Tuesday, May 31, 2016

City Of Design


Detroit, UNESCO City of Design
Hello Everyone:

Yours truly is back from a very mellow Memorial Day and ready to write.  Today we revisit the City of Detroit, Michigan.

The City of Detroit continues its comeback after declaring bankruptcy a few years ago.  Recently, the "Motor City" was named the first American "City of Design" by the United Nations Economic, Science, and Cultural Organization.  Why should it not be named a City of Design?  After all, the city has deep roots in design and creativity.  Its roots run deep not only the automobile industry but also in architecture, advertising, food and beverage, fashion, and so much more.  Detroit's impact extends far beyond its 139 square mile confines.  However, "What does it mean for Detroit to be a 'City of Design?'"  Olga Stella, the new executive director of Detroit Creative Corridor Center (http://www.detroit3.com), and Ellie Schneider, the outgoing associate director of DC3, report that Mayor Mike Duggan, Detroit Creative Corridor Center and various community members want to answer.

"Detroit City of Design"
In December 2015, the Director-General of UNESCO added Detroit to its Network of Creative  Cities.  Quite an honor.  Detroit joins a select group of 116 cities, in 54 countries.  What makes this honor even more distinctive is that Detroit is the United States's first and only UNESCO City of Design.  Mayor Duggan, DC3, and various community members applied for the designation during the summer of 2015.  Olga Stella and Ellie Schneider report, "Successfully receiving this designation reinforce DC3's commitment and organizational focus on supporting growth in Detroit's design industries."  Accompanying the application, a short film was produced and directed by local filmmaker Stephen McGee, introducing some of city's design fields and start the conversation on "what makes Detroit a city of design?"

Detroit Skyline
What makes Detroit a city of design?

What does make Detroit a city of design?  Ms. Stella and Ms. Schneider write, "Detroit design and industry made the world mobile, fundamentally changing the way we move, work, and live."  Look around the developed world and you will not find one city that has not been affected by a product proudly designed in Detroit.  Detroit has a rich legacy of design that includes: Rae and Charles Eames, Knoll office furniture,  industrial designer Niels Diffrient, Rip Rapson the founder of The Kresge Foundation, and Albert Kahn.  Design remains the main driver of both regional and state economies, thus an important of the contemporary cultural fabric.  Olga Stella and Elle Schneider outline several factors that contribute to Detroit, City of Design.

Cranbrook Academy of Art
Bloomfield, Michigan
Talent:  The first factor cited by the authors is talent.  The Detroit region to the largest concentration and number of commercial and industrial designers in American.  They write, "Michigan's design industries represent over 13 different fields of specialty."  More than half of the design workforce. "10,000 individuals," is found in the Detroit metropolitan area.

Education: The region is home to some of the finest and globally recognized art and design education institutions including: The Cranbrook Academy of Art, the University of Michigan Tubman School of Architecture and Penny Stamps School of Art and Design, University of Detroit Mercy College of Architecture, and the Lawrence Technological University.

Herman Miller chair (super comfortable)
Made in Detroit
Research and Innovation: along with education and talent, research and innovation is another contributor to the City of Design.  Ms. Stella and Ms. Schneider writer, "Separate from the auto industry, other globally significant brands such as General Electric, Herman Miller,...Whirlpool, Delta Faucets/America Standard (MASCO),...have located major design research center in southeast Michigan."

Business: Design is an integral part of the region's economy. Here are a few examples:

CAN Art Handworks-a historic preservation focused metalworks studio that recycles and repurposes materials.

Cyberoptix Tie Lab-a textile design and printing company in Eastern Michigan

Rossetti-a global architecture firm focused on sports and entertainment.

Nobel Link-a sustainably made furniture, made in the Russel Industrial Center since 1988

Skidmore Studios-a boutique creative firm that connects entertainment brands to millesimals.

Sundberg Ferar-one of the nation's oldest product design firms.

Community: Detroit's design industry is also mentoring future design firms.  One example is the venerable Pewabic Pottery working with Grace in Action's Radical Production, a youth-based technology firm that develops websites and app design services and training program.  Community-driven design is improving the city's landscape with initiative like the Lincoln Street Art Park.  Makerspaces like Talking Dolls Community Makerspace and OmniCorp Detroit bring together residents to make and innovate.

Armillary SphereW
Detroit Design Center
What does design mean for the future of our city?

The UNESCO designation represents recognition that Detroit is a place that embraces design and the engine for sustainable development.  However, Olga Stella and Ellie Schneider write, "...the designation itself is just one tool to implement a larger strategy."  All the stakeholders, not just DC3, must work together to use this tool during the 10-year designation period.  As a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, Detroit and the region will be able to participate in a world-wide exchange of ideas focused on using design to meet the challenges of development in industrial cities.  To what end?

Olga Stell and Ellie Schneider continue, "The power of this designation is in its ability to unify our community around design as a driver of Detroit's development.  It also will serve as a catalyst for conversations about design in and around the city, allowing for the impact of design to reach a greater audience and make Detroit an even more vibrant place."

The vision of DC3, Mayor Mike Duggan, and community members is that "...through meaningful collaborations, discussions, and partnerships, we can build a long-term vision for what this means how to achieve it."  Ms. Stella and Ms. Schneider envision a role for every individual, business, and organization in Detroit.  The "City of Design" designation should be more than just a nice title, rather, a way of thinking and action.  To jumpstart the conversation, Ms. Stella and Ms. Schneider invite the public to reflect on what Detroit City of Design should stand for over the next ten years.  You can leave your thoughts at http://www.detroit3.com.  The answers will be complied into a world cloud and shared over the coming weeks.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Blogger Candidate Forum: Those Emails

Secretary Hillary Clinton checking email
Hello Everyone:

It is Wednesday, which means it it time for the weekly installment of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Before we get going on Hillary Clinton, let us acknowledge yesterday's Washington State Republican Primary.  In case you have been off the grid, Donald Trump.  Not news when you are the only one on the ballot.  The next round of presidential primaries is on JUNE  7, with the big one in California.  Now, shall we talk about Secretary Hillary Clinton?

Let us start with the obvious, for all intents and purposes, Madame Secretary will be the Democratic party nominee.  Another obvious observation, is the impact of the State Department inspector general's report on Madame Secretary's email practices.  Madame Secretary was not the only top State Department official with questionable email usages.  Others include: former Secretaries of State Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Madelaine Albright.  Chris Cillizza reports in today's Washington Post, "The report....badly complicates Clinton's past explanations about the server and whether she fully complied with the laws in place governing electronic communication." (http://www.washingtonpost.com; accessed May 25, 2016)  The newly released reports gives more than ample fuel to the Trump campaign narrative of "Crooked Hillary."  Surprisingly the Sanders campaign has not made any statement about the report.  Perhaps that is all well and fine because, Senator Bernie Sanders has not made this issue a focus of attack on Madame Secretary.

Secretary Clinton before the House Select Committee on Benghazi
In a related article, also in the Post, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger write, "The inspector general, in a long awaited review...found that Clinton's use of private email for public business was not appropriate method of preserving documents and that her practices failed to comply with department policies meant to ensure that federal record laws are followed."  (Ibid) Well, yes.  The report goes on to say that Madame Secretary "...should have printed and saved her emails during her four years in office or surrendered her work-related correspondence immediately upon stepping down in February 2013."  She provided those documents in December 2014.  In Blogger's estimation, not printing or saving her emails is not a crime.  Careless, yes but not a crime.  Really, how many of us save and print out our work-related correspondence, then surrender them when we leave our job?

Attorney General Loretta Lynch
The real question remains did any of those emails contain sensitive information that placed American lives and assets in danger?  Also, was the server vulnerable to hackers?  The answers to these and many more questions may not come for months or years, if at all. The report also revealed that a top aide to Madame Secretary was warned, as far back as 2010, that her private system "...may not properly preserve records but dismissed those worries, indicating that the system passed legal muster."  (Ibid)  The inspector general report said it could not present any evidence by legal counsel.  Further, the report revealed that there was "some awareness" of her email habit by some of her staff members.  For her part, Madame Secretary has long maintained that the State Department knew about her private emails.

Secretary Hillary Clinton addressing the Democratic National Committee
Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger continue. "...the report also provides a striking example of a department official appearing to shield the system from scrutiny.  When an IT staffer raised concerns in 2010 that the system may not properly preserve records, the official said the system had been review by attorneys..."  What this seems to indicate that someone at the State Department knew about the server and sought to protect Madame Secretary.  In fact, this unknown person told the IT staffer never to speak of Madame Secretary's email again.  It sounds like something out of a political thriller.  The thing to look for in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's probe, the last person interviewed by FBI.  He or she is the subject of the investigation.  Rumor has it, that it is not Madame Secretary.

United States Department of State
 Secretary Hillary Clinton's press secretary, Brian Fallon, tweeted,

GOP will attack HRC because she is running for President but IG report makes it clear personal email was not unique at State Department  (9:22 AM-25 May 2016 @brianefallon)

The Clinton campaign has spent months painting the IG Office's as beginning overly aggressive and cooperating with congressional Republicans to portray Madame Secretary in the worst possible way.  This sounds disingenuous considering that the IG was appointed by President Barack Obama.  This is the same issue she faces if Madame Secretary tries to was dispersion on the FBI investigation.  The very same FBI overseen by Pres. Obama appointee Loretta E. Lynch.  Does this mean that a DEMOCRATIC administration filled with DEMOCRATIC appointees is out to get her?

There is some credibly to Mr. Fallon's argument that Madame Secretary is far from the first Secretary of State to use less-than-airtight  methods for ensuring the preservation and securing of her email.  The report is particularly critical of former President George W. Bush's first Secretary of State Colin Powell who acknowledged that he used his personal email account for business and failed to follow with department policy regarding compliance with public record laws.

AG Lynch suggested that the White House "stay silent" on email probe
The IG's report does highlight two major differences between Secretary Hillary, current Secretary of State John Kerry, and former secretaries Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice regarding email practices.  First, Madame Secretary is, so far, the only secretary of state to use a private server and email address for businesses while serving as the nation's top diplomat.  The others maintained separate private and government email addresses.  It is never, ever a a good idea to co-mingle your private and work correspondence regardless of what you do.  You never know who has access to your email.  Is co-mingling correspondence make her guilty.  No, it is not but it does make her stand out among her peers.  The second and most obvious point is Madame Secretary is running for president and is the likely nominee for her party.

The presumptive nominees
As the likely nominee for her party, Secretary Hillary Clinton should be under greater scrutiny then Secretary Rice, who has never expressed interest in elected office.  This is also true because her campaign  has made her tenure at State the center of her argument for why anyone would elect her President of The United States.  Every aspect of her tenure should be closely examined: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

There is also the perception issue.  Madame Secretary has been portrayed as dishonest and untrustworthy by both Mr. Trump and Senator Sanders.  Certainly, this report makes the task of changing that impression significantly harder.  The silver lining here is that Republicans are about to nominate a man whose numbers in the trustworthy, honesty, and readiness categories are even lower than hers.  In this way, it makes the job of shedding the "Crooked Hillary" label a little easier.

No doubt this is a bad day for Secretary Hillary Clinton but she will overcome it.  Her task, right now, is to be as forthcoming with the American public as possible.  The results of the FBI probe are still in the wings but there is little evidence to suggest that there was any malicious intent to flaunt classification rules.  Yours truly does not believe there was malicious intent either.  Naturally, there are those outside the federal government who believe otherwise and that is fine with Blogger.  Rather jump to any conclusions, yours truly believes that it is best to take a wait and see approach.  The FBI is expected to conclude their probe this summer.  Then we will what comes next.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Will Your State Be Ready?

http://www.citylab.com/housing/2016/04/why-historic-preservation-needs-to-be-part0f disaster-planning/477318/?utm_source=nl_link-041116

The Orpheum Theater (1918) following Hurricane Katrina
New Orleans, Louisiana
AP Photo/Bill Haber
Hello Everyone:

Blogger is a little under the weather today because of spring allergies, nevertheless, Blogger must soldier on.

Historic landmarks pay a heavy price whenever natural disasters strike.  Take a look at the picture on the left of The Orpheum Theater in New Orleans, Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina.  When the Hurricane swept through the city, the resultant floods damaged 19th- and 20th-century buildings, causing some to fall.  More recently, Hurricane Sandy blew through New York City and parts of New Jersey, toppling monuments in the 1849 Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn and damaging the electrical systems of the Revolution-era Fraunes Tavern Museum in Manhattan.  In her recent article for CityLab, "Why Historic Preservation Needs to Be Part Disaster Planning," Linda Poon discusses why historic preservation strategies need to part of state disaster plans.

Coburn Free Library, September 2011
Oswego, New York
Photograph by Simon Hucko
Rising sea levels, dire predictions of increasingly extreme weather patterns, and the inevitable Big One looming over the West Coast, the United States is preparing itself for more natural disasters.  One would think that all fifty states would have a hazard-mitigation plan that incorporated historic preservation, right?  Alarmingly, this is not the case.  Linda Poon reports, "...a recent report [http://www.tandfonline.com] out the University of Colorado Denver and the University Kentucky finds that the U.S. may not be as prepared as it could be to protect historic sites from floods, wildfires, and tornadoes.  In fact, almost two thirds of all states lack historic preservation goals and strategies in their disaster plans."

Some of you may think, in case of a flood or other natural disaster, saving people comes first.  Blogger agrees with this sentiment but as Andrew Rumbach, a planning and design professor at the University of Colorado Denver and one of the study's authors, told Ms. Poon,

It's such an important issue because so many historic resources were built before modern flood regulations and modern building codes, so they're located in areas that are prone to these kinds of disasters...When you [saw] them in Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed thousands of historic resources.  It was a real loss.  The preservation community tried to save as much as they could and restore it back with historical integrity.

How Hurricane Sandy affected Fraunces Tavern
To analyze how well disaster management is incorporated into state historic preservation planning (and vice versa), Prof. Rumbach and his University of Kentucky colleague, historic preservation professor Douglas Appier, studied the historic preservation and hazard-mitigation strategies in all fifty states.  These documents are updated every five; outline the goals and methods that guide municipal governments and organizations when disaster strikes.  The results were just published in the current issue of  Journal of the American Planning Association, titled, "Building Community Resilience Through Historic Preservation," (Ibid)

Linda Poon writes, "In the first set of documents, on preservation, the researchers sought out word like 'emergency,' 'disaster,' and 'hazard.'  In the second, they looked to see if historic preservation was explicitly discussed, and whether a representative from the preservation department was included in the disaster-planning process."

Post-Hurricane Sandy Evergreens Cemetery
Brooklyn, New York
Professors Rumbach and Appier discovered that "...two-thirds of states explicitly mentioned emergency preparedness in their preservation plans, and 25 states included specific policies, initiatives, and plan objectives."  Shockingly, 60 percent of all states do not have a specific preservation strategy embedded in their hazard-mitigation plans.  Moreover, "...only 13 states included specific goals and strategies that mentioned protecting historic resources."

Be that as it may, both preservationists and disaster planners have mutual interests.  Protecting historic resources are important for disaster resilience.  How, you may ask?  Prof. Rumbach told Ms. Poon,

Not only are they important for community identity, and for people's sense of belonging, and why they value their communities, but they're also often very important for local economies.

Case in point, Ms. Poon observes in an aside, "New Orleans, famous for its historic attractions, drew more than 9.5 million tourists in 2014 and added $6.8 billion to its local economy."

Post-Hurricane Katrina Beauvoir
The retirement home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis
AP Photo/BillHaber
Biloxi, Mississippi

Even though municipalities may have their own preservation and disaster-mitigation plans, Prof. Appier said,

It's still important for states to have both in place.  The state isa guidance document, identifying areas that should be of concern or special focus...Then [the local agencies] could develop guidance for people who live in historic districts-what you can do to prevent damage to your house in case of flooding, and who they should contact.

Prof. Rumbach continues,

...state can be particularly helpful in small cities where local communities may not necessarily have the capacity to plan for natural disasters themselves.

The researchers made use of publicly available spatial data that enabled them to map put historic sites that vulnerable to flooding in: Kentucky, Florida, and Colorado.  The revealed "...15 percent of the 3,380 historic sites listed for Kentucky are located in the state's 100-year or 500-year floodplain, meaning the area has either a 1 percent or 0.2 percent chance, respectively, of being flooded on any given year."  About a quarter of the 1,700 sites in Florida are located inside similar floodplains.

Post-Hurricane Katrina home demolition
New Orleans, Louisiana
the nation.org
There is till some room for adjustment to the information.  Professors Andrew Rumbach and Douglas Appier determined that "only 6.8 percent of Colorado's 1,480 National Register sites are located in an area vulnerable to flooding, but that's in part because more than half the counties' floodplain data is not available through FEMA's National Flood Hazard Layer."

The silver lining in all this that are at least two federal programs that can assist states better connect to two areas of planning" the National Park Service' Certified Local Government Program (http://www.nps.gov) and the National Main Street Program (http://www.preservationnation.org).  These wonderful organizations act as partnerships between national and state agencies and local governments that hone in on preservation.  Linda Poon adds, "Communities that have these programs in place already have a good infrastructure to protect historic sites."

Professor Appier had this to say,

They can be very useful when we start thinking about how these two areas of planning [historic preservation and disaster planning] are to be [sic] linked...The know the historic resources, and the people who are involved in those two programs are publicly inclined and are willing to contribute their time for the betterment of the community.

Finally, Professor Rumbach said,

Our study is really looking forward into the future...and saying, 'What can communities who have a lot of historic resources that may be at risk from disaster can do to better plan for them?"

Monday, May 23, 2016

Big Data And The City


The 2015 Big Data Expo
Guiyang, China
Reuters Staff/Reuters
Hello Everyone:

Time to start the blogosphere week Today we start with the subject of the relationship between data and cities.  Like any relationship, it is a complex one.  In his recent CityLab article, "The Complex Relationship Between Data and Cities, Richard Florida discusses the latest advances and the challenge ahead.  Mr. Florida writes, "There's been no shortage of hip about the relationship between cities and data, especially so-called big data."  For a majority of tech companies, cities, and an increasing number of urbanists, data offers the opportunity to remedy a myriad of urban issues such as: predictive policing, improving the flow of traffic, and promoting energy efficiency.  Data has a greater potential role to play in assisting policymakers and researchers "...understand how cities and neighborhoods grow and evolve-but only if done tight."

Quantifying the Livable City
The legitimately exciting use of new data

The social media has become a rich source for researchers looking to mine data in order to develop new an understanding of cities and urban change.  Mr. Florida cites the examples of the work done by sociologists Robert Sampson and Jacquelyn Hwang, who used Street View image to study to role of race and gentrification and neighborhood transformation.  A similar study from the U.K. Spatial Economics Research Centre made use of geo-tagged pictures on Flickr to assess the rates of urbanity in London and Berlin.  Ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft  have been mined for mobility data have been used in several studies and chronicled by Mr. Florida's colleagues  Laura Bliss (http://www.citylab.com; May 2016).  Former CityLab writer Eric Jaffe has gleaned information on housing price trends across neighborhoods, cities, and metropolitans from Zillow and Trulia.

Share to Twitter
The very helpful Yelp reviewer data has assisted researchers in studying gentrification and asymmetrical urban consumption trends.  Richard Florida reports, "One study use Yelp reviews to shed light on the connection between gentrification and race in Brooklyn.  Another NBER study employed Yelp data to find out how ethnic and racial segregation affects consumption levels in New York City."

The social media site Twitter has yielded data used to graph regional preferences and behavior patterns.  Citing a study from the Oxford Internet Institute (http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk) that "...mapped the flow of online content and ideas across cultures."  Even blogs have been mined for data-to wit, the mapping blog Floating Sheep (http://www.floatingsheep.org) made ample use of data from Twitter, Google, and Wikipedia to chart everything from beer and pizza, marijuana, bowling, and (strangely) strip clubs.  Mr. Florida's own team has used information from MySpace (remember that site?) to track the main centers for popular music genres throughout the United States and around the world.

Richard Florida reports, "More recently, a team of Italian researchers combined data from Foursquare and OpenStreetMap,..., to test Jane Jacobs' theories of urban vitality and diversity in six Italian cities."  Their researched confirmed most of her main insights about the necessity of short blocks, diverse land uses, walkability, dense concentrations of workers, and urban public space.

 Further satellite information holds the potential for gathering systematic and comparable information across global cities (not much, if any is available)  Mr. Florida cites several studies, including his own, "...have used satellite data to get at the economic output of cities and metros around the world."  Additionally, a 2012 study in the American Economic Review (http://www.nber.org) utilized light emissions from satellites as stand-ins for the spatial organization and economic size of cities around the world.  Mr. Florida cautions, "While this data is subject to considerable limits, it provides at least rough estimates of the overall size and economic scale of cities across the world."

"Big Data and Informatics"
Accurately characterizing "big data"

The words "big data" sound rather ominous but let us be accurate about what exactly is "big data."  To begin, "Not all data from new sources qualifies as 'big data,' which-as its name implies-refers to truly massive amounts of information."  Max Nathan of the London School of Economics groups real big data into three important categories.  There is internet data like the social media sites and other commercial  data, government-sponsored data collection sponsored by municipalities and the Census Bureau, and related data.  He goes on to cite the example of a 2014 study by NESTA (http://www.nesta.org.uk), which incorporated data from the firm Growth Intelligence "...to map patterns of information and technology in the U.K."  Finally, the American Journal of Sociology, will be publishing a study that used information from millions of 3-1-1 service call to study neighborhood conflicts among residents in culturally diverse communities.

"Smart cities, big data"
According to Mr. Nathan, "big data can be thought of in terms of the 'four Vs': variety, volume (millions or billions of observations), velocity (real-time data), and veracity (raw data)."  Actual big data frequently necessitates analytic methods like machine learning to take in and derive meaning from large caches of information.  For example,the continuing Livelihoods Projects (http://www.livehoods.org) in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mello University, uses machine learning to examine 18 million check-ins on Foursquare to discover the structure and nature of eight different cities.  When used properly, big and new data analytics can aid researchers in uncovering urban structures and patterns that traditional data and methodology may not reveal on their own.

IES Faculty Introduction to Big Data
Richard Florida cites a recent NBER study (http://www.nber.org) conducted by  Harvard and MIT researchers, which used computer visioning to better comprehend the geographic differences in income and housing prices.  Mr. Florida writes "Although the paper covers plant of ground, perhaps the most interesting section involved the use of Google Street View to predict income levels and housing prices in Boston and New York between 2007 and 2014."  The paper connected "...12,200 images of income and home values from the 2006-2011 from the American Community Survey.  It then examines the extent to which positive physical attributes shown in these images...attract more affluent residents and predict incomes and housing prices."

"The promise of big data for cities"
The study found that

images can predict income at the block level far better than race or education does.

The study observed that the main purpose of big data is to highlight the role of smaller geographical locations in our urban economies, more difficult to access through traditional Census information.  The authors concluded that

...big data offers some hope that Google Street Views and similar predicts will enable us to better understand patterns of wealth and poverty worldwide.

Problems and limitations

Big Data
Big data does offer the promise of advancing our knowledge about cities.  However, a growing number of scholars urge caution.  (bds.sagepub.com)  A 2014 workshop (radcliffe.harvard.edu) brought together a group of the leading urban social scientist and data users, identified six key subjects involving big data, spanning data quality and compatibility, , use of new analytic methods, privacy and security matters.  The workshop summary noted,

Developing theory to go with new methods and data is critical, and often sidelined.  Engineering and control theory (or big data "without theory') work well when there is a measurable outcome, a simple policy to correct for it, and fast enough reaction time that the correction can be implemented while it is still appropriate.  In cities, this is the process used to optimize service delivery.  But this theory does not work well for complex systems with long term horizons, lie most social systems.

In essence, big data and new analytics are only as good only as the questions we give it and the theories we generate to better comprehend them.  No matter how powerful they may be, new data sources and analytic strategies are no substitute for human intuition and reasoning about the urban environment.  The power of these tools is founded in how they are used to test and further our insights of innovative urban theory.  It is a little scary to think that the random post on the social media sites can be used by a researchers to study a specific urban environment right down to the minute detail.  However, if we want to make our cities better and more efficient places to work and live, these random posts can help the cause.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Blogger Candidate Forum: Kentucky And Oregon Primary Wrap Up

Kentucky Primary
election projection.com
Hello Everyone:

it is another Wednesday and time for the weekly edition of the Blogger Candidate Forum.  The recent primaries in Indiana and Nebraska have made the rest of the cycle pretty much a foregone conclusion vis-a-vis the General Elections.  The party standard bearers in the Fall campaign, barring a major meltdown, will be Donald Trump and Secretary Hillary Clinton. However, despite the going-through-the-motions feel of the Kentucky and Oregon primaries, there are still a few things we learned about the campaigns as they head into the final weeks.  Today, let us focus on the increasingly contentious Democratic race.

Secretary Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders
First of all, congratulations to both Madame Secretary and the Gentleman from Vermont on their victories in Kentucky (Madame Secretary) and Oregon (Sen. Sanders).  Secretary Clinton barely won Kentucky, netting 27 delegates to give her a total of 1,768.  When you factor in the 525 Superdelegates, Madame Secretary now has a total of 2,293 out 2,383 delegates needed to secure the nomination outright.  Senator Sanders also had a good night.  He cruised to victory in Oregon, gaining 34 delegates to give a total of 1,494.  Factoring in the 39 Superdelegates, Sen. Sanders now has a total of 1,533 out of 2,383.  (http://www.nytimes.com)  With ten primary contests remaining on the schedule, there are 930 delegate still available.  The win in Oregon, was certainly a confidence boost for the Sanders Campaign and the Clinton Campaign also received a morale shot with the razor thin margin of victory; 46.8 percent to 46.3 percent (Ibid).  That is the numbers but what do we know.

Secretary Clinton at a campaign rally in Kentucky
The first thing we know is that Madame Secretary's hairline victory highlighted vulnerabilities in campaign that will make unifying the Blue team.  One glaring weak point is the over $6.7 million she earned as a paid speaker in 2015.  Mind you, it is not a crime to earn money as a paid speaker, unless you do not report it on your tax return.  Nevertheless, it does call into question her ability to connect with blue collar workers.  This is the point that the Sanders Campaign has been has been emphasizing at appearances.  You couple this with her self-confessed lack of personal campaigning skills, could spell trouble in the generals against presumptive Red team nominee Donald Trump.  Certainly, her comments about putting the coal companies "out of business" (http://www.cnn.com) at CNN town hall meeting in Ohio came back to haunt her in West Virginia and may continue to stalk the campaign.  (Ibid)

Clinton Campaign rally
On the positive side, Tuesday ended on a happier note for Madame Secretary than the defeats in West Virginia and Indiana-states she beat then-Senator Barack Obama in 2008.  While the pundits will continue to parse over results, they did not recast the tenor of the race.  Essentially, Madame Secretary has such an overwhelming lead in the Superdelegate count (Superdelegates are party officials and legislators who are free to vote however they choose at the July convention; Ibid).  If the Gentleman from Vermont wants to snatch the nomination away from Madame Secretary, he would have to convince a large number of said delegates that she is too badly damaged a candidate to beat Mr. Trump-a daunting task.

Henry on Twitter @ABCPolitics @HillaryClinton
Secretary Hillary Clinton is fighting a two-front battle.  On one front is Senator Sanders and on the other front, Mr. Trump.  Needless to say, she needs the time and resources to unify her party to ensure a heavy blue team turnout in November.  This is a difficult task as long as Senator Sanders remains in the race, winning primaries, and gathering supporters.  While yours truly would never suggest that the Gentleman from Vermont abandon the race.  However, as the primary season winds down, the need to bring the Democrats together, under one banner.  Blogger is a little more optimistic about this happening than the unification of the red team.  One thing that is keeping this two-front war going is Mr. Trump seizing on complaints from the Sanders supporters's complaints about the system  being rigged against them.

Ugly scene from the Nevada State Democratic Convention
The ugly scenes, boomed across the media, from the previous weekend's Nevada State Democratic Convention expose the fault lines in the Democratic party.  This has forced Secretary Clinton to devote time to strengthening her forces against Senator Sanders in the remaining primaries, instead of taking on Mr. Trump in the swing states.  Donald Trump is not sitting back and quietly watching this struggle unfold.  That would be completely out of character for him.  More in character are the Twitter taunts about the closeness of the Kentucky, speculating that if she cannot seal the deal in Kentucky, she should concede the race and the system is rigged.  Donald Trump complaining about a rigged system is really disingenuous.

Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver told CNN that Secretary Clinton's razor thin win was a sign that Democrats

...are having second thoughts about Clinton.  The media is ready to call this race over, but I think voters in various states want to see this race go on.  (Ibid)

Nevada Democratic Party logo
The close race comes on the heels of the drama out of the Nevada State party convention, "...in which the divide among Democrats--overshadow for much of the primary season by the rollicking GOP contest--is increasingly apparent."  (Ibid)  The weekend gathering descended into chaos as Sanders and Clinton supporters traded insults and threats.  Tensions were not soothed by Senators Sanders's somewhat tepid statement that condemned the violent outbursts, insults, and threats, while continuing to blast away at party officials over their support of Madame Secretary.  This highlights another potentially major problem, a Sanders insurrection could upend the party convention in Philadelphia.

Democratic National Committee Convention 2016
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Secretary Hillary Clinton and her allies are anxious to pivot toward the Fall campaign.  Case in point, the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA has begun airing anti-Trump general election commercials today in the battleground states of Ohio, Nevada, Florida, and Virginia.

Yours truly would like to return to the subject of the chaotic Nevada State Democratic Convention for a moment.  The images coming out of the event were horrifying, to say the very least.  Even more horrifying were the reports of Roberta Lange, the state party chair, receiving threats via email and texts.  Blogger wonders, is this anyway to hold a civil political discourse?  Granted, politics can bring out passionate discussions but allowing the conversation to descend into chaos is not the way of humanity.  If there is valid evidence to suggest voter inconsistencies, then they should be thoroughly investigated.  Senator Bernie Sanders has definitely energized younger voters in ways like never before. Blogger is thrilled about seeing more people engage in the political process.  Nevertheless, insults and threats are not part of the process.  Yours truly believes that your voices deserve to be heard but not at the expense of drowning out those who disagree with you.  Blogger urges you to continue to bring your excitement and passion to the process but without the chaos.

One more thing: just a friendly reminder.  If you have not registered to vote, please consult your state's Secretary of State website for information.  You may have time to register for your state's upcoming primary election-JUNE 7 IN CALIFORNIA-if not, make sure you are registered to vote for the NOVEMBER 8 GENERAL ELECTION.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

More Inclusive Park Planning


Man plays with small boy across the bayou from a chemical plant
Houston, Texas
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
Hello Everyone:

Parks are wonderful amenity for any neighborhood.  They provide a place for recreation and rest, raise the property values of a community, and are great place to meet your neighbors.  Yours truly takes ample advantage of the nearby park-using the jogging path and exercise area.  Park do more than just provide a place to have a picnic or celebrate a birthday, they also reveal what a community needs and, or wants.  In his CityLab article, "Why Race Matters in Planning Public Parks," Brentin Mock reports on a major renovation of a large Houston-area park that reveals the differences in what Caucasian, African-American, and Latino residents actually want and, or need.

The City of Houston, Texas has initiated a $220 million parks projects, named Bayou Greenways 2020, "...a 150-mile network of continuous hiking trails, biking paths, and green space that will run throughout the city."  The project is completed in 2020, it will fulfill the plans made by urban planner Arthur Comey in 1912 to link the city's parks with the bayous etched into the Houston landscape.  Residents approved the $166 million bond project by a 2012 ballot referendum to fund the Bayou Greenways 2020 project, and for the rehabilitation of the neat-50,000 acres of park space.  "The goal is to connect the areas's bayou's and parks to neighborhoods spanning the region," writes Mr. Mock.

Rendering of the Bayou Greenway 2020 project
Houston, Texas
Even though connectivity is the overarching priority for this extensive parks rehabilitation, not everyone in Houston is enthusiastic about it.  Specifically, connectivity is the sole priority for the city's Caucasian and affluent residents.  In 2014, the city parks and recreation conducted it Master Plan Parks Survey in 2014 (http://www.houstontx.gov), the majority of the participants replied "...that they wanted their neighborhoods and parks linked to biking and walking paths."  However, Mr. Mock points out, "The problem with that survey is that about two-thirds of the respondents were white while with households incomes over $75,000.  This is clearly not a good starting point for Houston, one of themes racially diverse (heavily segregated) cities in country.

Gareth Potts on Twitter

A group for researchers at Rice University set out to correct this assumption.  They conducted another study, with approval from the parks and recreation department (and their funding), focused on African-American and Latino neighborhoods.  The goal of the study is discovering what these communities wanted from the new park upgrades.  No surprise, researchers found that the priorities in the African-American and Latino communities differed from the Caucasian communities.  The report, More Inclusive Parks Planning: Park Quality and Preferences for Park Access and Amenities (online.liebertpub.com) concluded:

Neighborhood connectivity to parks was not a salient issue among park users in these neighborhoods, although this had been a primary finding from the 2014 Master Plan Survey and a favored option of 31 percent of respondents in our closed ended questions.  Instead, they envision a diverse set of new or improved amenities-most prominently, restrooms and water fountains, and an array of recreational infrastructure.... (Ibid)

As a park user in more affluent neighborhood, yours truly can attest to a similar need for improvement as well.

"Responses to Open-Ended Questions About Parks Improvement

More to the point, connectivity was last on the list of priorities for African-American and Latino Houstonians.  What are their priorities for their parks?  Brentin Mock writes, "Not only clean, functioning public bathrooms, but also better lighting to make parks safer at night and better playground equipment that's prone to breaking down."  Blogger would like the same thing for her park.  The authors identified the priority gap between the survey as a matter of environmental justice that requires more diverse points of view in designing public parks.  The authors writes:

The implications for diverse audiences such as park department employees, citizen advocates for park, and academics studying environmental justice issues are connected by the need to be inclusive of voices typically under-represented in planning process, namely those racial minorities and low-income populations.  In Houston, particular effort must be made to better existing parks infrastructure in these communities. (Ibid)

Atlanta BeltLine
Atlanta. Georgia
Urban planner, architect, and planning commission member Antoine Bryant told Mr. Mock that "...he's not surprised by the wide variation of viewpoints between the two surveys.  He also says the racial discrepancies probably explain why the Bayou Greenways Initiative hasn't exactly been a particularly all-inviting campaign." The Bayou parks project is mostly privately financed-"$90 million in private funds have been raised as of February 2016, Mr. Bryant, who is African-American added "...many think that it's created for the enjoyment of Houston's elites-the king who informed the original city survey."

The Freelon Group rendering of Emancipation Park
The Freelon Group
Houston, Texas
Antoine Bryant continued,

There's a perception, and not just in Houston, that if you have too many black people or Mexicans in the park, they don't know how to act...and that's why [the Bayou Greenways project] has never been actively marketed to our communities.  Half of the black and Latino people in this city probably don't even know how to get to it, even though it's in close proximity to many of their neighborhoods.  That I can tell you unequivocally.

It is not like the Houston Parks  and Recreation Department has been completely oblivious to its African-American and Latino residents.  Mr. Bryant told Mr. Mock, "the department is better at responding to communities of color than most city agencies."  Case in point, "...one of Houston's most ambitious, and expensive, park prospects is the 10-acre, $33.6 million Emancipation Park plan for one of the oldest African-American ward in the city."  The project is being undertaken by architect Philip Freelon, best-known for the soon-to-be-open Smithsonian National Museum of African American History Culture, is spearheading the Park's development.

The Houston parks received a great deal of input from the African-American communities for the Emancipation Park initiative. according to Mr. Bryant.  When completed, anticipated by this years Juneteenth holiday, "...the aesthetic renewal of the park will hopefully boost the economic vitality of the surrounding neighborhood."

Antoine Bryant concludes,

The community has been actively involved on this more so than any park project in the city...That level engagement is uncommon around here, but hopefully it will continue as we look at other park improvement plans.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Race to Build Tall In The West


Wilshire Grand Tower under construction
Los Angeles, California
Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a new week with new things to talk about.  Today we are going to talk about new skyscraper developments on the West Coast of the United States.  It seems that the "Left Coast" has caught the "who can build the tallest building" fever.  Rick Anderson in his article, "New skyscrapers vie for West Coast's 'tallest' title in the Los Angeles Times, writes about the latest entrants into the "how high is high" contest.  This mini-boom of skyscrapers reflects a stronger economy, the demand for luxury residences, and the edifice complex has created a competition for who has the biggest shaft.  To wit, when the Wilshire Grand Tower is completed in 2017, it will eclipse the 1,018 foot, 73-story U.S. Bank Tower in Downtown Los Angles, the currently the tallest building on the West Coast.  However, the Wilshire Grand Tower may be dwarfed by a planned skyscraper development in Seattle, Washington.

Proposed Seattle Tower
Seattle, Washington
Rick Anderson writes, "Developers of a Seattle tower, in their city application, have sought what they called a height 'sweet spot'-between 1,050 and 1,150 feet-to gain matchless views of the region's soaring topography, Mt. Rainer and the snow-capped Olympic Mountains."  Not only is bigger better, bigger is breathtaking.

Bigger is better, on steroids, was the message conveyed when the world's tallest building, the 163-story Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, opened in 2010.  The internationally recognized tower, the 2,722-foot edifice resembles a stacked pyramid of coins, is the current holder of every imaginable height record, "...including world's highest nightclub (143rd floor), world's highest mosque (138th floor) and the fastest elevator (40 mph).  From its observation deck, you can see Iran."  Bigger is better is not on the mind of West Coast developers, specifically 1,700 feet smaller, still taller than they have ever built.

Salesforce Tower
San Francisco, California
San Francisco, not content with watching their rival city Los Angeles take the title of the West Coast's tallest building, is poised to snatch the tallest tower title next year with the completion of the 1,070-foot Salesforce Tower, beating the U.S. Bank Tower by 52-feet.  The glass walled skyscraper will hover over the "$4.5-billion Transbay Transit Center, the city's new South of Market transit hub."  The Transbay Transit Center is the proposed endpoint of the proposed high-speed rail line to and from Los Angeles.  The Transit Center is trumpeted as the "Grand Central Station of the West."

Wilshire Grand Tower
Los Angeles, California
skyscraper center.com
However, Los Angeles is not conceding to its Bay Area competitor.  When completed, the Wilshire Grand Center will stand at 1,100-feet (including a 100-foot spire), "...a $1.2-billion, mixed-use office/hotel project in the Financial District, is also set to be completed next year,..."  A tapered glass-wall high rise, being developed by Korean Air, "...will be topped by a domed 'sky lobby' with views of the Southland."  It will be 30-feet taller than the Salesforce Tower and earn the title, according to the developers, of "the tallest building west of the Mississippi."  For now.

4/C Tower rendering
LMN Architects
Seattle, Washington

In development is the 4/C Tower, the West Coast's first 100-plus high rise in Seattle.  It would beat Wilshire Grand by a paltry 11-feet. What is driving the race for how high is high?  Simply, demand.  According to Jason Barr, an associate economics professor at Rutgers University, told Rick Anderson,

The Wilshire Grand Center and 4/C tower in Seattle are going to be mixed-use projects, with some combination of apartments, hotels, office and shopping...So given the favorable climate for these high-end mixed uses, and the cache, that being 'tallest' brings to the market, I would say that the appearance of these buildings suggests that developers are trying to exploit a demand opportunity.

Another factor in the demand is the prestige of sublime panoramas that holds an allure for developers and clients.  Prof. Barr, the author of Building the Skyline: The and Growth of Manhattan's Skyscrapers,  continued,

Golden Gate Bridge with the TransAmerican Pyramid
San Francisco, California
Super-tall projects can earn the developers premiums above more typical high-rise buildings if they convey some useful information or provide other services not available in other building.

In the case of offices, high-powered firms are often willing to pay the higher rents in these buildings because it advertises their profitability.  In the case of luxury condos, very wealthy residents are also willing to pay a premium to live in these buildings, as a form of conspicuous consumption.

Another factor in the race to build tall is advanced construction technologies that have made higher and higher more feasible, taller, and safer, according to Jason Gabel, a spokesperson for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in Chicago.  For example,

Super high-strength concrete is a major advancement that provides high strength, high stability, high pumping performance, low heat, low shrinkage, low cost, self-curing, self compacting and self-leveling...This material has been instrumental in realizing tall buildings in very active seismic regions, as it provides superior performance against lateral loads.

Rick Anderson observes, "Perhaps more than anything else, it is the statement implied by an edifice that looms over an entire cityscape."

Los Angeles skyline
Los Angeles, California
Jason Gabel continued.

Architecture is extremely communicative...and building 1,000-plu-foot is sending a very clear message to the rest of the country and around the world that these are successful, bustling, energetic places to to live.  So there is definitely a 'look at us' element to the phenomenon as well.

To date, the proposed Seattle high rise could become the new West Coast height king as soon as 2018.  The plans include 1,200 luxury residences, 150 hotel rooms, and 163,00 square feet of retail and commercial space.

In there application to the City of Seattle, the Miami, Florida-based developer Crescent Heights described it,

The scale of this building is actually related more to creating the appropriate amount of space-through a broad mix of uses-to activate and animate the neighborhood...

Smith Tower
Seattle, Washington

The proposed 4/C Tower eventually would grow to 102 stories on a narrow lot, just blocks from the West's tallest tower, a century ago, the 42-story Smith Tower, built by typewriter magnet L.C. Smith of Smith-Corona.  L.C. Smith never got to see the building when it was completed in 1914-he died before it was finished.  The tower kept its tallest building crown for about a half century until 1962, when another Seattle landmark beat it-the Space Needle.  The Space Needle was built for the Seattle World's Fair and topped out at 665-feet.  Today, at a tiny just under 500-feet, the Smith Tower gamely juts out among the sea of contemporary glass and steel high rises, at least 13 of which are taller and built to last only few decades.

Rick Anderson writes, "If Seattle is to surpass the 100-story mark, however, it must first over come Federal Aviation Administration objections.  The agency told the developer the very reason for building the skyscraper is the reason it can't be built: it's too tall."

In January, the FAA issued a 'notice of presumed hazard" to Crescent Height, declaring "that a building that high on the hilly downtown parcel now occupied by a parking garage would have an adverse physical or electromagnetic interference effect upon navigable air space or air navigation facilities.

4/C with the Smith Tower in the foreground
Seattle, Washington
skyscraper city.com
This complication was similar to the one faced by Seattle mega-developer Martin Selig, who opened the former-tallest skyscraper in the West. the  76-story, 943-foot Columbia Center in 1985.  Mr. Anderson writes, "He wanted to go higher,  but the FAA objected and Selig backed off."  Four years, the Central Library Tower (renamed the U.S. Bank Tower) in Los Angeles beat it.

Crescent Heights remains optimistic, thinking that being a possible obstacle to air traffic to nearby Boeing Field can be overcome.  Los Angeles-based developer spokesperson Christina Disney issued a statement referring the FAA notice,

...a standard, business-as-usual review process which the FAA applies to all tall buildings to downtown Seattle...Once complete, we anticipate that that a determination of " no hazard will be reached.

"How they stack up"
Sonny Kahn, the Miami billionaire who runs Crescent Height,

is on somewhat of a streak of high-rise residential proposal around the nation, Mr. Gabel told Mr. Anderson.  This streak includes a 39-story Century City residential development in West Los Angeles.  The company said it intends to create

an iconic building in Seattle that redefines the skyline and changes the way we live. work and play downtown.

For critics, downsizing is more important.  The snarky phallic comments and symbols (including the one made at the top of the post) in the Seattle media and by attendees at public hearings referred to the building's height and design as a long, white middle finger sticking it to the city.  However, the tall, taller, tallest buildings, enabled by innovations in design and construction techniques, are really setting themselves up for all sorts of comments but the market demands them.  Prof. Barr told Mr. Anderson,

My research shows that condo buyers in New York City are willing to pay nearly 1% more for each floor up, on average-thus 25 stories higher can mean up to 25% more income.  Office rent premiums, I find rise around 0.6% per floor, or about 6% for every 10 floors higher.  Furthermore, developers are increasing the ceiling heights in luxury condos because tall ceilings are in vogue-and new technology allow them to provide them more efficiently.

One World Trade Center in New York, the country's tallest building, is 1,776 feet.  Rick Anderson speculates, "Is there a 2,000-plus foot skyscraper in America's future?"  Jason Barr does not believe this to be the case, "citing government reluctance, land and labor costs, and zoning regulations.  He said,

In short...the economic, political and social forces do seem to exit in the U.S. to favor a 200-story building.

At least, for now.