Archive for the 'green jobs' Category

07
May
11

New circulating Funny money is actually legal competition to the Mighty Buck

Witney Webre of Zeke's displays a 5 B-note now being accepted throughout Baltimore

After all this jabbering about sustainable economy — buy local, support urban farming, rediscover craft industry — a group is putting money where the big ideas are. They have created a local currency — The B-note to be more specific, legal tender that functions in same way the good ole greenback works, passing bucks from one hand to the next, except for one thing. The B-note stays in B-More Not true with the dollar, which is at the whim of the big spender who could buy a beer for the house at the corner bar or plunk some cash on an overpriced pair of sunglasses guaranteeing that the money zips out to some corporate headquarters.

“The whole purpose of this is to benefit the small independent businesses, to get people thinking about where they spend their money,” said Jeff Dicken, a member of Baltimore Green Currency Association, the group behind the currency project.

The idea was in the making for a year, as the group planned the distribution, designed the 1 and 5 B notes and raised about $8,000 to print 100,000 Bs of tender. The B-note hit the streets three weeks ago and is now being accepted by 64 business citywide all listed on Baltimoregreencurrency.com. The acceptance is far larger than the currency architects imagined.  Dicken said he had hoped that maybe they’d recruit 30 to  50 businesses in a year’s time. Now they’re looking to cap 100 business by the end of the summer.

The local currency movement basically enforces the buy local cred. That is the B-note is worthless (so far) unless spent in the community in Baltimore, forcing the consumer to think or search out where they can plunk down their B-Buck.

Damien Nichols, one of the organizers, found that explaining the mechanism is behind the currency can be difficult, but Baltimore with its tight network of indigenous business understands the power of buying local.

“You’re surround the community with a fence and all the energy and the money stays here,” said Nichols.

The idea is that people can exchange dollars for B-Notes at an exchange rate of 90 cents on a dollar or ten dollars for 11 B-notes. So the purchase incentive is built in. Secondly the Baltimore Green Currency worked to set up a lateral economy where businesses buy goods and services from each other such as  a store owner can get graphic from a designer, who have agreed to accept the notes, rather than just have a group of stores, a shoping center. Whats more no one stands to profit from the currency. There is no cut. Baltimore Green Currency as an organization raised the money as a way of responding to the Recession and the strain placed on local businesses.

“When you go and buy something from Walmart, all that money leaves town,” said Michael Tew, an organizer with Green Currency.

The money collected at exchance centers or what is formally known as Cambios ( Little  Shop of Hardware, Capital Mac in Fells Point and Murray Blum in Hampden ) is put in a bank account backing the currency, according to the organizers. The idea, according to association members, is that the B-notes stay in use much like the dollar and so far few people have been  cashing in Bs back to dollars.

Rooted in the buy local, grassroots, sustainable movement, the B-note made its debut along the independent heavy neighborhood of Hampden and has since spread throughout the city.

The Baltimore Note, artfully done with the Oriole Bird on Side A and Frederick Douglas on the other for the 1 B, and The Raven with the required portrait of Poe on the other for the Fiver follows the  lead of other communities, There’s the Ithaca Hours or BerkShares in Berkshire, Mass or The Plenty in Pittsboro or Brixton Pound in London and of course Seatle, home of the World Bank Riots, came out with Local-Bucks. And now Baltimore Green Currency stands ready about the 100,000 in cash notes, 6,000 on the streets.

You get the idea, progressives playing with money.   But the economics benefits is very tangible and cross-cuts the community.

“It gives you a real way to buy local and Baltimore as a community takes pride in that,” said Nichols.

Still adopting a new currency was a bit much for some businesses owners to handle. One owner laughed at the idea that someone came into her store with the idea of  printing their own money.

“I’m still coming around to it,” she said.

Others like Mickey Fried, owner of Belle Hardware in Bolton  Hill, locked on to the political ramifications of creating local money. When asked to accept the currency he considered what would happen if he was inundated with the B-note. Would he be able to use it and of course there’s overall concern: What if the B-note fails.?

“It’s a risk because if it fall flat on its face, then frankly we’ve basically given the stuff away,” he said.

But Fried also had faith in Baltimore’s tight network of small business and likes striking back at the ever  expanding move to bring in corporate stores where the profits leave the city for corporate headquarters.

“There are lot of people who  have put a lot of emphasis into what a slip of paper (dollar) is worth, but I don’t think they thought much about the circulation. If you don’t think about w here you spend your money, that money isn’t staying in your community.”

Jokingly called hippie money, the B-note has captured  the attention of the usual suspects, small businesses people already rooted in social consciousness that these days has been translated in that over-used word – “Sustainability.”.

But the real challenge is for the B-note to translate into the regular  sector, where money exchange hands in crumpled bills in quick pace, basically a place like a famous deli on Lombard Street or a popular movie house on Charles Street or how about a baseball stadium off  395. The day the B-note gets in the hands of the apathetic spenders, the greater the change. The organizers know this and are pushing on with goals like having the city accept the B-note. Last week Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake happily posed with a B-note. A sign of the future or bandwagon move by a politician.

This ain't funny money, it's the latest in the Buy Local Movement

11
Nov
10

Maryland Oyster-culture and the Good fight

Growing the oysters isn’t the first hurdle facing those who want to take up a new vocation being offered by the State of Maryland  along with  $2.2 million in loans. The applications process is also harrying prospective speculators into an aquaculture gambit that’s also fraught with disease that has bacially wiped out the private fishery, nevermind the specter of poaching. Currently, the application process has to run through three state agencies and then the Army Corps of Engineers. According to a source the Baltimore district of the Army Corps of Engineers is more tedious than its Norfolk counter-part which oversees a 30 million oyster-culture industry in Virginia. Maryland has none and that has Maryland officials scrambling to set up  new regulations to bring in new entreprenuers to try their hand at oyster-culture.

So far 17 people have applied for grounds covering more than 2000 acroes of bay bottom. Before the new regulations were inacted in September 485 people had leases, almost all of which sat fallow thanks to two deseases MSX and Dermo that kill the oysters before they grow to market size.

“There are new methods of oyster-culture and new strains of oyster that are resistant to disease that you can basically grow faster than the dissease can kill them,” said Mike Naylor, Assistant Director of Maryland Fisheries Service.

He said the trick is to get the oysters planted as soon as possible since investors will have to wait at least a year and half until their oysters are market ready. He said that officials are working to streamline the process and foresees an easier time for people in the future, “It doesn’t help anyone in the middle of it right now.”

After listening to the application details put forth by several state officials at a conference last week, Donald Merrit, a research biologist for the University of Maryland’s Horn Point Center for Environmental Studies, took his turn at the podium with a shake of his head: “Why in the hell would anybody would want to wade through this mess,” he said.  One Virginia oyster grow visiting the Maryland confernce said the idea of going through the application process “makes me sick.”

But most of those in the audience were still running on the fumes of their entrepreneurial hopes, some griping, others ratcheting up  the tint on their rose-colored glasses. There were fringe watermen, part-timers who see potential as well as marine business folk who construction of say piers have gone cold during this endless recession. There were speculators and a representative from the Accohannock Tribe in Somerset County, Md. “I think there is going to be opportunities, if you don’t jump in, you’re a fool,” said Will Gabeler who attended with his boss Apple Marine Construction, which right now focuses on bulkheads and development mitigation. One would be oyster-businessman who request anonymity because he may apply said it seemed that they were making it up as they are going on. And yet, these new regulations is being closely watched with checked hopes by industry insiders and environmentalists who all note that Maryland’s stab at oysterculture  took a hundred years of facing down a political culture who put up obstacles for  private growers. Even Merrit soften his acrimony for those hammering together the regulations, saying that state officials already worked on streamlining  the process, but urged — more like barked like a coach, “but there’s more work to be done.” Oyster-culture, the endeavor to grow oysters in rafts or in cages in the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay, is very much a marginalized industry in the very state that made the mollusk a national item almost 150 years ago. In the 1800s, the oyster was to the Chesapeake that gold was to California, spawning a massive canning industry in Baltimore shipped out across the country on the B&O. But while oyster fishery was decimated thanks to disease and overfishing,  Maryland has stubbornly kept to the public fisheries basically allowing a hunter and gather,first come first serve method, while the oyster population has plunged to less than 1 percent of its original population. In the 1880s the oyster fishery was producing about 10 million bushels annually. This year if the watermen pull more than 130,000 bushels than it will be seen as a good year. Oysters aren’t just good in a po-boy sandwich or on the half shell, they are seen by scientist as a keystone species, major filters that eat up the nasty algae responsible for large dead zones in the once bountiful bay. While officials don’t believe that creating a viable oysterculture fishery will be enough to mitigate  the decades pollution ranging from broken sewage treatment plants to lawn runoff to poultry pollution, it’s a start. At the very least it should offer some economic stability to a way of life that at times seems on the border of extinction.

The deadline to apply for a lease passed on Monday Nov. 15. The deadline for a loan is Nov. 30th.