Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gardening on the Green

The sky is grey today and I awoke to the sound of rain.  Don't you just love December in Cincinnati?  I just finished reading Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit by Barry Estabrook and I'm now consumed with the thought of selecting which tomato varieties to plant this year. It has been at least five years since I've struggled against the wilds of Amberley Village to grow my own vegetables in my beautiful, sunny backyard.  Since I gave up the fight, my tomatoes have been languishing in the shade of my backyard deck, relegated to my largest pots.  I'm lucky if I get a handful of tomatoes each August because my dogs refuse to let them ripen on the vine without succumbing to the temptation to take a bite of each nearly-red orb.

Luckily, things may be different this summer.  With a We Thrive! grant behind us, Amberley is on the verge of becoming one of a handful of communities in the nation to pave the way to committing to providing the means for a healthier lifestyle for its residents. Just last week, council member Tom Muething met with Public Works Supervisor, Steve Rasfeld, to determine what, if any, water sources were still available at Amberley Green. Some of the options presented were truly unique and don't even require turning on a water source! Can you imagine watering your garden with the rainwater that accumulates in one of the existing lakes or even in the old swimming pool? Bill and Mary Lennard later met Tom Muething and myself to walk the Green and see for ourselves what the possibilities were for planting gardens. To learn more about this exciting initiative, please join our planning meeting on Thursday, December 29th at 4:00 in the lower level Community Room.

Another thing we will be discussing, as part of the grant requirement, are "Shared Use Agreements." The purpose of the shared use agreement is to examine our existing amenities and see how we can share them with other communities to encourage more physical activity.  We can either share what we have, or develop agreements with neighboring communities to share what they have and we lack. Resident Jim Rulli is chairing this committee and the possibilities that have been suggested so far are unique and may even provide a little income to Amberley, as well as developing goodwill across communities.

Finally, please forward this post to your Amberley neighbors.  Also, encourage everyone you know to sign up for the Village e-news and meeting announcements.  The fastest, and most economical way, to communicate with our residents is by email and the Village has access to only 400 emails out of 3500 residents.

I hope to see you at Thursday's meeting, and if not, have a happy and healthy New Year!

Friday, December 16, 2011

...and so it begins

The first meeting of the (mostly) new Amberley Village council took place on December 12th.  I'm sure it must have been a little bit disconcerting to see six out of seven new bodies sitting at the bench.  I know I was keenly aware of our inexperience, but I think we managed quite well.  Scot Lahrmer, Village Manager, had previously met one-on-one with each of us to make sure we understand how the village works, from council, to administrative staff, to police/fire, to maintenance.  My own meeting was over two hours long!

It's been an incredibly busy month and council passed several ordinances on Monday night. The village treasurer, Rick Kay, was reappointed by Mayor Byar as was the village solicitor, Kevin Franke, and the village prosecutor, Stacey  Lefton.  Stan Cohen was reappointed to the Stormwater commission and my husband, Scott Wolf, was reappointed to the Board of Zoning Appeals.  Council passed the budget without much fanfare.  It is a lean budget. We know the village is in need of new revenue.  There will definitely be a safety levy on the ballot on March 6th.  Public Outreach, which I chair, has recommended a minimum of three "open house" meetings where residents can learn about the roles of our police and fire department and meet the men and women whose job it is to keep our residents safe.  If you aren't aware, all of Amberley's council meetings are televised.  You can view them on cable, or, watch them on your computer by clicking on this link:  http://www.icrctv.com/amberley-village .

As an update to "We Thrive," committees are moving forward with plans for an Amberley community garden.  If the village has your email address, you should be receiving an email shortly. If not, we are interested in your input.  Would you be interested in renting a plot? How large? Suggested sizes for plots are 10x30, 10x20, and 10x10.  Yes, the entire area would be fenced to keep the deer and wildlife out.  Please let me or Jim and Mary Lennard know your thoughts.

Finally, Peg Conway is forming the Amberley Women's Forum.  The first meeting will be held on January 16th, from 7-9:00PM at her house.  There are a lot of very talented women in Amberley and we want to hear from them and get them more actively involved in our community.  Peg will be sending out emails soon, but if you want to make sure you are on our list, please make sure I have your email address.  We all have very limited email lists of our own and do not want to use the Village list for our own personal mailings.  However, on that note, the Village only has email addresses for 400 residents.  There are 3400 residents in Amberley Village in 1500 households.  We are barely reaching one-third of our households with important news. Please give your email address to the Village! Communication with residents was consistently identified as being in need of improvement and one way to help is to subscribe to meeting notices and the e-news.  Speaking of the e-news, here is the newest issue:  http://www.amberleyvillage.org/ENewsDecember2011.cfm .  Even I didn't receive it in my email and I'm subscribed to everything! At least I thought I was...

I leave you with a photo from Council's swearing in.  Can you find the "lone Wolf" in this picture?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Amberley Thrives!

Amberley was recently awarded a grant of up to $24,000 from Hamilton County Public Health's We Thrive! initiative.  We Thrive! is making it easier for people in Hamilton County to eat healthy, be more active and limit tobacco use.  It is funded in part by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant.  Amberley must now use the grant money to make healthy changes in our community.

To that end, the Public Parks & Buildings committee, which was formerly chaired by Merrie Stillpass and Leslie McIntosh, has been meeting since late spring to discuss four possible concepts for the use of Amberley Green, as directed by the Long Range Planning Committee. Together with a group of interested residents, they have networked with city, county and state resources, as well as various non-profit, and for-profit organizations, to explore options for urban agriculture on Amberley Green.  Four ideas were preferred: 1) construction of a community garden, 2) an Amberley Village farmers' market, 3) community supported agriculture (csa), and 4) commercial aquaponics.  All were discussed extensively, but the community garden and farmers' market were felt to fill a need to the community that the CSA and aquaponic could not at this particular time.  Community gardens and farmers' markets function as a way of building the community that Amberley otherwise lacks.

The grant from We Thrive! makes it possible to move forward on these projects and committees are now forming.  If you are interested in helping to plan Amberley's community garden or Farmer's market, please email Merrie Stillpass (community garden chair). If you would like to be on the committee to plan the farmers' market, contact Leslie McIntosh, or simply contact Nicole at Village Hall.

Also, as part of the grant requirement, Amberley is required to enter into a "shared use agreement" that will promote physical activity to our residents or allow residents of other communities to use our facilities to foster physical activity.  For an example of a shared-use agreement that Amberley already hosts, look to the Amberley Green tennis courts.  Currently, they are used by both Amberley residents and the Mount Notre Dame Academy.  If you are interested in exploring more opportunities for shared use, you can contact me at wolfoncouncil@gmail.com.

As you can see from the photo, there is a good amount of interest in this project.  Please let me know if you would like to see a community garden at Amberley Green.  Would you use it? I know that I would like to have a vegetable garden where I didn't have to worry that I was simply providing salad for the wildlife in my backyard!  How about a farmers' market? Do you currently shop at one? What features do you think make for an exciting farmers' market?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Memorial dedication for TWA Flight 128

This post may be a little indulgent, because it is not about the workings of Amberley Village council, but since I won't be sworn in until Wednesday, November 30th, you will just have to indulge me...

On November 20, 1967, tragedy befell the family of Paula and Dr. Fred Wolf, as well as Amberley Village, the small community where they had chosen to raise their family. Paula and Fred were returning from a family visit in Los Angeles when the plane they were travelling on, TWA Flight 128, crashed into the hillside upon its approach to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport.  Fred, along with most of the other passengers and crew on the flight, was killed.  Paula and a handful of other passengers survived, although many were severely injured.

This past Saturday, November 26, 2011, forty-four years after this tragedy, a memorial was dedicated to the victims and survivors of Flight 128, as well as two other similar plane crashes - Flights 694 and 383 - at the Boone County airport.  My husband, Scott, became involved with the group planning the memorial when he first learned of its inception in 2009.  He was instrumental in the choice of a park-like setting for the monument, where families could both play and reflect on their loved ones.  Current council member, Peg Conway, whose seat I will be filling at the end of the month, came with her husband Joe and represented Amberley Village by taking part in the reading of the names of the victims of Flight 128.  If you watch the video, you will also see my son, Freddie -- named after his grandpa Fred -- also participate in the reading of the names, including that of his namesake.

Color Guard at Memorial

                                                         Scott's speech at the dedication

  Reading of the names of Flight 128 victims

                                                   The Memorial Plaque - Flight 128 side

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How Do You Like Your Local Government?

Last night, at the Village Council meeting, Council voted at the recommendation of the village manager to adopt Resolution 2011-22. This is a resolution opposing any action by the State of Ohio to centralize the collection of municipal income tax.  Just last Saturday, the Cincinnati Enquirer published an article regarding the Village of Indian Hill passing the exact same resolution. Indian Hill opposes state's tax plan.  It's important to examine exactly what is going on in the State of Ohio and how the actions of the current administration are having a dramatic, and negative effect, on Ohio's local governments.

In June, the State of Ohio repealed the Estate Tax. Amberley, as is the case with all local governments and schools, relies on the revenue from inheritance taxes to operate the village.  Especially, in Amberley's case, where we enjoy a lifestyle that is unencumbered by business and industry, the elimination of this source of funding proved to be a devastating blow to our budget. Additionally, the governor's budget slashed local government funding by 50% over the next two years. Kasich's budget slashes aid to local governments.  All this, plus the reduction in our property values spells bad news for Amberley.  For more on how Ohio's cuts to local governments are effecting the budgets of other Hamilton County municipalities, read what the Cincinnati Enquirer had to say on Sunday, December 18th. Our council and the new Ad Hoc Committee that is examining our finances have looked and are still looking for additional ways to cut the budget and increase revenue.  Governor Kasich expected it would be an easy fix to simply "share services" with other local governments, but Amberley has a unique situation where it already "shares" services with itself by having a combined police and fire department where all police are fireman already.

Now, the State of Ohio wants to pad its own budget with money our local government would have to pay it to collect municipal taxes when it already costs us less, and is more efficient, to do it ourselves.  Please join Amberley Village, Indian Hill, and the Ohio Municipal League in vehemently opposing any and all efforts by the State of Ohio to take over the collection of local income taxes.  Also, urge our representatives to oppose or reject any new legislation to transfer collection of power to the State of Ohio Department of Taxation.  You can contact our state representatives by clicking this link:  Contact My Representative.

Finally, last night was the last official council meeting presided over by Mayor Merrie Stillpass.  Merrie has served as an upstanding steward of Amberley Village since 1997.  She chaired or served on nearly every committee and she is responsible for the creation of the Environmental Stewardship committee which, in these times of increased environmental awareness and concern over where our food comes from, is proving to be one of the most forward-thinking committees on council.  Her skill and connections as a well-respected urban planner have helped to bring us the designation of Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.  Last year she brought recognition to Amberley Village by hosting World Town Planning Day in our community, as well as using her contacts at the number one design school in the country, UC D.A.A.P., to bring our own Amberley Green to the forefront of urban design.  We will greatly miss her skill, transparency, and most of all, her honesty, as a servant of our village.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Never once did it cross my mind that I could be the lone woman on Amberley Village council.  It did occur to me, on more than one occasion, that we could end up with seven brand new council members (in which case I would be the only female voice), but somehow, when I thought of it that way, I was still thinking of a gender-less body.  I hadn't been elected, so it was pure speculation.  But, here I am, the only woman representing the citizens of Amberley.  It's more pronounced given that our new Amberley Ad Hoc Budget Task Force consists of fourteen men and one woman.

Which is why I decided to 1) blog about my experiences as a council person and 2) call my blog "A(Lone) Wolf in the Village."  The intent of this blog is to inform the Amberley community of the workings of Village Council from my perspective as the sole female elected official on council.  I hope to let you know of initiatives that I think are important for our residents to be aware of and the numerous volunteer opportunities available to enrich your family's experience living in Amberley.

I'm a new council member, so I'll also be honest about my mistakes and what I learn from them.  I'm excited to begin serving the village and honored to have won the confidence of our residents.

Thanks for reading!