Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Toynbee Tiles, Traffic & Socialism 3/25/09

Toynbee Tiles:
In June of ’07 The Contrarian wrote about a Toynbee Tile that appeared near the northern crosswalk at 9th and Logan Streets in Noblesville. Toynbee Tiles are mysterious linoleum-cut messages embedded in the asphalt of a city street and refer, in part to the film, 2001, A Space Odyssey. Thousands of such messages have been found in major cities around the U.S. and South America. The person(s) placing the messages remains unknown.
A mosaic of letters, cut from linoleum-like flooring materials are sandwiched between two pieces of roofing felt, then dropped on a newly paved street on a hot day and become embedded by car tires. As the top layer of roofing felt is worn away by traffic, the linoleum message is revealed.
A new one has appeared at Conner and 9th Streets, just south of the crosswalk between the Corner Cottage and the old Lake and Lodge building. Another appeared and quickly disintegrated at the same intersection last summer.
For more in depth info, try the Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toynbee_tiles
Traffic in Noblesville
In October of ’07, the new Exit 10 opened at 146th and I-69, extending the 4 lanes of 146th Street from I-69 to western Carmel. The Contrarian argued then it might dramatically reduce traffic along Conner Street. Before that, much of the east/west traffic in Hamilton County had no other option but to funnel through Old Town via State Road 32 or Greenfield Avenue. Suddenly there was a better option.
The general consensus among The Contrarian’s friends who live on Conner is that traffic is as bad as ever.
By mid-2009 new INDOT traffic counts for Conner will come out and we’ll see what’s actually happened, but I suspect my friends are right.
In a related matter, recently a city official suggested to the Contrarian that traffic volume on streets like Conner had not dramatically increased in the past 20-30 years.
That might initially seem a little nutty, but there was a strong argument to go along with it, founded in traffic flow science. He argued that when traffic gets oppressive on a particular street, some frustrated drivers start taking alternative routes, thereby tempering traffic on the busy street.
As a result of the conversation The Contrarian tracked down 15+ years worth of Conner Street traffic counts. Between the early ‘80s and late ’90s, traffic on the residential stretch of Conner Street increased by 232%
Socialism or Monarchy
A recent Contrarian column was about the notions of entitlement that contributed to our current economic woes. Since then, leaders in Washington have tried to mandate that union workers at struggling car companies accept pay cuts as part of auto bailout agreements, and have also tried to retrieve high-dollar bonuses AIG execs were paid, presumably with taxpayer bailout money.
Both groups should be taking pay cuts. Not for a philosophical dislike of unions or the extremely wealthy, but because of simple practicality.
If workers want to unionize and bargain as a group, it’s their right. But when people around the world are willing to work for a fraction of UAW pay, the union doesn’t have much bargaining power. If UAW workers want to even have a job, as sorry as we may be about it, they’ll have to work for less to compete. No pro or anti-union philosophy here, just reality.
And what about big Wall Street bonuses?
Many of us own stock and have 401ks and IRAs invested on Wall Street. When a chosen few at the top of Wall Street banks, brokerage firms, etc., siphoned off huge amounts of money as bonuses, they were taking our money.
Should the best and brightest and hardest workers get paid the most? Sure. But how much is too much?
If you own your own company, take as much pay as you want. It’s none of our business. But if you work for a publicly traded company, or work buying and selling publicly traded stocks for investors - and you take an irrationally high pay package, well you’re taking from investors to fund your lavish lifestyle – not because it’s fair, but because you can. As an investor, it’s fundamentally unwise to invest in a company that foolishly wastes money like that, especially if that company is failing.
And forget about the bailout money for the moment. Companies who overpaid execs were diminishing our return on investment long before recent federal bailouts.
If union pay and benefits are suggestive of socialism, then excessive executive pay is suggestive of monarchy – the notion that by sheer position, someone is entitled to massive wealth at the expense of others.
Wall Street insiders say that if these guys don’t earn mega-millions, they’ll take their talent’s elsewhere. As with UAW workers, in this economy, you have to kinda scratch your head and wonder where they’d take their talents. And, if we learned anything from the Savings and Loan crisis of the late ‘80s, the Enron scandal, and our current economic crisis, it’s that these fellas at the top aren’t the irreplaceable, infallible geniuses that their gargantuan pay packages suggest they are.
So let them go to another company if they can find one. We’ll all make a better return on our investments without them feeling entitled to skim off the top like monarchs, Mafiosos and 3rd world dictators.

1 comment:

  1. I realize this entry is now the internet equivalent of ancient history, but I thought I would comment on the Toynbee tiles. I have found two of them locally over the last few years, which I have not seen documented anywhere. One is at Carmel High School, on 4th Av NE, in the right lane at the intersection with Main St. The other is in the parking lot at Fry's near 96th and I69, across from the entrance and a couple of rows down.