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Monthly Archives: August 2008

“All Experts” Recommend Front Porch Forum

Just stumbled across this exchange posted on AllExperts.com… (thanks David!)…

Expert: David Beckett
Date: 8/27/2008
Subject: Temporary Housing

Question
Hi David – I read your answers about Burlington and my husband & I decided to move here from Los Angeles a few months ago… We love it here. I am French and we need to go back to France for family reasons from November through March 2009 and I would hate to leave the house empty for a host of reasons.

Ideally we could rent the place (we have a beautiful 4 bedroom house in the Hill section) but I am not sure where to post an ad. The other option would be to have a professional come on a regular basis to ensure that everything is OK (i.e. heating still on). Do you have any recommendations for either solutions?

I assume we are not the only people to leave Vermont in the winter, I was just curious if there were any obvious resources available that we are not aware of.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Answer
Hello Isabelle – Glad you like Burlington! … You might also post a note on your “Front Porch Forum” email list, without your address of course, just asking if neighbors have people to recommend as short term renters or housesitters. If you haven’t gotten onto your neighborhood “Front Porch Forum” yet – I recommend it. You can read archives and sign up at http://www.frontporchforum.com

Please feel free to contact me directly – I’m happy to help. I live in your neighborhood.


Talking FPF in Essex

With so much local interest in Front Porch Forum, I love to accept offers to engage an audience.  Here’s one that’s coming right up

Mon., Sept. 15, 7pm — Connecting with your Essex Neighbors using Front Porch Forum-Michael Wood-Lewis will share tips and stories about how neighborhoods and towns across Chittenden County are making great use of Front Porch Forum. This free local service hosts 130 online neighborhood forums and more than 10,000 Chittenden County households already subscribe, including 700 in Essex Town and Essex Junction Village. Clearly identified nearby neighbors use FPF to find lost pets, report car break-ins, organize block parties, share traffic concerns and offer solutions, recommend plumbers and much more. Sign up and learn more at http://frontporchforum.com

Brownell Library, 6 Lincoln Street, Essex Junction, Vermont 05452 (802) 878-6955


E-State VPT Show

Vermont Public Television recently broadcast an hour-long show about the May 29, 2008 symposium in Burlington that explored the community impact of Vermont becoming an “e-state”… that is, full broadband and cell coverage of the entire state.  Lots of compelling speakers, including a bit about Front Porch Forum.


Sweet Clover Market and FPF

Thanks to Heather Belcher at Sweet Clover Market in the Essex Shoppes for running this bit in her e-newsletter…

As summer winds down and fall comes blowing down from the hills, people also tend to see more of their neighbors… at least until the snow starts flying. What a great time to sign up for Front Porch Forum. Have you heard of it yet? It’s free, it was invented locally, it’s informative and fun. Clearly identified nearby neighbors connect over lost dogs, plumber recommendations, block parties, car break-ins, firewood sources, and lots more. I live in Westford, and receiving emails through the Front Porch Forum definitely makes me feel more connected and informed about what my neighbors do at work and at home, what they value and how they play! You probably shop at Sweet Clover Market because you value relationships…with your farmer, with your butcher, with your grocer. Front Porch Forum is a terrific way to enhance your relationship with your neighbors…sign up today!

Heather’s grocery store is one of more than 75 local businesses reaching into thousands of Chittenden County inboxes via FPF advertising.


FPF posting unleashes torrent of good will and kid stuff

Well… one moment it’s Burlington neighbors coming together through Front Porch Forum to share news of a rash of property damage (looks like the police may have caught the vandal due to this vigilance).  And the next, it’s a lovely story from Huntington about neighbors rallying to help… well… read for yourself…

We just wanted to post a quick “thank you” to many old friends, neighbors, and quite a few new friends who were so incredibly generous during my sister’s unexpected visit with her three boys.

As a result of my request for car seats on the Front Porch Forum, we got an outpouring of support from so many people — in the form of car seats, play dates, toys, art camp, childcare referrals, loaner kids equipment, the use of a cabin, the use of guest rooms in other houses, babysitting, a borrowed car, and lots and lots of moral support.

My nephews (age 10, 7 and 7) all have new friends here in Vermont. They attended multiple birthday parties and even a few sleep-overs while they were here. Thank you! One of them, who is somewhat slow to make friends, said “Next summer, I want to spend 6 weeks in Vermont so I can play with all my friends.”

Once again, we feel truly fortunate to have landed in such an incredible community. Thank you!


FPF Neighbors ID Vandalism and Suspect… Justice Forthcoming?

Wow… an early morning confrontation of one of Burlington’s vandals/taggers… with photos! Front Porch Forum members sticking up for their neighborhoods in Burlington’s Hill and Old North End areas…

First from Jeff on the FPF ONE East Neighborhood Forum (posted )…

A new type of vandalism is now occurring in the Old North End. I awoke yesterday, Sunday August 24, to find deep purposeful destructive gouges in the soft evaporator coil fins of one of my air conditioners. The protective screen was removed and discarded on the lawn. This air conditioner is located deep onto my property, way down the driveway, by my back entrance. The perpetrator was trespassing while committing this crime. The air conditioner’s efficiency is severely affected by the blockage to air flow and the destruction is so severe it cannot be repaired. The damage was not there Friday evening.

What makes this worse is that the same damage was done to 4 other homes in the immediate neighborhood. While driving in the Old North End, I saw similar damage to 2 others near the intersection of North Street and North Winooski Ave.

I took photos yesterday and today. Though they won’t transfer to the forum, I can forward them to any who are interested. Some air conditioners are damaged with initials
(P.H.) gouged into the fins. Others are intentionally severely gouged, so as to render them useless, together with initials gouged into the fins (A.X. and SBK).

This type of behavior is permanently destructive. These are expensive items which are damaged to varying degrees affecting their cooling function, and because of the manner
of the damage, in many cases, cannot be repaired.

This is not graffiti, where a chemical can be used to remove the “tag”. I estimate that the damage caused to these 7 air conditioners is over $1,000. Does this rise to the level of a felony?

What is happening to our city?

And also from a couple in the FPF South Union Neighborhood Forum area (posted

I want to let everyone know that Sunday morning at 6 am my husband and I woke up to the sound of someone pushing our window a/c unit in. After we yelled at the person to get away, thinking our apt was being broken into, we realized we had been tagged. (the metal grating on the back of the a/c unit was pushed spelling out ‘PH’) Immediately [my husband] got into his truck and drove around the neighborhood to find the guy who did it, with his camera in hand, we managed to get a photograph of the guy. He is 18-22 years old, white, brown hair, carries a red backpack and uses the Tag PH. [My husband] confronted him and asked him if he was a “writer” (a term used by graffiti artists and taggers to identify each other) and the guy responded in a rather incriminating way saying “No, dude, I don’t wri.. I mean I don’t know what you are talking about…” The guy seemed really antsy and nervous and that is when [my husband] photographed him. We did call the police, and an officer took down all of the information. I noticed he also tagged the post office drop box by Bite Me. If any one has any information about this person or sees him… please contact the Burlington Police. This is vandalism and destruction of private property.

Oh… and one more… from Jill also on the FPF South Union Neighborhood Forum (posted

Hi, On Sunday night at 2:30 there was an attempted break-in at my house. I had the front lights on, the back lights on dim and my car in the driveway, plus a few lights on downstairs (at least they are all compact fluorescents). They first tried the backdoor and propped the screen door open and the house was locked and then they started opening and cutting the side window screen. Moose (my now official guard dog) woke up and ran downstairs barking and I went downstairs and saw the motion lights were tripped and the window wedged open and screen cut. I called the cops and they were there in a matter of minutes.

Related to P.H. too?

Update: From Jeff on the FPF ONE East Neighborhood Forum (posted

A heads up on the progress in this case…

Together with the brave work of Clark, as described below, the Burlington Police Dept’s South End staff has joined with Lt. Jen Morrison from our North End area to identify the “PH” vandal and bring him to justice.

Officer Hemond, working with Officer Belleville from the South End, communicated with the Five Sisters FFP to apprise them of their progress. Seems 10 – 20 homes were similarly vandalized in that neighborhood.

Michael Wood-Lewis has been very helpful to me (and to the BPD) to coordinate, from the civilian side, forwarding of information between neighborhoods and BPD officers working on the case.

Gail Shampnois and Alicia Taylor from the UVM Office of Student & Community Relations are following this case and have indicated that if the offender is a UVM student then they will pass through the UVM justice system as well.


Programmer-Journalists and Local Social Capital

Rich Gordon writes today about his journalist-programmer program at Northwestern’s journalism school.  He’s looking for a project idea…

For more than half a century, newspaper readership has been declining – and so have a variety of other indicators of civic and community engagement, such as participation in PTA’s, membership in bowling leagues and turnout on Election Day…

What I’ve been wondering about is whether new technologies can, in any way, help rebuild social capital among people who live in the same community. We know that online communities enable people with common interests to build powerful connections even if they are halfway around the world from one another. I’m intrigued by the possibility that we could apply these online community tools to strengthening local bonds.

It’s also hard to ignore that when conversations about the news occur on the Web, they often turn ugly — or, at best, fail to advance the discussion beyond ranting and raving…

Evidence that local media can play a role in fostering community conversation can be found in newspaper history. David Paul Nord’s fascinating book, “Communities of Journalism,” for instance, describes many instances in which newspapers served as community forums…

Cass Sunstein in his book Republic.com – [argues] that online communities can foster isolation and division by enabling people to connect only with those whose characteristics and attitudes are like theirs.

What I might challenge our students to do is come up with ways to improve online conversations about the news — to build social capital and raise the quality of these conversations.

Of course, this is what Front Porch Forum is all about!


Wanted in Berkeley

Heard today from Monique in Berkeley, CA…

We were visiting family in Burlington, VT, and found a house sitting via a friend of a friend via Front Porch Forum!! It was GREAT!! … I am desperately trying to find an effective way to communicate with my block in [Berkeley] re: emergency preparedness,  crime prevention. block parties, etc. I organize a lot of events on my street. I think Front Porch Forum would be ideal.

We get requests like this frequently and we’re methodically putting the pieces in the place for expansion.


Building Community in a Connected Age?

The Snelling Center for Government continues to push on its e-state work.  I spoke at the event it co-hosted recently focusing on the question of building the sense of community locally as Vermont moves forward on broadband and cell phone coverage.

Tune in online for conversation and on TV on August 21, 2008 at 8 PM EST for a fresh look at all this… Vermont Public Television.

And the Snelling Center’s blog is starting to get some traction.  Check it out.


How many helicopter seeds does it take…

Local college professors invite me to address their students occasionally about Front Porch Forum.  The classes range from social work to entrepreneur-ism to tech.  And I usually get a little positive feedback, but sometimes it’s hard to tell if the message is getting through.

So I was especially pleased to get this wonderful note from Jennifer today…

Hi Michael, you are amazing. All I can say is, your life changed mine, and I am ever grateful. After you spoke to my Community College of Vermont Business class, I signed up for my FPF Neighborhood Forum, it enhance my life in a way I can’t explain, but I feel at home now. Thanks for everything you do!

Also, she’s started her own business and is looking to advertise it on Front Porch Forum.

Which brings me back to this morning several states south of here… I was watching a maple tree drop  hundreds (thousands?) of its helicopter seeds on a Pennsylvania yard… and I’ve seen this same tree dump as many in the spring.  And from all these thousands of seeds… I’ve seen one or two saplings rise up and take root.  So it goes.