m noticing. If signs could vote, Phillips would win by a landslide but that’s not how it works.

So who am I endorsing, as if my endorsements mean much?  For city council,  I will be voting for Chris Riley and David Horn for sure and I will write more about that later. (And for the record, I don’t know either Riley’s or Horn’s political party preferences and I don’t care to know.)  I’m just not settled on the third vote yet.  There’s two other candidates that I think are both a good choice and that’s why I’m having a hard time choosing.  What a wonderful problem to have!  I wish all elections had tough choices like that.

For mayor, I’m going to keep who I’m voting for to myself.  I want to be on good terms with whoever wins.  My decision is purely a pragmatic one.  Anyway, at least the race is going to be interesting this time, even if hardly anyone shows up to vote, which will not be unusual unfortunately.

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