Happy Nowruz. Here’s the neighborhood pomegranate tree.
Some personal news
Frozen custard has long been a passion of mine — a passion I’m thrilled to soon share with Atlanta.
“That sounds amazing!”
Get yourself a friend who loves what you do you as much as Zane Lowe loves everything every person he interviews does.
Relieving my excess liquidity
12 years ago I visited Kenya for CARE to learn about how its community savings programs were going digital. The groups save money together and make loans to members of the group to buy things like seeds, tools, or to make school tuition payments that come due before the harvest. Before the harvest is when farm families often have the least amount of money. The repayment rate for these loans, with interest, is near 100%.
CARE’s community savings groups worked so well that by the turn of the last decade success spawned a problem in some communities: too much cash. The savings groups members didn’t like that months of their savings sat in a locked metal box. They were worried a boxful of cash would tempt thieves.
The English speaking members of the groups in Kenya I spoke to referred to the problem of having too much cash as excess liquidity. Their solution to excess liquidity was improvised and ingenious. They’d started taking their cash to local shop owners who operated M-Pesa terminals. M-Pesa was (and is) a mobile phone-based payments system. Users load their accounts with cash to send electronic payments to other M-Pesa users. It’s like Venmo, PayPal or Cash app, but it was 1) all done by SMS on pre-smart mobile phones 2) and it was happening a decade before mobile payments took off in the U.S.
The groups I visited were in small towns, 2-3 hour drives from my hotel. During one long drive I asked the CARE Kenya co-worker driving me if we could stop somewhere with a restroom. “I have excess liquidity,” I said.
12 years later I still say “excess liquidity” to myself when I have to pee, but never aloud because in the time it would take to explain I’d wet myself.
Happy Valentine’s Day
There’s a new picture of downtown Atlanta emerging—but who will it be for?
For the January 2023 issue of Atlanta Magazine I spoke to the Darin Givens (@ATLUrbanist), Bem Joiner (Atlanta Influences Everything), Kelly Parry (Atlanta Downtown Neighborhood Association) and Rohit Malhotra (Center For Civic Innovation and the pending makeover of Downtown Atlanta and who the neighborhood should be for.
Why has the intown residential influx of the past two decades skipped the part of the city that actually has the physical infrastructure to support growth? Kelly Parry, a downtown resident who sits on the Atlanta Downtown Neighborhood Association board, thinks office tower owners’ interests have thwarted people-friendly improvements. She points to the city’s March 2022 decision to remove a pedestrian lane from Peachtree Street in front of Peachtree Center, a fortress complex infamous for its hostile-to-streetlife elevated people-moving tubes. “If Tim Keane [Atlanta’s recently departed head of planning] can’t say Hey, y’all, let’s pedestrianize this one lane on a street that’s generally dead, then the problem isn’t that we don’t know how to do urbanism, or that there’s no appetite for it. It’s that we have powerful people and a culture actively preventing it,” Parry said.
You can read the rest for the low low price of free on Atlanta Magazine’s web site, but you should subscribe to Atlanta Magazine.