Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: The Future Face

Hello Everyone:

Blogger is back after a quick tech break. Yours Truly decided to take advantage Apple's year-long battery replacement and in her phone. Thanks to the very helpful geniuses at The Apple Store at The Grove in Los Angeles, Blogger ended up getting a new phone because the battery was too swollen to safely remove. With Blogger's smartphone fully operational, time for Blogger Candidate Forum.

The Democratic Congressional leadership got a very rude but much needed awakening yesterday.  Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated 10-term Representative Joe Crowley (D-NY) in the New York State Primary for the 14th congressional district, which includes the Bronx and Queens.  Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, a first-time candidate, won the day with 57 percent of the vote using highly efficient grassroots campaign.  This marks the first time, in fourteen years, that a candidate defeated another candidate from the same party.  Gregory Krieg reported in CNN that Rep. Crowley's stunning defeat "...marks a potential sea change in the broader sphere of liberal politics--a result with implications for Democrats nationwide,...." (; date accessed June 27, 2018).  Rep. Crowley is currently the fourth-ranking Democrat and considered the heir apparent to House of Representatives minority leader Nancy Pelosi.  The Democrats should be concerned, very concerned for a number of reasons.

What makes Ms. Ocasio-Cortez's victory so striking is, first, she is a member of the Democratic Socialist of America,  something you be hearing a lot of between now and November, possibly into the next presidential election cycle.  Jeff Stein broke down what the DSA and stand for in a 2017 article for Vox (; Aug. 5, 2017; date accessed June 27, 2018) but in essence, it is mostly an organization that is dedicated to "abolishing capitalism," although what specific actions of accomplishing this goal are up for debate.  It is not a formal party, per se, " it claims to be the largest socialist organization in America and tries to work within the Democratic Party to weaken capitalism, not end it."  (Ibid)

Socialists and socialism has gotten a bad reputation in the United States because of its perceived association to Soviet communism.  Even more mind boggling was the perception that a single-payer healthcare system was the first step down the road to the gulags. Blogger knows, seriously!?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is changing these outdated notions.  Dylan Scott reported " that Ocasio-Cortez supports Medicare-for-all and a single-payer health care system, tuition-free college for all, banning private prisons, and most notable, abolishing the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency."  (Ibid: June 27, 2018).  Definitely a leftist platform that is finding an audience.  Whatever the reason for her stunning victory, voters in New York's very blue14th congressional district chose her, which means Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is all but certain to take her seat come January 2019.  Even more certain, the Democratic congressional leadership is definitely paying attention, as they should.

While the Republicans rejoiced in the upset, declaring that the "socialist wing is building" (; date accessed June 27, 2018), House minority leader Nancy Pelosi was quick to state, 

It's ascendant in that district, perhaps, but I don't accept any characterization of our party presented by the Republicans. (Ibid)

The Democrats also noted that Rep. Joe Crowley was the only incumbent to lose thus far.

Democrats, fear no socialists.  

Dylan Scott writes, "Maybe it shouldn't be such a shock that a young woman of color who identified as a democratic socialist won a Democratic primary against a machine politician who raised millions of dollars from corporate donors,..." (; date accessed June 27, 2018).  Registered Democrats, and most of the public have been plainly stating that they have been ready for a "real progressive policy agenda to enter the mainstream."  (Ibid).  Perhaps now is the time.

The DSA certainly ticks off all the right boxes: single-payer health insurance, federal jobs guarantee, tuition-free college for all, repeal Citizens United by constitutional amendment, get rid of ICE, restore Glass-Steagall financial regulation, set a goal to be fossil fuel-free by 2035, end privately owned prison.  (Ibid).  Left-wing indeed but it might be very popular.

Socialist ideas, like single-payer healthcare, has gained traction over the past few years.  However, as Dylan Scott points out, "'Medicare-for-all' as a slogan, is overwhelmingly popular.  Even sing,e-payer described as such has the support of nearly half of Americans." (Ibid). A federal jobs guarantee also enjoys the support of nearly half of all Americans.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez possibly benefitted from being a young Latina running against a middle-aged  Cauasian make in a diverse district--"40 percent Latino, 32 percent white, 15 percent Asian, and 14 percent black."  (Ibid). The progressive movement was also a factor: "Young people, untainted by year's working in politics and unsavory relationships that develop as a result, may be the best hope of removing undue influence from our politics."  (Ibid)

The bottom line is this, a young person of color may be a forceful advocate in ways a Cauasian male can never be.  Given the demographic direction of the United States, that just may be what the Democrats need--more women, more people of color.  The question will the Democratic leadership embrace a left-leaning agenda or fight it?  The Forum hopes they embrace it. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Hope And Wait; June 16, 2018

Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a fresh week on the blog.  Over the weekend, the Internet loudly stated it does really care about the forced separation of parents and children at the American southwestern border.  After signing an executive order, the president--staying true to form--immediately regretted his action.  In a head snapping tweet on Sunday, the president demanded that the migrants be repatriated immediately, without due process; i.e. No hearing before a judge, regardless of the legitimacy of asylum claim.  Meanwhile, the adminstration says it has a plan to reunify parents and children. Why does Blogger think it involves money for a border wall?  Regardless of where you stand on the issue of immigration, you have to admit this is turning into a yuge public relations nightmare for the administration. Speaking of nightmares, shall we take a look at the Glasgow School of Art?

Historic preservationists and lovers of historic architecture often speak of building in human terms.  Buildings are like members of the family.  We get emotional over them.  When a building is lost, we mourn them. When a building is threatened, we go to whatever lengths to protect and save them. This is very true when it comes to the Glasgow School of Art.

Once again, the historic Glasgow School of Art was gutted by fire.  The fire began on June 15 at about 11:15pm Greenwich Mean Time and spread to the O2 ABC music venue.  Restoration of Charles Rennie Mackintosh building was nearly finished following a smaller fire in 2014.  The fire appeared to have destroyed the roof and upper floors, preventing firefighters from entering the building because of fear the walls might collapse (the; June 16, 2018; date accessed June 25, 2018).

By now, the fire has been extinguished and the big question is can this building be saved?  This is the subject Libby Brooks and Severin Carrell look at in their The Guardian article "Glasgow School of Art may be beyond repair after second fire."  The co-authors report, "Initial inspections suggested that the A grade-listed art school, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and completed in 1909, has been gutted and its roof and upper floors almost entirely destroyed by the blaze...."  Glasgow-based architect and academic Alan Dunlop, sounding a pessimistic tone, told The Guardian:

I can't see any restoration possible for the building itself.  It looks totally destroyed.

Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon pledged that her government would do anything we reasonably can to ensure the future of the historic structure.  Ms. Sturgeon carefully added:

Obviously all of us hope the building can be saved but I think it's too early to draw conclusions.

After touring the burnt out remains, Ms Sturgeon confirmed that current blaze did far more damage than the previous blaze (Ibid; May 23, 2014) She told The Guardian:

It is just a shell,.... It has clearly been a fire of much greater intensity than the one that took hold four years ago.

Iain Bushell, deputy chief officer with the Scottish fire and rescue service sounded a more cautious note:

The roof is gone completely.  We cannot get in yet to assess the damage. I can only see from the street but it looks as if the building has been extensively damaged.  

Fire investigator have already began to sift through the rubble in order to determine the cause if the blaze.  However, forensic teams have not had access to the building.

The news of the devastating fire spread quickly, around the world, and was greeted by shock and disbelief.  Perhaps what was most puzzling was how rapidly it grew in intensity the fire and how fast spread to the O2 ABC music venue and Campus nightclub, which also suffered extensive damage. 

Over 120 firefighters were summoned to the scene pumped water from the River Clyde in order to put out the fire.  

The 2014 fire was the result of gases from a student project foam canister accidentally ignited causing significant damage and restoration work was still in progress.  However this fire was more intense, "with nearby residents saying the heat could be felt several streets away."  Chunks of fiery debris fell on the surrounding streets.  Police evacuated 27 people, and, thankfully, no reports of injury.  

Alan Dunlop told reporters " that was devastated by what he had seen of the damage."  He said,

The building does look as though it had been gutted.  All that remain is the stone walls.

However, additional damage to the stonework raise questions about the structural viability of building.  After the 2014 fire, some stone cracked and was too weak to reuse.  

Stuart Robertson, director of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, told The Guardian,

It's just such a devastation for all the people working on the project and the who,e Mackintosh community.  You can see that from the reaction on social media, it's ricocheted round the world.

Scottish National Party MP for Glasgow Central Alison Thewliss echoed the sentiment, calling the events of the evening "as heartbreaking in a building the city holds very dear."

A week-and-half after the fire is still too soon to tell if the Glasgow School of Art can be saved or if it has to be demolished. Truthfully, it would be a real loss if Scottish officials decided to raze the building, especially if there is nothing to replace it. However, what could replace it?  Blogger is not suggesting that the Glasgow School of Art be replaced in the exact same 1909 manner.  Impossible. Perhaps, once investigators finish their work, architects and school officials can sit down to figure if anything can be done.  The Glasgow School of Art is such an integral part of the city and global culture that demolishing it would be a profound loss.  Replacing it with some steel and glass aberration would genuinely be an insult to the memory of the building and Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  Therefore, to answer the question can the Glasgow School of Art be saved?  To borrow the words of the 19th-century French writer Alexandre Dumas' great character the Count of Monte Cristo, hope and wait.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: The Mayors Fight Back; June 18, 2018

Hello Everyone: 

Yours Truly cannot say enough about the horrific images and sounds coming from the American southwestern border.  Children being led away by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and taken to shelters, sometimes in other states, and who knows when their parents will see them again.  Nor is there any protocol for the parents to contact their children. You have to be dead inside not to feel something.  Now comes word that the federal government wants to build new migrant detention centers in border state cities.  This news comes on day when the president signed an executive order end the child separation policy, after intense pressure from across the American spectrum.  The executive order does not include any protocol for family reunification and comes after enough damage has been.

Today, Blogger Candidate Forum wants to take a look at how mayors are fighting back.  Another thing Yours Truly cannot repeat enough times, regardless of your gender, race, ethnicity, religion, ability, a liberal, conservative, progressive, Republican, Democrat, Independent, sexual orientation, a parent or not, this is a matter of morality and humanity, not politics.

Houston, Texas is about to get a new migrant detentition center but not if Mayor Sylvester Turner has anything to say about it.  Mayor Turner said "he would do everything in his power to avoid becoming an enabler of a new migrant detention center slotted to open in his city."

During his remarks yesterday, Mayor Turner declared his strong moral opposition to the federal policy of separating parents and children. Tanvi Misra reports in her CityLab article "Houston Mayor: I Won't Be an Enabler of Migrant Family Separation,"Turner suggested state and local permitting mechanism could stall or thwart the facility's operation.  He urged the operators of the facility to reconsider their role."

Mayor Turner said in a press conference--which you can see on KTRK's Facebook page--

There comes a time when Americans, when Houstonians, when Texas have to say to those higher than ourselves: This is wrong,.... This is just wrong.

Here are the facts: "Between May 5 and June 9, the federal government has reportedly separated 2,342 migrant children (; June 19, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018) from their parents, following the Department of Justice's 'zero tolerance' policy, through which the government seeks to detain and criminally prosecuted all adult migrants (; May 8, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018) crossing the border without paper--including those who are seeking asylum (; June 18, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018)."

Most of the separated children are (ware)housed at what are supposed to be temporary facilities, until e Department of Health and Human Services can find them a sponsor family.  However in recent weeks, the full human impact of this practice has come to the forefront in vivid images.  Stories of traumatized children clutching drawings of their families (; June 7, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018); audio recordings wailing for their parents (; June 18, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018), pleading with officers, stories of children sleeping in giant cages (; June 18, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018) that some have compared to dog kennels (; June 6, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018).

Tanvi Misra reports, "In May, the Houston area was home to eleven shelters detaining 955 unaccompanied minor children, according to the Texas Tribune [; June 18, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018]."  The new facility, a former warehouse in east downtown, is slated to be used as a shelter for children separated from their families through the new "zero tolerance" policy."In what Turner described as irony, he said he intended to site a long-term homeless operation at the facility, which has previously been used to house people displaced by Hurricane Katrina and the homeless."  Mayor Turner intended the site to be not only for housing, but for free meal delivery and mental health services.  He said,

We thought it would be the best way of reducing the homeless population and bringing them together.

Mayor Sylvester Turner told CityLab that "the city was not informed that the facility was instead slated to house migrant kids, and only found out about the new potential tenants once reporters and activists got wind and sounded alarm."  Southwest Key Program (swkey,org; June 18, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018), the company contracting with the federal government to house the children in South Texas, would also operate the one proposed for Houston.  Yesterday, Mayor Turner sat down with HHS and representatives from Southwest Key to confirm the news and voice his disapproval.  Mayor Turner said,

They did say they will provide compassionate care--and let me just say, I do question their intent,.... But I do not support this facility being used for this purpose.

Mayor Turner pled with the building's owner and contractor to rethink their plan.  He added,

I do believe that as a result of the conversation we had today that they want to proceed,... 

He highlighted the pending steps within Houston's domain before the building is ready for use: "the fire department's inspection, the health department's food and shelter permit, for example."  He also noted that the facility is not yet licensed by the state of Texas--and implored the state not do so.  He said,

I do not want to be an enabler in this process.  I do not want the city to participate this process,.... I don't want our facilities and property owners to participate in this process.

When CityLab asked The Mayor if there was any realistic way he could prevent the facility from opening, he repeated that the fire department has not yet approved it, "adding that the chief is with him 24/7."  Specifically, So I don't plan to get over there right now, alluding to the possibility that he could slow-walk the approval process.  Regarding the shelter's health department permit approval, he said "the city wants to 'meticulous' in evaluating the facility, given that it would be used for children."

Mayor Turner told CityLab,

I don't want want anyone to criticize me for moving too quickly or in haste because other may have moved in haste on this policy so we're going to take the necessary time to make sure that we are prudent, that we are efficient, and we take every conceivable step that is in he best interest of the kids in this facility,....

Tomorrow, American mayor plan to gather at Tornillo, Texas (; June 18, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018) to protest the child separation policy following a resolution they passed (Ibid) insisting that Congress to do the same at a recent gathering of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.  Further, the mayors created an action plan they can follow in the days ahead after surveying the situation at the Southern border.  Mayor Steve Benjamin, the president of the Conference, told CityLab,

We are assessing what local tools we have in our toolbox of practica, things we can do,.... Is it possible we can set up a tracking system so our children could find out if and when their parents are deported? Can we arrange for on-site counselors and childcare workers?  Can we help fund immigration lawyers for parents and children, so they have access to counsel?

It remains to be seen just how far the mayors can go, but their proposed actions are an example of localism. The mayors are in the best positions to develop and implement solutions to this heinous federal policy than lawmakers in Washington D.C.  The solutions they devise are based on the resources available to them at municipal level.  Mayor Sylvester Turner told CityLab,

The day that we as Americans sanitize or anesthetize ourselves to behaviors and actions send policies is the day that we are all in trouble. So let's be very careful that we not say we will leave it to the policymakers to change the policy.... We are the policymakers

Frankly speaking, after nearly a year-and-half in office, it is long past time that the president take ownership for his policy instead of blaming former President Barack Obama, congressional Democrats, or try to distract everyone with some hairbrained idea for a space force.  You implemented this policy, you own it, lock, stock, and crying babies.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

One Nation Under Localism; June 7, 2018

Hello Everyone:

The horror of parents and children being separated at the southwest border of the United States.  To date, nearly 2,000 children have been taken from their parents.  A secret audio recording was made, by ProPublica, of the heart rendering cries of children as they were taken from their parents.  You cannot listen to it without being deeply moved. The bottom line, it does not matter who you vote for or what your ideology is, this is moral and humanity issue.  We will leave it at that and move on.

The United States is one nation under what?  Really, the United States is one nation, yet different everywhere you go.  The one thing that binds the many is the preminium placed on localism. Stephen Goldsmith describes his experience as a civic official in his CityLab article "One Nation, United Yet Different: Valuing Localism*," "For the last 25 years I have either been a local official--... --or worked at Harvard Kennedy School with local officials.  These officials tend to be pragmatists looking for ways to build consensus and solve real day-to-day problems."  True enough but more and more, civic officials are finding themselves doing battle with other levels government as polarization materializes into efforts from politicians to impose their way of thinking on as many people as possible.

*Chris Bousquet, a research assistant and writer at the Kennedy School contributed to this article.

Right now, at the state level, Republican lawmakers have and continue to pass pre-emptive measures on more progressive cities on such issues like higher minimum wage and gun control.  Mr. Goldsmith writes, "Historically, the federal government has also attempted to impose controversial liberal policies like an individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act and a variety of requirements in federal funding programs prescribing wages that far exceed local norms and financial capacity."

These federal efforts "undermine the local differences that are critical to democratic success."  Prescriptive policies curtail a municipal government's ability to "connect with their particular residents and reflect preferences."  Breaking from the anti-democratic concept "that the winner should exert power and influence on as many of the vanquished as possible, a better approach, more conducive to pragmatic problem solving and respectful of difference, would be for higher levels of government to differ to elected officials closer to the people they serve."

Localism allows cities to make use full of their competitive advantage, needs, and politics.  Take the hot button issue of gun regulation.  Duke law professor Joseph Blocher argues, "enacting different gun laws in different jurisdictions is a sensible solution to seemingly irresolvable differences among communities ( Mar. 24, 2018; date accessed June 19, 2018)."  About 60 percent of gun violence occurs in large cities--50 of the largest cities to be precise (; Dec. 14, 2012; date accessed June 19, 2018).  No surprise, they tend to support stricter gun regulations.  You contrast this with rural communities, who greatly benefit from guns in the form of hunting and recreation.

Cities are in a particularly good place to understand and mirror the perspectives of their residents.  CIty councils are part of their communities who are affected by their intiatives, residents and advocacy 
groups often attend meetings, and are able to publicly comment on pending policy.  Local citizens and advocacy groups also weigh in via crowdsourcing forum, GIS maps, and a variety technical tools courtesy of municipal governments.  Happily, engagement efforts have improved in terms of outreach and inclusivity, public input is increasing representive of the diverse perspectives that dwell in cities.

Stephen Goldsmith sums up, "It therefore seems perfectly natural that different jurisdictions should represent the different opinions of their constituencies, creating, for example, stricter gun regulations in cities than in rural communities."  Staying with gun regulations: Based on Mr. Goldsmith's thinking, cities can experiment with iniatives to curb gun violence and rural communities can continue to enjoy a highly valued part of culture.  This provides greater freedom to improve the results for local residents and takes into account the broader perspectives, encourage CIVIL debate, a more woke democracy, and political TOLERANCE.

Another advantage to localism is that when municpal governments have the power to enact specific policies, they can compete to attract residents by offering better services.  Economists John Hatfield and Katrins Kosec authored the study Federal competition and economic growth (; 2013; date accessed June 19, 2018) which concluded "that metropolitan areas with more distinct counties--and therefore more competition among locals governments--have higher wages, higher wage growth, and better educational outcomes than area with fewer counties." The co-authors suggest "that these better outcomes reflect the need for counties in more competitive areas to enact policies that will encourage residents to stay."

More specific policy at the local level provides incentives for better services and produces a more efficient government.  Mr. Goldsmith writes, "While policy wonks have long hailed consolidation of local governments as a creator of efficiency, a paper [; Feb. 2018; date accessed June 18, 2018] by economists Howard Husock and Wendell Cox shows that in fac, consolidation often increases total local expenditures."  This may not be the case in every situation, Mr. Goldsmith observes, "I've been involved in consolidations that produce value and those that don't--the ability to focus on areas with comparative advantages can make localism more efficient than consolidated efforts that force localities to operate outside their strengths."

Localism sounds like an ideal approach to dealing with the big issues affecting cities but the biggest problem with it is coordination.  Returning to gun control, " how do you keep people from going out to suburbs with lax regulations to buy a gun, then coming into the city to shoot somebody?"

Staying with gun control, research, Firearm Localism, in Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh (; Oct. 2013; date accessed June 19, 2018) demonstrated that urban gun regulations can greatly reduce gun-related death, even when surrounding communities maintain more lax laws.  However, in other policy issues, coordination problems may be more severe as to render local legislation impossible.  One example cited by John Hatfield and Katrins Kosec is "cities would be unlikely to enact legislation to curb pollution when competing with surrounding localities."  Municipalities enjoy the benefits derived from jobs and tax revenues when a polluting facility moves in, pay little in penalties, since most of the pollution is exported to neighboring communities.  Thus, if a city were to pass environmental regulations, businesses are more likely to set up shop in a community with more lax regulations.

Stephen Goldsmith declares, "It is in these that a state or national body must intervene."  Cities must use heir own experiences, in addition to research like that of Mr. Hatfield and Ms, Kosec, to determine he areas where they can create the circumstances for a positive outcome and where higher levels of government can intervene.

Another caveat to localism is that certain rights and services are so fundamental that the federal government must ensure that they are respected. Due process, guaranteed under the 14th Amendment, must be protected.  Also, the federal government must ensure that no city enacts any discriminatory practices like demanding proof of citizenship at random police stops.

Bottom line is, depending on what side of the aisle you ask, you will never get a consensus on what constitutes basic rights or necessary control of negative impact.  While progressives may argue in favor of universal healthcare and a handgun ban are on the same level non-discrimination laws, conservative may have a differing point of view.  This kind of debate is necessary for a healthy democratic process, but must be built on the foundation of localism, allowing governments to make more place specific decisions thus ensuring resident benefits and political CIVILITY. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Catch-22; June 7, 2018

Hello Everyone:

It is a beautiful Monday afternoon and time to blog.  First, a look at current events.  The images are horrific: Parents and children being separated by border patrol agents upon arrival in the United States.   Regardless of what party you vote, you cannot turn a blind eye to the cruelty of the Trump adminsitration's Zero-Tolerance policy toward undocumented immigrants.  What is even worse is there is no protocol in place for parents to stay in touch with their children or family re-unification.  Further, it raises concerns about the possibility of the parents unknowingly signing away their rights, making it possible for their children to be adopted away.  Blogger lives in a border state and can appreciate the need for safe secure borders but not at the expense of a child taken from his or her parents.  If you have not done so already, read former FLOTUS Laura Bush's sharp rebuke to this heinous policy in today's Washington Post (; June 18, 2018).  Cruelty is not what the United States is about.  If we are to continue our claim of being a just and moral country, Zero-Tolerance must end.  On to something more pleasant.

Culture and urban development.  What do they have in common?  Richard Florida writes in his CityLab article "How Culture Shapes Economic Development," "One of the big questions in urbanism is the degree to which culture shapes economic development."  Conventional wisdom said that "culture follows from economic development: The more developed and affluent that a city becomes, the more money that it has to spend creating art galleries, museums, concert halls, and other cultural venues."

Mr. Florida's own studies of the creative class and a large number of studies support the fact that culture functions as a key driver in economic development by attracting "talented, ambitious people to cities.  Others go further, contending that arts and culture are large industries that act as direct inputs into development."

A recent paper, The New Urban Success: How Culture Pays (; date accessed June 18, 2018) jointly authored by University of Cambridge and Nokia Bell Labs scientists: Desislava Hristova, Luca M. Aiello, and Daniele Quercia takes a deep dive into the link between culture and economic development in New York and London.  The paper, published in Frontiers in Physics, "looks at the way in which culture and cultural capita, interact with economic factors (such as changes in median income and house prices) to shape urban economic development."  Since urban economic development and culture are increasingly connected to gentrification and deepening inequality, the paper "looks at the effect of cultural capital on housing prices and housing affordability in these cities."

The co-authors set about accomplishing this by following approximately "1.5 million photographic images of the venues and events that comprise he cultural capital of both New York and London."  The  paper separates cultural capital into nine categories: "advertising and market; architecture; crafts; design (product, graphic, and fashion); IT software and computer services; publishing; museums, galleries, and libraries; and music, performing, and visual arts."

Richard Florida reports, "The study gauges the effects of these types of cultural capital on both median income, house prices,many composite indexes of urban development in London's 33 boroughs and 60 of New York's 71 community districts over the period 2007 to 2014, spans the Great Recessiin and its recovery."  The main point is that "culture or cultural capital plays a key role, operating alongside more traditional economic factors, in shaping urban development."

"Culture and neighborhood development"

CityLab re-printed a graph generated by the co-authors that illustrates the function of cultural capital and economic development in New York and London, respectively.  Mr. Florida writes, "The study finds that both these types of capital have a role in urban development and the improvement of neighborhoods."  Each dot on the graph corresponds to a neighborhoods and its placement on the graph is measured by the twin values of capital for that particular neighborhood.  The size of the dot corresponds to positive change in development; the larger and darker the dot, the greater the level of development.

Richard Florida reports, "Cultural capital plays a strong role, alongside economic factors, in neighborhoods in the upper right-hand quadrant of these graphs."  This quadrant includes the posh London neighborhoods of Kensington and Chelsea, Westminister, and the City of London; and tony New York City neighborhoods of Greenwich Village, Midtown, and Brooklyn Heights.  Cultural capital also largely factors into economic development in neighborhoods in the lower right-hand quadrant of the graphs: Camden, Islington, and Hackney in London; the Lower East Side, Bushwick, and East Harlem in New York?

Mr. Florida asks this question, " But do certain types of culture and certain forms of cultural capital matter to neighborhood development?"

To understand this, the paper analyzes the specific types of cultural capital hat affected the development of specific neighborhoods.  Mr. Florida observes, "Performance arts are prominent in he central areas of both cities, while architecture in both central and peripheral areas."  For example, East London specializes in design, while West London tends to specialize in marketing and the performing arts.

CityLab published another set of charts follows the effects of cultural specialization and cultural diversity on community development.  The color of the dots corresponds to a location's cultural specialty, and the size of dots reflects its cultural diversity.

Throughout London and New York, "higher levels of neighborhood development are associated with cultural diversity as well as cultural capital."  Mr. Florida writes, "The neighborhoods with the highest levels of development tend to specialize in performing arts.  In London, higher levels of urban development are also associated with the design and publishing industries.

"Culture and housing prices"

Between director Spike Lee's anti-gentrification screeds (; Nov. 29, 2017; date accessed June 18, 2018) to singer-songwriter extraordinaire David Byrnes' compliant that New York City has been taken over by the top 1 percent (; Oct. 8, 2013; date accessed June 18, 2018), the arts and culture have come to symbolize gentrification triggers and increasing housing prices.  Another set of graphs illustrates the close connection between cultural capita, housing prices around New York and London, although Mr. Florida notes, "... although cultural capital appears to play an even greater role in London's housing prices than in New York's."  All of these specific kinds of cultural capital associated with housing prices increases, however, again, the associations are closer in London than in New York.  The co-authors explain,

[E]lven though several economic and geographical factors impact house prices--such as property type or size... cultural capital alone holds a considerable explanatory power.

Ultimately, the paper concluded that "cultural capital has been a significant factor in development of urban neighborhoods in superstar cities of London and New York, both during and after the Great Recession."  Culture is not just an afterthought or an addition, rather, "a key contributor to urban economic growth."  However, in powering neighborhood growth and development, it has resulted in rising housing prices and contributing to gentrification.

Richard Florida concludes, "Culture, then, is bound up with the New Urban Crisis--a crisis of development and success--which is making our largest and most dynamic cities more expensive and less affordable, and in doing so, threatens the very economic, racial, and cultural diversity which has fueled their creativity in the first place."

It is kind of a Catch-22 situation: To achieve urban economic development, you need a cultural attraction.  However, in creating a cultural attraction, you risk driving up housing prices, driving out the very people and places that made a neighborhood so attractive in the first place.  The solution lies in a more inclusive approach to cultural development that benefits everyone. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Where We Are Now


Hello Everyone:

It is a sunny Wednesday afternoon in the WHOLE STATE OF CALIFORNIA and time again for Blogger Candidate Forum.  Sorry about the upper case letters but Silicon Valley tech billionaire Tom Draper has spenway too much time in locked room, in front of a screen, managed to qualify a proposition on the November ballot that, if passed would split the state in three.  California has the fifth largest economy in the world, the largest Congressional delegation, and the home of the Digital Revolution.  Hopefully, the good people of the Golden State will see this for what it is, a complete waste of taxpayer time and money.  In happier news, the FIFA World Cup starts tomorrow in Sochi.  Hurray.  Who is ready for some futbol?  Looking down the road to 2026, FIFA announced the United States, Canada, and Mexico was awarded the World Cup.  Alright, time to peer into the electoral future.

It is still primary season and what has become apparent is women are leading the way.  Women Democratic candidates are emerging victorious in House of Representative primary elections.  Female candidates are also winning contests for the state house.  The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are no doubt paying attention.  More important, the DCCC should pay attention to their message, focus on the issues, not on the president.  Another thing the DCCC is keeping a very sharp eye on are the House races in California.  It goes without saying that the road to flipping the House goes through California.  Rather than read the coffee grounds, Blogger is turning to a more accurate source, Cook's Political Report, to find out what are the chances of a House flip.

First, California Democrats are breathing a huge sigh of relief, they avoided being "locked out" of the infamous "jungle primary--" top-two primaries, going through to the November ballot in the seven Republican seats they targeted.  David Wasserman noted that " several districts, they didn't avert catastrophe by much (; June 8, 2018; date accessed June 13, 2018)."  Meanwhile, New Jersey Democrats had an easier time with their races, " recruits comfortably won their primaries in two key GOP-held open seats (Ibid)."  Now that all the ballots have been (mostly) counted and Democrats are pleased with the results.  A win is a win and the Democrats will take it.

David Wasserman observes, "The DCCC deserves credit for the strategic investment they made to prevent nightmare 'shut out' scenario, particularly in Orange County."  In the 39th congressional district, Navy veteran/philanthropist Gil Cisneros benefited from DCCC help, advancing five points.  Over in the CD 48th minor GOP candidate John Gabbard got a small boost (3.5 percent) and may have help stave off two Republicans.

Down San Diego way, the 49th congressional district vacated by Rep. Darrell Issa (R) is being contested by environmental attorney Mike Levin and state Board of Equalization Chair Diane Harkey.  Ms. Harkey was propelled into the top spot thanks to the DCCC's relentless attacks on state Assemblyperson Rocky Chavez.  The two will face each other in November.

Republicans had some good moment.  First and foremost, the California governor's race will be between current Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (D) and Republican lawyer John Cox.  Mr. Cox is endorsed by the president and Mr. Trump promised to campaign for Mr. Cox in California.  Oh this should be good.  The upside is that had Republicans been shut out of the top state races, GOP voter turnout would have been depressed.  The successful recall of state Democratic Senator Josh Newman illustrates just how important the gas tax is going into the fall campaign.

David Wasserman reports, "Republicans got the female candidates they waned in both vulnerable open seat: Harkey in the San Diego 49th CD and Assemblywoman Young Kim in the open Orange County 39th CD."  In some of the districts, the Republicans got the Democratic candidates they wanted (really): "...consumer advocate Katie Porter narrowly advanced in the 45th CD, potentiallthrowing GOP Rep. Mimi Walters a lifeline."

Has the "blue wave" peaked?  Some observers seem to think so, "arguing GOP candidates combined for a majority of primary of votes in all 14 GOP-held except the open 49th CD."  Case in point, Republicans Steve Knight (CA-25) and Mimi Walters (CA-45) have a healthy "53 percent of the all party vote, despite being top Democratic fall targets."

David Wasserman writes, But this take ignores that in most districts, up to a third of the vote remains uncounted, and historically, California's late-returned/counted ballots have skewed Democratic.  In addition, California's June primaries typically bring out an older, whiter and more GOP electorate." 

As we noted at the beginning of the post, female candidates continue to dominate the Democratic   races (; May 24, 2018; date accessed June 13, 2018).  So far, in party primaries have featured a least one woman, one man, and no incumbent on the ballot, women have been the top vote-getters 70 percent of the time. Democrats are very excited about Ms. Hill and Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11)'s prospects in November.

However, Republican women have not been as successful.  In party primaries that feature one man, one woman, and no incumbent, women were the top vote-getters 38 percent of the time.  Republican women did have a good night, Ms. Kim, Ms. Harkey, and Yvette Herrell (NM-02) won their district primaries and are poised to be competitive in the fall, defeating better funded male candidates.

What does this mean for the House in November.  Cook Political Report predicts that "overall outlook of a Democtratic gain between 20 and 40 House seats (they need 23 for control). Here is where things stand as of now:

CA-21: David Valadao lean to likely Republican 
CA-49: open (Issa) toss up to lean Democrat 
CA-50: Duncan Hunter likely to solid Republican
NJ-02: open (LoBiondo) lean to likely Democrat
NJ-11: open (Frelinghuysen) toss up to lean Democrat  

A lot can happen between now and November.  Democrats need to focus on the issues that matter to the congressional districts and states.  Campaigning on the "President is the devil" platform is not going to win many votes.  Republicans should be wary about embracing the president.  His embrace of North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Un, imposition of tariffs on our allies, and his feud with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can have serious consequences on districts that voted for the president.  Further, the support the president or else platform may backfire bigly. 


Monday, June 11, 2018

What Surfers Know updated; May 25, 2018

Hello Everyone:

Before we get going on this beautiful Monday afternoon, Blogger has to apologize to Canadian fans for Mr. Trump's temper tantrum at the annual G7 meeting in Canada, this past weekend.  There are Americans, like Blogger, who like our good neighbors to the north.  Most of us really have no major issue with our friends.  To fans in the six remaining member G7 nations, we like you too.  In other news, Mr. Trump and Norh Korean leader Kim Jong Un are set to meet in Singapore.  The North Koreans see it as a " get to know you" meeting, while the president sees it as something greater.  Really, high can expectations be when you are dealing with two erratic heads of state with nuclear codes?  Alright, time to hit the beach for some surfer wisdom.

Surfers tend to be very territorial about where they ride the waves.  Jack Persons writes about his experiences in his CityLab article, "What Surfers Understand About Gentrification," "When I go surfing below the Golden Gate Bridge, my worries include shark attacks, hidden underwater boulders, and strong currents that could pull into shipping lane.... There's something way uglier there that scares me more: surf localism."

Case in point, Fort Point--"Fort to locals--is a novelty wave located underneath the south end of" the Golden Gate Bridge.  It is a gorgeous setting with more surfers than waves.  However, when that happens, the Fort regulars get very territorial, very fast.

To offset overcrowding, local surfers have acquired a well earned reputation for bulling newcomers.  A short documentary, Fort Point--Locals Only! (; date accessed June 11, 2018) on he surf spot, Mr. Persons writes, "one local reports seeing hundreds of violent incident in the water in his 30 years of surfing there, including broken boards and fins, beatings, and attempted drownings."  Shockingly, there has only been one conviction (; May 15, 2003; date accessed June 11, 2018) during this reign of intimidation and violence.  "In 2003, three surfers at Fort assaulted a Berkeley resident during a spring afternoon session.  They held him underwater, broke his nose, and left a gash in his eye that required eight stitches.  None of them received jail time."

Steve Hawk, the former editor of Surfer magazine told CityLab,

I have friends who are really good surfers, very knowledgeable, surfing forever, would not go out and make idiots of themselves, and they won't go surf Fort Point,... I've never surged Fort Point, because you just know those guys are stay away from those guys because they have this reputation of being jerks, no matter what you do.  (; June 11, 2018; )

What makes this story particulately newsworthy is that the standoff between Bay Area surfers and newcomers, is that "there's a somewhat similar struggle ensuing on dry land nearby.  San Francisco has become a case study in the impact of gentrification, as well-compensated tech industry worker have surged into the the city,..."  The surge of newcomers has transformed the city's unique character, driven up the cost of living, and pushed longtime residents.  This has resulted in a critical affordable housing shortage: "Between 2010 and 2015, the number of jobs created in San Francisco outnumbered he number of houses built by a ratio of more than eight to one (; July 26, 2017; date accessed May 25, 2018)."  In the newly gentrified City by the Bay, the tech sector and its wealth are the way.  However, there is one place where wealth has its limits: the ocean.

Jack Persons describes Fort Point, "...breaks along a seawall that protects its namesake, a military installation built during the Gold Rush (; date accessed June 12, 2018) to defend San Francisco Bay from foreign attacks. "  The original plans for the Golden Gate Bridge called for the demolition of the building, however, "the bridge's chief engineer, Joseph Strauss, decided instead to build an arch over it."  During  World War II, the fort acted as a last line of defense from submarine attacks.  In 1970, it became a National Historic Site and continues to be a cornerstone San Francisco's storied history.

The California Coastal Commission mandates that the majority of the state's beaches be made accessible to the public.  The earliest surfers at Fort were trespassing on military property, now anyone can paddle out and catch a wave as long as their skills and confidence holds up.  Matt Warshaw, another former editor at Surfer and current curator of the Encyclopedia of Surf (; date accessed June 12, 2018) , told CityLab,

What's kind of amazing about surfing is also terrible about surfing: It's unregulated,... It's just people stepping out into the wild outside.  There's no out there directing things, so you work it out yourselves.

It is this sense of stepping out into the wild, where the locals are the big fish, Mr. Warshaw continues,

There's people for whom that's the most important thing to them, sort like gang turf or something.  They get to rule,... They're in charge out there in a way that they're not in charge anywhere else in their lives.

Jack Persons observes, "While this has always been true, it's especially striking now, because the water is one of the few places left where longtime residents still have a leg up on the new order of affluent San Franciscans."  Without their fierce territoriality, the Fort locals would be quickly overrun by outsiders from every part of San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area.  The hierarchy is based on "knowledge, ability, ego, and a group of friends o back you up," not socio-economic status or job title.

William Finnegan's two-part New Yorker article "Playing Doc's Games (; Aug. 31, 1992; date accessed June 12, 2018)," is an in-depth look into San Francisco's surf scene during the eighties,  clearly illustrating this dynamic.  Mr. Person summarizes, " Finnegan recounts a trip he took to Fuller's Beach in Big Sur, an unincorporated stretch of wilderness just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, with the eponymous subject, Doc Renneker.  As Finnergan paddled out to the lineup, he noticed that everyone else knew each other, and they just weren't about let anybody they didn't know have an waves if the could help it.

This kind of me-first-NIMBY-ism "creates a selfishness that permeates popular breaks everywhere...."  At times, this behavior is necessary.  "Visiting surfers rarely have a good grasp of the dymanics of a wave, and Fort breaks very close to the boulder-strewn seawall.  A mistake by an outsider can lead to a local getting washed into the rocks."  Safety is a paramount issue at any surf spot, and sometimes the only way to make that point crystal clear is to engage in threatening behavior.

Mostly, its first-come-first-served.  For every wave taken by a newcomer means one less ride for a Fort local.  Matt Warshaw said,

Just about every bad thing in surf comes from people feeling that they're not getting their fair share of waves,... If people were getting enough waves, none of that would matter.

Typical with booming cities, popularity breeds the fear of displacement.  A study by the Surf Industry Manufacturers Associatiin, " the number of surfers in the United States increase 1.8 million in 2004 to 2.6 million in 2016 (; July 23, 2016; date accessed June 12, 2018)."  The number of new surfers continues to grow, technology continues to improve the equipment and forecasting has eliminated barriers to surf access.  Crowds are noticeably heavier on days with good conditions at spot around San Francisco due to website sites like Surfline ( date accessed June 12, 2018) and Magicseaweed (; date accessed June 12, 2018).  Forecasting has gotten precise enough that it can predict swells more than weeks ahead of time, giving visitors plenty of time to plan ahead.

Longtime surf journalist (; Jan. 4, 2016; date accessed June 12, 2018) and author (; date accessed June 12, 2018) Ben Marcus told CityLab,

You forget how distant and removed people were in the '70s and '80s.  Not everybody knew everything everything.  Everybody knows everything now,... We didn't know when swells were coming back then, we want by sound and by smell.  You lie in your bed and you hear it and you figure it out.

Prior to the Internet, the best way to find out if conditions were optimal in San Francisco was to ring Wise Surfboards, a shop near the beach.  This was not rocket science; "a recording told the caller what the waves looked like earlier that day.  This advantaged locals living near the beach, who had to drive a few minutes to check the conditions, over East Bay or Marin residents."  Now all you need is a smartphone with the right apps can check the forecast days in advance and guarntee a good session.

We live in an age of instant gratification that has crept onto the water by way of luxury surf clubs and high-end board rental programs have begun to build a market in the Bay Area.  Andy Olive, a former employee of Wise during the nineties told CityLab,

[Newer surfers] want to go down and have a quick surf, and get a couple of waves, and go back to their normal life,.... Which is fine, but if you think about Fort Point, no one takes the time to understand who's actually putting in the hard work there, who's been surfing there for 40 years.

Jack Persons reports, "Other efforts by locals to head off the effects of gentrification have been spectacular and polarizing, but ultimately ineffective."  To wit, "In the Bay Area, protesters famously tried to impntimidate and scare tech companies away (; Apr. 2, 2014; date accessed June 12, 2018) to avail."  This efforts did make headlines, but did very little to slow neighborhood change.  Defending the territory--i.e. the neighborhood or city--may be harder than defending the beach.  Be that as it may, there are lessons for Fort Point locals and newcomers.

First lesson, make connections to the established community, or show respect for the culture and history.  Get to know the locals is great way to gain credibility in the lineup, be open to learning and watching at the Fort.  Beats getting bounced off the beach or your gear trashed.

This could mean going a whole session without catching a wave.  However, patience and deference to the locals are virtues leading to reward.

Civic officials could learn from the battles between surfers and newcomers, if they want to offset the impact of gentrification.  As less-affluent residents are displaced by rising housing costs, they vanish along with their businesses and culture which makes the city so vibrant and attractive.  Mr. Persons suggests, "Rather than imposing their own cultures and influences, every inhabitant of San Francisco, old and new, should embrace the established histories and character of their respective neighborhoods."  Sound advice that elected officials would do well to follow instead of continuing to ignore the economic engine of gentrification, otherwise, San Franciscans could take matters into their own hands.

Fort Point surfers can learn to be a more inclusive and welcoming community, even when staring down the barrel of displacement.  Mr. Persons offers this suggestion, "To see what that might look like, drive an hour south down the coast and you'll reach Half Moon Bay,..., best known for its Christmas tree farms and surf spot, Mavericks, home to some of the biggest waves in the works.... Steve Hawks says 'that there's no tension between the various surfer communities in Half Moon Bay.... the older generation has become more peaceful... and introduced their children to surfing."  Mr. Hawk said,

You teach by example,... so if a kid sees his father being polite to a stranger, then they're more likely to follow suit.

Half Moon Bay has a robust surf culture that students, beginning in middle school, take part in.  The sport is passed down from parent to child, children learn to compete and "a culture of respect grows out of the partnership."  This, along with an indifference to outsiders ("the town's isolated location along the coast attracts less visitors than San Francisco and Santa Cruz") creates a more inclusive atmosphere.  Steve Hawk puts it this way, There's no vibing around here.

If San Francisco wants to follow this example, the absolute critical changes for Fort Point will have to come from the top.  Mr. Persons suggests a surfing historical society, curated by legends, as a great platform "to impart proper etiquette and established norms.  It could make the surf community more accessible for everyone,..."  At the macro-scale, all San Franciscans can benefit from more cuktura, awareness about their city and the myriad of communities that make it such a great city to explore.  Even better, this could help ease the stressors of gentrification.

It is possible that San Francisco has become too gentrified and too polarized, for now, for everyone to find common cause.  The generations might never get along.  If this is the situation, then we should all just heed Steve Hawk's golden rule in and out of the water.

My whole thing is: Just don't be a dick.  Don't be a dick and everything will be fine.

Sage advice