Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Blogger Candidate Forum: Primary Wrap Up April 26, 2016

Acela train
Hello Everyone:

It is Wednesday and that means Blogger Candidate Forum day.  What a Wednesday it has been so far.  It has been an eventful Wednesday on the campaign trail.  Senator Ted Cruz revealed his running mate, Senator Bernie Sanders announced campaign staff lay offs, Donald Trump, well was Donald Trump.  Before we get going on all the developments, let us take a look at the results of yesterday's primaries in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, and Rhode Island-dubbed the "Acela Primaries" for the train service traveling between those states.

States holding primaries on April 26, 2016
The big news from yesterday's primaries is frontrunners Secretary Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump cemented their leader status.  Mr. Trump swept all the states in play to end the night with 109 to give him a total of 987 out 1,237 delegates.  Governor John Kasich and Sen. Cruz did not walk away completely empty handed.  Thanks to Rhode Island's system of proportionally awarding delegates in the Republican contest, The Governor came away with 5 delegates and the Gentleman from Texas was awarded 3 delegates.  Mr. Trump needs only 250 more delegates to securing the nomination outright.  There are still a total of 583 delegates still available on the Republican side.

On the Democrat side of the aisle, Madame Secretary won four out of the five states in play.  Sen. Sanders won the state of Rhode Island.  Sec. Clinton finished the night with 216 added to her previous 1948, give her a total of 2,164 delegates.  With 1,246 still available, Sec. Clinton needs 219 delegates to secure the nomination outright.  The delegates were awarded on a proportional basis, thus, Sen Sanders did not walk away empty handed-winning 163 to give him 1,355 delegates.  (

Senator Sanders
Let us stay with the Gentleman from Vermont for a moment.  The big news from the Sanders campaign is the announcement of staff lay offs.  In an interview with CNN, an adviser said "Bernie Sanders' campaign is downsizing its field staff, as well as some advance and other workers." (  The Gentleman from Vermont confirmed this in an interview with the New York Time:

It will be hundreds of staff members...We have a very large staff, which was designed to deal with 50 states in this country; 40 of the states are now behind us.  So we have had a great staff, great people.  (

While the adviser was not quite sure exactly how many workers would be laid off but the Times reporting, "'hundreds' of campaign staffers." The focus would be shifted to winning California.  (Ibid)  This news comes on the heels of last week's thrashing in New York and last night's resounding defeat in four out of the five primaries.  Much to the Clinton campaign's credit, Madame Secretary has not called for the Gentleman from Vermont to drop out of the race.  Blogger also has to give respect to Sen. Sanders for staying in the race.  Be that as it may, the news of lay offs does not bode well for the future.  You can say that the Gentleman from Vermont still believes he can win the nomination but in order to do so, he must defeat Madame Secretary in the remaining primaries by at least 59 percent of the vote.  Also, you can say that this is a prelude to suspending the campaign.  Yours truly figured that after being soundly beaten in New York, the Sanders campaign would wait and see what happened this week before making any big decisions about the future.  They got their answer.

Senator Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina
Meanwhile, there was no shortage of fireworks coming from the Republican side of the world.  Senator Ted Cruz announced his choice of running mate today at a campaign event in Indianapolis, Indiana.  The Gentleman from Texas selected from Hewlett-Packard president and onetime nominee candidate Carly Fiorina as his choice for vice presidential running mate.  For those of you outside the United States, the president and vice president are elected together, not separately.  Also, typically the names vice presidential candidates are not announced until the conventions.  This was an attempt to re-invigorate his campaign after being mathematically eliminated from winning the Republican nomination outright.  The Senator remains optimistic about emerging victorious in a contested convention.  Really?  Honestly, after coming a VERY distant second and third in last week and this week's primaries, the Gentleman from Texas is desperate for anything that will help him regain the momentum hijacked by the Trump campaign.  The alliance between him and The Governor failed and he must have a strong showing in next Tuesday's Indiana primary if he is to remain a viable candidate so he hopes that naming his running mate will do the job.  Okaaaaay.

Mary Pat Christie rolling her eyes at Donald Trump
Donald Trump was back to his usual verbal spewage during his post-primary victory speech Tuesday night.  Standing on the podium with Mr. Trump were New Jersey Governor and onetime nominee candidate Chris Christie and his wife Mary Pat.  In his address, Mr. Trump took direct aim at presumptive Democrat nominee Madame Secretary, saying "she was only getting support from other women because of her gender." (  Specifically he said,

The only thing she's got going is the woman's card.  And the beautiful thing is women don't like her, OK?..."

This comment got an eye roll from New Jersey's First Lady, stealing the show from the presumptive Republican nominee.  Ouch.  To paraphrase the late Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, "Hillary Clinton is the only man for the job."

What a moment.  Yours truly does not think it could have been any better scripted by the best screenwriter.  That eye roll speaks volumes for all the women who are fed up with having their accomplishments de-valued by neanderthals who throw shade. Say what you want about Madame Secretary but you cannot take away the fact that whatever she-women across the United States and around the world-have accomplished or yet to accomplish is not because of our gender.  We stand or fall on our own merits.

United States Presidential Elections 2016

Quixotic campaigns and misogynist comments aside, what happens next?  The immediate future holds more primaries and the possibility of both Donald Trump and Secretary Hillary Clinton clinching their respective nominations before they reach California.  The distant future holds questions for Governor John Kasich, Senators Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders.  The overarching question is "Do you continue your campaigns all the way through California?"  Blogger does not see Gov. Kasich realistically continuing his campaign.  He might do well in Indiana but the foreseeable future does not look good for The Governor.  Perhaps it is best that he stop and go back to Ohio.  The Gentleman from Texas could poll strong numbers in the western and southwestern states; remaining a viable candidate.  However, naming his running mate this early was not the wisest idea.  However, the Gentleman from Vermont may have a bright future after all.  Blogger recognizes that Senator Sanders's social democracy message has resonated with a lot of voters.  What Blogger would like to see is Sen. Sanders work with Madame Secretary to find a way to put concepts such as financial industry reform, single-payer healthcare, criminal justice reform into practice.  Yours truly thinks it can be done, if both Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton are willing to do so.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Pushing Back Against Gentrification

The remaining nominee candidates
Hello Everyone:

A quick update from the Blogger Candidate Forum.  First, it seems that the Cruz-Kasich alliance is fraying at the edges.  Anyone, could have seen that one coming, fast.  Simply put, both men want to be President of The United States.  Realistically, Senator Ted Cruz still has a shot, albeit a long shot, at the nomination.  While Governor John Kasich is still in the race only as a matter of pride.  Over on the Democratic side of the world, Jane Sanders, the wife of Senator Bernie Sanders, announced that the campaign would not release the Sanders tax return unless Secretary Hillary Clinton released transcripts of speeches she gave to Goldman Sachs.  What does the Sanders campaign hope to find?  Truthfully, if Madame Secretary released those transcripts, it would help smooth over her credibility issues.  Seriously, the Sanders campaign needs to spot dwelling on those speaking engagements and how the Clinton campaign is raising money.  Focus on the issues, other than finance reform.  We want to hear about healthcare, immigration, criminal justice reform, in short, the issues that impact our daily lives.  More on tomorrow.

Las Palomas, interior
Boyle Heights, California
Now, on to today's subject-encroaching gentrification in Boyle Heights.  Boyle Heights is a historically immigrant community. The community has been home to Asian, Jewish, African-American, European, and Latino immigrants have called the East Los Angeles community home for decades.  Like many communities throughout Southern California, and the rest of the country, it is undergoing a change.  Whether or not it is for the better, is a matter of opinion.  Brittny Mejia's article for the Los Angeles Times, "Gentrification pushes up against Boyle Heights-and vice versa," looks at how gentrification is creeping into Boyle Heights and how Boyle Heights is pushing back.

One indication of how the past is yielding to the future is the recent closure of Las Palomas.  Las Palomas was a Cheers-type bar in Boyle Heights.  Mexican immigrants would go there, after work, for a beer.  It was not one of these particularly cool places, in retro way that appeals to hipsters in way "...that hipsters like to ascribe coolness to a place they think gives them the musky scent of danger."  The bar was a survivor, despite the western edge of 1st Street, "...with its sloping vistas of the downtown Los Angeles skyline," becoming trendy.  When the Eastside Luv wine bar opened its doors next door, attracting young professionals-the children of immigrant-the "place where everybody knows your name" soldiered on as a hang out for mariachis toasting the end of another day.  Now Las Palomas has had its final last call and turned out the lights for good.  The neon "Tecate" and "Corona" signs have gone home with loyal customers.  A small corner of Boyle Heights gone for good.

Boyle Heights street corner
Britnny Mejia writes, "For years, Boyle Heights seemed a neighborhood cooped in the still embryonic stage of gentrification, or 'gentrification,' a term coined to reflect change driven substantially by Latinos with roots in the Eastside neighborhood."  Boyle Heights has not been overrun by gentrification like Silver Lake and Highland Park, or even nearby Lincoln Heights-a predominantly Mexican-American community but more ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic diversity. Lincoln Heights also boasts a larger stock of wood-framed 19th and and early 20th century Victorian and Craftsman houses.  It seems a little strange to a community that has drawn a firmer line-in-the-sand against gentrification.

Sear, Roebuck & Company
Los Angeles, California

In one respect, gentrification has hovered over Boyle Heights for years.  Ms. Mejia cites talk centered around developing the 14-story Art Deco Sears, Roebuck & Company building into a mixed-use residential, commercial, and retail space.  Long-time Boyle Heights community member Erick Huerta told Ms. Mejia,

I think part of it is people getting pushed out of their other neighborhoods and coming here, and they don't want that to happen here...It's like the last bastion.  They're holding down the flag.

Conrado Herrera, the owner of the building housing Las Palomas and Eastside Luv, acknowledges the organic nature of communities.  Mr. Herrera told Ms. Mejia the community is changing and businesses have to change along with it.

You always want to have space for everybody in the community, but we've also to deal with what's in front of us.

Transportation is part of the development history of Southern California and is part of the nascent gentrification of the Eastside.  In 2008, just as the Gold Line light rail was about open along 1st Street, former-Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina was succinct:

Naturally, these neighborhoods will be gentrified.  But they will be gentrified overnight if we allow developers to.

1st Street Bridge
Los Angeles, California
This onetime home to Japanese, Russian, Italian, Jewish, as well as Mexican immigrants, Boyle Heights has long been seen as a place ready for a metamorphosis.  Ms. Mejia reports, "In December, a group of university students that ventured into Boyle Heights on a walking tours was escorted out by activist group Serve the People LA, which blogged that the community 'is under attack in the form of gentrification and therefore must be defended.'"

The university students were described as:

 diverse but mainly white group-including urban planning students...

Facundo Rompe, a member of Serve the People LA told Ms. Mejia "they met with the walking tour ahead of the incident to express concerns and ask them not to come into Boyle Heights."  Mr. Rompe specifically said,

Our point is we have to defend Boyle Heights at all costs.  If that means some people are going to get upset or feel threatened, so be it...

Mr. Rompe, who uses an activist pseudonym, added that he wanted to see more people take up strategies that are more militant in confronting gentrification.

St. Mary's Church
Boyle Heights, California
However, there are others in Boyle Heights that do not share Mr. Rompe's confrontational sentiment.  Ralph Carmona, a past member of the Boyle Heights Chamber of Commerce, is one of the community members who do not share the militant approach.  Mr. Carmona told Ms. Mejia,

...militancy is usually [pushed by] people who are not representative of the vast majority.  Maybe people have some sympathy for it...but it doesn't necessarily mean that what's going to make any impact.

An indication of creeping gentrification, for eleven month of 2015, " the median sale price of homes in the 90033 Zip Code, which accounts for most of Boyle Heights, was $290,000, up 11.5% compared with same the same period a year earlier, according Corelogic, a real estate data and analytics company..."  Camilo Valentin, a realtor from Lincoln Heights and whose territory includes Highland Park, El Sereno, City Terrace, and Boyle Heights, told Ms. Mejia that "Boyle Heights still remains too rough around the edges for change to come too fast." This despite decreases in violent crime, including those committed by gangs.  However, Mr. Valentin sees change and inevitable.

Lupita Mini Market
Boyle Heights, California
Case in point, at an open house in Boyle Heights, Mr. Valentin said, "about 80% of the people who came were white; the rest were Latinos."  He added that there were some people who

  are willing to rough it out more or less, knowing that within the next three to four years, this is just going to change drastically.

Further, he said this about gentrification, 

Highland Park didn't have a lot of resistance.  That thing swooped in within a year...Everybody got caught kind of by surprise.  Boyle Heights, that's not happening because it's very, very rooted.

Indie Brewing Co. and Taproom
Boyle Heights, California
The Indie Brewing Co. and Taproom is making a sincere effort to incorporate the community's culture.  When the Caucasian owners of the brewery pitched a tasting room to the Chamber of Commerce, they brought their consultant Ulisses Sanchez, a son of Boyle Heights.  Mr. Sanchez told the board members,

This is really a community process, especially here in Boyle Heights...There's been a strong effort to protect the culture here.

The brewery's plans include community art on the tasting room walls and the company want to meet with local organizations to raise the necessary support for city approval.  Kevin O'Malley told Brittny Mejia,

We want to be accepted by the community, we don't want to just try and steamroll our way in..You can tell the community is very protective and there's a lot of culture and history here...We want to fit into the culture that's here.

CicLAvia in Boyle Heights
Vanessa Baek told Ms. Mejia "she remembered driving through Boyle Heights and seeing posters and other signs of anti-gentrification feelings."  When Ms. Baek opened Heights Deli & Bottle Shop on Broadway in Lincoln Heights, she recalled some chatter about gentrification predicated on the choice of craft beer and wine.  Despite that, Ms. Baek said she did not feel unwelcome, saying she was kind of taken aback a little bit by the posters.

Las Palomas was a modest neighborhood bar that will missed a small group of people.  As far as change, it is more like a ripple rather than a wave.  Jose E. Morale, the owner of Las Palomas has seen his corner of Boyle Heights change during his ten year tenure.  Diez amos aguantamos, translation We held on for 10 years there.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Complicated Problem Of Urban Obesity

Kathmandu, Nepal city streets
Hello Everyone:

It is Monday, the start of a new week and new topics.  Before we get going on today's discussion on urban obesity, yours truly has to take step into the Candidate Forum for a few minutes and comment on a new development in the Republican race.

News broke that Governor John Kasich and Senator Ted Cruz have teamed up to try prevent Donald Trump winning the Republican nomination outright.  Mr. Trump blasted this move as "desperation."  Blogger has to agree with that assessment.  It is desperation on the part of both candidates, especially Gov. Kasich who was mathematically eliminated from the race, and the Republic National Committee.  Truthfully, the RNC has ignored its populist base for so long that it is completely flummoxed over what to do.  More on Wednesday.

"The City That Declared War On Obesity" 
Moving on from a quick comment on the latest developments in the American elections to urban obesity, in 2014, the Journal of Transport & Health ( published a study, Walking & Cycling: The contributions of health and transport geography,  that concluded "Cities are good for your waistline,..."  Aarian Marshall writes in her article for CityLab, "The Complicated Problem of Urban Obesity," the study "...found that places with more compact street networks and intersections-namely dense cities-are associated with lower levels of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and asthma."  Health concerns are typically not the first thing people think of when choosing a place to live, however, the authors of the study: Wesley E. Marshall, Daniel P. Piatkowski, and Norman Garrick conclude that it might be worth taking into consideration.

Kathmandu where urban obesity has increased
Flickr/Indrik myneur
Be that as it may, when we look at all cities, not just the very dense ones, the health outlook gets more complicated.  In January of this year CityLab's Aria Bendix observed that health issues among urban dwellers correlate with economic status, in part because "predominantly poor and minority neighborhoods have  been stranded by disastrous urban planning decisions: large roads, major highways that cut through communities, and metro lines far away from working-class population that need them."

The implications of the study reach far and wide.  A paper, Global Report on Urban Health (, recently released in conjunction with the International Conference on Urban Health (, held in San Francisco, policy writers from the World Health Organization and UN-Habitat ( demonstrated that urban health issues are increasing-in part because cities are also growing.  Researchers estimated by 2050 half of the world's population will live in cities, of that number, "2 billion of those will be in slums."  Regardless, urban health problems is not just a symptom of growing populations.  The report explained:

[I]t is important to underscore how cities contribute to health-harming behavior.  Poor transportation and an over-reliance on motorized transport have resulted in people spending longer periods of time commuting, the availability of affordable healthy food is restricted by poor urban planning polices and longer working and commuting hours, [and this,] coupled with increased female participation in the workforce, has contributed to dietary changes in favour of convenience food.  The interaction of these factors is reflected in the rising rates of overweight and obesity, particularly in urban areas and, increasingly, for the urban poor.  (

"Trends in prevalence of overweight and obesity
among urban women by country."

What does this look like in practice?  The researchers used 2015 numbers from the WHO's Global Health Observatory-finding that obesity, especially in female urban residents-is rising in some African, Asian-Pacific, and Latin American countries.  Carlos Dora, an epidemiologist who coordinates the WHO's healthy environments initiatives, cited a few important reasons why urban dwellers, women in particular, have seen spikes in the obesity rates since the beginning of the millennium.  Aarian Marshall writes, "In Beijing, for example, you might see some people take advantage of the relative density by walking and biking, but air pollution and the threat of injury by motorized vehicles does a number on the body."  Mr. Dora told Ms. Marshall,

...Once you exercise, you increase your respiratory rate, you breathe more, more air goes to the lungs, you increase your exposure to air pollution.

Low-capacity's lungs make it more challenging to work out thus, the unhealthy cycle perpetuates.  Naturally, the vehicles that create most of the pollution make it more daunting to get around cities.

Woman cooking in urban kitchen; The Philippines
Outdoor air pollution is not the sole cause of low-capacity lung.  Indoor air pollution, faced by women and children,  from cooking smoke poses an additional health hazard.  Ms. Marshall writes, "Cramped urban housing with decidedly bad ventilation doesn't help here, and about 3.8 million deaths due to stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer are lined to household air pollution each year." ( 

Of course, nutrition is another part of the solution.  Nutrition education (; June, 19, 2012), clean water, and sanitation (; Dec. 30, 2015) are components of the solution.  The authors of Global Report on Urban Health write, If we are to address health of populations in cities, a holistic approach  needs to be applied.

The key to solving urban health issues requires more than treatment-based healthcare policies.  they only acknowledge the problem after they start.  Urban planners and designers need to acknowledge that health issues emanate from the very fiber and marrow of cities, illnesses begin within the bones of urban planning.  The silver lining is that remedy lies within the very skeleton of urban planning too.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Blogger Candidate Forum: In A New York State Of Mind

Well, did you vote?
Hello Everyone:

Today is Wednesday, which means it is time for the weekly edition of the Blogger Candidate Forum and there is much to say.  The dust has settled on the New York state primaries and both parties's frontrunners have emerged with resounding victories.  Congratulations are in order for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump who both beat back challengers by wide margins.  Although, Blogger has to say that both Governor John Kasich (a very distant second) and Senator Ted Cruz (a more distant third) were virtually no match for the Trump machine.  Certainly, the Gentleman from Texas's snide comments about "New York values" did not help him much.  Senator, what do have to say about "Hollywood values?"  We, here in Los Angeles, are eagerly awaiting your pronouncement.  In the meantime, Senator Bernie Sanders has returned to his home state of Vermont to "recharge" (lick his wounds) and the Kasich campaign must be wondering how longer can they realistically continue.  The Gentleman from Ohio has not won a primary since winging his home state and still thinks he can seize the nomination from Mr. Trump.  Let us take a look at the results and ponder where do we go from here.

The remaining candidates 
Starting with the Republican contest or should yours truly say, an affirmation of Donald Trump's frontrunner's status, it was a lopsided victory.  Mr. Trump bested Gov. Kasich by a staggering 60.4% to 25.1% while Sen. Cruz picked up a paltry 14.5% of the vote with 95 delegates at stake. (Source: Associated Press)  The good news for the Governor is that he picked up four more delegates, bringing his total to 148.  Meanwhile, Mr. Trump adds another 89 delegates to raise his delegate count to 845.  Senator Cruz's sum stands at 559 delegates.  (Ibid)

Just looking at the numbers, it seems that both Sen. Cruz and Gov. Kasich have virtually no chance of winning the Republican nomination outright.  Even if it were to go to a contested convention, both gentlemen would be hard pressed to convince enough people swing their vote toward either one.  The issue is that both gentlemen are so far behind, that it would take literally an act of divine intervention for either one to catch up.  What made the difference for Mr. Trump, in this primary, was essentially refraining from vein-popping statements like his comments on abortion and playing up his New York-ness.  If Blogger knows anything about New Yorkers it is they are a very loyal crowd.

The front-page from the Daily News

Do you all remember being taught about not insulting yours host when you visit someone?  Apparently Senator Ted Cruz skipped that lesson because he quickly realized that bashing "New York values" did not earn him many friends or any delegates.  At a campaign event, last night in Philadelphia, Sen. Cruz wisely opted to address his supporters before the polls closed, thus sparring the embarrassment of acknowledging his third-place finish.  It was not like the Senator was actually expecting a good night but he figured if he could keep Mr. Trump to under 90 out of 95 delegates available, it would be a good night. (; Date accessed 04/20/2016)

Governor John Kasich took a more low key but adorable approach, eating his way through the campaign.  His non-New York-ness showed when the Governor ate a slice of pizza, at Gino's Pizzeria, with a fork and knife.  Cute but a major faux pas.  Then proceeded to sample a pickle, soup, and apple strudel at PJ Bernstein's Deli before downing a massive sub sandwich at Mike's Deli.  Aside from the inevitable case of indigestion, the eat-your-way strategy helped the Governor to a distant second and snatch some delegates out of the Trump machine.  The Governor is hoping that next week's contests in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and other Mid-Atlantic states that are predominantly suburban and moderate will add to his minuscule delegate count. (Ibid)

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders before a debate

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton soundly bested Senator Bernie Sanders in the battle for Democratic New York.  Sec. Clinton resoundingly beat Sen. Sanders 58.0% to 42.0% of the vote (Source: Associated Press).  At stake were 247 delegates.  Sec. Clinton added 139 to her count while the Gentleman from Vermont claimed 106 delegates.  As things stand, Madame Secretary now has a total to 1,930 out of 2,383 delegates needed to win the nomination outright.  Lagging behind is the Senator with 1,189 delegates.  (Ibid)

The numbers alone tell us that Sen. Sanders's
Bernie Sanders shaking hands with strikers
social democratic message is finding ears but not always votes.  An indication of just how tough things are getting for the Sanders campaign, Sec. Clinton's win means that, realistically, Sen. Sanders would have to win every primary from now until June in order to catch up.  Senator Sanders was feeling quite confident about his chances of winning the Empire State.  However, as he was congratulating Madame Secretary on her win, in the same breath he was quick to blame the system.  New York is a closed primary state-meaning only registered Democrats/Republicans can vote for candidates from their own parties.  This limited the Gentleman from Vermont's ability to bring in the independent voters.  In what sounded like a case of sour grapes, at a campaign event in Pennsylvania, the Senator lambasted New York election laws.  There were also issues in Brooklyn, where 126,000 voters were dropped from the rolls. (; Date accessed 04/20/2016)

Senator Sanders also continues to allege that Sec. Clinton is violating campaign finance laws through joint fundraising account with the Democratic National Committee, is concerned about the long-term damage to the party, and how it plays into Donald Trump's "Crooked Hillary" scenario.  Crooked Hillary?  Pot meet kettle.  However, Senator Sanders still has not addressed the fundamental flaw in his campaign, his inability to win over African-American voters.  Blogger has observed that the Gentleman from Vermont's core constituency is made up of young, white voters.  While the Senator has gone out of his way to release adds directed by Spike Lee, featuring Rosario Dawson and Danny Glover, aligning himself with the Working Families Party and the Transit Workers Union. both with strong African-American links.  Despite all this, if the Senator cannot improve on his polling numbers with New York African-Americans, it is doubtful he ever will. (Ibid)

Hillary Clinton addressing her supporters
Meanwhile, it was party time at the Clinton campaign headquarters.  Her commanding victory was just the antidote she needed to building on her delegate total and deny Senator Sanders a win that could have changed the dynamics of the contest.  Madame Secretary now has to keep winning, instead of the hiccups that followed her victory in Michigan.

New York once again demonstrated why the Senator cannot catch up.  Exit polls presented data showing Sec. Clinton doing better among voters 30 to 49-although the Senator out performed her with voters 18 to 29-and maintained her advantages among women and minority voters.  However, Sen. Sanders did well with younger, make, and Caucasian voters.  This looks good for Madame Secretary going into the next round of primaries through to California, not so much for the Senator.  (Ibid)

Although, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton claimed the end is neigh, yours truly is quick to remind them both that "it ain't over until the fat lady sings."  In short, do not start writing your nomination acceptance speeches just yet.  There are still a number of primary contests that have yet to be run, including the big prize, Blogger's home state of California.  California is one of the most multicultural states in the nation.  Learn to make friends and not just with celebrities.  Blogger believes that the primary contests will all come down to the Golden State.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Preserving An Old Community With An Eye To The Future

Venice, Italy with the canals
Hello Everyone:

Today we leave the world of politics, for now, and venture over to Italy for a look a the ongoing efforts to preserve Venice's 500-year-old Jewish quarter.  It was here that the concept of a ghetto was born.  In contemporary parlance, ghetto has a very negative connotation.  The word ghetto has come to symbolize a run down, crime-ridden neighborhood where the police and emergency services will not come and no one is safe anytime of the day.  However, Tom Kington, in his article for the New York Times "Venice Jews work to preserve the world's first ghetto as 500th anniversary nears," reports why it is so important to restore the place that once separated the Jewish community from the rest of Venice and what lessons can be learned.

Info Point for the Venice Jewish Community
Tom Kington's guide through the community, Shaul Bassi, explained that this was not simply "a ghetto, it was the ghetto."  Mr. Bassi said,

The concept of the ghetto was born here in 
Venice...And that is why we must never forget this place.

The Venice Ghetto was established in 1516 by the city's rulers on the site of a former metal foundry and possibly "the first community in Europe to be segregated by religious belief, the neighborhood took its name from getar, a word in the Venetian dialect meaning 'to smelt.'"

Over the course of 300 years, the Venetian Jews, all 5,000, were obliged to pay the salaries of the guards who patrolled the streets and locked the gates at midnight.  During the tour, Mr. Bassi pointed out the eight-story houses tightly encircling the main square-"the tallest buildings in the lagoon city."  He remarked, They had to build higher and higher and squeeze in low-ceiling apartments.  It was like a beehive.

Apartments along the canals
This year marks the 500th anniversary of the world's first ghetto and Mr. Bassi is part of an organization trying to raise 8 million euros ($8.7 million) to restore three 16th century synagogues and a museum in the community, yards from the crowded tourist filled streets but seldom visited.  Mr. Bassi said,

Millions live in ghettos around the world today, and we are trying to figure out what precious less can be drawn from own experience here.

Shaul Bassi, an English literature professor at the University of Venice, is joined in this fight by Venice's chief rabbi Scialom Bahbout who believes that acknowledging the anniversary "could prove timely in the battle against anti-Semitism in Europe,..."  Rabbi Bahbout told Mr. Kington,

The ghetto was founded on anti-Semitism-a sickness that hasn't gone away-and remembering it is important because it reminds us that after 500 years of trying to eradicate Jewish culture, not only are we still here, but Jewish culture made it over the ghetto walls.

The Jewish community were shut out from most employment opportunities; forced to seek work as money lenders (the model for Shylock in The Merchant of Venice), clothes sellers, or doctors.  The Venetian Jews were also obliged to wear yellow caps if they left the ghetto confines for the city, where prejudice was rampant.  Tom Kington writes, "In 1668, a special canal was dug around the outskirts of Venice to allow Jews to reach their cemetery without being subject to insults and stone throwing by Christians."

Bridge leading down to a shop
© David's Shop Editions 
Another highlight of Tom Kington's tour through the community, was his visit to one of the synagogues.  Mr. Bassi cautiously climbed a creaky staircase, entering one of the three small synagogues, hidden away in residential buildings around the square to remain out of sight.  He explained,

The Jews were forced to use Christian architects to build the synagogues; they weren't allowed to use their own.

Shaul Bassi readily admits that the ghetto is not the most attractive place, however, Mr. Kington describes the synagogue interiors as, "bursting with baroque and rococo carvings in world and gilt.  Campaigners like Bassi hope money can used to make them fully accessible to visitors."

Venetian synagogue interior
The actual number of synagogues that served the community was five-accommodating all the nationalities that lived in the ghetto.  Strange but true, Jews from elsewhere in Europe flocked to live here.  Venice Jewish community leader Paolo Gnignati related,

Elsewhere in Europe Jews were treated worse, and Venice to some extent was a safe harbor...The city wanted them to come because they needed access to Jewish trading networks; it was good business on the part of the doges (referring to the Venetian leaders).

In 1541, the ghetto was enlarged to make room for Spanish and Portuguese Jewish journeymen traders.  Shaul Bassi added, For Jews, the ghetto was an acceptable compromise.  As Jews entered the ghetto, cultural and religious life flourished behind the gates.

Sarra Copia Salam

Shaul Bassi went on to say "that a third of all Hebrew publications in Europe before 1650 were Venetian and that in 1530, when England's King Henry VIII was searching for Old Testament precedents to justify his divorce of Catherine of Aragon, he consulted with Venice rabbis." By the !7th-century, poet Sarra Copia Sulam was hosting literary salons and being obsessively courted by a Genoese monk.  Mr. Bassi winked,

Being trapped in the ghetto didn't block the imagination, it triggered it.

Mr. Gnignati picked up the narrative,

Over time...Jewish and Venetian culture intermingled, proving that cultural identities are not immutable.

Thus far, $2 million dollars has been raised and will be used to restore and expand the small museum for exhibits about the ghetto's cultural life.  Fund raising efforts have been headed by the Venetia Heritage with support from couturier Dian Von Frustenberg and is looking to possible American benefactors.  Archivist Toto Bergamo Rossi told Mr. Kington,  An anonymous donor is about to give 3[million] to 4 million euros.

William Shakespeare's Shylock
Events celebrating the anniversary include concerts and exhibitions which began on March 29, the day the ghetto was originally established.  One of the events will be a performance of William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, which will have its premier in the community main square.  For Mr. Bassi, the play is must despite the fact that it gave the world the despicable Jewish character Shylock.  For Mr. Bassi, this is a way of confronting the character that has become the hateful caricature  of Jewish people.  He said, Shylock is most famous Venetian Jew and we cannot pretend he doesn't exist.

Napoleone Bonaparte finally knocked down the gates in 1797, when he occupied the city, allowing Jews to live where they wished.  There is a plaque in the main square that commemorates the 250 Jews taken from Venice to Auschwitz and never returned.  Today only 500 Jewish residents remain in Venice; just a handful in the old ghetto.  One of the plans for the newly expanded museum is a showcase for 40 silver crowns, shields, and liturgical pieces recently discovered under a synagogue staircase, hidden away from the Germans in 1943.

Campo di Ghetto Nuovo
Photography by Andrea Wyner
Venice, Italy
Paolo Gnignai summed it up,

We were deprived of our rights here, but we preserved our cultural identity, contributed to Europe's identity and we are still here...We can serve as an example to newcomers who want to participate in Europe while preserving their original identity.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Candidates' Records On Cultural Heritage Protection

President Lyn Johnson singing the NHPA in 1966
Hello Everyone:

Today we are kind of staying in the Candidate Forum today with a look at the presidential nominee candidates's position on historic preservation.  The American National Historic Preservation Act was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966 and celebrates its fiftieth anniversary.  In historic preservation terms, fifty years is a good amount of time to step back and re-evaluate the unprecedented coalitions of people who care about their community, history, and culture with an eye to the future.  After all, the actual premises of this blog,, is architecture, historic preservation, urban planning and design.

Before yours truly plunges into the subject, Blogger feels obligated to acknowledge all the fine whine coming out of the Sanders and Trump campaign about the elections being rigged.  To both campaigns, Bloggers says, grow up and focus on getting every voter you can.  This is the major leagues, there is no room for grown adults behaving like spoiled children.  That said, on to Greg Werkheiser's recent article in the Huffington Post, "In a Historic Election, Where Do the Candidates Stand on Protection America's Heritage?" which looks at the candidates's stance on historic preservation.

"Preservation 50 1966-2016"
Let us start with a simple fact, saving America's heritage is not the most burning campaign issue.  However, the nation's historic preservation is a uniquely American creature, born out of grassroots movements to save important sites of American history.  Mr. Werkheiser writes, "There is a surprisingly close association between American presidents and historic preservation."  He cites the third President of The United States Thomas Jefferson as "often called the Father of American Archaeology for his excavations of Indian mounds at Monticello in 1782, and his home and the University of Virginia that he founded are now World Heritage Sites."

Members of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association
The first recorded national preservation effort was undertaken in 1858 at Mount Vernon, the home of the first President of The United States George Washington.  The Mount Vernon Ladies Association was formed in response to the estate's woeful state.  The story behind it was South Carolina socialite, Louise Dalton Bird Cunningham was traveling along the Potomac where she was appalled at the deteriorating Mount Vernon.  She wrote,

If the men of America have seen fit to allow the home of its most respected hero to go to ruin, why can't the women of America band together to save it?

In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the National Antiquities Act into law.  This legislation protected archeological artifacts in the West that told the story of the flourishing cultures of the first Americans-the cliff dwellings in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona.  The National  Antiquities Act  also gave presidents a way to establish National Monuments to protect and preserve buildings and that tell the diverse history of this country such as: Fort McHenry, Harriet Tubman's Underground Railroad, and Cesar Chavez's Forty Acres.  Pros. Franklin Roosevelt signed the National Sites Act of 1935, establishing the National Historic Landmarks programs and the Historic American Building Survey.  However, the biggest impact on American historic and cultural resources was the passage of the NHPA in 1966.

"Our Legacy, Our Future"
Birth of the Federal Historic Preservation Program

The NHPA was a response to the destructive affects of the federal urban renewal and interstate highway programs.  The NHPA created the National Register of Historic and state historic preservation. In California:  It also laid out a process (Section 106) for reviewing projects that involve federal money, land, and permits that ensure that historic buildings and places are considered.

The National Historic Preservation Act also established a program that "comprehensively identify, evaluate, protect, and enhance the Nation's rich cultural heritage."  In practice, to say that value of the NHPA is inestimable is an understatement.  Presently, the National Register lists over 1.7 million resources in more than 80,000 listings.  Mr. Werkheiser writes, "Federal consultation about the impacts to historic sites happens approximately 140,000 times a year."  There are over 2,100 historic district, providing exciting places for people to live and work.  Historic sites like Fallingwater in Pennsylvania and the French Quarter in New Orleans host millions of visitors every year.

Charleston, South Carolina Historic District
Since the passage of the NHPA, Americans have transformed their neighborhoods, across the nation, generating widespread social and economic benefits.  Study after study has proven that the NHPA helps "stabilize neighborhoods and downtowns, contributes to public education and public health, attracts investments, creates jobs, generates tax supports small business and affordable housing, combats blight and powers America's heritage tourism industry."  Really.  Historic places, near and far also "maintain community pride and identity and aid local and regional economies through their operation and maintenance."

Seal of the office of the President of the United States
Choosing the Preservationist in Chief

Here is another simple fact, this presidential election is, for lack of anything genuinely nice to say, unique for its many well-publicized firsts.  Given the flying insults, obscenities, and accusations, Blogger agrees with Greg Werkheiser's assessment, "...few voters will have cultural heritage protection foremost on their mind when they enter the voting booth."  If you check out the remaining candidates's websites, you will not find a position on historic preservation.  Be that as it may, the candidates should make friends with preservationists because we constitute a sizable voting bloc.  Citing a recent study by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, there are "...1.5 million active local preservationists, nearly the total number of people who voted in the 2008 Democratic primary.  At least 50 million Americans, or 15% of the total US population, are deeply sympathetic to the cause of historic preservation."

The Oval Office
Needless to say the stakes loom large in this election for cultural resource protection.  Events transpiring over the past several years demonstrate that elected officials play a great role in deciding "whether the policy environment for preservation is favorable."  Greg Werkheiser lists three important questions voter could ask the presidential nominee candidates:

Leadership.  Will you appoint officials who will make cultural heritage preservation a priority domestically and internationally?  The Department of Interior plays a primary role, including through the National Park Service (, which manages almost 100,000 heritage sites...the Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service conserves nearly 350, ooo cultural heritage sites.  The independent Advisory Council on Historic Preservation ( advises the President and Congress and oversees the protective planning process...Will you support international cultural organizations like UNESCO (

Funding Support. Will you ask Congress to fully fund and permanently authorize the Historic Preservation Fund?....

Incentives for Private Investment.  Will you stand up for the federal historic rehabilitation ta credit?  The tax credits have helped create 2.3 million jobs, save 38,7000 historic structures, and attracted 108 billion in private investments...

With all of this in mind, let us take a look at the candidates's experience with historic preservation and preservation-related issues.  First on the list is Hillary Clinton.

Secretary Hillary Clinton (D-New York)
Hillary Clinton: if past performance is any indication, Sec. Clinton will be an avid supporter of cultural resource protection.  As First Lady of The United States, Sec. Clinton established and served as Founding Chair of the Save America's Treasures program, "a national effort to match federal funds to private donations to preserve and restore historic items and sites."  This program has award "$315,152,000 to 1,287 grants to federal state, local, and tribal government entities and nonprofit organizations."  Although the program is still in active, presently Congress does not fund it.

White House Blue Room date unknown
As FLOTUS, Madame Secretary supervised the restoration of the White House's Blue Room to its early 19th-century period of historic significance and the Map Room as it appeared during World War II.  In 2000, Sec. Clinton authored a coffee table book, An Invitation to the White House: At Home With History, which described life at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue including all the renovations with proceeds going to White House Historical Association.  During the Clinton Administration, funding for the Historic Preservation Fund doubled.

As Secretary of State, she championed the Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation, established by Congress in 2001.  This fund, as Greg Werkheiser writes, "...has demonstrated America's respect for the world's cultural heritage by supporting more than 640 projects in over 100 countries."  During her tenure, Sec. Clinton traveled to 112 countries, earning her the title of "most widely traveled secretary of state."  Much of her travels included tours of her hosts's countries important cultural heritage sites.  As a candidate for the Democratic nomination, Sec. Clinton argues for strong actions to reverse global warming and major investment in infrastructure with energy efficient and sustainability  ( with the main goal of jobs creation.  Mr. Werkheiser writes, "She does not explicitly tether those goals to historic preservation, however, despite abundant proof that buildings are the primary source of energy loss and that the most efficient building is one that is already built."  Yes.

Donald Trump (R-New York)
Donald Trump:  alright, Blogger probably knows what you all are thinking, Donald Trump AND historic preservation?  That goes together about as well as eating a slice pizza with a fork and knife (a major New York faux pas).  Like most things Trump, the Republican frontrunner's record on historic preservation is "extravagant and not easily characterized."  Most of Mr. Trump's pre-Apprentice notoriety was connected to his real estate business.  As improbable as it may sound, Mr. Werkheiser writes,"...and the public imagination of old neighborhoods falling before Mr. Tump's gilded bulldozers may obscure the fact that Mr. Trump has some track of bring new life to historic structures through modern uses."  Allow yours truly to explain.

Perhaps the most extravagant example of Mr. Trump's historic preservation efforts is the restoration of his Palm Beach, Florida residence and private club, Mar-a-Lago.  The 1927 former grand estate of cereal heiress Majorie Merriweather Post was originally bequeathed to the federal government as a possible 'winter White House.  When the government passed on it, the property sat empty for more than a decade until Mr. Trump bought it in 1985 and furnished it for a paltry $10 million.  He spent ten years restoring it with then-wife Ivana.

Aerial view of Mar-A-Lago
Palm Beach, Florida
  An excerpt from the Palm Beach Post said.

Originally, the main house was 55,700 square feet, with 118 rooms, 58 bedrooms and 33 bathrooms.  [A designer] frosted Mar-A-Lago in an unrestrained river of gold leaf, gold bathroom fixtures, rare marbles, carved stone and ancient Portuguese tile.  Rooms were modeled after European palaces.  Workers used the country's entire stock of gold leaf when gilding the living, with 42-foot ceiling.  (

Greg Werkheiser writes, "As the rescuer of Mar-a-lago, Trump invested millions of dollars and many years on a historically sensitive rehabilitation of what club's website claims is 'the greatest mansion ever built...'"  Mr. Trump also donated easements on the site to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, receiving perpetual tax benefits.

Old Post Office Pavilion
Washington D.C.
Presently, Mr. Trump has begun redeveloping the Old Post Office Pavilion, in Washington D.C., not far from the White House, into a luxury hotel.  The project bid pledges to respect the building's historic fabric.  However, Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) demurred over Mr. Trump's use of federal historic tax credits to make the project economically feasible, while the National Trust has defended their use.

Of course, Blogger would be remiss in not mentioning the cultural impact of Mr. Trump's proposed and much ridiculed border wall.  This border wall was the subject of a hilariously scathing rant by John Oliver ( which featured a clip of "testimony from the Chairman of the Tohomo O'dham Nation about the unrestricted description of native graves when the feds built an earlier souther border fence."  To wit, fragments of human remains were found in the tire treads of construction equipment.

Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont)
Bernie Sanders: Before he was a successful politician, Senator Bernie Sanders briefly worked at Vermont Historical Interpretation.  Between 1979 and 1980, Sen. Sanders made and sold filmstrip to Vermont schools and libraries.  In literature for the American People's Historical Society, then-director Bernard Sanders wrote,

  It is our belief that state and regional history has too long been neglected by the audio-visual industry and we are happy to begin the process of rectifying that situation.  We believe that students have the right to learn about the state and region which they are living.  (

In the political realm, the Gentleman from Vermont pursued his interests in historic preservation-related subjects.  As Mayor of Burlington, the city was the first in the country to adopt the Community Land Trust as a way for lower and middle income residents to have control over and access housing and public spaces.  Greg Werkheiser reports, "To this day the Burlington Management Plan speaks to the ability to restore and maintain historic structures while maintaining their affordability:

Ben & Jerry's in Burlington, Vermont
Burlington's rich and varied historic and architectural legacy, the result of more than two centuries of development, remains a vital link to the city's history and plays an active part in its future.  (

As a member pf Congress, then-Representative Sanders came to the aide of the preservation community in 1995, "...when the House Appropriations Committee proposed to eliminate the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.  Rep. Sanders proposed an amendment to restore the ACHP's funding that was approved by a vote of 287 to 130.

As a candidate for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Sanders, like Secretary Clinton, proposes bold initiatives to further energy efficiency and sustainability without specifically mention historic preservation's crucial role.  Mr. Werkheiser writes, "He also recently called for greater social and economic justice for Native Americans, stressing the importance of native sacred spaces and of including native voices in decisions over these lands."

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
Ted Cruz:  Nothing specific on the subject of preservation on the public record from which to gain some understanding on Sen. Ted Cruz's feelings toward the role of government in cultural heritage protection.  Throughout his career, the Senator has focused his policy concerns on law enforcement and social issues.  However, Mr. Werkheiser points out, "There are two major areas in which his philosophy is likely to impact historic preservation, and neither of them in a good way."

First, the Gentleman from Texas, opposes federal land ownership, especially in western states.  This issue came under the white hot national media spotlight during the Bundy militia occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.  This matter re-surfaced in a February campaign commercial in which the Cruz campaign argued for "returning several national monuments to control by states or private citizens.  This position is significant because the federal government holds itself to a much higher standard of stewardship of cultural resources than do the states-due in large part to the provisions of the NHPA.  Many states have weak or nonexistent protections for historic buildings, traditional cultural properties, and archeological sites."

The Grand Canyon
Northern Arizona
Second as president, Sen. Cruz proposes to radically re-write the tax code which would eliminate the "job generating historic rehabilitation tax credit."  Mr. Werkheiser speculates, "Perhaps Senator Cruz has an alternative strategy to redevelop anchor properties during a tough market but he does not appear to have it public."

Interestingly, Greg Werkheiser does not include Governor John Kasich (R-Ohio) in his survey of the candidates's records on historic preservation.  Perhaps, Mr. Werkheiser does not find Gov. Kasich's candidacy viable enough to spend time discussing his record. Another possibility is that Mr. Werkheiser simply could not find any information on Gov. Kasich and historic preservation.

Where do we go from here?  Quoting William Murtagh, the first Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, Greg Werkheiser writes,

It has been said that, at its best, preservation engages the past in conversation with the present over a metal concern for the future.

Same could be said about political campaigns, at their best.  As part of the Preservation50 celebration, the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation and its partners are soliciting public comments on how ensure a shining future for cultural heritage protection and public use for the next fifty years and beyond.  Blogger could not agree more with Mr. Werkheiser's final comment, "One way of doing so is to elect presidents, senators, and congressperson who seek not only to make history, but to save it and learn it."

One more thing, recently the state of North Carolina passed a law, HB2 also known as the "Bathroom Bill," which effectively ends legal protection for Gay. Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered persons in the workplace.  Other states have enacted similar legislation.  If you would like to learn more about this issue please go to  Blogger would like to thank the members of Duran Duran for making yours truly aware of this issue.