The Good 'Ole Days

It appears, for the weekend at least, that spring has sprung. Oh, the joys of warm weather. The boys had their first soccer games of the spring season (including the young one’s first ever game). The scene is also now set for the big dance. Not good news for the SEC (but the blow of ‘Bama’s burst bubble is softened by the Vols’ snub). Congratulations to New Mexico- Mountain West Conference regular season and tournament champs. I will argue, however, that my Lobos got hosed with a three seed. While at first glance that doesn’t seem so bad, a simple comparison makes my point. Gonzaga, the #1 team in the county is a #1 seed, look at how their numbers stack up against the Lobo’s:
     UNM's RPI (power ranking) of 2 is better than Gonzaga's at 9.

     UNM's number 3 strength of schedule is far better than Gonzaga's at 68.

     UNM's conference SOS (60) is also better than Gonzaga's (172).

     UNM has 8 RPI Top 50 wins  (highest #16). Zags have 5 with (highest #21).

     UNM has played 20 top 100 teams winning 16. Zags have played 12, winning 10.

     UNM has played only one team below 200 RPI. Zags have played 6.

Despite the fact that the Lobos have a solid argument for a 1 seed, they got dropped to a 3. While facts say the Lobos are superior, they are ranked significantly lower for a single reason- history. Gonzaga has shown over the course of a decade that they have the ability to go deep in the NCAA tournament. The Lobo’s have a strong record of under-achieving in the national spotlight. Neither team’s performance over the past couple of decades means a hill of beans during games this season, but fair or foul, this is the sole reason for the disparity of the rankings. So, basketball-wise, this is great and exciting time, but simultaneously a time to prepare for the fight. What happened to teams of the past shades the present, but that all goes out the window when it’s time to play new games. So it is in Chattanooga.

The excitement and good vibrations coursing the city now are almost tangible. Everything seems to be pointed in the right direction, and the city seems poised to blow-up (in the parlance of our times).  For those with interests in urbanism and design, the election went quite well. Only time will tell what our elected officials will actually do, but for the sake of argument, lets assume they will get stuck in and support the principles and design and urbanism that helped bring downtown back in the first place. If that happens, it’s game over right? We win and we’ll go build this magnificent urban Mecca that will be the envy of the civilized world, won’t we?

Clearly, the past eight years of (_______) have made us long for the good old days of Kinsey and Corker. Indeed, good days they were. During those times, both City and County Mayors understood and were supportive of good urban design. Ditto for those City Councils. From a staff standpoint, the city was in good shape: the public works directors were good (and in one case outstanding), parks and rec was in good shape, planning had a great director (then an adequate one), we worked around the myopic traffic folks, and of course the design studio was running on all cylinders (not too mention staffed by handsome, witty and athletic planners). Looking back, things were ideal weren’t they?

It’s funny how the mists of time and eight years of (______) can change our perception of the past. As good as the political leadership was, as good as the other elected officials were, as competent as city staff was, and as handsome as the design studio employees were, the urbanists never really had it all their way. In fact, as I recall, I felt like we were fighting an uphill battle both on projects and in education. There were outright wins like the 21st Century Waterfront and Coolidge Park, hard-fought wins like the MLKing/McCallie two-way conversion, and outright losses like Chili’s (which came before Littlefield and set the precedent for the Applebee’s and Buffalo Wild Wings of the world). We never got our zoning code revised, we never got downtown parking needs and standards adequately addressed, and the list of unfinished business was just as daunting. So while I remember the good ‘ole days fondly, I try to always remind myself that it was never easy.

I am very happy to see a new mayor and a new council. I have no reason to believe that the new crew will be anything other than outstanding, and I am looking forward to their leadership.  But even if our new leaders turn out be reincarnated versions of Kevin Lynch and Donald Appleyard, there is no guarantee that the urbanists will win the day. We can be happy that everyone seems to be fired up and heading the right direction. We should be excited about the arrows in our quiver. We should not, however, assume that progress will be made without hard work and concerted effort. 

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