Making the ‘ride’ choice

first_imgTo own a car or not to own a car? That is the question in cities like Boston and Cambridge. Whether ’tis nobler in the winter to suffer the shoveling and parking wars after snowstorms or to rent a Zipcar just to fetch groceries makes for a seemingly lose-lose proposition.But as gas prices rise, and traffic remains congested, two new start-ups are looking to give Harvard’s weary travelers more options. Zimride and RelayRides have partnered with the University’s CommuterChoice Program in hopes of making community-based car sharing easier.Zimride, a social networking site, allows drivers and passengers to post their ride times — dates for a one-time trip to New York, for example, or their weekday commuting schedules — so they can pair up for carpools.RelayRides offers more straightforward financial transactions: Car owners can register their cars, set hourly rates and hours of availability for their vehicles, and rent them out to other RelayRides users, a process akin to renting a Zipcar, but often cheaper.CommuterChoice has been promoting the services around campus since last fall. The Harvard network on Zimride.com currently has nearly 900 members, while RelayRides.com boasts 100 cars and 2,000 renters in the Boston area. Registration on both sites is free for members of the Harvard community.“Any time we add a benefit, it’s all about giving people more choices,” said Kris Locke, manager of CommuterChoice. “But we’re also trying to get people to take more sustainable modes of transportation to work, and any time we can offer a new program to help with that, that’s what we try to do.”When it comes to promoting sustainable behavior, new research shows, car sharing works. A recent study out of the University of California, Berkeley’s, Transportation Sustainability Research Center estimated that over the past decade, between 90,000 and 130,000 cars have been taken off the road because of Zipcar and similar services.Accounting for car owners who give up their vehicles and carless commuters who forgo the decision to purchase one, the study’s authors found that for every car-sharing vehicle in use today, nine to 13 automobiles have been taken off the road.“People are changing the way they consume things,” said Shelby Clark, M.B.A. ’10, co-founder of RelayRides, who launched the company while at Harvard Business School (HBS) and was named a runner-up in last year’s Business Plan Contest. “It doesn’t make sense to own something if you’re better off just being able to access that good” within the community.Ben Ganzfried ’09, a research assistant at the Harvard School of Public Health, is one such potential customer. He’d prefer not to buy a car, he said, and with a Zipcar membership he can make the occasional visit to his grandmother or to the grocery store.He signed up for RelayRides in December and has found it to be a cheaper, more convenient alternative. (Harvard also offers a discount on Zipcar memberships. The regular Boston rate is $60 a year; Harvard affiliates pay $25 a year.)“In my experience, a RelayRides car has never been more than three blocks from my house, and it has always been available when I have needed it,” Ganzfried said.Car sharing makes sense financially and environmentally, Clark said, and it can be lucrative for those who rent out their cars. (One RelayRides user who keeps his car on the HBS campus makes up to $600 a month, Clark said.) But he also hopes his company and others like it will help restore a sense of trust and sharing among neighbors.“It’s helping to renew the sense of community,” he said. “The conduit is the Internet. Services like RelayRides are just the matchmaker.”Indeed, some Harvard employees who use both sites have found them to be a good way to meet new people while snagging a cheap ride.Ramona Islam, a curricular design and research librarian at Widener Library, signed up for Zimride in the fall, hoping to find a ride to Connecticut for Thanksgiving. She expanded her network to search for rides beyond Harvard and found a man in Brookline who, for $20, took her and two other passengers to their destinations on his way to New York.“I was a little bit nervous,” Islam said. “But after talking with him on the phone and finding out other people were going, I thought the chances for disaster were slim.”On the ride she talked with her trip mates about everything from dancing to political organizing to religion. The trip went so smoothly that Islam arranged to meet up for a ride back to Boston at the end of the long weekend.“It was actually really nice,” Islam said. “I would encourage more people to take advantage of it, because it has great potential the more people sign up for it.”last_img read more

SGA promotes College mission statement

first_imgLove one another. Celebrate diversity. Extend hospitality. Strive for unity. These are the four guiding principles of the Saint Mary’s College Mission Statement, values that students and faculty will have the opportunity to thoroughly reflect on this week. Junior Silvia Cuevas, mission commissioner for Saint Mary’s Student Government Association (SGA), said the Mission Council has set up displays in the Student Center atrium and the Cushwa-Leighton library to remind the Saint Mary’s community of the College’s mission in education, faith and service.  Students can sign their names on a sheet next to the displays, affirming their support of the mission statement. “The Mission Council and myself thought it was important to promote the mission statement, especially toward students, to know what we stand for and what we believe,” Cuevas said. “We are given the mission statement freshman year, but we tend to forget about it.”  Students may be unaware that the core values of the mission statement are all around them as they hurry to class each day, Cuevas said. “All of the banners [on the light poles] promote this year’s core values,” Cuevas said. “Each banner has one of the four different values of either ‘love one another,’ ‘celebrate diversity,’ ‘extend hospitality’ or ‘strive for unity.’” Cuevas said she hopes this week’s new displays around campus will help get students and faculty interested in continuing the College’s mission. “The two displays each have a poster of the French cross with the mission statement and our core values, along with sheets for students to sign their names,” Cuevas said. “There are also booklets and bookmarks for students to take.” The displays are not the only way students can reflect on the College’s mission statement, Cuevas said.  “When I look around, our girls are always doing something, they are always on their feet,” Cuevas said. “Whether it’s with their clubs or in the community, they are always promoting the core values even if they don’t know it.” Cuevas said she hopes the initiative will extend to other aspects of Saint Mary’s life. “I hope this project will be expanded in the future and in a way where we can promote the mission at our events around campus,” she said. “I also hope that for those who work in the community and are a part of clubs will keep the mission in mind as they do these activities.”last_img read more

Online tutoring expands to ND

first_imgApparently, technology can be a teacher’s best friend. Using webcams, chat, and a virtual whiteboard, tutors at InstaEDU, an online tutoring portal, assist students with their studies through a computer. InstaEDU CEO Alison Johnston said she was inspired to create the company after working as a tutor herself. In her role, she realized private tutoring could be both expensive and exclusive. “Our general goal is to make high-quality, one-on-one tutoring universally accessible to any student … to let any student work with a tutor at any time,” Johnston said. “Also, we realized that the time when many high school students are in need of homework help, say 11 p.m., is when many college students are available.” Sophomore InstaEDU tutor Jordan Stella started tutoring in high school and also tutors at the First Year of Studies Learning Resource Center. Stella said tutors connect to InstaEDU through Facebook or Google chat and receive notifications whenever a student asks for help. Students can view tutors’ profiles to see areas of expertise and interests. They then select an individual tutor, or can be matched randomly with an available tutor. The tutor’s time is logged, he said, and they are paid by the minute. “Why not [do it],” Stella said. “I’m on Facebook anyway.” The InstaEDU website lists help available for a variety of subject areas including math, science, finance, languages, English and social studies. “[The tutor] can choose areas [he or she] wants to tutor, like SAT prep, ACT prep [or] AP test prep,” Stella said. The students looking for tutoring “could be [in] high school, could be [in] college, could be [in] middle school,” Stella said. Stella said he heard about job opportunities at InstaEDU through an email from the Anthropology Department, and the pay-per-minute of tutoring was appealing. Tutoring online does not inherently pose a significant problem, Stella said, though he believes lecture-based tutoring is more difficult. “In general, it’s all the same, as long as you know what you’re talking about,” he said. “If it’s something I’m not really familiar with, then it might be easier if you’re sitting next to me, so I can gauge what you’re understanding, what you’re not understanding. “It also depends the subject. Math is something easier to tutor over the Internet, there’s one’s answer, one way to do it.” Stella also said he thinks the students using InstaEDU are more motivated to learn through tutoring, as opposed to just receiving an answer. “We’re not supposed to do their homework for them,” he said. “They’re not just going to be like ‘Hey, what’s the answer to this problem?’ They could just Google search that.” Stella said he appreciates InstaEDU’s promise of nearly instantaneous tutoring, and believes he would use online tutoring if he needed help, as opposed to having to set up a time to meet with a tutor in person. “I think I’d rather do online than in person, again depending on the subject. Personally, I’d much rather be like, ‘Hey, I need help right now,’” he said. Going into the future, Johnston said InstaEDU is looking to expand the tutor base. “We’ve had a great time recruiting out of these top universities, like Notre Dame,” she said. “We also would love to plug into the online learning platforms. Right now we’re seeing a lot of top schools putting courses online. “We think it’s awesome that anybody can go and take class with an MIT professor. The one issue is that you lose a lot of the personal touch, so all of a sudden, you can’t raise your hand in class, can’t talk to a classmate.” That is where InstaEDU can contribute, she said. “Say Notre Dame offers classes online, and it would be very valuable if a student is taking a class from somewhere like Oregon, that you could, actually – if there’s a point in the lecture you don’t understand – pause it and immediately connect over video chat with a Notre Dame student who had taken the class last semester and gotten an ‘A’. That’s a pretty powerful experience,” Johnston said.last_img read more

Georgia Drought Free

first_imgBy David Emory StooksburyUniversity of GeorgiaAll of Georgia except the Lanier and Hartwell basins are now out of drought. Several days of heavy rain across the southern two-thirds of the state have alleviated the remaining drought conditions in south Georgia.The Lake Lanier and Lake Hartwell basins remain in moderate drought. Lake Lanier is a major source of water for much of metropolitan Atlanta. On the Savannah River, Lakes Russell and Clarks Hill remain abnormally low for early April.Soil moisture statewide is near normal for early April. In scattered areas across south Georgia, soil moisture is currently above normal.Stream flows across the southern two-thirds of Georgia are well above normal. Daily record-high flows are being set on many rivers and creeks in southwest and south central Georgia. The National Weather Service is issuing flood warnings for many rivers in the state. Updated river stage information from the NWS is available at http://www.srh.noaa.gov/alr/index.shtml. Drowning is a major cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S. Most of drowning deaths result from people driving vehicles into flooded roadways. When a roadway is covered with water, it is virtually impossible to know the true depth of the water. It only takes a few inches of water to float a car and lead to disaster. Additionally, when a road is covered with water it is very difficult to tell if the road has been washed away or the bridge has been undermined. The safest rule is if the road is covered with water, all drivers should “turn around, don’t drown,” as directed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s safety campaign.Additional weather and climate information can be found at www.georgiaweather.net and www.georgiadrought.org. Agricultural climatology information can be found at www.agroclimate.org. Coastal climate information can be found at www.coastalclimate.org. Daily rainfall data is at www.cocorahs.org. U.S. Geological Survey data is at ga.water.usgs.gov. Water conservation information is available at www.conservewatergeorgia.net.(David Emory Stooksbury is the state climatologist and a professor in engineering and atmospheric sciences with The University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)last_img read more

Putney General Store construction to begin this spring

first_imgUS Senator Patrick Leahy and members of the Putney Historical Society, Preservation Trust of Vermont and Vermont Housing and Conservation Board met at the site of the Putney General Store Wednesday morning to announce that a new $60,000 federal grant will ensure that construction on the new General Store can begin this year. None of us here could have imagined that instead of touring a new and improved Putney General Store today we would be standing in front of a vacant lot, said Leahy.  But the fact that we are still here is a testament to the Putney community and another example of how in a time of crisis Vermonters pull together.Before the November 2009 fire that destroyed the Putney General Store for a second time in under two years, Leahy had announced he had secured a $100,000 appropriation, in partnership with the Preservation Trust of Vermont, to rebuild the community-supported project.  Leahy said the new $60,000 appropriation would be available immediately, enabling the Putney Historical Society to move forward with construction this year.  The significance of this money cannot be overstated.  It is the last big push we need, to ensure we can move ahead without delay, said Putney Historical Society President, Stuart Strothman.During Wednesday s visit to the site of the Putney General Store, Leahy pointed out that while these funds will help move the project forward, fundraising is not complete.  A recent $20,000 matching grant from the Thomas Thompson Foundation requires a $40,000 match.  Combined with the Thompson grant and match, the Leahy appropriation brings the estimated $920,000 campaign within $80,000 of completion.  Strothman noted that the project may be able to get a loan to cover the difference.The Putney Historical Society has also accessed funding from the Vermont Community Development Program, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the Preservation Trust of Vermont, the Windham Foundation, and many other community donors and corporate donors.Source: PUTNEY, Vt. (Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010) Leahy’s office.last_img read more

Merchants Bancshares announces Q2 2011 results, recovery from Q1

first_imgMerchants Bancshares, Inc. (NASDAQ: MBVT), the parent company of Merchants Bank, today announced net income of $3.63 million and $6.73 million, or diluted earnings per share of $0.58 and $1.08, for the quarter and six months ended June 30, 2011, respectively. This compares with net income of $4.59 million and $8.42 million, or diluted earnings per share of $0.74 and $1.37, for the quarter and six months ended June 30, 2010, respectively.Merchants previously announced the declaration of a dividend of $0.28 per share, payable August 18, 2011, to shareholders of record as of August 4, 2011. The return on average assets was 0.98 percent and 0.91 percent for the quarter and six months ended June 30, 2011 compared to 1.29 percent and 1.19 percent for the same periods in 2010. The return on average equity was 14.20 percent and 13.38 percent for the quarter and six months end ed June 30, 2011 compared to 19.48 percent and 18.10 percent for the same periods in 2010.”The second quarter demonstrated significant improvement compared to the first quarter of this year. We saw healthy increases in loans and our net interest margin. At this point we believe we are on track to post loan growth for the year that will meet or exceed 10 percent. Although we are trailing 2010’s record results we believe we are in line to report another very solid year,” commented Michael R. Tuttle, President and Chief Executive Officer.Taxable equivalent net interest income was $12.95 million and $25.11 million for the quarter and six months ended June 30, 2011, respectively, compared to $12.90 million and $25.32 million for the same periods in 2010. Our taxable equivalent net interest margin decreased 19 basis points to 3.62% for the second quarter of 2011 compared to 3.81% for the same period in 2010, and decreased 24 basis points to 3.53% for the six months ended June 30, 2011 compared to 3.77% for the same period in 2010. The margin for the second quarter of 2011 increased by 25 basis points when compared to the fourth quarter of 2010, and increased 17 basis points from the first quarter of 2011.Merchants recorded a $250 thousand provision for credit losses during the second quarter of 2011, compared to no provision in the second quarter of 2010. Our provision for credit losses for the first six months of 2011 was $250 thousand compared to $600 thousand for the first six months of 2010. Our non-performing asset totals decreased to $3.44 million at June 30, 2011 from $4.30 million at December 31, 2010 and $8.78 million at June 30, 2010.Merchants quarterly average loans for the second quarter of 2011 were $944.81 million compared to $916.38 million for the first quarter of 2011 and $905.05 million for the fourth quarter of 2010. Ending balances at June 30, 2011 were $943.35 million, $32.56 million higher than balances at December 31, 2010. During the second quarter, growth in average monthly loan balances was strong with average monthly loan balances for April 2011 at $931.64 million, increasing to $943.84 million for May, and $958.99 million in June. Growth in commercial loans reflects new customers and expansion of existing relationships combined with increased utilization of credit lines by existing customers. Seasonal fluctuations in municipal cash flows reduced June 30, 2011 loan balances by almost $26 million. Municipal loan balances increased to $82.72 million at July 1, 2011 from $37.93 million at June 30, 2011. Total loans at July 1, 2011 were $987.03 million.Total deposits at June 30, 2011 were $1.10 billion, slightly higher than balances at December 31, 2010. Although deposit growth from the end of last year to the end of the second quarter was minimal, the composition of the deposit base has shifted away from interest bearing deposits and into demand deposits. Demand deposits grew $19.73 million to $161.14 million at June 30, 2011 from $141.41 million at December 31, 2010. Approximately $10 million of that growth is a result of a shift in our retail cash rewards checking product from interest bearing to non-interest bearing. Securities sold under agreement to repurchase (“repos”) decreased by $71.70 million to $160.49 million at June 30, 2011 compared to December 31, 2010, primarily a result of seasonal fluctuations concentrated in municipal cash flows.Merchants investment portfolio totaled $405.53 million at June 30, 2011, a decrease of $61.23 million from the December 31, 2010 ending balance of $466.76 million. We are working to reduce our exposure to premium write off in the investment portfolio and have sold $77.03 million in collateralized mortgage obligations for a total net gain of $127 thousand during 2011. Proceeds from the sales have funded our strong loan growth, and have replaced reductions in repo balances.Total noninterest income decreased to $2.56 million and $4.65 million for the quarter and six months ended June 30, 2011, respectively, compared to $3.16 million and $6.07 million for the same periods in 2010. Excluding net gains (losses) on security sales and other than temporary impairment losses, noninterest income decreased $229 thousand to $2.42 million for the second quarter of this year compared to $2.65 million for the same period in 2010 and decreased $407 thousand to $4.53 million for the first six months of 2011 compared to the first six months of 2010. This decrease is primarily a result of reductions in overdraft fee revenue attributable to legislative changes that went into effect on August 15, 2010. Trust division income continued to grow during 2011 and increased to $632 thousand and $1.26 million for the quarter and six months ended June 30, 2011, respectively, compared to $533 thousand and $1.05 million for the same periods in 2010. Trust division assets und er management have grown to $488.85 million at June 30, 2011 from $460.42 million at December 31, 2010 and $388.24 million at June 30, 2010. Other categories of noninterest income were generally flat compared to 2010.Total noninterest expense was $10.21 million and $20.32 million for the quarter and six months ended June 30, 2011, respectively, compared to $9.62 million and $19.09 million for the same periods in 2010. There were several factors that combined to produce the changes. Salaries and wages and employee benefits were slightly higher for the quarter and six months ended June 30, 2011 compared to the same periods in 2010, primarily a result of normal salary increases. Occupancy and Equipment expenses were $1.76 million and $3.59 million for the quarter and six months ended June 30, 2011 compared to $1.62 million and $3.23 million for the same periods in 2010. This increase is primarily a result of depreciation related to significant bank-wide investments in telecommunication and computer equipment. We anticipate that these investments will provide us with additional operating efficiencies and cost savings. FDIC insurance expense for the second quarter of 2011 was $194 thousand com pared to $340 thousand for the same period in 2010, a result of the new deposit insurance assessment rates effective April 1, 2011. We booked expense recoveries and gains related to the sale of other real estate owned (“OREO”) properties totaling $318 thousand during the first quarter of 2010. This gain resulted in a negative OREO expense during the quarter and six months ended June 30, 2010 of $(196) thousand and $(390) thousand, respectively, compared to expenses of $65 thousand and $81 thousand for the quarter and six months ended June 30, 2011.Michael R. Tuttle, Merchants’ President and Chief Executive Officer, Janet P. Spitler, Merchants’ Chief Financial Officer and Geoffrey R. Hesslink, Executive Vice President and Senior Lender of Merchants will host a conference call to discuss these earnings results at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, July 27, 2011. Interested parties may participate in the conference call by dialing U.S. number (800) 230-1059; the title of the call is Merchants Bancshares, Inc. Earnings Call. Participants are asked to call a few minutes prior to register. A replay will be available until noon on Wednesday, August 3, 2011. The U.S. replay dial-in telephone number is (800) 475-6701. The international replay telephone number is (320) 365-3844. The replay access code for both replay telephone numbers is 200985.Vermont Matters. Merchants Bank strives to fulfill its role as the state’s leading independent community bank through a wide range of initiatives. The bank supports organizations throughout Vermont in addressing essential needs, sustaining community programs, providing small business and job start capital, funding financial literacy education and delivering enrichment through local sports activities.Merchants Bank was established in 1849 in Burlington, Vermont. Its continuing mission is to provide Vermonters with a statewide community bank that combines a strong technology platform with a genuine appreciation for local markets. Merchants Bank delivers this commitment through a branch-based system that includes: 34 community bank offices and 43 ATMs throughout Vermont; local branch presidents and personal bankers dedicated to high-quality customer service; free online banking, phone banking, and electronic bill payment services; high-value depositing programs that feature Cash Rewards Checking, Rewards Checking for Business, business cash management, money market accounts, health savings accounts, certificates of deposit, Flexible CD, IRAs, and overdraft assurance; feature-rich loan programs including mortgages, home equity credit, vehicle loans, personal and small business loans and lines of credit; and merchant card processing. Merchants Bank offers a strong set of comm ercial and government banking solutions, delivered by experienced banking officers in markets throughout the state; these teams provide customized financing for medium-to-large companies, non-profits, cities, towns, and school districts. Merchants Trust Company, a division of Merchants Bank, provides investment management, financial planning and trustee services. Please visit www.mbvt.com(link is external) for access to Merchants Bank information, programs, and services. Merchants’ stock is traded on the NASDAQ National Market system under the symbol MBVT. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.Non-GAAP Financial Measure. In addition to results presented in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”), this press release contains certain non-GAAP financial measures. Merchants’ management believes that the supplemental non-GAAP information, which consists of the tangible capital ratio, is utilized by regulators and market analysts to evaluate a company’s financial condition and therefore, such information is useful to investors. These disclosures should not be viewed as a substitute for financial results determined in accordance with GAAP, nor are they necessarily comparable to non-GAAP performance measures which may be presented by other companies. Because non-GAAP financial measures are not standardized, it may not be possible to compare these financial measures with other companies’ non-GAAP financial measures having the same or similar names.Certain statements contained in this press release that are not historical facts may constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and are intended to be covered by the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties. These statements, which are based on certain assumptions and describe Merchants’ future plans, strategies and expectations, can generally be identified by the use of the words “may,” “will,” “should,” “could,” “would,” “plan,” “potential,” “estimate,” “project,” “believe,” “intend,” “anticipate,” “expect,” “target” and similar expressions. Forward-looking statements are based on the current assumptions and beliefs of management and are only expectations of future results. Merchants’ actual results could differ materially from those projec ted in the forward-looking statements as a result of, among others, general, national, regional or local economic conditions which are less favorable than anticipated, including continued global recession, impacting the performance of Merchants’ investment portfolio, quality of credits or the overall demand for services; changes in loan default and charge-off rates which could affect the allowance for credit losses; declines in the equity and financial markets; reductions in deposit levels which could necessitate increased and/or higher cost borrowing to fund loans and investments; declines in mortgage loan refinancing, equity loan and line of credit activity which could reduce net interest and non-interest income; changes in the domestic interest rate environment and inflation; changes in the carrying value of investment securities and other assets; misalignment of Merchants’ interest-bearing assets and liabilities; increases in loan repayment rates affecting interest incom e and the value of mortgage servicing rights; changing business, banking, or regulatory conditions or policies, or new legislation affecting the financial services industry, such as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, that could lead to changes in the competitive balance among financial institutions, restrictions on bank activities, changes in costs (including deposit insurance premiums), increased regulatory scrutiny, declines in consumer confidence in depository institutions, or changes in the secondary market for bank loan and other products; and changes in accounting rules, federal and state laws, IRS regulations, and other regulations and policies governing financial holding companies and their subsidiaries which may impact Merchants’ ability to take appropriate action to protect Merchants’ financial interests in certain loan situations.You should not place undue reliance on Merchants’ forward-looking statements, and are cautioned that forward-looking statements are inherently uncertain. Actual performance and results of operations may differ materially from those projected or suggested in the forward-looking statements due to certain risks and uncertainties, which are included in more detail in Merchants’ Annual Report on Form 10-K, as updated by our Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q and other filings submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Merchants does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statement to reflect circumstances or events that occur after the date the forward-looking statements are made. SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT–(Marketwire – July 25, 2011) –last_img read more

Carp Conundrum

first_imgThings changed between 2018 and 2019 when Young and her husband discovered a viable bait market for Asian carp by selling to lobster fishing companies. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic halted trade with Asia, the continent that buys between 70 to 80 percent of North American lobster, the market and price for Asian carp also took a hit.  Record funding for this war against carp came in December 2019 when the Trump administration signed a bill for $25 million to combat the spread of Asian carp in Southern states. Unlike previous strategies, much of this funding has gone to eradicating Asian carp where they are already abundant, such as Kentucky and Barkely lake. However, containment in other tributaries of the Mississippi River is a far more complex project. According to Harty, the task is beyond what any one state can do. For almost a decade, a war has been waged against Asian carp. Despite efforts supported by federal and state programs, as well as coalitions of recreational and commercial fishermen, efforts remain inadequate against what many consider the greatest invasive species problem in U.S. freshwater. In total, this impact has created economic difficulties for state and local economies that depend on fishing both commercially and for tourism. “It has been a financial burden on our tourism industry,” says Travis McLeese, CEO of the nearby Paris-Henry County Chamber of Commerce.  Unfortunately, these carp proved formidable not only at aquaculture, but also breeding and migration. Facing no natural predators in U.S. freshwater ecosystems, their population exploded and extreme flooding allowed them to eventually find routes into the Mississippi River. From there, they have spread throughout the Mississippi River Basin, a drainage system that touches 32 different states.  For the last several years, Young and her business partner and husband, Clay, have worked with the Tennessee Wildlife and Resource Agency (TWRA) to find a profitable outlet for Asian carp. Their struggles come from the bone structure, which is so pervasive that profitability of Asian carp meat is much lower than other fish they process like catfish. Also, unlike populations in Asia, U.S. seafood consumers do not typically eat Asian carp for this same reason. “People don’t want to have to deal with them,” says Cole Harty, Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator for the Tennessee Wildlife & Resource Agency. “And one or two bad experiences can have a big impact.” To understand why jumping poses a uniquely disruptive safety hazard, consider that silver carp have a high population density in these reservoirs, each with an average length over two feet. In their above-the-surface frenzy, Asian carp can often hit people or flop into their boats, causing problems for sportfishing.  A local cooking brand, Grange Food Company, has even produced a video showing several recipes for cooking Asian carp filets, indicating that despite perception, Asian carp might actually be delicious.  Despite these obstacles, Young remains optimistic about the long term market for Asian carp as long as Tennessee’s incentive program remains. Strong local support from the Paris community shows through several grocery stores and at least one high end restaurant serving Asian carp as perhaps the most economic and environmentally conscious seafood option available.  “Asian carp” refers to a collective four species of carp (silver, bighead, black, and grass), each non-indigenous fish imported from Asia as early as the sixties by scientists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department who recognized their filter-feeding habits could clean farm ponds in the Ozarks. How the War On an Asian Carp Could Falter Amidst COVID-19  Using an elaborate network of underwater fences and sound barriers at key waterway “choke points,” these containment efforts have successfully stopped Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. Harty has seen a decline in bass fishing within the region. He also says it’s difficult to differentiate what impact Asian carp are having on local fisheries. Nonetheless, their perception as a major ingredient for a bad fishing trip has consequences. This is especially true of silver carp, which has flourished in a section of the Tennessee River system that straddles both Tennessee and Kentucky. Migrating through locks above the Kentucky and Barkley Lake dams, silver carp have become synonymous with bad fishing experiences; when disturbed by anything, they jump.  Size and prolific breeding patterns allow Asian carp to outcompete bait fish for algae, a low but integral part of freshwater food chains. The ecological repercussions also reduce native fish populations further up the food chain, including recreational game fish such as crappie and bass. In Tennessee and Kentucky alone, Asian carp Over the last decade, federal and state governments have poured millions of dollars into conservation efforts targeted at mitigating carp impact. Historically, the bulk of that spending has been used to prevent Asian carp from breaching into Great Lake fisheries, collectively valued at supporting 75,000 jobs and generating over seven billion dollars annually. “A blackbird flew over the surface of the water. The entire cove erupted with silvers… There had to be 10,000 of them,” said one Kentucky Lake resident in a “War On Carp” coalition video. “That fish has a bone structure like none other,” says Christel Young, Vice President of Finance at North American Caviar, a Paris county wholesale fish buyer.  threaten a combined recreational fishing industry worth 1.7 billion dollars, according to the American Sportfishing Association. The onset of the pandemic also brings questions as to whether government resources can continue to support these conservation efforts in light of broader health and economic issues. The only sustainable way this can happen is by getting commercial fishermen interested in Asian carp. That has required both state-sponsored programs such as Tennessee’s Asian Carp Harvest Incentive Program (ACHIP) and finding entities who will buy carp. But unfortunately Asian carp can be a tough sell, because they are quite bony. Drawing a large portion of its revenue from aquatic recreation on Kentucky Lake, McLeese says that the local economy took a significant hit in 2019.  Cover photo by Amy Snider; courtesy of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agencylast_img read more

Senator wants to clean up Florida Constitution

first_img Senator wants to clean up Florida Constitution Gary Blankenship Senior Editor The chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee is launching a two-year program aimed at streamlining the Florida Constitution, although the panel has been warned that will be a difficult task and could have unintended consequences.Sen. Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden, discussed his plans with other committee members at a January 12 meeting. He said he wanted to get statutory-type provisions out of the state’s basic charter, but otherwise not make any significant changes to the document.The panel also heard from former Florida State University Law Dean and President Sandy D’Alemberte, who cautioned there are likely several obstacles to such an effort.Committee members questioned Webster about his plans after they finished other business before D’Alemberte was scheduled to appear at Webster’s invitation. Webster did say the job would be too big to accomplish in one year and it likely would be the 2006 session before any recommendations make it to the full House and Senate.In response to a question from Sen. Steven Geller, D-Hallandale Beach, Webster said he wants to have an article-by-article review of the constitution with a look at when, how, and why each provision was added.“If it did not meet the criteria of belonging in a basic document, we would get rid of it,” he said. “What we’re talking about are things that belong in statutes. There are things that clearly belong in statute and things you and I could agree on [that should not be in the constitution].”Webster added while he thinks there are some legitimate basic constitutional issues that need to be changed, that will not be included in the streamlining review.“I think I have a pure heart in what I’m asking to do, which is give the people the opportunity to vote on a constitution that would be like a constitution — instead of a collection of statutes,” he said.Geller said he would work with Webster on the issue but questioned whether the legislature could adequately grapple with such a large issue.“I’m concerned there’s a certain degree of hubris in having us do it,” he said. “I hope we would not be enacting changes that would bitterly divide this legislature and the people of the state of Florida but might pass by a narrow margin.”Sen. Skip Campbell, D-Tamarac, asked if Webster’s rewrite would include changes in the initiative process for proposing constitutional amendments, something lawmakers have discussed both this and last year.Webster replied while he expects the committee to look at that issue, it would be in a separate bill from the constitutional rewrite. He noted that any change would have to pass committee scrutiny in both the House and Senate, pass both chambers by a three-fifths vote, and then be approved by voters.D’Alemberte, a state and federal constitutional expert, said it could be difficult to make any changes for several reasons, and that alterations could have unintended consequences. Noting his service in the House, D’Alemberte said he backed constitutional changes that made the amendment initiative process easier, an action he now regrets.(Lawmakers have been concerned that special interests are using the initiative process to bypass the legislature and enact provisions not suitable for the constitution. Recent votes have included protections for pregnant pigs, a vote ordering — and then rescinding — a high-speed rail system, and a battle between doctors and lawyers over medical malpractice issues.)And while people have a reverence for and are reluctant to change the U.S. Constitution, those same feelings don’t apply to state charters, D’Alemberte said.“I’m really skeptical about your ability to do it,” he said. “The length of the constitution comes out of one emotion that we are not going to be able to get over any time soon, and that emotion is distrust.”That distrust is evident in provisions dividing executive powers between the governor and a Cabinet, D’Alemberte said, and in setting up independent agencies outside of executive oversight.Nor is the urge to amend anything new. He noted that in the 85 years after the 1885 constitution was adopted, 211 amendments were proposed and around 145 were approved — an average of more than three per election.“The nature of the distrust seems to be shifting a bit,” D’Alemberte said. “The initiative process seems to be used to give explicit instructions to the legislature — the limitations of class size, the details of pre-K [class instruction]. That’s something that’s fairly new.”He offered three suggestions to the committee:• They should look at the proposal from the League of Women Voters — which D’Alemberte has reservations about — to allow citizens to propose statutory changes by initiative instead of just constitutional changes. “It invites people to put statutory language in the statutes, not the constitution,” he said.• The legislature could build on the requirement that each amendment be accompanied by a fiscal disclosure and provide forums for education and debate on proposed amendments.• The legislature could provide more information to existing institutions concerned with constitutional issues. Those include the Constitution Revision Commission, (which D’Alemberte chaired in 1978) a citizens’ panel that reviews the constitution every 20 years, and the Tax and Budget Reform Commission, which looks at fiscal issues and meets 10 years after the CRC. D’Alemberte said the citizens who serve on those panels could be given more thorough background about the constitution and related issues before they begin their work.Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis, asked what principles the committee should follow in carrying out Webster’s quest.D’Alemberte replied they should bear in mind that “unless something is denied in the constitution, it’s permitted.”He also said lawmakers should avoid meaningless affirmative statements.“We can put language in the constitution that says we’ll have a healthy environment, but it really doesn’t do anything,” he said.Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, said he would oppose a statutory initiative procedure, saying bills in the legislature get an extensive fiscal and staff analysis as well as debate, which might not happen in a referendum. “I think we’d be acquiescing our constitutional mandate as a bargaining chip [for reform],” he said.D’Alemberte said he was also dubious about that and said the legislature should look at other states with statutory initiative referendums, including California. Some observers feel the California system works poorly and burdens the state with unnecessary, unrealistic, and, sometimes, conflicting mandates.D’Alemberte closed with a warning that any attempt to streamline the constitution would be a challenge.“It’s fraught with a lot of danger and could become its own evil,” he said.After the meeting, Webster, a former House speaker and longtime member of both the House and Senate judiciary committees, noted that some might think it odd that a nonlawyer Judiciary Committee chair (he is an engineer and air-conditioning contractor) would undertake the project, but he’s seen a need for several years.“This is a document that does not need to be filled with a lot of detail about how things work,” he said. “My idea is to give the people a chance to vote on a pure document.”Webster acknowledged it might be a difficult project. “I don’t know if we could even get it out of this committee.”Webster said he welcomes input from The Florida Bar’s newly formed Special Board Committee to Study the Florida Constitutional Amendment Process, which was created at the request of President-elect Alan Bookman. That came after board members expressed concerns the state’s charter was becoming cluttered with unnecessary provisions. February 1, 2005 Senior Editor Regular News Senator wants to clean up Florida Constitutionlast_img read more

Bridge over troubled water

first_imgby: Lisa HochgrafThe 1970 Simon and Garfunkel hit “Bridge Over Troubled Water” makes me think about how CUES members help each other out.As the moderator of the members-only CUES Net listerv, I see it every day. In the last week, CUES Net participants have helped  each other with ideas and perspectives about everything from forms vendors to cash recycler security to who should attend supervisory committee meetings.Many times “CUES Netters,” as they are affectionately called, help other members by submitting a policy or document to CUES Members Share. Just in the last two months, documents related to CEO performance, loans to employees, indirect lending and anti-harrassment have all been contributed. continue reading » 5SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more