Monday, June 18, 2018

Catch-22

http://www.citylab.com; June 7, 2018


Hello Everyone:

It is a beautiful Monday afternoon and time to blog.  First, a look at current events.  The images are horrific: Parents and children being separated by border patrol agents upon arrival in the United States.   Regardless of what party you vote, you cannot turn a blind eye to the cruelty of the Trump adminsitration's Zero-Tolerance policy toward undocumented immigrants.  What is even worse is there is no protocol in place for parents to stay in touch with their children or family re-unification.  Further, it raises concerns about the possibility of the parents unknowingly signing away their rights, making it possible for their children to be adopted away.  Blogger lives in a border state and can appreciate the need for safe secure borders but not at the expense of a child taken from his or her parents.  If you have not done so already, read former FLOTUS Laura Bush's sharp rebuke to this heinous policy in today's Washington Post (washingtonpost.com; June 18, 2018).  Cruelty is not what the United States is about.  If we are to continue our claim of being a just and moral country, Zero-Tolerance must end.  On to something more pleasant.

Culture and urban development.  What do they have in common?  Richard Florida writes in his CityLab article "How Culture Shapes Economic Development," "One of the big questions in urbanism is the degree to which culture shapes economic development."  Conventional wisdom said that "culture follows from economic development: The more developed and affluent that a city becomes, the more money that it has to spend creating art galleries, museums, concert halls, and other cultural venues."

Mr. Florida's own studies of the creative class and a large number of studies support the fact that culture functions as a key driver in economic development by attracting "talented, ambitious people to cities.  Others go further, contending that arts and culture are large industries that act as direct inputs into development."

A recent paper, The New Urban Success: How Culture Pays (frontiersin.org; date accessed June 18, 2018) jointly authored by University of Cambridge and Nokia Bell Labs scientists: Desislava Hristova, Luca M. Aiello, and Daniele Quercia takes a deep dive into the link between culture and economic development in New York and London.  The paper, published in Frontiers in Physics, "looks at the way in which culture and cultural capita, interact with economic factors (such as changes in median income and house prices) to shape urban economic development."  Since urban economic development and culture are increasingly connected to gentrification and deepening inequality, the paper "looks at the effect of cultural capital on housing prices and housing affordability in these cities."

The co-authors set about accomplishing this by following approximately "1.5 million photographic images of the venues and events that comprise he cultural capital of both New York and London."  The  paper separates cultural capital into nine categories: "advertising and market; architecture; crafts; design (product, graphic, and fashion); IT software and computer services; publishing; museums, galleries, and libraries; and music, performing, and visual arts."

Richard Florida reports, "The study gauges the effects of these types of cultural capital on both median income, house prices,many composite indexes of urban development in London's 33 boroughs and 60 of New York's 71 community districts over the period 2007 to 2014, spans the Great Recessiin and its recovery."  The main point is that "culture or cultural capital plays a key role, operating alongside more traditional economic factors, in shaping urban development."

"Culture and neighborhood development"

CityLab re-printed a graph generated by the co-authors that illustrates the function of cultural capital and economic development in New York and London, respectively.  Mr. Florida writes, "The study finds that both these types of capital have a role in urban development and the improvement of neighborhoods."  Each dot on the graph corresponds to a neighborhoods and its placement on the graph is measured by the twin values of capital for that particular neighborhood.  The size of the dot corresponds to positive change in development; the larger and darker the dot, the greater the level of development.

Richard Florida reports, "Cultural capital plays a strong role, alongside economic factors, in neighborhoods in the upper right-hand quadrant of these graphs."  This quadrant includes the posh London neighborhoods of Kensington and Chelsea, Westminister, and the City of London; and tony New York City neighborhoods of Greenwich Village, Midtown, and Brooklyn Heights.  Cultural capital also largely factors into economic development in neighborhoods in the lower right-hand quadrant of the graphs: Camden, Islington, and Hackney in London; the Lower East Side, Bushwick, and East Harlem in New York?

Mr. Florida asks this question, " But do certain types of culture and certain forms of cultural capital matter to neighborhood development?"

To understand this, the paper analyzes the specific types of cultural capital hat affected the development of specific neighborhoods.  Mr. Florida observes, "Performance arts are prominent in he central areas of both cities, while architecture in both central and peripheral areas."  For example, East London specializes in design, while West London tends to specialize in marketing and the performing arts.

CityLab published another set of charts follows the effects of cultural specialization and cultural diversity on community development.  The color of the dots corresponds to a location's cultural specialty, and the size of dots reflects its cultural diversity.

Throughout London and New York, "higher levels of neighborhood development are associated with cultural diversity as well as cultural capital."  Mr. Florida writes, "The neighborhoods with the highest levels of development tend to specialize in performing arts.  In London, higher levels of urban development are also associated with the design and publishing industries.

"Culture and housing prices"

Between director Spike Lee's anti-gentrification screeds (citylab.com; Nov. 29, 2017; date accessed June 18, 2018) to singer-songwriter extraordinaire David Byrnes' compliant that New York City has been taken over by the top 1 percent (observer.com; Oct. 8, 2013; date accessed June 18, 2018), the arts and culture have come to symbolize gentrification triggers and increasing housing prices.  Another set of graphs illustrates the close connection between cultural capita, housing prices around New York and London, although Mr. Florida notes, "... although cultural capital appears to play an even greater role in London's housing prices than in New York's."  All of these specific kinds of cultural capital associated with housing prices increases, however, again, the associations are closer in London than in New York.  The co-authors explain,

[E]lven though several economic and geographical factors impact house prices--such as property type or size... cultural capital alone holds a considerable explanatory power.

Ultimately, the paper concluded that "cultural capital has been a significant factor in development of urban neighborhoods in superstar cities of London and New York, both during and after the Great Recession."  Culture is not just an afterthought or an addition, rather, "a key contributor to urban economic growth."  However, in powering neighborhood growth and development, it has resulted in rising housing prices and contributing to gentrification.

Richard Florida concludes, "Culture, then, is bound up with the New Urban Crisis--a crisis of development and success--which is making our largest and most dynamic cities more expensive and less affordable, and in doing so, threatens the very economic, racial, and cultural diversity which has fueled their creativity in the first place."

It is kind of a Catch-22 situation: To achieve urban economic development, you need a cultural attraction.  However, in creating a cultural attraction, you risk driving up housing prices, driving out the very people and places that made a neighborhood so attractive in the first place.  The solution lies in a more inclusive approach to cultural development that benefits everyone. 


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Where We Are Now

 

Hello Everyone:

It is a sunny Wednesday afternoon in the WHOLE STATE OF CALIFORNIA and time again for Blogger Candidate Forum.  Sorry about the upper case letters but Silicon Valley tech billionaire Tom Draper has spenway too much time in locked room, in front of a screen, managed to qualify a proposition on the November ballot that, if passed would split the state in three.  California has the fifth largest economy in the world, the largest Congressional delegation, and the home of the Digital Revolution.  Hopefully, the good people of the Golden State will see this for what it is, a complete waste of taxpayer time and money.  In happier news, the FIFA World Cup starts tomorrow in Sochi.  Hurray.  Who is ready for some futbol?  Looking down the road to 2026, FIFA announced the United States, Canada, and Mexico was awarded the World Cup.  Alright, time to peer into the electoral future.

It is still primary season and what has become apparent is women are leading the way.  Women Democratic candidates are emerging victorious in House of Representative primary elections.  Female candidates are also winning contests for the state house.  The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are no doubt paying attention.  More important, the DCCC should pay attention to their message, focus on the issues, not on the president.  Another thing the DCCC is keeping a very sharp eye on are the House races in California.  It goes without saying that the road to flipping the House goes through California.  Rather than read the coffee grounds, Blogger is turning to a more accurate source, Cook's Political Report, to find out what are the chances of a House flip.

First, California Democrats are breathing a huge sigh of relief, they avoided being "locked out" of the infamous "jungle primary--" top-two primaries, going through to the November ballot in the seven Republican seats they targeted.  David Wasserman noted that "...in several districts, they didn't avert catastrophe by much (cookpolitical.com; June 8, 2018; date accessed June 13, 2018)."  Meanwhile, New Jersey Democrats had an easier time with their races, "...top recruits comfortably won their primaries in two key GOP-held open seats (Ibid)."  Now that all the ballots have been (mostly) counted and Democrats are pleased with the results.  A win is a win and the Democrats will take it.

David Wasserman observes, "The DCCC deserves credit for the strategic investment they made to prevent nightmare 'shut out' scenario, particularly in Orange County."  In the 39th congressional district, Navy veteran/philanthropist Gil Cisneros benefited from DCCC help, advancing five points.  Over in the CD 48th minor GOP candidate John Gabbard got a small boost (3.5 percent) and may have help stave off two Republicans.

Down San Diego way, the 49th congressional district vacated by Rep. Darrell Issa (R) is being contested by environmental attorney Mike Levin and state Board of Equalization Chair Diane Harkey.  Ms. Harkey was propelled into the top spot thanks to the DCCC's relentless attacks on state Assemblyperson Rocky Chavez.  The two will face each other in November.

Republicans had some good moment.  First and foremost, the California governor's race will be between current Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (D) and Republican lawyer John Cox.  Mr. Cox is endorsed by the president and Mr. Trump promised to campaign for Mr. Cox in California.  Oh this should be good.  The upside is that had Republicans been shut out of the top state races, GOP voter turnout would have been depressed.  The successful recall of state Democratic Senator Josh Newman illustrates just how important the gas tax is going into the fall campaign.

David Wasserman reports, "Republicans got the female candidates they waned in both vulnerable open seat: Harkey in the San Diego 49th CD and Assemblywoman Young Kim in the open Orange County 39th CD."  In some of the districts, the Republicans got the Democratic candidates they wanted (really): "...consumer advocate Katie Porter narrowly advanced in the 45th CD, potentiallthrowing GOP Rep. Mimi Walters a lifeline."

Has the "blue wave" peaked?  Some observers seem to think so, "arguing GOP candidates combined for a majority of primary of votes in all 14 GOP-held except the open 49th CD."  Case in point, Republicans Steve Knight (CA-25) and Mimi Walters (CA-45) have a healthy "53 percent of the all party vote, despite being top Democratic fall targets."

David Wasserman writes, But this take ignores that in most districts, up to a third of the vote remains uncounted, and historically, California's late-returned/counted ballots have skewed Democratic.  In addition, California's June primaries typically bring out an older, whiter and more GOP electorate." 

As we noted at the beginning of the post, female candidates continue to dominate the Democratic   races (cookpolitical.com; May 24, 2018; date accessed June 13, 2018).  So far, in party primaries have featured a least one woman, one man, and no incumbent on the ballot, women have been the top vote-getters 70 percent of the time. Democrats are very excited about Ms. Hill and Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11)'s prospects in November.

However, Republican women have not been as successful.  In party primaries that feature one man, one woman, and no incumbent, women were the top vote-getters 38 percent of the time.  Republican women did have a good night, Ms. Kim, Ms. Harkey, and Yvette Herrell (NM-02) won their district primaries and are poised to be competitive in the fall, defeating better funded male candidates.

What does this mean for the House in November.  Cook Political Report predicts that "overall outlook of a Democtratic gain between 20 and 40 House seats (they need 23 for control). Here is where things stand as of now:

CA-21: David Valadao lean to likely Republican 
CA-49: open (Issa) toss up to lean Democrat 
CA-50: Duncan Hunter likely to solid Republican
NJ-02: open (LoBiondo) lean to likely Democrat
NJ-11: open (Frelinghuysen) toss up to lean Democrat  

A lot can happen between now and November.  Democrats need to focus on the issues that matter to the congressional districts and states.  Campaigning on the "President is the devil" platform is not going to win many votes.  Republicans should be wary about embracing the president.  His embrace of North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Un, imposition of tariffs on our allies, and his feud with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can have serious consequences on districts that voted for the president.  Further, the support the president or else platform may backfire bigly. 

   

Monday, June 11, 2018

What Surfers Know updated

http://www.citylab.com; May 25, 2018


Hello Everyone:

Before we get going on this beautiful Monday afternoon, Blogger has to apologize to Canadian fans for Mr. Trump's temper tantrum at the annual G7 meeting in Canada, this past weekend.  There are Americans, like Blogger, who like our good neighbors to the north.  Most of us really have no major issue with our friends.  To fans in the six remaining member G7 nations, we like you too.  In other news, Mr. Trump and Norh Korean leader Kim Jong Un are set to meet in Singapore.  The North Koreans see it as a " get to know you" meeting, while the president sees it as something greater.  Really, high can expectations be when you are dealing with two erratic heads of state with nuclear codes?  Alright, time to hit the beach for some surfer wisdom.

Surfers tend to be very territorial about where they ride the waves.  Jack Persons writes about his experiences in his CityLab article, "What Surfers Understand About Gentrification," "When I go surfing below the Golden Gate Bridge, my worries include shark attacks, hidden underwater boulders, and strong currents that could pull into shipping lane.... There's something way uglier there that scares me more: surf localism."

Case in point, Fort Point--"Fort to locals--is a novelty wave located underneath the south end of" the Golden Gate Bridge.  It is a gorgeous setting with more surfers than waves.  However, when that happens, the Fort regulars get very territorial, very fast.

To offset overcrowding, local surfers have acquired a well earned reputation for bulling newcomers.  A short documentary, Fort Point--Locals Only! (liveleak.com; date accessed June 11, 2018) on he surf spot, Mr. Persons writes, "one local reports seeing hundreds of violent incident in the water in his 30 years of surfing there, including broken boards and fins, beatings, and attempted drownings."  Shockingly, there has only been one conviction (sfgate.com; May 15, 2003; date accessed June 11, 2018) during this reign of intimidation and violence.  "In 2003, three surfers at Fort assaulted a Berkeley resident during a spring afternoon session.  They held him underwater, broke his nose, and left a gash in his eye that required eight stitches.  None of them received jail time."

Steve Hawk, the former editor of Surfer magazine told CityLab,

I have friends who are really good surfers, very knowledgeable, surfing forever, would not go out and make idiots of themselves, and they won't go surf Fort Point,... I've never surged Fort Point, because you just know those guys are dicks...you stay away from those guys because they have this reputation of being jerks, no matter what you do.  (surfer.com; June 11, 2018; )

What makes this story particulately newsworthy is that the standoff between Bay Area surfers and newcomers, is that "there's a somewhat similar struggle ensuing on dry land nearby.  San Francisco has become a case study in the impact of gentrification, as well-compensated tech industry worker have surged into the the city,..."  The surge of newcomers has transformed the city's unique character, driven up the cost of living, and pushed longtime residents.  This has resulted in a critical affordable housing shortage: "Between 2010 and 2015, the number of jobs created in San Francisco outnumbered he number of houses built by a ratio of more than eight to one (sf.curbed.com; July 26, 2017; date accessed May 25, 2018)."  In the newly gentrified City by the Bay, the tech sector and its wealth are the way.  However, there is one place where wealth has its limits: the ocean.

Jack Persons describes Fort Point, "...breaks along a seawall that protects its namesake, a military installation built during the Gold Rush (nps.gov; date accessed June 12, 2018) to defend San Francisco Bay from foreign attacks. "  The original plans for the Golden Gate Bridge called for the demolition of the building, however, "the bridge's chief engineer, Joseph Strauss, decided instead to build an arch over it."  During  World War II, the fort acted as a last line of defense from submarine attacks.  In 1970, it became a National Historic Site and continues to be a cornerstone San Francisco's storied history.

The California Coastal Commission mandates that the majority of the state's beaches be made accessible to the public.  The earliest surfers at Fort were trespassing on military property, now anyone can paddle out and catch a wave as long as their skills and confidence holds up.  Matt Warshaw, another former editor at Surfer and current curator of the Encyclopedia of Surf (eos.surf; date accessed June 12, 2018) , told CityLab,

What's kind of amazing about surfing is also terrible about surfing: It's unregulated,... It's just people stepping out into the wild outside.  There's no out there directing things, so you work it out yourselves.

It is this sense of stepping out into the wild, where the locals are the big fish, Mr. Warshaw continues,

There's people for whom that's the most important thing to them, sort like gang turf or something.  They get to rule,... They're in charge out there in a way that they're not in charge anywhere else in their lives.

Jack Persons observes, "While this has always been true, it's especially striking now, because the water is one of the few places left where longtime residents still have a leg up on the new order of affluent San Franciscans."  Without their fierce territoriality, the Fort locals would be quickly overrun by outsiders from every part of San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area.  The hierarchy is based on "knowledge, ability, ego, and a group of friends o back you up," not socio-economic status or job title.

William Finnegan's two-part New Yorker article "Playing Doc's Games (networker.com; Aug. 31, 1992; date accessed June 12, 2018)," is an in-depth look into San Francisco's surf scene during the eighties,  clearly illustrating this dynamic.  Mr. Person summarizes, " Finnegan recounts a trip he took to Fuller's Beach in Big Sur, an unincorporated stretch of wilderness just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, with the eponymous subject, Doc Renneker.  As Finnergan paddled out to the lineup, he noticed that everyone else knew each other, and they just weren't about let anybody they didn't know have an waves if the could help it.

This kind of me-first-NIMBY-ism "creates a selfishness that permeates popular breaks everywhere...."  At times, this behavior is necessary.  "Visiting surfers rarely have a good grasp of the dymanics of a wave, and Fort breaks very close to the boulder-strewn seawall.  A mistake by an outsider can lead to a local getting washed into the rocks."  Safety is a paramount issue at any surf spot, and sometimes the only way to make that point crystal clear is to engage in threatening behavior.

Mostly, its first-come-first-served.  For every wave taken by a newcomer means one less ride for a Fort local.  Matt Warshaw said,

Just about every bad thing in surf comes from people feeling that they're not getting their fair share of waves,... If people were getting enough waves, none of that would matter.

Typical with booming cities, popularity breeds the fear of displacement.  A study by the Surf Industry Manufacturers Associatiin, " the number of surfers in the United States increase 1.8 million in 2004 to 2.6 million in 2016 (newsweek.com; July 23, 2016; date accessed June 12, 2018)."  The number of new surfers continues to grow, technology continues to improve the equipment and forecasting has eliminated barriers to surf access.  Crowds are noticeably heavier on days with good conditions at spot around San Francisco due to website sites like Surfline (surfline.com date accessed June 12, 2018) and Magicseaweed (magicseaweed.com; date accessed June 12, 2018).  Forecasting has gotten precise enough that it can predict swells more than weeks ahead of time, giving visitors plenty of time to plan ahead.

Longtime surf journalist (surfline.com; Jan. 4, 2016; date accessed June 12, 2018) and author (amazon.com; date accessed June 12, 2018) Ben Marcus told CityLab,

You forget how distant and removed people were in the '70s and '80s.  Not everybody knew everything everything.  Everybody knows everything now,... We didn't know when swells were coming back then, we want by sound and by smell.  You lie in your bed and you hear it and you figure it out.

Prior to the Internet, the best way to find out if conditions were optimal in San Francisco was to ring Wise Surfboards, a shop near the beach.  This was not rocket science; "a recording told the caller what the waves looked like earlier that day.  This advantaged locals living near the beach, who had to drive a few minutes to check the conditions, over East Bay or Marin residents."  Now all you need is a smartphone with the right apps can check the forecast days in advance and guarntee a good session.

We live in an age of instant gratification that has crept onto the water by way of luxury surf clubs and high-end board rental programs have begun to build a market in the Bay Area.  Andy Olive, a former employee of Wise during the nineties told CityLab,

[Newer surfers] want to go down and have a quick surf, and get a couple of waves, and go back to their normal life,.... Which is fine, but if you think about Fort Point, no one takes the time to understand who's actually putting in the hard work there, who's been surfing there for 40 years.

Jack Persons reports, "Other efforts by locals to head off the effects of gentrification have been spectacular and polarizing, but ultimately ineffective."  To wit, "In the Bay Area, protesters famously tried to impntimidate and scare tech companies away (blog.sfgate.com; Apr. 2, 2014; date accessed June 12, 2018) to avail."  This efforts did make headlines, but did very little to slow neighborhood change.  Defending the territory--i.e. the neighborhood or city--may be harder than defending the beach.  Be that as it may, there are lessons for Fort Point locals and newcomers.

First lesson, make connections to the established community, or show respect for the culture and history.  Get to know the locals is great way to gain credibility in the lineup, be open to learning and watching at the Fort.  Beats getting bounced off the beach or your gear trashed.

This could mean going a whole session without catching a wave.  However, patience and deference to the locals are virtues leading to reward.

Civic officials could learn from the battles between surfers and newcomers, if they want to offset the impact of gentrification.  As less-affluent residents are displaced by rising housing costs, they vanish along with their businesses and culture which makes the city so vibrant and attractive.  Mr. Persons suggests, "Rather than imposing their own cultures and influences, every inhabitant of San Francisco, old and new, should embrace the established histories and character of their respective neighborhoods."  Sound advice that elected officials would do well to follow instead of continuing to ignore the economic engine of gentrification, otherwise, San Franciscans could take matters into their own hands.

Fort Point surfers can learn to be a more inclusive and welcoming community, even when staring down the barrel of displacement.  Mr. Persons offers this suggestion, "To see what that might look like, drive an hour south down the coast and you'll reach Half Moon Bay,..., best known for its Christmas tree farms and surf spot, Mavericks, home to some of the biggest waves in the works.... Steve Hawks says 'that there's no tension between the various surfer communities in Half Moon Bay.... the older generation has become more peaceful... and introduced their children to surfing."  Mr. Hawk said,

You teach by example,... so if a kid sees his father being polite to a stranger, then they're more likely to follow suit.

Half Moon Bay has a robust surf culture that students, beginning in middle school, take part in.  The sport is passed down from parent to child, children learn to compete and "a culture of respect grows out of the partnership."  This, along with an indifference to outsiders ("the town's isolated location along the coast attracts less visitors than San Francisco and Santa Cruz") creates a more inclusive atmosphere.  Steve Hawk puts it this way, There's no vibing around here.

If San Francisco wants to follow this example, the absolute critical changes for Fort Point will have to come from the top.  Mr. Persons suggests a surfing historical society, curated by legends, as a great platform "to impart proper etiquette and established norms.  It could make the surf community more accessible for everyone,..."  At the macro-scale, all San Franciscans can benefit from more cuktura, awareness about their city and the myriad of communities that make it such a great city to explore.  Even better, this could help ease the stressors of gentrification.

It is possible that San Francisco has become too gentrified and too polarized, for now, for everyone to find common cause.  The generations might never get along.  If this is the situation, then we should all just heed Steve Hawk's golden rule in and out of the water.

My whole thing is: Just don't be a dick.  Don't be a dick and everything will be fine.

Sage advice








Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: "Survivor": The Primary Edition

http://www.washingtonpost.com; June 5, 2018

Hello Everyone:

Welcome to the jungle.  It is a beautiful Wednesday afternoon and time for Blogger Candidate Forum, Survivor: California Primary edition where the name of the game is "outwit, outplay, and outlast" the pack of nominees to have a shot at making the top two ballot spots on the November general election.  Before we grab a vine and swing into the results of yesterday's California state primary election--dubbed "the jungle primary--" Yours Truly would like to report a confirmed FLOTUS sighting.  First Lady Melania Trump attended a closed door celebration for Gold Star families on Monday and a meeting at Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters to discuss hurricane preparedness.  Mrs. Trump may want to take low-key approach to being First Lady but what she does, what she says, and where she goes is news.  Being FLOTUS makes you a public person.  Even though Mrs. Trump would prefer to live out of the spotlight and being FLOTUS was not something she sought, however,  it was thrust on her and now she has to deal with it.  One more thing, for those of you who are wee American history challenged, it was the British not the Canadians who burnt down the White House in the War of 1812.  Alright, grab a vine and here we go.

Democrats had reason to be happy with yesterday's eight state primaries.  Democratic candidates made some serious in-roads in state and federal races.  Here are some takeaways:

California House of Representatives Democratic candidates barely avoided disaster: Specifically, Democratic candidates in three Orange County-area House races barely got through to the next round.  These races are critical to the Democrats hopes of regaining the majority in the House in November.   Democratic candidates in the 38th, 48th, and 49th districts, trying to flip vulnerable Repbulican seats, managed to outlast California's notorious "jungle primary" where the top two finishers, regardless of party affliation, make the November ballot.

However, it is not certain if Washington Democrats will get the candidates they wanted through to November.  The ballots are still being counted and it is entirely possible that Democrats will still be frozen out of the race farther up north in the 10th District.

Dianne Feinstein: Iron Lady.  The senior senator from California claimed the first spot on the November ballot.  Senator Feinstein will face state Senate President Kevin de Leon in the general election.  State Senator de Leon upstart campaign forced California's longest serving and best known politician to pivot left after urging patience with the current president.  Sen. de Leon campaigned as a leader of the resistance which forced Sen. Feinstein to re-evaluate her position on marijuana legalization and he death penalty without alienating her base.  

Senate Republicans: last night was not all about Democrats.  Montana Republicans nominated  their best candidate to unseat Democratic incumbent Senator Jon Tester.  The Republicans chose State Auditor Matt Rosendale to be their champion in the fall.  Sen. Tester is one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats standing for re-election in a state won by Mr. Trump in 2016.  Mr. Trump targeted Sen. Tester after the Montana legislator helped derail the president's nominee for Secretary of Veteran Affairs.  Mr. Rosendale's victory provides a huge relief for Senate Republicans who originally favored a Trump-endorsed candidate, the president's originally nominee for secretary of interior.  Memo to Republicans, Trump-endorsed candidates have not fared well elections.  Ask Luther Strange.

Women candidates for governor: She is woman, see her run for governor.  Republican voters in Souh Dakota, Alabama, and Iowa and Democratic voters in New Mexico were jumping for joy.  Each of those states nominated a woman to the November ballot and (the best part) they all have a real chance of emerging victorious.  South Dakota Representative Kristi L. Noem bested her rival and is in solid standing to be the first woman to lead her state--the seat is open and South Dakota is a very red state. In he state of Alabama, still new Governor Kay Ivey (R) successfully beat back four challengers and stands a good chance of becoming governor.  New Mexico Democrats made history when they nominated Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham to be their standard bearer in November.  If elected, Rep. Lujan would be the first Native American to become governor of a state and she has a good chance.  New Mexico's governor race is also open and most likely to flip red to blue (washingtonpost.com; Jan. 6, 2018; date accessed June 6, 2018).

Not everyone was uncorking champagne bottles last night.  California gubinatorial candidate former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was outwitted and outplayed in the jungle.  California Repbulican Senate candidates were shut out of the November ballot.  Elsewhere, candidates for state and federal offices were crying in their beers.

Senators accused of corruption: corruption does not pay, ask New Jersey Democratic Senator Rober Menendez.  Not even the state's best known Democrats could persuade voters to carry Sen. Menendez through to Novemeber.  Senator Menendez was tried last year for corruption but not convicted when the jury deadlocked, later proclaimed his innocence and declared his candidacy for another six year term. A deadlocked jury does not equal exoneration.  Strange but true, he won his primary, but his rival who did not file the correct paperwork still captured 40 percent of the vote.  Go figure.

Republican members of Congress who abandoned Mr. Trump in 2016: Trump voters are extremely loyal to their president and Alabama Rep. Martha Roby (R) found out the hard way.  Rep. Roby, who disavowed the president in 2016, was forced into a runoff with her Democratic-turned-Republican opponent former congressman Bobby Bright in her conservative southeastern district.  Something about that infamous Access Hollywood made Rep. Roby declare she would not vote for Mr. Trump (Ibid; June 5, 2018).

Republican turnout in November is essential to key House races: if the Repbulicans want to retain their House majority after November, they will have to fire up their voters.  In the California races, Democrats have a good chance of flipping vulnerable Republican districts. However, Republicans in New Jersey and New Mexico have a good chance to retain their districts.  Democrats emerged from Tuesday's primary in a position of strength in many of the contested seats.  To wit, New Jersey Repbulicans selected two unknown underfunded candidates to flip contested seats (Ibid). That did not exactly work out too well. In New Mexico, a Democratic candidate for the House had a greater turnout then her Republican rival.

Bottom line, as the campaign's begin their pivots to the fall, it will be interesting to see what role the president directly or indirectly plays. If Democratic candidates are smart, they will focus on the issues affecting their states and districts, less on presenting themselves as the leaders of the resistance.  They will need to show that they can work across the aisle to find solutions to the most pressing issues and resist where they can.  The real key for Democrats is finding a national message--tell the voters who you are and what you are about. Why should anyone vote for you. For Republicans, the path to victory is a little harder.  You want to appeal to the Trump voters but at the same time, you do not want to alienate the anti-Trump Republicans. Next week we will consult with Cook's Political Report and read the tea leaves. 


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Big Push

http://www.citylab.com; May 23, 2018


Hello Everyone:

It is beautiful Primary Day in eight states including California.  Naturally, Yours Truly did her civic duty and voted.  Tomorrow, The Candidate Forum will have the results and we will take a look at what the good people at Cook's predict for November.  Will it be a blue wave or a pleasant splash on the shore. Be that as it may, today we hop the pond to London to find out how the city plans to make design better.

In May, London launched an intiative to put good design back into public planning.  The new scheme, named Public Practice, supported by Mayor Sadiq Khan, places architects and urban designers in 17 municipal authorities in and around the capital, for a year-long (possibly longer) placement.

Feargus O'Sullivan reports in his CityLab article "London's Big Push for Better Design," "These planners--chosen from over 200 applicants--will take on major briefs that range from developing blueprints for new garden cities to seeking ways to streamline the home bulging process."  Part of the  cohort is due to be replace next year.  According to Public Practice's estimates, "... this year's associates are, forecast to build, expedite, or improve 17,000 homes and 19,000 square meters (roughly18,300 square feet) of public realm, accelerate the delivery of £26 million ($35 million) of public infrastructure, and engage more than 3,400 people in communities in planning over the next year."

This is a fraction of what London needs.  By most measures, the city appears to be booming but "London is consistently falling far short of the housing targets it needs to just manage its project population growth--let alone render its notoriously expensive market more affordable."  Frequently what does get built is typically developer-driven and completely fails to reflect the needs of the communities--in particular the low-income and minority communities who often are left out of the dialogue with municipal authorities.

Mr. O' Sullivan sounds an optimistic note, "Public Practice could help to rectify this."  The goal is to help London build more inclusive spaces and fuel smarter solutions to the housing crisis.  Mr. O' Sullivan enthuses, "...the first class of 17 in the programs is also unusually diverse by British standards--over 70 percent are women, and around a quarter are black and minority ethnic."

Public Practice's involvement could not come at a better time because London and Great Britain on the whole, is going through a pretty bleak period.  Once upon a time, the British planning profession was an energetic, proactive, city-shaping force.  Public Practice's CEO Finn Williams told CityLab the profession has ... come to be seen nowadays as stopping things from happening.

When casting about for reasons why the once vibrant British planning profession has gone stagnant, nationally imposed austerity measures, not the failure of municipal authorities is usually cited as the main reason.  Mr. O' Sullivan reports, "Public spending has been hit in Britain since the 2007 financial crisis.  Faced with budget choices, many municipalities increasingly restrict themselves to statutory functions, pushing many vital but not legally required design-related considerations down bottom of lists."  This resulted in rather bland and boring design, and a rollback of the planner's broader function "towards a sort of uninspired construction, sclerotic approval--planning department's top disempowered to hold developers to their promises."

One notorious example of this static development is the redevelopment of public housing in Elephant and Castle South London (southwarknews.co.uk; Apr. 20, 2017; date accessed June 5, 2018).  The sprawling Heygate Estate social housing complex was demolished in 2014, with developers of the proposed replacement plan promisng to hit their affordable housing quotas and create public space.  The plans were seriously watered down (vice.com; Apr. 13, 2017; date accessed June 5, 2018) during the years-long period between approval and construction, with belated resistance from the council halting some of the demolition in response to public pressure (bbc.co.uk; Jan. 17, 2018; date accessed June 5, 2018).  Feargus O' Sullivan writes, "This messy, complicated situation is partly a result of an austerity-hit local authority not having the resources, expertise, and will to match the capabilities of an extremely well-resourced developers, reducing its role to that of gatekeeper--not an especially effective one at that."

The de facto shrinkage of the planner's role has another component to it.  "British local authorities have almost disappeared as actual commissioners for new construction."  Here is an interesting fact, "In 1976, when British municipalities built public housing in large volumes, 49 percent of the country's architects worked in the public sector (dezeen.com; Dec. 4, 2017; date accessed June 5, 2018)."  In the wake of eighties policies (en.wikipedial.org; date accessed June 5, 2018) which made public housing development excruciatingly difficult, "that figure is less than one percent."  Currently there is no  mainstream political will to return the United Kingdom to the seventies-era levels of investment in public housing and there is a growing sentiment that something akin to this is desperately needed.  Mayor Sadiq Khan recently launched an intiative to create 10,000 more public housing units (bbc.co.uk; May 16, 2018; date accessed June 5, 2018) in London by 2022.  The new associates of Public Practives could facilitate their assigned municipalities develop public housing, find solutions to streamline the permit process, and develop brief that inspire better planned architectural proposals.

Embedding more design professionals in the decision-making process could have positive impact.  Public Practice co-founder Pooja Agrawal told Building Design:

Many of the most critical decisions about schemes--from the viability of providing affordable housing, to the amount public space--are made without architects in the room (bdonline.com; May 20, 2018; date accessed June 5, 2018).

 Not having an architect in the room can limit their ability to shape a project, even before the design process begins, leaving the profession, as Ms. Agrawal continues,

... In the position of reacting to ready-made briefs, rather than proactively anticipating and shaping new development.  The result is a dilution of the quality of the built environment, with its social impact a secondary consideration.

There are some examples of Public Practice's efforts to remedy the situation.  Hourslow (en.wikipedia.org; date accessed June 5, 2018), a fairly low-density out London borough, east of Heathrow Airport is an one case study. Mr. O' Sullivan reports, "The area is under intense pressure to develop new homes, as middle- and low-income Londoners flee the unaffordability of inner London."  Before Public Practice's involvement, Hounslow's planning department did not have an effect design capacity to properly administer development.  Public Practice associate Kathy McEwen serves as a "design czar overseeing borough-wide construction, creating a design award to recognize the best work from builders in the area."

In other parts of the city, public transport agency, Transport for London (TfL), owns a large amount of brownfield land ideal for homes, much of which is already under development.  Sheba Shetty, Public Practice's associate planner assigned to TfL, should be able to provide more designed-centric eye to new developments under consideration.

Feargus O' Sullivan opine, "On its own, placements like these will not be enough to full restore the planning profession's public role after years of underfunding and reduced standing.  But in showing what's possible, they might help start to turn the tide in the right direction.  

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Rural-Urban Divide Is Not What You Think It Is

http://www.citylab.com; May 22, 2018


Hello Everyone:

It is a lovely Monday afternoon and a new week on the blog.  Before we get going on today's subject--the urban rural divide--some news items.  First, if you live in California tomorrow is Primary Election Day.  California fans and followers you know what to do.  Second, what happened to First Lady Melania Trump?  Ms. Trump went in for surgery in mid-May to correct a bengin kidney condition, returning to the White House a week later.  Since then, FLOTUS has not been seen in public.  Around the Galaxy--i.e. the Internet--speculation has gone into overdrive.  Speaking of Trumps, by now we have all read the latest tweet from Mr. Donald J. Trump proclaiming that he can pardon himself.  Well, that is not exactly true.  Yes, the president can pardon individuals who were convicted for felony offenses but he cannot use his power to pre-emptively pardon himself or anyone else.  No person, including the president, is above the law.  Mr. Trump cannot pardon his way out of any potential impeachment proceedings, period, end of sentence.  Shall we move on?

It has been 500 days since Mr. Trump was elected president (really), and one of the main reasons cited for his election is the "rural-urban divide" (nymag.com; Apr. 18, 2017; date accessed June 4, 2018).  However, new research from Pew Social Trends presents a different take on the rural-urban divide. 

Tanvi Misra writes in her CityLab article "Rural and Urban America Have More in Common Than You Think," "... discussions often simplify the realities of America's rural areas (citylab.com; Dec. 8, 2016; date accessed June 4, 2018), cities (Ibid; Nov. 7, 2016), and suburbs (Ibid; July 6, 2017), reducing these communities to monoliths with few overlapping experiences or attitudes."  The conclusion of a new survey, What Unites and Divides Urban, Suburban and Rural Communities (pewsocialtrends.org; May 22, 2018; date accessed June 4, 2018), throws a spanner into this narrative--"showing that while rural, urban, and suburban communities have unique problems, they have surprising, perhaps often overlooked, similarities."

Kim Parker, the director of Social Trends Research at Pew, told CityLab,

Yes, there are deep divides,.... But when it comes to the basic issues of life, there's a lot that Americans across communities agree on.

Surprised?  Let us take a look.

"There are more similarities than we may have believed"

The main takeaway from the survey is the way various American communities perceive themselves, their connection to their homes, and their most pressing problems is quite similar.  Here are some of the highlights:

"Rural and urban American face some of the same local concerns"

In recent years, the opioid epidemic has exploded, leveling a number of white rural communities (wamu.org; Mar. 4, 2018; date accessed June 4, 2018).  However, the data shows that urban, African American communities have experienced the greatest increases in overdose deaths (washingtonpost; Mar. 2, 2018; date accessed June 4, 2018).  Ms. Misra reports, "This epidemic is a shared challenge, and in the findings of the Pew survey demonstrate that."  The Pew survey says, "similar share of rural (50 percent) and urban (46 percent) respondents report drug addicition being one of the biggest problems facing their communities."

"Everyone pretty much agrees rural areas could use more help"

Reality check: the only time anyone pays attention to the rural areas is during an election cycle, like now.  It sounds cynical but it is true.  The Pew survey found "...71 percent or rural residents believe they get the short end of the stick as far as federal aid is concerned..., surprisingly, significant shares of suburban (61 percent) and urban residents (57 percent) agreed."

On the other hand, less than half of urban dwellers said "city residents received less than they deserve from the federal government; and only about a third of suburban and rural respondents."

"They have similarly iffy connections to home"

The Pew survey found that "one in seven Americans reports feeling strong attachment to their local community, and that share is the same across cities, suburbs, an rural communities."

"No on actually talks to their neighbors"

Apparently not knowing your neighbor is not just a Los Angeles thing.  It seems that rural dwellers are not as a neighborly as you might have been led to believe.  The Pew survey found "while it's true that rural residents are more likely than urban ones to know who their neighbors are, they aren't really more likely to chat them up."

"Both rural and urban communities feel misunderstood"

Urban and rural residents feel that they are negatively perceived by outsiders.  However, suburbanites enjoy more positive image from outsiders.

"Rural and urban residents both agree ... that they agree"

Agree to disagree, a very American thing.  Tanvi Misra writes, "When it comes to what they disagree on, rural and urban Americans are roughly on the some page.  Around 60 percent of rural respondents say that their values do align with the urban residents, and 53 percent or urban ones feel the dame of their rural counterparts."

"The differences between rural and urban American are demographic and political--not necessarily economic"

American demographics are changing and that change is manifesting differently across the nation.  "Cities, overall, now contain a majority of residents of color (56 percent)."  Suburban communities have grown the most primarily due to immigration (brookings.edu; Oct. 29, 2014; date accessed June 4, 2018) and domestic migration.  Suburbia is also diversifying: "It's share of white residents has fallen by eight percentage (pewsocialtrends.org; May 15, 2018; date accessed June 4, 2018)  points since 2000."  Rural counties remain predominantly Cauasian and are aging--"increasing in numbers of older adults 65 years."  "... across the board--rural, suburban, urban--immigrants are making up more and more of the population.  In rural areas, they made up 37 percent of the population growth since 2000."

Changing demographics also shape some of the divergent political and social outlooks of these different places.  According to the Pew survey, "It probably doesn't surprise anyone,... urban residents value diversity much more than rural ones.  About 70 percent of urban dwellers say this is important, compared to only about half of rural ones."

One fact that should not surprise anyone, "Urban America leans heavily Democrat and rural areas are heavily Republican."  Political ideology also forms opinion to a certain degree.  Therefore, when researchers controlled for party affiliations, some of the differences fall away.  For example, opinions on abortion within the same party does not change according to where a person lives.

Other opinions change based on where a person lives.  "Republicans differ by geography on same-sex marriage and views on Donald Trump, with urban ones leaning a bit more towards Democrats."  Urban and suburban Democrats are more inclined to say that greater immigration strengthens the country than threatens (75 and 81 percent respectively) than their rural counterparts (61 percent).

Popular thinking that the difference in views stems from economic anxiety in smaller, more rural towns has been seriously challenged (theatlantic.com; Nov. 20, 2017; date accessed June 4, 2018) in the wake of the election.  Economically, the picture is more complicated.  Tanvi Misra writes, "It's true that trual populations have the lowest earnings--but they're also living in the cheapest areas across the country.  And in terms of poverty, it's actually the suburbs that have seen the steepest increases: 51 percent since 2000, compared to 31 percent in urban and 23 percent in rural areas."

Regardless, the concept of relative hardship may still persist in these communities, but new research "suggests that perhaps anti-immigrant sentiment and support for Trump are ties to factors beyond pure economics: They may have more to do with lack of exposure to diversity (citylab.com; Nov. 2, 201; date accessed June 4, 2018) and fear of lost status because of the changing face of the country (Ibid)."  


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Roseanne

 

Hello Everyone:

Today Blogger Candidate Forum wants to take a look at the fallout surrounding the cancellation of the Roseanne television series.

By now we all what happened: Roseanne Barr posted a racially derogatory tweet directed at Valerie Jarrett, a longtime African American advisor to former President Barack Obama.  She followed up this tweet with nonsense about Chelsea Clinton marrying into the Soros family.  The backlash was swift--her co-stars disavowed her comments and ABC network executives abruptly cancelled the series.  Ms. Barr angrily responded to her co-stars, claiming that they "threw her under a bus."  Her management, ICM Partners ceased representing her.   ABC's termination of her eponymous series came two months after Ms. Barr's glorious return to television after a two decade absence.  

The idea came out of a post election meeting of network executives who were trying to figure out what the election of Mr. Donald Trump meant.  Ben Sherwood, the president of Disney and ABC's television group told The New York Times,

We looked at each other and said There's a lot about this country we need to learn a lot more about, her on the coasts.

The show returned to good rating and was renewed for a second season when ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey made the decision to cancel Roseanne.  In a statement, Ms. Dungey called Ms. Barr's tweet,

Roseanne's statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values.

Ms. Barr later apologized, claiming her joke was in bad taste and she was suffering the side effects of the sleep medication ambien.  Ambien's manufacturer clapped back, "racism is not a side effect."  Even the president waded into the fray with a typically self centered tweet.  Regardless of what you think about Roseanne Barr, this is a case of words having consequences.

In his May 29, 2018 Op-Ed column, "Roseanne Barr's racist tweet pushed the limits of the Trump era.  ABC finally drew a line," for The Chicago Tribune (chicagotribune.com; May 29, 2018; May 30, 2018) Rex Huppke rightly points out, "When the only people who would consider your comment a joke are racist lunatics your to reconsider your definition of the word 'joke.'  And when you try to apologize for your obviously racist comment by calling it a joke, you have to reconsider your definition of the word 'apologize.'"

Mr. Huppke also is right when he points out that despite or inspite of her "anti-vaccine, anti-transgender cracks--Barr was rewarded with a prime-time slot on a major network."  ABC made a lot of money from her show but finally decided on Tuesday that enough was enough.  What was it about the rebooted Roseanne show that made it ideal for this moment in America.

The original series was the perfect antidote for the high flying eighties.  The original series was centered around a working class Midwestern family just trying to make ends meet.  Each episode blended humour and intelligence, not shying away from the difficult topics.  The series ended in mid-nineties.  However like Bill Cosby, Ms. Barr seemed unable to disengage herself from her character.

It sounds like a really bad analogy, comparing a convicted sexual offender with an obnoxious television actor but that is where their similarities end.  The real issue with Roseanne Barr is that she is an avatar for contemporary America. Roxane Gay writes in New York Times column, "Roseanne's Is Gone, but the Culture That Gave Her a Show Isn't," (nytimes.com; May 29, 2018; May 30, 2018) "The problem is that Donald Trump is a toxic president who amassed his power through the provocation of hate.  He has behaved as if conservatives my and racism are synonymous when, in fact, they are not.  The problem with having a television character as a Trump supporter is that it normalizes racism, misogyny, xenophobia."  

Ms. Gay continues, "President Trump often seems like a living embodiment of Ms. Barr's Twitter feed, and many of his vocal supporters revel in that. They revel in the freedom and the permission to be racist.  The reboot contributed to a cultural moment that makes white people feel exceedingly comfortable and entitled as they police black bodies in public spaces."

It a coincidence that the cancellation of Roseanne came on the day that coffee emporium giant Starbucks closed its stores for a racial sensitivity training day.  The racial sensitivity training day was the  product of the now famous incident at a Phildelphia franchise at which a barista called the police regarding two African American men waiting for an associate before placing their order.  This was not an isolated incident.  There was the case of Lolande Siyonbola, the African American Yale graduate student who was caught napping in the common room of her dorm by a Cauasian student who called the campus police and had to prove her belong their.  Then there was the case of three women who checking out of an Airbnb when they were surrounded by the police who were called by a white woman who believed the black women were criminals and did not smile at her.  You get the idea.

Ms Gay writes that in each of these and similar cases, "white people took it upon themselves to place black bodies in public spaces."  Racism is the reason why Caucasians felt entitled to define the boundaries of what they consider appropriate behavior for African Americans.  It gives one group of people a sense of superiority over another.  When asked to comment on the tweet, Valerie Jarrett had this to say, This should be a teaching moment.  An elegant statment but how many more teaching moments do we need before Cauasian people stop feeling entitled to police African American bodies?How much longer will it be before we cease consuming popular culture that encourages this sense of entitlement? 

Roseanne Barr is free to speak her mind but she is not free from the consequences.  The crew members are the ones who are suffering for ABC's swift decision to cancel the series.  The actors, not so much.  Yours Truly also wonders what was going on in the heads of the ABC executives who made the decision to revive the show, knowing full well that their star has a reputation for hateful comments.  Actually, Blogger is being rhetorical, visions of dollars signs were dancing in the heads of the network executives as the joked about Ms. Barr's Twitter feed.  This what fueled the hypocritical decision by network executives to shelve an episode of Black-ish that dealt with the N.F.L. anthem protests.  No one goes into the entertainment industry out the goodness of their hearts but they can exercise more of conscious in deciding whether or not to normalize a toxic culture and the viewer can make their voices heard by switching off the television.