Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Who Will It Be?

Hello Everyone:

It is a lovely Wednesday afternoon and time for the pre-holiday Blogger Candidate Forum. The Forum is opening his presents early this year, thank you Mr. Donald Trump and company, the gift that keeps on giving.  

Three cheers to U.S. Judge Emmet G. Sullivan setting former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn straight.  Retired General Flynn resigned from his high level position in February 2017, amid accusations that he was not forthcoming to Cabinet members about his contacts with Russian agents.  General Flynn was first of five Trump aides to plead guilty in the special counsel's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. In exchange for his guilty plea, General Flynn freely cooperated to office of the special counsel. So much cooperation that the SCO argued this month that General Flynn should should receive no jail time. However, Judge Sullivan had a different idea.  Despite the SCO's positive recommendation, Judge Sullivan could not hide his disdain for General Flynn's criminal behavior and told the courtroom that he and only he would decide what, if any, prison time General Flynn should get, postponing his sentencing hearing until March.  For an encore, Judge Sullivan struck done he Trump adminsitration's heinous asylum rules for victims of gang and domestic violence. In essence, Judge Sullivan dismissed new rules that would deny asylum to the victims, based on a credible threat hearing.  He called the laws "arbitrary, capricious and in violation of the immigration" (; Dec. 19, 2018). Oorah 

As the 2018 draws to close, speculation over who will seek the Democratic nomination for president in the next election cycle.  Will any Republican defy conventional wisdom and challenge an incumbent president? Too soon, you ask?  No it is not.  Speculation over who will be the Democratic nominee began during the midterm election cycle and the list is long. Right now there are several standout potential candidates: Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); Kamala Harris (D-CA); Representatives Joe Kennedy (D-MA) and Beto O'Rouke (D-TX); former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (; Dec. 7, 2018; date accessed Dec. 19, 2018) All are viable, exciting candidates who have much to offer and could seriously challenge Mr. Trump.  Which of these and other potential candidates has a good chance?  Shall we have a look.

Thor Hogan of The Washington Post suggested that the Democrats need a young nominee to beat Mr. Trump (; Nov. 26, 2018; date accessed Dec. 19, 2018). Right now, serious speculation is swirling around Senators Warren and Sanders; former VPOTUS Biden.  Some have suggested Hillary Clinton or John Kerry might roll the dice again.  Mr. Hogan points out that the one thing they have in common is they are all over 70 and a few are pushing 80. Of course, age is only a number to this esteemed group of people but it is a problem for the party (Ibid). 

Mr. Hogan writes, "Historically, older Democrats have faced significant challenges when seeking he highest office.  They have found it difficult to galvanize progressive voters, who are attracted to fresh policy ideas and bold thinking" (Ibid). On the surface of things, the age of a major-party has little influence on the final outcome of an election. Mr. Hogan points out, "Since the 1932 election,not he average age of presidential nominees,..., has been 57 years old" (Ibid).  If The Candidate Forum was in the business in pairing candidates, The Forum would pair an older, more centerist candidate with a younger, more progressive running mate.  If you take a look at the last two successful Democratic nominees--Bill Clinton and Barack Obama--both were in their late forties when they were first elected to the presidency.  The late President John F. Kennedy was 43 years old when he was elected. What they all have in common is that were able bring together different generations with a progressive platform--social insurance program expansion, restoring economy fairness, health care and energy independence.  Only Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman were older when they first elected to the presidency.

Therefore, the Democrats might want to look to a younger candidate at, or near, the top of the ticket. Recently, talk of a nomination run has swirled around Rep. O'Rourke. Rep. O'Rourke came perilously close to unseating Republican incumbent Senator Ted Cruz and judging by the chatter Twitter, a lot of Senator Cruz's constituents would not have been sad to see go. Rep. O'Rourke is a charismatic candidate with a lot of fresh ideas that resonated with Texas voters but can he translate the excitement his campaign generated to the national stage?  However, do not count out the older candidates.

The Des Moines Register, CNN, and MediaCom surveyed Iowa's likely Democratic caucus goers to find out who are they most likely to select. Why Iowa?  Iowa is the first state to hold a caucus in the next election cycle and the results of the Des Moines Register/CNN/MediaCom poll potentially sets the stage for the contest that will envelop the state over the next 14 months. The results were clear, VPOTUS Biden and Senator Sanders led the field as likely voters indicated that they preferred a more experienced candidate than a less experienced one (; Dec. 14, 2018; date accessed Dec. 19, 2018). Interestingly, likely voters took an interest in Rep. O'Rourke and, for some reason, thought that former First Lady Michelle Obama should run for president instead of Hillary Clinton.  Ms. Obama has publicly said she does not want to run for any public office.

It is still early to speculate who will be the Democratic nominee for president and The Forum will return to the subject over the next year.  Another situation that The Forum will keep an eye on is whether or not there will be a viable Republican challenger to Mr. Donald Trump. Former Ohio Governor John Kasich's name has been floated as a possible challenger but it remains to be seen if he will defy conventional wisdom and challenge the incumbent president. The looming ominous cloud in the horizon is special counsel's report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Will it mean that the president could find himself fighting off impeachment or calls for his resignation while campaigning for re-election?  Or, will he be in the clear?  Regardless, the president is in a vulnerable position and may not be re-elected. It should be a very fascinating new year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Can The Republicans Win Back Urban Voters?

Hello Everyone:

Happy New Year. Yours Truly is back from a much needed vacation. Hope your 2019 is off to good start. The Candidate Forum was jumping for joy last Thursday, watching Speaker (love writing that) Nancy Pelosi take control of the House of Representatives. Even more joyous was all the beautiful black, white, yellow, and brown female faces take the oath of office. Blogger cannot wait until the State of The Union address on January 29 just to hear Mr. Donald Trump say "Madame Speaker."  Shall we move on to today's subject?

Modern conservatives have a contradictory understanding: "as generators of wealth for its patrons to hoard" (; Oct. 10, 2017; date accessed Dec. 18, 2018) and "reservoirs of non-white criminality for its  media outlet [; Dec. 11, 2018; date accessed Dec. 18, 2018] to decontextualize and demagogue [; Oct. 30, 2017; date accessed Dec, 18, 2018]."  In essence, Eric Levitz opines in his New York magazine article "Conservatives Are Right to Write Off Big Cities," "It has less fondness for America's urban centers as actual human societies; to the contemporary conservatives, New York City is s nice place to vilify (and/or invest in), but you wouldn't want to campaign there" (; Dec. 11, 2018). 

Mr, Donald Trump has spent much of his short political career giving voice to the exurban conservatives hallucinations of inner-city life (Ibid). In the president's mind, cites are crime infested (; Jan. 14, 2017; date accessed Dec. 18, 2018) disasters where "there are no jobs, no educations, opportunities, you get shot walking to store, everything is perpetually on fire [; Mar. 17, 2017; date accessed Dec. 11, 2018] and beleaguered white workers are constantly rioting [; Oct. 23, 2018; date accessed Dec. 18, 2018] against imperial liberal elite hat insists on helping MS-13 murder their daughters" (nymag; Dec. 11, 2018). Did you get all that?

In the meantime, in shaming normal (Ibid) Republican politicians and people who deliberately live in these "cesspools" do not deserve membership in the Grand Old Party.  To wit, the Republican Wisconsin State Assembly speaker stood up to make the case that "his legislative majority [which was elected by a minority of voters] had more politics, legitimacy than the incoming Democrats governor [who was elected by a plurality of them] because [; Dec, 9, 2018]

If you took Madison and Milwaukee out of the state election formula, we would have a clear majority... we would have s clear majority... We would have all five constitutional officers and we would probably have more seats in the Legislature. 

Eric Levitz observes, "It might seem unwise for a national political movement to make open contempt for all of the fastest-growing parts of the country a pillar of its messaging" (; Dec. 11, 2018).   As unwise as it sounds, you need to look at the governing institutions--"which grossly inflate the electors, clout of low-density areas" (; Sept. 25, 2017; date accessed Dec. 18, 2018)--make the political gambit tenable in the medium future... In short, there really is not a simple way for modern day conservatives to reconcile its ideological commitments with seriously improving its voter turnout in the urban centers. 

Or so Mr. Levitz and, by extension most GOP operatives, would believe. The National Review's Kevin Williamson has a different opinion.  In his column "We'll Always Have Fort Worth" (; Dec. 9, 2018; date accessed Dec. 18, 2018).  Mr. Williamson takes members of the Republican Party to task for assuming that their poor voter turnout in cities indicates a problem with the cities rather than a problem (Ibid). He clarfies that us are the conservatives who are less worldly and more nativist than I (Ibid). Mr. Williamson suggests, somewhat naively, that the solution is if you simply dial down the xenophobia and dial up the praise of free enterprise, then Manhattan would as red as a tube of Nars' Dragon Lady lipstick.  

Kevin Williamson writes,

Republicans do very well with people who drive an F-350 to work--and God bless them. Republucans--and, more important, conservatives--do not seem to have very much to say to people who take the subway to work. Which is a real missed opportunity: If you live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and work in Manhattan, then you get an object lesson in the failures of statism and centralization If you live in Philadelphia and have school-age children, you need to read Milton Friedman: You know from bitter experience what a b,easing it is to be free to choose--and what a curse it is to have choices taken away.

American conservatives have always been at their best when they speak to Americans' aspirations.... William F. Buckley Jr.--never worried about being denounced as an "elitist."  Ambition for advancement, and the wealth and status that comes with it, was until five minutes ago part and parcel of conversativism. That was the best message Americsn conservatives ever had: "Being rich and happy is awesome!  Here's how you can do it, too. 

And there are still millions of American who want to advance and enjoy the best things that American life has to offer,... many...of which are to be found in the greatest abundance in American cities and in he cosmopolitan culture that American conservatives once took for granted as something of their own. What do we have to offer them?  When was the last time we asked them what it is they like about Brooklyn and Austin?  When is the last time we considered their personal and cultural aspirations with anything other than resentment, contempt, and outrage? (; Dec. 9, 2018)

However given the current political climate, where Republican office holders are championing division, these sentiments are wishful thinking, at best. 

Kevin Williamson's National Review article offers little in the way of how "urban conservatism" might look like against the current socio-political backdrop but suffice it to say that it is rooted in the mythology of American upward mobility. This is kind of mythology that espouses that anyone can work their way up the socioeconomic ladder through hard work.  Nothing wrong with that but it embraces capitalism as its mechanism for success. Capitalism depends on market forces and Mr. Williamson seems dismiss the role it plays in the dysfunction and negligence--and the incomprehensible malice--of poor white America (Ibid). The motorcycle factory in North Dakota closes, no worries, there is more to life than assembling motorcycles and days gone by. 

Like the late President Ronald Reagan, Mr. Williamson shows no love for the poor but no animosity for immigrants--who arrive on these shores with dreams of a better life that can be had through American capitalism.  However unlike President Reagan, Mr. Williamson has little use for right-wing populism.  This is not to say that he does not have a viable strategy for building a conservative base in the cities. 

Eric Levitz writes, "Williamson is correct that many New Yorkers are dissatisfied with the quality of public transportation in their city. But to say, Brooklynites are sick of subway delays, ergo they're natural supporters of the Republican agenda is a bit like saying Comcast subscribers are sick of service outages, therefore, they'd love it if you smashed there television screens and then force-fed shards of glass (; Dec. 11, 2018).  The problem is not that the New York City subway system is state controlled and centrally operated, the problem is Republican opposition to federally funding for public transportation (; July 19, 2016; date accessed Jan. 7, 2019).  Granted, construction costs--the result of powerful labor organizations--is another factor (Ibid; Nov. 13, 2018). Be that as it may, "insisting on the necessity of increasing g investment in the public goods--while promising to deliver higher returns on those investments, by taking on organized labor--is the vocation of moderate Democrats, not conversatives,..." (Ibid; Dec. 11, 2018)

The fundamental problem with Kevin Williamson's approach to conservatism is that there is no traction for it anywhere in he United States and the rest of the developed world.  In democracies, with less entrenched and anti-majoritarian constitutions, the conservative parties do not stubbornly cling to eliminating social welfare spending or upward distribution of income because their constituents do not believe that poor people should die from preventable diseases so wealthier voters can deduct the cost of that second house.

While British Prime Minister Theresa May's Tory government recently asked for an additional £2 billion in new funding for public housing (; Sept. 19, 2018) and Canadian conservative leader Stephen Harper increased funding for single-payer healthcare (the; Apr. 30, 2018; date accessed Jan. 7, 2019), American conservatives continue to slash funding for the very services and infrastructure that is necessary to drive American capitalism (; Feb. 13, 2018; date accessed Jan. 7, 2019). Oddly, this is still a winning agenda in states with abysmally low voter turnouts, giving the Republican Party a virtual monopoly on the cultural conservatism (; May 21, 2018; date accessed Jan. 7, 2019). 

The point to all of this is that Republicans have failed to respond to the dynamics of urban culture.  This is a culture that embraces pluralism as a means of comfortable living. Although racial and ethnic tensions continue to simmer below the surface--occasionally bursting through the surface--cultural pluralism still is the way to go.  Municipal governments are guilty of de facto segregation (; May 10, 2018; date accessed Jan. 7, 2019) and discriminatory law enforcement  (; Oct. 12, 2018; date accessed Jan. 7, 2019). In short, no city is perfect, in fact, far from it.  Rather than just write off cities as crime and disease ridden places, what the Republicans need to do, according to Kevin Williamson, is ask what they can do to win back the urban voter.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Impeachment Or Indictment

Hello Everyone: 

It is Wednesday, which means it is time for Blogger Candidate Forum. Big news from Trumpland, the president's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was sentence to three years for various crimes, including arranging hush payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal for alleged affairs.  Attorneys for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn asked the judge in his case for no jail time, because Mr. Flynn was supposedly tricked by Special Counsel investigator into perjury. We all await the sentencing memo for Paul Manafort.  Mr. Manafort admitted he lied to the special counsel, even though he had a cooperation agreement.  Should be good. Finally, Washington D.C. is still chattering over House Minority Leader (for now) Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) epic takedown of Mr. Trump's, um shortcomings.  Definitely meme worthy. This brings us to today's edition "The Impeachment Chronicles."

We are at crucial moment in the ongoing investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.  The question is no longer did the Russians meddle witht 2016 elections; the question is how deep did go?  The answer is deep enough.  The Washington Post reported on December 9, 2018 that throughout the president's 18-month campaign, Russian citizens made contact Mr. Trump's family members and friends, as well as peripheral figures (; Dec. 9, 2018; date accessed Dec. 12, 2018). Former American ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul  told The Post,   It's extremely unusual,... Both the number of contacts and the nature of the contacts are extraordinary. (Ibid)

The filings by the special counsel also laid out moments when the Russians took their cues from then-Candidate Trump.  To wit, in July 2016 Mr. Trump said at news conference, Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find to find the 30,000 emails that are missing (Ibid), referencing the deleted emails of then-candidate Hillary Clinton. That day, the Russians made their first attempt to hack Democratic National Committee's emails and pass them to Wikileaks (Ibid; July 13, 2018). Two days after the election, an anonymous Kremlin official created a stir, declaring that Russian government was in contact with the president-elect's associates.  Deep into 2017, right up to today, the president continues to deny there was any contact.  Obviously that no longer holds true.  This, along with admissions by Mr. Cohen make a person wonder which would be worse for Mr. Trump, impeachment or indictment?

Impeachment is an inherently political process.  The United States Constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to impeach a federal official--ie the president--and makes the Senate the court for impeachment trials (; date access Dec. 12, 2018). Although the power of impeachment is limited to removal from office, the officer is disqualified from holding future office.  Any fines or possible jail time for crimes committed while in office are left to the civil and criminal courts (Ibid). 

Indictment is matter for the courts. An indictment formally charges a person with a criminal offense(s). An indictment allows government prosecution of a suspect for offenses listed in the indictment (; date accessed Dec. 12, 2018). The grand jury (like the SCO's grand jury) functions as an independent investigative body that assesses whether or not there is enough evidence to bring criminal charges against a suspect. (Ibid). Either prospect does not bode well for Mr. Donald Trump.  The question is which is worse?

Impeachment a president is not always the most politically wise or legal option.  Yes, the Democrats will control the House beginning in January and have the votes to impeach but the Senate is still controlled by the Republicans, which could make removal from office more difficult. Further, it could backfire on the Democrats, like it did for the Republicans in 1998 when they try to remove then-President Bill Clinton for lying to a federal grand jury.  Can a president even be indicted while in office?  The short answer is it depends.

There never has been any sort of "longstanding policy against indicting a president.  However consider this: In 1973, Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel issued a memo stating "that a sitting president should not be indicted" (; June 18, 2018; date accessed Dec. 12, 2018). This memo was essentially repudiated within a short period of time by the Justice Department in the filing United States v. Nixon (Ibid). In 1998, members of independent counsel Ken Starr concluded that they could indict President Clinton (; Ju,y 22, 2017; date accessed Dec. 12, 2018).  Mr. Starr opted to deliver a report to Congress in lieu of an indictment.  Rudy Guiliani, the president's current personal attorney, told reporters earlier this that the SCO has ruled out the possibility of indicting the president while he was still in office (washingtonpost; May 16, 2018; date accessed Dec. 12, 2018).  Eventually, Mr. Trump will leave office and therefore, become Citizen Trump, legally indistinguishable from Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen, and Paul Manafort.

Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), the incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee, told CBS News, 

Therr's a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office the Justice Department may indict him, that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time,... We have been discussing the issue of pardons that the president may offer or dangle in front of people.  (; Dec. 10, 2018; date accessed Dec. 12, 2018)

The bigger question is will whoever replaces him pardon Mr. Trump?

Hypothetically, Mr. Trump could be charged with violating campaign finance laws stemming from hush money paid to Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) and Karen McDougal. In August Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to not reporting the payments as illegal campaign contributions.  Last Friday's sentencing memo all but identified the president--Individual-1--as an unindicted co-conspirator. Prosecutors wrote,

With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with intent to influence the 2016 presidential,... In particular,band as Cihen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted at the direction of Individual-1... (; Dec. 11, 2018; date accessed Dec. 12, 2018) 

Mr. Trump could also face obstruction of justice-related charges after he leaves office.  There is a general consensus (; May 16, 2017; date accessed Dec. 12, 2018) that he did meet the legal threshold when he fired FBI Director James Comey last year.  Since then, his legal fortunes have deteriorated; following Mr. Manafort's conviction in August, the president dangled the possibility of a pardon if Mr. Manafort did not cooperate with the SCO, which may be akin to bribery (Ibid; Aug. 23, 2018).  If that was not bad enough, his tweets about Mr. Manafort and Roger Stone raised the specter of witness tampering charges (; Dec. 3, 2018; date accessed Dec. 12, 2018). However, the big unknown is the president's personal role in the overarching question of the Russia investigation: did his campaign collude with Moscow to corruptly influence the 2016 elections?

As things stand right now, the Trump-Russia collusion is so thoroughly supported by available evidence to be disputed. There are enough documented connections between both parties to ignore, too many opportunities to cooperate to discount, and too many attempts to impede the investigators to afford the benefit of the doubt. The question here is was this a hard or soft collusion.  

Soft collusion implied cooperation between the Kremlin and Trump campaign without any explicit quid pro quo. The Russians made their quid clear: "her emails," stolen emails from the DNC, and the prospect of a lucrative real estate deal. The Russians made also their quo quite clear.  Then-candidate Trump did not help his case when he called NATO obsolete and called for better relations with Russia on the campaign trail.  Certainly his kowtowing to President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki made it abundantly clear who he favors. 

Strange Russian contacts is not unique to the Trump campaign. One reason Paul Manafort's plea arrangement fell apart was he kept lying about his contact with political consultant Konstantin Kilimnik. Michael Flynn communication with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, after his was fired by President Barack Obama.  Then there is the man in the middle Jared Kushner and his request to open a back channel to Moscow. With all this under-the-radar communication, it would be a little hard to believe that there was not some sort of explicit quid pro quo agreement i.e. hard collusion.  The special counsel's filings have made it clear that Russian connections to members of the Trump campaign went very deep, reaching the president's three eldest children.  Of course, it is entirely possible that Mr. Trump was unaware of all the shenanigans. Kind of hard to believe it. 

The prospect of either impeachment or indictment offer Mr. Trump and his team no real good options.  Run for re-election and face the specter of impeachment.  If he continues his re-election campaign, he does so a candidate extremely vulnerable to challenge from his own party.  End his campaign or lose re-election and face indictment.  Mr. Trump's closet confidants have to ask the hardest question of all: Just how much is the presidency worth to him?

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Proposal

Hello Everyone:

It is a sunny Tuesday afternoon in the blogosphere and Yours Truly is here with you. A big shout out to Speaker of The House-in waiting Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who took it to Mr. Donald Trump. During a very contentious meeting at the White House, part of which was recorded by the press for posterity, the president tried to throw shade on Rep. Pelosi by saying she didn't quite have all the votes she needed to regain the Speaker's gavel, insinuating she was in a weak position. Rep. Pelosi ever so sweetly replied Mr. President, please don't characterize the strength I bring to this meeting as a leader of the House Democrats.  Mic drop.

Moving on 

Yesterday, Yours Truly got involved in a conversation thread about inequality. One of the points Blogger brought up some points about gentrification.  Another point Blogger brought up is the concept of community-based interventions to stave off displacement. Perhaps no place has experienced the full force of gentrification than Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn has become ground zero for every sort of gentrification signifier: yoga/Pilates studio, coffee place, art galleries, exclusive boutiques, artisanal food establishments, and so forth. Lost in the in the flood are the people and places that Brooklyn so attractive to begin with. One community, East New York, Brooklyn, has found a remedy to encroaching gentrification.

East New York, Brooklyn is one of the poorest pockets of New York City.  In June 2014, Civic Report published a study by the Manhattan Institute, Poverty And Progress in New York I: Conditions in New York City's Poorest Neighborhoods, that surveyed low-income neighborhoods in New York City's five boroughs, including East New York, between 1980 and 2012.  In 1980 East New York's population was 154,931 and 182,896 people in 2012.  The median income in 1980 was $7,086 and $31,986 in 2012 (; Dec. 11, 2018). Compare this to Park Slope, Red Hook, Brooklyn's change in median income: In 1980 it was $12,237 and $87,896 between 2010-12; a 149.9 percent change (Ibid). 

For decades, Reverand A.R. Bernard (; May 21, 2009; date accessed Dec. 11, 2018), the pastor of the mega-church Christian Cultural Center, had a vision for the underutilized plot of land near Jamaica Bay. His dream was to build an urban village composed of affordable housing, local shops, and a new performing arts center (Ibid; Dec. 10, 2018). The dream may be finally coming true. 

The Rev. Bernard has joined forces with Gotham, a real estate developer, to transform the plot in the village with "...nine residential buildings with 2,100 units for very low to middle-income residents, as well as a school, a grocery store and on-site services for seniors" (Ibid). 

Rev. Bernard told The New York Times,

The mind-set in inner-city conditions is doing everything you can to get and not come back,.... Here you're talking about 'Wow.  I want to stay.  I want to experience this community. There's a future. There's hope' (Ibid)

The development would be the most ambitious undertaking in the Brooklyn area, that has seen a spike in construction. Luis Ferré-Saduri wrote in his article "To Fight Gentrification, a Brooklyn Pastor Plan to Build 2,100 Apartment," "In 2016, a section of East New York was the first area to be rezoned [; date accessed Dec. 11, 2018] under Mayor Bill de Blasio's strategy to promote affordable housing and spark economic development in blighted neighborhoods" (Ibid).

Mayor de Blasio's rezoning plan faced fierce opposition from residents, who feared East New York would end up like nearby gentrified Williamsburg.  The new apartment buildings would attract more affluent newcomers, displace longtime residents, and change the character of the neighborhood. 

East New York has attracted developers: "It trails only Long Island City in the number of permits [; Sept. 14, 2018; date accessed Dec. 11, 2018] to build new apartments that have been approved between July 2017 and July 2018" (; Dec. 10, 2018; date accessed Dec. 11, 2018). 

The majority of the developments scheduled for construction (; Apr. 6, 2018; date accessed Dec. 11, 2018) align with the city's policy (; June 2017; date accessed Dec. 11, 2018) to finance building that 100 percent affordable. Mr. Ferré-Saduri writes, "But many residents feat it is only a matter of time before rents go up, enticing developers to construct luxury buildings with market-rate units" (; Dec. 10, 2018; date accessed Dec. 11, 2018). 

The site next to Rev. A.R. Bernard's mega-church is two miles south of a section that was rezoned two years ago.  The 96,000-square-foot Christian Cultural Center was built on land purchased in the nineties from the former owners of the property next, Starret City (Ibid; Oct. 31, 2017), "the nation's largest federally subsidized apartment complex" (Ibid; Dec. 10, 2018). Rev. Bernard has long been a vocal supporter (Ibid; Apr. 6, 2007) of "preserving the affordability of the 5,582 apartments at the complex and was even immersed in a group that tried to buy it" (Ibid; Dec. 10, 2018)

Rev. Bernard said, "...his new development would act as a bulwark against gentrification.  Construction workers would be hired locally, much of the retail space would be reserved for local entrepreneurs and there were no tenants to displace..." (Ibid). Specifically,

The gentrification of Brooklyn is not the future,... It's happening now, and I think that this is a very creative response to that reality. (Ibid)

Plans for the development call for curbless streets that lead to the center of the complex where the church, the school, a 299-seat theater, and community center ring a green quad akin to university complexes. The ground floor shops of the residential buildings, primarily face the public streets around the perimeter. 

Vishaan Chakrabarti, the founder of the design firm PAU, told The New York Times,

We need to rebuild an infrastructure of opportunity in this country,... All of the things that creates social mobility, whether it's affordable housing, cultural institutions, health care, education--this project is about all of that. That was very fundamental for us. (Ibid)

Construction would take place over a ten-year period and not begin until mid-2020. Before any building can take place place, the project must still pass the New York City's public review process, which includes comments from the local board and City Council's approval.  The entire process can take between six to eight months (Ibid; Mar. 15, 2018).

New York City Councilmember Inez Barron, whose district includes the church, called the plan "ambitious and had great potential" (Ibid; Dec. 10, 2018). Ms. Barron was intially concerned about the proposed building heights, which were eventually modified: "Most will be 13 to 15 stories high, lower than the looming towers of Starret City" (Ibid). 

Councilmember Barron's biggest concern is that the units may not be genuinely affordable to those who need them. Luis Ferré-Saduri reports, "The project would be a mix of income-based apartments for the residents making 30 to 130 percent of the area's median income, or $28,170 to $122,070 [; date accessed Dec. 11, 2018] for a three-person family in the New York City region" (Ibid). 

Councilmember Barron also noted "that the median household income in East New York, which has one of the largest [; June 2016; date accessed Dec. 11, 2018] proportions of homeless families, is significantly low: $34,512. [; July 10, 2015; date accessed Dec. 11, 2018]. And more than a third of families [Ibid] there might not qualify for an apartment because they fall below the 30 percent threshold and are considered 'extremely low-income'" (; Dec. 10, 2018). She said,

I think that housing in East New York should be affordable to the people that live in East New York,... We don't have a siginificant amount of people that live at the 130 percent of area median income. (Ibid)

Although most of the residents support the project, in deference to Rev. Bernard's position, some remain skeptical. One of the skeptics is Daniel Sedney, who told The Times, How many more buildings do you need in this neighborhood? (Ibid). Mr. Sedney continued, 

Affordable housing has turned out to be a lot of garbage. A lot of it is for middle income people.  (Ibid)

Rev. Bernard cited the deterioration of New York City public housing as an example of he benefits of mixed-income buildings--where the higher rent units subsidize the lower rent units--were one of the ways of creating a model for housing.  He said,

We cannot warehouse one income level,... The only way that we can change the community and respond to gentrification of Brooklyn is to have a mixture of income in our communities. We have to create an environment where a manufacturing worker can live down the hall from a doctor and lawyer,mor some other individual who is a professional.  (Ibid)

Gotham Organization executive Vice President Bryan Kelly said, "it was too early to determine how many units would be set aside for each income band" (Ibid).  He noted that according to a city law (Ibid; Mar. 22, 2016) passed in 2016, over 30 percent of the units would permantly stay extremely affordable for tenants in the lowest income bracket. All the units would fall under rent control.  Mr. Kelly said, If we can adapt in any way, we will,... (Ibid; Dec. 10, 2018)

Brooklyn Community Board 5 chairperson Andre T. Mitchell said, "he was grateful he developers met with him early in the process and was impressed by the aspects of the plan that addressed social ills" (Ibid). He joins Councilmember Barron in voicing his concern that affordability was a priority, to make sure that it's a win-win for everybody.  (Ibid). He said,

As a board, we understand that East New York is the new ground zero of all these new developments,... There is still a lot of apprehension in the community.  Often, we hear one thing and it's something else that's done. Developers have also played Three-card Monte with us, and often times they don't come through.  (Ibid). He added,

We have to make sure that promises made are kept.  (Ibid)


Monday, December 10, 2018

Is Climate Positivity Possible

Hello Everyone: 

It is a cloudy Monday and fresh a week in the blogosphere. The Candidate Forum is following the growing legal troubles of the president and those in his circle. Look for an update at the usual day and time. Shall we talk about design and climate change?

Is it possible to create "climate-positive" design?  What is a climate-positive program?  The C40 defines climate-positive program as:

...a recognition based effort under C40's Urban Planning & Decelopment Initiative of the world's most ambitious low-carbon projects. The Program supports the creation and implementation of large-scale urban communities that reduce greenhouse gas and serve as models for citied to grow environmentally sustainability viable ways... (; date accessed Dec. 10, 2018)

The C40 is a group of 90 major cities committed to addressing climate change (; Dec. 6, 2018; date accessed Dec. 10, 2018).  

Cities play a crucial part in the fight to stave off climate change and there is not much time. Cities have a "window of less than three deliver on the commitments they agreed to in the Paris climate agreement" ( Not a lot of time to reduce the level of carbon emissions.  The goal of reducing carbon emissions intensified in October, when the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared: ...avoiding the damages the damage required transforming the world economy at s speed and scale that had 'no documented historic precedent' (; Oct. 7, 2018; date accessed Dec. 10, 2018).  IPCC warned that "...the world is on track to heat up at least 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2030"  (; Dec. 10, 2018).  

Just staying on top of this dire situation requires unprecedented actions.  Architect and sustainability expert who consults with cities around the globes out reducing their carbon emissions Eric Corey Freed told CityLab,

To keep the Earth somewhat hospitable for humans, we have to make changes that most people would find unreasonable.... Cutting carbon in half is pretty straightforward.... What I have to do get to the last 50 percent is harder. (Ibid)

Mr. Freed has recommended to his client in municipal governments: "Ban the use of internal combustion engines within city limits, buy solar panels for every rooftop, take over your electric utility, buy every citizen an electric scooter" (Ibid). These recommendations are just in order to reach carbon neutrality. While rooftop solar panels may be feasible, Blogger is not so sure about banning cars and trucks from city limits, take over individual electric bills, and certainly not buy everyone a scooter.  Regardless, anything above and beyond that entails removing carbon from the atmosphere (; Dec. 6, 2018).

Liz Enochs asks in her CityLab article "Is 'Climate-Positive' Design Possible?," "Can cities revamp their neighborhoods so they cancel out more carbon than they emit?"  It is possible, according to a group of designers and advocates who are argue in favor of "climate-positive city design" (Ibid), which moves beyond zero emissions.

Landscape architect Pamela Conrad, whose work focuses on carbon drawdown strategies, told CityLab, We know that reducing emissions alone won't get us there (Ibid).  Ms. Conrad developed a carbon calculator to gauge a project's climate impact. She said, "it became clear how much landscape design could do to offset and reduce emissions. For example, trees, soil and other materials store (or sequester) carbon, and can offset a significant amount of what building materials emit during their life cycle" (Ibid). 

Construction materials can also play a part in reducing carbon emissions.  Alternative cement (; Dec. 10, 2018), smart glass, and other materials can lessen a project's carbon footprint; consider users' transportation habits.  Ms. Conrad lists three elements that cities need to account for: "sources of carbon used to produce the project's materials; such as trees and wetlands, where carbon is stored; and costs, like carbon emitted during project maintenance"  (; Dec. 6, 2018).  

Liz Enochs speculates that "Designing beyond net-zero Impact certainly possible" (Ibid). Case in point, The International Luving Future Institute presented over 60 projects that generate more energy than they consume.  The projects, a farmhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan; an education center in Austin, Texas; and everything in between, have met the "Energy Petal" (; date accessed Dec. 10, 2018) threshold within Living Future certification limits. Ms. Enochs describes, "This indicates that each generated at least 105 percent its energy needs in its first 12 months of operations. A handful of buildings generated 200 percent of their energy or more"  (; Dec. 6, 2018).

Ryan Allard a senior fellow at Project Drawdown (; date accessed Dec. 10, 2018), a nonprofit reach and advocacy group, told panel on climate-positive design at the Global Climate Action Summit this past September,

As planners, you may come in and think of a development as an isolated project which is not fully connected with the rest of the city...  (; Dec. 6, 2018).

Really, this not true because construction--new or rehab work--does impact the environment in various ways. 

Making a community or place climate-positive is of a challenge technology-wise than in terms of policy, thinking, and bureaucracy.  The usual case. Ms. Enochs cites two examples of how climate-positive design is achievable at the community level but still faces policy and mindset obstacles. 

First, the South Market neighborhood in San Francisco.  She reports, "...the city has approved a redevelopment plan that calls for recycling stir water runoff by channeling it to an underground tank and using it for street cleaning" (Ibid). Second, Boulder, Colorado developer Andrew Bush has found a unique method of heat transfer.  Ms. Enochs again, "...he can already build residential water systems that pull e heat from wastewater lines and transfer that energy to the drinking and showering water that tenants use.  He's now looking to tap into the heat generated from city sewer lines--but getting approval for that is complicated and takes time" (Ibid).

Right now, transportation is the largest generator of emissions (; Dec. 4, 2017; date accessed Dec. 10, 2018) in the United States.  According to Lisa Fisher, San Franciso's sustainabilty leader for urban design, "...transportation systems need to be designed or refined to prioritize walking, biking, and mass transit over driving,..." (; Dec. 6, 2018).  Although building codes have become more strict (; Mar. 23, 2018; date accessed Dec. 10, 2018) and some cities have adapted their ordinances to include carbon-reducing innovations like gray-water recycling and microgrids, "there must be a major shift in that direction quickly for climate-positivity to be feasible"  (; Dec. 6, 2018).  

To date progress has moved at a snail's pace.

In 2009, the Clinton Climate Intiative launched the Climate Postive Program together with C40, and U.S. Green Building Council.  The focus is promoting one major project per city.  Ms. Enochs reports, "Eighteen cities around the world committed to achieve net-negative emissions through the program" (; Dec. 6, 2018).  Nearly a decade later, only six cities--Sydney, London, Jaipur, Melbourne, Sonderborg, Denmark; Oberlin, Ohio (; date accessed Dec. 10, 2018)--have gone through to the second of four phases, highlighting the policy and bureaucratic obstacles face by designers, planners, and communities dedicated to achieve climate-positive design. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Emails And Foreign Entanglements

Hello Everyone:

It is a rainy Wednesday and Blogger Candidate Forum is back in action. Before we get started, be need to pause and acknowledge the snub seen around the world--former Democratic nominee for president Hillary Clinton refused to turn her head and acknowledge or shake the hand of Mr. Donald Trump.  Former First Lady Michelle Obama, despite never forgiving the president for spreading all those Birther stories, showed she could rise above the animus and shook her husband's successor. What was also obvious was the awkwardness on display as the president took his place among the former president's in the front pew.  The Candidate Forum believes that once Mr. Trump finally leaves office, he will never enjoy the same camaraderie that the current ex-presidents enjoy and the reason is all him. Onward. 

What about her emails?  Madame Secretary's emails?  No, first daughter and White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump's emails.  The Candidate Forum was so hoping to finally retire that whiny "but her emails."  According to the emails released by watchdog group American Oversight, Ms. Trump used her personal account to emails members of the Cabinet, aides, and assistants (; Nov. 20, 2018; date Dec. 5, 2018). She defended her use of her personal account as "there was no equivalency to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, which became a central rallying cry for her father's campaign" (Ibid; Nov. 28, 2018). She also told ABC's Deborah Roberts that everything was preserved, there were mass deletions of Secretary Clinton's emails after a subpoena (Ibid). Well, it is a good thing everything was preserved and hope her personal accounts were not hacked. Imagine if a hacker got hold of extremely sensitive documents.  Moving on.

The end is near.  The endgame of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, that is. Yesterday,  the special counsel's team filed its sentencing recommendation memorandum and a heavily redacted addendum which suggests that former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn receive little or no prison time for lying to federal investigators (; Dec. 4, 2018; date accessed Dec. 5, 2018). Prosecutors wrote,

His early cooperation was particularly valuable because he was one of the few people with long-term and first investigation.  (; Dec. 4, 2018; date accessed Dec. 5, 2018)

Prosecutors also indicated that Mr. Flynn was most helpful in other investigations. Sentencing memos for former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and attorney Michael Cohen are due in the next few days. Mr. Flynn's cooperation with the special counsel should worry the president because the wealth of information Mr. Trump's former campaign foreign policy adviser provided lays the groundwork for a criminal case.  Mr. Mueller has sought to establish that many people, within Mr. Trump's campaign, had contact with Russians and their allies and were deceitful about their contacts (; Dec, 5, 2018). There was one line in the Flynn memo that was unmissable.

While Robert Mueller acknowledged Michael Flynn's exemplary military service, he added senior government leaders should be held to the highest standards. (Ibid)

This should worry the president and his top aides because as Mr. Mueller wrote,

His early cooperation was particularly valuable because he was one of the few people with long-tern and firsthand insight regarding events and issues under investigation....Additionally, the defendent's decision to plead guilty and cooperate likely affected decisions of related firsthand witnesses to be forthcoming with the SCO and cooperate.... (Ibid)

Paging Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi, who earned the president's praise on Twitter for not cooperating with the special counsel.  Perhaps, they are angling for a presidential pardon. The president seems to be dangling pardons in front of his associates, who cooperate with the special counsel as some sort of inducement.  Witness tampering? You may ask? Maybe?  The prospect of a pardon was certainly in Paul Manafort's mind when before he confessed to being less than forthcoming about his contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

The Guardian reported that Mr. Manafort secretly met with Mr. Assange, in the Ecuadoran embassy, where he has been hiding out from extradition to the United States, in London in 2013, 2015, and 2016 (; Nov. 27, 2018; date accessed Dec. 5, 2018). If this is indeed true, it would establish the first direct contact between a member of the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, which released emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee in the summer 2016 (; Dec 4, 2018; date accessed Dec. 5, 2018). The emails were stolen by Russian agents and passed to Wikileaks and proved to be embarrassing to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.  (Ibid). The Guardian reported " that the alleged Manafort-Assange meeting could shed new light on he events leading up to the leaks and might indicate coordination among WikiLeaks, Trump's campaign and Russian hackers" (Ibid). The president has repeatedly stated "no collusion."  Then there is Michael Cohen.

Word of advise to Paul Manafort, do not hold your breath about a pardon.   Then there is Michael Cohen. 

Last Wednesday, Michael Cohen pled guilty to lying to Congress, in 2017, about about his role in negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.  Mr. Cohen originally told Congress that the project ended in January 2016, just before the Iowa caucuses, adding that he lied out of a sense of obligation to his former employer.  This was not true, negotiations continued into June 2016, once it became clear that Mr. Trump would be the Republican nominee for president.   He told a federal court,

I made these statements to be consistent with Individual-1's [the president] political messaging and out of loyalty to Individual -1.  (; Nov. 29, 2018; date accessed Dec. 5, 2018)

Michael Cohen's guilty infers that Mr. Trump's business entanglements with Russia coincided with Russian attempts to meddle in the presidential elections and undermine Madame Secretary.  This also coincided with candidate Trump's talking point about easing economic sanctions on Russia (; June 2, 2017; date accessed Dec. 5, 2018) and more favorable relations (; Dec. 4, 2018; date accessed Dec. 5, 2018).  Mr. Cohen's guilty plea lays bare the possibility that Mr. Trump was vulnerable to blackmail by a hostile power, creating an intelligence and national security nightmare of epic scale (Ibid). Mr. Trump's repeated lies about his involvement with the proposed Trump Tower Moscow suggests a still under the radar criminal conspiracy (Ibid).  

Basically, help securing a commitment to build Trump Tower Moscow, from the Russians, is something of value and a violation of the federal bribery statute, 18 U.S.C Section 201.  This statute makes it a crime for a public official or person selected to be a public official "to directly or indirectly corruptly seek, or receive anything of value in return for being influenced in the performance (or omission) of any official act (Ibid,; date accessed Dec. 5, 2018).

As things stand, the situation looks grim for the president and adding to his woes is the incoming Democrat majority House of Representatives, where any impeachment proceedings begin.  However, impeachment is a lengthy political process and right now there is no will to begin it. The special counsel's final report may not even implicate the president at all.  If anything, it will certainly make the Trump-Pence ticket more vulnerable to challengers from within the Republican Party. This story is not over and no doubt there will be more to say in the coming year.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

More HOMES Near Transit Lines

Hello Everyone:

The cold dry weather continues chill sunny Los Angeles.  Never one to let cold weather or rain get in the way, Blogger is here to chat about a new bill that was introduced in the California state senate. Before we get to the subject at hand, The Candidate Forum wants to let you all know that it will be back tomorrow to try to make sense of the latest developments in the special counsel's investigation in Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and her emails.  Onward

Transportation and housing are two of the biggest challenges facing Governor-elect Gavin Newsom. The roads are congested, "the rent's too damn high," and public transportation still out of reach for people living in outlying areas.  However, new bill before the state senate attempts to incentivize new residential construction new transit lines.

Yesterday, State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Bill 50 (; Dec. 3, 2018; date accessed Dec. 4, 2018) known More Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, Equity and Stability Act.  The bill comes several months after a previous attempt died in committee (; Apr. 18, 2018; Dec. 4, 2018). Dubbed More HOMES, SB 50 is co-sponsored by State Senators Ben Hueso, Ann's Bacallero, Nancy Skinner, and John Moorlach as well as Assemblymemebers Autumn Burke, Buffy Wicks, Phil Ting, Ash Kalra, Evan Low, Kevin Riley, and Robert Rivas.

More HOMES was informed by the unceremonious death of  its predecessor SB 827, whose primary aim was "facilitating extensive transit-oriented development (TOD) statewide.  "The bill would preempt local zoning regulations near public transit routes, permitting the construction of mid-rise housing within a half-mile of rail and bus lines" (; Feb. 1, 2018; Dec. 4, 2018). This bill was roundly criticized as one size fits all approach to zoning (Ibid; Dec. 4, 2018), More HOMES is being touted as a "less heavy-handed, creating an 'equitable communities incentive' that supersede local, restrictions on a project-by-project basis, much in the vein of the California's existing density bonus law and Los Angeles' Transit Oriented Community program [Ibid: Sept. 22, 2017].  Steven Sharp writes in his Urbanize Los Angeles article "California State Senator Introduces New Bill to Boost Housing Construction Near Transit," "The revived effort also takes more care to address the concerns of communities fearing displacement and gentrification, the initial lack of which contributed to SB 827's early demise" (Ibid; Dec. 4, 2018).

Senator Wiener released the following statement,

We must take bold steps now to address out sever housing crisis and reduce our carbon footprint,... California's housing shortage hurts our most vulnerable communities, working families, young people, our environment, and our economy.... we have created sprawl by artificially limiting the number of homed that are built near transit and job centers. As a result of this restrictive zoning in urbanized areas, people are forced into crushing commutes, which undermines our climate goals,.... As educational and economic opportunities become increasingly concentrated in an near urban areas, we must ensure all of our residents are able to access opportunities.... (Ibid)

If More HOMES becomes law, it would permit the construction apartments near high-quality transit--ie within a half mile of rail line or a quarter-mike of a bus stop with frequent service--in employment rich areas as identified  by the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Office of Planning and Research. Mr. Sharp reports, "Developments located within a half-mile radius of a transit stop, but outside of a quarter-mile radius, would be eligible for waivers from height limits less than 45 feet FAR [floor-area ratio] limit of 2.5-to-1.  Developments located within a quarter-mile radius of a transit stop would be eligible for waivers for height requirements under 55 feet and FAR limits of 3.25-to-1" (Ibid). This translates into four- to five-story buildings.  

The projects would be accomplished by mandating the local land use agency (city or county) "to grant an equitable communities incentive to projects that meet the above criteria" (Ibid). This would include waiver of maximum density controls and car park requirements greater than .5 spaces per unit, and no more than here additional incentives or concessions from the current density law.  Municipalities would be free to modify their implementation of the proposed program, as long as it remains consistent with the spirit of More HOMES.

This differs from the ill-fated SB 827 which only provided additional tenent protection and affordable housing requirements following introduction, SB 50 starts with a similar set of provisions.

Steven Sharp reports, "Sites occupied by tenants within seven years preceding the date of application--including housing that has been demolished or vacated prior to application--would be ineligible for the incentives, as would properties in which tenants have been evicted through Ellis Act within the past 15 years" (Ibid). 

Further, "...applicant seeking equitable community incentives for a development would be required to provide affordable housing at either the low-, very low-, or extremely low-income levels set under the State density bonus law" (Ibid). 

Including job-rich communities in the new bill is a response to the critics of SB 827, who argued that "most transit-rich areas are working-class neighborhoods vulnerable to displacement" (; Mar. 2, 2017; date accessed Dec. 4, 2018). Under the proposed law, "equitable communities incentives would be available to properties in these job-rich areas--with access to high-quality amenities and schools--even without the presence of rail or high-frequency bus lines" (; Dec. 4, 2018). 

The more murky element of SB 50 is the delayed implementation in sensitive communities, "defined as those vulnerable to displacement pressure based on indicators such a d percentage of tenant households living at or under the regional poverty line" (Ibid; Dec. 4, 2018). The delayed implementation of SB 50 would allow for the community-level planning process to create zoning ordinances and additional policies that encourage apartment developments. What is unclear is what form and fashion these ordinances will take. 

In another response to critics who argue for more local control, "SB 50 would not alter any jurisdiction's current community engagement and design review process, nor would it change any labor or employment standards for new construction" (Ibid; Dec. 4, 2018). Any current housing demolition ban would remain intact, in accordance with California's Housing Accountability Act, and municipal governments would retain the right to establish height limits for new housing outside the perimeters of areas with rail transit access.

Similarly, "any local requirements for on-site affordable housing that exceed those proposed in SB 50 would be honored" (Ibid; Dec. 4, 2018).  This would also apply for any local program that encourages new housing development near transit--like the Transit Oriented Communities guidelines in Los Angeles--and would render a project ineligible for the equitable communities incentives. 

The timing of More HOMES comes as California finds itself with an "estimated shortage of 3.5 million homes" (Ibid; Dec. 4, 2018) and calls for Governor-elect Newsom to narrow the gap (; Aug. 15, 2018; date accessed Dece. 4, 2018). Supporters of the bill note that the recent wildfires have only made the problem worse (they have) and posit that the remedy is encouraging more development in the urban cores, rather than he suburban fringe.

Yours Truly has a different idea.  Rather than just build more new apartments in the urban core, why not take steps to preserve what is already there.  Unfortunately, there are private landlords who take advantage of the Ellis Act, opt-out of the rental market, and either sell their building to a developer or turn it into an AirBnB.  As for he environmental argument: SB 50 would be an opportunity " reduce the state's carbon footprint by shortening commutes and encouraging transit use"...(Ibid; Dec. 4, 2018). Recent findings by the California Air Resource Board (; Nov. 26, 2018; date accessed Dec, 4, 2018) say that "the state will fall short of its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2030 unless it's residents dramatically reduce vehicle travel" (; Dec. 4, 2018).

The new session opens in January and this bill has a fighting chance.  

Monday, December 3, 2018

Racing Time

Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a fresh week on the blog. Yours truly managed to get excused from mum patrol in order to chill and write. Before we get started, Yours Truly and Blogger Candidate Forum would like to express their condolences to the Bush family on the passing of President George H.W. Bush. President Bush served only one term (1989-93) but left a legacy of a half century service both as naval aviator during World War II, ambassador, CIA director, member of congress, Vice President, and President of The United States.  President Bush served during a transitional time in world history.  He and late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher oversaw the end of Cold War.  During his tenure in the Oval Office, he enjoyed high approval ratings but failed to earn re-election. He gracefully lost to Bill Clinton.  This grace was cemented in the most elegant and eloquent letters ever written.  This letter contained words of encouragement the new president with whom he enjoyed an enduring friendship.  President Bush's legacy will be debated in the coming days but he will always be remembered for his modesty, forthrightness, grace, and perserverance. Mission complete.

On to today's subject.  Ramallah is the epicenter of Palestinian life and currently experiencing a surprise building boom. The building boom is the result of a spike in demographics, as residents of other cities move into the area, looking for better opportunity. This may sound like a fantastic source for community and economic development  for everyone but not for those concerned with historic structures who fear the loss of these precious places. 

The construction boom began during the tenure of former prime minister Salam Fayyad (2007-13), who oversaw a massive state-sponsored push, fueled by international donor monies.  Dalia Hatuqa reports in her CityLab article, "Developers in This Palestine City Are Destroying Historic Homes," (; Nov. 23, 2018; date accessed Dec. 3, 2018) "Though the Fayyad era has ended, the growth of Ramallah's real estate sector has continued.  The city's location, just north of Jerusalem, has played a large part in its soaring value, as has the wave of immigration from other cities across the West Bank."

Twenty-five years ago, there were 832 designation-worthy buildings in Ramallah, according to a local architect. Since 2016, at least four historic stone homes--a character defining feature of Palestinian cities--have met the wrecking ball, replaced apartment buildings, malls, and other retail establishments.   Investors, developers, and civic officials argue "that Ramallah has witnessed a population boom and that development is inevitable in a growing city."

Recently, an investor raced to demolish Dar al-Husseini (House of Husseini), located in the Old City, the much coveted building was sold by its owners.  Dar al-Husseini was built in 1941 during the period of British occupation, with some later additions. Ms. Hatuqa writes, "The original house, which was partially inspired by Bauhaus architecture in Germany was constructed using a now-rare pink and red stone, the hallmark of Palestinian architecture,... The house had also retained some of its original ceramic red roof tiles, a staple of Mediterranean architecture,..."  Before Dar al-Husseini's demolition, Dar Harb (Harb house), located near the Clock Tower (Arafat Square) in Ramallah's city center was razed to make way for the new Centro Mall.  In each case, the demolition was carried out in broad daylight, over the protests of local activists. 

Sahar Qawasani a member of local preservation group, co-founder and director of Sakiya, a non-profit tha offers a residency program integrating farming and agrarian heritage with arts and sciences, tolad CityLab,

It's traumatic. It's a loss for our shared memory, and a loss of our own rights in our city....I think it's important for citizens of any city to enjoy certain to feel like they are part of her place, that they have itownership over the place, and that they can make decision over its future.  It feels like we have none of that,...

Dalia Hatuqa writes, "In the past 25 years, several attempts were made to pass architectural conservation laws, according historical buildings protected status."  One of Hesse cultural property protection laws was prepared in conjunction with local cultural and government entities. The Palestinian parliament has been largely inactive since 2007, the law was never promulgated. "Instead, the local ministry of antiquities and tourism passed its own bill."

However, the law had limitations. One example, "it on,y designated structures built before 1917, as protected by law.... the bylaws stipulate that it's the responsibility of each local government--meaning municipalities--to list important heritage sites in its area and submit this list to ministry of antiquities and tourism for approval. These post-1917 buildings would need to be of significance to be saved."

Such is the way of cultural property protection laws.  Fida Touma, a local restoration architect, explained,

According to the law, any building or zone or area or landscape even can be protected, but it should fulfill certain cultural, natural and economic values...

Ms. Touma continues,

They (the municipalities) can designate these areas as heritage sites, and take that file to the ministry of tourism to be approved. So they have the tools,.... We're asking for more buildings, more areas to added to that list. They do a certain selection. But they can protect more. 

Fida Touma explained to CityLab that "There are several ways to safeguard these historical sites,..." The process requires that design elements of older buildings and sites be categories to ensure some level of protection, therefore, structures can be saved in their entirety or just their façade and the new building be put up around them. She added,

It depends the importance, value and history of the building itself,... The law is not rigid. Once you do the study for each building, you can tell what's significant about it, what are the important elements, if it's important in its entirety or if the surrounding area should be protected. So each building or each area would have a protection plan. 

This involves placing each building and site within its proper historic period of siginificance. Ramallah was ruled by several imperial powers, creating a varied selection of historic architecture. For example, the Old City buildings date back to the Ottoman period (1298-1924)--identified by densely built peasant houses; beginning in the last two decades of the Empire and moving into the British mandate, more urban buildings began to appear outside the historic center of Ramallah--individual houses with gardens. 

Sahar Qawasani picks up the story,

So this British mandate period from 1917-1948 was a very important important era in terms of cultural heritage for the city,... You started seeing iron beams, concrete used in buildings, red tile roofs, different larger doors and windows, higher ceilings, sometimes colored glass and different motifs in the ornaments and stone cuts.

In 1948, Ramallah's population nearly doubled following the creation of the state of Israel and the local residents fled or were forced to leave their homes in coastal cities like Yaffo, Ramleh, and from Jerusalem.  A building boom followed, characterized by the use of modern architecture. 

Ms. Qawasani continues,

A lot of Palestinian architects also graduated from Arab universities during that time in places like Cairo, Beirut, Amman and came back to Ramallah so you find many interesting buildings inspired by architecture from other Arab cities.

According to the municipal Facebook page, "since 2008, it has taken steps to protect more than 160 historical buildings and sites, despite legal action taken by owners and investors against it" (; date accessed Dec. 3, 2018). 

Ramallah's Mayor Musa Hadid told CityLab,

This crisis has been affecting Ramallah for some time,... In the absence of a legislative power to enact the regulations that municipalities can abide by, we are obliged to abide by the law.  Despite this, the municipality had taken steps beyond what the law stipulates.  

Mayor Hadid is referring to one case where the municipal government paid $2,000,000 to purchase Beit Jagd, a twenties-era house, from the owner who wanted to sell it to developers. "He a,so says that the municipality is working on another bylaw to better protect historical sites."

Obviously there is more work to be done through legal action, civic engagement and advocacy as well as technical and artistic expertise to ensure greater cultural property protection.  Beyond these, concerned activists also need to develop a plan what to do with the protected buildings, other than house museums.  One suggestion is research into Western preservation laws for ideas on planning and management of cultural properties.  Ms. Qawasani said,

What we want to do is protect buildings that we consider important for the recent modern history and heritage of the city,... It's an attempt to be part of the decision-making process and to look for the right channels within the municipality and the larger system where we can exercises our rights as citizens.