Monday, October 31, 2016

A Problematic Place

Schindler Factory
Brnēnec, Czech Republic
Hello Everyone:

Halloween is upon us and nothing says scary like a roller coaster presidential election cycle. Beware of emails that pop up out of nowhere and hot-on-the trail Federal Bureau of Investigation directors.  Be that as it may, yours truly would like to talk about something other than candidates that go bump in the night.

Today, we turn our attention to the site of one of humanity's most famous acts of salvation.  The site is the former textile plant, once owned by Oskar Schindler, in Brnēnec, Czech Republic.  It was here that the man, so beautifully rendered by Thomas Keneally's Booker Prized winner Schindler's Ark and Liam Neesom in the 1994 Steven Spielberg movie Schindler's List, saved an estimated 1200 Jewish men and women from certain extermination by the National Socialists.  Today, what remains of the plant sits in the Bohemian village Brnēnec (formerly Brünnlitz), abandoned, stripped of its fittings, and in disrepair.  Robert Tait of The Guardian visited the plant to report, in his article "Fate of former Schindler's list factory is met with Czech ambivalence," on efforts to turn the Hapsburg-era building into a museum.  This site, like many sites of the World War II-era, especially those connected with National Socialism, is problematic not only because of funding costs but also ambivalence toward Oskar Schindler and his ties to the National Socialists.

Oskar Schindler
Robert Tait describes the scene for us, "Empty drink bottles and assorted detritus are scattered on the floor of a once grand-looking Habsburg-era house; birds nest amid the wild vegetation sprouting from the leaking roof of a former administrative block; a cold wind blows through the empty window frames of an abandoned factory building that has been stripped of most of its fittings."

This is what remains of the place once used to protect nearly 1200 people, whose names appeared on Mr. Schindler's storied list, in the final months of The War.  Here was the place where they were transported from his factories in Krakow, Poland in late 1944 as "...on the pretext that they were skilled munitions specialists need to manufacture tank shells for the German war effort."  In reality, they were transported by train to prevent them from being sent to the death camps as the National Socialists intensified their extermination activities while the German forces retreated from the advancing Soviet army.  We can debate whether or Mr, Schindler was acting out off altruism or not another time but for now, let us focus on this factory.

The Schindler textile plant is at the center of grand plan to adapt into a museum memorializing the late industrialist and the lives he saved.  The textile plant continued to operate after The War, producing fabric for Swedish furniture giant IKEA and Škoda car seat cover before shuttering its doors in 2009.  Following a protracted legal fight over ownership of the site, it eventually was passed to the Shoah and Oskar Schindler Memorial Endowment Foundation.

Interior of Schindler Factory
Brnēnec, Czech Republic
Local writer Jaroslav Novak is the head of the foundation, which was established to spearhead the museum proposal.  Mr. Novak is looking for funding from the European Union and international Jewish groups for a project he hopes will keep the site from disappearing from history.  He told Mr. Tait,

This is the only Nazi concentration camp in the Czech Republic that is still standing in its original building....You cannot allow it and the whole history of Schindler to disappear.  I have been fighting for this for 20 years.  But people are just not interested in it...

The neglected former textile plant and what may become of it is similar to that of the one-time Schindler Enamel Factory in Krakow, Poland (below left) which was subsequently rehabilitated as a museum and tourist attraction.

Schindler Enamel Factory
Krakow, Poland
One reason for this state of neglect is money.  The cost for converting the site into a museum has been estimated at 140 million Czech krona ($5,684,216.67), with emergency funds desperately need before winter arrives.  Thus far, Mr. Novak has secured one pledge from the local regional authority, and assured Robert Tait that he is close to getting the Czech culture ministry to place a protection notice on the former textile plant, originally established in the 1840s and owned by a Jewish family until they were forced to escape by the National Socialists.

The scheme also faces another roadblock: the ambivalence of the majority of Czechs toward Oskar Schindler.  The late industrialist was a Czech citizen from the German-speaking Sudetenland region and a spy for the National Socialist foreign intelligence service Abwehr before the territory was annex by Adolf Hitler under the 1938 Munich Agreement.  Oskar Schindler later joined the National Socialists.  Thomas Keneally expertly summarizes this in his book.  Mr. Keneally also mentions that Mr. Schindler had a reputation as a womanizer, an alcoholic, a gambler, and gauner (Ger. for crook).  Therefore, you can begin to understand the disconnect between the Hollywood portrayal of Oskar Schindler's wartime and the realities of his prewar exploits.  Even though he and his wife, Emilie, are honored by Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, his prewar reputation persists to this day.

Oskar Schindler's birthplace
Zwittau, Czech Republic
The current owner of the house where Mr. Schindler was born, in 1908, has to refused a plaque to be placed on it.  Oskar Schindler was born in the town of Svitavy, when Austria was still part of the Hapsburg empire and went by the German name of Zwittau.  Robert Tait reports, "A small memorial standing in a park across the street was daubed with a swastika days after its unveiling in 1994."  Former Communist Member of Parliament and author of a deeply critical book on Mr, Schindler Jitka Gruntova calls him a traitor and a war criminal whose savior reputation is the product of a made-up legend.

Jitka Gruntova told Mr. Tait,

I have found no evidence of Schindler saving prisoners.  I've come to the conclusion he was only saving himself-mostly by writing a postwar synopsis of his alleged activities.  I don't doubt there are certain witness statements in his favour  but these are, as far as I can tell, made by people who belonged to the inner circle around him.

Svitavy, also the hometown of Jaroslav Novak, has a small municipal museum with a one room exhibition dedicated to Oskar Schindler.  Resident historian Radoslave Fikejz attributes this sense of hesitancy to the legacy of the former Czechoslovakia's communist regime and the post-war expulsion of most of the country's German speaking residents.

The Schindler Room at the City Museum Svitavy
Svitavy, Czech Republic
Mr. Fikejz said,

It's a very big problem because we still have 40 years of communism in our mentality...It's also a problem that Schindler was Sudeten-German and people are afraid of one question, which is: what happens when the Germans come back?  But this is unrealistic.

Yes Schindler was a Nazi, a war criminal and a spy.  But I have met 150 Jews who were on his list and were in the Brnēnec camp and they say that what's important is that they are alive.

Tomas Kraus, the director of the federation of Jewish communities in the Czech Republic, supports the museum plan.  Mr. Kraus said,

It's a very complex story...Schindler was a perpetrator who late became a saviour and a hero.  But he was not alone in that.  There were other like him-he was only the most famous.

British commentator on Czech affairs Tom Gross, whose great-grandparents died in Treblinka opined that the museum initiative should not detract from "...the lack of a state-funded Holocaust memorial, besides the existing shrine at the former Theresienstadt concentration camp 40 miles north of Prague."  Specifically,

Prague still has no central Holocaust memorial when it was one of the most Jewish cities in the world and the vast majority of its Jews were murdered...The small local Jewish community is reticent about campaigning for one, perhaps for fear of provoking an antisemitic backlash.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Blogger Candidate Forum: What Donald Trump Means By "Inner Cities"

Donald Trump with Larry Holmes, Don King, and Mike Tyson
Getty Images
Hello Everyone:

It is Wednesday which means it is time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Blogger's fingers got a well deserved rest after the fast, furious, nasty debates.  One of the points Republican nominee Donald Trump kept repeating was how inner city African American and Latino communities are synonymous with "inner city" crime.  This thinking has made its way into public policy  and popular culture.  Equating "inner city" crime with African American communities is not something new.  This equation has been around since, at least, the forties.  Brentin Mock, in his CityLab article "Donald Trump's Blaxploitation of 'Inner Cities,'" writes, "That may have been true of the Harlem of the 1940s and 1950s, during the era of Bumpy Johnson, or the Harlem of the 1960s and 1970s, under Frank Lucas and Nicky Barnes.  It could even describes the Harlem of the 1980s and 1990s..."  However, this is not what Harlem is like today.

Luke Cage
The newly launched Netflix/Marvel hit television series Luke Cage, follows the exploits of an invincible African American superhero trying to rescue the historically black Harlem from the plague of violent thugs and guns.  In one scene, a group of thugs is meeting with their ring leader, brainstorming ideas on how to defeat our superhero.  One of the thugs responds by offering up a short urban history on Robert Moses, the Cross-Bronx Expressway, the white flight that both facilitated, and the urban policy solutions promoted by Daniel Moynihan in the seventies.

A scene from Luke Cage
The scene is as follows:

This cat named Moynihan went and hollered at Nixon...and the prez that maybe the inner city could benefit from benign neglect.

Mr. Mock observes, "It's an interesting line, except Moynihan's 'benign neglect' they was not about 'inner cities.'  The reference is from a meme Moynihan wrote to President Richard Nixon on January 16, 1970 about prevailing economic and social 'Negro' conditions."  He proceeds to quote the late Daniel Moynihan's exact words on 'benign neglect" theory:

The time may have come when the issue of race could benefit from a period of 'benign neglect.'  The subject has too much talked about.  The forum has been too much taken over to hysterics, paranoids, and boodles on all sides.  We may need a period in which Negro progress continues and racial rhetoric fades.

The late Daniel Moynihan
The late Mr. Moynihan was speaking of race relations.  However by that point, the words "inner cities" became a euphemism for everything that was wrong with African American communities and African Americans.  Recently Johns Hopkins historian N.D.B. Connolly told Emily Badger in The New York Times.

The inner city is the place that burned when King was assassinated.  It was Watts.  It was the place Ronald Reagan had to try to conduct the war on drugs.  (; date accessed Oct. 26, 2016)

President Nixon eventually invested little in the 'benign neglect" theory, choosing to amplifying the racial rhetoric, assigning the rising crime rates and drug usage to uniquely "Negroid features of major U.S. cities."  President Nixon made use of this character definition to justify his position "...that these 'inner cities' needed brought to heel through aggressive 'law and order' tactics."

This was the very same position Donald Trump took during that infamous October 9 debate, declaring that "'inner cities'  across the U.S. are 'a disaster education-wise, job-wise, safety-wise in every way possible."  Ms. Badger pointed out that this was the furtherest thing from the truth.  (Ibid)

A moment from the second Presidential Debate
The problem with Mr. Trump's position is that this is his go-to stance anytime he is asked about race.  Brentin Mock writes, " His race-relations solutions, specifically for 'the blacks' are as misguided as Luke Cage's portrayal of Harlem as a neighborhood still besieged by violent crime."  Justin Charity of The Ringer wrote,

Any other uptown native might've been quicker to discover that Harlem's greater, untouchable menace is the NYPD.  But what, Luke Cage wonders, about black-on-black crime?  (; date accessed Oct. 26, 2016)

Donald Trump has pondered this question as well.  In the meantime, the New York Police Department is anxious by Mr. Trump's mis-representations of crime, specifically in New York City, head Trumpeter Rudy Giuliani was mayor.  The truth is crime, violent crime in particular, are at their lowest rates in decades-despite not because of Mr. Guilani's heavy-handed tactics.  This is a fact not only in Harlem, but throughout New York City and almost every major city in the United States.  Mr. Mock points out, "This explains why so many law enforcement leaders are at odds with Trump's anti-crime proposals, including his ill-considered call for expanding stop-and-frisk."

Crime statistics for NYPD's 28th Precinct which includes Central Harlem
New York Police Department
Donald Tump's conflation of "all African American with 'inner-city' problems" is problematic.  What exacerbates the matter is that Mr. Trump does not possess a current understanding of poverty, which is more prevalent in the suburbs than cities,  He also seems oblivious to the fact that many of the high-profile  police-involved killing of African-Americans have occurred in the suburbs: Michael Brown-Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis; Philander Castile-Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul; Walter Scott-North Charleston, a suburb of Charleston, South Carolina.

During his "inner city" tirades, Mr. Trump purposefully, like many "black-culture-birther urban crime theorists," is how facilitating white flight did more than anything to transform urban core into destitute ghettoes.  This is hardly the benign neglect that Daniel Moynihan was referring to-it was purposeful.

In 1980, the late writer James Baldwin was asked by Wolfgang Binder about the state of African American ghettos in American cities.  Mr. Baldwin responded,

It is a ghetto and white people turn them into ghettos to get away from the niggers.  It's a vicious circle.  They move out, the entire economic basis of the city crumbles, because nothing is taken care of in Harlem.  The City has no responsibility for the ghetto, the cops don't live in the ghetto, tax-payers don't live in the ghetto, so nothing comes in.  What little was coming in is lost.  Nothing is owned by black people in Harlem, or a fraction of what is owned in Harlem is owned by black people.  It is owned by by banks, by real estate, by vast organizations including the Catholic Church, including universities.  So houses are boarded up, and presently what will happen, what is happening in other cities is that bulldozers move in, move the niggers out, somewhere else, and the land is claimed by white people.

This is the true story of American 'inner-cities" or at least, for most of the 20th century onward.  However, misinterpretations of what Daniel Moynihan and the "tough on crime" magpies have infected both policy and popular culture.  We are not talking about the images of Stevie Wonder songs, they are the machinations of people who see African Americans in a criminal context.  Life is never perfect in any city-and certainly not idyllic for many urban African American communities across the United States.  Why are African American lives not improving in these areas?  It might just be because the debates are avoiding the real culprits.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Making American Public Parks More Equal

Ecuadoran immigrants play soccer in Powderhorn Park
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Photograph by Alexia Fernández Campbell 
Hello Everyone:

We are going to stay on the subject of public parks today, focusing on municipal parks.  Yesterday we looked at the National Park Service's troubled history and what needs to do to reconcile it.  However, racial and economic inequality in city and county parks is not well documented.  It seems that we take it for granted that urban parks are accessible to everyone.  Bicycle trails, baseball, and soccer fields are considered a luxury amenity of many affluent neighborhoods that increase property values and create a sense of community.  However, in the inner cities, public parks attract crime and often a victim of disinvestment.

Alexia Fernández Campbell's CityLab article, "Inequality in American Public Parks," reports, "With this in mind, it was probably only a matter of time for a civil-rights movement to brew in Minneapolis, which for three years in a row has snagged the title of best parks system in the U.S., as awarded by the The Trust for Public Land..."  Minneapolis residents has ample reasons to puff themselves up over neatly groomed parks within walking distance from their house.  Be that as it may, the smooth jogging paths and perfectly manicured pitches have become the stage for a bitter racial battle with Minneapolitans of color claiming that access to local parks, spending on it, and the staffing of them is mostly oriented toward the city's wealthy, white residents

Protestors at the bi-weekly meeting
of the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Photograph by Alexia Fernández Campbell
Ms. Fernández Campbell recounts her visit to Minneapolis.  

"...I attended the parks board's bi-weekly, which in any other city would likely have been a dull affair.  I had been sitting there for hardly longer than 10 minutes when a group of young black men walked in, carrying signs that read MPRB, Separate and Unequal and Hell No! Jim Crow."

The young men remained silent but their presence was noticed.  The board was fretful after the previous, when police officers escorted protestors from the meeting for disorderly conduct and issued citations to the group.

Frustrated protestor
The protestors have a long list of complaints.  One of those complaints is the subject of staffing.  Ms. Fernández Campbell writes, "The local chapter of the NAACP has been a vocal critic of the parks board, arguing that workers of color face discrimination in hiring, promotions, and on-the-job-disciplinary actions."  Minneapolis parks superintendent Jayne Miller told Ms. Fernández Campbell that "...she has listened to employee grievances and now trains staff in recognizing bias in the hiring process."  Ms. Miller also pointed out that since she started six years ago, "...the percentage of employees in the park system who are of color has risen to 25 percent, up from 21 percent..."  Ms. Fernández Campbell notes that the parks was unable to say how many were in supervisory positions.

Homeless man sitting on a park bench
Funding is another big issue.  According to the data, parks in northern Minneapolis get disproportionately less money for some types of recreational spending-lessons, supplies, and maintenance.  Some of the city's low-income communities are located there, with a large number of ethnic minorities.  Four out of the 12 local parks that received a flow of spending in north Minneapolis were allowed less than $85,000, and three received less than $25,000.  On the opposite side of spectrum, no neighborhood park, located in affluent southwest communities, received less than $150,000.  Alexia Fernández Campbell observes, "To be fair, three of the northern parks did get some of the largest chunks of money from the board last year, but the variation in funding in north Minneapolis is quite stark, while it is consistently generous in southwest Minneapolis."  This contrasts with parks board's disproportionate spending on youth development programs-i.e. mentoring at north Minneapolis parks.  Specifically, "There were ten parks that received this stream of spending in north Minneapolis, compared with two in southwest Minneapolis."

North Commons Waterpark
Minneapolis, Minnesota
At the same board meeting Ms. Fernández Campbell attended, the public comment period got quite intense as some of the African American residents took to task the commissioners for doing very little to address racial inequality.  Nekima Levy-Pounds, a civil rights attorney and president of the local NAACP chapter, had harsh words for the commissioners regarding their actions at the previous meeting.

...If we were white residents from Southwest, there is no way you have the police come in and arrest like trash.

Ms. Levy-Pounds told Ms. Fernández Campbell "...she has been attending these meetings all summer, and scoffs at Minneapolis's claim to having the best parks system in the country." She said  It's the best parks system for white people.

North Mississippi Park wading pool
Minneapolis, Minnesota
The issue of racial inequality is starting to garner national attention.  Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell just this year acknowledged that the national parks system primarily cater to older Caucasian Americans and need to reach out to a younger, more diverse audience.  Minneapolis is set to be the first city to seriously begin remedying the situation, mainly because of public pressure.  Minneapolis is no longer a homogenous city: "Now it's 66 percent white, compared to 87 percent in 1980, with a growing number of black, Native American, East African, Asian American, and Latino families settling in.  The park board is still all white."

Historic image of North Commons Park
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Alexia Fernández Campbell met with community leaders who have been advocating for racial equality in the parks system for years.  Three of those activists, Jake Virden, Emmanuel Ortiz, and Ashley Fairbanks, met her at Peavey Field, an inner-city green space that has been historically neglected by the parks board.  Ms. Fernández Campbell observes, "The large park looked well maintained, but hadn't been renovated in a while.  Ms. Fairbanks, who works for the nonprofit Voice for Racial Justice said,

We grew up in these parks...We grew up in these parks...For people who didn't have money to go to camp in the summer, this is where we came.

One of Peavey Park's benefits is free lunches during the summer.

Peavey Park Field
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Voices for Racial Justice and its fellow nonprofit Hope Community are among the organizations that have been pressuring the board to prioritize funding for place like Peavey Park and they have had some success.  Ms. Fernández Campbell reports, "This year, the parks board adopted new criteria to decide where to spend its money on infrastructure projects."  Prior, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board did not decide which parks got funding for upgrades in a systematic manner.  Jayne Miller told Ms. Fernández Campbell, "though it tended to focus on modifying playgrounds and splash ponds to meet safety standards."  The new priority system put Peavey Park near the top of the list for investment, which translates that it will be eligible for millions of dollars in renovations otherwise it would not.  Ms. Miller continued "Minneapolis is the first city-park system to prioritize infrastructure spending in poor neighborhoods with large minority communities, in neighborhoods where parks are in the worst condition.  Specifically,

We are doing a lot to make sure we are investing equitably in our parks and we are engaging diverse communities in our parks.

Jayne Miller
Superintendent Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board

When Ms. Miller took over the board in 2010, she became cognizant of the perceptions the parks system was not properly serving the minority and disabled residents.  To resolve the matter, she commissioned a Michigan-based consultant to study the scope to the problem and come up with recommendations.  Further, she established a community-outreach department in 2011 to engage the underserved communities and get their feedback about what types of activities and sports fields they would like in their parks.

This laudable effort had resulted in cultural sensitivity training for the park staff but its efficacy remains unclear.  Ms. Fernández Campbell spoke with a group of Ecuadoran immigrants playing soccer in Powderhorn Park in south Minneapolis, asking them if they had attended a public meeting of the parks board.  José Encalada replied in the negative and that he was not aware that a parks board existed.  He said,

No one ever invited use or told us about anything.

Minnehaha Park
Minneapolis, Minnesota
 The state of Minnesota would like Minneapolis and other cities to allocate more funds for outreach into communities like Mr. Encalada's.  The Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul) more picturesque parks, like Minnehaha Park, draw millions of visitor annually, yet on three percent are people of color.  Ms. Fernández Campbell reports, "The Metropolitan Council, a local agency of state-appointed regional paleness, which funds many of these parks with state money, created focus groups and discovered that lack of awareness about the park was the biggest factor in keeping minority groups away."  To increase awareness, the council has proposed that cities spend more of their state funds on attracting new visitors to regional parks, like advertising in ethnic-media outlets.

Amatage Park Playground
Minneapolis, Minnesota
This proposal was met with backlash from the parks board.  In an open letter to the Metropolitan Council, excerpted in the Star Tribune, Ms. Miller wrote "...that spending $300,000 flyers and marketing materials instead of park maintenance and construction would be seriously questions by our constituents."  Ms. Miller said she was not opposed to spending money on  reaching out to the underserved communities.  She believes that there ought to be more discussion on what would be the best approach.

One subject for discussion is whether or not an independent parks board is the best way to serve Minneapolis's changing demographics.  The current makeup of the board does not reflect the city it serves.  Perhaps the parks board needs to redraw its six voting districts, in an acknowledgment of the power of minority voters.  The parks board does not track demographic information within its voting district (separate from voting districts in other political elections), thus it is difficult to know whether minority voters make up the majority bloc in the districts.  Alexia Fernández Campbell opines, "Maybe it's time they should start paying attention to that.  When a third of a city is made up of people of color, their governing institutions should reflect that."

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Challenge For The Next 100 Years

National Park Ranger
Photograph by Brennan Linsley/AP
Hello Everyone:

This year, the National Parks Service celebrated 100 years of being "America's best idea."  Like many best ideas, it did not appear out of nowhere and was universally received.  In his CityLab article, "The U.S. National Park Service Grapples With Its Racist Origins," Brentin Mock examines how the NPS deals with how to make its visitors and workforce more inclusive.  Mr. Mock writes, "Looking over the National Park Service's first 100 years, we find a federal agency, like many U.S. institutions, got off to a severely rocky start in terms of racial inclusion."  These public lands intended to provide refuge from the "growing courage of urbanization."   Native Americans were violently removed from their sacred tribal land so Caucasians could recreate and engage in outdoor sports at their own leisurely pace.  As wonderful as the national parks are, it is important to look at their origin within this context.

Grand Teton National Park Oxbow Bend/Autumn
Photograph by Douglas C. Ayers
Recently, the NPS have been making more of a concerted effort toward some form of racial reconciliation.  The agency, as whole, acknowledges that it does have problems with diversity and inclusion that it would like to resolve but not quite sure how to go about it.  Case in point, it does not know how to deal with Madison Grant author of the book The Passing of the Great Race (1916).  Mr. Grant was a Caucasian "...who quite literally wrote the book on 20th-century white supremacy-and who helped launch the national parks movement."  Are your starting to see the problem?

Madison Grant (1865-1937)
In an article for The New Yorker, dated August 13, 2015, Jedidiah Purdy wrote,

Grant spent his career at the center of the same energetic conservationist circle as [Theodore] Roosevelt.  This band of reformers did much to create the country's national parks forests, game refuges, and other public lands-the system of environmental stewardship and public access that been called "America's best idea."  (; date accessed Oct. 19, 2016)

Together with former President of The United States Theodore Roosevelt, he helped create the New York Zoological Society, known today as the Wildlife Conservation Society.  Madison Grant also helped establish the Boone and Crockett Club, which was fundamental in developing Yellowstone National Park.  At face value, Madison Grant comes off as man dedicated to the stewardship of public land.  However, beneath his environmentalism, lay a virulently xenophobic and racist outlook.

Brentin Mock writes, "However, Grant's 1916 book The Passing of the Great Race, which Adolph Hitler claimed as his bible, provided a detailed account of Grant's virulently xenophobic views on immigrants, Native Americans, and black people.  Racism was not just a hobby for Mr. Grant when he was not building parks.  Rather, his racist and xenophobic outlook was part of his his worldview on conservation and parks.

Roger Pearson 
One of Madison Grant's avid followers, white nationalist anthropologist Roger Pearson, wrote in the 1995 edition of The Mankind Quarterly:

With Madison Grant serving as secretary and later as president, the Boone and Crockett Club was largely comprised of eugenicists and eugenics sympathizers.  Renowned as one of the more active members of the eugenics movement, and especially for his efforts to preserve the 'Old American' component of the American population.  Grant worked just as ardently to preserve the natural heritage for future generations of Americans and should be remembered with honor as one of the nations's greatest benefactors.  (; date access Oct. 19, 2016)

Brentin Mock astutely observes, "Grant's beliefs on how immigration causes crime and disease would align neatly with Donald Trump's current platform: They became the underpinning for the highly restrictive Immigration Act of 1924."  Madison Grant's conservation work was his way of "...escaping the white man's burden of dealing with an increasingly browning U.S."  Our friends at the National Park Service (  does not completely delete Mr. Grant from its history. His name comes up in a search of the site as the Madison Campground and Grant village (; date accessed Oct. 24, 2016).  Richard Conniff had this to say about Mr. Grant in Mother Jones,

....Conservationists would understandably rather forget all this.  But it's worth remembering because the movement has always struggled with lists and exclusionary elements in its ranks.  among other things, this country invented and exported worldwide the model of uninhabited national parks-together with its ugly corollary,  forced removal of indigenous populations.  It's also worth remembering Grant's history because minority groups remain vastly underrepresented-just 22 percent of all visitors at last count-in our national parks, and even more so in the leadership of the environmental agencies and nonprofits.  To change that, the conservation movement needs to acknowledge that the ghost of Madison Grant still haunts the natural wonders he helped protect.  (; date accessed Oct. 24, 2016)

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park/Autumn
For its part, the NPS does not deny that it has been lagging in visitor diversity.  The agency acknowledges that it has a lot of work to do to rectify the situation.  One step in the right direction was the opening of a number, by President Obama, of national parks and monuments dedicated to African-Americans, Latinos, and the LGBTQ community.  Some examples include: the Fort Monroe National Monument in Virginia, the Cesar Chavez National Monument in Blogger's home state of California, and the Stonewall Monument in New York City.  Currently, our friends at the National Trust for Historic Preservation ( has joined the effort to create the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice in Durham, North Carolina.  Mr. Mock points out, "Still, just 112 of the country's 480 national monuments and parks are dedicated to historically oppressed groups...according to a Center for American Progress report"  See graph below left.

"National parks and monuments with a focus on diverse groups"
Center for American Progress

Brentin Mock speculates, "It's often thought that the reason more people of color don't visit these parks is because they don't want to, or they they're just not all into the outdoors."  The data and history suggest that this is not the case.  Mr. Mock cites a recent survey conducted by New America Media (; date accessed Oct. 24, 2016) regarding how voters of color feel about National Parks produced the following results:

  • 70 percent of minority voters participate in types of outdoor activities commonly offered within national parks.
  • 57 percent of minority voters have visited national public lands in the past, of which more than 2/3 have visited within the past 3 years.
  • 4 in 5 minority voters support a range of proposals to increase visitor access to public lands, such as increasing the number of urban arks and the creation of new parks, monuments, and historic and cultural sites that focus on the contributions of minorities to the United States.
  • 93 percent of minority voters believe it is important for the next president to continue to show a commitment to protecting national public lands and the histories they represent. (Ibid)
"Diversity Categories"
Department of Interior
The survey also concludes that "95 percent of minority voters believe it it important for young people to see their cultures and histories reflected in the national park system."  For now, the problem is finding national park staff that reflect minority voters.  Admittedly, the National Park Service has never been great about diversity within its workforce and has not taken steps to improve over the past few years.  Mr. Mock reports, "Less than 10 percent of park workers over the part five years have been African Americans.  Compare that with white workers, who've made up close to 80 percent of the total National Park Service workforce over the dame period."  Just how badly does the NPS lag in workplace diversity?  In the Partnership for Public Service's annual rankings of best places to work in the federal government, the NPS has consistently ranked near the bottom of in a number of categories, including support for diversity.

Bear Lake Rocky Mountain National Park/Autumn
It is not just the lack of workplace diversity that has plagued the NPS, it also does not have a strong record of attracting people of color.  Brentin Mock also points out, "Additionally, the history of discrimination and racial violence within the park system is real enough to keep some African Americans away altogether."  Therefore, the question for the next 100 years is " exactly should the NPS settle that history in a way that would make more people feel invited and accommodated?

These are precisely the questions and actions currently being studied by environmental organizations, like the Sierra Club (, whose original mission somewhat dovetailed with the NPS.  Both agencies were established by people whose goal was the preservation of public land and wildlife.  John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, also travelled in the same energetic conservationist circle as Madison Grant but without the same white supremacist agenda.

Stained Navajo Sandston Canyon Walls
Zion National Park/Autumn
Photograph by Dan Violette
Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune told Mr. Mock,

The way we navigate that history is by not flinching...It is true that there were a lot of individuals who were white supremacists or eugenicists or who were making raciest comments who were part of the beginning of the conservation movement, or who fought successfully to create national parks.  So it's important to understand history as a movement, and as a country learn from it.

Blogger agrees with this sentiment.

However, how does this thought turn into action?  Some of it should resemble what Bryan Stevenson, of the Equal Justice Initiative, wants to build in Montgomery, Alabama.  Mr. Stevenson is planning to build the Memorial to Peace and Justice, a reminder of the United States's violent history of lynching African American men.  The scheme calls for a six-acre parcel of land that will display about 800 dangling column, symbolizing each of the counties where the lynchings took place and the names of the people inscribed on them.  Representatives of each of the lynching sites are expected to take copies of the columns back to their respective counties of public display, as a reminder to the residents of the racial terrorism that took place on their soil.

Brentin Mocks quotes part of speech, given by Mr. Stevenson, about the memorial,

I continue to believe that we're not free in this country, that we're not free at birth by a history of racial injustice.

According to a recent article on the project in The New Yorker (; date accessed Oct. 24, 2016) he continued,  

And there are spaces that are occupied by the legacy of that history that weigh on us.

The challenge for the National Park Service, in the next 100 years, is to address these issues of inclusion both in the workplace and in its public lands.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Blogger Candidate Forum: Great Debate Round III

Hello Everyone:

It is time for the final round of the Great Debate between Democratic nominee Secretary Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Republican standard bearer Donald Trump (R-NY).  Given the nasty tone of the previous debate, it remains to be seen if both candidates can maintain some sense of decorum and focus on the subjects.  The pressure to preform will be the greatest on Mr. Trump.  Mr. Trump has been conducting a scorched earth campaign-rowing at the Republican party leadership, the media, the Democratic party, and the Clinton campaign.  This campaign strategy has manifested in falling poll numbers for Mr. Trump.  For Madame Secretary, the challenge is can she deliver the knock out blow?  Two subjects absolutely sure to come up are sexual assault allegations against Mr. Trump and leaked emails made public by WikiLeaks, hacked from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta's private email account.  Fox News presenter Chris Wallace is the moderator and has selected: debt and entitlements, immigration, the economy, the Supreme Court, foreign hot spots, and fitness for office.  The debate is sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates and takes place on the campus of the University of Nevada Las Vegas.  Fasten your seat belts, here we.

Why are you right and why is your opponent wrong on the subject
DT: wants stronger boarders. HRC wants open boarders. Heroin biggest problem from porous. Does not support amnesty. Wants to build wall. First secure boarders and deport drug lords then figure out the rest.
HRC: wants to keep undocumented families together. DT said every undocumented person should be rounded up. Supported for boarder security. Wants to put resources into deporting violent immigrants.
Introducing comprehensive immigration reform with path to citizenship.
DT: HRC wanted wall in 2006. Will do better business with Mexico.
HRC: there are wall in some places. More enforcement technology. Wants to get undocumented immigrants out of the shadows.
DT: POTUS deported millions of people. Disaster on trade and open boarders
HRC: secure boarders. Confronted by WikiLeaks email: open boarders. Referring to energy and energy grid. Russians engaged in spying on Americans. Given information to WikiLeaks to influence election. DT rejects Russian spying on Americans.
DT: people are going to pour into the country. Stop radical Islam terrorists. Doesn't know Putin. No respect POTUS or HRC.
HRC: DT won't admit Russians engage in espionage. DT follows Putin. 17 intelligence professionals say Russian leadership behind attacks
DT: says he condemned Russian involvement in cyberattacks. Russia has more nuclear weapons
HRC: very casual about nuclear weapons.
DT: renegotiate defense agreements: NATO
HRC: would work with allies

The Economy
Why your plan will create more jobs and opportunities and your opponent won't
HRC: create new jobs in infrastructure, equal pay, make college debt free, clean energy jobs, raise taxes on wealthy and corporations. DT would give tax breaks to wealthy and corporations.  More technical education.
DT: HRC plan would result with tax increase. Goes back to previous question. Suddenly allies are paying their share. Renegotiate trade deals. If can't renegotiate deals, then go a different way.
HRC: DT advocate largest tax increase. Not increase taxes on anyone making less than 250,000. Investments in education and new. Similar to Obama stimulus in 2009. Led to slower growth. HRC say her plan is combination. POTUS took steps to save economy. Invest from middle out and bottom up. Have to do more to get economy going.
DT: Conservative economics say DT plan unrealistic. Last jobs report was awful. Manufacturing is non-existent. Import products. Blames NAFTA. HRC wants to sign TPP.
HRC: Final agreement for TPP did not meet her jobs test. DT ship jobs to Mrxico. China dump steel on USA. DT use Chinese steel. Will have trade prosecutor to enforce deals.
DT: HRC all talk no action
HRC: brings up 30 years of experience. Working to help American people.
DT: bragging about business experience

Fitness For Office
Sexual assault allegations
DT: blames HRC and DNC for campaign rallies. Denied knowing women who are accusing him of assault
HRC: confirms that DT bragged about assault at last debate. DT blamed women. Belittle women. This is who DT is. This is not who we are as country. We celebrate are diversity. America is good and great.
DT: says he has respect for women. Goes back to emails.  Destroyed 30,000 emails. Accuses HRC of lying to America and Congress. 4-star General going to jail
HRC: doesn't take responsibility for belittling people. Pattern of divisiveness.  Pay-to-play: worked to further interests of U.S. Proud of work of the Clinton Foundation.
DT: remind HRC that Clinton Fiundatuon took money from countries that violate human rights
HRC: Clinton Foundation raised money for Haiti. Agricultural and small businesses.
DT: contributes money to own foundation. Used money to pay lawsuits.
HRC: reminds audience DT hasn't released tax returns. Hasn't paid federal tax. Undocumented immigrants paying more taxes than DT.
DT: entitled to take tax credits. HRC won't change law.  Rigged elections-will DT accept result of this election. Will see what falls out. Blames corrupt media. Millions people shouldn't allowed to vote including HRC. Not prepared to have peaceful transition of government.
HRC: DT blames rigged system when things don't go his way. Talking down democracy.

Foreign Hot Spots
What happens the day after IS leaves. Put US troops
HRC: will not support US forces as a occupying forces. Supports Iraqi forces. Wants intelligence surge to keep eye on Syria. No fly zone and safe zone. Gain some leverage on Russia and Syria. Wants diplomatic end to conflict
DT: Will not divulge plan for day after IS leaves. IS leaders gone. Iran will benefit from Iraq taking Mosul. Still says he was against invasion of Iraq.
HRC: DT supported Iraq invasion. Understand interplay. Mosul is on the boarder of Syria. Go after Bagdadhi. Go after leades and fighters.
DT: HRC has bad judgment and instincts. Aleppo-DT said it was a catastrophe. Syria and Russia been bombing Aleppo. Blames HRC for fighting Assad. Assad aligned with Russia and Iran. US backs rebels. Don't know who rebels are. Could end up with worse then Assad and cause great migration.
HRC: No fly zone. What happens if Russia violates it. Believes it could save lives. Requires negotiations. Believes it would be in the best interests of people on the ground. Will do thorough vetting. Work with American Muslims communities. Be clear about threat.
DT: US outplayed by Russia, Syria, Iran

National Debt And Entitlements
Why are both ignoring increase in debt
DT: would increase growth to 7 percent. Will bring back jobs and manufacturing. Useprivate business people to negotiate trade deals. Create economic machines that will generate wealth.
HRC: remind audience that DT believes he alone can fix the debt. HRC plan pays for everything it proposes. Go where the money is. Will not slow down growth-middle out growth. Invest in individual and families.
Niether has plan to deal with dwindling entitlement
DT: tax cuts to save entitlements. a Repeal and replace ACA.  Premiums go up
HRC: Need to put more money into social security trust fund. Go after wealthy. Not cut benefit. Enhance benefits for low-income workers. DT proposes increases in debt. Reduce costs and emphasize wellness.

The Supreme Court
How should the Constitution be interpreted and what direction should the court go.
HRC: what kind of country will be and what kind of opportunities. SCOTUS stand on side of people: women and LGBTQ. Stand up to corporations and Citizens United. Not reverse marriage equality and Roe v. wade. SCOTUS reflect all of us.
DT: need SCOTUS to uphold 2nd amendment. Justices will appoint be pro-life and protect 2nd amendment. Literal interpretation of Constitution.
Justices could end up changing the 2nd Amendment
HRC: supports 2nd Amendment. Supports gun ownership. Wants reasonable gun law. Comprehensive  background checks and close gun show loophole. Disagreed which way court applied 2nd Amendjnet in Heller case.
DT: how will you protect 2nd amendment. HRC was upset
HRC: dozens of toddlers injur themselves. Supports right to bear arms. Not conflict with support of guns. Bring people together on sensible gun control.
DT: strong supporter of 2nd amendment. Appoint justices that support it.
Abortion: Roe v. Wade
DT: Abortion issues will go back to states
HRC: supports Roe v. Wade. States putting stringent regulations on abortions. Supports Planned Parenthood. Remind audience her DT said women should be punished for abortions.  Does support late term abortion because of risk to mother.
DT: does not support late term abortions

Why should we choose you?
HRC: wants to be president for everyone. Stand up for families. Good jobs and education
DT: will make America great. Take care of veterans. Law and order. Inner cities are disaster. Will do more for Latinos and African Americans.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Cheapest Housing Is The One Already Built

Already built affordable housing
Hello Everyone:

It is Monday and time for a fresh week's worth discussions.  On Wednesday, yours truly will be live blogging from the final presidential debate, which takes place on the campus of the University of Las Vegas, Nevada.  However, today Blogger wants to talk about one of the least glamorous issues on the campaign trail, the affordable housing crisis.

Finding affordable housing in the United States has reached crisis level.  To wit, there is not one a single county within the U.S. with sufficient housing units for everyone.  In her CityLab article, "Got an Affordable Housing Crisis?  Save the Cheap Housing You Already Have," Tanvi Misra writes, "Constructing more housing is important...but we can't just build our way of the problem..."  True enough.  Sometimes the best and more cost effective approach is to "...simply preserve the existing affordable housing stock, instead of allowing it get swept away by development."

In a new research brief published by the Urban Institute, Preserving affordable housing: what works (; date accessed Oct. 17, 2016), co-author and research associate Mark Treskon says,

There's a big discussion about affordable housing out there, but the issue of's not always as sexy as new construction...It can get a little bit lost in the shuffle.

The Mac Arthur Transit Village under construction, 2014
San Francisco, California
If you are like yours truly and live in a city where rents are through the roof, then you will appreciate the fact that need to save existing affordable housing units is growing more urgent by the day.  Ms Misra writes, "According to a previous analysis [Ibid] by the Urban Institute, there are only 28 affordable units for every 100 renter households with incomes at or below 30 percent of area median income."  Shocking is it not?  According to the new UI brief,

Between 2001 and 2013, the U.S. housing market saw the disappearance of 2.4 million affordable units-both subsidized ones and market-rate units that households earning 50 percent of regional median income can afford.

This staggering loss is keenly felt in strong housing markets like Los Angeles, but it has also been observed in weaker markets ...where neglect and deterioration threaten affordable units... (Ibid)

Rental Assistance infographic
Architect Carl Elefante once said "The greenest building is indeed the one already built." (; date accessed Oct. 17, 2016)  This aphorism is never truer then when it comes to preserving existing properties.  Preservation does offer significant advantages.  It can be more cost effective (i.e. cheaper) than new construction, consistent existing land use, and not as likely to cause displacement for residents.  As great as this may sound, there are obstacles.  The biggest of these obstacles is putting together the money to finance and maintain these projects.  Mr. Treskon told Ms. Misra,

In a strong housing market, they are in competition with market-rate developers, who often have capital available and can put together their funding pretty quickly...That's a challenge-some developments are very large and cost million and millions of dollars.

However daunting coming up with the financing can be, Mr. Treskon and his colleague co-author Sara McTarnaghan assembled six case studies from around the United States that successfully saved existing affordable stock.  This is how it was accomplished:

Vida Lea Mobile Home Park
Walterville, Oregon
It's not just about buildings

When we think affordable housing, we think actual buildings but in rural communities, mobile housing or "manufactured housing" are a tremendous resource.  As good a solution as it seems, the problem with mobile housing is that residents seldom own the land their home is parked on.  Tanvi Misra reports, "That's not the case at the Vida Lea Mobile Estates in Leaburg, Oregon.  The owner of this 33-space mobile home park for senior citizens sold the property to some residents, who then converted it to a Resident Owned Community (ROC).  According to the UI brief:

A new hybrid homeownership and rental model, a ROC lets residents purchase and control their park, managing infrastructure, operations, and common areas.  Members one their homes and rent empty spaces to generate revenue that covers debt service and operating expense.  (; date accessed Oct. 17, 2016)

This ownership model, assisted by local law and funders, allowed residents to maintain and improve their homes and community, "spending $275,000 on infrastructure repaired like sewage system and driveways and amenities like laundry machines and common areas." 

Random abandoned building
Vacant buildings can be resources, with a little local help

Vacant buildings are an eyesore.  They bring down property values and attract dubious individuals.  That said, with a little attention vacant buildings can be transformed into sources of affordable housing.  For example, in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago's West Side, there was a large vacant mixed-use building.  The building had been empty for twenty when, in 2012, a potential buyer was referred to the Chicago-based Community Investment Corporation, which finances community development.  With their assistance, the new owners re-made the building into a residential, commercial, and community space for at-risk youth.

Federal housing subsidies, like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program are of great importance to preservation initiatives.  Tanvi Misra adds, "But this case study is one of the many in the UI sample that demonstrates how useful local and state resources can be for financing such projects."

Monseñor Romero Apartments
Washington D.C.
Leverage local policy

In 2008, a fire burnt down the Monseñor Romero Apartments in the Washington D.C. neighborhood of Mt. Pleasant, displacing the residents.  Not long after, the resident made use of a convenient local policy-the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act-to reclaim their homes.  This local ordinance requires building owners to give the tenants the right to buy their properties before offering it to other buyers.  The Monseñor Romero used this right in two national housing nonprofits with the ability to put together funds, those organizations were to buy the  buildings for the tenants in 2010.

Ms. Misra writes, "Most of the low- and middle-income Hispanic residents now have moved back to these apartments, which are located in a bustling neighborhood with Latino groceries and public transit."  Mark Treason adds,

the case demonstrates how a lot of preservation efforts work well in areas were local policies "allow residents to be able to come to the table and get a fair shake."

Putnam Square
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Collaboration is better than competition

Sometimes the best approach to preserving existing affordable housing stock is to get the original owners (or sympathetic ones) to be a willing participant.  This was the case with the Putnam Square Apartments in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  This building was designated for elderly and disabled tenants, built and formerly owned by Harvard University.  It was purchased by Homeowner's Rehab, Inc. a housing nonprofit which renovated the building.  Harvard took an interest in the buyer's scheme for the property and continued some funding for residential services.

These case studies present a myriad of solutions for affordable housing advocates.  Mark Treskon noted that despite the different geographic, economic, and political contexts,

...there's some commonality in things that might work...To an extent, it's an uphill battle, but preserving affordable housing carries with it a lot of advantages that builders, as well as lawmakers could really focus on.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The 2016 11 Most Endangered Historic Places Part Two

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton
Hello Everyone:

Blogger Candidate Forum wanted to check in with a couple of thoughts on round two of the Great Debate.  The edge to Democratic nominee Secretary Hillary Clinton.  How did this round go?  In a word: nasty.  It did not take long for Republican nominee Donald Trump to go nuclear, bringing up former President Bill Clinton's treatment of women.  He went as far as to seat First Gentleman-in waiting's former accuser front and center, in a pathetic effort to distract his opponent   Typical of Mr. Trump, avoid answering the questions and divert attention back to Madame Secretary.  For his part, Mr. Trump remained mostly calm, channeling a little of his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence.  For her part, it was an average debate performance, not quite as fiery as round one.  Mr. Trump persistently refused to describe his now viral audio/video tape as nothing more than "locker room talk."  He promised to prosecute Madame Secretary if elected president and broke with Gov. Pence on the topic of Syria.  In short, the debate was acrimonious. The final round is onOctober 19, in Las Vegas.  This is the make-or-break debate for both candidates.  Now on to today's post: part two of the 2016 list of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

James River
Lynchburg, Virginia
James River
Lynchburg, Virginia

In Wednesday's post, Blogger presented the first part on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's annual list of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places (  Today, yours truly presents the next group, starting with the James River in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The historic James River winds its way through a collection of cultural, historic, and natural resources in Virginia's Historic Triangle-a region that hosts 3.5 visitors every year.  The National Trust's objective is persuade law makers, considering a power line project, to either bury the lines or consider an alternative route that would protect the gorgeous landscapes of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Trail, Historic Jamestown, Colonial Parkway, and Carter's Grove.

The James River was first placed on the 11 Endangered Historic Places list in 2013 and part of America's first nationally recognized water trail.  The James River has been the scene of significant historical events that go back to pre-colonial America.  Beginning with the founding of the first permanent English colony in 1607, to serving as a transportation during the Revolution, a site for Civil War battles, and so much more.  This beautiful river has been the integral to American history.  Its cultural resources are forever intertwined with early American history and the region's environmental health.  The National Trust seeks to stop the construction of the transmission line in this historically significant place and raise awareness to the threat to the James River and spur public action.

Lions Municipal Golf Course
Austin, Texas
Lions Municipal Golf Course
Austin, Texas

 Our next stop is in Austin, Texas for a round of golf.  A round of golf at the historic Lions Municipal Golf.  Did you think we were going to just any golf course?  The Lions Municipal Golf Course was established in 1924 by the members of the Austin Lions Club.  The "Muny," as it is affectionately known, is Austin's oldest public golf course and often known as the first desegregated course in the South.  The golf course was desegregated in the late 1950, when two African-Americans youths strolled onto the golf course and permitted to play, marking the quiet desegregation of the Muny.  This is noteworthy because it was done without conflict or a lot of debate.

Presently, despite being placed on the National Register of Historic Place this past summer, the golf course's fate is in doubt.  Its lease, now held by the City of Austin and the University of Texas, technically expires in 2019, but previous public comments suggest a possible end to this agreement to make room for a potential commercial development on the site.  The future of the golf course is predicated on a longer-term lease agreement between the city and university.  Without a longer lease, the Muny cannot continue to bring to showcase an important part of American history.

Mitchell Park Domes
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Mitchell Park Domes
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

We now travel from Austin, Texas to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to pay a visit to the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory-i.e. Mitchell Park Domes.  The Domes were designed by local architect Donald Grieb, who won a national design for the Domes, and built between 1958 and 1967.  This well loved institution is a fine example of engineering and a nationally recognized major example of Midcentury Modern architect.  The Domes have been the focal point of community life and a magnet for tourist for over fifty years.  The Grieb design features three domes: The Show Dome, the Tropical Dome, and the Arid Dome.  Each dome features a wide variety of flora that an observer dubbed a zoo for plants.  Late First Lady of the United States Lady Bird Johnson dedicated the Show Dome in 1965.  Included with the breath taking architectural feature, The Domes are wonders of modern engineering that feature the world's first conical domes.  They are the only conical domes in the world in use as conservatories.

After a small piece of concrete was found on the floor earlier this year-Milwaukee city officials  temporarily closed The Domes to the public.  Milwaukee County estimates that it would cost about $70 million to repair The Domes.  Based on this estimate and other determinants, civic and park officials are now thinking that The Domes have outlived their usefulness and could be razed.  Local preservation advocates have been encouraging the County to pursue alternatives.  The National Trust's history of championing Modernist resources and its vast network of people passionate about Midcentury Modernism can help find a preservation solution.

The Embarcadero
San Francisco, California

The Embarcadero
San Francisco, California

We now head to Blogger's home state of California, to the beautiful City by the Bay-San Francisco.  Our next stop is the National Register-listed The Embarcadero Historic District.  The Embarcadero has been the historic link between San Francisco and gorgeous bay. It is a major economic driver for the Bay Area, home to variety of sea-faring activities while acting as the region's ferry hub.  Its historic character, boosted by the 1991 demolition of the elevated Embarcadero Freeway and the completion of the major rehabilitation project including the landmark Ferry Building.  All of which contributed to the revitalization of the urban waterfront.

Success aside, the waterfront faces two natural threats: earthquakes and the rising sea level.  A recent earthquake vulnerability study of the 3-mile seawall concluded that there was a greater than average risk to the waterfront.  If that was not enough, the Embarcadero's buildings are also under threat from constant exposure to the harsh marine environment, exacerbated by climate change.  Case in point the Port of San Francisco expects a rise in the sea level of nearly 66 inches by 2100.  These dual threats present a giant challenge challenge to the future of the waterfront.  The at-risk assets generate $2.1 billion from rents, business income, and are significant contributor to the tourism industry, valued at over $11 billion.  The dual seismic and climate threats require a joint federal, state, regional and local response that necessitates creative approaches to assure long-term resilience for the Embarcadero's storied history.  The National Trust's ReUrbanism work highlights the importance to adaptive reuse to serve a 21st-century urban population.

Broadway Boulevard: The Sunshine Mile
Tucson, Arizona
The Sunshine Mile
Tucson, Arizona

Our final stop on our tour is the city of Tucson, Arizona.  We are cruising a two-mile stretch of Broadway Boulevard called the Sunshine Mile.  The Sunshine Mile is dotted with glass storefronts, geometric designed buildings, and uniquely designed signage.  This two-mile roadway represents Arizona's most important concentration of Midcentury Modernism.  The Sunshine Mile was primarily built between 1939 and 1972 and was developed as a commercial corridor following World War II as the American sense of optimism and economy boomed.  Some of the buildings along the Sunshine Mile were designed by influential architects such as: Sylvia and William Wilde, Anner Rysdale, and Nicholas Sakellar.

Currently, the Sunshine Mile is under threat from a proposed transportation project that would widen Broadway Boulevard from four to six lanes and in some portions-as much as nine lanes.  This plan would require the demolition and sale of several along the boulevard.  However, a group of Tucson's architects, planners, citizens, property owners, and advocates are looking for a compromise.  Working with civic officials, the group senses the opportunity to create policies that would preserve Broadway Boulevard's iconic architecture.  The Sunshine Mile is an vital and irreplaceable part of Tucson's history and highlights recent research by the National Trust's Green Lab, which presented evidence that the Sunshine Mile and similar areas with historic, smaller buildings, and mixed period style blocks significant add to the city's economic vitality, neighborhood vitality, and residential density,  This is comes at a significant time when cities are reusing older buildings to attract residents and grow local economic revenue.

If you would like more information about the National Trust for Historic Preservation 2016 list of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places and/or would like to get involved with campaigns to save these historic site, please go to