Tuesday, November 27, 2018

What We Learned From The Fire

Hello Everyone:

Yours Truly is back from a restful Thanksgiving holiday. The Candidate Forum is still on vacation. Poor thing was exhausted by the midterm madness but promises to be back next week with a thought or two on a couple of developing stories. In the meantime, Yours Truly has some good news to report about the massively horrific fires in California: The fires are contained. Hurray.  The bad news is now comes the terrible job of recovering the missing and rebuilding what was lost in the fire. One place that remained a safe haven during the Woolsey Fire in Malibu was Pepperdine University.  Pepperdine is a lovely university campus overlooking the scenic Pacific Coast Highway.  During the fire, students were sheltered in two centralized buildings as the blaze began to encroach on the campus perimeter, a policy called "shelter-in-place."  Now, in the wake of the destructive Woolsey Fire, that policy is being reconsidered by university officials and whether or not it should be continued as is or does it need an update.

Since 1974, there have been now six fires on or near the university. Alissa Walker wrote in her Los Angeles Curbed article "Why Pepperdine stays put when wildfires rage," (la.curbed.com; Nov. 20, 2018, date accessed Nov. 27, 2018), "In 1985, the Piuma Fires created harrowing conditions that 'caused some students at Pepperdine University to flee their dormitories... when flames burned within about 39 yards of some buildings'" [articles.latimes.com; Oct. 15, 1985; date accessed Nov. 27, 2018].  Essentially, many of the students and faculty were from out of the area and had nowhere to go. 

Any new plan needed to address what plant ecologist Stephen Davis witnessed on Friday November 9, 2018, the day the Woolsey Fire broke out.  Prof. Davis has studied he effects of fire on native vegetation in the region (newsroom.pepperdine.edu; Aug. 29, 2013; date accessed Nov. 27, 2018). On that day, he hiked up the university's nature reserve to follow the path of the Fire.  Earlier that day, "wall of flames 14 miles wide had crossed the 101 Freeway and battled through the canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains.  Now the blaze was churning along the Pacific Ocean" (la.curbed.com; Nov. 20, 2018).  Prof. Davis told Los Angeles Curbed,

I'm up there watching the smoke and say Point Dume, now that's Kanan Dume, that's where the smoke is coming from.... If it gets to Mesa Peak, it's going to come over the ridge and we'll have 12 hours. (Ibid)

He was right

Any new plan also needed to address another problem that Prof. Davis identified from his vantage point--"a view of Pacific Coast Highway [Ibid] crawling with vehicles of tens of thousands of residents who had just been ordered to evacuate" (Ibid). 

Alissa Walker writes, "The prospect of relocating a university using the gridlocked PCH isn't feasible when an entire city of car-dependent residents are evacuating themselves" (Ibid). 

Malibu city manager Reva Feldman responded to questions during a recent town hall for evacuees,

Some students are away from home and don't have cars,.... There's no way to quickly evacuate 3,500 18- to 20-year-olds without vehicles.  (Ibid)

Working in consultation with the Los Angeles County Fure Department, university administrators developed a shelter-in-place policy (emergency.pepperdine.edu; date accessed Nov. 27, 2018) that has been implemented (twitter.com/@PresidentBenton; Nov. 10, 2018; date accessed Nov. 27, 2018) since 1993, whenever a fire has come close. 

L.A. County FD Chief Deputy David Richardson, speaking at the same town hall, said It is viable,.... It is something that fire service utilizes as a tool and will continue to use throughoutini the years. (Ibid)

However, the Woolsey Fire has prompted scurtiny (latimes.com; Nov.13, 2018; date accessed Nov. 27, 2018) by Malibu residents.  Residents angrily voiced their concerns on the social media (twitter.com/@LindyLawyer; Nov. 10, 2018; date accessed Nov. 27, 2018) and at public meetings (youtube.com; date accessed Nov. 27, 2018) that students should be allowed to stay behind while residents were forced to follow mandatory evacuation orders and that the fire department was focusing its resources on protecting the school instead of their homes.  State Senator and Malibu native Henry Stern (sd27.senate.ca.gov; date accessed Nov. 27, 2018). State Senator Stern, also speaking at the town hall, said

This shelter-in-place policy is going to have to be reassessed,... We cannot sacrifice he rest of Malibu for Pepperdine. (la.curbed.com; Nov. 20, 2018).

At Phil Phillips, the unversity's Vice President of administration and Pepperdine alumnus declared, Many of our employees are alumni who actually sheltered in place during a fire (Ibid). Mr. Phillips told Los Angeles Curbed, "...the policy been in place for three decades,..." (Ibid). Mr. Phillips worked closely  with L.A. County FD assistant chief Anthony Williams to audit the program last year.  He said,

 We would live to re-evaluate it--we want to do whatever is the safest thing... If there are things we can do better,we want to do them (Ibid).

Hurricane Katrina forced one such policy re-evaluation. He continues, Katrina changed emergency planning (Ibid). It forced Malibu city officials to reconsider previous shelter-in-place standards. Originals procedures recommended storing enough food and water for five days.  Now we have enough foo d and water for 5,000 for two weeks (Ibid). 

Anticipating poor air quality (always a by-product of fires), Pepperdine's medical center is fully stocked with N-95 particle masks, and a accessible emergency inhalers, nebulizers, and oxygen.  One of the administrative buildings is kitted out with communication equipment and generators that can function as. Command center for the county during an emergency situation on PCH. Perhaps Pepperdine's best defense is its design, by Los Angeles architect extraordinaire William Pereira (laconservancy.org; date accessed Nov. 27, 2018).  Alissa Walker describes,

"The style of the campus could be called Mediterranean modern: angular cast-concrete volumes situated around wide concrete plazas with spectacular ocean vistas. The steel-framed structures make good use of fire-resistant decorative materials like glass and ceramic tile." (la.curbed.com; Nov. 20, 2018). 

The shape of buildings, which feature steep Spanish tile roofs, prevent fast-moving fires from getti trapped beneath recessed eaves. Smaller buildings and architectural details are covered in stucco, with no exposed wood trim (Ibid). 

Abeer Sweis, a Santa Moncia-based designer whose firm has built fire resistant home told Los Angeles Curbed,

The stucco box is horribly designed 95 percent of the time, but stucco is a very common material--it's a fantastic fire deterrent... More even gab material,..., it's the siting and the space between the buildings... (Ibid)

This is important because 500 acres out of Pepperdine's 830 acres is open space, thanks to William Pereira's "dense clustering of buildings and maintained open spaces" (Ibid). Another key preventative measure is the university's diligent attention to brush clearance and eliminating combustible vegetation at least 200 feet around it. Let us just say they do not use rakes. Even the sprawling front lawn--a grass natural meadow--is part of the university's fire prevention program. 

Alissa Walker writes, "The lush green slope is part of a water conservation system [community.pepperdine.edu; date accessed Nov, 27, 2018] that allows Pepperdine to recycle waste water and store it on site. Runoff that's waiting to be reused is captured in two lakes--which firefighters used to help manage the Woolsey Fire.  The preservation of the meadow and the design of the water infrastructure were envisioned by Pereira as well" ((la.curbed.com; Nov. 20, 2018). 

This decision was made in the 1970s that Phil Phillips says "designers are trying to implement in new developments today."  He marvels, We were decades ahead of our time (la.curbed.com; Nov. 20, 2018). 

The campus design was prescient. On September 25, 1970, the Wright Fire scorched the newly developed land.  Two large fires, fueled by the Santa Ana winds (la.curbed.com; Sept. 22, 2016) converged in the Santa Moncia Mountains, burning 135,000 acres--from Newhall to Malibu--the same path as the now contained Woolsey Fire.  According to then-Chancellor and President William Banowsky, the fire ended up scorching every foot of the empty campus (la.curbed.com; Nov. 20, 2018). Over the following year, as William Pereira's vision began to take form, the fire served as a reminder that school made a very wise investment in the future. 

Meanwhile, as fire rimmed Pepperdine's edges, about 1,200 students settled into their shelter-in-places refuges for the night. The students were also allowed to leave if they wished,no about 200 exercised that option.  Throughout the night and into the weekend the editorial staff of the school newspaper, the Pepperdine Graphic (pepperdine-graphic.com; date accessed Nov. 27, 2018), worked furiously squelch every sort of rumour.  A miscommunication occurred when a sheriff deputy, unfamiliar with the shelter-in-place policy, entered Payson Library and began shouting at everyone to leave. Eventually, everyone was allowed to return to their dormitories or leave the campus. 

There are lessons to be learned from both the Camp Fire in Northern California and the Woolsey Fire.  Firest, climate change is absolutely a factor in the increasing severity of bush fires.  Rising temperature, and shorter rainy seasons lead dry brush, which are ideal kindling for fires.  Again, rakes are not the answer. Second, the area of protection is getting bigger. Both the Camp and Woolsey fires occurred in places where urban and forested areas meet, not in the forests themselves.  This was one reason for the massive property losses.  This should prompt city planners to rethink zoning these areas for residential developments. Seventy percent of California's public land is owned by the federal government, which means that mangement is the responsibility of the U.S. Forest Service (fs.fed.gov).  This means it is their job to clear the dry brush and chop down the dead trees.  Third, while Pepperdine University was fortunate that no one was injured or killed by the fire, school and county fire officials should do a thorough audit of the shelter-in-place policy. Good design is also a factor in fire prevention. Let us hope that going forward we heed the lessons of the fires and work to do better.  


Tuesday, November 20, 2018


Hello Everyone:

Your Truly is back in the blogosphere today and would like to thank The Candidate Forum for filling in. Blogger needed a day off after a very stressful week. At least tomorrow is the day before Thanksgiving Day and Blogger has plans for some fun. Speaking of fun, shall we pay a visit to the Marvel Universe?

The D.C. Universe has Gotham as a stand-in for Chicago, the Marvel Universe makes New York City the backdrop for Spider-Man and Daredevil. Who do Spider-Man and Daredevil have in common? The late great Stan Lee.  Stan Lee passed away last Monday, at the age of 95, created a vision of New York City that was chaotic, sprawling, and dark. In the opening scene of Daredevil #4 (1964), he wrote,

New York City is a large city...and, in such a vast sprawling metropolis you'll find all kinds of characters and kooks!  (city lab.com; Nov. 13, 2018; date accessed Nov. 20, 2018)

Truthfully, you could say that about any large sprawling metropolis but Stan Lee was a New Yorker, through and through, despite living out his final days in Beverly Hills.  His characters embodied their creator's sardonic nature.  Case in point, let us get back to that opening scene in Daredevil.  A man, dressed head to toe in purple--suit, hair, and skin--walks into a Manhattan bank unnoticed. The floating text balloon explains.  It was a mood.

What an odd-looking man! offers on passerby, her sense of shock still intact, as the villainous Killgrave exits the bank with a bag full of cash. Her companion figures it out: Hmmph...probably some new type of beatnik! (Ibid)

The blockbuster movies that evolved out of the comic book pages were an homage to his hometown.  When the maestro of Marvel passed away, he left behind a massive pop culture vehicle and conflicted legacy (thedailybeast.com; Nov. 12, 2018; date accessed Nov. 20, 2018). Kriston Capps declared in his CityLab article "Stan Lee's New York City," "Whatever else he was or wasn't, Lee was an essential New York storyteller, up there with Lou Reed, Funkmaster Flex, Keith Haring, and Jane Jacobs"  (citylab.com; Nov. 13, 2018). 

Pretty lofty praise for a comic book writer.  In the interest of full disclosure, Blogger is not a comic book fan but appreciates them for their art.  

Blogger Candidate Forum is breaking in with some news: Mr. Donald Trump tried to order the Justice   Department to prosecute former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and FBI Director James Comey last spring.  He finally submitted written responses to special counsel Robert Mueller and Ohio Representive Marcia Fudge has endorsed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as next Speaker of the House.

Stan Lee was a Bronx native and his characters, like their creator, were native New Yorkers.  Daredevil, the defense attorney-turned-crime fighter's territory is Hell's Kitchen.  Daredevil's debut followed the debut of Spider-Man who called the friendly leafy Forest Hills, Queens home. While the Fantastic Four are frequently in the Negative Zone, a 35-story tower in Manhattan is home base.  Mr. Capps writes, "All of these and many more were Lee's modern fairy tales of New York"  (citylab.com; Nov. 13, 2018).

Mr. Lee and his collaborator artist Bill Everett made characters out of places.  He was not the first writer to make cities characters in a story--detective fiction writer extraordinaire Dashiell Hammet and Raymind Chandler are the masters. Stan Lee successfully translated this into comic book form.

For example, Daredevil's Hell's Kitchen--better known as Clinton-- was a predominantly Irish American neighborhood. Matthew Murdock (Daredevil's alter ego) was its protector, "the son of a boxer, Jack, who was killed after he refused to throw a fight" (Ibid). Hell's Kitchen has evolved, as did Daredevil from a seventies-era procedural crime storylines to the grimmer eighties-era Catholic anti-hero plotlines. With the High Line and Hudson Yards looming in the margins, Hell's Kitchen has become a gentrified urban landscape.  The Netflix Daredevil series goes to great lengths to explain why ninjas from The Hand still roam the area: "Because the trickster god Loki destroyed the city with an army space,...(Ibid)"

Mr. Capps reports, "While Lee stopped writing the books in the early 1970s, the storylines that he and other creators set in motion still swing like a pendulum... for a certain set of Marvel publications, it was New York itself driving the plot" (Ibid).  The New York of Stan Lee is colorful, chaotic, dangerous, sardonic, but full of soul.  Kriston Capps speculates, "Stan Lee's New York might be his smartest creation" (Ibid). The hot dog vendors, sidewalk musicians, and squeegee guy are all part of Marvel's eclectic supporting cast. Although Mr. Lee cannot take credit for every plot or character that traveled through the Marvel Universe, his vision of a real urban setting set it apart from from the D.C. Universe.  The Metropolis of Suoerman never ages or decays under the iron hand of a political machine (other than Lex Luthor's). Metropolis is a fantasy vision of city. 

Batman's Gotham City is a dizzying pastiche primarily based in Chicago is competitive with Marvel's New York City for noir-ish tales.  Mr. Capps writes, "The Fantastic Four's Ben Grumm (aka The Thing) reps a singer street on the Bowery (Delancey Street, lightly fictionalization as ' Yancy Street')" (Ibid). While some writers look forward to the challenge of DC's open universe--Batgirl's current author Hope Larson created a gentrifying Gotham neighborhood called Burnside (citylab.com; Mar. 19, 2018; date accessed Nov. 20, 2018)--is a reflection of New York. 

Tracing the way Marvel mirror the urban landscape would require an explanation of some of the characters' personal histories. However we have a quick summary. Harlem was the setting for the seventies-era Marvel blaxploitation feature Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, which ran for two seasons on Netflix. Marvel once carried an imprint titled Noir, which presented the New York back stories before their heroes time. For example, a Luke Cage story that took place in early thirties Harlem (marvel.com; Aug. 5, 2009; date accessed Nov. 20, 2018).  The angst-ridden Peter Parker Spider-Man has given way to Milo Morales' Afro-Latino Spider-Man, in step with the demographic reality of contemporary Queens. The infamous prison Ryker's Island (marvel.wikia.com; date accessed Nov. 20, 2018) has its own entry on Marvel's wiki page.  From Ms. Marvel's gorgeously rendered Pakistani community in Jersey City to Clint Barton's rooftop adventures in Hawkeye's Bedford-Stuyvesant, to the fully realized PlayStation version of Spider-Man's New York City, all become part of the story. 

The Marvel Universe also reflected the real world politics of New York City. The late Mayor Ed Koch, a popular three-term mayor with his famous catchphrase How'm I doin?, rode the subways--was frequent visitor (Ibid) to the Marvel Universe. Kriston Capps writes, "A lot of Marvel comic, and maybe superheroes in general, reflected Koch's politics: socially liberal and adamantly pro-cop" (citylab.com; Nov. 13, 2018).  Superheroes were not lacking in employment during the period of high crime but were reactionary. Broodier characters, like The Punisher, led the charge during the Broken Windows adminsitration of former Mayor Rudy Guiliani. However Stan Lee created more progressive characters to balance out the conservative inclination of the Marvel vigilantes: the Utopianism of the X-Man to militant liberation of Magento to the pan-Africanism of Black Panther.

As a child, Yours Truly used to the local public library and check out anthologies of vintage comic books. They were usually the Batman comics from the thirties. Today, the magnificently art directed Black Panther has captured Blogger's imagination. Whether you are a DC or Marvel person, one thing is certain is that comic books offer a version of cities as these dizzying, colorful, chaotic, dark, and dangerous places which is why we need superheroes to save us.  Stan Lee gave us a New York City that was all of the above but couched in reality.  Perhaps that is what made them so good and popular.  You could open a copy of Spider-Man and recognize the Queens of today or Peter Parker's day. They are tangible places, the supporting players were people you saw every day, like squeegee man. Excelsior. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Can We Talk About Nancy?

Hello Everyone:

Blogger Candidate Forum is stepping into the blogosphere today to give Blogger a little break, and none too soon. It seems that Mr. Donald Trump unloaded a big pile of Schiff over the weekend. During a visit to fire damaged areas in California, once again blamed the state's forest management service for not cleaning up the forest floors, then blathered on about working with envirnomental groups to make the forests safe.  Safe from whom?  Then, in a truly face palming moment, in front of Governor Jerry Brown and Governor-elect Gavin Newsom, he carried on about how the Finns have little or brush fires because they rake the  forest leaves.  This unleashed a Schiff load of memes that had Blogger and The Candidate Forum in stitches.  Mr. Trump was not done. In a tweet, the president tauted incoming House Intelligence Committee chair Representive Adam Schiff (D-CA) over his objection to interim Attorney General Matt Whitker.  The president referred to Rep. Schiff as " little Adam Schitt," unleashing more hilarity.  One more thing before we get to today's subject.  Apparently the president believes he could have taken out Osama bin Laden faster than the Navy SEALS.  Whatever.  Can we talk about Nancy?

Nancy is House Minority Leader and potential Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).  Typically when the House changes majority party, the minority leader is elected Speaker of the House.  It is a very prestigious position because the Speaker controls what bills get to the floor, controls the debate, campaigns and fundraises for same party candidates, and is second in the line of presidential succession.  Rep. Pelosi served as Speaker between 2007 and 2010; is currently on track to resume the post.  Or is she? 

Today, a highly anticipated letter was made public in which sixteen Democrats declared that they would not support Rep. Pelosi's bid to reclaim the post.  Although the letter praised her service, it argued that it was time for a change in leadership.  The group wrote,

Our majority came on the back of candidates who said that they would support new leadership because voters in hard-won districts, and across the country, want to see real change in Washington,.... We promised to change the status quo, and we intend to deliver on that promise.  (politico.com; Nov. 19, 2018)

The letter underscores just how serious the challenge Rep. Pelosi is facing in her quest to gather the necessary 218 votes she needs to win the internal election scheduled for January 3rd.  Now that the midterm election dust has more or less settled, the Democrats are on track to win 233 seats, which means she can only afford to lose no more than 15 seats.  That is not a lot of room to maneuver.  The sixteen Democrats were joined by three supporting non-signatories, bringing the number of representatives opposed to her re-election, enough to end her bid. (Ibid) The nineteen are standing resolute on the matter.  They refuse to change their minds. This begs the question, if not Nancy Pelosi, then who else is qualified to be Speaker of The House of Representatives?

Before we tackle this question, we need to take a look some reasons behind the opposition and why some are are still supporting her.  First, let us take a look at the opposition to her resumption of the Speaker's job.  The main argument put forth by the her opponents is that is is time for new leadership. One of the opposition, incoming Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) told CNN on Friday that, "she also would not sign any letter but said she would still vote against Pelosi on the floor" (cnn.com; Nov. 19, 2018). She went to say that following a meeting with Rep. Pelosi,

I've been very clear about my position and that remains the same,.... I will be voting, but I will be not voting for her (Ibid)

It is also possible that Ms. Spanberger's fellow freshmen, also Pelosi critics, could be "no" votes. 

Elaina Plott reported in today's The Atlantic online, "...Monday's letter suggests that Pelosi's naysayers could be contending with problems well beyond he most obvious one, which is that they've offered no alternative candidate for speaker" (theatlantic.com; Nov. 19, 2018).  Ms. Plott spoke with Democratic aides interpreted the letter's language as "...signees are committed to voting for 'for new leadership' rather than explicitly for Pelosi--as a sign that members wanted an 'out' to vote for Pelosi should a challenger not emerge" (Ibid). Further, many of the incoming freshmen, committed Pelosi no votes, did not sign the letter. One Democratic strategist told The Atlantic,

Think about the fact that there were 63 public 'No' votes two years ago, and now there are 16. (Ibid)

This is a reference to a vote taken in 2016 to elect Rep. Pelosi House Minority Leader.  The strategist continues,

Members are realizing that we just came off a huge base election ha hat was fueled by suburban women...And now we're going to try and get rid of the woman? (Ibid)

The letter signatories argue that it [the letter] is a critical first step towards inducting a new speaker.  The opposition has privately expressed confidence that a viable challenger will emerge.  One anonymous source told The Atlantic "that many ostensibly anti-Pelosi freshmen declined to sign he letter because they'd rather break the news on their own term" (Ibid). 

Rep. Nancy Pelosi is not sitting back and letting her surrogates do all the work.  She is a very experienced and shrewd operator, cutting deal with the Progressive Caucus, promising proportional representation on marquee committees in exchange for support.  Ohio Representative Marcia Fudge has been the only one, so far, to publicly express interest in challenging Rep. Pelosi. Rep. Fudge is one of about 10 House members who want to change the rules for internal elections to make it more difficult for Rep. Pelosi to get the votes she needs to move her candidacy to a floor vote. Aides of some of the anti-Pelosi faction have privately acknowledged while the letter is essentially pointless but maintain more supporters for the cause will emerge.  An anonymous source told The Atlantic,

The danger for Pelosi is not how many members are on this letter right now,.... It's how many are yet to come forward.  (ibid)

In the face of the seen and yet seen opposition, Rep. Pelosi remains confident she will take the speaker's gavel from outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WS). Really, the debate over whether or not Rep. Pelosi is a proxy battle over the future of the broader Democratic Party. This year's incoming representatives are more ethnically diverse and some believe that House leadership should reflect Democratic voters who supported the party or those who crossed party lines to vote Republican in previous elections. Some wonder if a less polarizing voice should lead the party. 

House Minority Leader Pelosi has been a convenient target for Republicans since her last tenure as speaker. One of Mr. Trump and the Republican party's election strategies was tying all Democratic candidates to Rep. Pelosi, a liberal lawmaker from San Francisco.  This approach worked with voters who were concerned about the growing influence of the left, but ultimate, she was a critical factor in Democrats retaking the House and some are using this argument to support her remaining in leadership. Other than leading the Democratic Party to victory in the House, why else would the House want to make her speaker again?

Rep. Pelosi has already won the endorsements of progressive groups such as MoveOn.org and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.  Importantly, she won the endorsement of rising star Rep.-elect Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez who enthusiastically called her the most progressive candidate and all of the rebellion for speakership are challenges to he right (wsj.com; Nov. 19, 2018). 

The anti-Pelosi make a valid argument about wanting a change in leadership that reflects the more ethnically diverse chamber but lack any viable challenger.  The pro-Pelosi faction argue her experience and her ability to get the job done.  For her part, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sees herself as a transitional figure. She expects the Democrats to hold the House of Representatives for sometime but does not see herself as Speaker for a long time. She believes another Democrat will take her place, possibly Rep. Adam Schiff?  The Candidate Forum is looking forward to the next State of The Union address when Mr. Donald Trump will have to say Madame Speaker. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


Hello Everyone:

It is a rather overcast and cool day in Blogger, giving Yours Truly thoughts of much needed rain. Rain would bring also bring much needed relief to the firefighters in California.  The bad news is rain would bring the mudslides. Right now, the Woolsey Fire burned 83 percent of the Santa Monica Mountains and there was a flare up near Lake Sherwood.  The Camp Fire, in Northern California, is about 25 percent and the Woolsey Fire is about 20 percent contained with at least 200 people unaccounted for. Eventually the fires will be snuffed and property owners' thoughts will turn to rebuilding what was lost. As daunting as rebuilding a home or business is, having a plan is crucial and will make the process less overwhelming as it seems. While the idea of just walking away from the ashes may seem tempting, Blogger is here to be of help by providing some helpful tips for property owners who wish to rebuild.

To begin, Blogger sincerely hopes you and your loved ones are safe and sound.  Homes are more than just the place you eat, sleep, and bathe. It is the place where precious memories live within the walls. Those memories evoke emotional attachments to that space.  Thus it is understandable that a homeowner would want to immediately rebuild after a fire.  Rebuilding is the driving force to returning to a sense of normalcy.  

Before you get to work, here are the steps you need take: Most Important, do not enter your home until you have permission from the fire department.  Fight the urge to rush back in because despite any superficial damage, the essential infrastructure may have been compromised and fires may re-ignite even if they seem to be extinguished. The next thing you need to do is call your insurance company. The insurance agent will advise you what steps to take immediately:

Do whatever is necessary to minimize the damage, including boarding up windows, doors and other openings, and pumping out the water

Possibly installing temporary fencing around your property to discourage vandalism and theft

Keep the utilities off until the fire department says it is okay to turn them back on

Have an itemized list of your possessions damaged in the fire with receipts 

Secure temporary housing

Hire a professional building inspector to survey the structural damage to your home (fasthomehelp.com; date accessed Nov. 13, 2018). 

The most important conversation you need to have with your insurance agent is what your policy does and does not cover.  You do not want to be one of those homeowners who own their own home but have no insurance.  What happens after you are allowed to return to your home?

Once the fire department gives you the all clear to return to your home, chances are you will only have enough time to gather the essential documents, irreplaceable items, and anything else that can be quickly retrieved. Resist the temptation to turn on the utilities until it is safe to do so.  If any of the utilities have been turned off do not try to turn them back yourself. For how ever long you are in the house, take as many pictures as you can for documentation purposes.  Collect receipts and take good notes for as many items as you can find. Even if your home looks completely safe, it may be hiding structural damage. This why you need to hire a licensed, experienced, professional building inspector to conduct a thorough investigation. Typically, a homeowner will require the services of a number of specialists such as a structural engineer, an industrial hygienist, and a plumber. 

A proper home inspection will evaluate:

The pipes and plumbing fixtures

Air quality (especially important for asthma, allergy suffers, and with pulmonary disorders)

Any intact windows and window frames

The roof

Electric infrastructure 

Steel and iron structures

Lighting fixtures and fans

Exterior cladding and concrete

Flooring material

Interior walls

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems

Door and door frames

Areas damaged by smoke, fire, and moisture

Any areas susceptible to mold (Ibid)

At all stages of the inspection it is absolutely vital to maintain an open line of communication with your insurance agent. The insurance company will send out an adjuster to do a cursory evaluation of your home.  A more rigorous inspection will be conducted by a licensed, professional, experienced inspector and may or may not be covered by your insurance policy.  One more thing, do not try to return to your home until all repairs are complete. If you decide not to return to your home, you have options. Your insurance adjuster can discuss them with you. 

When deciding whether or not to return to your home, there are several factors to take into consideration:

The extent of the damage

The scope and cost of repairs

Immediate financial needs

Current living situation 

Emotional attachment

How good is insurance coverage

Do you outright own your home (i.e. no mortgage) or do you have a mortgage (Ibid)?

If it is feasible to repair your home and want to return to your home, then it may make sense to keep your home. Your lender may be able help you secure additional financing to pay for any repairs that your insurance company will not cover. That does not mean you can finally get that dream master suite, complete with boutique-like closet and bathroom with slate tiles and steam shower.  Sorry, Blogger was indulging in a fantasy for minute. 

The Woolsey and Camp Fires continue to rage through California and will do so for some time.  The devastation is too great to begin to comprehend. Right now the most important priority on the minds of  the survivors is just get through the day, one hour at a time. A person's home is more than just a building, it is the place where a person draws strength. The building can be replaced but not the memories or emotional attachment. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Be Prepared

Hello Everyone:

We start with breaking election news: the Arizona race to replace retiring Senator Jeff Flake is over. Democrat Kysten Sinema emerged the winner and will join Senator Jon Kyl in January. The races in Georgia and Florida remain undecided. More news of the day: another overseas trip, another shameful experience. Mr. Donald Trump traveled to France, to join his European counterparts in commemorating  the hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I. This was not supposed to be any kind of serious high-level, top secret meeting of leaders.  Go to a military cemetery, make a speech, lay a wreath.  Not too angst inducing, right?  Yet the president managed embarrass himself and the United States once again.  First, claiming the helicopter Marine One could not take off in the rain (not true) and not wanting to create a motorcade-induced traffic jam, Mr. Trump skipped the cemetery visit on Saturday, only to get dragged by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  Then French President Emmanuel Macron took an indirect swipe at the president's self-proclaimed nationalism during a speech following a wreath laying ceremony. Finally, something good. Major respect to Pete Davidson and Rep.-elect Dan Crenshaw.  The former Navy SEAL went on Saturday Night Live to accept an apology from Mr. Davidson, after he made fun of Mr. Crenshaw about losing his eye after an IED explosion in 2012. Mr. Crenshaw was gracious and Mr. Davidson was big enough his failings. Onward. 

The disastrous fires currently burning in Calfornia are a good time to take a look at disaster recovery of historic properties. As of writing, the Paramount Ranch, the Peter Strauss Ranch, and the Sepulveda Adobe were destroyed in the Woolsey Fire torching Malibu.  Although these properties may never fully recovered, natural and man-made disasters are unique challenge for historic properties. Fortunately, our friends at the National Trust for Historic Preservation continue to work with communities in affected area to address the disaster relief and mitigation. 

The NTHP is taking long-term steps to address areas affected by fire and hurricanes at the local, state, and federal level--advocating for general relief funding--the good news for residents of areas affected by the Woolsey Fire is that there are resources available to you, right now, that can help you rebuild quickly and efficiently in order to mitigate property damage.

It goes without saying, the key recovery is preparedness.  Being prepared for any natural and man-made disaster can help reduce the damage done to historic properties and provide peace of mind (forum.savingplaces.org; date accessed Nov. 12, 2018). 

Here are some good tips from our friends at the National Trust for Historic Preservation to protect your home from natural disaster:

Inspect the roof for problems with:
Roofing material
Backed drains, gutters, or spouts 
Inadequately secured equipment, including solar panels (Ibid; Jan. 17, 2018)

Relocate outdoor equipment and furniture indoors (if you can) and anchor outdoor structures, like your tool shed.

Inspect all windows and doors for broken panes, loose hinges, weak hardware, and make all necessary repairs. 

If there is heavy rain in the forecast, obtain sandbags. This will be necessary in the affected burn areas in he winter time. Make sure you place them vulnerable building locations. 

Fill your emergency generator and fire pump tanks. Fill above ground tanks to capacity with chemical product or water to prevent damage.  

Back up all your data and protect your important documents

Regularly inspect your fire suppression equipment--extinguishers and valves--to be sure they are in good working condition. 

Assemble the following for your emergency kit:
Flashlights and extra batteries
Battery-operated radio and extra batteries
A portable charger for your devices
Lumber and nails
Emergency contact information
Hand tools like shovels, mops, axes, squeegees, paper towels, hammer, screwdrivers, and pliers (Ibid).

Here are some resources available to you when disaster strikes:
National Heritage Responders info@conservation-us.org
FEMA fema.gov
         Also available on iTunes and Playstore
Disaster Loan Assistance disasterloan.sba.gov
Disaster Assistance Improvement Program disasterassistance.gov

For general information in your community, please visit the FEMA website or download the app. Historic homeowners can download the National Center for Preservation Technolgy and Training's handy guide to protecting your property at ncptt.nps.gov. 

Fans and followers in the Malibu area, stay safe.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Midterm 2018 Wrap Up

politico.com; November 7, 2018

Hello Everyone:

It Wednesday, the day after the epic 2018 Midterm Elections, and time for The Blogger Candidate Election Wrap Up. We begin with breaking but not unexpected news.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions has submitted his resignation. More like he was asked by the Mr. Donald Trump to tender his resignation. He will be temporarily replaced by top deputy and Special Counsel critic Matthew Whitaker. Speaking of the Special Counsel investigation, rumor has it that Robert Mueller is getting ready to turn in his report to Deputy Attorney General (for now) Rod Rosentstein. Will the report be made public in some form is anyone's guess. What is not a mystery is what happened yesterday.

First, congratulations to all the winners.  A special shout out to newly elected California Governor Gavin Newsom and Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis. Well done.  Next, what happened?  What happened was the Democrats became the majority party in the House of Representatives and the Republicans held their majority in the Senate. That is the short story. The long story is suburban voters, women, the blue wave and a red wave.  Shall we have a look. 

Voter turnout was massive. Massive enough to wrest a possible gain of 30 seats in the House from the Republicans. Yet, it was not massive enough for the Democrats to take control of the Senate.  In fact, they lost seats; the biggest losses being Missouri incumbent Claire McCaskill and North Dakota incumbent Heidi Heitkamp.  This gives Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Mr. Trump a little breathing, especially when it comes to judicial confirmations, for at least the next two years. Another place where the Democrats fell short were the governors' races.

Good news, bad news. Democrats were able to flip seven governorships: Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.  Flipping the Wisconsin governorship was especially sweet for Democrats, defeating longtime nemesis Scott Walker.  The closely contested Florida race came down to a miniscule 1-point as Rep. Ron DeSantis eeked out a victory over Democratic challenger Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. The Georgia governors' race was another closely watched contest. In the closely watched Georgia race, Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp nor Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams failed to capture the 50-percent of the votes and have forced into a December 4th runoff.  Mr. Kemp is considered the favorite in a one-on-one race with Ms. Abrams.  The Republicans continue to occupy the governors' seats in Iowa and New Hampshire.  This has national implications because they are the first stops in the Democrats' road to retaking the White House.

Part of retaking the presidency includes firming up the fabled Blue Wall in the Midwestern states.  Two years ago the president barreled through the wall, winning key states Michigan and Wisconsin. However, things changed.  The incumbent governor and senator of Pennsylvania were easily re-elected and the Democrats took nine of the state's House seats, a gain of five from the last election.  In Michigan, Democrats picked up at least one House (another race is still too close to call as of Wednesday morning). The Democrats won two House seats and Senator Tammy Baldwin won re-election. Democrats also made gains in the crucial state of Ohio.  Senator Sherrod Brown beat the poorly funded Republican challenger Rep. Jim Renacci by a tiny 5-point margin.  Republicans held onto the governor's mansion as former Senator Mike DeWine defeated challenger Richard Cordray.  The lesson here: The Blue Wall was repaired but remains vulnerable. Despite the gains made by Democrats, there is no guarantee that they will reject the president in two years. 

The road to retaking the House ran through California, sort of. During the run up to the election, California was considered key to flipping the House.  Turns out, that was not necessary.  Democrats reached the magic number of 23 seats needed to flip the House early in the evening, thank you Antonio Delgado. Any Democrat victories in California will only add to the final tally. Shout out The Candidate Forum's Representative Ted Lieu (CA-33). 

It was all about suburbia. Suburban Republicans were voted out office in districts from the East Coast to Nevada.  These were not the easy races--Republicans in targeted  districts in Dallas, Houston, Oklahoma City, and Richmond were more of challenge. Democrats won toss up races in Viriginia: Reps. Scott Taylor from the Tidewater area and David Brat from the Richmond area were defeated. Incumbent Texas House Republicans John Culberson from the Houston and Pete Sessions from Dallas were knocked off. All was not gloomy in Florida, Republican incumbent Carlos Curbelo went down in flames as did Randy Hultgreen from Chicago. There was glimmer of hope in Republican suburbia with Troy Balderson and Brian Fitzpatrick winning their contests in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Otherwise, the battle for suburbia was brutal.  

The Democrats may have to wait until 2022 to take the majority in the Senate.  As of writing, votes in the Arizona and Florida Senate races are still being counted but if the Republican leads hold, the  majority will increase to 54 seats.  This gives the Republicans a cushion against any Democratic attacks in the next election cycle. The 2018 election map was not the Democrats' friend, although, the 2020 map is a little better, gaining ground will not be easy.  Alabama Senator Doug Jones is safe for now, having won a special election to fill newly unemployed AG Jeff Sessions' seat.  In all fairness, he did beat an extremely flawed candidate. Sen. Jones will have to decide if he wants to run for a full term in a state that the president won by 62 percent. If the Democrats lose Alabama, they will need to pick up five seats to flip the Senate in 2020--six if they do not win the White House.  Maine Senator Susan Collins, Senator Mitch McConnell, and South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham's terms expire in 2020 and Yours Truly believes that they will be in the Democrats' crosshairs.

It was ladies night.  Women, energized by the 2016 election, stood for election, some for the first time, in record numbers. While we continue to await the results, it very likely that over 100 will being serving in the House in January. Most of the women are Democrats. Democratic women also carried other races. This upended the president's half baked notion that he carried the women's vote in the previous election. Well he sort of did: colleges educated suburban women voted for him in 2016 but were more evenly split this go around.  A hearty congratulations to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Katie Porter, and Ilhan Omar on their victories. 

Finally, it may not have been Beto O'Rouke's night but other Texas Democrats did well. Lizzie Fletcher beat Mr. Culberson and Colin Allred was victorious in Dallas. There were a few Republican close calls in districts that managed to stay Republicans. How close, you may ask?  Less than ten points separated Republican victors from their Democratic opponents. Next time they may not be so lucky. 

What do we take away from all this?  Democrats are still struggling to connect with rural voters, who typically lean conservative. Republicans have the same problem with urban voters. The 2018 Midterm Elections revealed two different Americas, for better or worse.  What happens next?  With the Democrats taking control of key House of Representatives committee, expect to see them wield the power of the subpoena.  Regarding the Special Counsel: indications are that the action is starting pick up. Expect House Democrats to move to protect the Special Counsel.  Also, expect to see a sweeping  package of reform and accountability.  As far as impeachment is concerned, that will depend on where the evidence leads.  Already, the president has threatened to investigate the Democrats if they investigate him. Okay, fine, whatever.  More immediate concerns are the issues of leadership and the 2020 Presidential elections. For now, a break.  

Monday, November 5, 2018


Hello Everyone:

It is a sparkling Monday, Midterm Election eve and Yours Truly is ready to go. The Candidate Forum asked Blogger to remind you that he will in on Wednesday with an post-election wrap up.  Will we be singing the blues or seeing red? Stay tuned, it will be a wild ride to the end, and GO VOTE. Alright, on to today's subject de-gentrification

De-gentrification? What is that?  We know what gentrification is but de-gentrification? How do you de-gentrify a community?  Close the Whole Foods and artisanal microbrewery?  Maybe but Yours Truly has something else in mind.

One of greatest affects of gentrification is displacement of low-income individual as housing costs skyrocketed into the stratosphere. In the New City Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Reverend Tyler Sit is tackling displacement using scripture and Peter Moskowtiz' book How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood (theatlantic.com; Mar. 9, 2017; date accessed Nov. 5, 2018).  Mr. Moskowtiz' book was published in March of 2017 and profiles cities like New York and San Francisco, where low-income families and individuals have been replaced by primarily Caucasian middle- and upper-class people returning to urban areas.  Minneapolis is also experiencing the creeping realities of gentrification in the Powderhorn neighborhood, home to New City Church, as well as Central and Phillips, also served by the Church. 

Durning one Sunday service, Rev. Sit preached the gospel of degentrification, 

I'm glad that some of you felt the call to come alive, felt a call to de-gentrify a neighborhood with gentrification being an intrinsic death-dealing blow...(citylab.com; Nov. 29, 2017; date access Nov. 5, 2018)

The majority of adults in the pews that Sunday were millennials, no small accomplishment for a contemporary congregation.

Serena Solomon reported in her CityLab article "The Gospel of De-Gentrification," "The gospel of de-gentrification isn't just a strategy to snag the attention of a younger generation whom the wider church is struggling to captivate.  It is a core purpose of New City Church" (Ibid).  Besides growing the congregation, New City's central mission "is to slow,mistook,many even turn back the negative effects of demographic change in these urban Minneapolis communities" (Ibid). 

To accomplish this purpose, "the church is pursuing revenue-generating backyard farms,bcommunity-owned housing, and better policies for longtime residents--while spreading a gospel that is relevant to millennials moving in and the neighborhood's old guard alike" (Ibid)

Originally Rev. Sit wanted to start an eco-church that focused on climate change.  However the feedback he received convinced him that maybe an eco-church was not the best idea.

Instead, he started to really to pay attention to the stories people from the community. "The common refrain he heard was a predominantly Latino and African Americsn community that had improved their neighborhood--closed brothels, added bike lanes--leading to rising rents that rents that residents could no longer afford" (Ibid).  Rev. Sit told CityLab,

What I heard, again and again, was "I guess I'm too poor to live in a safe and green neighborhood,.... As a person of faith, that is a narrative that I have to categorically reject. (Ibid)

 New City Church focuses on the roots of displacement before they become problems. This is part of the mission of the United Methodist denomination--which New City is a member--to respond to the immediate needs of people like food, clothing, and shelter.  Rev. Daniel C. Johnson, who supervises the 60 or so United Methodists congregations in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area, told CityLab,

The hope is witnesses like New City Church can be a stabilization for our communities and a more multicultural environment so we don't just go back to the homogeneity of people who can afford to live there,.... (Ibid)

New City Church and the Reverand Tyler Sit are typical of Methodist churches: preach to the masses, also, it follow a more progressive path by embracing the LGBTQ community and climate change. However, its focus on de-gentrification sets it apart: "Faith leaders, including Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, the  CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches [mnchurches.org; date accessed Nov. 5, 2018] couldn't name any other church with the same community outreach focus" (Ibid).  Rev. DeYoung noted that "Many churches do see this kind of social justice as central to their work,.... But they should be more clued in" (Ibid). Rev DeYoung said,

In order for the church to be relevant to a younger generation,nsocisl justice issues like gentrification will need to be on the agenda,.... Jesus was about justice. So for the sake of integrity,mother church will also need to be about justice. (Ibid)

A 2016 study conducted by the University of Minneasota Law School's Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity (law.umn.edu; date accessed Nov. 5, 2018) revealed that the panic over gentrification was overblown. The study concluded that many of the areas in the city, described as gentrifying, presented signs of decline (scholarship.law.umn.edu; Jan. 2016; date accessed Nov. 5, 2018).  However, data from a study released earlier this year partially contradicts those conclusions.  The Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (cura.umn.edu; date accessed Nov. 5, 2018) found that Phillips and Central, two of the neighborhoods served by the Church, were among several areas where housing costs and median incomes are increasing concurrent with the percentage of residents that have college degree (Ibid). 

Does the Bible preach against Soul Cycle and hipster hang outs?  Not exactly.  It does imagine a world without the side effects of urban renewal. The Good Book does preach a world where all nations dwell in peace and harmony--something we can all use right now.  To Rev. Sit, this ideal world is he blueprint for an equitable community. 

New City's ideal for Powderhorn, Phillips, and Central is a place where everyone lives together in harmony, low crime, and homes are valued. The Bible's emphasis on farming also works with New City's de-gentrification strategy. When Rev. Sit began forming his church, he and others began planting fruit trees in the yards of participating residents as a symbol of their commitment to the community. This past spring, the Church began a pilot program in micro-farming, modeled on the successful Green City Acres (greencityacres.com; date accessed Nov. 5, 2018). The program is led by church member Armel Martin, who is trained in permaculture and the design of sustainable agricultural ecosystems. The goal is to generate additional income streams to help area families and individual make ends meet.  Urban farming is on the first step. There is talk about expanding into building affordable housing and branching out the Church. 

The question of "How the church can facilitate a land trust--where it can steward affordable housing by owning both property and land--is an ongoing conversation" (citylab.com; Nov. 29, 2017). Rev.mSit is optimistic,

Every early indication is that it would be really aligned with New City's vision.... we can have a say in the housing that is being allowed into our neighborhoods. (Ibid)

One issue that may prove quite a challenge is the role that Rev. Sit and his fellow inner-city missions might play in transforming the urban environment. Perhaps he might be best served by understanding the story of Bob Lupton (sites.silaspartners.com; date accessed Nov. 5, 2018), the founder of the non-profit Focused Community Strategies (fcministries.org; date accessed Nov. 5, 2018) which provides mixed-income housing and community development in Atlanta.  

Rev. Curtiss DeYoung is also optimistic,

I am hopeful [New City Church] will come up with new answers to these challenges,but the power of the business community and developers  is very strong....Gentrificatiin is rather a new concept for churches to talk about.

Rev. Tyler Sit will continue to preach the gospel of de-gentrification.  One sermon kicked off s six part series, titled "Habits of De-gentrifier (based on Peter Moskowtiz' book), intended to outline how displacement happens.  His mission "recognizes the cultural currency of a neighborhood, debunking the notion that Minneapolis neighborhoods were desolate before middle-class whites discovered them."  (citylab.com; Nov. 29, 2017)

It is his calling, are moved by the spirit?  Let the spirit guide you to your polling place tomorrow, NOVEMBER 6 and VOTE.