Monday, April 30, 2018

They Oppose State Sanctuary Laws; April 3, 2018

Hello Everyone:

Fresh week on the blog.  Comedienne Michelle Wolfe's monologue at the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner was routinely panned as vulgar by both members of the Trump administration and, surprisingly, members of the WHCA.  This prompted the outgoing head of the WHCA Margaret Tavlan to issue a statement calling for decorum. Really?  Decorum?  Michelle Wolfe used her time at the podium to point out the flaccid state of journalism.  Naturally, the president tweeted his opinion, calling her "filthy."  Really?  He is one to speak about propriety.  Speaking of the president, apparently South Korean President Soon Jae-in believes that Mr. Donald Trump should receive a Nobel Peace Prize for getting his country and North Korea to formally end the Korean War.  Blogger checked the calendar, today is April 30 not April 1st.  Honestly, Blogger's instinct says both Mr. Soon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un think that the United States is not a reliable ally in the region anymore and want to negotiate peace without the Americans.  Foreign policy in the Trump-era, great.  Alright, on to today's subject.

In mid-March, the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he was suing the state of California over its decision to promulgate "sanctuary state" laws, including California State Senate Bill (SB 54) which legalizes and standardizes statewide non-cooperation between law enforcement agencies and federal immigration authorities ( date accessed Apr. 30, 2018).  However, not every municipality in California is on board with this bill.  The backlash to proposed state sanctuary laws has emerged at the grassroots levels.

Sarah Holder reports in her CityLab article "As California Protects Immigrants, Cities Revolt," "After. California moved to prevent state and local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials in October, Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Xavier Bacerra were met with swift retaliation from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who sued them and the state alleging that three of the state's new laws (; Jan. 19, 2018; date accessed Apr. 30, 2018)...overstepped their rights as a state and violated the US Constitution's Supremacy Clause."  Ms. Holder notes that this is the same argument the DOJ made in another suit filed against the state (; date accessed Apr. 30, 2018) over the sale of federal land.  While the Golden State awaits its day in court, resistance is forming from within.

In March, the city of Los Alamitos was the first to announce their support for federal laws (; Mar. 19, 2018; date accessed Apr. 30, 2018), going so far as to draft an ordinance that would allow them to opt-out of state sanctuary laws.  Feeling empowered, other cities in Orange and San Diego counties are working on their own exemption laws.  These cities are the conservative mirror of liberal sanctuary cities (; July 27, 2017; date accessed Apr. 30, 2018)  such as West Palm Beach, Florida and Dallas County, Texas, that are pushing back against their state's strict immigration enforcement. 

Los Alamitos mayor Troy Edgar explained the logic behind his city's vote:

The way sanctuary laws ass is that they conflict with the U.S. Constitution, specially with our oaths of office to uphold and support the constitution,...

The Los Alamitos ordinance "exempts the city's from California's SB 54, and in March, the Los Alamitos city council voted for it 4-1."  However, Gov. Brown insists that,

This bill does not prevent or prohibit Immigration and Customs Enfocement or the Deartment of Homeland Security from their own work in any way,

it simply limits the level of cooperation that state is required to provide--"especially in deporting immigrants who face no criminal charges."

Los Alamitos is a "...71 percent white, suburban Southern California city,..." which skews slightly more conservatively (; Mar. 19, 2018; date accessed Apr. 30, 2018) than others in this bluest of blue states: "44 percent of voters there votes for Trump in 2016, while 46 percent backed Clinton.  Mayor Edgar told CityLab,

Half of our city is a U.S. military base, and we have a lot of folks who are either retired veterans or are currently serving that are amongst us,.... Our resident are constantly complaining about the overreach of the state.

Sarah Holder notes, "Of course, not all of Los Alamitos' residents are for the legislation: at the city council meeting where Edgar raised the ordinance, a long-time resident told the LA Times (Ibid) it was a politically charged move which does not reflect all the Los Alamitos resident."

Los Alamitos is a California Charter City (; date accessed Apr. 30, 2018) which means that it can pass local ordinances that clarify state laws and giving it more power to exempt itself from state polices that it's residents oppose.  Ms. Holder adds, "not all small cities can move as aggressively, but in the days after Edgar announced his legislation, he says he's fielded calls from interested Artie's across the Golden State."  The coastal city of Huntington Beach also has charter power (Ibid).  Buenaventura Park, Upland, Fullerton, and Costa Mesa will be bringing similar ordinances to the floor in future city council meetings, according to their representatives.

Aliso Viejo Mayor David Harrington acknowledges that without the the charter city designation, his municipality cannot completely exempt itself--instead, he is writing a more symbolic motion,

It's kind of an affirmation of our design to uphold the U.S. Constitution first and then the California state law,...

On April 4th Aliso Viejo voted to join the federal challenge to state sanctuary laws (; Apr. 5, 2018; date accessed Apr. 30, 2018).

The majority of the municipalities opposing the state sanctuary laws are found within Orange County (; Aug. 25, 2014, date accessed Apr. 30, 2018), making opposition almost unilateral.  Orange County Supervisor MIchelle Steel announced a regional opt-out ordinance (Ibid; Mar. 20, 2018) at the end of March, prompting a rare show of Twitter love from the president.  The Sheriff's department has begun posting the release dates for detained immigrants (; Mar. 28, 2018; date accessed Apr. 30, 2018), allowing ICE to easily sweep them up.  OC County Supervisor member Shaw Nelson told CBS,

We are tired of the state trying to use these arguments to prevent us from keeping the citizens safe (; Apr 1, 2018 date accessed Apr. 30, 2018).

Orange County has joined A.G. Jeff Session's lawsuit--whose foundation is the unconstitutionality of of SB 54, Assembly Bill 450 ("Workplace Raid" law), and AB 103 ("Detention Review" law)--by filing an amicus brief to the federal case, a move that Aliso Viejo and Los Alamitos are making as well.  Further south, in San Diego County, the unilaterally Republican board of supervisors voted on April 17 to join the federal suit and about citizenship status on the 2020 census (; Apr. 17, 2018; date accessed Apr. 30, 2018).

Mayor Troy Edgar told CityLab, We just thought [we'd try] a kind of belt-and-suspenders strategy.  However, if the state of California did decide to sue, Sarah Holder points out, "an amicus briefs, once joined to a federal lawsuit, can't be erased."  Mayor Edgar continued,

That allows us to provide a perspective on what we think will be a constitutional issue that will go to the Supreme Court,.... We wanted to make sure that there was a message that local cities within the state of California don't agree with the direction that the state is going on this.

Ironically, Mayor Edgar was inspired by the actions of Oakland, California Mayor Libby Schaaf, who in February informed her constituents of pending ICE raids (; Mar. 1, 2018; date accessed  Apr. 30, 2018) in the Bay Area.  Mayor Schaaf believed it was her duty and moral obligation as mayor to give those families fair warning when that threat appears imminent (Ibid; Feb. 28, 2018).

While Mayor Edgar's approach to immigration is more aggressive--"he said he would have willingly cooperated with ICE"--he does place himself within the overall pattern of mayors regaining control of their city.  He commented on Mayor Schaaf's actions,

Folks thought what she did was pretty inappropriate.... I think that definitely had an impact on people's impressions of, wow, a mayor actually makes a difference in this process.

Opt-out ordinances are not the only way cities have been able to bypass state control over immigration enforcement.  A year ago March, CityLab reported (; Mar. 1, 2017; date accessed Apr. 30., 2018) "that newly released Department of Homeland Security immigration enforcement memos contained an intent to resurrect the 'task force model' of 287 (g), a provision of 1996 immigration law that allows local jurisdictions to take a more active role in immigration enforcement."  Thus far, sixty municipalities in 20 states are right now cooperating--nearly doubled in 2017 (Ibid; Aug. 22, 2017)--but none in California, yet.

University of Buffalo professor of local government and immigration law Rick Su told CityLab "It's not clear whether the state of California will push back against this wave of local revolts immediately, or ever."  That will depend on the make up of the state legislature and who occupies the governor's mansion in November and whether they want to deal with a two-front attack (federal and local).  Prof. Su told CityLab,

The only question is whether or not the state is going to fight them directly by filing lawsuits against these localities or whether or not they're going to put their efforts into fighting the lawsuit against the DOJ exclusively.

Blogger would like to suggest working with municipalities who push back on state sanctuary laws.

Prof. Su added "Politically, it might be smart for California to come out guns blazing,..., but legally it could prove more effective to focus on soundly winning the DOJ lawsuit, rendering many of the city fights moot.  Good strategy.  He explained,

If they win then they use that to essentially that these claims don't make any sense, and there's nothing there,...Because [if it's not ruled] unconstitutional, they would still have an obligation to follow state law.   

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: California Voting, The Candidate Preview

Hello Everyone:

It is a beautiful Wednesday afternoon and time for Blogger Candidate Forum.  Taking a quick look at the headlines: Good news, bad news for a pair of Mr. Donald Trump's nominees.  The good news, controversial Secretary of State-designate and former Central Intelligence  Agency head Mike Pompeo is on his way to a confirmation vote by the full Senate.  The bad news, the president's nominee for Secretary of Veteran Affairs, Dr. Ronny L. Jackson appears to be spectacularly flaming out amid reports of drunken behavior and overprescribing medicine.  Next, DACA lives.  A federal judge ruled that the United States must keep DACA and accept new applications.  However, Travel Ban 3.0 is headed to the Supreme Court.  The high court is leaning toward upholding it.  Yesterday, Arizona's 8th congressional district held a special election to replace former Representative Trent Franks, who resigned in December.  The race saw Republican Debbie Lesko barely getting by Democrat Hiral Tipirneni.  Ordinarily, Democrats would be crying in their beer but the fact that their candidate came very close to flipping this solidly Republican district is cause for celebration and the Republicans are looking nervously over their collective metaphoric shoulder.  A sign that tying their political fortunes to the Trump administration, harping on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and, mysteriously, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is not going to work.  Speaking of candidates, The Forum would like take a second pass at California Voting.

The April 4th post, "California Voting," discussed how the path to flipping the House of Representatives goes through "Golden State."  Today, the subject is the state races.  The inspiration for this was Blogger's quick early morning perusal of the June 5th Primary Guide.  The guide offers a summary of the propositions on the ballot and candidate statements.  Blogger looked at the candidate statements for governor and senator.  Initial impression, "just because you, does not mean you should."  Yours Truly seems to be saying that an awful lot since the 2016 election cycle.  This election cycle is no different.  Of the field of gubernatorial and senate hopefuls, only a tiny handful candidates are actually viable.  The governor's race is essentially about two Democrats, current Lieutentant Governor Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.  The race for the Senate is focused on incumbent Dianne Feinstein and California State Senator Kevin de Leon.  In this vein, Blogger would like to take a look at the viable candidates in these races.  Shall we begin?

The race for governor is a race between two former mayors: Lt. Gov. Newsom and Mr. Villaraigosa--San Francisco versus Los Angeles.  Regardless of the San Francisco-Los Angeles rivalry, both gentlemen are following the typical trajectory for mayors; leaping from City Hall to the statehouse.  Mr. Villaraigosa was born and raised in Los Angeles.  He began his political in the statehouse as a member of the California State Assembly, representing the 45th district between 1994 and 2000, serving as the 63rd Speaker of the Assembly (1998-2000).  After he was termed out, Mr. Villaraigosa was elected to the Los Angeles City Council, representing the 14the district.  In 2005, he was elected 41st Mayor of Los Angeles until 2013, when he was succeeded by current Mayor Eric J. Garcetti.

Gavin Newsom is the 49th Lieutentant Governor of California and a Bay Area native.  Prior to going into politics, Lt. Gov. Newsom was a businessman who co-founded PlumpJack wine store with family friend Gordon Getty.  He began is political career in 1996, when former Mayor Willie Brown appointed him to he Parking and Traffic Commission and as a member of the Board of Supervisors.  In 2003, he was elected the 42nd Mayor of San Francisco and served until 2010, when was elected Lieutentant Governor.

In the latest poll, Lt. Gov. Newsom leads the field followed by Republican candidate Certified Public Accountant John Cox and Mr. Villaraigosa, according to the latest poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of Californa (; April 2018; date accessed Apr. 25, 2018).  Breaking down the numbers,  the survey shows that 26 percent of likely voters supported Lt. Gov Newsom. Mr. Cox, from Rancho Santa Fe came in second with 15 percent of likely voters and Mr. Villaraigosa polled at 13 percent of likely voters (; Apr. 11, 2018; date accessed Apr. 25, 2018).  Among the remaining candidates: Assemblyperson Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) is supported by 10 percent of likely voters; state Treasurers John Chiang received 7 percent of likely voters; former state school superintendent Democrat Delaine Eastin received 6 percent of support from likely voters (Ibid)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Bell Labs Lives Again April 17, 2018

Hello Everyone:

It is a lovely Tuesday afternoon.  News of the day: Today is the 103rd memorial of the Armenian Genocide.  In cities across the United States and the world, Armenian communities are commemorating this black day in history with rallies.  Blogger is saddened to hear that President George H.W. Bush has been hospitalized with an infection, day after the funeral of his beloved wife Barbara Bush.  Poor heart broken man.  Meanwhile, the White House said bienvenue to French President and First Lady Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron.  Blogger spent a few minutes this morning perusing the California primary guide.  It was interesting to read the governor and senator candidate statements.  One thing was abundantly clear, just because you are constitutionally qualified, filed the appropriate paperwork, and paid your fee, does not mean you should run for office.  Seriously.  Alright, on to something more pleasant.

The Bell Laboratories campus in Holmdel, New Jersey is getting a second life and Yours Truly could not be happier.  In 2007, the Eero Saarinen designed building appeared doomed.  Once upon a time, Bell Labs was an incubator of innovation, however, the Bell System monopoly that fed the incubator, was dissolved--the last of the once 6,000 person strong workforce was gone with no replacement tenants to be found.  Now, the campus has been saved with the building re-christened Bell Works.

Anthony Palletta reports in his CityLab article, "A New Urbanist Developer Gives Saarinen a Reboot," "Developer Ralph Zucker, President of Somerset Development, was intrigued by the building.  In spite of hesitant brokerage houses and potential,..., the site's restrictive zoning, he finally bought the building in 2013."  Mr. Zucker commented during a tour of the site with CityLab,

People said it was obsolete,.... The building is amazing, an ahead-of-its-time Mid-century Modern marvel.  [But] the building had been zoned into obsolescence.

Holmdel is a suburban community of 16,600 that was largely dependent on Bell Labs for tax revenue.  The 2 million-square foot campus was zoned for offices by a single tenant.  Mr. Palletta writes, "Coming to terms with the impossibility of finding a single tenant for the building, the town's zoning committee consented to alter the site's zoning to accommodate multiple uses."  Mr. Zucker's scheme calls for a mixed-use commercial, retail, and a variety of uses--"a dramatic shift from how so many of the remarkably designed but environmentally wasteful suburban corporate campuses were originally designed to be used."

The zeitgeist of Bell Labs and its era is illustrated in Caroline Mozingo's Pastoral Capitalism (; date accessed Apr. 24, 2018), was intended to bestow the campus with a collegiate aura.  It invested a campus, intended for work, with "sylvan settings suitably distant from urban chaos" launching the shift of white-collar work into pastoral suburban settings.  Ms. Mozingo's explained that large companies 

....built corporate campuses to move their research divisions out of baldly industrial surroundings that no longer befit scientist' corporate station, valorize the industrial scientist, and validate the use of science for profit.

Bell Systems was one of the first corporations to build campuses on a park-like suburban site.  Bell Labs first established its headquarters in Manhattan's Meatpacking District--not far from where Google's east coast offices now sits--it moved to suburban Summit, New Jersey in the 1930 before moving to the even more suburban Holmdel in 1962.

Finnish architect Eero Saarinen proved to be the best fit for Bell Labs.  The Modenist architect already designed the General Motors Technical Center outside of Warren, Michigan; John Deere's corporate headquarters in Moline, Illinois; and the IBM Building in Rochester, Minnesota, to great reviews.  Mr. Palletta writes, "While the Deere Building emphasized its structural steel, the other were successive exploration of glass curtain walls, culminating in a radically reflective surface at Bell Labs."  Jayne Merkel's monograph on the late-Mr. Saarinen (; date accessed Apr. 24, 2018) describes the building as being laminated,

...with a thin film of aluminum bonded between the panes to protect the metal from the weather...

"...while deflecting 70 percent of the sun's heat."

As similar sites grew larger and larger--"from 320 acres at GM to 397 acres at Rochester and 460 acres on Holmdel--" Eero Saarinen's modules shrunk: "5-foot module at the GM building, 4-foot at IBM, and 3-foot in Holmdel.  These became increasingly precise solutions crafted for corporate giants who typically preferred mass standardization."  As Bell Labs expanded, the Saarinen building finally expanded to 715,000 to 2 million square feet.

The exterior of Bell Labs offers few clues about the what goes on inside.  Essentially, "It's a mammoth of a Cold War cube set at the end of a ceremonial approach and surround by two decorative lakes."  Bell labs Master Architect Alexander Gorlin told Anthony Palletta, "that the entrance reminds of a view of Versailles."  However, the famed Hall of Mirrors is on the outside.  Mr. Gorlin compared it to "Alice's Looking Glass," a visitor to the campus encounters a surprisingly easy to comprehend sight through the surface--"a modern-yet-familiar city block with the simulacra of four buildings on each corner."

Ralph Zucker's development projects frequently involves inserting density in suburban New Jersey including Westmont Station (; Oct. , 2017; date accessed Apr. 24, 2018), a former aircraft engine company rehabilitated as a transit-oriented development.  The Glassworks (; date accessed Apr. 24, 2018) is mixed-use development on the site of a vacant glass factory.  Mr. Zucker's preferred term for these projects is the metrourb,..., metropolis in suburbia.

He told CityLab,

Life isn't just in the cities, people actually live in the suburbs and some cool people live in the suburbs,..., When we walked [into Bell Labs], because of my New Urbanist tendencies, I saw a pedestrian street.  I though this could be amazing.  [Saarinen] created these quarter-of-a mile city blocks and that has allowed us to retrofit it as if was designed that way on purpose.

The rehabilitation of Bell Labs vindicated Mr. Gorlin's firm believe that a "building's circulation defines it."  Alexander Gorlin, the restoration architect for Bell Labs, noted that the dimensions of the atrium features the same dimensions as architectural masterpieces such as,

St. Peter's Basilica, the Crystal Palace, Louis Kahn's atrium space in the Salk Institute, the Piazza Navona, and the Baths of Caracalla.

Mr. Gorlin also cited Eero Saarinen's proportions as part of the Modernist predilection of looking to history for justification but never revealing your sources.  It is a breath-taking atria and the most photographed elements; usually generous in their proportions.  Even more unusual, are "the perimeter corridors ringing levels between the building's office blocks and its exterior wall, a democratic chemin de ronde--not for sighting foes but simply for admiring the landscaping..."  Another excellent feature of the Saarinen scheme was "avoiding a familiar bete noir of modern architects--window shades spoiling a pristine facade."

Bell Labs also filled in the atrium space, originally open with offices, converting a space to take a break into bird's eye view of additional work.  Ralph Zucker told Mr. Palletta, 

Whenever they could squeeze in cubicles, [they did].  We knocked that all out and brought it back to the original vision.

The cube farm layout has been replaced by the more trendy communal multi-use work space.  A classic Saarinen design element--a conversation pit--sits immediately in front of the entrance.  Ralph Zucker made this comment,

One of the things that Saarinen did well is he was able to create the feeling of  rooms within rooms without walls.... 

The challenge was to design similar rooms within rooms in the remaining atrium space with without compromising or blocking its scale.  Mr. Gorlin's team of designers replicated this feat in a number ways.  "One large area features a rug modeled on Josef Alber's Study for Homage to the Square: Departing in Yellow (; date accessed Apr. 24, 2018) with the impasto intervention of cylindrical seat tubes designed by Ron Arad."  Eero Saarinen's specific designs for the building left complex designer Paulo Zamudio a "inadequacy of rote solutions."  Mr. Zamudio told CityLab,

There has to be a lot of thought when we do anything there,..., I knew I couldn't just go out and shop.

One dining area in Mr. Zamudio's plan is set back of the structure in the rear of a cruciform structure.  Interior landscaping stand at one end of the structure.  Anthony Palletta observes, "These areas feel different if accessible, like a square or a sidewalk cafe."

One strange feature of the Bell Labs campus was the solid internal walls giving the structure a cloister-like feeling in a glass box.  The rehabilitation replaces the solid barriers with glass, thus allowing the external four feet of each of the different spaces to maintain an appearance that works with the public spaces.  Design elements in common areas vary from distinctive (eggcrate lighting features) to defunct (ashtrays) remain in place

Bell lab's infrastructure was comprehensively rehabilitated and a serous amount of utility space was emptied out and put to other uses courtesy of fifty years of technical advances including a variable refrigerant system.  Photovoltaic panels were place in the skylights, producing about fifteen percent of electricity or the public areas.

The cafeteria, sited on the building's lower level overlooking an interior pond, is being rehabilitated as an event space.  Alexander Gorlin noted "that it's the size of the Waldorf Astoria ballroom."  The company auditorium is also being rehabilitated and a conference space is being created.

Bell Labs' restoration was of such high quality, it earned the DoCoMoMo Commerical Desihgn Award for Excellance in 2017 and a place on the National Register of Historic Places.  Yay.  One improvement on the Saarinen plan is the conversion of an unused space above the old cafeteria into a rooftop garden.  Mr. Gorlin noted, 

This was a [Miesian] idea of framing the view when in fact it was not easily accessed.  I've made it accessible

The original landscape by Sasaki, Walker, and Associates remains a fascination.  As does the sculptural water along the main drive, intended to mimick an early transition, and a sculpture resembling an early radio telescope in honor of astrometry Karl Jansky.

Office space is currently 70 to 80 percent leased by a number of tenants--mainly tech and coworking companies--and one chaired by a former Bell Labs employee.  Some of the office spaces designed by Paulo Zamudio reflects different themes from the Bauhaus to Eero Dream, a cheeky reference to the Finnish architect.

The ground floor is dedicated to retail space and quickly filling out with businesses that will, no doubt, serve the new tenants very well.  Even better the Holmdel library has relocated to the main corridor.  Ralph Zucker noted that they are working on some entertainment venues and would love to have bowling.  A hotel is also being put in place on the outside of the building's roof.  Mr. Gorlin noted that it is

...really not visible as you approach the building, but where it is most visible it recreates the visual rhythm of the existing  facade.

Ralph Zucker's development did suffer one setback, his proposal to build pedestrian-friendly townhouse units around the campus was rejected in the stages of the development.  Instead of 225 free standing homes have been built in the standard suburban arrangement.  Mr. Zucker said, "the success of the project has been seen locally as as surprise.  Had people anticipated its popularity, he thinks, the community would have embraced his housing plan."  The need for compact housing on the right scale still remains part of the overall plan.

This modern mammoth, once left for dead, has been resuscitated and that is good enough for now.

Monday, April 23, 2018

What Fruitvale Transit Village Did Right; April 2, 2018

Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a fresh week on the blog.  News of the day:  The real news services are reporting that 9 people have been killed and 16 injured by a van that struck pedestrians in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Was it an act of vehicular terrorism?  We shall see. On Thursday, April 12, 2018, a naked man walked into a Waffle House in Nashville, Tennessee and shot up the restaurant, killing four people.  Had it not been for one very heroic individual, James Shaw Jr.,  who wrestled gun out of the shooter's hand, more would have been killed or injured.  Unfortunately, the gunman got away however, he was finally caught--hopefully clothed--today.  Funeral services were held this past Saturday, April 21, 2018, in Houston, Texas for former First Lady and Mother Barbara Bush.  In keeping with tradition, current FLOTUS Melania Trump joined former FLOTUSes Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, and Hillary Clinton attended the services.  Blogger did see the pictures of Mrs. Trump sitting next former President Barack Obama with a big smile on her face.  Yours Truly could not help wondering why going funeral was the only way to get get Mrs. Trump to enjoy herself.  Finally, congratulations to Prince William and the former Kate Middleton, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of third child, a boy.  Shall we move on?

Today we are going to talk about transit-oriented development.  Specifically, how it can prevent displacement.  Together with Benjamin Schneider's CityLab article "How Transit-Oriented Development Can Prevent Displacement" we are going to focus on the Oakland, California community of Fruitvale; specifically at the neighborhoods around the Fruitvale Transit Village.  Mr. Schneider reports, "Housing prices are on the rise, and the population has grown wealthier and more educated.  But Fruitvale's transformation is unusual in one key way: It hasn't gotten whiter."

What did Fruitvale do differently?  Instead of luxury housing units and upscale businesses, the Fruitvale Transit Village developers, the Unity Council, and Oakland-based social equity corporation, focused on community-oriented services and affordable housing units.

"Between 2000 and 2015, homeownership, median household income and educational all increased in the majority-Latino neighborhood."  The increases were on par with Uptown Oakland, which registered the San Francisco Bay Area's largest gain of Caucasians during the same time period.  However, unlike Uptown, Fruitvale experienced these results without a drop in the number of people of color.

What did Fruitvale do to maintain its cultural identity in the face of economic gentrification?  The answer, according to researchers from UCLA's Latino Policy and Politics is, "the transformation can be attributed, at least in part, to the transit village itself; a community-planned project that provided the neighborhood with much-needed social services and an inviting urban design that stimulated commences and street life."

Sonja Diaz, one of the LPPI researchers who led the study (; Mar. 2018; date accessed Apr. 23, 2018) believes that what happened in Fruitvale can inform other low- and middle-income communities in need of economic development but are concerned about its side effects.  Ms. Diaz told CityLab,

What we want to highlight is the opportunity for a community to really prosper across a wide range of indicators while still maintaining its identity and displacing its residents.

To get a better understand how the Fruitvale Transit Village may have impacted the neighborhood's prosperity, Ms. Diaz and her colleagues compared the economic and demographic results for that census tract in 2015, with similar tracts in the Bay Area and Los Angeles Country in 2000, predicated on their racial composition, average rent, and median household income.  As a control, they analyzed the numbers for the same census tract in Uptown Oakland.

Over the 15-year study period, Fruitvale significantly outperformed its neighbors in median income growth and educational attainment.   However, it was Fruitvale's increase in homeownership that stood out the most.  Ms. Diaz said, "Not only does it buck national trends toward higher rates of rental housing, it's also unusual because Latino households were disproportionately affect by the foreclosure crisis, which took place in the midst of the study period."  Similar communities in Los Angeles and around the Bay Areas experienced small increases in their number of Latino residents, "Fruitvale's proporportion of Latinos barely changed, even as its economic indicators skyrocketed. (Uptown Oakland saw its black population decrease by 14 percentage points over that period, from 59 percent to 45 percent)."

One of the key components that set Fruitvale apart from its peer neighborhood's during the study period was the debut of the Fruitvale Transit Village in 2003. Benjamin Schneider reports, "In addition to 47 units of housing (10 of which are affordable) and a number of retail spaces, the village includes a charter high school, a community center where residents can access legal services, a public library, and small clinic, making it a hub of community activity."  Much better than the ubiquitous yoga studio, bar, restaurant, and upscale organic grocery store.

Chris Inglesia, the head of the Unity Council, told CityLab,

The concept of bringing these services to a dense area of the city, especially around transit, I think worked better than anybody envisioned,...,

Placing these services in a transit stations might have had a positive affect on the educational attainment and incomes of the residents.  They also provide motivation for the residents to remain in the community.  Mr. Inglesia continues,

There's more of an opportunity for folks to put down roots here, and be part of this community,...

It was not just the ample community-oriented enterprises in the Transit Villiage that helped ignite Fruitvale's fortunes, good design helped out.  Mr. Schneider writes,"Initially, BART, which operates the rail stop adjacent to the transit village, had planned to build a parking garage on the lot."  However, the Unity Council and other community organizations demanded a more active use of the space.  The end result was a promenade, line with retail establishments, that acts as a welcoming connection between the community and the station, a safe new public space for events and markets.

Sonja Diaz said,

If you had a parking lot, it would've effectively blocked off users of that transit stop to...International Boulevard, which is a small business corridor with a lot of Latino-owned and Lationo-serving businesses,...The design of the village itself opens to this big corridor that already existed.  And that's probably part of the reason that you saw these gains, because accessibility and continuity were things that were thought of in the planning.

As we speak, Phase II of the Fruitvale Transit Village is under construction.  When completed, it will include "94 units of affordable housing, and more clinic space.  Another 180 units of market rate housing are planned in a future phase."  Mr. Inglesia told CityLab "the Unicty Council is working to make those units affordable, too."  Fruitvale Village is a unique transit-oriented development project with its high number of affordable housing unit and concentration of community services.  Be that as it may, there are other new developments going up in the area.  Chris Inglesia points out, There's plenty of market rate housing going up all around us,...

While transit-oriented development schemes are becoming more acknowledged as a requirement for sustainable population, it has also taken on the aroma of gentrification and displacement, but the Fruitvale station shows us the middle way.  Mr. Schneider writes, "By creating a dynamic new public space, anchored by vital community services, the existing population has been able to stay in place and prosper."  Even better, these priorities are not at the expense of other developments that can accommodate newcomers; "although it seems important that the needs of the existing community are prioritized in such a central location, right next to the BART station, the areas's economic lifeline."

Sonja Diaz concludes,

This strikes me as scalable project to ensure that there is economic mobility and opportunity for the most disadvantaged,..., while still being something that makes economic sense for the wider community.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Why Not A Mayor?

Hello Everyone:

It is a lovely Wednesday afternoon and time for Blogger Candidate Forum.  News of the day: condolences to the Presidents George H. W. and George W. Bush; the entire Bush family on the passing of former-First Lady Barbara Bush.  Mrs. Bush was truly one of the great First Ladies of the 20th-century.  Mrs. Bush was more than FLOTUS and the mother of a president.  Her greatness came for her forthrightness and just being who she was.  There was never any of that blow dried artifice about her, so common with candidates and their spouses.  What you saw was what you got.  That what made her one of the great First Ladies.  Mrs. Bush believed that being FLOTUS was a great honor and anyone who did not want it had a problem.  She was a vigorous advocate for literacy, especially for children.  Whether you voted for both or either one of Presidents Bush, you had to respect "America's grandma."  Blogger and #BloggerCandidateForum sends their love and hopes for happier times to the Bush family.  Now on to today's subject.

Is it too early to start talking about the presidential elections?  No, not really.  The presidential primaries are two years away but potential candidates, on both sides of the aisle, are beginning to position themselves.  One interesting develop is the emergence of mayors as potential nomination candidates.  One potential, albeit long shot, candidate is Los Angeles Mayor Eric J. Garcetti.  Mayor Garcetti, a Democrat, traveled to Iowa this past weekend to introduce himself to the voters.  The Iowa visit is significant because this is the state that launched two other long shot candidates into the White House: Presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.  Although, Mayor Garcetti has said that he would finish his second term, he told Los Angeles Times reporter Mark Z, Barabak I'm listening this year, "promising a final decision in 2019,...(; Apr. 15, 2018; date accessed Apr. 18, 2018).  Mayor Garcetti's visit begs the question can a mayor make the leap from City Hall to the White House?

Traditionally, a mayor with ambitions of higher office has taken the path from City Hall to the Statehouse, maybe Congress before making the jump to the Oval Office.  Only one person in the history of the American presidency has made the leap: Grover Cleveland was the mayor of Buffalo and the governor of New York for a brief time.  Calvin Coolidge briefly served as mayor of Northampton, Massachusetts.  The first mayor mayor to run for the presidential nomination was DeWitt Clinton in 1812.  He lost to incumbent James Maidson.  In 1972, the late New York City Mayor John Lindsay took a run at the primaries before dropping out.  In 2008, his fellow Mayor Rudy Giulani took a run at the Republican nomination before bowing out. (; Feb. 18, 2018; date accessed Apr. 18, 2018).

It is a strange phenomenon.  The late great Speaker of the House of Representives Thomas Tip O'Neil once said all politics is local.  If this is true, you would think more mayors would toss their hats into the presidential ring, especially in Democratic-held cities, given that the party has a firm hold on urban voters (Ibid).  However, mayors tend to shy away from higher office (; date accessed Apr. 18, 2018).  Anthony Williams writes, "For all of the talk of 'city power' (; date accessed Apr. 18, 2018) and 'new localism' (Ibid) among leading urbanist thinkers, the truth is this under representation hurts cities."

However,, electoral trends are shifting, paving a clearer path from City Hall to the White House, possibly for the first time in history.  Mr. Williams reports, "The political boundary between urban and suburban that has long divided the parties is falling away, creating more unified metro-area voter blocs.  Cities--which had so often been liabilities for mayors seeking higher offices--have become an attractive brand of smart, solution based, can-do governance that mayors can showcase in a campaign.  In short, the response to the anti-urban Trumpism is a "pro-metro mayor who energizes the suburban/urban--or metro--vote."  America is primed for a mayor to make the successful leap from City Hall to the White House.

If this is true, then what has prevented mayors from going for it?  The answer can be found in authors of the United States Constitution.  Thomas Jefferson despised cities.  The third president; co-author of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution said,

I view great cities as pestilential to the morals, the health of men and the liberties of man... (; Sept. 21, 2008; date accessed Apr. 8, 2018)

President Jefferson celebrated the gentleman farmer as the American ideal, writing,

The mobs of great cities add just so much to support of pure government as sores do to the strength of human body (; Oct. 12, 2017; date accessed Apr. 18, 2018).

He and his contemporaries laid out the ideological lines that still delineate American lives and politics.  The Republican Party has become the anti-urban party, slashing funding for cities and supporting policies detrimental to urban dwellers such as immigration, gun control, and tax cuts.  By contrast, the Democratic Party are considered the champions of the poor. (Ibid)

Tony Favro writes, "Cities, in other words are central to the American worldview.  They are not mere geographic locations, but potent symbols of the division in American society and partisanship in American politics (; Sept. 21, 2008) "  Cities symbols a positive cultural, progressive, communal dynamic and a value system that frequently contrasts with deeply held values of individualism and civic virtue.

Although Americans respect urban mayors as managers, they do not necessarily see them as guardians of cherished values.

Thomas Jefferson would have been absolutely horrified by the Industrial Revolution and the rapid growth of cities in the 19th-century.  

Getting back to the original question of why no one has gone from City Hall to the White House.  Some mayors have been more plausible candidates than others.  Others, like President Calvin Cooldige, served as Vice President before occupying the Oval Office.  In 2008, former Mayor of Wasilia, Alaska Sarah Palin burst onto the national scene as Republican nominee Arizona Senator John McCain's running mate.  Former Mayor Guiliani sang her praises at the Republican National Convention, telling the crowd  that as mayor of a town of 7,000 people, she had executive experience to be Vice President of a country of 300 million (Ibid).  That got everyone excited until it painfully became clear that she had no real grasp of the issues facing the country.

Mayors  Eric Garcetti and New Orlean's Mitch Landrieu have been tipped as potential candidates for Democratic nomination.  In an interview on Wisconsin television , he optimistically stated, "that more than 250 years of unbroken mayoral futility are no deterrent (; Oct. 12, 2017). During a visit a year ago June following his second inauguration, Mayor Garcetti said,

 I think all the rules are off,.... No African American could be president until one was.  No reality star could be president until one is. (Ibid)

Both statements are true.  Mark Z. Barabak makes this disclaimer: "While Garcetti is making the moves of a White House hopeful--chatting up Democratic donors and national political reporters; showing up at high-brow policy forums; visiting New Hampshire, the first primary state--he remains publicly coy about a run a run in 2020." (Ibid)

Mayor Garcetti could be a late entry into the 2018 California governor's contest.  One thing is certain, Mayor Garcetti does want to play an active role in the national political debate.

Mr. Barabak observes, "There is a case to be made that the job of big-city mayor, with its daily, hands-on demands, offers better training for the Whites than, say being one of 100 members of the U.S. Senate most notable these days for accomplishing close to nothing." (Ibid)

Unlike being a senator or representative who seem to be insulated from constituents, a mayor is immediately insinuated into the lives of his or her city's residents, dealing with everything from potholes to mass shootings, or natural disasters.  UC Merced's Jessica Trounstine told Mr. Barabak, A mayor has to be both an executive and a micromanager. (Ibid)

Another part of the problem is the stigma associated with big cities: Crime, corruption, permissiveness, and a sizable minority population that not everyone welcomes as a signifier of vibrancy and diversity.  This makes tough for a mayor to campaign in rural and suburban areas who avoid urban life for precisely those reasons.  Ms. Trounstine continues,

Our geographic divisions are overlaid with our political views--the red-versus-blue map thing--in a very clear way.

Another obstacle in the path from City Hall to the Statehouse, Congress, or the White House is starting with a relatively small core constituency and the need to make political alliances that may not work beyond city limits.

Daniel Hopkins of the University of Pennsylvania said,

In many cities you need strong union backing.  In many instances you need strong backing from the black community, or Latino, or immigrant communities,....Running that gantlet often leaves politicians perceived in certain ways that make it tough for them to appeal on a national stage. (Ibid)

Not that any of this would disqualify Mayor Eric Garcetti should he take the plunge.  If there was anything positive to say to say about Mr. Donald Trump's improbable and impossible election, it is never under estimate a long shot barrier breaking candidate wherever they come from.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Not Having A Good Moment; March 27, 2018

Hello Everyone:

It is a very lovely Tuesday afternoon.  The gusty winds have died down, leaving very clean air.  News of the day:  James Comey is not Mr. Donald Trump's homey; especially after a televised interviewed on Sunday evening with ABC's George Stefanopoulous.  Actually, he is still not anyone's homey.  The interview was in advance of the publication of the former FBI director's book Higher Loyalty, in which he chronicles his side the Clinton email investigation and his relationship with the current occupant of the Oval Office.  Mr. Comey lamely believed that re-opening the investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's email in late October 2016 would not affect the outcome of the election.  Uh, no.  He even went so far as to admit that he genuinely thought she would win.  Then he called the president "morally unfit" for office and suggested that impeachment would not be the way to go because it excused the American voter from holding the president accountable to the values of this country.  Well, Mr. Comey does have one thing in common with former President Barack Obama, a nativte about American democracy.  The book comes out today and Yours Truly is pretty sure that Mr. Trump's favorite e-commerce site (sarcasm alert) Amazon has copies on sale at a discount.  Finally, a very big congratulations to Pulitzer Prize winner Compton, California resident Kendrick Lamar for making history by being the first rapper to earn this high literary honor for his Grammy winning album DAMN. Also earning Pulitzer honors are the reporting teams from The New York Times and the New Yorker for their exposé of disgraced studio head Harvey Weinstein's decades of repulsive behavior.  Blogger and #BloggerCandidateForum salute you all and your stellar achievements.  That said, shall we move on?

Facebook is not having a good moment--and it is getting worse.  First it was the whole Cambridge Analytics debacle which resulted in the social media giant's founder Mark Zuckerberg's two-day testimony before congressional committees. Now, Tanvi Misra reports in her CityLab article, "Facebook Is Being Sued for Housing Discrimination, Too," that Cook County, Chicago is suing the company for violating a local fraud statute (; Mar. 26, 2018; date accessed Apr. 17, 2018).  This is one a handful of lawsuits facing the social media company following the data breach of 87 million of its users allegedly obtained (; Mar. 18, 2018; date accessed Apr. 17, 2018) by  the analytics firm working as consultants for then Republican candidate Trump.  There is more.  Facebook is being sued on a related matter: "the use of its large troves of private user data (Ibid; Mar. 19, 2018) for housing discrimination."

The lawsuit (; Mar. 27, 2018; date accessed Apr. 17, 2017) was filed by the National Fair Housing Alliance, arguing "that the company lets landlords and real estate brokers prevent certain protected classes from seeing advertisements of housing for sale or rent--violating the Fair Housing Act."

Lisa Rice, the president and CEO of the NFHA, told CityLab in a statement,

Amid growing public concern in the past weeks that Facebook has mishandled users' data, our investigation shows that Facebook also allows and even encourages it's paid advertisers to discriminate using its vast trove of personal data,...

Ms. Misra reports, "The plaintiff, which include three of NFHA's member organizations, cite the results of their Investingation into Facebook's ad platform in the complaint."  The members of fair housing non-profits in New York, Washington D.C., Miami, and San Antonio sent the social media company multiple listings from a fictional realty firm--"specifically seeking to make these ads invisible to users of certain genders, ages, family types, disability status, and national origins."

Fred Freiberg, the executive director of the New York-based Fair Housing Justice Center, said in a statement related by the NFHA,

Facebook's platform is the virtual equivalent of posting a for-rent sign that says No Families with Young Kids or No Women, but it does so in an insidious and stealth manner so that people have no clue they have been excluded on the basis of family status or sex...

Along with damages, the lawsuit asks the court to prevent Facebook from allowing users to continue postin listings in this manner, and "compel the company to vastly limit audience selection capabilities for its ads."

The non-profit news organization ProPublica outed these violations by publishing the conclusion of a similar investigation (; Oct. 28, 2016; date accessed Apr. 18, 2018).  Ms.Misra writes, "At that time, Facebook vowed to do better (; Feb. 8 2017; date accessed Apr. 18, 2018); it updated its ad policy, and vowed to police discriminatory ads better.  In 2017, ProPublica found that the promises hadn't made much of a difference (; Nov. 21, 2017; date accessed Apr. 17, 2018): Advertisers could still exclude users,..., identified themselves as African American or Hispanic (; date accessed Apr. 17, 2018, or listed their interests as wheelchair ramps (Ibid) or Judaisim (Ibid).

Facebook responded to the allegations in a statement,

There is absolutely no place for discrimination on Facebook.  We believe this lawsuit is without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously.

The Fair Housing Act is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year.  The landmark civil rights legislation was intended to "undo decades of state-sponsored (; June 2014; date accessed Apr. 17, 2018 segregation (; Sept. 2, 2015; date accessed Apr. 17, 2018).  However, the main component of the law--"the Affimatively Futhering Fair Housing rule--" has still not been implemented (; Jan. 4 2018; date accessed Apr. 17, 2018).  In the meantime, housing discrimination persists like a stain upon the land.  A recent investigation (; Feb. 15, 2018; date accessed Apr. 17, 2018) by the Center for Investigation Reveal project determined "that people of color were still much more likely to be denied home loans than their white counterparts."  The difference between now and pre-Fair Housing Act is that discriminatory practices are more deceptive (; June 11, 2013; date accessed Apr. 17, 2018) or, in Facebook's case, completely under the radar.

Lisa Rice told CityLab,

It is already a challenge for women, families with children, people with disabilities and other underserved groups to find housing.  Facebook's platform that excludes these consumers from ever seeing certain ads to rent or buy housing must be changed immediately.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Fix Those Broken Windows; March 22, 2018

Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a sunny, cool, and breezy week on the Blog.  We have news. First, there was the joint United States, France, and United Kingdom missle strikes on Syrian targets this past Friday.  The strikes targeted air and military bases used by forces loyal to President Bashr al-Assad to conduct lethal gas attacks on his population.  The strikes did their job--sort of--enough for Mr. Donald Trump to tweet Mission Accomplished.  Well, no.  Mr. al-Assad is still in power and free to conduct heinous attacks on his own people.  Second, food and beverage retail giant Starbucks is in major damage control mode following an incident that took place in one of their Philadelphia stores.  Two African American gentlemen entered the store on Thursday, to meet a business colleague.  One of the gentlemen asked to use the toilet, without ordering anything.  The men were waiting for their colleague before placing their order.  The (now former) employee got anxious about the presence of two African American men and phoned the police, who arrested the men for trespassing.  The whole incident was recorded by another patron and went viral.  Blogger is having trouble formulating the right words because it is personal. Needless to say, Blogger's non-Starbucks app on her phone will be getting a good work out.  On to today's subject.

Broken Windows is a very popular approach to safer neighborhoods.  The theory, originally put forth by James Q. Wilson in 1982 and gained a lot of traction in nineties and early 2000s; as well as a lot of infamy for its uneven application, often directed at African American and Latino men.  However, Marc A. Zimmerman writes about a different approach to safer neighborhoods in his CityLab article, "Forget Broken Windows: Think 'Busy Streets.'"

The concept is actually simple, "Neighborhoods struggling with physical decline and high crime often become safer simply when local resident work together to fix up their neighborhood."

Mr. Zimmerman and his colleagues at the University of Michigan of Public Health Youth Violence Prevention Center (; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) spent nearly a decade studying the reasons why (; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018).  The team conducted research on cities across the U.S. demonstrating "how small changes to urban environments--like planting flowers or adding benches--reduce violence."

The result is a nascent crime prevention theory the Zimmerman Team call "busy streets."  This is how it works.

""From broken windows to busy streets"

Busy streets upends the rationale of broken windows (; Nov. 1, 2016 date accessed Apr. 16, 2018)--"a controversial criminological approach to public safety (; Mar. 1982; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018)--on its head."  Supporters of broken windows "see urban disorder in U.S. cities--graffiti, litter, actual broken windows, and the like--as a catalyst of antisocial behavior."  They direct police to crack down on quality of life offenses (; June 28, 2016; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) such as: vandalism, turnstile jumping, and public intoxication.

In contrast, supporters of busy streets, believes it is more advantageous for neighborhoods to clean up and keep their city streets clean.

The Zimmerman Team conducted research in Flint, Michigan--a onetime prosporous manufacturing center near Detroit that has become synonymous with industrial decline, unemployment, and crime (; Jan. 26, 2016; date Apr. 16, 2018)--tracks this process in action.

The current median income for Flint "is less than $26,000, and more than half of families, with children live in poverty.  It lost 27 percent of its residents since 1990, U.S. census data shows (; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018)." Right now, almost 1 out of 5 homes stand vacant.  Crime follows on the heels of abandonment and decay, in a similar manner it does in postindustrial cities througout the Rust Belt (; Apr. 16, 2018).  Flint currently has the second highest homicide rate in American cities with populations under 100,000 (; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) right behind Gary, Indiana.

In 2012, a group of residents, businesses, and two local colleges came together to form the University Avenue Corridor Coalition (; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) in an effort to prevent crime by fixing up a 3-mile portion of University Avenue through the Carriagetown neighborhood of central Flint (; May 2016; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018).  Marc Zimmerman and his team began measuring the results in 2014."

The Coaltion started holding frequent neighborhood clean days to repair vacant lots and abandoned structures (; Mar. 13, 2017; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018), "symbolically 'owning' them by adding lighting, sidewalk repair, benches, and plantings."  The owners were usually amendable to their neighbors to repair their property for free and even helped out.

Marc Zimmerman writes, "Those changes, we observed, inspired other homeowners and business on this flat, three-lane road to spruce up their properties (; Apr. 2015;  date accessed Apr. 16, 2018)--what one local resident called the 'spreading effect of pride."  One Coaltion member said,

I think that people really just needed to see that, hey, somebody does care about this other than just,....

The Coaltion was also successfully in getting the local liquor store ignominiously dubbed the Stab 'n'Grab because of the frequency of fights, transforming it into Jimmy John's sandwich shop.  This may sound like another chain restaurant setting up shop in a neighborhood in need of business revenue and a place to eat.  The new sandwich shop was a major development.

The vacant across the street from Jimmy John's, a favorite drinking spot, has become into a park named University Square.  It has become an event space complete with food trucks and lawn games.

Marc Zimmerman reports, "When people drive by this once derelict intersection and see a block party underway, a community organizer told me, their jaws drop."

"Busy streets have less crime"

The street-level envirnomental changes (; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) have yielded "profound economic and societal effects on this part of central Flint."

The Zimmerman Team surveyed the residents in 2014--prior to intervention--returning in 2016 and 2017.  They are currently preparing updates on the Flint study for publication in an academic journal, but offer a preview of their conclusions.

He writes, "Over time, community members reports fewer mental health problems, said they'd been victims of crime less of often, and felt less afraid."  This due to the fact that crime did go down along the University Avenue Corridor: "According to the coalition's lates report (; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018), assaults decreased 54 percent, robberies 83 percent and burglaries 76 percent between 2013 and 2018."

To test the link between The Coalition's initiatives, the Zimmerman Team compared this area to a control group of Flint neighborhoods that incurred similar levels of disinvestment and urban decay.  They learned that "places where empty lots were being maintained by the community had nearly 40 percent fewer assaults and violent crimes than untouched vacant lots."

This result is similar to information from other cities.  "From 1999 to 2008, for example, the city of Philadelphia cleaned up 4,436 vacant lots  signaling 'ownership' (; Nov. 11, 2011; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) with fencing, benches, plantings, and the like."  Gun assaults in communities where interventions occurred fell by 29 percent over three years (; Jan. 26, 2018; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018).  Quality of life crimes like loitering and public intoxication decline by 30 percent.

Philadelphia also experienced economic gains from maintaining vacant land and repairing abandoned properties.  "According to an economic analysis published in the American Journal of Public Health (; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) in 2016, for every dollar spent reoccupying an abandoned building, taxpayers saved $5 in potential criminal justice costs.  Cleaned-up vacant lots saved the city even more: $26 per dollar spent.

There is even a health and well-being benefit to cleaning up and maintaining neighborhoods.  Philadelphians with newly greened lots exercised more and experienced less stress, possibly from feeling more comfortable being outside.

"Resilient cities"

One possibly reason that crime declines following joint neighborhood interventions is community engagement.  "Residents in the University Corridor intervention area (; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) reported participating more in neighborhood watches, block associations an community events than in the area where residents didn't undertake improvement projects."

In short, when neighbors work together to clean up their communities, they not only eliminate the dark empathy places that create havens for criminal activities (; Oct. 27, 2011;date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) but also create collateral effects.

Obviously, nicer public spaces encourage people to spend time there, where helps everyone get to know members of their communities.  When people know each other, they look out for each other, and monitor activity in their neighborhood more closely.  In essence "Streets get busy."

The Zimmerman team also found that public space improvement projects along University Corridor generated a modest economic recovery.

Prior to the 2013 intervention, few businesses were open in the area. Between 2015 and 2017, seven new enterprises opened.  The greater the commerce, the busier the streets.

"Role of the police"

Marc Zimmerman reports, "Based on our survey, University Corridor residents were also more willing to report crimes to the police after the 2013 intervention began."

This was particularly critical in the predominantly African American community, where many residents expressed mistrust in local law enforcement.  They told the Zimmerman Team that officers were never around when you need them.

This is a true statement because the Flint Police Department is overworked and underfunded--declared broken in a February 25, 2018 article in the New Yorker (; Feb. 25, 2018;date accessed Apr. 16, 2018).

Therefore, when Kettering University, one of the partner colleges in the University Corridor Coaltion, received a grant that paid for more police presence in the community (; Jan. 22, 2018; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018),many of the community members were grateful.

Police can build the foundation for community revitalization to succeed.  The goal is not to inundate high crime areas with law enforcement--as New York Cit (; Jan. 13, 2004; date accessed Apr. 18, 2018) and Newark (; June 28, 2016; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) did during the heyday of broken windows--rather increase foot patrols.

However, law enforcement is not the sole reason why "busy streets" works to prevent crime.  Marc Zimmerman concludes that "Rather, after years of studying community resilience, I believe that locally driven revitalization projects make troubled neighborhoods safer because they recognized residents not as victims but as agents of change."

On the surface of things, it almost sounds like Marc Zimmerman is making a case for gentrification.  Indeed, safer neighborhoods do attract more affluent people, seeking less expensive places to live.  However, that does not always have to be the case.  The University Corridor Coaltion proves that you do not need galleries, artisanal food establishments, and yoga studios--the hallmarks of gentrification--to thrive.  Simple things like neighbors getting together and cleaning up a vacant lot or fixing up decaying property can do more good than converting an old building into high end lofts. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: This Is Yuge

Hello Everyone:

It is a sunny Wednesday which means that it is time for Blogger Candidate Forum.  First, news of the day: Day two of Mr. Zuckerberg goes to Washington.  If the Mark Zuckerberg's testimony before a senate committee revealed anything, it is we have 20th-century politicians who cannot keep up in a 21st-century world.  The mostly elderly men on House Energy and Commerce Committee laid bare the fact that they have no clue about the social media and how it works.  In all fairness, neither do an overwhelming majority of people around the globe.  Be that as it may, the obviously coached Mr. Zuckerberg did his best to answer the members sometimes ridiculous questions.  He seemed to favor some oversight on the social media but bristled at regulation.  He did reveal that his Facebook profile was compromised by Cambridge Analytics.  What happens next is anyone's guess.  One thing is for sure, lawmakers need to do a lot more hands-on social media homework.  Blogger suggests that the senators sit down with their social media director and have him or her give them a tutorial on how it works.  Perhaps the senators should also follow Senator Kamala Harris' (D-CA) example and read the privacy agreement before going forward.  At the very least, they should ask their grandchildren about the social media.  Alright, onto the big news of the day.

The big news of the day is the announcement that Speaker of the House of Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will not seek re-election at the end of his current term.  This is not just big news, it is very big news because it further imperils the Republican majority in the house and increases the likelihood of impeachment.  

Speaker Ryan cited a desire to spend more time with his family and satisfication with the job he did as speaker.  Of course the Internet was lightening quick to excoriate Speaker Ryan with comments like, Paul take the money and run Ryan and Paul Runnin.  Other comments made note of the fact that Mr. Ryan gets to keep his healthcare for life after trying to take it away from millions of Americans.  In 2012, then-Representative Ryan was tapped to be Republican nominee Governor Mitt Romney's (R-MA) running mate. In 2015, Rep Ryan grudgingly accepted the position of Speaker of the House after former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) stepped down.  In 2016, he did not readily embrace then-candidate Donald Trump; calling his comments on Mexicans and Muslims textbook racism--eventually he supported Mr. Trump and was heavily criticized as an enabling or normalizing Mr. Trump.  Many hoped that he would grown a spine and stand up to a president who prefers to do whatever he wants but that never happened.  Praise for Paul Ryan's legacy of tax cuts and increased military spending stands in stark contrast to the string of policy failures.  What does that mean for the midterm elections only seven months away?

In terms of the House Republicans, the competition for Speaker Ryan's job as leader of the party heats up.  Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca) and Steve Scalise (R-La) have emerged as the top two contenders for Speaker of the House, should the Republican retain the majority.  The operative word being should.  Speaker Ryan's retirement, along with 39 other House Republicans, means that House Democrats now need to win 23 seats to flip the House and return House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) to the Speaker's podium.  Further, Speaker Ryan was facing an unusually strong challenge from Democrat Randy Bryce.  

Mr. Bryce is an iron worker and union organizer nicknamed "IronStache" who now has a clearer path to winning Wisconsin's first district.  Mr. Bryce was recently added to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee "red to blue" list of candidates likely to flip Republican districts (; Apr. 11, 2018). The Bryce campaign has already raised close to $5 million, with 75 percent of the donations in Clements of $200 or less (Ibid).  Bryce campaign communication director Lauren HItt said in a statement,

Paul Ryan decided to quit today rather than face Randy Bryce and the voters,.... With nearly $5 million raided to date, a strong field program aided by organized labor, a broad coalition of support locally and nationally, Randy Bryce is incredibly well positioned to be the next Representative for the First Districts. Electorates far more conservative than Wisconsin's First have already elected Democrats in special elections in Wisconsin and across the country.  (Ibid)

Cook Political Report rated the district R+5, and Democrats are averaging an 8-point advantage in generic ballots. (Ibid).  In other words, this is a toss-up district but Paul Ryan's retirement announcement gives the edge to Mr. Bryce.  This race should be a wild one.  Now it is time to address the impeachment elephant in the room.

If you have been following the news over the last few days, you have seen the stories of Mr. Donald Trump threatening to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in order to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  Allow Blogger to quickly recap things, Attorney General (for now) Jeff Sessions was forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation when his name surfaced as someone who might have been involved with possible collusion.  In his stead, Deputy AG Rosenstein took over the investigation and appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel.  Contrary to what the president may think, he does not have the power to directly fire Mr. Mueller.  Instead, he would have to dismiss Deputy AG Rosenstein in order to fire Mr. Mueller.  However, that would not end the investigation.  Mr. Mueller would still have to submit a final report to the House of Representatives who could still decide whether or not to proceed with impeachment.  Where does Speaker Ryan's announcement fit into the scheme of things?

Right now, 9 in 10 Democrats disapprove of the president's performance as the special counsel's investigation closes in on the White House (; Apr. 11, 2018).  The FBI search of Mr. Trump's personal attorney Michael D. Cohen's office and hotel room on Monday further tightened the vice around the president.  Whether or not that search yields anything related to Russian interference in the 2016 election remains to be seem. What is known is that House Democratic leader could not prevent an impeachment drive next year even if they considered it counterproductive (Ibid).

Speaker Paul Ryan was tasked with the unbearable job of lead apologist for the president.  That meant ignoring his tantrums and ever changing policy positions.  If the Repbulicans did retain some measure of control in the House and Speaker Ryan remained on the job, he would be saddled with the burden of defended the president from possible impeachment (; Apr. 11, 2018).  Now that the president instituted trade tariffs on Chinese made goods, something the Speaker deeply opposes, his retirement is an admission that he has had enough.  Just think how much more stressful it will be if and when the special counsel delivers a report that makes the case for impeachment (Ibid).

Interestingly, Republican candidates have seized on impeachment as campaign issue.  This strategy is being used to energize conservatives and drive a wedge between moderate and liberal Democrats: "warning that Democrats will try to mpeachthe president if they win back the House (; Apr. 9, 2018; date accessed Apr. 11, 2018).  What began as conservative political hyperbole--bold type fund raising pitches screaming about a looming 'American' coup-- has now made its way into the main stream (Ibid).  This is a really bad idea.  The midterms are typically a referendum on the party in power. The American voters already have a dim view of Congress.  A smart candidate, from either party, would focus on local issues, not on national issues.  Telling your constituents that you would vote for impeachment or Department of Justice and the Democratic National Committee are planning to over throw a duly elected president is not going to work.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan's announcement of his plans to retire at the end of his term has further dispirited an already gloomy Republican Party and further increased the likelihood that impeachment will be on the 2019 Congressional agenda.  The next several months should be a wild ride so hang on to your hats and other apparel.