Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: Rolling Back Flood Protection; August 28, 2017

Hello Everyone:

It is time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Once again, yours truly would like to remind you: if you would like to donate money or supplies to the survivors of Hurricane Harvey (now Tropical Storm Harvey), you can text 90999 (minimum $10) or go to for a complete list of organization collecting money and supplies.  There is a great need for food, water, medicine, and diapers.  Thanks and stay safe.  

Speaking of Hurricane Harvey, the torrential rains have caused unending flooding, almost submerging the entire Houston area.  Once the water subsides, the residents will left to deal with the overwhelming task of rebuilding their lives and the question of can future flooding be prevented?  

Two weeks ago, during that infamous press conference in the glittering lobby of Trump Tower, President Donald J. Trump opted to focus on the fatal white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Mr. Trump blamed violence on both sides for the mêlée.  Naturally the media took the bait and focused on this comment and his incendiary comments about nice Alt-Right people rather than the true purpose of the event.

Lost in the white hot glare of the spotlight was an item that could not be more timely.  Kriston Capps reports in his CityLab article, "Trump Rolled Back the Government's Best Flood Protection Standard," "Trump signed executive order rolling back various environmental rules in order to streamline approval for infrastructure projects." (; Aug. 15, 2017; date accessed Aug. 31, 2017). One of those standards was the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard.

What is the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard?  This standard signed into effect by President Barack Obama, on January 30, 2015, established:

....policy of the United States to improve the resilience of communities and Federal assets against the impacts of flooding...As part of a national policy on resilience and risk reduction with my Climate Action Plan, the National Security Staff coordinated an interagency effort to create a new flood risk reduction standard for federally funded projects.(; date accessed Aug. 31, 2017)

Executive Order 13690 amended a 1977 executive order, signed by then-President Jimmy Carter, "...on floodplain management by asking agencies to seek a 'practicable alternative' to any projects on floodplains that would have either short-term or long-term adverse effects."

President Obama's rule allowed federal agencies three paths to address flood risk through design and construction: using strategies informed by climate science, building two-feet above the 100-year flood elevation, or the 500-year flood elevation.  Using science to find solutions to flooding, what a concept.

Post-Harvey Houston would have been the first test of the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard.  Houston may still decide to rebuild within the strict 500-year or 1000-year flood standards.  However Mr. Capps bemoans, "Texas has never shown any such foresight."  The Lone Star state is spending billions of dollars to build a Grand Parkway (; June 3, 2016; date accessed Aug. 31, 2017).  Kriston Capps posted an article over a year ago about Houston's Grand Parkway, the city's "...third and outermost ring road,...By its completion in 2023 (; date accessed Aug. 31, 2017), the Grand Parkway will form a 180-mile-long encircling greater metro Houston."  This beltway loop is large enough to circumnavigate the state of Rhode Island and consuming greater and greater portions of the Katy Prairie, extremely crucial to Houston's natural flood control.

Obviously President Obama's 2015 Executive Order could not have predicted or prevented the massive flooding and destruction of Harvey.  As late as October 2016, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued Draft Regulatory Amendents to implement EO 13690.  FEMA outlined an 8-step process for considering amendments to the Executive Order:

1. Determine what the floodplain is
2. Facilitate early public review
3. Develop a list of practicable alternative
4. Identify the impacts of the chose alternatives
5. Take steps to minimize impacts
6. Reevaluate alternatives
7. Develop findings
8. Implementation of action; date accessed August 31, 2017

Scott Shapiro, managing partner for Downey Brand, wrote in a 2015 blog post for the law firm specializing in flood risk law,

They [Federal Flood Risk Management Standard]' use of these expanded floodplains is scaring the bejesus out of many in the flood risk management community.  (Ibid)

Kriston Capps writes, "One alarmist interpretation of the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard maintained that the federal government would longer back mortgages on homes falling in 500-year floodplain so, as Shapiro notes."  The Obama administration was insistent that EO 13690 applied solely to federal infrastructure projects and intended to bring  standards set by FEMA up to the levels of some municipal government.  It sounds kind of backward-a federal agency's standard needing to be brought up to the standards of a local government-but such is the case.  Anyway, this all moot in the face of monstrous task of rebuilding Houston once the waters recede.

Mr. Trump's visit to Texas on Tuesday came and went without incident, despite the dust up caused by the non-issue of First Lady Melania Trump's choice of footwear.  Really, six-inch stilettos? Not the best idea.  Good thing she wisely traded in the the stiletto pumps for a pair of sneakers.  Mr. Trump was originally scheduled to survey the damage  wrought by Harvey.  However, the day before the planned visit, Texas Governor Greg Abbot announced that the president would visit San Antonio and Corpus Christi.  Governor Abbot told CBS This Morning:

The place he will be going to will not be Houston, so [he] will not be getting into harm's way or interrupting the evacuations or emergency response in the Houston area...He most likely will be going closer to where the hurricane hit land.  (; Aug. 28, 2017; date accessed Aug. 31, 2017)

Seriously, would it have been too much to visit a shelter and shake hands with some of the survivors?

Kriston Capps reports, "...Trump's diversion away from Houston will no doubt come as a relief for the beleaguered city."  As of posting, there is a slight lull in the deluge but there is more rain on the way.  Dr. Louis Uccellini, the director of the National Weather Service, told the Houston Chronicle,

We're in a lull right not...but it will get back into moderate to heavy rains today and into tomorrow.  The peak flow and depth of this flood will max out in the Wednesday-Thursday time frame... (; Aug. 28, 2017; date accessed Aug. 31, 2017)

Be that as it may, Mr. Trump's action two weeks ago will have lasting repercussions when Houston and other parts of the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana, battered by Hurricane Harvey, go into recovery mode.

Mr. Trump's post-Harvey legacy has yet to be fleshed out.  If he absolutely insists of funds for that ill-conceived wall along the U.S.-Mexican border (; Aug. 25, 2017; date accessed Aug. 31, 2017) in any deal to raise the pending debt ceiling, the government could shut down, derailing federal relief efforts along the Gulf. The president has ensured that the federal government will not be part of making the Houston-area and the parts of the Gulf Coast affected by Hurricane Harvey better prepared for flooding in the future.  Essentially, Houston and the Gulf Coast are on their own.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Safe, For Now; July 28, 2017

Hello Everyone:

Before we get going today, the flood waters continue to rise in Houston, Texas and more rain is on the way.  In the meantime, Houstonians trapped in the city are in absolute dire need of water, food, medicine, diapers, and most important safe shelter.  If you would like to help, you can text your minimum $10 donation to 90999 or you can go to for a complete list for places you can send money or material.  Every little bit helps.  Stay safe.  Shall we move on to urban health?

Right before the Congressional August recess, the latest attempt by Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)-i.e. "skinny repeal"-went down in glorious flames. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office scored the "skinny repeal," finding that it would increase the number of uninsured to 16 million by 2026, decrease the projected federal deficit by $142 billion over the same timeline, and increase premiums in the exchanges by 20 percent. (; July 27, 2017; date accessed Aug. 29, 2017)  Blogger, for one, was quite happy about that outcome.  As of writing, the Senate is quietly attempting to find a bipartisan solution to Obamacare.  Yours truly hopes this effort will be reparative not wholesale repeal and replace.  Stay tuned to find out what happens next.

Laura Bliss, in her CityLab article "Urban Health Has Dodged a Bullet" writes, "Unlike previous repeal-and-replace attempts, this bill nothing to directly undo the Affordable Care Act's historic expansion of Medicaid."  However, somewhere between those unable to afford the higher cost ACA exchange plans and the millions left without job-based insurance once the employer-based mandate goes away,  this latest effort dubbed by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (who voted yes;; July 28, 2017; date accessed Aug. 29, 2017) a ...policy is a disaster.

Other than leaving millions of people without coverage, the now defeated bill would have stranded ailing urban communities.  ACA established the Prevention and Public Health Fund (; date accessed Aug. 29, 2017) which "...appropriated nearly $1 billion last year to stem chronic disease, prevent infectious outbreaks, and promote health equity, largely through research grants, and programs orchestrated by the CDC [Centers for Disease Control]."  The fund, set to double in 2022, would have been repealed in 2019.  "Every corner of the country would have felt some impact, with states losing up to $3 billion over the next five years."

Cities would have been greatly affected, albeit those with concentrated health inequities and dense populations.  Below is a summary of what would have gone away with PPHF had ACA been repealed:

* The CDC spent $13 million on lead prevention programs nationwide in 2016.  Houston, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia have all recently received millions to monitor lead poisoning risks, educate communities, and manage treatments.  [; date accessed Aug. 29, 2017]

* Another $40 million bolstered the CDC's Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity program, which distributes money to cities and states for research on infectious diseased like Ebola and Zika... (Ibid)

* The CDC distributed another $160 million of PPHF dollars to Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grants, which support localized solutions to community health challenges.  Think text-based health alert in California, bike paths in Connecticut, farmers markets in rural Kansas. (Ibid)

* The CDC dishes out nearly $51 million per year to a longstanding, remarkable program called Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health [; Marh 15, 2017; date accessed Aug. 29, 2017].  Rooted in neighborhoods from the West Bronx, to suburban Detroit, to South L.A., some 49 REACH non-profits around the country connect minority communities with high health risks to care and prevention services.

Preventative measures, outside the expensive boundaries of doctors's office, go a long way to healing communities and stretch healthcare dollars further.  Laura Bliss reports, "As with so many kinds of federal funding cuts-including those to Planned Parenthood, also proposed by the 'skinny repeal-low-income Americans, who are disproportionately black and brown, stand to lose most. [Ibid]". Although the seven year attempt by the Congressional GOP to repeal and replace ACA seems dead, the prospect of a bipartisan solution offers a tiny glimmer of optimism.  Of course, that may get torpedoed by the hardliners and a petulant president.

The looming debate over the 2018 Federal Budget may also sabotage any bipartisan healthcare effort. Alan Rappeport report in the July 18, 2017 issue of The New York Times, "...the failure of the health care plan complicates Republicans efforts to overhaul the tax code.  It also adds to the urgency Republicans face to secre a signature in President Trump's first year in office..." (; July 18, 2017; date accessed Aug. 29, 2017).  Laura Bliss writes that the budget debate will be "...guided by the blueprint released by the White House earlier this year."  In addition to cuts to the Federal Drug Administration, the National Institute of Health, Medicaid, and Planned Parenthood, the proposed budget also calls for cuts to the Centers for Disease Control's budget by $1.3 billion, this could include AIDS research, opioid addiction interventions, and programs to combat diabetes, cardiac disease, and obesity.  So much for a commitment to providing a beautiful healthcare plan for every American.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Persistent Myth of Suburban Poverty; July 6, 2017

Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a fresh week on the blog.  Before we get started, it is all eyes on Houston, Texas and the survivors of Hurricane Harvey.  If you would like to help the good people of Houston, you can text your donation to 90999 (minimum $10 donation) or you can go to for a list of organization's collecting much needed material donations such as diapers, water, medicines, food. Blogger would like to wish Houstonians a bright future with nothing but good things.  Stay safe.  On to today's subject: the myths of suburban poverty.

The word suburbs conjures up an image of nice houses, pretty gardens, families, and plenty of places to park.  Scratch the surface, and this idyllic image gives way to a much more serious problem: poverty.  Suburban poverty is not a new issue, however it is not considered much of a problem (; May 20, 2017; date accessed Aug. 28, 2017).  Words like "inner city" is often code "poor, black,urban communities" ( Oct. 12, 2016; date accessed Aug. 28, 2017) receive the lion's share of attention and resources.  What you do find is a lot myths surrounding the not too serious issue of suburban poverty.  Tanvi Misra confronts those myths in her CityLab article "Confronting the Myths of Suburban Poverty."

She writes, "While some communities have grappled with local solutions [; Oct 31, 2017; date accessed Aug. 28, 2017), by and large, the rising poverty in American suburbs has been allowed to fester and grow, [; May 23, 2013; date accessed Aug. 28, 2017], catalyzed by the Great Recession [; August. 4, 2017; date accessed Aug. 28, 2017]."  Simultaneously, suburban demographics have changed. As the cost of living in the cities has rapidly increased, immigrants (; Aug. 28, 2017) and communities of color have found a home outside the center-only to confront the exact same issues they left behind.

Recently, University of Washington professor of public policy Scott Wallard (; Aug. 28, 2017) published the book Places in Need. Prof. Wallard takes a deep dive into the depths of "data on the changing geography of poverty, debunking misconceptions about which suburbs are getting poorer-and why."  CityLab sat down with him to discuss his findings.  What follows re excerpts from that interview.

CL: "Does every type of suburb have a poverty problem?"

SW: A lot of our discourse around suburban poverty says, "Well, suburban poverty probably is really a problem for old inner-tier suburbs that are bordering higher poverty neighborhoods in cities."  But poverty is pervasive across the suburban regions of all metros,...In fact, the rates of change have been more servers in newer suburbs-those built after 1970-than in older suburbs.  When you break out the suburban regions, there more poor people in the newer suburbs, combined than in the older suburbs.  That's an important finding.

...there's quite a bit of variation.  You can find older or newer suburbs that saw severe increases in poverty and you can find others  where things haven't changed all that much.

The difference in the experience of poverty in older suburbs compared to newer suburbs is often one of distance from the central city.  There are transportation and job access issues that low-income adults face...the distances are just greater in the outer-ring suburbs.  Low-income households in both types of communities often experience isolation from opportunity, racial segregation, and a marginalization from politics...This is particularly true for immigrants and people of color.

CL: "You argue in the book that suburban poverty is everybody's problem.  What demographic evidence from your research backs that claim?"

SW: What you see is fairly consistent increases in poverty across race and ethnic groups in the suburbs.  The increase among whites are large and substantial, as are increase among blacks and Hispanics.  Whites are a plurality of poor people,...

There are a couple of other demographic changes that are important to realizes here, too.  One is the increase in the share of households in suburbs that are single-parent households...we know those households are the most vulnerable to falling into poverty.  The place in suburbs where poverty problems have become acute are where a larger share of the population doesn't have advanced training or education past high school.

That reflects the reality of today's labor market, where there are no longer large numbers of good-paying, low-skilled jobs in suburban regions.  And the jobs that are available to workers without college degrees or some advanced training often don't lift there families out of poverty.

CL: "You complicate the notion that these places are becoming power solely because of an influx of of poor immigrants and poor people of color.  What's the role that migration plays in the suburbanization of poverty?"

SW: One of the common narratives around rising poverty problems in the suburbs is that this is the result of poor families moving from the central city out...increases in poverty are related to out-migration from the cities.  But those migration trends have been present for more than 50 years...[for better schools, safer neighborhoods, community amenities] That pattern persists today, but is not as likely to be the largest or most important factor in many places.  In fact, the most important factor is change in the labor marke-the declined of the number of good-paying low-skilled jobs. 

Immigration to the U.S. is an important demographic trend related to the shifting geography of poverty. Today, more immigrants to the U.S. locate in suburbs upon arrival than at any point in American history...these immigrant families are working often multiple jobs but not earning enough to lift their families out of poverty.  Some communities have seen really significant increases in the number of immigrants from around the globe.  But it's something that all communities have experienced-...that's not the largest factor driving these trends.

You see that because the increasing number of poor people in suburbs is about three times the rate of population growth...there are lots of people who have lived in suburbs for a long time who either have been poor, or have fallen into poverty over...time.

CL: " Why are suburbs so ill-equipped to deal with this problems?"

SW: Since the war on poverty, federal and state invests in anti-poverty programs have largely been funneled into urban centers and urban counties....we've built extensive nonprofit human service capacity in out cities...In the 1960s, poverty was highly concentrated in cities and it remains so.  One of the realities of the rise of suburban poverty is that it hasn't corresponded with a decrease in urban poverty.  But we just lack that similar capacity to tackle the problems in suburban areas.  Our public investments need to keep pace with the changing geography of poverty.

One reason why we lack nonprofit human services relates to the perception gap that we have about poverty being urban.  In many suburban regions, nonprofits have a hard time attracting funding from charitable foundations, partly because those foundations aren't aware of poverty problems in the suburbs of their metros, or they can't make grants outside the city.

...when you try [to] deliver human service programs across suburban regions, you encounter a lot of fragmentation.  A typical food bank in a large metro may have to work across several county borders, dozens of mucipalities, and lots of different school districts...Not all communities re supportive or have the resources to support the mission.  That fragmentation also creates competitive pressures where no one is really eager to commit their own resources to anti-poverty programs, because they may be worries about their public image...Some places also worry that if they provide anti-poverty services, they will end up attracting poor people, even though that's not likely to be the case.

CL: "How do you think things are likely to change under the current administration?"

SW: One of the false narratives I push back against in the book is that poverty is a problem for cities, and in particular for people of color.  That's a big element of the political rhetoric of this administration...They affect all types of families of all races and ethnicities.  That rhetoric creates an "othering" of poverty, and it undermines our support for safety net program and services.  Rhetoric really matters-it directly shape how we think our responsibilities and who we think of as deserving of help.

The federal budget proposals that are being discussed and the health care bills will undermine some of the most critical, responsive parts of the safety net.  The SNAP program [; May 23, 2017; date accessed Aug. 28, 2017], is one of our most successful, impactful anti-poverty programs...The same is true for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a program that runs through the tax code.  We should be doing things to expand, enhance, and strengthen those programs or at least maintain our commitments to them.  The current federal budget [proposals] don't do that.

They also aren't going to do anything to strengthen the service provider capacity in the suburbs...they will weaken what little infrastructure exists dramatically.  A lot of services provided to low-income households are financed through Medicaid...[These and other cuts to the safety net] are going to be lead a double-whammy in the next recession.

CL: "What are your recommendations to decrease suburban poverty?"

SW: One, we need to maintain our public commitments to safety net programs we know are most effective at reducing poverty...we should be expanding our federal investments for services so that we can build capacity in suburban and rural communities.

We also need to think about our private commitments.  Part of this getting beyond some of the perception gaps and making sure that we're expanding personal philanthropy to support work in the suburban and rural places.

And then finally, we need to start to think of way we can cultivate and train the next generation of local nonprofit leaders.  These are young people who are from communities, from communities of that have experienced increases in poverty, who can not only think about innovative solutions but also...implement those solution with trust from community and cultural competency.

We're not likely to solve poverty problems in cities or suburbs if we don't act together as metro regions.  Our labor markets are intimately intertwined and there's good reason to believe that our anti-poverty efforts are intimately intertwined. If we don't work together to solve poverty problems that affect both places, we're not likely to succeed at alleviating poverty in any place.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: The Definition Of Insanity

Hello Everyone:

Time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Before we get going, how about that campaign-style rally in Phoenix, Arizona yesterday?  Yours Truly could not make out anything from that Trumpian word salad.  Did Mr. Trump say anything of real substance?  A re-election campaign rally now?  Way too soon.  Based on the fall out from his tone deaf response to Charlottesville and prior acts over the past several months, Mr. Trump may not last until 2020.  To make matters worse, speaking at a Las Vegas convention for war veterans today, Mr. Trump invoked the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance, which rang hollow in the face of his support for American Nazis.  During his babble on he touched on all the usual themes that get the faithful all hot and bothered.  Perhaps the most glaring part of this 70 minute rant and rave was the reiteration of his response to Charlottesville.  Specifically, the omission of the phrase violence on both sides.  Like no one would notice.  Reporters and the Internet did notice.  By the way, blaming the media and Republicans for your failings is not working anymore.  The late President Harry S. Truman famously said The buck stops here.  This was a plaque, attached to his desk, indicating that final responsibility for all the successes and failures lies with him.  Shall we now turn to Tanvi Misra's CityLab  article "The DOJ's Perverse Response to Chicago's Sanctuary City Lawsuit?"

Today we are returning to the subject of sanctuary cities.  Specifically, we are going to take a look at how the Department of Justice is responding to the city of Chicago's sanctuary city lawsuit.  On Monday, August 6, 2017, the Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel, flanked by the Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Representative Danny Davis, announced it was filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration, claiming new requirements to receive federal funds are unconstitutional.  (; Aug. 6, 2017; date accessed Aug. 23, 2017). At the press conference, Mayor Emanuel announced, Chicago will not be blackmailed into changing our values.

The Department of Justice responded by shaming the mayor (trying to shame Mayor Emanuel is like running with scissors) by laying blame on the city's ongoing crime problems on its sanctuary policies, which separate local law enforcement from federal immigration enforcement.  In a statement to the Chicago Sun Times, DOJ spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores had typical Trumpian response:

In 2016, more Chicagoans were murdered than in New York City and Los Angeles combined.  So it's especially tragic that the mayor is less concerned with that staggering figure than he is spending time and taxpayer money protecting criminal aliens and putting Chicago's law enforcement at greater risk. (Ibid)

Not satisfied with that, the DOJ responded further by hollowing about the culture of lawlessness in the city. (Ibid).  Ms Misra writes, "This response sidesteps the legal arguments in the lawsuit, instead perpetuating a widely debunked link between sanctuary cities and crime."  Typical Trump administration, alternative facts.  Also typical of this administration is continuing to blame cities and communities of color for problems that were not of their making-"and suggests solutions that would only worsen those problems."  Sounds like the classic definition of insanity, keep doing the same thing over again, expecting different results.

Let us have a look at all the accusations the DOJ is hurling at Mayor Emanuel.

Claim 1: "The mayor is spending taxpayer money protecting criminal aliens"

No, he does not.  This eyepopper blurs the actual function of what a sanctuary city actually does and does not do.  A quick review:  sanctuary cities do not really protect criminal aliens. On the contrary, they frequently work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport violent criminals.  In fact, many local law enforcement agencies will allow ICE access to their databases (; May 12, 2017; date accessed Aug. 23, 2017), even when it can present a liability (; May 2, 2017; date accessed Aug. 23, 2017) "because these local gang databases are overly road and riddled with inaccuracies." (; Feb. 17, 2017; date accessed Aug. 23, 2017).  

What these jurisdiction do is limit their local law enforcement from doing activities outside their purview and force them to function in the same capacities as federal immigration agents.  Included in this is: gathering data about immigration status at routine traffic stops, allowing ICE agents into the their jails, and handling ICE requests (detainers) to hold immigrant suspects for longer than the legal limit (about 48 hours) in jail.

Tanvi Misra observes, "Opting into these agreements with ICE can be costly.  Several court rulings have already reinforced some these policies."  Other rulings have curtailed previous laws, like Arizona's heinous S.B. 1070, which require local law enforcement to do immigration status checks in the field. (http://www.latimes; Sept. 15, 2016; date accessed Aug. 23, 2017).  Others (; Oct. 7, 2017; date accessed Aug. 23, 2017), including a recent one in Massachusetts (; today; date accessed Aug. 23, 2017), question the legality of detainers, which have frequently targeted permenant residents and American citizens (; date accessed Aug. 23, 2017).

Claim 2: "The mayor is putting Chicago's law enforcement at greater risk"

Once again, we have a Trumpian disregard for actual facts because there is no evidence to suggest that sanctuary policies result in more crime.  Au contraire, police officers argues "that harsh local enforcement makes crime worse by eroding the trust from the community necessary for policing." (; May 29, 2017; date accessed Aug. 23, 2017)

A recent study, The Policies of Refuge: Sanctuary Cities, Crime,and Undocumented Immigration dated October 16, 2016 (; date accessed Aug. 23, 2017) researchers at the University of California Riverside compared crime rates before and after cities enacted sanctuary policies; correlating crimes in these jurisdictions to similar ones in non-sanctuary cities.  The researchers concluded there was no statistically discernible difference, and sanctuary policies have no effect on crime rates, despite narratives to the contrary

Tom Wong (; date access Aug. 23, 2017) an associate professor of political science at the University of California San Diego, argued in a study published by the Centerfor American progress that "sanctuary cities were actually safer and more economically viable places to live." (; Jan. 26, 2017; date accessed Aug. 23, 2017). The logic being: "If immigrant communities the police, they're more likely to report crime, help the police find criminals, and participate in the local economy-research back that up."  (Ibid)

Basically, the DOJ is actually recommending that cities put themselves and their residents at risk for a monster under the bed that does not exist.  Ms. Misra reports, "In fact, by threatening to the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant grant (; date accessed Aug. 23, 2017) that help train and equip police, the person likely putting law enforcement at greater risk is Jeff Sessions himself."  Yes.


Claim 3: "The mayor is less concerned with the city's murder rate than its sanctuary status"

As previously stated, "many law enforcement officials oppose sanctuary city policies because they make policing harder."  However, civic officials are quite capable of multi-tasking; Mayor Rahm Emanuel; has made his serious concern over his city's murder rate known.

Truth be told, the crime rate in Chicago is going up (; Sept. 20, 2016; date accessed Aug. 23, 2017).  Yes, it did experience more homicides than New York and Los Angeles in 2016, even though both cities have larger populations.  However, a recent report, Crime In 2016: A Preliminary Analysis published by the Brennan Center for Justice (; date accessed Aug. 23, 2017) points out, "crime has been this bad and far worse over the last 20 years in Chicago."

Thus, any real explanation of crime in Chicago has to account the city's history of ghettoization, economic neglect, and police violence (; July 19, 2017; date accessed Aug. 23, 2017) which isolated certain communities and forced them to carry the burden of crime and punishment.  Additionally, federal gun policy aides illegally trafficked guns from states, like Indiana (did you hear that VPOTUS) which has weaker gun laws (; Nov. 2, 2015; date accessed Aug. 23, 2017).

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has not figured out the solution to Chicago's crime problem.  While his methods can be criticized, he did enact one strategy (; Sept. 22, 2016; date accessed Aug. 23, 2017).  Mayor Emanuel told Mr. Trump earlier this year, 

We have repeated;y made specific requests of the administration for greater law enforcement integration and resouces; a higher priority placed on federal gun prosecutions; and funds restored toward mentoring and after-school and summer jobs program that have proven alternatives for our young people...

Because this is so important, I'll always be ready with this list when the President asks.

Sorry Mayor Emanuel, the president is not asking for this list.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Predicting The Impact Of Climate Change On Inequality

Hello Everyone:

Today we move on from what to do about Confederate-era statues to climate change and economic inequality.  Specifically, how will climate change affect economic inequality in the United States?  We have already felt the impact of global warming with increasingly hot summers and more intense hurricane seasons.  There is no denying that fact.  The question of its affect on economic inequality is something that Robinson Meyer considers in his CityLab article "Climate Change Will Intensify Inequality in the U.S."  Mr. Meyer writes, "Climate change will aggravate economic inequality in the United States, essentially transferring wealth from poor counties in the Southeast and the Midwest to well-off communities in the Northeast and the coasts,..."  This not just his opinion but the conclusion reached by a very detailed economic analysis of this phenomenon.

The analysis, Estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States, published in the June 30, 2017 issue of Science magazine (; date accessed Aug. 21, 2017), replicates the costs of climate change in exacting detail, "...modeling every day of weather in every U.S. county during the 21st century."  The analysis revealed great disparities in how rising temperatures will impact American communities: "Texas, Florida, and the Deep South will bleed income in the broiling heat, while some chillier northern states gain moderate benefits."

Solomon Hsiang, one of the co-authors and a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, told Mr. Meyer:

We are really sure the South is going to get hammered...The South is really, really negatively affected by climate change, much more so than the North.  That wasn't something we were expecting going in.

In general, the analysis found that "climate will cost the United States 1.2 percent of its GDP for every additional degree Celsius of warming," however that figure is somewhat doubtful.  Hypothetically, if global temperatures rise by four degrees Celsius by 2100-which is where the terms of Paris Accords place the planet-American Gross Domestic Product (GDP) "could shrink anywhere between 1.6 and 5.6 percent."  

However, beyond the initial findings, the analysis signifies "a major breakthrough for the field of climate economics."  Previously, the best financial predictions of climate change estimated  the damage for a country as a whole.  This new analysis  takes a bottom-up approach, creating "a model out of dozens microeconomic studies into how climate change is already affecting regional economies across the United States."  Each algorithm in the model emerged from early empirical relationships founded on real-world information.

In an email, Gernot Wagner a Harvard University and former lead senior economist at the Environmental Defense Fund, wrote:

This is like the adults entering the room.  Economists have for a quarter century, insisted that more work needs to be done to estimate climate damages.  This team has done so,..."

Mr. Wagner is not connected to the analysis.

Be that as it may, the emphasis on the empirical means "that the research omitted many serious risks of climate change-even those the researchers considered important-if the data describing them was too paltry."  The estimates exclude "non-market goods" such as the "loss of biodiversity or natural splendor."  In essence: while most people agree that dead penguins and polar bears have economic costs, but there is not agreed upon strategy how to approximate it.

Robinson Meyer also points out, "The study also doesn't account for the increased likelihood of 'tail risks'-that is, unlikely events with catastrophic consequences.  Many researchers believe that global warming will make social strife, mass migration, or global military calamity more likely, but those events are, by definition, hard to predict."  This also applies to economic disaster, the result of "the onset of a 'mega-drought or the rapid collapse of the Greenland ice sheet." (; Oct. 11, 2016; date accessed Aug. 22, 2017)

Solomon Hsiang added,

When we had the Dust Bowl, we saw everyone clear out of the Midwest and flood the labor markets in the urban centers on the coast.

Robinson Meyer notes that "Nothing like this kind of internal migration is modeled in the Science study."

In general, the assessments in the analysis should be viewed as the absolute rigorous attempt to illustrate what the cost of global warming will for the United States in a "normal" world.  Presidencies come and go but the U.S. has successfully retained a well-organized economy in the face of ever shifting political communities since the end of World War II.

Regardless, even in the most harmonious environment, the United States will bear the cost of climate change.  A map detailing the cost of climate change for every U.S. county 2080-2099-can be viewed at; June 30, 2017-underlines this point.  The southern part of the country, especially the states lining the Gulf of Mexico, the cost of climate change would be the equivalent of a "20-percent tax on county-level income, according to the study."  Harvest will diminish, summer energy use costs will soar, rising sea levels will eliminate real-estate developments, and heatwaves will cause cardo and pulmonary disease epidemics.

If this is not enough to convince you of the costs of climate change, there is more.  The loss of human life trumps lol economic costs of climate change.  Mr. Meyer reports, "Almost every county between El Paso, Texas, and Charlotte, North Carolina, could see their mortality rate rise by more than 20 people out of every 100,000."  Compare this to the fact that auto accidents killed about 11 out of 100,000 Americans in 2015.

A side-by-side map of how climate change will affect agriculture and health by 2080-can be viewed at; June 30, 2017.  At the same time, the analysis revealed that some regions may gain moderate economic benefits from climate change.  "New England, the Pacific Northwest, and the Great Lake states may all proposer as growing seasons lengthen and the number of frigid, deadly winter days decrease."  The best case scenario is that some counties could experience a 10 percent income increase by mid-century.

This may sound a wee bit strange to some Americans.  The high cost of climate change will be born in places where people presently appear to be the least concerned about it.

Joseph Majkut, the director of climate policy at the libertarian think tank Niskanen Center, wrote in an email,

Most of the risk maps show that climate change is going to be terrible for Trump country.  Like, it's not clear at all-rom these maps-why reducing climate change is not more urgent issues for Republicans, purely as a matter of representing their people.

Mr. Majkut is not connected to the analysis.

Solomon Hsiang elaborate the disparity as a result of the hot places getting hotter.  He said:

If you're in a hot location already, then increasing the temperature tends to be much more damaging than if you're somewhere that is cooler.  Moving from 70 to 75 [degrees Fahrenheit] is not as big deal as going from 90 to 95...The South, today, is already very hot.  So as the country warms up, the South is disproportionately bearing the burden.

The only component of climate change that does not specifically affect the South is the projected increase in property crime.  Interestingly, the number of non-violent property crime does not increased during the summer, but decreases in the cooler autumn days.  Mr. Hsiang, 

It's hard to burgle houses or steal cars when there's a lot of snow on the ground.

On that note, check out Geoff Manaugh's A Burglar's Guide to the City for a good description of how burglars use the weather to get away with their misdeeds.

As the snow climate states' swingers get less icy, the region will experience an increase in property crime rates.  However, the sizzling hot summer days in the South will not alter the region's crime rates. Mr. Hsiang adds, "This is, however, a very small factor."

Solomon Hsiang also cautioned that "the paper's economic projections end in 2099.  If climate change continues unabated into the 22nd century, the North will likely eventually 'flip over' into much higher temperatures and more severe economic damages..."

Estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States is the first fruit of the Climate Impact Lab, a 25-person collective of economists and policy experts led by researchers from the University of California Berkely, University of Chicago, Rutgers University, and the Rhodium Group. (  The analysis is the first part of their global assessment of the economic costs of man-made climate change.

Solomon Hsiang told Robinson Meyer,

What has happened over the last 10 years is there's been a revolution in our ability to measure the relationship between the climate and economy, partly out of new, real-world data...This paper somewhat came out of the realization that all that new research wasn't going anywhere.  It wasn't informing how we think about climate and the economy because those older models weren't built in a way to absorb new findings.

The new program developed by the researchers is SEAGLAS.  The goal of the program is " integrate research into the regional and local effects of policy into a larger, holistic view of a certain country or part of the world."  Although the analysis is focused on American county-level information about crime, human health, agriculture, labor supply, and energy demand, the researchers plan to incorporate new sectors and information sources into it in the future.

Joseph Majkut said,

It's a great development, and the future of climate economics,...This new study puts us on much more satisfying empirical ground as we consider the relationships between climate change and economic output.  For that alone it should be praised.

Robinson Meyer obese revs, "He did question one of the assumptions underlying the project: whether previously observed relationship will continue to hold in a future world."  Mr. Majkut continues,

If the high rates of human mortality can be eliminated or reduces with adaptation (more air conditioning, sports gels, better medicine, or people moving out of the South) then the economic picture really changes the costs of climate will be reduced dramatically.

For this reason, Mr. Majkut continues,

the research has a long way to go before it approaches anything like a comprehensive estimate of climate risk.  Meanwhile, we emit.

Gernot Wagner wrote in an email,

SEAGLAS provides a terrific framework to build upon...We've always known that there are enormous regional disparities across the globe.  The fact that damages vary so much within a rich country like the U.S. is striking.

We can conclude, "if climate modeling remains imperfect, what's the point of doing it?"  The point is, over the past 25 years researchers have been trying to predict the economic damage of climate change.  The eventual goal is arriving at a social cost of carbon-i.e. "the damage to the economy dealt by every additional ton of carbon dioxide-which would inform the creation of a carbon tax."  The irony is that harden political opposition to a carbon tax has resulted in an increase in the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

Solomon Hsiang said that "precision is still important."

If we have a rough number, is that good enough?...I definitely think we're never going to know the cost of climate change to seven decimal places.  But it's unclear what a rough number means, because there been very little benchmarking to any real-world data

Robinson Meyer adds, "An additional paper in this edition of Science clarifies that, so far, SEAGLAS has produced social costs of carbon that fairly similar to two of the three most-famous economic models." (; date accessed Aug. 21, 2017)

Mr.Hsiang continued,

To be honest, transforming the global energy system is not a cheap task.  It's not a small thing..And in some places, a lot of the concerns about implementing policy are related to related to concerns about the reliability of the numbers being used.  It's a little like the doctor coming and saying you're sick and he has some medicine which might work.  You'll feel much more comfortable about the medicine if you know there been clinical research and systematic control trials demonstrating it works.

What To Do With Those Empty Plinths

Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a fresh, rage free (for now), week on the blog.  Did any of Blogger's American readers catch the #SolarEclipse2017?  Pretty amazing to see.  Hopefully you were wearing the appropriate eye protection, unlike Mr. Trump who burns the best retinas, believe me.  Let us move on to today's subject, shall we?

As reported in Wednesday, August, 16, 2017, the city of Baltimore quietly removed four Confederatre-era monuments with deliberate speed not witness since the Colts left town.  Under the confident direction of Mayor Catherine Pugh, the city coordinated a group of contractors and law enforcement to quickly move through the city, taking down memorials to the "Lost Cause."  Maryland Governor Larry Hogan followed up by removing a statue of Antebellum-era Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, the author of the heinous Dred Scott decision.  The Baltimore monuments had become a target of anger and violence; long past due for removal.  Over the weekend, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu posted a video, explaining why he supported removing Confederate-era monuments from public spaces.  Mayor Landrieu ordered their removal in May, explaining that New Orleans was no longer the city it was before, during, and after the Civil War.  It has embraced its historic multi-cultural character and celebrates it. (; May 19, 2017;; Aug 13, 2017; date accessed Aug. 21, 2017). Now the question remains, what will Baltimore do with all those empty plinths?

This is the question Kriston Capps considers in his CityLab article, "What To Do With Baltimore's Empty Confederate Statue Plinths?"  Yours Truly would like to suggest hollowing them out and planting large topiaries or using them as small performance spaces.  This is just a couple of thoughts about what to do with the empty and graffiti covers plinths.  Mr. Capps has his own ideas, "Baltimore could do worse than to take a page from London's Trafalgar Square."

Way back when, statues were planned for all four corners of Trafalgar Square but typically, by the mid-nineteenth century there was no money to finish the job.  Now pigeons and selfie takers have their choices of Britsh generals Henry Havelock and Charles James Napier, or an equestrian statues of King George IV.  Personally speaking, Blogger prefers the Lord Nelson statue in the middle of the square.  It seems that London never got around to installing a planned statue of King William IV.  Thus, the plinth on the northwest corner sat empty for 150 years.

Happily "Today it is home to the world's greatest placeholder: The Fourth Plinth [;  date accessed Aug. 21, 2017], a program conceived by the Royal Society of Arts in the 1990s, invites contemporary artists to figure out something new to do with the spot every year."  The program launched in 1999 with Mark Wallinger's Ecce Homo, a majestic life sized Jesus Christ with his hand bound hind his back and wearing a town of barbed wire (; date accessed Aug. 21, 2017). 

After a few iterations, the city decided to administer the program through the Mayor of London's culture office (; date accessed Aug. 21, 2017).  Since 2005, eight different Fourth Plinth proposals have come to fruition, "...from the comically surreal (Yinka Shonibare's Nelson's Ship in a Bottle,...) to the conceptually tilted (Antony Gormley's One & Other,...)

Since last September, David Shrigley's perfectly ironic Really Good (; Sept. 29, 2016; date accessed Aug. 21, 2017) went up just in time to congratulate everyone on a job well done on the #Brexit vote.

What will Baltimore do now that it has four empty plinths of its own?  Blogger does not suppose that turning them into giant plant boxes is one idea but it could be.  Wisecracks aside, the four newly empty plinths are a blank canvas for the city's artists to create something meaningful.  The fertile creative minds are having their say. Kriston Capps reports, "One artist erected a giant papier-mâché sculpture of a pregnant woman made from old copies of the Baltimore City Paper in opposition to the Confederate memorial in Wyman Park Dell well before the rally in Charlottesville." (; Aug. 16, 2017; date accessed Aug. 21, 2017) 

Perhaps four different contemporary art programs might be a wee much.  Who knows, maybe Blogger's suggest of incorporating the plinths into a performance space might be something for the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts (; date accessed Aug. 21, 2017) to seriously consider.  Regardless, while the plinths remain empty for the time being, Baltimore's thriving art and design community has a golden opportunity to do something exciting and wonderfully creative them. Now that would be really something.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: Monumental

Hello Everyone: 

It is Wednesday which means it is time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum. Today, rather than continue to focus on Charlottesville, Virginia, Yours Truly would like to talk about something different, albeit related, topic: the removal of Confederate monuments.  Before Yours Truly launches into today's subject, a word or two ( three, four, five dozen at least) on President Donald Trump's impromptu and chaotic news conference at Trump Towers in New York City.  

Mr. Trump you showed your true colors.  You notice that Yours Truly does not refer to POTUS by the proper honorific, Mr. President.  This is intentional.  This is a title that is earned through a demonstration of political and moral leadership.  Over the past nearly seven months POTUS has done neither one.  Your response to the disgusting and horrific events in Charlottesville are the proverbial icing on the proverbial cake. By defending the white supremacist groups and attacking the counter protestors, you showed the entire known solar system exactly the kind of person you are.  You are the kind of person who is not above defending groups that advocate violence and hatred when it suits your purpose.  In your prepared statement on Monday, you said racism is evil.  Do you believe it?  Do you believe that a Confederate monument is symbolic of a society based on the kidnapping, subjection, and exploitation of human life?  Do you believe that the policies you and members of administration and Congress support perpetuate racism and bigotry today?  Mr. Trump, if you want earn the title of Mr. President, you need to act like it.

Alright, Yours Truly has had her say.  On to today's subject: how the city of Baltimore quietly removed its Confederate monuments overnight.

The city of Baltimore is a beautiful city in the state of Maryland.  Yours Truly does have a slight biased toward the city having visited it a few times.  The city, named for Charles Calvert, Lord Baltimore, is lies at sort of a half way point between the former Union states (i.e. the North) and the Confederate states (i.e. the South).  During the Civil War (1861-65), Maryland fought on the Union side and Baltimoreans waivered between the two sides.  The city is also home to multiple Confederate monuments (; Aug. 16, 2017; date accessed Aug. 16, 2017) thanks to efforts of wealthy patrons with Southern sympathies (; date accessed Aug. 16, 2017).  In today's edition of the online journal CityLab, David Dudley looks at how the city quietly removed those statues in his article "How Baltimore Removed Its Monuments Overnight."  Mr. Dudley writes, "After years of debate and deliberation among city leaders, preservationists, historians, and activists about what to do with the city's trove of CSA [Confederate States of America]-themed statuary, the move by Mayor Catherine Pugh to remove all four of theme at once overnight offered a sudden and unambiguous resolution."

The removal operation had a cloak and dagger element to it.  The operation began under the cover midnight and was completed before the sun rose.  Mayor Pugh and group of reporters watched as team of workers, surrounded by police, used a crane to pick up "the largest of the monuments-twin equestrian statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson that have stood in Wyman Park, steps from the Baltimore Museum of Art since 1948..."

The equestrian statues and  other statues were just removed.  No fanfare, no protests, no violence, nothing.  They were just hoisted off their base.  What greeted early morning joggers at a small park across the street from Johns Hopkins University was a polished granite base, missing a statue.  The MIA statue was of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the Maryland-born judge who authored the 1857 Dred Scott decision.  It an other Jim Crow-era monuments were pulled up and simply hauled way.  Baltimoreans woke up to the headlines that this long festering "controversy over racially inflammatory artifacts was simply over"

David Dudley reports, "The Lee-Jackson memorial had been squarely in the crosshairs of local activists for many years."  In September 2015, former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake appointed a commission of academe its and officials to review the city's four Confederate monuments, following the shooting deaths of nine African Americans in the Mother Emmanuel Church in South Carolina.  The commission recommended removing the statues.  The monuments included: the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument on Mount Royal Avenue, the Confederate Women's Monument on West University Parkway, the Roger B. Taney Monument on Mount Vernaon Place, and the Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. Stonewall Jackson Monument in the Wyman park Dell (; Aug. 14, 2017; date accessed Aug. 16, 2017).

Initially, the commission recommended getting rid of the Taney and the Lee-Jackson statues; posting a sign next to the other two to provide historic context.  Mayor Pugh expressed frustration that the process was not further along, noting that former Mayor Rawlings-Blake had the commission's report on her desk for nearly a year before leaving office.  Mayor Pugh told reporters that she planned to go further than the commission concluded.  She said, We're looking at all four of them. (Ibid)

The move was not without pushback.  Carolyn Billups, the former president of the Maryland chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy argued that the city should spend their money on other things.  Ms. Billups said,

The were all put up with an honorable intention...They were not erected as a show of racism. (Ibid)

Carolyn Billups vowed, if necessary, she would try to prevent the removals.  She told reporters,

I'm not sure if it's practical to chain myself to it, but something has to be done along those lines...I'm serious about spending days, weeks, whatever it takes to defend the monument."  (Ibid)

On Monday, August 14, 2017, Councilmember Brandon Scott introduced a resolution to have the monuments destroyed.  The fifteen member city council unanimously voted in favor for the resolution but not before there was some debate.  Councilmember Eric T. Costello said, "he wanted the monuments gone but believed destroying artworks goes down a dangerous path." Council member Ryan Dorsey argued they all should be destroyed: The very least we can do is destroy the symbols we have of oppression. (Ibid)

While the Baltimore City Council was debating destroying versus simple removal, the activist collective Baltimore Bloc tweeted that they were organizing a group to take matters into their own hands.  This tweet followed the successful toppling of a statue in Durham, North Carolina on Monday.  (; date accessed Aug. 16, 2017).  The collective announced that they planned to take action at 6pm today (Eastern Standard Time).  However, the city beat them to it.  By the wee hours of the morning, the Lee-Stonewall equestrian statues were consigned to the history books.  In their place was an empty, graffiti-cover base; standing next to it was and anti-racist statue called Mother Light saluting the plinth with a raised fist.

David Dudley writes, "It's not yet clear how Baltimore's skillfully executed night raid on the Lost Cause fits into the larger and still-unfolding national crisis triggered by the Charlottesville crisis and President Trump's unsettling embrace of white nationalism."  For many the sole question is: "What took so long?"  Baltimore is a majority African American city in a Union state.  Republican governor Larry Hogan released a statement supporting the removal of the Justice Taney statue from the statehouse property in Annapolis. (; Aug. 15, 2017; date accessed Aug. 16, 2017) From a political perspective, Mayor Catherine Pugh's preemptive striking was a no-brainer.  Mr. Dudley adds, "The fate of memorials in cities and towns in Southern states is likely to be resolved more contentiously."

Locally, the night time toppling of the statues brought good news to a city weary from  the constant stream of violence.

The swift, peaceful, and lawful way the removal was executed-all the necessary permits in hand-"served as a desperately needed demonstration that the civic compact was not hopelessly broken.  Baltimore City Paper reporter Brandon Soderberg report this morning that the crowd was in a partying mood.  Mr. Soderberg wrote, 

...Even the police seemed to be in the mood.  Capt. Sean Patrick Mahoney of the Baltimore Police joked with the crowd and warned them to be safe.

"Take selfies," he said.  "Enjoy it, all right?  But be very careful, once that thing starts moving, start taking a walk for me, will you?"... (; Aug. 16, 2017; accessed same day)

For once, the Mayor, City Council, and Baltimoreans were all in agreement.  Lest you think this was all done ad hoc, there was a plan, professional were hired for the job, and best of all no got hurt.  For a city that has frequently signified urban dysfunction, "this was an effective display of municipal competence, proof that we are, despite everything, a governable community."  Yours Truly always believed that Baltimore was way better than the media depictions.  Now we have proof.  Way to go Charm City.

Baltimore defied its troubled history in another way.  Removing a statue or statues is an anomaly for a city once famous for building them.  In the 1830s, Baltimore earned the nickname "The Monumental City," for its enthusiasm for memorial creating. (; Aug. 15, 2017; date accessed Aug. 16, 2017). Indeed, no sooner had the smoke cleared from the battle of Fort McHenry, Baltimoreans set about fund raising to build a War of 1812 battle monument. (; date accessed Aug. 16, 2017). In 1815, the city began construction on the 178-foot-high Washington Monument, the first national tribute to George Washington.  Baltimore residents like to boast that it pre-dates the Washington Monument in D.C.  More recently, the city has commissioned statues of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall,former Mayor William Donald Schaefer, Yankees baseball legend Babe Ruth, and native son Frank Zappa.  Monument making is something that Baltimore does really well.  Now there are new places to put them.