Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Blogger Candidate Forum: A National Emergency?

  Hello Everyone:

It is a rather grey afternoon and time for Blogger Candidate Forum.  Did you watch former Trump attorney Michael Cohen's testimony before the House of Representatives Oversight Committee?  Scintillating stuff especially the fiery exchange between Mr. Cohen and North Carolina Republican Representative Jim Jordan, doing his best Senator Lindsey Graham imitation.  Blogger believes that Mr. Cohen was being truthful about his version of his relationship with Mr. Donald Trump.  He really has nothing to lose because he will be reporting to federal prison in two months and when he gets out, he cannot practice law because he was disbarred.  One member of the chattering class tweeted that the president was so apoplectic over Mr. Cohen's testimony that he was ready to cancel his summit, in Hanoi, Viet Nam, with North Korea's leader Kim Jung Un and fly back to the United States.  All Blogger can say is wow, just plain wow.  There is more to come and, no doubt, we will talk about it.  In the meantime, we have a national emergency on our hands or so we are told.

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The president announcing a national emergency

Crisis averted.  On February 15, the president signed into a bill to fund government through September (; Feb. 15, 2019; date accessed Feb. 27, 2019) and declared a national emergency at the US-Mexico border.  In a Rose Garden speech, the president announced,

We're going to be signing today and registering national emergency, and it's a great thing to do (Ibid).

The president simultaneously signed the funding bill and declared a national emergency because the funding bill contains less money than he demanded--$1.375 billion instead of $5.7 billion-- for "existing technologies" (Ibid; Feb. 14, 2019) like current fencing along the 2,000 mile borders.  The Senate's prior bill contained $1.6 billion.  Never one to accept defeat, the president declared a national emergency as a way to divert funds from other programs to build that wall.  Can he do that?

The short answer is yes, he can declare national emergency.  The National Emergencies Act (Pub.L 94-412), enacted September 14, 1976 states,

Sec. 201 (a) With respect to Acts of Congress authorizing the 50 US (, 1621. exercise, during a period of a national  emergency, of any special or extraordinary power, the President is authorized to declare such national emergency.  Such proclamation shall immediately be transmitted to the Congress and published in the Federal Register...(; date accessed Feb. 27, 2019)

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U.S.-Mexico border
Elizabeth Goitein, the co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, recently told Vox,

He has broad leeway to declare an emergency, whether one exists or not (; Feb. 15, 2019)

You all would be quiet shocked to learn what kinds of extraordinary powers the president has and how ripe they are for abuse.  Blogger highly suggests you read Ms. Goitein's article in the January/February issue of The Atlantic (  Here is the problem, now that the president has declared an emergency at the border, is it legal?

It is no secret that this president is extremely image conscious and will go any lengths to please his base so it should not be a shock that he is willing to invoke the National Emergencies Act to get what he wants.  Apparently some people just do not understand the word "no."  Alright, but is it legal?

The short answer is no, it is not legal and here is why. 

When the president declared the border emergency, he did so with the belief that he could divert funds from the military budget to pay for it and order military personnel to build it.  As commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the president can order soldiers to build that wall and if they disobeyed, they would be committing a federal crime (; Jan. 5, 2019; date accessed Feb. 27, 2019).  Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman wrote in The New York Times that since America's founding, the framers of the Constitution have been profoundly opposed to the executive branch's use of the military to enforce domestic law (; date accessed Feb. 27, 2019).  The key provision for us is one based in an 1878 statute and added to the law in 1956 reads

Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Forces as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two year, or both... (; date accessed Feb. 27, 2019).

Another provision, based in an 1807 statute and added to the law in 1981 say,

This means that in the case of a massive emergency, like Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Congress can create an express exception to the rule and authorize military personnel to play a supporting role in major public emergencies (; Jan. 5, 2019)

The legal codes governing presidential powers during a national emergencies outline a very specific set of circumstances in which the military can be authorized to play a supporting in "major public emergencies."  For example, if there was any credible evidence that sleeper terrorist cell were crossing the border, under the cover of being undocumented immigrants, then it is possible that the military could be authorized to conduct operations.  A caravan of mostly family groups walking from Honduras to Texas does not exactly qualify as terrorists.

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The hashtag speaks for itself
Now that the president has pulled the trigger on the national emergency, Section Five of the 1976 Act gives the House of Representatives the right to immediately repudiate it, then have their resolution passed in the Senate.  This is precisely what happened yesterday.  The Senate is "explicitly required to conduct a floor vote within 15 days" (Ibid).  The House resolution may have a tougher time in the Senate where the Republicans hold the majority however, about four Republican senators have indicated that they would join their Democratic colleagues to pass the House resolution.  The president has promised to veto it.  In this case, finding enough votes to override the veto would be a harder task.

In the middle of all this are the military men and women who would be immediately obliged to decide whether or not obey an order from the commander in chief or risk punishment.  Bruce Ackerman writes, "For the president to put these men and women in such a position, simply out of petulance over congressional opposition, would be especially unconscionable" (Ibid).  Be that as it may, should this president be so determined to press ahead, he would be well advised to ask the Office of Legal Counsel to "issue an opinion explaining to service members why they would not be 'willfully' acting illegally if they heeded the president's command" (Ibid).  Not going to happen.

What is likely to happen is the president will be challenged in federal by at least sixteen states (including California) over the constitutionality of his declaration, potentially dragging on until next year.  In the meantime, construction equipment sit idly at the border.  All this chaos over the fact that grown man cannot understand the word "no" is ridiculous.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

New Strategies II

 Hello Everyone:

Yours Truly is back after a work-work-related break.  Blogger had to spend some time updating the resume.  Somewhere between a "national emergency" (more on that tomorrow) and the looming Special Counsel's final report, Yours Truly is going to finish the "New Strategies" post from last week.

Last week we talked about we need to update the preservationist's toolkit (; Feb. 8, 2019; date accessed Feb.19, 2019).  Over the past fifteen years, the digital age has made it easier for people to tour historic places from the comfort of their bed.  The good news is that it has created a new awareness for older places.  In theory, it sounds great but in a hot real estate market, rapid investment in urban places has led to rapid demolition in the name of creating density.  Contrast this with a cold real estate markets which allow historic places to go fallow.  The benefits and growing challenges over the past 50 years indicate the preservation strategies have changed but the toolkit available to preservation professional and preservation-minded has sadly lagged behind.  To wit, The Secretary of Interior's Standard of Historic Properties (; date accessed Feb. 19, 2019) was written in 1977 and, with the exception of some modest changes, the guidebook that governs the care and maintenance of historic places has not kept up with the times.  Today we are going to look at three examples of why we need to update the preservationists' toolkit.

If you are a preservation professional, you are working with a set of tools that have not been updated since Disco and Punk Rock were competing for the ears of the listening public.  In the United States, preservation work is guided by the Secretary of Interior's Standards (Ibid).  Patrice Frey, president of the National Main Street Center, "Four sets of standards guide four distinct treatments: preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, and reconstruction"  (; Feb. 8, 2019).  A lot has changed since the days of Disco.  "We've experienced rapid urbanization, the corresponding decline of rural areas, vast changes (for good and ill) in real estate financing, the beginning of catastrophic impacts from climate change, and a long-overdue awakening to the importance of honoring, telling, and preserving all facets of the American story" (Ibid).

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Lincoln's Cottage (1842)
Washington D.C.
The practice of preservation has barely evolved to the degree that buildings and places are either landmark-worthy or not.  This is a very limited way of understanding the immense variety of historic and cultural resources, some in desperate need of love.  Here are three examples of historic and cultural resources in need of love.

Our first example is Lincoln's Cottage (; date accessed Feb. 26, 2019) in northwest Washington D.C., originally built in 1842 for banker George W. Riggs.  During the Civil War (1861-65), it was President Abraham Lincoln's get away, where he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation.

Preservation of the historic fabric is the primary concern in a historic place so important to American history.  Therefore, the National Park's Service's Standards and Guidelines for Preservation (; date accessed Feb. 26, 2019) prioritize that attention be paid to applying measures necessary to sustain the the existing, form integrity and materials of the property.  Thanks to the considered guidance given by the Standards, we have an overflowing treasure trove of remarkable buildings that have been thoughtfully conserved for future generations.

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Philadelphia Savings Fund Society (1932)
William Lecaze and George Howe
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The majority of projects follow the Standards and Guidelines for Rehabilitation (Ibid), which layout the steps for revitalizing historic properties, in preparation for their reuse.  They offer developers a way to approach repairs and changes, while preserving parts of the building important to its historic, cultural, or architectural character.

Shall we take a look at the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society building ( Apr. 7, 2011; date accessed Feb. 26, 2019)?  The PSFS building was built in 1932 by architects William Lecaze and George Howe and is the first International Style skyscraper in the United States.  Patrice Frey writes, "The Rehabilitation Standards helped ensure the conservation of key features like the original exterior limestone and aluminum-framed windows, beautiful marble features in the lobby, and the openness of its magnificent banking hall, even as the building was repositioned for a significantly different use as a hotel" (; Feb. 8, 2019).

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Heart of Texas Grill
San Augustine, Texas
Although the Standards have been applied to a wide array of structures built around the United States before 1960, their usefulness has been questioned.  We are talking about buildings that may be beautifully crafted from quality materials that reflect the regional vernacular but are not typically considered landmark-worthy.  One example is the Heart of Texas Grill in San Augustine, Texas.

Like most of the town's older buildings, it dates back to the early 20th century and still retains its original character defining features: fascinating brickwork, and some of the original window patterns.  However, there are plenty of other examples two-story brick commercial buildings in small towns across the country.  In this case, "much of the building's value to the community is tied instead to its use as a popular eatery and its role as a vibrant social hub in a small town that's been challenged by disinvestment" (Ibid).

Moreover, the Grill has been altered to accommodate the ever-changing needs of the businesses that have occupied the space.  To properly rehabilitate it in a period correct way--i.e. through stringent application of the Standards for Rehabilitation--would be incredibly challenging to the town of 1,800 where building values are low, finance options are limited, and historic preservation preservation tax credits are not a source of financial help.

In these kinds of situations, the main goal of preservationists should be to "support people and communities in retain the places they feel passionately about, and doing so in a way that supports their evolving needs (and reflects their financial realities)" (Ibid).  The can and should allow for flexibility on preservation guidelines.

We now have to ask ourselves how can we re-consider preservation standard to acknowledge a wider range of places?  Ms. Frey suggests using the English system of grading building (; date accessed Feb. 26, 2019) as an inspiration.  She writes, "Under this heritage conservation system, buildings are provided with one of three grades based on differing levels of significance.  Since 1947, historic buildings fall into three categories:" (; Feb. 8, 2019)

Grade II buildings ( buildings of special interest, necessitating every possible preservation action.  According to the English system, on "...90 percent-...listed as Grade II..." (; Feb. 8, 2019)
Grade II* buidlings ( specifically important buildings, greater than special interest.  "...6 percent are listed as Grade II* (; Feb. 8, 2019).

Grade I buildings ( top grade buildings of exceptional interest.  "Just 2.5 percent of buildings are listed as Grade I,..." (; Feb. 8, 2019)

This strategy would be quite useful in the U.S. and offer a grading scale that "acknowledges that our historic resources are not monolithic: Different kinds of interventions can be expected for different kinds of places" (Ibid).  This could transform preservation and planning professional, forcing them to address the very real fact that not all buildings have the same level of significance but are nevertheless important.

Another way forward is developing new ways to pay for preservation.  Preservation is not cheap and Federal Historic Tax Credit program (; Sept. 2018; date accessed Feb. 26, 2019) has been one of the crown jewels of preservation, providing a substantial federal incentive to rehabilitate historic buildings.  In 2018, a group led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Trust Community Investment Corporation were able to save the credit program from the 2017 House budget ax, which eliminated nearly all tax credits.  This successful defense was due, in part, to overwhelming support form American communities that benefited from the HTC or recognized the future potential for the credits to revitalize their main streets. This forced Congress to modify but retain the tax incentive as a permanent part of the tax code.

The good news is over the last decade, new financing tools have emerged to pay for smaller projects.  They offer a promising path that includes "the creation of preservation-focused social impact funds and recent changes in securities law that permit crowdfunded real estate projects"(; Feb. 8, 2019).

A new federal program, Opportunity Zones (; date accessed Feb. 26, 2019) also offer new possibilities for preservationists.  The programs provides incentives to investors to invest in older neighborhoods that have historic buildings.  Enacted by the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, Opportunity Zones can also pose a challenge for historic resource conservation because there no provision for historic preservation incentives nor does it discourage demolition of historic properties.

What is the way forward?  Creativity and flexibility are the essentials of the contemporary preservationist's toolkit.  Not every historic property is a spectacularly fine example of a particular period.  Nor do they always meet one, some, or all of the criteria for preservation.  Sometimes historic properties are significant to a community for other reasons.  This is why it is absolutely necessary for a radical update of the Secretary of Interior's Standard for Historic Properties that reflects the contemporary realities of preservation.  Also, developing new methods of financing rehabilitation projects can help meet the challenges facing preservation in the face of urbanization and disinvestment.  After all, saving older historic properties on our communities is what helps make America great.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Blogger Candidate Forum: The Democratic Dozen

  Hello Everyone:

It is a kind of cloudy Wednesday afternoon and time for Blogger Candidate Forum.  Yours Truly is on Day 3 of the new device.  So far, so good, no complaints.  Big news of the day: The Justice Department announced that the much anticipated Special Counsel's report on Russian collusion in the 2016 Presidential Election will be completed next week.  What is in it is anyone's guess.  Early indications is that it may not be as earth shaking as anyone thinks it is.  The next big argument will whether or not to release all or some of the report.  That will be up to newly installed Attorney General William Barr.  Mr. Donald Trump is hoping that AG Barr will suppress the report but the president may be disappointed.  AG Barr is a man of principle and may allow some or all of the report to enter the public realm.  Regardless, Blogger will be eager to talk to you about it.  Moving on, shall we talk about the Democratic dozen.

The Democratic dozen are the the group of potential nominees, one of which will take on the president on November 3, 2020.  Never too soon to start reminding you to check your voter registration or register to vote.  Do it now.

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Senator Bernie Sander (I-VT)
Bernie is back.  Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is taking another run at the Democratic nomination.  Already his campaign has raised $6 million from more than 225,000 donors (; Feb. 20, 2019).  This beats fellow candidate California Senator Kamala Harris's record of $1.5 million in 24 hours.  Never one to miss an opportunity to tweet, the president called on his supporters to crush the amount that "Socialist Bernie" raised (Ibid).  The real question is the Gentleman from Vermont a viable candidate?

No question about it, Senator Sanders ignited revolution in the last presidential election cycle with his message of economic and social revolution.  His name still has a certain cache.  Unlike the previous outing, Senator Sanders starts out as a front runner, instead of a long shot candidate.  He also enjoys name recognition, second only to former Vice President (and possible candidate) Joe Biden.  However he does have some obstacles to overcome.

First, the Gentleman from Vermont failed to make inroads with African American voters, a vital part of the Democratic party base. In 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton beat Senator Sander by 57 points among African American voters in the average of state with exit polls (; Feb. 20, 2019).  Therefore, outreach to African American voters is a paramount priority.  Next, labels matter and Senator Sanders did poorly with self-proclaimed Democrats, he lost them by 27 points in the last election cycle (Ibid).  The math works against him because self-professed Democrats outnumbered self-identified independents by a 3:1 margin in the 2016 primaries (Ibid).  The upside is that independents will compose a greater proportion of the electorate in the next cycle.  Another problem for Senator Sanders is older voters.  The Gentleman from Vermont was hugely popular with younger voters.  Older voters, 45 years and older, make up 60 percent of the Democratic party.  In 2016, he lost their vote by an average of 33 points in the 2016 primary (Ibid).  He will need to improve that number with older voters, who tend to be more moderate (; Feb. 19, 2019; date accessed Feb. 20, 2019), thus self-identified Democrats.  Women voters are another obstacle Senator Sanders will have to overcome.  In 2016, he lost the woman vote by 22 points (; Feb. 20, 2019).  With six women in the 2020 race, Senator Sanders will have to bring a stronger game to make himself more competitive with women.  Finally, despite his claims of being the most liberal candidate in the field, for some he was not liberal enough.  To cross the finish line, he will need to score more points with very liberal voters in ways he did not in the previous cycle.  The numbers may be on his side this time and he could win pluralities with a big win among very liberal voters (Ibid).  What about the rest of the pack?

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The Democratic dozen

So far we have twelve confirmed candidates for the Democratic nomination with two likely to run: VPOTUS Biden and retired Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz; one all but certain to run: Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.  Focusing on who is in the race right now, let us find out who has the best chance of winning the nomination and challenging Mr. Trump on November 3, 2020? 

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is the favorite of the progressive wing of the Democratic party.  Her platform is focused on tougher financial regulation.  She has a loyal base that could lift above the progressive firmament but her status as a liberal Massachusetts politician may be a tough sell in the Midwest and South.  Senator Kamala Harris is the kind of Democrat that could outlast the field.  Personally speaking, Blogger would like to see her on the ticket.  The Lady from California which has the largest number of delegates and donors, all of which could work to her advantage.  Senator Harris has a record of being a liberal voter  in the Senate as well as tough prosecutor.  It is her record as San Francisco's District Attorney and California's Attorney General that may be problematic with more liberal voters, who have accused her of being insensitive to the rights of the accused. (; Feb. 20, 2019).

Former Obama administration Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro.  The former representative from San Antonio, Texas is well liked and has the name recognition but if Beto O'Rourke gets in the race, the Gentleman from Texas could find himself playing second fiddle to Mr. O'Rourke.  Blogger thinks he may take a run and Senator John Cronyn's seat.  Senator Kristin Gillibrand is one the six women running for the nomination.  The Lady from New York is campaigning on feminist platform, positioning herself as a #MeToo ally.  However, she alienated Democrats by immediately calling for the resignation of former Minnesota Senator Al Franken's resignation and criticism of former President Bill Clinton's handling of the Monica Lewinsky scandal (Ibid).

The Midwest brings us two intriguing candidates: Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.  Senator Brown is positioning himself as the one who can win back the working class voters, who turned away from the Democratic party.  He has not been shy about attacking the president over his "phony populism."  The problem is if former VPOTUS Biden gets in the race, the Gentleman from Ohio's message could get drowned out by the popular Gentleman from Delaware.  Senator Klobucher, like Senator Harris, is a former prosecutor with a reputation for being cool under fire.  However, recent accusations of being abusive to her staff may dampen enthusiasm for her candidacy (Ibid).

Another dynamic candidate is New Jersey Senator Cory Booker.  He is a gifted public speaker with a solid grounding in plight of the working class thanks to his time as mayor of blue-collar Newark.  However, his view pro-big money views and 2012 defense of Utah Senator Mitt Romney's venture-capitalist background could be a liability.  Another former mayor in the race is Mitch Landrieu.  He gained notoriety in 2017 for leading the charge to take down the Confederate monuments in his hometown of New Orleans.  One current mayor is in the race: South Bend, Indiana Mayor Peter Buttigieg.  He ticks off two boxes, openly gay veteran.  A millennial in the race, okay (Ibid).  Hawai'i's Tulsi Gabbard also ticks off boxes: Iraq War veteran, first Hindu member of Congress, and early supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders' 2016 campaign.  Another millennial in the race, fine (Ibid)

It is still way too soon to name a favorite but if Blogger had to pick candidates, it would be Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.  We will come back to the subject again.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

New Strategies

Hello Everyone:

Yours Truly is back after a very restful three-day Presidents' Day weekend.  Blogger got a lovely Valentines Day present from #TeamNutmeg.  That made Blogger's day.  Another thing that made Blogger's day, a brand-new, light weight laptop.  Yay.  So happy.  Now, we can have pictures again.  Before we get started today, a housekeeping note.  In April Google's social media site, Google +, is going away for good.  You can still find posts on Facebook, Twitter, as well as the blogspot main page.  Yours Truly will remind you again before the site shuts down.  One more thing, Blogger is using a new device.  Therefore, it is taking time to get adjusted to all the nuances of it, which means today's post will be split up over a couple of sessions.   Shall we start today's post?

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End of the road
Santa Monica, California
   The digital age has given humanity a certain sense of freedom to roam around the world without leaving the comfort of their living room.  Despite this room to roam, one thing remains a constant, "...quality of place remains a key factor in where people choose to live and businesses choose to open their doors.  Only 10 or 20 years ago, futurists and technologists promised us that place would become irrelevant:..." (; Feb. 8, 2019; date accessed Feb. 19, 2019).  Technology pundits predicted a world where "We would all live and work and connect with the world via the internet, free to roam anywhere we choose" (Ibid).  As dazzling as this sounds, you cannot undo millions of years of human evolution.  Humans are social creatures who crave connection with physical spaces.

Good news is this importance of quality place has greatly benefited older places around the United States, which may have suffered from divestment.  Our friends at the National Trust for Historic Preservation (; Feb. 19, 2019) have a program dedicated to older places.  The independent subsidiary Main Streets American (; Feb. 19, 2019), headed by Patrice Frey, has witnessed a surge in historic downtown revitalization, thanks to new interest "for flexible and character-rich space, as social and demographic forces that favor these types of districts" (Ibid).  Millennials prefer  urban life (Ibid: July 30, 2018) and have been drifting downtown (; Mar. 4, 2014; date accessed Feb. 19, 2109) in search of walkable communities and urban amenities, including older, historic structures.  Theoretically, millennials should be historic preservation fans, right?  Of course, NTHP research concluded "that over 90 percent of Millennials express support for preservation" (; Feb. 19, 2019)

Be that as it may, the actual practice and process of American preservation faces a massive uphill battle "because rapid investment creates conditions that lead to demolition, often as a result of the false claim that it's the only way to add needed density" (; Feb. 8, 2019).  One example, a soon-to-be-released analysis of Miami's fast-growing Little Havana (; Feb. 19, 2019) by the NTHP's Research and Policy Lab (Ibid) found "the district could easily accommodate 10,000 new residential units and accommodate 550 new businesses by building out vacant lots and utilizing vacant buildings to a height and scale compatible with existing structures" (Ibid). 
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Postcard of Cairo, Illinois
In contrast, cold real estate markets have the opposite problem: "Valuable historic resources lie fallow because demand for space is low and the economics of rehabilitation can be extraordinarilyt challenging" (; Feb. 8, 2019).  Cairo, Illinois (; June 4, 2017; date accessed Feb. 19, 2019), a historic river front city is dealing with rapid depopulation.  Oddly, it is the subject (; date accessed Feb. 19, 2019) of travelers' need for ruin porn ( Nov. 1, 2017; date accessed Feb. 19, 2019).
The benefits and nascent challenges indicate the major way preservation strategies have changed over the past 50 years.  However, the preservationist's toolkit has not chaneged along with the lanscape.  The National Main Street Center has failed to keep pace with the preservation-based revitalization in the more than 1,100 communities in two specific ways: "Firstly, our core preservation tools do not serve all kinds of preservation well--and in fact can undermine our broader efforts to save buildings and support the people and enterprises that enliven those buildings.  Secondly, our financing mechanism for building rehabilitation are inadequate to the task" (; Feb. 8, 2019).
 These challenges are not mere distractions from the more serious social, environmental, and economic issues facing American cities: "Everyone who care about quality of palce and values our collective story as Americans has a stake in this conversation" (Ibid).  As do those who want to focus on the declining economy in rural America and the egregious lack of opportunity in many urban neighborhoods.    Decisions about what is designation-worthy, how, and why resonate for generations.  Those choices form and mirror our understanting of who we are at a particular time     and profoundly affect revitilization opportunities in struggling comminity.  Therefore, it is absolutely that we update the toolkit (not an actual toolkit, more like a series of strategies).
How badly in need is the preservationist's toolkit?  If you studied preservation or are just preservation-minded, chances are that you know the what the Secretary of Interior's Standards of Historic Properties (; date accessed Feb. 19, 2019) is.  The handbook was drafted in 1977 with four sets of standards t's hat guide the care of historic propeties: preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, and reconstruction.  Only modest changes have been made in the 42 years since its publication.
These modest updates fail to reflect the rapid urbanization and the corresponding decline of rural communities, major changes (good and bad) in real estate financing, the catastrophic affects of climate change, and much overdue realization of the importance of honoring and saving every facet of the American story.

In the next installment, we will address what kinds of updates the preservationist's toolkit needs.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Blogger Candidate Forum: Think Big

Hello Everyone:

It is a gray and damp Wednesday afternoon which means time for Blogger Candidate Forum. Once again Mr. Donald Trump is keeping everyone in suspense over whether he will sign the new budget agreement, negotiated by the congressional bipartisan group, and avert another shutdown.  The big news is he is not getting the $5.7 billion he is demanding for his wall. Instead, House and Senate members agreed to a much lower amount--about $1.6 billion--as part of a comprehensive barrier package. Memo to the White House, this is real life, not a reality show. You cannot leave people hanging until the last millisecond.  Alright, shall we move on?

Last week newly installed Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey introduced "H. Res. 109-Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal (; Feb. 7, 2019; date accessed Feb. 13, 2019), which broadly outlines policies that "calls for a national, 10-year mobilization that would repair and upgrade infrastructure and switch the country to 100-percent clean energy, among other goals" (; Feb. 11, 2019; date accessed Feb. 13, 2019). Although the specifics are still being worked out but it looks very ambitious like its ancestor the New Deal, introduced in the thirties, during President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first term.

Like the New Deal, the Green New Deal is equally sweeping in its scope (; Jan. 31, 2019; date accessed Feb. 13, 2019).  The original New Deal was a comprehensive package of "massive public-works projects like Hoover Dam and jobs program such as the Civilian Conservation Corps." (Ibid). However, somewhere in all of the excitement of the Green New Deal's plans to address wasteful land use (; Jan. 15, 2019; date accessed Feb. 13, 2019), a less bold faced, smaller program: green belt towns run by the short-lived federal Resettlement Administration. 

Amanda Kolson Hurley writes, "With that program, the U.S. government grew its weight behind a progressive approach to urban planning and offered an alternative to helter-skelter suburban sprawl" (; Feb. 11, 2019). The federal government could re-start this program with the goal of repairing suburbia's dearth of sustainable, affordable housing, and lessen its dependency on cars. The millennial agenda would use the lessons of what did not work for the New Deal and place a premium on racial and social equity, working with communities instead of a top-down approach. 

Ms. Kolson Hurley recalls in her soon-to-be published book Radical Suburbs Experimental Living on the Fringes of the American City (; date accessed Feb. 13, 2019), "the RA's town building program was inspired by the 'Garden City' movement that swept across Europe at the turn of the 20th century" (; Feb. 11, 2019).  British self-educated stenographer Ebenezer Howard (Ibid; Dec. 20, 2018) imagined a network of "Garden Cities" on the outskirts of  London to alleviate the population oressure. She writes, "Each would have about 30,000 people and combine the best of urban and rural life, with shops and cultural venues for social and intellectual stimulation, but also fresh air and greenery, protected by an encircling 'green belt'" (Ibid). 

Ebenezer Howard planned the Garden City as "a sort of anti-bedroom-suburban, a place not just to live but to work, with factories sitting at a healthful distance from homes..." (Ibid).  The Garden City was be small enough so that residents could walk from one point to another in 20 minutes or less, connected to other Garden Cities and the cities themselves by rail.  The land would be publicly owned and rents would go toward public services. 

His 1902 book, Garden Cities of To-morrow, gave birth to experiments in the United States, Germany, Sweden, and elsewhere but it was slow to catch on in the United States.  Similar projects were abruptly ended by the Depression. However, New Deal presented advocated saw a golden opportunity. Under the tenure of Rexford Guy Tugwell, the left-leaning economist head of the RA, constructed three suburban demonstration towns in the Garden City manner: Greenbelt, Maryland; Greenhills, Ohio; outside of Cincinnati; and Greendale, Wisconsin, near Milwaukee. Each of these model towns were located close enough to cities, near jobs, also available to people shut out of the urban housing market. 

Greenbelt, Maryland was the closet approximation to his ideals. When President Roosevelt visited in 1936, he lauded it as an experiment that ought to be copied by every community in the United States (Ibid). Greenbelt featured apartment buildings and townhouses in the Modernist style, arranged around greens spaces to promote social interactions. They were, in short, self-contains cities.  The first Greenbelters rented their homes from the federal government.  Amanda Kolson Hurley sums it up, "Greenbelt was aspirational, suburban public housing" (Ibid). 

The experiment was so unusal, so exotic, that it drew curiosity seekers to the area between 1935 and 1937 to check out the site.  However, the Garden Cities had their detractors.  Some called the planned federal city as the epitome of social engineering (Ibid). The construction and real estate industries cried foul over the perceived competition. Ms. Kolson Hurley notes, "It's true that Greenbelt was from perfect. It did cost a lot to build, partly because of its emphasis on make-work.... There weren't many jobs for residents nearby, and commuter transportation to Washington was a stubborn problem" (Ibid). More outrageously, the Garden Cities excluded African Americans, who help build it. 

Hindsight is 20-20 the green belt program was ambitious in scope and did get a lot of things right. There was a variety of housing options for families and individuals, stressing efficient and affordable smaller homes. Lucky for us, many of those are still in existence, part of a co-op Greenbelt Homes, Inc., (; date accessed Feb. 13, 2019)m available at a reasonable prices. After World War II, Congress ended its relationship with the greenbelt towns and suburbanization took off.  The Garden Cities and greenbelt towns are still part of every urban planning and design students' curriculum. Sadly, most postwar developers ignored them, in favor of monolithic single-family homes, which we are now reckoning with. 

As nice as suburbia may seem with their single-use communities, residents have to drive everywhere, which increases the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, creating a more sedentary lifestyle. The larger homes require more energy to heat and cool than a multi-unit residence and attached homes.  In (real) fact, residential energy accounts for a sizable share (; date accessed Feb.13, 2019) of American energy consumption. Researchers found that the suburban carbon footprint cancels out (; Jan. 6, 2019; date accessed Feb. 13, 2019) whatever progress advanced by cities. Further, the concrete road and parking lot surfaces do not absorb water to cool them, creating a heat island effect, pollution, and floods (; Dec. 2, 2016; date accessed Feb. 13, 2019). Last, despite becoming more inclusive, many suburbs with good schools and amenities remain out of reach to the less-affluent through restrictive zoning ordinances or preventing new development. 

One way for the Green New Deal to recapture the spirit of Greenbelt is, rather than build from scratch, is retrofitting existing suburban places to create more sustainable, liveable, equitable communities.  Someone say historic preservation?  New more energy efficient construction sounds like a great idea but it could fuel sprawl, be resource-intensive, and legally questionable (; Feb.13, 2019).

Using existing housing stock, near jobs and transit; to the highest energy efficiency standards, would meet a more critical need and enable training for green jobs.  State and federal governments could prioritize extending or building light rail or bus service into the suburbs, creating more walkable communities so suburbanites could leave their cars at home. Imagine that, addressing obesity-related health issues and creating more environmentally friendly communities in one shot.

The federal government could sweeten the deal by tying funding to loosening local zoning ordinances that raise the court of housing and increase segregation.  Both Democratic nominee candidates Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker recently tested out similar proposals (; Sept. 27, 2018; date accessed Feb. 13, 2019).  Another way to create more dense suburbs is legalized duplexes and "granny flats" which could support additional transit, businesses and services, and become more inclusive. 

A Green New Deal could have a monetary incentive for intiatives that turn obsolete parking lots into green spaces, establish public land trusts, boost small business incubators in dead malls.  All of which could be part of what Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey call community-defined projects and strategies.  (; Feb. 13, 2019)

Over half of Americans live suburbs and even if urban centers underwent major densification, they could accommodate everyone. We need to recapture that think big energy of the thirties.  It is what helped get the United States out of the Depression and address the more catastrophic effects of climate change.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Why Would Anyone Steal A Lamp?

Hello Everyone:

Every year, billions of dollars of art and architectural artifacts are stolen, often disappearing into a black hole. Why are works of art and architectural elements stolen?  The short answer is the collectors are willing to pay top dollar for work by artists and architects with a certain cache. They sometimes work with dubious sellers, who hire someone or someones to break into museums, galleries or historic places, and take the object of desire.  At the heart of the matter, art theft is a property crime.  If the thief is caught, he or she is charged with breaking and entering; not a serious crime but a crime nonetheless. However sometimes the theft is surprising enough to warrant a some sort of reflection.  One recent case emerged that took Blogger by surprise.

The case is how thieves were able to break into a locked warehouse, steal floor lamps and cushioned chair.  Even more puzzling was why the break-in was not reported for six years?  Blogger has a personal connection.

In 2011, Yours Truly was a first year graduate student in the USC historic preservation program. One of the required courses was a materials of preservation class.  The semester project was a features assessment of a historic building chosen by the instructor.  The building that semester was the Freeman House, in the Hollywood Hills.  The Freeman House is one five houses designed and built by modern master architect Frank Lloyd Wright with furniture designed by Rudolph Schindler, in the twenties, during his California period. Built for Samuel and Harriet Freeman, It is the smallest of houses, about 1,200 square feet, composed of concrete tile.  The instructions were: pick a feature (furniture, electrical, floors, et cetera), fully describe it, condition report it, make recommendations for its care and possible display. Yours Truly chose the furniture because it looked like the best choice. After touring the house, Blogger made an appointment to visit the warehouse where the furniture, lamps, cabinets, and concrete tiles are stored, some in locked room.  Yours Truly successfully completed the assignment and moved on with life, until two weeks ago. A little more background. 

In the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the Freeman House suffered serious damage and preservationists realized it would be quite an endeavor to restore it to its former glory.  The University of Southern California (full disclosure: Blogger graduated from USC in 2012) undertook the job in 2000, after years of fundraising activities. Before the school began the monumentous task, the remaining artifacts were moved to a warehouse, near the university.  Some of the artifacts were placed out in the open of the former city power plant, turned warehouse, while others were placed in a locked space. Since then, the former possessions of the Freeman's sat in the dark, occasionally accessed by students (including Yours Truly), faculty, and staff, until sometime in 2012  (; Feb. 3, 2019; date accessed Feb. 12, 2019). 

In September 2012, thieves broke into the warehouse and took the floor lamps and chair, believed to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars (Ibid). The thieves could be anyone or anyones; regardless, the fact that it appeared to be an inside job adds to the mystery.  Only the facilities department had the key to the warehouse and there was no sign of a break in or vandalism (Ibid). The break in was discovered by a facilities staff member visiting the warehouse.  The staff member alerted assistant professor Ken Breisch, the former head of the historic preservation program to find out if he knew about it.  No, he did not (Ibid). The facilities staff member said he planned to alert police (Ibid). 

That never happened and the secret remained kept until last summer, when someone's attack of guilty conscience, motivated by a Chjcago auction listing a 16-inch tile, worth $5,000, felt the need to share the secret.  The Los Angeles Times received an anonymous email, with a link to the auction listing, writing, "even if the sale was not connected to the theft, it was troubling.  How could the tile have fallen into private hands when its ownership passed directly from the Freemans to USC,..." (Ibid). The case is now in the hands of the Los Angeles Police Department's Art Theft Detail. However, it makes one wonder what is the university's obligation to care for its historic property.

Kim Cooper, historian and author who runs local tour company Esotouric (; Feb. 12, 2019), told Curbed Los Angeles,

When an institution is gifted historical objects, archive or properties, that is a sacred trust.  People donate rather than sell their treasures because they want them to be protected and made available for scholars and futures generations... If USC has lost sight of this obligation, the university needs to find it again and fast. (; Feb. 11, 2019; date accessed Feb. 12, 2019)

USC has owned the Freeman House since 1986 and is one of textile-block four houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Repairs on the house are still incomplete, twenty-five years after the Northridge earthquake and still has no full time director after thirty years. Further, despite promises, the house is still not open to the public.  In a statement issued by the University described the Freeman House as an...important architectural asset, noting that it is providing regular maintenance and ongoing monitoring of the property while fundraising for future repairs (Ibid). The university also owns and operates the 1909 Gamble House in Pasadena,designed by Charles and Henry Greene.

Last August, longtime Gamble House director Ted Bosley resigned "citing differences of approached between himself and USC School of Architecture leaders over the futur of the Craftsman icon" (Ibid). The Gamble House has been open for tours since 1966 (; Feb 12, 2019).  The 8,000 square foot house is secured and well maintained.  The house is absolutely gorgeous with stunning valley views. Contrast this with the Freeman House which is unsecured, disheveled and you begin to wonder why this is. 

The theft has been well-known to people at USC but no photos have been shared because no one knows for sure what was taken. Additionally, two of the textile blocks were taken and purchased on eBay in May 2012 (Ibid). The listing has been taken down and the anonymous collector remembers the seller mentioning that the tiles were taken during the renovations to the Freeman House garage and the tiles were placed on the sidewalk, for anyone to take (Ibid). The collector said that the discarded items are relatively easy to buy because they are not considered valuable by museums and galleries (Ibid). The collector told Curbed,

The general attitude is when it comes to a architectural ornament, when you have stuff like this, honestly, they don't give a shit.... Architectural ornament is not appreciated or handled the way it should be--end of story. (Ibid)

There are online forums to report and track stolen art and artifacts, the provenance of design and decorative elements is still left to the sellers to provide. In this case, the LAPD and various Wright-affiliated organizations should have been immediately notified. No excuses.  Unfortunately there is no main database (Ibid). 

In 2017 the USC School of Architecture named Milton F.S. Curry as dean.  Dean Curry has reoriented the school's priorities to citizen architects--i.e. more socially and community conscious issues (Ibid). Therefore, it is right to wonder where historic preservation falls on the list of priorities.  Truthfully, historic preservation is a social and community issue but the previous deans have not made the care and operation of historic properties a high priority. 

This is the latest in a series of unfortunate events (to put very mildly) that have blemished the University of Southern California. Granted an unreported theft is nowhere near the shocking activities of the former medical school dean or the horrific sexual assaults committed by a gynecologist employed by the university health center but they point to a much larger pattern of egregious behavior.  In each of these scandals, USC administration has tried to keep the matter quiet for as long as possible.  Afraid to scare away donors and potential students.  Too bad, the damage is done. The question is what is the school going to do about it?  The case of the missing furniture should prompt Dean Curry and the School of Architecture to fully committ itself to creating a coherent and cohesive plan for its historic properties so they can be appreciated by the public and future scholars.

Monday, February 11, 2019


Hello Everyone:

Blogger is back after spending some, um uh, quality family time. No leaky radiators, noisy de-humidifiers, carpet cleaners, blackouts, and dysfunctional network connection to get in her way. Okay, maybe a temperamental toilet but Blogger rises above it all.  Alright, forward march.  

When you think of cities with stellar examples of bold faced postwar modern architecture, Manhattan is the first place that comes to mind. Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island?  Not so much. However, architectural historian Frampton Tolbert is looking to change that narrative.  He recently spoke of Nicole Javorsky of CityLab,

It's the narrative of Manhattan being the center of the highest of high-style architecture and where wealth was based, where influence was based. ( Feb. 4, 2019; date accessed Feb. 11, 2019). 

Mr. Tolbert assembled a comprehensive website, dedicated to upending the story. The website, Queens Modern (; date accessed Feb. 11, 2019) "...surveys, documents, researches, and promotes mid-century, modern architecture in Queens, New York" (; Feb. 11, 2019). His project features a database of Modernist buildings in Queens, drawing from the Queens Chamber of Commerce Building Awards, established in 1926 to recognize achievement in design and construction (; Feb. 11, 2019). 

Frampton Tolbert received funding for the intial stage of Queens Modern from the New York State Council on the Arts and funding for the second stage came from the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation. Mr. Tolbert is also looking to publishing a book and/or mount a future exhibition. 

Ms. Javorsky writes, "As Tolbert contextualizes Modernism with the history of New York City, it becomes clear why they would be such an abundance of Modernist architecture in Queens,... (; Feb. 4, 2019). This is why Mr. Tolbert, a Queens resident, decided to focus on Queens. He told CityLab, 

...Because of how New York developed, there was a significant amount of postwar construction in Queens,.... Not all of the architecture was truly modern, some of it was just built in mid-century and was more along the lines of Colonial, Georgian, and Tudor Revival styles....

... Queens had a lot of large sites--farmland, country clubs, race tracks, etc. that were able to be developed as whole new neighborhoods and communities like Rochdale Village, Elechester, and Fresh Meadows. (Ibid)

The Modern Movement in architecture (; date accessed Feb. 11, 2019) did not come into fruition and take flight until the early and mid-20th century. At that point, Manhattan was already a fully formed city; Queens was just coming into being. 

Nicole Javorsky writes, "The Long Island Railroad, Queensboro Bridge, and the New York City Subway system all connected Queens to Manhattan in the first two decades of the 20th century. According to a 1940s Queens Chamber of Commerce pamphlet, 62 percent of all buildings constructed in New York City from 1930 to 1943 were in Queens" (; Feb. 11, 2019). Further, between 1940 and 1970, "The population of Queen also rose an average of 20 percent each decade..., while Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn's populations declined or remained steady" (Ibid). 

In most cases, prize-winning buildings from this period were largely ignored. Mr. Tolbert decided to do something about it. He said,

I realized there were a lot of these buildings in Queens and I wondered,many are these buildings here? No one's talking about them.  There.s no documentation on them. (Ibid)

One of Mr. Tolbert's favorite buildings is an industrial building in Long Island City (; Feb 11, 2019).  The 1958 building was designed for Barkin, Levin & Co. by Ulrich Franzen (Ibid). Industrial buildings are common in the Queens neighborhood, and like period religious buildings, they are the types of Modernist building that are very vulnerable. One industrial building listed on, in Long Island City was demolished and replaced by a hotel (; Feb. 11, 2019).

Mid-century Queens hotels have also met the wrecking ball. Frampton Tolbert explains,

A lot of the hotels that were built around the airport have been lost over time just as tastes have change,... So a lot of those really space age--and at the time very cool, hip hotels--have long been lost. (; Feb. 11, 2019)

On the website, Mr. Tolbert described the 1962 Church of the Transfiguration as, of the most unique and striking structures honored by the Chamber of Commerce during this era.  Nestled within a compact reside tha part of Masoeth, the A-frame church incorporates traditional Lithuanian symbols into a definitively modern structure. (; Feb. 11, 2019).

Frampton Tolbert has received good feedback from not only architects and aficionados of Modernism; also from Queens residents wanting to learn about he architectural history in neighborhoods. Over the past two years, Mr. Tolbert has led tours in Forest Hills and Rego Park, showcasing modern architecture.  Nicole Javorsky reports, "People who lived in these neighborhoods showed up and said they wanted to know more about getting buildings on their home turfs" (; Feb. 11, 2019). 

Mr. Tolbert acknowledged that residents often share with him that they recognize buildings from their childhood and wonder what became of them.  He told CityLab,

Part of my work,..., is to make people aware, both documenting these buildings before they're lost and then...hopefully get people to be interested and appreciate these buildings before they're gone. (Ibid)

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Blogger Candidate Forum State Of The Union

Hello Everyone:

It is another cold and lovely day in the blogosphere. It is a Wednesday, Blogger is wide awake, which means it is time for Blogger Candidate Forum, the post-State of the Union edition.  This is Mr. Donald Trump's first SOTU to a divided Congress.  Overall the president delivered passable speech, if you measure passable as sticking to the speech and turn it into a MAGA rally.  In that case, mission accomplished.  As a speech intended to demonstrate conciliation and a call for unity, it was neither.  Instead, it came across as almost a final State of the Union.  Perhaps, this is Blogger's impression but Yours Truly could not help but wonder if Mr. Donald Trump is slowly realizing that he may not have a lot of time left in office.  However, that is a story for another day.  Mostly, it was a speech that played to his base. The question is what comes next?

What comes next is will the president adjust his approach to governance to the new reality of Congress?  If the lack of acknowledgment of the new political landscape is any indication, then the answer is no.  However, it remains to be seen if Mr. Trump will follow President Bill Clinton's example and successfully move toward congressional Republicans in the nineties; President George W. Bush's example and power ahead with his agenda; President Barack Obama and just ignore the Republican majority?  Blogger seems to think that he will not make any adjustments whatsoever.  

The president did start off sounding a bipartisan note, but...  Ahead of the speech, his advisors argued the idea that he would extend an olive branch to the newly empowered Democrats and ask the two parties to come together for the good of the country. The big bipartisan applause line, Victory is not winning for our party. Victory is winning for our country (; date accessed Feb. 6, 2019). 

Great line, wrong person speaking it.  This was followed by 

We reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution--and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good--... (Ibid)

Maybe it would have been more convincing if someone else, someone who did not spend his entire presidential campaign raising revenge, retribution, resistance to high art.  Now that same person had the audacity to ask the assembled gentle people of Congress to set all that aside for the common good.  Uh, right.  That will happen the day he stops tweeting insults.  Better yet, just stop the tweets.  Even while pleading for unity, the president continued to paint the Democrats as obstructionists who favor open borders, hypocrites, and making extreme remarks on abortion. Pot meet kettle

Next, another oft-quoted line:

If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation, it just doesn't work that way. (Ibid). 

Try to follow the logic: "if you want economic prosperity, you can't investigate the President." (Ibid) The two are mutually incompatible. 

Pretty nervy given that the Trump adminsitration is neck deep in an investigation by special Counsul Robert Muller, Trump enterprises are in he crosshairs of the Southern District of New York and the House Democrats, and firing of FBI director James Comey. 

The line echoed the one late President Richard Nixon delivered in the 1974 State of the Union address--One year of Watergate is enough (Ibid).  President Nixon resigned in August 1974.  Need Blogger say more? 

Women in white ruled the House.  It was hard to miss the Democratic (including Speaker Nancy Pelosi) women dressed in white, in honor of suffragette movement.  The ladies provided the most surprising moment, even for the president, of the night. While lauding his economic success, the president delivered this line:

All Americans can be proud that we have more women in workforce than ever before--and exactly one century after the Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving the right to vote, we also have more women serving in the Congress than ever before... (Ibid)

The president did say the magic words "Madame Speaker."  Kind of ironic for the president to try to take credit for their success because the 100-plus newly sworn in female members of Congress were elected because of him. They flipped the script, using the moment to lead the entire chamber in chanting U-S-A and celebrate their accomplishment while a chagrined president looked on, offering milquetoast congratulations. 

Fourth, Mr. Trump was quite explicit in not saying he would declare a national emergency on the U..S.-Mexico border if Congress did not reach an acceptable (to him) compromise on the federal budget by the February 15 deadline.  He did lay the foundation for why he would be forced to take this extraordinary measure should it be necessary. He said:

The lawless state of our southern border is a great to the safety, security and financial well-being of all Americans...(Ibid)

He referred to the border as the very dangerous southern border (Ibid). At one point, he presented the rather fictional image of Mexico loading undocumented immigrants in buses and truck to bring them near the unsecured areas of the border. 

His point being, if Congress will not act, he will, declaring that he will build that wall

Finally, can we talk about Speaker Nancy Pelosi's hand clap?  You know, the picture that went hyper-viral of Speaker Pelosi doing some sort weird walrus clap?  That one, the heavily memed one.  Or how about Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) mouth twist or Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer's (D-NY) possible expletive?  Just a friendly reminder that actions speak louder than words and if the president is serious about his call for unity, he will have to do more than utter pretty things. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

"Mayors Get The Job Done"

Hello Everyone:

It is a cold and windy afternoon in the blogosphere. The rain has cleared out (for now) and all is back to rights for Yours Truly.  The annual State of the Union is this evening and there does not seem to be a lot of excitement swirling around it. Maybe it is because comes close after the end of the longest government shutdown in American history and ten days before another potential shutdown. We will have more about it in tomorrow's post. For now we turn our attention to mayors.

Will 2020 be the year of the mayor?  Already one mayor, Peter Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana ( Jan, 23, 2019; date accessed Feb. 5, 2019?, has thrown his hat into the presidential nominee ring.  Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is on the fence and the favorite to run Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti opted out.  Blogger speculates that Mayor Garcetti may be eyeing Senator Dianne Feinstein's seat or challenging newly installed Governor Gavin Newsom in the next gubenatorial race.  

Mayor Garcetti, fresh off marathon negotiations to end the six-day Los Angeles Unified School District teacher strike, spoke at the winter convention of U.S. Conference of Mayors about the lesson he learned about compromise.  His remarks came after he was presented an award for addressing childhood obesity in L.A.  His remarks came at he end of the partial shutdown but could be inferred as a campaign speech,

I did what mayors do: We see a problem, and we jump in and solve it. (; Jan. 25, 2019; date accessed Feb. 5, 2019). 

Easy to do, even in a city the size of Los Angeles.  In an interview with CityLab, before presenting his own speech, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel described the situation succinctly,

Think about this: Washingtin is on day what of a government shutdown?  Eric Garcetti had a strike, it was over in six days.  End of story.... We have dysfunction versus function; no progress versus results. And I think that's what a mayor offers.  (Ibid)

The former Clinton White House chief of staff has been the subject of presidential speculation, emphatically stressed that he had no such ambitions, despite rumors to the contrary (; Oct. 23, 2018; date accessed Feb. 5, 2019). However, plenty of other mayors are considering a run at the nomination.  The former mayor of San Antonio, Texas JulIán Castro (; Dec.16, 2018; date accessed Feb. 5, 2019) is a candidate.  Speculation is also circling around the mayors of Denver, New Orleans, and other cities.  It is entirely possible that by the time primary season starts, there will be as many as seven current or former mayors in the race (; Jan. 25, 2019).

For the first time, since 1812, when New York City Mayor DeWitt Clinton unsuccessfully ran for president, mayors are tossing their hats into the ring, based on the strengths of their records (Ibid). 

We are a year away from the start of primary season and the field of potential Democratic nominees is getting crowded; a little like The Hunger Games. So far, we have nine confirmed nominee candidates and 20 more on the fence (; date accessed Feb. 5, 2019). Many of the candidates have emerged from the gridlocked tribal national political realm. "In this environment, an established record as a leader of a growing, economically vital city may distinguish a mayor as more than dark horse" (; Jan. 25, 2019).

Popular former Denver, Colorado Mayor John Hickenlooper, a possible nominee contender, teased,

I'm not quite at that point announcing I'm going to run for president of this country,... But I do think that having been a mayor provides wonderful training and experience of finding ways to bring people together and achieving goals and accomplished through that unity. (Ibid)

Mayor Bloomberg (and possible nominee aspirant;; Dec. 27, 2018; date accessed Feb. 5, 2019) made reference to the shutdown, told CityLab, Mayors could never get away with closing the government (; Jan. 25, 2019).

JulIán Castro, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama, is  perfect example of a former mayor with federal experience.  Mr. Castro led San Antonio between 2009 and 2014 during the "Texas Miracle" (Ibid; Sept. 15, 2011) when the city experienced tremendous growth. This fact will no doubt be a one of Mr. Castro's platform.  Nominee candidate and former Newark, New Jersey Mayor, now Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) told CityLab,

Being a mayor is he hardest job in America,... You have to compromise, you have to bring people together and build consensus. Some of the best innovation in government going on right now is going on in the cities. (Ibid)

When Senator Booker announced his candidacy in the Newark Veterans Court, he spoke about his work as mayor.  He told the energetic audience, "Mayors manage budget of hundreds of millions or even billion of dollars,..., and the results are often immediately apparent to voters." (Ibid)

Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke highly of Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley's successful campaign to cut opioid deaths in her city by half (; Nov. 25, 2018; date accessed Feb. 5, 2019) and  Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown work to transform the Rust Belt city into a 3-D manufacturing innovation hub; Oct. 31, 2018 date accessed Feb. 5, 2019) to fill in the vacancies left in te wake of Genersl Motors' retreat. Never at a loss of enthusiasm, Senator Booker said,

It's wonderful that Democrats are going to have such a vibrant level of choice as having people coming from the Senate,governors, and mayors ((; Jan. 25, 2019).  He declined to say if he would be one of them (Ibid). 

Recent presidential election cycles have included mayors.  For example, former Burlington, Vermont mayor, now Senator Bernie Sanders was serious contender for the 2016 Democratic nomination. Former Maryland governor and onetime Mayor of Baltimore Martin O'Malley ran a tepid campaign for the 2016 nomination. In both cases, neither gentlemen highlighted their tenure in city hall. The lone exception is former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani who tooted his own city hall horn.  We all know where he ended up. 

Amazingly, only three former mayors went on to become president: Andrew Johnson (mayor of Greeneville, Tennessee;; date accessed Feb. 5, 2019); Grover Cleveland (mayor of Buffalo, NY), and Calvin Coolidge (mayor of Northhampton, Massachusetts). The big issue is experience.

It is one thing to deal with the everyday issues of running a city: filling potholes, homelessness, and so on but how does that translate into D.C. deal making, national policy or foreign diplomacy. This is the question that Mayor Peter Buttigieg has already faced.  South Bend, Indiana is much smaller than New York and Los Angeles with a population of about 100,000 people.  Really, Mayor Buttigieg has not face any large scale crisises (; Jan. 23, 2019; date accessed Feb. 5, 2019).  Mayor Buttigieg echoed Mayor Rahm Emanuel's sentiment about mayors solving problems, 

The bottom line is we've to deliver safe drinking water, pick up trash, and also figure out an economic future for communities (; Jan. 25, 2019).

Another thing in favor of the mayors is the electorate.  Urban politics are the big tent antidote to all he partisan fighting going on in the federal government. This is partly due to the Democratic lock on voters in the big cities (Ibid, Oct. 15, 2017).  Even within the Democratic big tent there is a myriad views of every conceivable subject like: education and criminal justice reform and the deciding factor in the primary may just come down to a candidate's position on legalizing cannabis.  Mayor Garcetti told CityLab that if you follow cable news, you hear, 

...we hear we're red states and blue states, rural and urban, immigrant and non-immigrant. Those of us who live in and govern in cities that that's patently false" (; Jan. 25, 2019).

As for experience, well, the Trump era re-adjusted the bar. Mayor Garcetti continues,

I don't think it's about the resume that fits into somebody's preconceived notion,... International trade? I know,nbecause we run the largest port in the Americas,... Want to talk about energy policy?  The largest municipal utility in the country is run by our city. (Ibid)

Confidence in city governments has increased in the past two years. In 2016, a Gallup poll (; Sept. 19, 2016; date accessed) found that American confidence in city governments was 71 percent, compared to state governments' 62 percent. This has only increased over the past several decades (; Dec. 12, 2017).

Finally, mayors are more hands on then elected state and federal officials. Often, they come from community organizing background, like Latoya Cantrell the current mayor of New Orleans. This means they are not removed from interacting with their constituents and seeing the results of their work. This seems to be the biggest thing lacking in the experience of state and federal office holders. Mayor Garcetti has this final thought,

I mean no disrespect to the United States Congress, but that is a very different job,... And I would argue that our country right now would be a better place if Congress looked more like the community of Anerican mayors, and not the other way around (; Jan. 25, 2019).

Monday, February 4, 2019

Blogger Is Back

Hello Everyone:

Blogger supposes you all are wondering where she went. Yours Truly has had a week where everything seemed to not work or be motion. Allow Blogger to explain.

A week ago yesterday, the radiator began to leak, leaving large puddles under the carpet. Maintenance came to cap off the offending radiator but left an extremely noisy de-humidifier that made sleeping an impossibility.  Adding to the misery was a shop vac that added to the sleepless night. By Wednesday, Blogger and The Candidate Forum were complete zombies.  This would made taking glee over Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone's arrest and indictment out of the question. Sleep is vitally important to the free flow of thoughts. Thus, The Forum needed to take last Wednesday off. Further, e excessive rain has knocked network service at Blogger's hide out which made working remotely a complete no go. Finally, Yours Truly had an important work-related appointment. It was a good meeting, filled with a lot of good feedback.   Neededless to say The Forum was pleased that Mr. Donald Trump yielded to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and re-opened the federal government.

The president agreed to re-open the 25-percent of the federal government that had been either shutdown or working without pay.  The joy over the 800,000 federal workers going back to work and receiving their overdue pay is tempered by the fact that this only a temporary situation. A bipartisan Congressional committee has been form to continue negotiations over the budget for the new fiscal year. The biggest obstacle is an agreement of what constitutes border security.  Whether you call it a sea-to-shining-sea or a comprehensive package, including a physical barrier, the bottom line is nobody, Democrat or Republican, disagrees about the need for incresed control at the southern border or a more comprehensive immigration policy. The problem is the president is so intent on building a wall, that he is willing to take the extreme measure of calling for a national emergency. 

A national emergency is not something presidents lightly. Typically, a national emergency is reserved for times of war or similar situations.  The last time a national emergency was declared was after 9/11. A declaration of national emergency is not a bargaining tool. The president should not dangle this threat as a way to get the $5.7 billion he is demanding for what is nothing more than a vanity project.

The re-opening of government also prompted Speaker Pelosi to re-issue her invitation to the president, who has accepted, to present the State of The Union now scheduled for tomorrow February 5, at 6pm Pacific Standard Time. Already, political blog The Hill alluded to a border bombshell the president is getting ready to denotate. 

On a personal note, Blogger is happy that a federal worker family member is back at work. 

Alright, that is where Yours Truly has been.  Tomorrow, we will be back to the usual business of the blog with a story on how 2020 will be the year of the mayor. Should be good. Wednesday, The Forum is back in business with a wrap up of the State of the Union. Should be good.