Monthly Archives: August 2009

College Parking/Environmental Responsibility

The Provo-Student Alliance has recently received a fair amount of attention and press for its efforts to involve students in local activities.  While it’s genuinely exciting to see another organization getting students more involved, this particular group is wrong about the very idea it was founded to protect: student parking. 


Like many college towns, Provo has serious parking problems.  The streets are filled with student cars, which I know frustrates permanent residents.  Related to (or possibly stemming out of) this conflict, Provo city has recently pushed a plan to require permits for students to park immediately south of campus.


The goals of the students fighting for the right to park near campus are understandable, but also painfully near-sighted.  For one, simply maintaining the status quo will merely postpone inevitable conflict; students will continue to park in increasing numbers on the streets, while residents get angry and city leaders eye student pocket books.  This isn’t going to change, especially since BYU slowly increases its enrollment over time.  More importantly however, the Student-Provo Alliance is arguing in favor of an activity that is environmentally destructive and practically unnecessary.  Driving pollutes, and student cars are typically among the oldest and dirtiest on the road.  Accordingly, advocacy of student parking implies advocacy of student driving and, subsequently, of student polluting as well.  Though I doubt that many in the Provo-Student Alliance think of the issue in these terms, their agenda will cause lasting and harmful collateral damage to the environment by fighting the curtailment of a destructive activity.  Ultimately then, when considered in terms of environmental impact, the students are on the wrong side of the debate when they argue that their own convenience trumps greater responsibility to the environment.


While I suspect that the motivation behind the permit proposal was ill-conceived and largely an exercise in resentment directed against students, the ultimate result of the idea—fewer cars on the streets—is a desirable one.  If students are required to buy parking permits, fewer of them will be willing or able to park (though I’d like to see the plan altered to not blatantly favor rich students over poor ones).  In the short-term this will create frustration, late nights looking for parking, missed classes, and a multitude of other hardships for students.  Basically, it’ll be rough.  However, as current students begin to graduate and move on (and take their cars with them), the lack of parking will become simply one of many other considerations new students have to think about.  With no place to store cars, fewer students will be able to bring them in the first place.  More people will have to walk, bike, or use public transportation.  The city will have to adapt planning and zoning practices to a populace that can only travel a few miles, as opposed to one that drives everywhere.  With time (at least five or six years, though maybe as much as a generation), the hardships immediately following the permit plan will recede, having become merely growing pains during a time of change.      


If the Provo-Student Alliance really wants to help students, it might pause to consider what will be most beneficial to students in five, ten, or fifty years.  Unfortunately, driving isn’t that thing. In addition to the many wonderful things that this organization is now doing (things like voter registration drives), it should shift its focus toward reducing students’ need for driving.  For example, the Alliance could petition the city for mixed residential and commercial zoning that would allow students to work and play closer to where they live.  For it’s part, Provo city could explain their proposals in better terms that demonstrate a benefit to students as well as residents (in the end, the problem with this most recent plan wasn’t so much the idea itself as it was the fact that its branding left it reeking of prejudice).  If that happens it’s likely that both long-term residents and students alike will assume greater responsibility for their shared community and our environment.


Filed under community, commuting, driving, environment, pollution, Provo

Local Location in Review: Muse Music Café

For a while now I’ve wanted to write up a review of Muse Music.  As a member of Electron Deception now, as well as previous bands in the past, I’ve spent a handful of nights on the stage at Muse.  More importantly, however, I keep going back as an audience member and café patron.  The atmosphere is gritty and rock and roll, and the people who work there are among the coolest members of the local music scene.  There’s also really good food and innovative community events.  In other words, Muse Music is one of Provo’s most valuable treasures. 


Food: Muse Music has been a staple of Provo’s music scene for a long time, but in recent years owners Jake and Melissa Haws converted the front half of the space from a record store to a full fledged café.  The menu fluctuates somewhat: there used to be soups and other assorted items, but today they mostly just serve sandwiches and snacks.  Still, the current offerings illustrate well the old cliché “only the strong will survive.”  I’d recommend the Ultimate Grilled Cheese.  I know, you can make a grilled cheese sandwich at your house, but you can’t make this sandwich at your house.  I was skeptical at first too but now I’m hooked.  The Turkey Pesto is a close second.  There’s also a wide array of Italian Sodas. I’m not actually a huge fan of Italian Soda generally, but these ones are as good as any I’ve tried elsewhere, so if that’s your thing, go for it. 


Atmosphere: One of the best parts about Muse Music is the way they’ve partitioned their space.  You can treat it as a restaurant, a music venue, or some combination of both.  If you’re not into local bands go pick up some food in the early evening and there’ll be a quiet cafe ambiance; if you want to feel like your in the thick of things, go later (they’re usually open late because of shows).  One of my favorite things to do is to go see a band I like but when it gets too loud move to the café where I can still hear the music but it’s quiet enough to have a conversation.  Also, check the calendar for special events.  All summer they’ve been doing movie screenings on Monday nights and there are frequently acoustic nights, jazz nights, and free open mic nights.  (Keep in mind that if you go to something free at Muse Music, it doesn’t hurt to buy a drink or something.  That’s how they stay in business and pay the rent.  Don’t mooch, it’s lame and if people don’t buy stuff obviously businesses go away.) 


Service: The service at Muse Music is what I’d call “local.”  That means that you might have to wait for the person taking concert admission money to finish and come make your sandwich, and that nothing operates with the slick efficiency of a franchise business.  I think these things actually make the place more personable and charming, but if you’re expecting generic fast food (or if you’re just a jerk), you might be let down.  In the end, the up side of “local” service is that if you go in a bunch, you’ll be remembered; if your friendly, you might have an interesting conversation with the person on the other side of the counter; if you hang out for a bit you might see some cool art or discover a new local band.  Ultimately, Jake and Melissa are among the nicest, coolest people I’ve met and it seems like they hire people who take after them.


Whether you’re into local music or not, Muse Music is a great place to hang out, eat, and participate in local culture.  It provides (much needed) continuity to the rapidly changing downtown area and, if you aren’t careful, it might make you start to fall in love with Provo.


Filed under buy local, local

The Golden Corral Hates Your Town

I’m no fan of chain restaurants, but The Golden Corral has recently crossed the line from an irritating big business to a malignant antagonist of local eateries. 


In a TV commercial the chain is currently airing a man orders a number of normally expensive items from a local restaurant.  The waiter is accommodating until the man says he wants everything for under ten dollars (or something close to it, I’m not sure about the exact value), at which point the waiter seemingly panics.  The thesis of this ad is that while you can get the same menu items from local restaurants, The Golden Corral will undercut their local competitors and give your cheaper food.   (I saw this commercial on TV and couldn’t find it online anywhere.  If anyone can I’d love to link to it.) 


Like many commercials, this one was probably supposed to be funny and like many it also utterly fails in that regard.  What’s more problematic however, is that the ad characterizes local restaurants as inept, buffoonish establishments that can’t compete with chains.  This attitude brings the march of generic, mediocre food to our doorsteps as it tries to wipe out not only competing corporate restaurants, but local ones as well. 


In reality, local restaurants are better than chains in nearly every way.  They offer better food and usually competitive prices.  (When they’re more expensive it’s usually because they serve better food.)  On the other hand, chains like The Golden Corral have banal menus written in office suites.  How that is a good thing I’ll never know.  


If this recent ad campaign were to completely accomplish its objective, no one would visit local restaurants any more.  In turn, local restaurants would go out of business.  Money would be siphoned away from local economies and there would be less innovation in the market place.  I don’t necessarily think The Golden Corral intended for their ad to be as malicious as it is, but then again not many people who do bad things started off trying to be bad. 


The ultimate result of this commercial is that The Golden Corral has cast itself as a corporate bully pushing around smaller businesses.  There’s no reason to support that behavior.  There’s no reason to endorse a company whose objectives also happen to be destructive to our communities.  In the end, there’s no reason to eat at this restaurant.

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Filed under Food, local, restaurant