B Corporations

The B Lab Company (B Lab) is a nonprofit (IRS Form 990 N.E.C. (W99) that serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good.  Located in Berwin, PA (EIN20-5958773 its mission is “to change the operating system, culture, and practice of business so that all companies compete to be best for the world.  In 2020 it self-reported about 12M in revenue and 10M in expenses (Guidestar).

Is B Corp Certification Worth It?

A Certified B Corporation® (here) does not refer to tax status; it describes a business with a particular mission to promote the public good in certain ways. B Corp Certification measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance. The B Impact Assessment evaluates and verifies operations and business model impact on workers, community, environment, and customers.

Transparency and accountability requirements are used but do not prove where a company excels, however it commits a company to the long-term changes in a company’s legal structure.  A true Benefit Corporation is formed under state law. A list of NYS statute-produced corporations (here) does not include businesses with B Lab certification.

Public authorities have the power to create subsidiary authorities without additional legislative authorization. An example is 2007, the Empire State Development Corporation, (ESDC) dissolves 13 of its subsidiaries and merged 25 others into a single holding company and still encompasses many subsidiary organizations. While major public authorities can only be created by special legislation, many local development corporations have been created under the General Not-For-Profit Corporation Law as Local Development Corporations (LDC). They function in much the same way as other public benefit corporations and public authorities, but do not need to be established by specific state legislation and like businesses seek B Corp Certification. The speculation is the surge in interest seeks to soften the negatives associated $1.5 trillion tax cut package in 2018. Even B Lab posts an apology for certification delays.

Should a new startup seek a B Corporation Certification as a means to link other studio and production activities?  One way to find out is to look at the current group that has certification in New York. Using the B Lab directory the following selection of B Corporations based in New York City and nearby areas can be explored. The image to the right exhibits a selection from the B Corp directory. Use it (here) for individual searches not found on the list to the left. Reviews are requested and held in confidence. Use the contact link (here).

Income <=>

Obama defines the problem extremely well.

He actually answers the question about how and why we are in this fix.

This one looks at implementing a political agenda to reverse the trend where self-interest economics has lost its ability to reinvest. This is thirty minutes on the growing demand from the ordinary person for progressive solutions. The business community had better get involved.

EPA Saved Cities

11 Ways the EPA Has Helped Americans

March 17, 2017 by

This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.

The budget proposal Donald Trump’s administration announced yesterday will slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s funding by nearly a third, crippling an agency that has played a key — but often unnoticed — role in American life for nearly a half-century.

The main target of the president’s ire seems to be the agency’s programs that address climate change. “We’re not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said at a press conference. But cuts so large won’t just affect climate change-related programs — they will trickle down, affecting all of the agency’s work and the state environmental protection offices it supports.

Even Scott Pruitt, Trump’s climate science-denying EPA administrator, seems to feel Trump’s cuts go too far. When an initial budget proposal surfaced slashing the EPA’s funding from $8.2 billion to $6 billion, Pruitt expressed concern about the effect a reduced budget would have on programs aimed at cleaning up and repurposing toxic and polluted sites, a function of the agency that he supports. The New York Times’ Glenn Thrush and Coral Davenport report that Pruitt lobbied Trump to rethink the cuts, but his appeal, apparently, didn’t work: Trump’s finalized budget flouts his EPA administrator’s wishes by calling for even deeper cuts than initially proposed, slashing the agency’s budget to about $5.7 billion.

That budget isn’t final. It will still have to get through a Congress where even Republicans who have staunchly opposed the agency in the past are worried about what the funding cuts will mean for their districts. So, given that some in Congress might be deciding if and when to take a stand, we thought it would be a good time to take a look back at some of what the EPA has accomplished over the last 46 years since Richard Nixon signed an executive order in 1970 bringing the agency into existence. These successes were, almost unanimously, won despite the strenuous and well-financed objections of recalcitrant polluters, and are, almost unanimously, now taken for granted.

1. Patching the Ozone Hole

Remember the ozone hole? We don’t really either. But ozone concerns were front-and-center in the ‘80s when, frighteningly, scientists discovered that pollution was causing the part of the upper atmosphere that protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation to deteriorate. The issue came to a head when, in 1985, British scientists announced that an expanding hole had formed in the ozone layer over Antarctica.

The president at the time was Ronald Reagan, a zealous proponent of deregulation who did not seem to have strong feelings about environmental protection. But he surprised his advisers by vigorously backing the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty between 197 nations that banned chlorofluorocarbons, a chemical that was used as a refrigerant and was also found aerosol sprays, and was to blame for the hole. (Why did Reagan take up the cause? No one is quite sure. One theory is that Reagan’s own experience with skin cancer made him particularly sensitive to the topic.)

Once the Montreal Protocol was signed, Congress amended the Clean Air Act to give the EPA the power to enforce a ban on chlorofluorocarbons and protect the ozone layer. The agency’s success in doing so, along with the efforts of environmental regulators worldwide, helped the hole begin to repair itself — and also, it turns out, lessened climate change. Though scientists didn’t realize it at the time, chlorofluorocarbons contribute to global warming. If not for the Montreal Protocol, climate change’s effects might be twice as bad.

2. Cleaning up America’s Harbors

When the EPA was created in 1970, the water around America’s cities was in a notably different state than it is today. Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River was, famously, so thick with combustible industrial chemicals that it often caught fire. Manhattan was dumping some 150 million gallons of raw sewage into the Hudson River each day. Around the same time, a failing wastewater treatment plant in Boston was also spitting out huge amounts of sludge, leading health officials to warn that anyone who fell into Boston’s Charles River or the harbor it emptied into should go immediately to the hospital to be assessed by a doctor.

It was the EPA’s job to deal with these problems. The Clean Water Act of 1972 charged the agency with cleaning up America’s waters, and provided billions of dollars to do so. Among other responsibilities, the EPA was tasked with laying down minimum standards for wastewater treatment before cities could release it. The EPA was also responsible for regulating city sewer systems so they didn’t overflow, spilling sewage into the streets during heavy rains.

This made a big difference in America’s cities. New York brought a large, new sewage treatment plant online in 1986, solving Manhattan’s dumping problem. In Boston, a series of lawsuits prompted federal action. “Secondary treatment of sewage is a national standard, which means no more Boston Harbors,” said Union of Concerned Scientists President Ken Kimmell, who, as a former commissioner of Massachusetts’s Department of Environmental Protection, worked hand-in-hand with the EPA to clean up the water around the city. Boston Harbor is now one of the cleanest in the country.

3. Cracking Down on Lead

For years, industrial players who used lead fought regulation, with disastrous effects for Americans. A 1985 EPA study estimated that as many as 5,000 people died each year from lead-related heart disease. Tackling lead poisoning was one of the agency’s founding agenda items, and it did so over strenuous objections from the industries that put it in their products. The metal is now virtually illegal, leading to dramatic improvements in public health.

Legislation in the 1970s effectively banned lead from paint, and a 1985 EPA order required that the amount of lead in gasoline be cut by 90 percent by the following year. Five years later, a 1990 amendment to the Clean Air Act demanded that lead be completely removed from gasoline by 1995. The EPA also reduced the amount of lead that could be emitted by smelters, mines and other industrial operations, leading to an 85 percent decrease in the amount of airborne lead pollution between 1990 and 2015.

The effort, of course, was imperfect. A December 2016 Reuters report following Flint, Michigan’s lead crisis found 1,100 areas around the country where lead levels were regularly four times what they were at the peak of Flint’s contamination. Many, like Flint, were in poor regions neglected by state and federal policymakers. Unlike other toxic chemicals, lead does not break down over time. But the agency’s efforts did have an enormous effect. A 2002 study found that the level of lead in young children’s blood fell by more than 80 percent from 1976 to 1999, and that IQs increased as a result.

4. Making the Air Safe to Breathe

The agency also cracked down on other forms of air pollution, leading to a decrease in particulate matter and chemicals in the air that cause asthma. Their efforts meant a visible decrease in the smog that often choked cities in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

To do this, the agency cracked down on vehicle emissions and the pollutants coming from the smokestacks of factories and power plants. As the number of miles Americans travel per year has steadily climbed and the amount of power Americans consume has grown, emissions have fallen.

That saved hundreds of thousands of lives per year, and meant millions fewer cases of asthma and respiratory diseases. According to a peer-reviewed EPA study, these regulations in particular meant 165,000 fewer deaths per year in 2010 than in 1990 and 1.7 million fewer cases of asthma. One recent study found that, thanks to these air pollution controls, children in Southern California have lungs that are 10 percent larger and stronger than children’s lungs were 20 years ago.

5. Cleaning Up Industrialism’s Legacy

Throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, residents of Love Canal, New York noticed an odd smell coming from the 99th Street School. And they noticed that odd things were happening too: Childrens’ sneakers melted to the pavement; dogs burned their nose when they sniffed it. Turns out, the school was built on top of a toxic waste dump. The “canal” for which the town is named was filled with toxic waste by the Hooker Chemical Company for three decades — 22,000 tons in all — before, in 1955, the area was paved over and a school was built on top of it. The chemical company had sold the property to the city for $1 — part of the deal, the “Hooker clause,” was that the company would not be liable if anyone got sick or died in the school.

When residents of Love Canal uncovered this sordid history, it provoked national outrage. Efforts to regulate toxic chemicals had already been in the works — in 1976, Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act as part of an effort to respond to concerns about illegal, toxic dumping, and the Toxic Substances Control Act, which gave the EPA the authority to protect public health by regulating toxic chemicals. But in 1980, largely in response to Love Canal and other toxic disasters that garnered headlines, Congress established a program to make use of a “superfund” that would clean up America’s most toxic places, and throughout the ’80s the EPA put the money to work, cleaning up heavily polluted sites from landfills to oil spills, factory fires to sludge pits, throughout the US. A program for less-urgent but still important cases, the Brownfields Program, was launched in 1995, tasked with cleaning up sites where contamination was an impediment to putting a vacant property to better use.

These programs, taken together, amounted to a formalized, government-supported environmental justice initiative, improving toxic sites that were unjustly distributed across America’s poor and minority neighborhoods. But, in recent years, shrinking appropriations from congress have slowed cleanup efforts.

6. Making Water Safe to Drink

In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, giving the EPA the ability to regulate the water that came out of Americans’ taps. The agency ended up banning more than 90 contaminants from the water supply and cracking down on companies whose business practices poisoned Americans.

The EPA also issues “revolving funds” to communities to for improvements to the infrastructure that brings water to homes and to water supplies.

7. Controlling Pesticides

The EPA has also played a role in regulating pesticides, which helps keep our food safe. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, a law that dates back to the Progressive Era, was put under EPA’s responsibility in 1972.

One of the agency’s first acts was to ban DDT, a pesticide that first came into use in the 1940s but poisoned wildlife and humans as well as bugs. The chemical’s effects were, famously, documented in Rachel Carson’s 1962 New Yorker serial Silent Spring, but the chemical industry, lead by Monsanto, fought bitterly to keep it in use. The EPA’s decision to ban it was a major environmental victory.

8. Attacking Acid Rain

We heard a lot about acid rain in the ’90s but don’t so much anymore. Congress took up the issue in 1990 — George H.W. Bush had, in fact, campaigned on addressing it. Despite opposition from electric utilities, Congress passed an amendment to the Clean Air Act so that the EPA could regulate the chemicals that were to blame: sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

It worked. “Despite the doomsday warnings from some in the power industry that the regulations would cause electricity prices to spike and lead to blackouts, over the last 25 years, acid rain levels are down 60 percent — while electricity prices have stayed stable, and the lights have stayed on,” former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy wrote in 2015.

9. Paving the Way for Indoor Smoking Bans

Back in 1993, the EPA, in response to overwhelming research, classified secondhand smoke as a pollutant likely to cause cancer. At the time, this position was braver than it might seem today. Tobacco companies had waged a multidecade-long campaign to keep Americans smoking by questioning the link between cigarettes and cancer, even going so far as to suppress their own internal research that indicated otherwise.

The following year, tobacco CEOs admitted in testimony before Congress that cigarettes were dangerous, though their lobbying efforts against regulation would continue for years (a PR effort spearheaded by, among others, Myron Ebell, who resurfaced on Trump’s EPA transition team). But the EPA’s decision prompted a wave of city- and statewide indoor smoking bans; the majority of states now have them in place. And in the decade and a half following the EPA classification, the number of Americans who smoke — and, in particular, the number of high school-aged Americans who smoke — decreased dramatically.

10. Building a Cache of Public Data

One of the EPA’s greatest resources is the vast supply of information it has collected over four decades, some of which is available to the public through the internet. This data provides excellent documentation of the threat posed by climate change, but it isn’t limited to that. Spread across dozens of databases, the numbers include such information as the chemical compositions of various toxic pollutants and the locations in the US that those pollutants affect. The databases document the trends in air and water pollution, acid rain and the health of beaches and watersheds. It tracks which companies have been inspected and cited for enforcement.

Scientists are worried about the fate of this data under Trump, and have been scrambling to preserve it. “There is no reason to think the data is safe,” Gretchen Goldman, a research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, recently told The Guardian. “The administration, so far, hasn’t given any indication it will respect science and scientific data, especially when it’s inconvenient to its policy agendas.”

11. Beginning to Address Climate Change

The US government’s effort to address the greatest climate threat to face the modern world will — at least for the time being — be cut short. But during Barack Obama’s second term, the EPA began the work of figuring out what serious US efforts to address climate change would look like. In the face of an intransigent Congress, Obama ordered the agency to take the lead, and under Administrator Gina McCarthy it did, drawing up plans to, among other things, raise the number of miles per gallon gas vehicles were required to achieve and to cut pollution from US power plants.

Both of those initiatives will be tossed out by the Trump administration. While they were on the books, they were enough of an indication of America’s commitment to dealing with the climate crisis that other large polluting nations — notably China — came to the negotiating table in good faith. That lead to the Paris Agreement, a pact that the US looks likely to either pull out of or ignore, but that the world appears likely to continue to uphold without us.

David Steindl-Rast

The differences between fully institutionalized poorness such as that established by prisons or prison-like conditions are often countered by the cultural experience of modest, joyful lifestyles of poorness. Another difference is how being poor is defined by subsistence. It implies a dependency on the acquisition of necessities: water, food, shelter, and security. However, does meeting these minimal requirements translate into the opportunity to achieve emotional and environmental intelligence?

The means to an emotionally sound, intellectual community is a subject worthy of development but oddly thwarted by anti-subsistent demands that say meeting basic needs cannot generate the opportunity for self-actualization unless one becomes a Benedictine monk with an institutional history dating to 529 A.D. Maslow’s hierarchy is well known. Yet, these benefits appear to be overwhelmed by a completely unknown (or poorly understood) set of disruptive factors that support various social pathologies that prevent a more broadly based public achievement.

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References to research on this subject that extract the contributions of architectural space to the causes associated with this issue are needed. One of the “bridges” extends from architecture that serves the monastic life. David Steindl-Rast is part of the Benedictine tradition. He has unique insight drawn from a lifetime. He finds the freedom from fear is a good place to start by recognizing it as a choice, not a condition, but only if we stop, listen, and go to the references of the surrounding space. A fifteen-minute TED talk on the idea of gratefulness offers an appealing introduction to the problem.

Federal Agents

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Project Question: What is the strategic relationship that links each of these cabinet positions.

Established in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, the Cabinet’s role is to advise the President on any subject he may require relating to each member’s respective office duties.  Diehard political scientists examine the Archives on the agencies for comparison.  

The Cabinet includes the Vice President and the heads of 15 executive departments; the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Attorney General.  Here is a slightly larger list to explore.  Connect the dots.

Denise Meadows

The Club of Rome and the Smithsonian Institution’s Consortium for Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet hosted a one-day symposium on March 1, 2012, celebrating the 40th anniversary of Limits to Growth.

The first report to the Club of Rome was published in 1972, and sadly the book was followed with vilification. By 2012, the scenarios offered proved correct, and two truths have become evident. First, there will be a managed solution by putting a price on GHGs and creating new energy solutions. Second, this is a bet made with one assumption.

There will be a series of catastrophic resolutions with severe social, economic, and environmental “chaos costs” in the world to create needed change. Whether it is small or big business or national or local politics that provides the urgent action needed is of little consequence because it is too late to achieve sustainable development for five main reasons.

  • Public discourse has difficulty with subtle, conditional messages.
  • Growth advocates change the justification for their paradigm rather than changing the paradigm itself.
  • The global system is now far above its carrying capacity.
  • We act as if technological change can substitute for social change.
  • The time horizon of our current system is too short.
Dennis Meadows

The term resilience is more common than sustainable for these reasons. The actions called for fit into what business and governance believe they can implement in their self-interest. Dennis Meadows’ investment in getting us to accept “resilience first,” like “fix it first,” gets our ducks in order.

The estimates for a stabilized and sustainable world called for about 3% of the world’s GDP. Resilience will cost more than that, but now there is no choice.  Resilience is a metaphorical “wall” that organizations such as Global Footprint and the Club of Rome define as the overshoot problem.

This assessment only began one generation ago, and the ability to get traction on change or the least purchase of the metaphor requires a new growth paradigm instead of a limit. A dramatic term for drawing a line around a place could describe the whole earth or a small town.  Nevertheless, once done, it becomes possible to construct an earnest per capita analysis inside that line to form the urban sphere. Per capita analysis is an excellent measure for comparing the needs and behavior of individuals, groups, and societies that create demands on natural resources. We learn to develop in extraordinary new ways from our personal social, economic, and cultural places. As a friend says on this, you can “parse that to the bank.”

Limits To Growth

Chart Sources: Meadows, D.H., Meadows, D.L., Randers, J. and Behrens III, W.W.(1972) (Linda Eckstein)

How does density fit in?

  • Density reduces the cost of essential resource delivery
    • water, food, energy, and material goods
    • resource transit from places to place
  • Pollution and toxic waste functions
    • are reduced per capita and
    • high volumes are contained for advanced treatment.
  • Density reduces “chaos costs” and increases resilience
    • it integrates renewable energy structures/systems
    • sustains natural habitats and can stop open space fragmentation.



Kundera describes ways people want to be recognized.

In the Unbearable Lightness of Being he put it this way:

  • The first longs for “the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes”;
  • The second needs “many known eyes.”
  • The third demands the eyes of “the person they love”;
  • The fourth is most rare and composed of people “who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present.”

All are recognized in a dense urban world full of information and data, big and small on every subject and place imaginable, but its meaning is in people. Have a look. Make a recommendation.

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Bucky Fuller

Fuller World Game

The World Game Report (1969) shows Buckminster Fuller before a map he designed to eliminate distortion and represent an accurate global scale. A half-century has passed, and the demands in this little report remain. It called for a world reporting process that would be accessible to the ordinary person, and it offered this extraordinary promise if this was done, “all of the humanity can be brought to economic success within one-quarter of a century – thus eliminating the fundamental raison d’être of war.”


Designed for “intelligent amateurs,” the game sought a logistically reorganized use of the world’s resources. He introduced a progressive wave metaphor where each wave would create a layer of improved performance per unit of invested time and energy. Knowing how every component functions within the global schedule has continuously improved, perhaps beyond Fuller’s expectation, but not his vision. Global economists since Thomas Malthus and Adam Smith have defined human relations as “trade.”

The wonderful thing about Fuller is how he knew to offer a view that creates change through design using “scale” to produce balance and proportion. Applied to a map, a nation, a city, or a neighborhood, the scale offers a direct route success. There is much more on Bucky by the Buckminster Fuller Institute.

Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs’ first reference to density called out the mixed-use character of Boston’s North End and its infamous reputation, and yet in many ways, it had the power to un-slum itself. The failure of urban reform, urban planning, and architecture of her time, on the other hand, was in how they failed to expose racism fully and openly. To the everlasting credit to her insight, she accepted this point in her last book (2004).


Jane Jacobs Medal
First Awarded in 2007 to Barry Benepe & Omar Freilla

“…the death or the stagnated moribundity of formerly unassailable and vigorous cultures is caused not by an assault from outside but by an assault from within, that is, by internal rot in the form of fatal cultural turnings not recognized as wrong turnings when they occur or soon enough afterward to be correctable. The time during which corrections can be made runs out because of cultural forgetfulness.” Dark Days Ahead

Jacobs saw self-renewing practices in urban districts occurred due to a sense of containment that sustained connections to the city as a whole and the quality of diversity that served many purposes. The urban structures of these districts would be full of corners and small useful places. Structures would vary in age and size across these districts with “hard-working streets” from “specialty store to animated alley.”

With these main elements, dense concentrations can form a living city in successful regeneration and constant repair of a failure. This was a duality captured by the title of her first book, “Death and Life of Great American Cities.” Chapter Eleven, entitled “The need for concentrations,” closes the argument.

Density is a framework that supports high levels of diversity and resists the predisposition toward social regimentation.  This was 1961. A half-century later, it is possible to recognize the complexity of promoting new forms of social density in an urban form. Jacobs recognized her city as a place that could provide for everyone. It could do so because it creates opportunities to be creative large or small.  Yet, in the nation’s capital in 1963, these words were spoken by Martin Luther King, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Much has changed in reducing sensitivities to the quality of social change driven by urban diversity. Still, much of the Jacobs’s argument for creative urban development tools that support social justice remains a poorly developed part of the city.

The Rockefeller Foundation offers the medal.  To nominate a New York urban visionary, participants are encouraged to send an email describing the nominees’ accomplishments and how they relate to Jane Jacobs’s work and legacy. Nominations are considered on a rolling basis. ja********@ro*******.org

Frank Lloyd Wright

MoMA, New York, Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal

The American city of the 1920s and 1930s was European with less form. Frank Lloyd Wright presented the possibility of a new identity. His Broadacre City design presented a consumer-driven form. His Mile High (image right) produced sufficient contrast to start the dense vs. dispersed urban design debate of the 1950s that continues to this day. Wright put this forth plainly as a real choice.


The decision to choose density as the principal caldron for the growth of the mind and body of humanity is the right one, but the image of life enclosed by brick and steel remained bleak compared to the deep DNA-like resonance of a bucolic forest and the pastoral life. The American Mid-Twentieth century post-WWII urbanism overwhelmingly favored the car. The urban policy specifically sought to spread the population out and away from the concentrated terror of nuclear war. The people were to be armed.

Only the writings of Jane Jacobs and a few others, such as Rachael Carson, dutifully prepared stinging critiques of the century’s growth liturgies. Since then, urban development policy has barely managed to praise and support the hapless pedestrian seeking an active public realm.

A century of dystopian and utopian vision produced a few examples of successful density thanks to Jacobs, but looking for ways to ward off despair and establish the wealth of lifestyles that minimized consumption has yet to yield a solution

Frank Lloyd Wright, Mile High, Chicago. 19560

Source of image via MoMA and the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University



Twentieth-century urban and technological development events represent immense power. Yet, whether they are judged superficial, highly significant, or isolated and irrelevant, all share the common ground of small self-interest groups nested into their environments with various needs, interests, and concerns. Diversity is good for density.

The city makers and builders might control great wealth for scanning vast expansion opportunities. On the other hand, the makers could implement simple actions such as confronting crime abuses with more sophistication than a neighborhood watch. The deep and complex range of these events are measures of the urban place and experience. They are like the frequencies used to describe the technology of communication. Whether the event source is the long reach of a real estate investment trust or a modest urban infill project, the impact, whether top-down or up from the bottom, is less relevant than the diversity of methods applied by these actors and thereafter the regulators of events in response.

Envision a set of human occurrences in single-family homes on half an acre, tree-filled lots and compare that activity to what might occur in rows of multiple-story apartment buildings resting on commercial service and retail establishments, a school, and a couple of train stations.

Accounts of the action contained in urban spaces allow us to define unique spheres of influence. For example, a market analyst or urban demographer might apply the gravity model (wiki) to examine the economics of the actions and events within these places. Still, the actual forces involved are not dissimilar to that between the earth, our moon, and the solar system in which we are contained. The wonder of the billions of small moments involved in this system is that now it is possible to imagine taking stock of all of them, and there are many examples.

The so-called “smart-city” already lives in the imaginative eyes of those who are now trying to build them, and they might call upon an IBM data system called “Watson” to examine options, and so on. The need to build “a safe camp” or ‘a good city’ or “a flourishing earth” is a process that succeeds best when the action is community-motivated and understood as such. Individual self-interest behaviors are well known, and extraordinary work on interpersonal communication and behavior continues to advance. This makes the main problem very clear, but it is no longer a camp or a city. It is the earth. It is not something we can build like a camp or a city, or is it?

Nearly eight billion people form the earth community. Comparatively, small groups know the spatial implication of this. Yet, while each is capable of great accomplishment, they prove to be painfully ineffective in solving ‘whole earth’ problems. Yet, we also know the most successful responses to changing conditions, both social and natural, are buried in these small actions.

What are the connective tissues that would make a whole earth strategy workable?

In our minds-eye, a few practical examples in three segments are crawling into view that might become whole earth networks aimed at human dignity. The armature for building this vision is built on the grid, the second segment deals with the nature of consumption within the grid, and the third examines the urban brand or vision so formed.

The Infinite Grid

Ring on Grid

Alongside the expected order of the urban grid stands its shadow. Grids demonstrate an infinite matrix, a system for moving forever outward over the landscape. But, equally, the complexity of the movement developed for the use of all grids brings forth the novelty essential to what Alfred North Whitehead describes as the “what else” question.

We require knowing what is possible now. Science and engineering disciplines inject the grid with service components like mass transportation, steel construction, and the elevator. The grid provides unlimited electric power within all spaces, and with it, the presumption of certainty such as living is about thinking up new ways to live. The unique human capacity for campfire innovation is effective and responds to challenge well. Then suddenly, the urban question changed from how can we “make cities better” to “can we stop cities” and we all know why.

From basic urban reform to anti-sprawl, today’s global conditions are born of grid technologies that have begun to threaten life and community, but it still holds the novelty we seek. The same way the stars were once seen as sparks from the fire, the city’s vision as unending expansion will also change. Yet, we face one single great problem. Will the unlimited potential of the sphere bring balance and containment to the infinite grid?

Containing Consumption

food city

Materialism is associated with human well-being toward the negative. It tends to reduce positive-social behavior on interpersonal levels. We also see materialism as a major contributor to ecologically destructive actions defined globally as “overshoots” and “footprints.” Worsening educational and social outcomes occur when focusing on the supremacy of personal preference and pleasure over other values. Finally, excessive materialistic behavior is associated with unmanageable debt, often linked to a broader range of pathologies. While these are negative outcomes, the economic arguments dismiss these criticisms as unfortunate behavior while denying the cancerous downside of growth. Containment will require a new kind of intelligent abundance.

The economic growth of nations and the foundation of most revenue schemes depend greatly on the two forms of physical consumption. The overall economic condition is clear; it will drive spending to high levels by encouraging the purchase of “materials,” but that includes all required to provide or buy an “experience,” and therein lays the novelty we seek. As spending shifts away from physical products toward acquiring personal experience, it offers a unique step toward sustainability. It could build a society with the capacity to recognize the power of introspection and limits.

The Creative Asset


Cities have a brand heritage often leveraged as history along with a set of cool stories that firmly establish their urban product. One of the most important or useful of these narrative brands is the ability to cross-cultural borders with food, social norms, sensibilities, clothing, patterns, color, and experiences you might not acquire otherwise. However, when ‘professional urbanists’ seek to change an existing condition thought of as bad to something good, they have not successfully targeted their target audiences for the lack of one ability — to shift perspective.

Narrowing the professional focus to a single project or program is a step toward failure unless it can be consistently, if now relentlessly infused, with a new view up from the bottom, or from alongside, the top, or via a simple pan inward across the entire creative landscape. The capacity for superlative focus in response to a violent storm or fire is well known.  It is a power to be tapped in new ways as its purpose is to force an element of lateral “death and life” Jacobian creativity in every action (after Jane Jacobs, 1969).

For another example, the creative application of an oblique strategy is one of the best ways to shift views and see new opportunities.  Please take a moment to explore. Then, post it in the comment section below if it works—a personal reference via BBC podcast here (30 minutes).

The oblique strategy phrase that started the three indulgent and digressive paragraphs below was: “Make a “blank” valuable by putting it in an exquisite frame.”

Due to the above reference to Jane Jacobs, I will put a regional development policy idea aimed at increasing non-auto access to places in an exquisite frame. As a result, various multi-use districts would gain advanced levels of market strength given three new frames of regional urban development policy.

  • First, I saw employment growth in these beautiful business clusters created by land-use policies that discouraged job dispersion. Then the potential for these sleek competitive regional economy trains emerged.  They were blue.
  • These trains controlled the direction, if not the physical quality of development or the stability of growth, but each cluster and the train riders had enormous power.
  • Next, a portrait of the funding agents for quality urban form found my frame.  My blue transit system (rail, light rail, and bus) connected combinations of government services, knowledge-based employers, and major universities and medical centers, including “entertainment-based” cultural institutions with finely targeted retail offerings.

The “branding” idea of strong, dense centers connected to other strong, dense centers is an elegant picture.  The next frame captured traditional agricultural areas, watershed protection zones, and other natural resource functions, including older auto-oriented retail centers and other large warehouse and distribution centers reliant on trucking. These outliers (currently dominating my landscape) will gain the opportunity to be financially supported to defend an expanding natural environment through stewardship. Equally, the dense core structure offers an environment where the toxins of human activity are contained and eliminated with zero-waste policies, but I digress.

Summary: Choose How Your World Works

That little “oblique” exercise above is a method to take a personal experience (my education, training, career) and think about how the world should work. The concept works equally well in the organizational development of small groups, especially when there is a breakdown.

This brief essay on frequency and diversity is a simple example of individual thought and ideas. It needs to fit somewhere like a thought bubble among other people to conclude this way.

Government should pay for the essential stuff like keeping the nation on a permanent war footing or to help corporations and great big banks cover losses, oh, and spying lots of spying to protect old lines in the sand. But, then again, maybe it (that would be we) should pay for health and environmental protection, affordable housing and public transportation, and lots of education and training.

I know the former is a well-known path to economic distrust and collapse and the other, an intentional step away from madness toward human dignity. Yet, paradoxically, the former policies may be drawn by “rampart survivalists” as the way it has always been and requires us to circle the wagons. The latter may want to “occupy” new economic priorities by causing a re-energized, democratically digitized, public networking process. Both are “small group” formations – the former is a small group of large organizations and the other a large group of small organizations.  The thing on offer in this example is to launch a quest for balance instead of power.

The former can be overly defined as the one or two-percent groups with great financial power, global corporate structures, and a managed “public good” regime on the balance sheet. The latter is composed of lots of small groups with chaotic, tentative goodness rules because they are working on new theories of financial power and economic change. One is informed by a small group press and media that the few need and read to solve information problems. The latter works to solve the integration problems of small groups, and they read about ways to build new education process networks. These two forces are at work to change the other. With both in play, something exciting might happen in the region of balance.

Examine the following examples of that large group of small organizations struggling to find new ways to build their small individual stories into a larger and globally efficacious narrative.

Social Change

  1. The Movement Generation: Justice and Ecology Project. Connect people to their personal and community ecosystems. To create a way forward, this value is held as the guiding all others. This force identifies and eliminates all elements that contribute to ecological collapse and, in doing so, design and implements a biomimetic future. This alternative is known as the new intentional pathway.

Science and Technology

  1. Ask Nature challenges everyone to reexamine every aspect of how we use nature to make stuff, think and store ideas, and manage waste. It will produce a massive catalog of nature’s solutions to human design challenges.

Consumption and Well Being

  1. The Good Guide (now dead or dying) wanted to provide people with safe, healthy, green, & ethical product reviews based on scientific ratings of some 250,000 products. The idea remains important, but it will take more the effort made by University of California-Berkeley professor Dara O’Rourke,

Education and Training

  1. Kahn Academy is a non-profit educational organization created in 2006 by educator Salman Khan to provide “a free, world-class education for anyone.”

Participants are asked to expand this list in the comment section below to help develop new main headings, indexing, and groups. The main criteria being the information, and in some cases, the services provided are free. Voluntary donations may be requested.

Climate change events and displacement impacts threaten water, land, and food security. These security questions link directly to culture as defined by race and spirituality, wealth and poverty, and so on. A thousand questions rise to decide whether or not a proposed practice such as treating carbon dioxide as a regulated pollutant or whether a financing scheme such as “cap and trade” fits into how your world works when it comes to the cost of food, energy, water, transportation, and housing for people.

Whether it is the “company store” or cooperative alternative, the question will remain clear. Is there an equitable transition made by this decision that increases human dignity opportunities and reduces the potential for ecological disruption and catastrophic resolution?

“If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against.  The struggle between “for” and “against” is the mind’s worst disease.”  

Sent-ts’an, c. 700 C.E.

Infinity & Change


Lemniscate is a beautiful shape, easily recognized as a figure eight or an infinity symbol. The formula that runs this animated GIF is infinite as long as there is electric power. How energy is produced is how infinity challenges entropy.

Elizabeth Warren

This Fight is Our Fight

“We used it all—tax policy, investments in public education, new infrastructure, support for research, rules that protected consumers and investors, antitrust laws—to promote and expand our middle class. The spectacular, shoot-off-the-fireworks fact is that we succeeded. Income growth was widespread, and the people who did most of the work—the 90 percent of America—also got most of the gains.”

Why fight?  Since the 1980s and the beginning of the “trickle-down economics of the Reagan era, do you know how much of the increase in stock markets and business profits have gone to that 90 percent?  None of it.  That is why Elizabeth Warren says we are in for a fight. In a podcast with NPR (HEAR), she says she has learned a great deal about the Senate’s rules, and she understands the actions required. Her re-election was in 2018.   Buy the book This Fight is Our Fight and help her stay on our side.

In her book, Persist, Warren writes about six perspectives that have influenced her life and advocacy. As a planner who understands that every complex problem requires a comprehensive response. It is worthwhile to get your handle on “the six.”

George Monbiot

Self-fulfilling prophecies are tangible, especially destructive ones. In this sense, the assignment of evolutionary principles to lifetime or generational human behavior is a common mistake. The teachings of evolution involve million years. Human behavior is a product of short-term political actions involving just fifty-thousand years, of which only the last ten thousand are directly relevant.

In part, George Monbiot refers to this kind of thinking in his most recent book, Out of the Wreckage.  He is looking for people that already agree on one type of wreckage or another and willing to build a political movement built on the ground substantial enough to begin repairs.

To begin,  the “how did we get here question” examines policies that support extreme competition and individualism. When translated into social and economic strategies, the result is a toxic ideology” that destroys hope and weakens common purpose.  The arguments are self-fulfilling and misrepresent the common ground of humanity.  Monbiot outlines well-established findings in psychology, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology that prove human nature is highly altruistic and cooperative.  Enabling economic goals that organize social and institutional development from the grassroots up fulfills our natural ambition for a better society and a safer world. Monbiot outlines policies that support active rebellions of the mind based on a ‘politics of belonging.’ Thus, the thrill of living in a free and civil society is possible.

The challenge to organizational efforts such as Indivisible is to invent new ways to re-engage people in political action on environmental collapse, civic breakdown, and discussion regarding the climate of anti-politics.  Fighting unfair policies using current political frameworks is only one of those ways. There are many other choices.

  • How would you and your organization spend money on the growth of human knowledge in which every person participates?
  • How would you and your organization get (or share) these resources?
  • How would you and your organization combine your interest fill in the blank ________ (environment, immigration, health, safety, and so on) with other actors in the search for social change?

Of course, the “who” is you and the other three (why, where, and when) become apparent when openly connected to a ‘how’ such as the three listed above.

80 Words on “What Happened” 

What Happened presents many ways to unpack what and who may have been responsible for the 77,000 votes in just three states that produced the 2016 electoral majority. However, two behaviors are the most troublesome: FBI Director Comey’s announcement a few weeks before the election and multifaceted forms of Russian interference.

Also, two strategies failed.  First, dancing with big money proved far more problematic than being big money, and second, allowing the vigorous reform movement led by Bernie Sanders to wither.  That is the book in eighty words.

But you should probably run through the following first:

Fifty Shades of Green: High Finance, Political Money, and the U.S. Congress
by Roosevelt Institute on Scribd

Becky Bond and Zack Exley

Rules for Revolutionaries

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We know that every action has an alternative that can be opposite and equal.  You are going to need this book. This rule holds in the universe, but most of them are not instantaneous. Many activities take decades, even centuries, before the alternative is sufficiently recognized or directly experienced. The Declaration of Independence was a rule-breaker, and the participants in its creation faced death in calling for that kind of “mobilization.” Then a few years later, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights produced a brilliant “big organizing” tool.  It began as a reflection on this act of courage with a set of organizing ideas that might guide future generations to achieve a needed change without bloodshed or violent acts taken in a search for freedoms that are not treasonous.

Ordinary privileged Americans have caught the cold scent of oppression for the first time since the Civil Rights Movement crossed their carefully managed pathways.  Being an average, privileged American means not being Black or any other “displaced workers” minority who discover themselves in one of the several inescapable traps that define many causes and types of impoverishment. Those who do not attempt to move may never notice their shackles, so rules demanding action are certainly useful. So buy the book and get ready for a fight.

First, read  Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think,  Understand the mechanics of how we think and how that shapes our view of the world. Then comment on:

Van der Ryn and Cowan

Challenging smart-growth-talk has seemed impotent until recently. Perhaps this is why it might change.

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A decade ago, Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan contrasted sustainability defined technologically and ecologically in their book Ecological Design. They pointed to the hubris embedded in the tech-solution approach unless it was fully tethered by how David W. Orr describes the higher priority of ecological principles. (See one through four below.) Technology is zero-sum +(but not net-zero) when placed in a priority higher than these four principles of real change.

  • First, people are finite and fallible. The human ability to comprehend and manage scale and complexity has limits. Thinking too big can make our human limitations a liability rather than an asset. (Citicorp, AIG, and the rest…)
  • Second, a sustainable world can be redesigned and rebuilt most successfully from the bottom up. Locally self-reliant and self-organized communities are the building blocks for change. (something that every small successful business knows well)
  • Third, traditional knowledge that co-evolves out of culture and place is a critical asset. It needs to be preserved, restored, and used. (duh, the 2008 election)
  • Fourth, the true harvest of evolution is encoded in nature’s design. Nature is more than a bank of resources to draw on: it is the best model we have for all the design problems we face. (climate change is as more message as measure)

Technology is zero-sum when placed in a priority higher than these four principles of real change. The position of Sustainable America by John Dernbach (et. al) is direct: Sustainable development will make the US livable, healthy, secure, and prosperous. The book runs through 28 areas of human behavior that need to change using 100 actions taken within five to ten years and thematically summarized as follows:

The position of Sustainable America by John Dernbach (et al.) is direct: Sustainable development will make the US livable, healthy, secure, and prosperous.  It was published on January 12, 2009. One can order from Island Press here. For more information, See Dernbach’s website. See “Booksand papers for lists.

The book runs through 28 areas of human behavior that need to change using 100 actions taken within five to ten years and thematically summarized as follows:

  1. Ecological footprint system integration
  2. Greenhouse gas reduction programs
  3. Stimulate employment for unskilled persons in environmental protection and restoration
  4. Stimulate NGOs to play a major role
  5. Organize government initiatives using sustainability principles to prioritize
  6. Expand options for sustainable living choices to consumers
  7. The advancement of public and formal education to higher levels
  8. Strengthen environmental and natural resources law
  9. Lead international efforts on behalf of sustainable development
  10. Systematically improve access to data for decision making

Whitney M. Young

Whitney M. Young, Jr.

“You are not a profession that has distinguished itself by your social and civic contributions to the cause of civil rights.  I am sure this does not come to you as any shock. You are most distinguished by your thunderous silence and your complete irrelevance. You are the employers. You are key people in the planning of cities today. You share the responsibility for the mess we are in—in terms of the white noose around the central city. We didn’t just suddenly get into this situation. It was carefully planned.”

Whitney M. Young, Jr., Executive Director, The Urban League Opening session of the 100th Convention of the American Institute of Architects Portland, Oregon, June 24, 1968

A free society allows for unexpected, actions. The promise of it helps all people discover how individual demands for freedom or a different way of doing something can burn into the leadership of us all. These instabilities renew cultures. It rips off the masks of individual prejudices and fears. We are able to discover what we cannot live with or leave within. Freedom does not accept change. On the contrary, it breathes the love of it.

Robert T. Coles

I was in Portland as an urban planning student, (Pratt) but it was not until Robert Traynham Coles, FAIA, sent me a copy of the original text of Young’s address that my experience then began to make better sense a decade later.

Were it not for Coles, I could not have helped support an entire generation of hopeful agents of change to know that a speech can change an institution, and a person can change history.

Young’s challenge was built on power well established during the course of his life. He is directly responsible for the AIA’s support of Community Design Centers as an alternative to the traditional practice of planning and architecture. The battle remains but he gave us few warriors. 

I didn’t know why then, by I could see the shock of recognition in the eyes of the mostly all-white audience.  A key portion of Young’s speech appeared in a guest editorial by Coles for Progressive Architecture Magazine in July 1989. Nevertheless, most picked up the statement above, the entire speech is below and must be read in total. More recently, the AIA added responsibility for its institutional role in denying legitimate efforts to correct past wrongs (here). Sadly, it was in 2018 — the 50th anniversary of Young’s speech. Awardees in his name are difficult to track down or engage, but the important steps forward shorten those forced backward.

I have circulated this speech hundreds of times because every word remains painfully true a half-century later. I decided to post this speech within the “Malfunctions Section” of The Report on the System Change because it captured a piece of my past in what became known as The Association for Community Design Centers. In brief:

The AIA’s public policy statements are produced in a three-year cycle and published annually in the Directory of Public Policies. The last review of this policy by the Board of Directors was in September 1982. (All of it is here) There is a brief review of progress in building a network in Good Deeds Good Design (2003) (pdf). Another excellent summary can be found in Time-Saver Standards for Urban Design (here).

During that time, from the late sixties, and still today Young is known as a key powerbroker by breaking barriers to employment from national corporations and negotiating reparations from the Federal Government to begin correcting centuries of past wrongs. But, as the quote above proves, he did not pull any punches in this speech to architects. Still today, there is no reason for anyone to stop.

Fifty years later, his words summon the confluence of leaders for system change today. It comes from the powerbrokers, the preachers, and the symbol of a fist, BLM, and the names of the fallen. New institutions are forming that benefit from the powerbrokers inspired by Young and the preachers inspired by Martin Luther King. Nevertheless, architectural change agents have failed to create a national nonprofit institution as significant as those of law and health in service to a more just society. The reasons are many, but the heart of it remains in the words of Young.

Our memory of the moral leaders must become the crisis of immoral professionals willing to remain ignorant of the true challenges of our time. Finally, one American truth folds its arms and looks you in the eye. Non-violence in creating liberty and sustaining human dignity is a design for self-defense in steady opposition to the horror of the blood spilled in its name.



Whitney M. Young, Jr., Executive Director, The Urban League
June 24, 1968

Not so long ago, a group of miners suddenly found themselves after an avalanche entombed in one of the diamond mines of South Africa. Starving for food and thirsting for water and in need of spiritual comfort, the Diamonds were worthless, and they slowly met their death.

So, it is increasingly in our society today.  We are skilled in the art of making war; we are unskilled in the art of making peace. We are proficient in the art of killing, particularly good people; bad people are in no danger in this country. We are ignorant of the art of living. We probe and grasp the mysteries of atomic fission and unique and ingenious ways to handle brick and mortar and glass. We most often forget such simple things as the Sermon on the Mount and the Golden Rule.

In our scheme of things, there must be a place for values that transcend materialistic grasping.  Our values are concentrated more around things.  Will we find ourselves entombed in our diamond mine of materialism?

It would be the most naïve escapist who today would be unaware of the winds of change. As far as aspirations are concerned, they are reaching tornado proportions. In our country, the disinherited, disenfranchised, poor, and black are saying no in unmistakable terms. They intend to be in a new world because no one will be comfortable in the one being made today.

Our choices are clear-cut; we can either engage in genocide and the systematic extermination of the black poor in this country and the poor generally. Here we have an ideal model in Mr. Adolph Hitler. Or, we can engage in a more formalized Apartheid than we already have. Here we can use our pattern Mr. Ian Smith in South Africa.  Or, we can decide that the American dream and promise of the Judeo-Christian ethic are more than rhetoric. Are they a collection of nice clichés to be mouthed on Sunday morning and on the Fourth of July, or are they are principles to be practiced?  Here we can take as our model the Constitution and the Bible.

Today, the disinherited, unlike the past, see the gap between their standard of living and the majority.  They are no longer are sharecroppers on farms and in rural areas where they have not the benefit of newspapers and radio. Today, for the most part, the poor live within a stone’s throw of the affluent. They witness on their television sets and read in their newspapers and see personally how the so-called ‘other half,’ that is, the other eighty percent, live. The poor no longer assume that their status is God-made. They no longer believe they are congenitally and innately inferior because of color or condition of birth. The poor are fully aware that their living conditions are man-made and not God-decreed or constitutionally derived.

The poor today also are quite conscious of how other people have managed to lift themselves out of the mire of injustice and poverty.  They were the leaders of civil disobedience in the Boston Tea Party. They were revolutionists in the American Revolution, or the labor movement or the women’s suffrage movement, or the struggles of the Irish, Italians, Jews, and what-have-you.

They know that their techniques today, so glibly discredited, are the same techniques that others have used in other periods of history when they found themselves similarly situated. The poor today are determined. We ignore that at our peril.  It is not a passing phenomenon of the moment.  It is not a transitory thing like panty raids or the swallowing of goldfish or crowding into telephone booths. This is a growing trend in our country. And, any institution or individual who feels that he is immune to confrontation or that he somehow will avoid being affected by this, I am afraid he is guilty of indulging in opium smoking.

Now, one other factor tends to accelerate and, if anything, complicates. The poor and disinherited of our society today have found strong allies. The allies are the young people of this country and of the world. Some of them I’ve had an opportunity to talk within some 100 universities, colleges, and high schools this year. Many are experiencing a degree of cynicism at best and contempt at worst for adult values, which can document with unerring accuracy the inconsistency in our society. There is a pervasive gap between what we practice and what we preach, which points to the tragic paradox of a society with a gross national product approaching one trillion dollars.  Yet, it permits twenty percent of its people to live in squalor and in poverty. This society willingly taxed itself to rebuild Western Europe and West Germany.  It spends billions of dollars. There are no slums today in West Germany.  The slums are in the Harlems of our country where black people live who have been in this country 400 years, whose blood, sweat, and tears have gone to build this country, who gave it 250 years of free labor and another 100 of cheap labor. They are the ones who live in the slums and who are unemployed.

These students point out how a budget of approximately $140 Billion was spent last year and less than 20 percent for things that are aesthetic and cultural, and educational, for health, education, and welfare. Almost 70 percent was spent on weapons of destruction or defense against destruction.

No other country has quite this record of disproportionate expenditures.  No other country has ever dreamed of this great wealth.

We are not at a loss in our society for the know-how.  We have the technology.  We have the scientific know-how.  We have the resources.  We are at a loss for the will.

The crisis is not in our cities, ladies and gentlemen. The crisis is in our hearts and the kind of human beings we are. I submit to you that if you are a mother or a father, today, you are being challenged either silently by young people, or you will be challenged even more violently. You are risking the respect of generations, not yet adults and generations yet unborn.

Now, in this situation, there are two or three, I think, positive aspects and possibilities present today that were not present in the past. One is that we are all aware of the problem.  The black person – and I make no apology for singling out the Negro, although I am fully aware that there are poor white people in Appalachia, poor Mexican-Americans, poor Puerto Ricans and Indians – the Negro, is a sort of symbol, the only involuntary immigrant in large numbers –  a symbol of it. I make really no apologies, but the Negro today is at least on the conscience of America. This is not to say that he loves it.  Probably it is irritating to most people, a source of great unhappiness. Still, it is better to be hated than to be ignored.  The Negro has mainly been the victim, not of active hate or active concern, but of active indifference and callousness.  Less than ten percent of white Americans wanted to lynch Negroes, and ten percent wanted to free them. Our problem has been the big eighty percent, that big blob of Americans who have been so busy “making it,” getting ahead in their companies, getting a little house in the suburbs, lowering their golf scores, vying for admittance to the country club, lying about their kids I.Q., that they really haven’t had time to be concerned.

Our sin, then, is the sin of omission and not of commission, and into that vacuum have rushed the prophets of doom. The violent people, the vicious people who hate, and they have come all too often to be the voice of America. But at least we recognize the existence of the problem.  The communication is probably more candid, though more painful than ever before, and that is progress.

And, today, for the first time, we have the full attention and concern of the establishment in America. The decision-makers, the top people – I’m talking about the Henry Fords and the Tom Watsons and the George Romneys, the truly big people in your field and in the field of business and in government. The most enlightened governors, the most enlightened mayors, the most enlightened college presidents, even the religious leaders are now beginning to decide race relations is no longer a spectator sport. In their own enlightened self-interest, they have to get involved.

This is important.  Nothing happens in America until the so-called decision-makers and the power structure decide that they had better get busy, and that’s a powerful ally.

A final positive thing is, I think that we today are no longer in a quandary as to the extent of the problem and the cause. We are now the beneficiaries of a President’s Commission Report – The Kerner Commission. It was composed of predominantly white, respectable, conservative, responsible people. The first time they met as a group was to identify the conspirators who were causing the disorders and suggesting ways of suppression and control. That is how they started out.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the final report. We invited these gentlemen to take a visit to the ghetto, more specifically, to a tenement house. They smilingly, but naively, agreed, and that was the beginning of a significant report. We took these men into a typical tenement house, some 14 floors. Immediately they discovered that as sophisticated as our communications media happened to be, they are not able to give all the dimensions of the situation – the dimension of smell, for example, feel, taste.  The minute these men walked into the building; they smelled the stench of urine.  And why shouldn’t they?  Little two-and-three-year-old boys out in my neighborhood, just when they have to go to the bathroom, and can’t make it back onto the house, go around to the bushes – sort of an accepted pattern.  When you live in the 14-story tenement house with no elevator, little boys can’t quite make it and do what little two-and-three-year-old boys normally do. 

These men went up the stairs.  They made it as far as the seventh floor – they weren’t in the best physical shape. We took them into an apartment, typical, six people living in it, two rooms, and four children.  They saw the little one-and-a-half-year-old with a shrunken stomach.  All he had to eat that day was a bowl of corn flakes, and it was two o’clock in the afternoon.

They talked to the mother whose eyes were bloodshot because she had stayed awake all night trying to keep the rats from biting the children.  They saw rat-holes; saw the roaches.  Then, they talked to the father – alienated, bitter, because he suffered the daily humiliation of not being able to support his children, not playing the role of the father, not being able even to buy the kid an ice cream cone.

Repeated experiences like that left no choice except to, as we say, tell it like it is.

This upset Americans, accused of being racists, being told in no uncertain language that, in fact, there is a gap between how some Americans live.

We are a proud people. We like to kid ourselves into believing that we are good Christians, good human beings, but it isn’t true. These men were not starry-eyed liberals, not sentimental do-gooders. These were white conservatives. I’ve always been told that white people were still right. I assume they’re right.  Rap Brown didn’t write the report.  The report was written by these people that you know as well as I know. And, you know that when good people want a social audit, you take it just as seriously as a fiscal audit that says you’re in arrears and bankrupt. A health audit could mean you have tuberculosis. You wouldn’t go out to see a mechanic and try to get him to dispute the claim.

We are a racist nation, and no way in the world would it be otherwise given the history of our country.  Being a racist doesn’t mean one wants to go out and join a lynch mob or send somebody off to Africa or engage in crude, vulgar expressions of prejudice.  Racism is an underlying assumption of superiority on the part of one group over another.  In America, it had to happen because, as a society, we enslaved people for 250 years, and up until 1964, it was written into our laws and enforced by social custom.  It was discrimination against human beings – that a man, because of the color of his skin, couldn’t go into a restaurant or a hotel or be served in public places.

Now, there’s no way in the world, unless we are a nation more schizophrenic than I think, that we could have this kind of law tolerated and this kind of social custom and still have gone to church on Sunday and mouthed all the platitudes if we didn’t honestly believe that some were superior to others.  Racism reflects itself in many little ways – little to you but big to some people.

A few years ago, my wife and I finally managed to reach the point where we could hire a maid for one day a week.  When she came into the house, she introduced herself as Lucille.  My wife said, “What is your last name?” and she said, “Fisher.” So my wife said, “Mrs. Fisher, let’s talk.” And they talked, and they decided they could stand each other, and she would go to work immediately.  That afternoon my two youngsters came home, and Mrs. Fisher met them at the door and said, “Hello, I’m Lucille.” And my wife came in and said, “Marcia and Loren, this is Mrs. Fisher.”

Mrs. Fisher followed her back into the kitchen and said, “You don’t have to do that, I like to be called Lucille, it makes me feel like a member of the family, and I’m closer.  I like that just fine.”

And my wife said, “Mrs. Fisher, we are not doing this just for you.  Our youngsters do not call adult women of 45 or 50 years of age by their first names. If they don’t do it with anybody else, then we don’t think they ought to do it with you unless they get the impression that you are different because of the kind of work you do. We’re trying to teach our youngsters to respect the dignity of human beings, regardless of what they do or the color of their skins.”

About an hour later, the phone rang.  It was Mrs. Fisher’s little five-year-old son, and he said, “Lucille there?” And my wife said, “There’s no Lucille here.”

And then she told Mrs. Fisher, she thought it was her son, and maybe she had better call him back. So she did, and the conference went like this:  “Son, did you call?”  “Yes, Mother, but they said there was no Lucille there.”  She said, “No, son, I’m not Lucille here.  I’m Mrs. Fisher.  I’m somebody.”

Now, if you could have seen the expression on her face when she said this.  This is just simple, elementary dignity.

Fifty percent of all people in this country don’t even pay their domestic’s Social Security when the law requires them to.  Even though the people say they don’t want it paid, don’t want this kind of record, it is these people’s only opportunity for insurance against old age, against illness in old age, and it is a moral thing to do.  We pay both shares hers – and –ours because we are thinking about her, and we are concerned about what will happen to her.

What I am really talking about here is your role. To realize it as a citizen, it begins in the home.  Dear Lord, let there be peace at home and let it begin with me.

A young man stood up in a meeting a couple of weeks ago – a white fellow, an SDS student. He really blasted the white audience for its prejudice and bigotry, and hypocrisy. He then ended up by saying, “So if it means we have to level down with them to achieve equality with all human beings, then white people must do this.”

This is a racist statement. I pointed this out.  The only reason he could think of “leveling down” was that he was assuming that superiority relates to the acquisition of material things, technology, money, and clothes.  It’s conceivable that it might be a leveling upward, or it might be a bringing together on the one hand qualities of humaneness, compassion, and style.  This society needs a great deal of technology and money, and material things.  And so, we are giving to each other.

If we are going to do anything about changing the individual, let us first admit that it is easier to have lived in a leper colony and not acquired leprosy than live in America and not acquire prejudice.  You don’t start changing until you first admit you have it.

Secondly, as a profession, you are not a profession that has distinguished itself by your social and civic contributions to the cause of civil rights, and I am sure this has not come to you as any shock.  You are most distinguished by your thunderous silence and your complete irrelevance.

Now, you have a nice, normal escape hatch in your historical, ethical code or something that says, after all, you are the designers and not the builders; your role is to give people what they want. Now, that’s a nice, easy cop-out.  But I have read about architects who had the courage, who had a social sensitivity. I can’t help but wonder about an architect that builds some of the public housing we see in the cities of this country.  How he could even compromise his own profession and his own sense of values to have built 35 or 40 story buildings, these vertical slums, and not even have put a restroom in the basement. Leave recreational space for about ten kids when there must have five thousand in the buildings.  That architects, as professionals, wouldn’t as a group stand up and say something about this is disturbing to me.

You are employers; you are key people in the planning of our cities today.  You share the responsibility for the mess we are in terms of the white noose around the central city.  It didn’t just happen. We didn’t just suddenly get this situation.  It was carefully planned.

I went back recently and looked at ads when they first started building subdivisions in this country. The first new subdivision – “easy access to town, good shopping centers, good schools, no Negroes, no Jews allowed” – that was the first statement.  Then, they decided in New York that that was cutting the market too close, so they said the next day, “no Negroes allowed.”  And, then they got cute when they thought everybody had the message, and they said, “restricted, exclusive neighborhood, and homogenous neighborhood.”  Everybody knows what those words mean.  

Even the Federal Government participated.  They said that they must be compatible neighborhoods for FHA mortgages, homogeneous neighborhoods. The Federal Government participated in building nice middle-class housing in the suburb and putting all public housing in the central city.

It took a great deal of skill and creativity, and imagination to build the kind of situation we have now. It is going to take skill, imagination, and creativity to change it.   We are going to have to have people as committed to doing the right thing, to “inclusiveness” as we have had in the past to exclusiveness.

You are also educators.  Many of you are in educational institutions.

I took the time to call up a young man who just finished at Yale. I said, “What would you say if you were making the speech I’m supposed to make today?”  He had some strong observations to make.  He said he did want you to become more relevant.  He did want you to begin to speak out as a profession, he did want in his own classroom to see more Negroes; he wanted to see more Negro teachers.  He wanted while his classwork was going on for you to get involved in the community around you as educators.

When you go to a city like Champagne-Urbana, the University of Illinois is about the only major institution. Within two or three blocks of the campus are some of the worst slums in the country. It is amazing how within a stone’s throw of the school of architecture, you have absolute, complete indifference – unless you have a federal research grant. Even then, it’s to study the problem.

I hope you accept my recommendation for a moratorium on the study of the Negro in this country.  He has been dissected and analyzed horizontally, vertically, and diagonally.  And, if there are any further studies – I’m not anti-intellectual – I hope we’ll make them on white people, and that instead of studying the souls of black people, we’ll be studying the souls of white people; instead of the anatomy of Watts, we’ll do an anatomy of Cicero, an anatomy of Bronxville.

What’s wrong with these people in these neighborhoods?  Why do they want – themselves just one generation removed from welfare or in many cases only one generation in the country, where they have come here sometimes escaping hate and have come here and acquired freedom – why do they want to turn their backs and say in Cicero, “Al Capone can move in, but Ralph Bunche can’t?” 

Why are they so insecure?  Why do people want to live in these bland, sterile, antiseptic gilded ghettos – giving sameness to each, compounding mediocrity in a world that is 75 percent non-white, in a world where can take a spaceship and fly from Kennedy to South Africa in 15 minutes you?  Why would anybody want to let his or her children grow up in this kind of situation?

I think this kind of affluent peasant ought to be studied.  These are people who have acquired middle-class incomes because of strong labor unions and because they are living in an unprecedented affluent period.  But, in things esthetic, educational, and cultural, they leave a lot to be desired.  They wouldn’t know the difference between Karl Marx and Groucho Marx.

This is where our problem is.  We can move next door to Rockefeller in Tarrytown, but I couldn’t move into Bronxville. A Jewish person could hardly move into Bronxville, incidentally.

As a profession, you ought to be taking stands on these kinds of things.  If you don’t speak out for the rent supplements or the housing bill calling for a million houses, if you don’t speak out for some kind of scholarship program that will enable you to consciously and deliberately seek to be in minority people who have been discriminated against in many cases – either kept out because of your indifference or couldn’t make it (it takes seven to ten years to become an architect) – then you will have done a disservice to the memory of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Bob Kennedy, and most of all, to yourselves.

You are part of this society.  It is not easy.  I am not suggesting the easy road, but the time has come that no longer the crooks and crackpots speak for America.  The decent people have to learn to speak up, and you shouldn’t have to be the victim to feel for other people.  I make no pretense that it will be easy.

We do have today the best possibility of generalizing and rationalizing around our detachment.

You have riots and shouts of black power.  Anybody who looks for an excuse to cop out can use it, but I insist that if you believe in equality, then we have as much right to have crackpots.  There is no reason why white people should have a monopoly.  If we have been able to put up all these years with the Ku Klux Klan, with burning and lynching, with the George Lincoln Rockwells, with the Citizens Councils, with slaveowners, and still don’t generalize about all white people, why should white people generalize about all Negroes on the basis of a few?  All Negroes didn’t riot in Watts.  All Negroes didn’t riot in Newark.  One out of three in Newark were whites, and one out of five in Watts, and that’s why there was more violence in Newark.

We don’t generalize.  A man sat on the plane with me, and he and his wife had a couple of martinis.  She fell asleep, and he leaned over and said, “Mr. Young, my wife and I are great liberals; we love your people very much, but we have a problem.  We would like to invite a colored couple into our home.”  He took another sip of liquor and made it more magnanimous, “two or three couples, but my wife doesn’t feel comfortable around colored people. I hope you won’t be offended, but what can we do about the problem?”

I said, “I’m not offended.  I know perfectly well what you mean.  Most people feel odd and uncomfortable and inferior, even around Ralph Bunche—Phi Beta Kappa, Nobel prize winner, cosmopolite, traveled all over the world.”  Most people would ask a stupid question and get an elementary response, and I said, “Maybe the Urban League could help you recruit some of the below-average Negroes that your wife would feel more comfortable with.”

It’s the same business of generalizing – no such thing as a black is a black man, a white is a white man.  We have our right to an Adam Clayton Powell if the Irish have a right to a Curley.  He would make Adam Clayton Powell the epitome of political morality.  Nobody generalized about the Italians because of the appearance of a disproportionate number in the Mafia.  Nobody indicts all of them.  Nobody indicts all white men because a white man killed President Kennedy, Senator Kennedy, or Martin Luther King, or a white man stands in a tower in Texas, kills 14 people, or a white man assaults and kills eight nurses in Chicago.  They didn’t call him “white.”  We called him “sick,” and that’s what they were.  With the Negroes, it’s “the black man.”

We fall victim to clichés like “law” and “order.”  The most extreme example we’ve ever had of order in this world was that created by Adolph Hitler with his Gestapo and his police.  He got his “order.”  There was no dissent – goose-stepping all over the place – and he used that order to bring about the death of about 14 million people, six million of them in ovens.

There will never be order without justice.  And, the first prerequisite for order in this society is that there must be justice.  The women would still be disorderly in this country if they hadn’t gotten the right to vote. The workers would have torn it apart if they hadn’t gotten the Wagner Act, and America would still be fighting England if we had not won the war.

We must have justice.  Civil disobedience and lawlessness have been practiced not by black people in this society but by white people who denied the laws of God and the laws of the Constitution.

When a Wallace stands up and talks about the law – who was more lawless, engaged in more civil disobedience than that man? Who stands in the doorway of the courts and constantly berates the Supreme Court of the United States? Talk about respect for law and order! We, who have been the victims of the most unscrupulous practices by merchants, by landlords, by employers, by public officials  — we know something about lawlessness.

When you talk about crime, talk about the syndicate boss who lives downtown; and, and he’s white, and he’s responsible for the dope and the prostitution and the numbers racket that causes 60 percent of the crime in the ghetto.  Talk about the guy who charges too much interest rate or the guy who makes people pay $500 for a $175 television set.

The people who talk about neighborhood schools – Mrs. Hicks – you know what they mean.  They want little segregated neighborhoods.  Now, we make the big deal – neighborhood schools, and you can go to the same schools.  Then see these same people bussing their kids to private schools, or 300 miles away to prep schools if they’ve got the money.  They don’t really like the neighborhood that well.  But, now it [the neighborhood] has become the new code word for racism, in fact.

Finally, let me speak about your role as a man because I think this is probably more basic than anything.  Sure, you’re architects.  You’re a lot of things – you’re Republicans, Democrats, and a few John Birchers.  You’re a good many things, but you’re a man and a father.  I would hope that somehow you would understand this issue. More than any other human right today separates the phony from the real, the man from the boy – more than anything else.

Rickey solved the problem of attitudes and how long it takes.  I disagree with you that it takes a long time to change attitudes.  It doesn’t take any time to replace them overnight.  When he brought Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers, there was this ballplayer that said, “I’m not going to play with that ‘nigger.’”  He thought Rickey would flap like most employers. I imagine most architects thought he would say that he’d pull away. But he didn’t know Rickey very well.  Rickey was kind.  He said, “Give him three or four days.”  Well, at the end of a few days, Robinson had five home runs and had stolen many bases. This fellow was reassessing his options – he could go back to Alabama and maybe make $20 a week picking cotton, or stay there with the Dodgers and continue to work.  And, now it looked like Jackie would get him into the World Series and a bonus of $5,000 – which he did.  The only color he was concerned with was green.

We see it happening in Vietnam.  White boys from Mississippi in Vietnam develop more respect and admiration for their black sergeant in one week because they, too, have made their own assessment and decided to be liberal white boys from Mississippi instead of dead white bigots.  They’re interested in the art of survival, and the sergeant is skilled in the art of surviving, and they say, “Mr. Sergeant” – and it’s an overnight change.

Why is it that the best example of American democracy is found in the muck and mire of Vietnam?  Why is it that the greatest freedom the black man has is the freedom to die in Vietnam – and as he dies, why do his loved ones, his kids, and his wife and his mother have to fight for the right to buy a house where they want to?

 I know there are other speakers, and I have spoken for too long.  A speech, to be immortal, doesn’t have to be eternal.

I do want to tell you one last story.  Mel Batten, who is the chairman of the board of J.C. Penney, about four months ago was having breakfast with his kids, one girl 21 and one boy 23, and they asked what he was going to do that week.  He said, “I’m going out with Whitney Young, and I have a series of luncheons in some three or four cities.  I’m hosting these, and I’m going around talking about expanding employment opportunities for Negro citizens and giving money to the Urban League.

(Incidentally, I don’t want you to miss that plug – you are distinguished by the fact that I bet we have fewer architects and fewer firms contributing to the National Urban League than any other group in the country.  That is probably my fault, and I apologize – you have not been solicited. Next time it will be your fault.)

But, when he told these kids, his boy said, “You’re going to do what?” He repeated it to him. And the boy said, “You mean you’re not going to maximize the profits of J.C. Penney today! You’re not going out this week to undercut Woolworth’s; you’re not going out to see if you can get something a little cheaper and increase the margin of profits of some product?”  And he answered, “No.”

The 21-year-old daughter, without saying a word, ran over, hugged, and kissed him with tears in her eyes.  He told me, “I never had as much respect and admiration from my kids as I had in that one moment.”

Here is a man who gives his children everything –sports cars, big allowances, clothes, and big tuition.  That isn’t what counts.  They take that for granted.  Here is a man who suddenly became a man with guts, who was concerned about other human beings.  Here is a man who is willing to stand up and be counted.  That’s what these kids care about.

You talk about communication with these kids. They tell you why you don’t communicate. They tell me you are inconsistent. You tell them they shouldn’t smoke, drink, and pet because everyone else does, that you have your own value system, stand up for what you believe in, do what you know is right.  Then, they say, “My mother and my dad never do – they never lift their finger to let a black man in business at the top level, never try to get a neighborhood, into the club or church. They just go along.”

I submit to you that this is a mistake in your role as a parent and human being.  If you cannot identify with the kind of thing I described and that the Kerner Commission saw – if you cannot see that it happens even today in this country, if you can’t as a mother and father, you are in worse shape than the victims.

So, what’s at stake is your country, your profession, and you – as a decent human being.  Anatole France once said, “I prefer the error of enthusiasm to the indifference of wisdom.”  For a society that has permitted itself the luxury of an excess of callousness and indifference, we can now afford to permit ourselves the luxury of an excess of caring and concern.  It is easier to cool a zealot than it is to warm a corporation.

An ancient Greek scholar was once asked to name when the Greeks would achieve victory in Athens.  He replied, “We shall achieve victory in Athens and justice in Athens when those who are not injured are as indignant as those who are.”

And, so shall it be with this problem of human rights in this country. There is something wrong with that kind of society.

By your invitation to me and by your attentiveness to an overly long set of remarks, I am convinced that you are well on your way to becoming as indignant as those who are hurt.

Thank you very much.

Alain Bertaud

Meaning is in People

Alain Bertaud is an inquisitor. He pokes at data with experience and reflection to help us understand the way the world works, how it will change and whether it will be the way we want or not. The image (below) is one of those pokes skips across the blogosphere searching for people willing to deal with the issues, “or not.”

I came across Mr. Alain Bertaud because I was trying to make sense of the Global Commission on the Economic and Climate report entitled the New Climate Economic. My question was how and where to invest the estimate of $90 trillion around the globe. They see it happening in three structures: 1) the city, 2) food/water, and 3) energy.

What in the infrastructure is missing in this approach?

I would put “wilderness” defined as a structure untouched as humanly possible and because it is a simple image. I watch urban densities change in the blink of the planner’s eye. The difference drew down by Bertaud is in a red line that defines a between Atlanta and Barcelona. One puts a train station inside a 2,000-yard walk for about 60% of the population (Barcelona), but just 4% have that choice in Atlanta. Something they will wish was available as energy shortages begin to increase for various reasons. Atlanta’s planners made highways for single families. Barcelona made neighborhoods for large, super-extended socio-economic families.

In the United States, housing is put on the self like any other canned goods in a supermarket, it requires little thinking, just a price point and a label. See discussion via Wall Street (here).

News Source

The major networks C-Span, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, etc., are plentiful. Those who broadcast to the nation for free (with ads) are asked to follow the fairness doctrine. But, on the other hand, cable television can produce strange “entertainment news” and misdirect, position lies, and step as close to incitement of insurrection as possible. Other online sources range from subscription-based and highly expensive free, slightly odd, smart, and hopeful.

I live in the center of Brooklyn, just south of Prospect Park. I believe there is a need for a political review channel that is purely local. It would cover Congressional Districts 7, 8, and 9 led by Nadia, Hakeem, and Yvette as major contributors to the influence and effect the federal government might have on the lives of the residents from year to year. These three districts have about 2.1 million people.  A few hours a month could fund their campaigns with a 20 share of that audience. The combination of experience and personal styles would be interesting. Our representatives have YouTube tidbits worthy of listening if you take a seasoned “What are they saying?” attitude. Solid local reporting on the workings of Congress by our Congressional Representatives could consist of City Council and state representatives.

Stronger together, but all of this is impossible. One cable station New York One (Spectrum), produces a few issues specific to Brooklyn and the rest of the boroughs. It requires a subscription. It should be free.

Watch and Listen to Achieve Confirmation Bias OR

Media on “politics, people and issues’ has suddenly become vital within the realm of “confirmation bias.” Look it up, the Wiki is a good place to start. Please weigh in on the following political outlets and make your thoughts known regarding a “none of what you read/half of what you see” approach for getting to good questions.  Also note, the bias here is to the left, and it is proving difficult to find center/right examples.

Brookings is one of the original “think tanks. “  Its review of issues has been tagged “liberal” by the American Enterprise Institute largely because of its positions on urban policy. The United States has become a metro nation.  For this reason, they advocate for an urban policy agenda focused more on “metro-regions” than “States.”

John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei left The Washington Post to become The Politico‘s editor in chief and executive editor. Politico

The Humanist Report is a retake of a week’s news.  It circulates socio-political and religious news stories with what sounds like a politically progressive commentary.

MoJo is a politically progressive American magazine that does independent and investigative reporting on politics, the environment, human rights, and culture. Clara Jeffery serves as editor. Monika Bauerlein has been CEO since 2015

Huffington: A news aggregator and blog have localized and international editions founded by Arianna Huffington, Kenneth Lerer, Jonah Peretti, and Andrew Breitbart. Despite the last name, the information is a progressive accumulation, reflecting the overall tenor of reporting justice and fairness issues.  The wiki biography links are a good place to decide.

Viewers and supporters of The PBS News Hour will recognize Amy Walter’s commentary and analysis and her role as the anchor on Washington Week.  The Cook Political Report includes a subscription that provides good detail on local congressional issues for $350.00 and only $1,400 for five subscribers. Something to keep in mind as the New York Delegation: Indivisible builds a base.

Moyers is well-known. He is one whose life as a journalist is to make sure we understand the principles of democracy and see the erosions of liberty. This site has 1,000 archived programs.

The National Journal says it equips government and business leaders with the information, insight, and connections they need. Most DC-based organizations have higher followings and engagement rates on Facebook than on Twitter. However, Facebook remains more of an entertainment platform than a news platform. #DCInfoAge

The next step would be to examine local independent broadcasters to help aggregate national issues into a local impact presentation. There is an unending media explosion.  It will end with a number – those who will listen. This is probably good because ever since POTUS-45 declared it “the enemy of the people,” far too many people pick a “media” to follow in a silo, even though it might kill you, get you into prison,  It just makes choosing difficult.  Help choose.  Peace.

“Believe none of what you read and only half of what you see. It frees you to ask good questions.”

My Dad

You have to listen to be heard.

Want to add a source? Go to Contact

Book Act

The authors in the following (long list) visit New York City routinely.  Perhaps they would enjoy a conference…a workshop.   All of the works listed below are a decade and a half or more. The question to you as a reader is who among them made sense of the “design” for change? Who remained persuasive enough to see implementation? Use the form below. Thank you so much for your attention and participation. One example from personal experience has been the lasting contribution of Robert Gutman to encourage architects to engage in social change through design.

Global Challenge Questions

Architectural Practice: A Critical View by Robert Gutman

Thousands of practitioners in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry may have been influenced (albeit briefly in a classroom) by Robert Gutman’s ratio of professionals to the urban population (Princeton Arch Press 1988). The central point was about 98% of the population never gets to meet or talk with an architect or engineer – ever.  

I would like to recall Robert Gutman to start off. The point is, to define measures of inequality in design practice.

The intellectual rigor of Putnam’s research has much to offer. In Architectural Practice, he established useful controls for a wide range of factors such as poverty, residential mobility, and education that affect “life in architecture.”

To set a relevant tone for making urban design a comprehensive AEC contribution to sustainable earth, re-read and update the legacy of Robert Gutman.  Then work to address questions such as the following to people such Adolfo Carrin Jr.,  White House Office of Urban Affairs (a planner) (Twitter), or Shaun Donovan, an architect (HUD) currently looking to my NYC’s Mayor. (Twitter) and their global counterparts. Believe me, and they are both very familiar with “bottom-feeding” architecture and planning. A key question is whether they continue to find it an acceptable part of the overall community development puzzle as generational or merely transitional/

Question One: How possible is it to locally (if not globally) alter fee structures to represent a new set of values such as carbon reduced, energy saved, life cycle defined.? When will new levels of public leadership effectively encourage changes in the “live-work/play” behavior of humans over the next century that enhance their safety and self-esteem, and well-being? If not, why not? Get a handle on that, and the second question might be fully definable within AEC.

Question Two:  Without a doubt, we live in a house that we all build, but unlike the other service professions, AEC produces places for hundreds, even thousands of private domains interspersed with poorly linked and unevaluated public realms.  It has the name SLAP, for space left over after planning! How can this industry change the existing contours of civic representation in AEC?  AEC is tragically invested in so few that it seems illogical not to address a greater sense of balance in the public goods market if not, a broader social system for non-litigious support and participation.

The first stage of a humanitarian crisis is generally denial. As a result, defining the first question offers hope for finding and accepting new methods for living sustainably on the earth.  The second question is aimed at biological beings facing an ecological crisis that is not short-term. It must be made clear that a focus on the technology of  “life: work/play” will not effectively define these ecological problems. Essentially, there is no fix without establishing a vastly broader sense of responsibility.

Given this foundation, several other questions require development: What policy changes within New York would the following folks recommend? (fiscal, land use, zoning) How would they implement a regional strategy?

Ecological Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Position: Consumer-driven change will work, given the right iPhone-type app at the right time. To understand the full impact of a single consumption choice, the question “Is this good for Earth?” is impossible to answer for the lack of life cycle data. The moment of consumption is well past design or production and ahead of use and disposal.  Daniel Goleman defines this “being good” problem in his book, Ecological Intelligence and describes “industrial ecology” as a way to act ecologically – confronting a complex global challenge that is embedded in personal consumption choices and, in doing so, alter the forces that drive design and production, as well as, demand new cycles of responsible disposal and retention.

The Entropy Problem

Beyond advancing the bounded rationality embedded in individual consumption choices, the backbone of consumption is the connection between railways, expressways, and the power- and water grids.  The body held by this backbone is considered infinite. Will the ecological intelligence approach improve the quality of decisions that will make the 50,000 miles of national expressway infrastructure functional, or the 225,000-mile national rail system more useful, or keep 200,000 miles [? distance traveled by light in one second] of national grid power from routine catastrophic failure or plug up a very, very leaky water grid? Simple answer — no f’n way.

The scale of coordination among states to address these questions is well beyond the power of individual consumer choice. The mega-city structure of these regions and mix of private, government, and public benefit corporations serving as ad hoc regulatory bodies do not appear to have a capacity for rational thought, let alone ecological intelligence.

Sustainable America by John Dernbach

Position: Sustainable development will make the US livable, healthy, secure, and prosperous.  Ten themes are developed by Dernbach as follows:

  1. Ecological footprint system integration
  2. Greenhouse gas reduction programs
  3. Stimulate employment for unskilled persons in environmental protection and restoration
  4. Stimulate NGOs to play a major role
  5. Organizing government using sustainability principles to prioritize
  6. Expand options for sustainable living to consumers
  7. Advance general public and formal education
  8. Strengthen environmental and natural resources law
  9. Lead international efforts on behalf of sustainable development
  10. Systematically improve access to data for decision making

Released 1.12.2009: Order from Island Press.  Also see: Stumbling Towards Sustainability

With the Ten Items Above in Mind

Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan said it best in Ecological Design when they contrasted sustainability defined technologically as opposed to ecologically (pp. 18-23) Here they summarized David W. Orr’s position on ecology.

  • First, people are finite and fallible. The human ability to comprehend and manage scale and complexity has limits. Thinking too big can make our human limitations a liability rather than an asset.
  • Second, a sustainable world can be redesigned and rebuilt only from the bottom up. Locally self-reliant and self-organized communities are the building blocks for change.
  • Third, traditional knowledge that coevolves out of culture and place is a critical asset. It needs to be preserved, restored, and used.
  • Fourth, the true harvest of evolution is encoded in nature’s design. Nature is more than a bank of resources to draw on: it is the best model we have for all the design problems we face.

Technology is zero-sum when placed in a priority higher than these principles of real change.

Peter Droege also believes the question of technology is probably secondary.  He is the author of The Renewable City: A Comprehensive Guide To An Urban Revolution and offers up the tool kits on city greening that have been around since the 1970s. The kicker is they were not implemented for the lack of “payback” and other reasons.

Mitchel Joachim seeks to integrate ecological design, but Dr. Joachim wins Time Magazine’s Best Invention (2007) for work with Smart Cities Group Compacted Car. As a partner in the nonprofit design organization Terreform, Fab Tree Hab project, and so on, he baits the Sprawl vs. Urban Center debate as a choice: is it better to spread over the landscape or produce dense, compact cities. Aside from the “unstoppably both” answer and the more jargon than juice issue, is anything going on here other than too much talent chasing after too much money, or is it more hubris?  I’m talking about the kind of technology embedded in Tom Perkins’ Maltese Falcon (the $100M sailing ship that one person can sail). Even he is embarrassed.

Mike Davis would seriously disagree about the “urban solution” to the “global challenge” question in Planet of Slums.  As an urban theorist, Davis takes a global approach to the poverty that dominates the planet’s urban population.  The list is growing from Cape Town and Caracas to Casablanca and Khartoum. Davis argues health, justice, and social issues associated with gargantuan slums like Mexico City’s estimated population of 4 million seem invisible in world politics.  He writes, “The demonizing rhetoric of the various international wars on terrorism, drugs, and crime is so much semantic apartheid: they construct epistemological walls around gecekondus, favelas, and chawls that disable any honest debate about the daily violence of economic exclusion.”  Statistics showing the number of “mega slums” or “when shanty-towns and squatter communities merge in continuous belts of informal housing and poverty, usually on the urban periphery” have been forming since the 1960s. Davis paints a bleak picture of urbanization’s upward trend and a severely negative outlook for urban slum-dwellers.

Matthew Kahn wrote Green Cities: Urban Growth and Environment to frame the process of rapid urban growth and sprawl as a source of concern about economic exclusion and environmental health.  Are they mutually exclusive? Most policies pursue both, but Kahn suggests it is naive to do so.  Is Kahn the best for asking the tough questions about the costs?

Douglas Farr’s recent publication, Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design with Nature (2007): Wiley (and a whopping $75.00 and 304 pages) is his admitted first “draft.” The debate is open, and case studies are available, but the initial steps toward a neighborhood-based “excellence” process on the long list of techniques worthy of implementation are outlined well.  Doug will be the first to tell you that it is “hell” out there, especially after spending a decade on a relatively simple process of trying to make it easy to walk from one place to the next. New Yorkers know intuitively that so many solutions to the problems of the glog lie quietly inside our tiny realm of islands.  (glog? – the blogged globe).

Peter Newman and Isabella Jenning’s most recent work is Cities as Sustainable Ecosystems, Principals, and Practices. (2007) This book explores urban design as a resource for streaming energy, materials, and information into a new urban system.  Newman and Jennings recognize that “a system” can only be described in larger, more complex systems.  In this brief introduction (296p), urbanization as a system presents a series of human/non-human “man against nature” interactions inexorably overwhelmed by the larger ecosystem. Nevertheless, Newman and Jennings make a case for an urban solution to the compelling global challenge.

Christopher Leinberger’s recent work is The Option of Urbanism: Investing in a New American Dream. (2007)  Chris is within driving distance of Detroit and must therefore be compelled to write a book with this title.  Top on his list of problems is the lack of affordability in communities where walking to most services is available and mass transit for the remaining specialized services is affordable and comfortable. Concerns regarding recent land-use policies in NYC now support as many as nineteen different forms of “drivable sub-urbanism” in New York City that seriously challenges the existing walkable urbanism structure. Local leadership is failing as developers (who only know how to do it their way) continue to be very pocketbook persuasive with policymakers. What is that other book – Retrofitting Suburbia?

Kim Moody has prepared a detailed summary of political/fiscal policy From Welfare State to Real Estate: Regime Change in New York City 1974 to the Present. (2007). The book summarizes the transformation of political and fiscal power by the Financial Control Board following the 1974 Fiscal Crisis.  Since then, the New York City Planning Commission and the Department of City Planning’s budgetary powers are in the hands of the New York State government, whose “fiscal order” has become a national embarrassment.  Several questions require development as follows: Even though he believes it is “nearly too late” to make policy changes that would effectively address the economic “bifurcation” of New York, we are compelled to ask what might be done?  How would he implement a regional strategy that also recognizes older urban centers’ impoverishment throughout the region?

Other options:

Collaboration in Urban Design and Planning was recently extolled in Part III “The Design and Planning Components (Levels of Integration)” in the second edition of The Built Environment: A collaborative inquiry into Design and Planning (2007), edited by Wendy McClure and Tom Bartuska, Washington State University.

Glenn Beck and Kevin Balfe wrote An Inconvenient Book (Threshold Editions). The tough solutions to problems such as global warming, poverty, and political correctness are described.  Many weeks on NYT bestseller list.  I suggest following it up… via James Lovelock vs. James Hansen? Panel and workshop?

ULI’s Army (always used their Dollars and Cents series but this caught my eye)

Getting Density Right: Tools for Creating Vibrant Compact Development. The compact development tools are in place for New York City, yet walkable communities remain strangely incomplete.  What is missing? According to NMHC, the key to improvements will be better leadership from local officials and neighborhood activists. The “frontline” obstacles to compact development are many. A review of this resource is needed.  Get it, read it, report and review.  It was $40 with a DVD of start-up presentation materials.

Robert Wright in Nonzero – The Logic of Human Destiny (New York: Pantheon Books 2000) draws parallels between the trials and errors in the evolution of life and the determination of human culture to form a moral architecture.  The competitiveness for “place” through manipulating resources ultimately demands a social, if not a moral, trade and exchange framework.

For the most part, this relationship is the stuff of embedded knowledge that we “just know” but don’t talk much about in our day-to-day discourses.  Wright suggests this social data frames the trajectories of the community through selection.  Well examined, these processes become predictable and will ultimately lead to nonzero.  Why? Our capacity to produce increased system complexity is grounded in the reality of trends and organic form evolution over thousands of years. It is also a confirmation of the inevitability of convergences in the emergence of civilizations.

As we know, life emerged from the inorganic to organic, to biological, and ultimately to physiological specializations producing the psychological – the mind.  In this continuum, the next stages of human history will be defined by the globalization of trade and communication technologies. Yet, is the human transcendental destiny defined by expanding our potential to shop?  Is this a world with meaning? Is it worth having? Where is the glue to bind these survival and pleasure imperatives to a moral reality? The argument in Nonzero is the application of design as the teleological determinant.

The nearly irredeemable corruptions of systems that would process and manipulate physical material, including DNA, are balanced best by seeding human capacity with the information management resources to see, feel, and define the interwoven refined transformations into these choices. We are now entitled to answer “of what community am I a member?  We should also be entitled to ask and answer “of what community will I become a member by the making of these choices?”

Witold Rybczynski

In Makeshift Metropolis, Witold Rybczynski allows his teaching ability to lay down a lecture without admitting that at this stage in human history — people really need to be protected from what they want — Americans especially. Like other top-level designers who succeed in a big way, I think Rybczunski writes to compromise with this success’s realities as a teaching moment.  You see it in the choices he makes to think once again on his own terms, or at least free of his client’s terms in a way that justifies the work of being incremental in the urban landscape.

The urban world is a physical and intellectual experience that fuels periods of vast prosperity, civic responsibility, investor confidence, and an intangible sense of “pride of place†regardless of economic status. Cities are catalysts for millions of experimental expressions of human thought and desire. They range from the myopia of projects for rapid capital returns to civil self-reforming society’s grand visions. Within these many experiments, perhaps the greatest question confronting the expansion of global urbanism is whether it is capable of containment. Is the city a physical entity that can stop expanding?  Were this possible, it would give the city entity a new ultimate purpose to focus on humankind’s intellectual capacity and to recognize one key priority.  Protecting the diversity of the wilderness requires separation.

We tend to forget that the market is never right until it corrects what some call the race to the bottom in corporate governance. It also suggests that the aggregate of individual decisions eventually becoming overwhelming in every system.  Turn the econometrics of this fact on the earth as a whole, and the rate of resource consumption is approaching the equivalent of 1.4 earths per year.  It now (11.30.2011) takes approximately 18 months for the Earth to regenerate what we use in one year. The level of correction suggested in this model is painful to contemplate.

Like so many before him, I fear that Witold Rybczynski will force himself or will be forced into the survivalist fringe of Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti or the anarchy of Larry Harvey’s Black Rock City to be true to his word. One is physical proof of intellect. The other is a call to the intellect for proof. Both illustrate how messy humans (OK, just architects) will get to make a disjointed point.


See Writers Wanted if you would like to continue this punishment.

As you’ve scrolled to the end breezing through all of the great thoughts of the thoughtful and yes, nothing has happened in the physical world, save a few hints here and there.

People all over the world select great readings and reviews to share. An architect, engineers, and construction filter for this summary of “human condition writers” are built on one question. What kind of earth are we building? Please submit similar networks that use similar filters. An occasional joint session with “same bubble” choices could produce excellent results. Please consider participating in the development of this resource.

The main ability to learn is new ways of thinking is due to an initial agreement. Every idea is carefully coupled with a resonant resolve to stimulate a rejection of it in trade for a larger union.  This practice is both intellectual and anti-intellectual, and it is healthy. The following agreement accepts the idea that communication will not occur without the willingness to persuade or be persuaded.

    If you are near one of these towns 50,000 to 100,000 people and want to do this, just drop us a line


    Galileo knew that most people would predict that a heavy body (H) would fall faster than a lighter body (L). 

    But, his eyes were fixed on our solar system, and these bodies were not falling, so he conducted a thought experiment to prove another possible prediction.  Science and art are wonderfully connected by experimental thinking. Here is Galileo’s well-known thought experiment:

    1. Suppose we connect the two bodies by a string, thereby making the compound object H+L.
    2. One could predict that H+L should fall faster than H by itself because of the compound weight: H+L > H.
    3. However, it’s also possible to use the same logic to claim that the compound body should fall slower than H because of L’s drag so that H+L < H.
    4. This yields a contradiction. It means that logical consequence is absurd or reductio ad absurdum because H = L = H+L.

    On the Moon, Neil Armstrong showed the whole world that Galileo was right a half-century later. He let go of a hammer and a feather in the absence of atmospheric friction while standing on the Moon, and, sure enough, they hit the Moon’s surface at the same time. This is the predictive power of thought experiments.

    New York Colleges and Universities

    There are nearly one-half-million students of higher education and over 1.1 million students in the NYC public education system. A resource of enormous power given 1) affordability and 2) focus on priorities of the city through scholarships and education incentives. These institutions have an enormous stake in the health, housing, and general welfare of New York City people.

    2,5732014Barnard College
    18,0902014Baruch College
    3,7722010Berkeley College Midtown NYC Campus
    11,1572010Bronx Community College
    17,4102015Brooklyn College
    1,2702016Columbia Business School
    1,2442020Columbia Law School
    31,4552020Columbia University
    8,8462017Fashion Institute of Technology
    15,2862015Fordham University
    7,0782011Hostos Community College
    23,0182013Hunter College
    15,0002014John Jay College of Criminal Justice
    15,9682016Kingsborough Community College
    17,5692010LaGuardia Community College
    12,0002019Lehman College (CUNY)
    3,8832013Manhattan College
    12,0632019Manhattan Community College
    5,5192020Medgar Evers College
    17,2822016New York City College of Technology
    51,1232018New York University
    6792010NYU Grossman School of Medicine
    1,3952015NYU School of Law
    12,8432015Pace University
    5,8542015Parsons School of Design | The New School
    4,5562014Pratt Institute
    19,5202016Queens College, City University of New York
    15,4932015Queensborough Community College
    4,2012017School of Visual Arts
    20,4482014St John’s University Queens Campus
    5,8372011St. Joseph’s College New York
    1,8912010SUNY Maritime College
    16,1612012The City College of New York
    8762015The Cooper Union
    9392016The Juilliard School
    10,2542014The New School
    6,3482014Yeshiva University
    8,5112015York College

    Help in finding the faculty that combine housing, climate and social justice would be helpful here.

    Thanks for the contributions to date: OCCUPY

    Vote Early

    Like any clear-headed voter, I was in shock following the “what happened” 2016 election. I turned to Jane Jacobs for help and went straight for Dark Days Ahead” in my library and came to this in the first chapter:

    “…the death or the stagnated moribundity of formerly unassailable and vigorous cultures is caused not by an assault from outside but by an assault from within, that is, by internal rot in the form of fatal cultural turnings not recognized as wrong turnings when they occur or soon enough afterward to be correctable. The time during which corrections can be made runs out because of cultural forgetfulness.”

    Jane Jocobs

    There is still time. In this election, will we forget the assault on the dignity of women carried out by a candidate for the Presidency of the United States? Will we forget the self-serving lies? As a candidate, he is that unrecognized “rot” in the cultural turning of a national election. Take hope in knowing it is not “fatal.” There is a time to correct. Vote early. To find where your early site is located go here. If you want to go the absentee route get the application here.


    The terms of office in the U.S. Constitution assure the observance of character sufficient to support or deny renewal. Terms are kernels of political time, and like seeds, they carry stories of leadership. Some champion the highest of human ideals and guide us with the opportunity for growth with every kind of crucial nutrient. The message of the seed is not to grieve, but to find the nutrients to grow. The rot we have now will provide if left to decay.

    I cannot think of a better time to build a massive effort to vote as JFK said, not because it is easy, but because it is hard. The cities are skeptical and easily angered, but on balance, unafraid of change because they are diverse and highly skilled in the experience of it. Today, it may seem difficult to get to the truth and I can tell you exactly where you will find it.

    Walk to a street outside your home and accept this idea. Out there the worried search for nutrients and fear of change is strong. Many will be tempted to choose the false promises of a liar. Know that justice can be ripped from our hearts, but not without cost. To succeed in this task, one dark force in the world requires exposure and the “vote” is not all we have, but it is all we need to renew and begin again.

    Vote early. To find where your early site is located go here. If you want to go the absentee route get the application here.

    Vote damn it!

    James Baldwin

    I have no idea if Aeon Video is a good source to use, but these few minutes of James Baldwin are vitally important to recall as words spoken a half-century ago. Even more instructive is the obsequious British joy in gaining Balwin’s participation in their instruction and then of the insight of Buckley who became an apologist for racism while defending American values as he has learned of them.

    Nowhere else can one see more clearly how the knowledge and experience of hypocrisy carried by Baldwin contrast with a white male intellectual who sees his world as one designed specifically to conduct “a win” at the expense of all others. The community’s authentic voice is diverse, and it is this built-in strangeness that every agency or agent for change struggles to understand.

    Do you know how a disaster (flood, fire) in a city will strengthen resolve while drought will have people at each other’s throats? I do. We are in that drought, and the political premise is correct — we do overvalue consensus because people want it to exist.  A bit of core knowledge in the people of the color world is that change tends to be for the worse, exceptions prove the rule, and there is a pedagogy of the oppressed. These core perceptions are poorly understood and when “the white world of capital investment” comes knocking at the door and says we are here to x, y, and z you all. It becomes incredibly disappointing. The things to which you, we, or they can agree to “at least somewhat” do not build well on contradictory and unevaluated value systems. Not once in my long life has a developer entered the room saying we are racist. We represent a racist system. What is said is you have a role to play. If you move outside of that role (caste) and exact a price on the change we propose, we will label your efforts extortion. Not once have they ever said we accept full responsibility as system representatives. We commit ourselves to finance a way for you, for all of us to be that way starting now and forever.

    Eye on the Mountain Top

    snow covered mountains
    Photo by Patrick Doyle on Pexels.com

    Tale of Two CTs

    City Center
    Lincoln Square

    Robert Venturi once observed Las Vegas as the only uniquely American expression of architecture. No one ever says it is a product of thoughtful planning. In 2006, when MGM Mirage and partners decided to build City Center, Las Vegas, NV, New York news aptly described it as an entertainment-based retail project. A comparison with an older effort confirms why metaphor-desperate architecture critics get super busy; however, I think lousy planning is the more useful element to engage. Enter stage left, Lincoln Square, Center, and Circle.

    A viewpoint for examining the similarities and differences from one other kind of uniqueness can be useful. America is not built on ancient traditions, universal religion, ethnicity, or race; our founders believed they could be built on ideals. The principles of human dignity are given the highest value. Without the rigorous implementation of this core value, community development tends to fail this purpose. The question is not if the development practice in Lincoln Square, NYC, and City Center, Las Vegas was racist. The question is, how much racism is in play?

    These two real estate investments are instructive of American urban development. They stand fifty years apart, but it might as well be five centuries regarding their exposure to values. Robert Moses broke ground on the Lincoln Center project with President Eisenhower. The biography of both patriarchs confirms a systemic racism component. Both believed Black people should be treated equally but did not think they were equal, and many of the policies and actions of both remain as proof.

    Lincoln Square is an example of racialized architecture rationalized in New York City because the backdoor (parking/shipping) of Lincoln Center is Amsterdam Avenue adjacent to public housing. The entry plaza logically favored the Broadway/Columbus intersection. This was a reasonable architectural decision for many reasons. However, one reason rarely, if ever mentioned, is that architecture as a profession has no design solution for racism. They are subservient; the racism of their clients is included. The profession received clear notice of this problem in 1968 at their 100th convention (here).

    Lincoln Center’s development is not as apparent as the proliferation of Confederate monuments from 1900 to through the 1920s, which continues through the 1950s. Lincoln Center did not support segregation with intimidation. On the other hand, it did support rules of law ito demolish a mostly Black neighborhood in the name of high-culture.

    The Civil Rights Movement pushes back, and Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee Park is now Emancipation Park. A record of the effort to remove intimidating monuments is kept by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). On the other hand, the high culture of Lincoln Center uses the grade sheet of their traditions. They seek to convert participants into high arts as their earnest effort to confront racism and claim success in programmatic terms.

    Lincoln Center represents issues that architectural design or sculpted monuments cannot handle. Its creation was born of the slum clearance, race intimidation movement known as Urban Renewal. It developed through the redlined 50s and into the late 60s in NYC. The civil rights response pushes back but is compelled to accept reconciliation measures. Reconciliation also occurs in the offerings of special district law in 1969. The Lincoln Square District’s roots can point a bit remarkably to its transformation. It led to comprehensive inclusionary zoning laws, albeit fifty years later.

    As a renewal program, the special district design attacked the southern diaspora of poverty into the North with displacement strategies. As for tactics, restitution-like compromises such as the promise of affordable housing and well-funded ‘top-down” cultural services can be agreeable goals to the “fighters” and the losses, grave as they may be, deemed acceptable.

    Understanding these programs’ rectitude provides the added depth needed to understand the term “systemic” in race relations and economic change.  The displacement practice, once quoted to me once as, “you are free, just not here, because you can’t afford it,” continues to this day and well examined in a report from the University of Pennsylvania’s City Planning program (here).  Displacement is a percentage game, and if human dignity was the measure, the players on both sides are losing. Penn’s work is an excellent update of Chester Hartman’s book, “Displacement: How to Fight It,” developed by Dennis Keating and Richard LeGates (1981). The truth in both publications, now decades apart, is the displacement process has only changed on the margins. Therein lies the terror of it all.



    A small portion of New York City (Map: CT 145) covers an area of eight typical city blocks just west of Central Park. It had a 2000 population of 4,500 people living in 2,900 housing units that sustains a low vacancy rate of about 2%. The land area is 60 acres to yield a residential density of 48,000 people per square mile. (Facts to be updated following 2020 Census – see below.)

    The area includes the Fordham University Law School, and it is just south of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Juilliard School, and a dozen other cultural miracles. It is not just a neighborhood composed of multiple-story apartment buildings; it is a destination experience established by cultural centers, the splendor of Central Park’s open space, and the Time Warner 12-story shopping “mall” without the standing auto-surround. The daytime population density can be doubled with ease and well supported by a transit system at this location that can deliver 5,000 people per hour, 24/7/365.

    Zoning Resolution Chapter: 82-00 Map:  8c Effective Date: 4/24/69

    The public goal (1969) of the Special Lincoln Square District is to enhance the area as an international center for the performing arts. To achieve this goal, urban design along Broadway will follow street line rules. Arcades for interior urban-room retail and service facilities provide a compromise for regulation and limits on street-level uses. Supply-side development bonuses are through special permits that offer added square footage for housing rented at lower (but not low) rents governed by Inclusionary Housing R10. and subway improvements. The demand side bets on good shows, a friendly neighborhood, and a sincere hope that the NYC mass transit services do not collapse.

    Lincoln Center is a life-long learning opportunity in community development. Despite a long history of cultural engagement efforts as compensation for a vast mid-50s clearance of thousands of families, a tabula rasa planning strategy, and elements such as the fortress edge at Amsterdam Avenue, the entire project remains an unfulfilled story of transitional urban power.  Its future continues to be written for the success it still might get, not by crossing Amsterdam, but in recognizing how well the social fabric of this part of Manhattan is willing to attack its drift into a binary culture and ignore new opportunities that offer exceptional new levels of depth.

    Instantanious Urbanism

    The comparison with another entertainment-retail center for the high-spend culture has America written all over it. It is instructive of the “binary problem” and a warning of competing solely for the high-end. The City Center was a five-year design and build “hit”, not unlike graffiti, but way neat and well worth the time exploring innovations.

    The $9+ Billion Las Vegas City Center (left to right): KPF’s Mandarin Hotel, (392) Libeskind, and Rockwell’s Crystal’s premium goods mall, Pelli’s Aria, (4,000) Helmut Jahn’s Veer, (335) Foster’s ill-fated Harmon. (demolition was in 2015) Also in the City Center, Rafael Viñoly Vara hotel and residences (1,495). A “who’s who” of architect high-end destination creation. The City Center project broke ground in 2006, and despite significant construction difficulties, including nine deaths in sixteen months, the new skyline hit the press in late 2009. The plan for this massive development was based on speed regardless of the human cost and a systemic “rent-comes-first” problem.

    The entire project is symbolized by the demolition of Foster’s Harmon hotel, but like New York City’s development projects, the greater effort survived the 2008 recession. In Las Vegas, all bets are all on the black. Undeterred, billions spent in building the City Center out of nothing that can be remembered occurred even though Las Vegas sits amidst the aridest desert on Earth. Most of the 2.6 million residents trust in the spin on Lake Mead as shrinking (or not), rejecting any notion of a prolonged era of despair due to the rains of 2016/17.

    The fresh knowledge of anguish from the City Center project became available when the Las Vegas Sun received a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the causes of construction deaths and lax regulatory assessments. The tragedy of a worker’s family is described (here). You can read all of the stories by Las Vegas Sun for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Public Service (here). One of them points to NYC’s positive response to construction safety. Please read the work of Alexandra Berzon of the Sun who explored the pace, fear, and death, and terror that accompanied the creation of City Center before taking in the five minutes on the spin on the final product in the following presentation.

    Bill Smith managed construction of the $9 billion City Center completed in 60 months.

    All of Las Vegas began as a city of no-rules sprawl. The property taken didn’t make the news. It produced thousands of hotel and residential condo units spread through multiple structures on a 67-acre site. The Vara overlaps residence floors with a 1,500-room hotel. Regular housing is included in the Mandarin Oriental and a 37-floor twin tower. The housing and related residential accommodations combine a complex of hotels, shops, and gambling entertainment. Whether the housing is composed of permanent residents or time-shared ‘hotel-condo participants is of small consequence. The community with this density can resolve the service implications with reasonable ease based on density. That leaves median income and whether racial and gender disparities are becoming dispositive.

    Developing business models on the provision of unique destination-retail cultures (high or low) are coupled with a base of rental units, permanent, and condo-hotel housing. Development of this kind suggests the need for a comparison built on the demography of a place, before, during, and after. Such a comparison could yield measures by which the fast “time is money” impact of capital project disruptions that often lead to forced and economic displacement also provide proof of balance. There would be sufficient generational investment for those found in the wake of this harm that will never occur to that household again. It would be a guarantee that the cycle of poverty ends with an emphasis on every child regardless of the cost.

    AKA: Near Win Wheel

    The resident population of Las Vegas will be close to three million people in 2020, and before the 2020 pandemic, this city had 42.52 million visitors in 2019. There are just two “isms” that describe gambling in Vegas, “tourism” and “capitalism.”

    The increased competition for gamblers as entertainment-based retail comes clear in a joke you would not hear at City Center. “What is the difference between an online casino and a live casino? – When you lose online and cry, no one will laugh at you.” The enclosures of the modern casino encourage over-confidence, leading to the illusion of security. Our brains like this as a sense of pleasure and contributes to the idea that an educated guess can be precise. Illusions of control also negate outcomes of chance into more extreme emotions, such as a “near win” means getting close to one.

    To the visitor, the core illusion is gambling is a personal decision not influenced by the environment or knowledge of “the odds.” Both support and encourage the fantasy of winning and a sense of superiority despite a uniform failure (not-wining) rate. This phenomenon is well understood; however, the public policy allows gambling while discouraging it as a dangerous, potentially addictive practice.

    A growing proportion of society participates in gambling. The economic impact occurs in every public jurisdiction. It is not treated as a preventable problem, but a percentage of the population issue, leaving it to post-trauma “hot-lines” to resolve. Proof of a high-quality education system will occur when the “casino” as a land-use disappears or when no one other than the fabled 1% gamble.

    Demographic Comparisons

    Every resident, business, and neighborhood in the nation has a census tract. The Bureau of the Census has made significant improvements in providing online access to data for ordinary people. There are thousands of tables on who we are as a nation, city, state, county. The census tract is the “where” of this data. Knowing the actual condition of our lives yields an assessment of fitness and reasons for action based on comparisons. The first and most important bit of that knowledge is to know that the patriarchy that beats society into submission cannot be used to dismantle its house. One must know how the house got there in the first place.

    The creation of the structures you enter to live, work, shop, or play must be safe structures. To assure these objectives, the regulations governing land use and the practice of architecture, engineering, and construction are strict. When errors are discoverer and repair is impossible, the building comes down, as in Foster’s building in Las Vegas. The structures also have social and economic impacts, but these products are not well regulated or measured. The ideals of the American Constitution demand fair treatment measures under the law, fair and just compensation and unfettered access to quality education, and a “we the people” promise of fairness in the pursuit of happiness.

    Following, you will find a glimpse of the 2010 data on two U.S. Census tracts illustrated in the description of these two locations. This glimpse will await the final publication of the 2020 Census. Both locations are products of a largely racist power structure focused solely on the flow of capital as exhibited by the value of the real estate. The fulfillment of America’s constitutional ideals is deemed irrelevant or, at best, secondary to that flow of capital.  Ironically, improving the flow of capital is touted as the best remedy to whatever set of problems a social justice agenda might present. Therefore, the quality of life becomes a material consequence of profit. Rightly so, until a tipping point occurs when the measure of quality lowers until it is only viewed as the ability to subsist.

    Population, Sex, and Race

    Census Tract 145 Manhattan (2018 estimates) has a total population of 5,960. It is 64.4% White, Non-Hispanic, and 38% of the population 15 years and older have never married. Census Tract 68 Las Vegas (2018 estimates) has a total population of 5,077. The White, Non-Hispanic population is 23.2%, and 45% of the population 15 years and older have never married.

    2010 City Center (CT 68)
    Total population3,986
    Median age (years)35.1
    Sex ratio (males per 100 females)101.9
    Age dependency ratio56.6
    Old-Age dependency ratio17.0
    Child dependency ratio39.6
    One race99.0%
    Black or African American7.4%
    American Indian and Alaska Native0.0%
    Some other race12.3%
    Two or more races1.0%
    Hispanic or Latino origin (any race)45.4%
    White alone, not Hispanic or Latino41.7%
    2020 City Center (CT 68)
    to be written

    2010 Lincoln Square (CT 145)
    Total population6,245
    Median age (years)34.3
    Sex ratio (males per 100 females)105.0
    Age dependency ratio33.8
    Old-Age dependency ratio20.2
    Child dependency ratio13.6
    One race97.3%
    Black or African American3.8%
    American Indian and Alaska Native0.3%
    Some other race1.4%
    Two or more races2.7%
    Hispanic or Latino origin any race)14.4%
    White alone, not Hispanic or Latino69.4%
    2020 Lincoln Square (CT 145)
    to be written

    Something to add or say? Click – here

    100 Change Agents

    The Big Fail

    Put “The 100″+”*” into a search engine, and about 20 billion references will be listed, so it is a popular idea to take 100 things and add “top or most influential” or, as in this case, “change agents.” A couple of sentences on the list below will not sum up a life; they only spark further interest. Nevertheless, understanding the individual accomplishments of the one hundred people listed here exhibit the extraordinary impact of “design,” the best in urban analysis, and a vast network of pathways beaten to their doorsteps. This success of individuals must now become the focused leadership of many.

    The image below displays the first grouping using the search criteria. Why is this 100-list labeled “The Big Fail? In the world we live in now, Gene Kranz’s words, “failure is not an option” (Apollo 13) ring clearly, yet any of the 100 on this list, living or not, cannot muster up a tenth of the value assigned to a popular television series combining teenage angst with a dystopian theme. The metaphor is not lost on anyone.

    Creativity is assigned to one person by supporting millions willing to accept their leadership or inventiveness, innovation, and talent, but not transforming the urban experience into new domains. At least one hundred living and intensely engaged change agents are needed to create a series exhibiting an American urban future that people will believe possible.

    If I had between one and five billion dollars for ten years for a group of 100 people on a list like this, a series of on-the-ground projects would soon demonstrate the new world we must have and need. But, instead, the “big fail” is upon us for not thinking in a new way, or at least as creatively fundable as a TV series.


    The revenue of a popular television series over ten years is similar to the fund proposed. Think in a new way.

    1. Jane Jacobs – (May 4, 1916 – April 25, 2006) The author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs is credited with nurturing a new era of community-led planning. Famously opposed Robert Moses on some of the most famous planning controversies of the 20th century.

    2. Jaime Lerner – An architect and urban planner, founder of the Instituto Jaime Lerner, and chairman of Jaime Lerner Arquitetos Associados. A three-time mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, during a period of revitalization that made the city renowned for urban planning, public transportation, environmental social programs, and urban projects.

    3. Frederick Law Olmsted – (April 26, 1822 – August 28, 1903) A landscape architect, journalist, social critic, and public administrator. Olmsted is considered the “father” of American landscape architecture and is responsible for many plans and designs of open spaces around the country, perhaps most famously exemplified by Central Park in Manhattan.

    4. Jan Gehl – An architect and urban designer famous for refocusing design and planning on the human scale. Author of Life Between BuildingsPublic Spaces, Public Life; and Cities for People, among other books.

    5. Andrés Duany – An American architect, an urban planner, and a founder of the Congress for the New Urbanism. Duany is credited with the plan and code for Seaside, the first new traditional community, the development of the SmartCode, and the definition of the rural to urban transect, among other accomplishments.

    6. Lewis Mumford – (October 19, 1895 – January 26, 1990) Mumford interpreted architecture and urban life in a social context while working as the architectural critic for The New Yorker magazine for over 30 years and authoring numerous books, including The City in History, published in 1961.

    7. Robert J. Gibbs – President of Gibbs Planning Group. Planned Michigan’s first ten New Urban communities and form-based codes, in addition to contributing to commercial developments in more than 400 town centers and historic cities in the United States and abroad.

    8. Frank Lloyd Wright – (June 8, 1867 – April 9, 1959) Perhaps the most famous architect in U.S. history. Frank Lloyd Wright led the Prairie School of architecture and pursued the theory of organic architecture. Fallingwater, a home located in Pennsylvania, is a beloved example of his work.

    9. Le Corbusier – (October 6, 1887 – August 27, 1965) Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier, was a pioneer of modern architecture and planning. The “towers in the park” concept that emerged from his Radiant City Plan was adopted in cities around the United States.

    10. Charles Marohn – Founder and president of Strong Towns, a news and commentary website and a popular portal for advocacy on issues of planning. Marohn authored Thoughts on Building Strong Towns, volumes 1 and 2, and A World Class Transportation System.

    11. Richard Florida – One of the world’s most visible urbanists. Richard Florida authored The Rise of the Creative Class and, most recently, The New Urban Crisis. He serves as a university professor and director of cities at the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto.

    12. William H. Whyte – (1917 – 1999) His 1980 book The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces enlarged the standard of observation and the study of human behavior in urban settings.

    13. Donald Shoup – Distinguished research professor in the Department of Urban Planning at the University of California, Los Angeles. Author of The High Cost of Free Parking, which has succeeded in launching a new approach to parking policy, as a fundamental aspect of planning and land use regulations, in communities around the country.

    14. Kevin Lynch – (1918 – 1984) An urban planner and author of The Image of the City (1960), What Time is This Place? (1972), and A Theory of Good City Form (1981) In The Image of the City, Lynch posited a theory of paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks that is referenced implicitly or explicitly in many planning and design efforts of the current day.

    15. Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk – Co-founder of Arquitectonica and Duany Plater Zyberk & Company. A leader in the New Urbanism movement and the co-author of Suburban Nation: the Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, and The New Civic Art.

    16. Janette Sadik-Khan – Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation from 2007–2013, while the nation’s largest country pursued and delivered one of the most sweeping revitalizations of the city’s streets in a half-century. Currently the principal at Bloomberg Associates and chair the National Association of Transportation Officials (NACTO). Author of Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution.

    17. Robert Moses – The “master builder” of mid-20th century New York City and environs, Robert Moses is one of the most polarizing figure of modern city building. Perhaps the most powerful man in New York City for a long stretch of the 20th century, Moses pursued a campaign of modernism based on slum clearing, public housing projects, and high-speed automobile transportation evident in New York to this day. Moses’s ambitions also inspired the growth of an opposition movement around Jane Jacobs.

    18. Daniel Burnham – (September 4, 1846 – June 1, 1912) An American architect and a towering figure in the history of American planning, thanks to his work in co-authoring the Plan of Chicago. Burnham also contributed to plans for cities like Cleveland, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

    19. Ebenezer Howard – (January 29, 1850 – May 1, 1928), the originator of the garden city movement. Authored To-Morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform, published in 1898, which described a utopian city in which people live harmoniously together with nature.

    20. Christopher Alexander – Architect and design theorist, regarded as the “father” of the pattern language movement. Co-author of the 1977 book A Pattern Language.

    21. Jeff Speck – A city planner and urban designer and a leading advocate for walkable cities. Author of Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, among other books.

    22. Peter Calthorpe – Founder of the award-winning firm of Calthorpe Associates, Calthorpe is also one of the founders and the first board president of the Congress of New Urbanism.

    23. Michael Bloomberg – Michael R. Bloomberg is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who served three terms as the mayor of the city of New York, during a time of innovation in city government and placemaking efforts in the nation’s largest city.

    24. Jane Addams – (September 6, 1860 – May 21, 1935) Known as the “mother” of Social Work.

    25. Enrique Peñalosa – Mayor of Bogotá from 1998 until 2001, and then again beginning in 2016, overseeing major transportation and public space projects in the city. Also served as the president of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).

    26. Nikos Salingaros – A mathematician by training who applies his work to urban theory. Salingros has championed network thinking and traditional architecture in the books Principles of Urban Structure and A Theory of Architecture, respectively, among other books.

    27. Charles, Prince of Wales – A frequent commenter on matters of the built environment, Prince Charles is an advocate of neo-traditional ideas, such as those of Christopher Alexander and Leon Krier. Prince Charles illustrated his ideas on the built environment during a 1984 attack on the British architectural community in a speech given to the Royal Institute of British Architects, in which he described a proposed extension to the National Gallery in London as a “monstrous carbuncle.”

    28. Ian McHarg – A pioneer of the environmental movement, McHarg founded the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Landscape Architecture and authored the book Design with Nature, published in 1969.

    29. James Howard Kunstler – Noted author and critic of suburban development patterns, best known for the book, The Geography of Nowhere.

    30. Rosa Parks – (February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005) An activist in the Civil Rights Movement who set the stage for the Montgomery bus boycott with an act of civil disobedience on public transit.

    31. Pierre-Charles L’Enfant – (August 2, 1754 – June 14, 1825), A French-born American military engineer who designed the basic plan for Washington, D.C. known today as the L’Enfant Plan (1791).

    32. Buckminster Fuller –  (July 12, 1895 – July 1, 1983) An American architect, author, designer, inventor, and futurist. Fuller published more than 30 books and developed numerous inventions and architectural designs, including the geodesic dome.

    33. John Muir – (April 21, 1838 – December 24, 1914) A naturalist and author, most famous an early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States. His activism helped preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park, and many other wilderness areas. Muir also founded the Sierra Club, which is one of the most active environmental groups, advocating positions on development projects throughout the United States.

    34. Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. – (July 24, 1870 – December 25, 1957) A landscape architect and city planner who worked on projects in Acadia, the Everglades, and Yosemite National Park as part of a life-long commitment to U.S. National Parks. Also a founding member of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

    35. Léon Krier – A leading proponent of New Urbanism and provocateur or modern urbanism. Best known for the development of Poundbury, an urban extension to Dorchester, in the United Kingdom.

    36. Rachel Carson – (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) An American marine biologist, author, and conservationist. Carson’s book Silent Spring is credited with bringing environmental advoccy to a new level of public awareness.

    37. Walt Disney – (December 5, 1901 – December 15, 1966) An entrepreneur, animator, voice actor, and film producer. In 1965, Disney began development of Disney World as a new type of city, the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.”

    38. Candi CdeBaca – Co-founder and co-executive director of Project VOYCE, founder and member of the Cross Community Coalition, and founder and principal of Rebel Soul Strategies.

    39. Henri Lefebrve – (June 16, 1901 – June 29, 1991) A Marxist philosopher and sociologist, best known for pioneering the critique of everyday life and for introducing the concepts of the right to the city and the production of social space. Author of 60 books and 300 articles.

    40. Jimmy Carter – The 39th president of the United States, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and a tireless champion of Habitat for Humanity.

    41. Patrick Geddes – (October 2, 1854 – April 17, 1932) A Scottish biologist, sociologist, geographer, and pioneering town planner, Geddes introduced the concept of “region” to architecture and planning and coined the term “conurbation.”

    42. Saul Alinsky – (January 30, 1909 – June 12, 1972) An American community organizer and writer and an early adopter and champion for many of the practices of modern community organizing.

    43. Edward Glaeser – Economist and professor of economics at Harvard University. His book, Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier, is a popular and widely cited reference for urban boosters.

    44. Gil Peñalosa – Founder and chair of 8 80 Cities, and a leading advocate for the design and use of parks and streets as great public places, as well as sustainable mobility: walking, riding bicycles, using public transit, and the new use of cars.

    45. Saskia Sassen – Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and a member of the Committee on Global Thought. Coined the term “Global City,” and authored Global City: New York, London, Tokyo, published in 1991.

    46. David Harvey – A theorist in the field of urban studies, geographer by training, professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and prolific author.

    47. Peter Hall – (March 19, 1932 – July, 30 2014) Professor of planning and regeneration at University College London. Also served as president of the Town and Country Planning Association and the Regional Studies Association. Considered the “father” of the enterprise zone, a policy tool subsequently adopted by countries worldwide to support economic development in disadvantaged areas.

    48. Edmund Bacon – (May 2, 1910 – October 14, 2005) An American urban planner, architect, educator, and author. Served as executive director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission from 1949 to 1970, earning the nickname “The Father of Modern Philadelphia.”

    49. Jacob Riis – (May 3, 1849 – May 26, 1914) Social reformer, “muckraking” journalist, and social documentary photographer.

    50. Georges-Eugene Haussmann – (March 27, 1809 – January 11, 1891) Commonly known as Baron Haussmann. Carried out a massive urban renewal program of new boulevards, parks, and public works in Paris commonly referred to as Haussmann’s renovation of Paris.

      If you are near one of these towns 50,000 to 100,000 people and want to do this, just drop us a line

      51. Thomas Jefferson – (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) The third president of the United States (1801–1809), the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and an accomplished architect. Jefferson’s designs for his home of Monticello and the University of Virginia campus are significant contributions to the architectural heritage of the United States, as well as influences on the federal style of architecture that survives to this day.

      52.  Brent Toderian – Vancouver chief planner from 2006 to 2012, during the city’s 2010 Winter Olympics-related planning and design process as well as the EcoDensity initiative and the Greenest City Action Plan. Toderian is now a consulting city planner and urbanist with TODERIAN UrbanWORKS and vocal advocate for livability initiatives.

      53. Allan Jacobs – An urban designer and professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. Authored the paper, “Toward an Urban Design Manifesto,” with Donald Appleyard, among other books. Also served for eight years as the director of the San Francisco Department of City Planning.

      54. Jennifer Keesmaat – Served as chief planner of Toronto from 2012 until September 2017, during which the city underwent a period of rapid growth. Keesmaat is an active participant in the planning discussion, contributing numerous editorials for local publications that argued in favor of progressive transportation planning policies.

      55. Vitruvius – (c. 80–70 BCE – c. 15 BCE) A Roman author, architect, and engineer. Author of De architectura, whose description of perfect proportion in architecture and human form influenced Leonardo da Vinci.

      56. Rem Koolhaas – Architect, architectural theorist, urbanist, and professor in practice of Architecture and Urban Design at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. Koolhaus is the author of multiple books, including S,M,L,XL, which includes an essay on urban planning titled “Whatever Happened to Urbanism?”

      57. Jarrett Walker – A consulting transit planner, Walker’s work in cities like Houston and his blog Human Transit lead current thinking about best practices public transit and mass transportation infrastructure.

      58. Dan Burden – A leader in innovative transportation planning, working in the past as Florida’s first state bicycle and pedestrian coordinator and as a co-founder of Walkable Communities, Inc. Burden is currently director of innovation and inspiration at Blue Zones, LLC.

      59. Hippodamus of Miletus – (498 – 408 BCE) An ancient Greek architect and urban planner, among other intellectual pursuits. Considered the “Father of European Urban Planning” and the namesake of the “Hippodamian Plan” (grid plan) of city layout.

      60. Joseph Minicozzi – Principal of Urban3, LLC, Minnicozzi is an advocate for downtown-style mixed-use developments, especially as preferred to big box retail.

      61. Michael Mehaffy – Portland-based consultant and author specializing in walkable mixed-use projects. Mehaffy is also a senior researcher in urban sustainability at KTH University in Stockholm and the executive director of the Sustasis Foundation.

      62. Fred Kent – Founder and president of Project for Public Spaces, and an authority on revitalizing public spaces.

      63. Jim Venturi – Jim Venturi is the founder and principal of ReThinkNYC, a New York City-based urban transportation planning think tank.

      64. Mitchell Silver – Commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Past president of the American Planning Association (APA) and former chief planning and development officer and planning director for Raleigh, North Carolina.

      65. Christopher Leinberger – Research professor and chair of the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at the George Washington University School of Business, president of Locus: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, and founding partner of Arcadia Land Company. Recently a proponent of Walkable Urban Places, or WalkUPs.

      66. Carol Coletta – A senior fellow with The Kresge Foundation’s American Cities Practice, Coletta is leading a proposed $40 million collaboration of foundations, nonprofits, and governments to demonstrate the benefits of a civic commons. Former vice president of community and national Initiatives for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and president of ArtPlace. 

      67. Dan Gilbert – The chairman and founder of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans Inc., Gilbert makes this list for his portfolio of downtown development investments in Detroit and Cleveland.

      68. Zaheer Allam – An advocate for energy and urban systems in Africa and the Small Island States. Co-founder of the Plateforme Citoyenne.

      69. James Rouse – (April 26, 1914 – April 9, 1996) Founder of The Rouse Company, was a pioneering real estate developer, urban planner, and civic activist. In 1982, Rouse created the Enterprise Foundation, an organization that helps community groups build housing.

      70. Majora Carter – An American urban revitalization strategist and public radio host from the South Bronx area of New York City. Carter’s work focuses on inclusion and sustainability.

      71. Ellen Dunham-Jones – Professor at the Georgia Tech School of Architecture and director of the school’s urban design program. Authored, along with June Williamson, Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs.

      72. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five – A pioneering hip hop group formed in the South Bronx of New York City in 1976. Their classic song “The Message” is an instantly recognizable urban manifesto.

      73. Gaétan Siew – Architect, planner, and founder of Lampotang & Siew Architects. Work includes master plans for the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport in Mauritius, the Chinese neighbourhood in Port Louis, the Seychelles International Airport, and other projects around the world.

      74. John Nolen – (June 14, 1869 – February 18, 1937) A landscape architect and planner best known for work in Florida and Wisconsin. An advocate for regional planning and land use controls to counter land speculation.

      75. Mike Lydon – Principal with Street Plans and a leading proponent of Tactical Urbanism. Co-author of Tactical Urbanism: Short-Term Action, Long-Term ChangeVol.1-4.

      76. Bruce Katz – The inaugural Centennial Scholar at the Brookings Institution, where he focuses on the challenges and opportunities of global urbanization. Served for 20 years as the vice president and co-director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, and authored the book The Metropolitan Revolution, published in 2013.

      77. Camillo Sitte – Architect, painter, and city planning theoretician. Authored City Planning According to Artistic Principles, published in 1889, frequently cited as a criticism of the Modernist movement.

      78. William Penn – (14 October 1644 – 30 July 1718) An English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, early Quaker, and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English North American colony and the future Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

      79. F. Kaid Benfield – Former director for sustainable communities for the National Resources Defense Council and high profile author, writing at numerous urbanism publications and authoring several books.

      80. R. John Anderson – Co-founder and principal for Anderson|Kim Architecture + Urban Design.

      81. Earl Blumenauer – The U.S. Representative for Oregon’s 3rd congressional district, Earl Blumenauer is one of the federal government’s most ardent supporters of alternative transportation, through public transit and bike infrastructure, as well as sustainability initiatives.

      82. Walter Benjamin – (July 15, 1892 –  September 26, 1940) A philosopher famous for theories of aesthetics. Benjamin also focused academic inquiry on the concept of the flâneur.

      83. Naomi Klein – A journalist, activist, and author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the ClimateShock Doctrine, and No is Not Enough.

      84. Donald Appleyard – (July 26, 1928 – September 23, 1982) An urban designer and theorist, teaching at the University of California, Berkeley. Author of the book Livable Streets and, along with Allan Jacobs, the paper “Toward an Urban Design Manifesto.”

      85. Henry Cisneros – Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, from 1981 to 1989—the second Latino mayor of a major American city and the city’s first since 1842. Cisneros also served as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the administration of President Bill Clinton.

      86. Ildefonso Cerdá Suñer – (December 23, 1815 – August 21, 1876) A Catalan Spanish urban planner who designed the 19th-century “extension” of Barcelona called the Eixample.

      87. Shelley Poticha – Director of the Urban Solutions team at the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC). Formerly a senior political appointee in the Obama Administration, where she led the Partnership for Sustainable Communities and launched the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

      88. Doug Farr – Founding principal and president of Farr Associates Architecture and Urban Design. Farr also founded the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) Core Committee and is a board member of EcoDistricts.

      89. Virginia Hanusik – A New Orleans-based artist examining the the relationship between culture and the built environment. Hanusik’s most recent projects, Backwater and Impossible City, were detailed in Places Journal.

      90. Richard Sennett – Centennial professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and university professor of the Humanities at New York University. Sennett studies social ties in cities, and the effects of urban living on individuals in the modern world, and has authored many books on related subjects, including The Fall of Public Man, published in 1977, about the public realm, and Together: The Rituals, Pleasures, and Politics of Cooperation, published in 2012.

      91. Kennedy Smith – Expert on commercial district revitalization and development, independent main street businesses, and economically and environmentally sound community development. Co-founded the Community Land Use and Economics (CLUE) Group, LLC. Also the longest-serving director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center.

      92. Mike Davis – A writer, political activist, urban theorist, and historian, best known for his investigations of power and social class in Southern California. Authored City of Quartz, published in 1990.

      93. Clarence Stein – (June 19, 1882 – February 7, 1975) An urban planner, architect, and writer. Stein was a major proponent of the Garden City movement in the United States. Co-founded the Regional Planning Association of America to address large-scale planning issues such as affordable housing, the impact of sprawl, and wilderness preservation.

      94. Jose Corona – Currently the director of equity and strategic partnership for the Mayor’s Office in the city of Oakland. Previously worked as chief executive officer of Inner City Advisors (ICA).

      95. Jason Roberts – Co-founder of the Better Block Project, founder of the Oak Cliff Transit Authority, and co-founder of the Art Conspiracy and Bike Friendly Oak Cliff.

      96. Jean-Michel Basquiat – (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988) An American artist, who began his career as a graffiti artist in New York City, helping to popularize the medium.

      97. Emily Talen – Professor of urbanism at the University of Chicago, following previous faculty positions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Arizona State University. Author of numerous books devoted to the relationship between the built environment and social equity.

      98. William McDonough – Architect, product designer, and advocate. Authored the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, as the most famous expression of his message. Also the founding principal of William McDonough + Partners and co-founder of McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC).

      99. Theaster Gates – A Chicago-based installation artist, Gates’s addresses urban planning, among other issues. Gates is also the founder and artist director of the Rebuild Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on cultural-driven redevelopment and affordable space initiatives in under-served communities.

      100. Norman Krumholz – Professor in the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University. Long-time Cleveland planning director, serving under three separate mayors, and a leading proponent of equity planning.

      Placeless Participation

      Defining a New Public Engagement Process for Placeless Participation

      Where are the physical places for public decision-making that assure the right to a personal view and the power to express them freely on all matters? If you can answer that question. Please make a list, and know they are opportunities.

      The places to create a system change are disappearing into globalized digital fragments. In the former old range, growth moves outwardly, from the privacy of the bedroom to places where you cannot scream words like fire and larger venues where rights of passage allow you to be heard. Know there are places where you can yell as loud as possible, and no one would listen to you, whether it is the din of a crowd or a canyon’s echo.

      System change requires these places. If a small group like “a band” learning to play in a garage eventually fills a stadium with thousands of ticket buyers, that is a system change. It is organized by a defined set of communication tools and the talent to create music that people would purchase. Communications may be written as a narrative or spoken, become music, fine art, or any of a thousand mediums of choice. There it is; communication tools are ubiquitous. Therefore, how do you find people who seek, receive, and impart information and ideas in a helpful way other than selling tickets? You know this as an experience of membership, from classroom to university, congress member to Congress, but what if you want to get that metaphorical band together or back from where it was lost? Or what if there is no right of passage, path, or place you can name or even locate? What can you do?

      What if the revolution came, and you missed it, lost the poster, didn’t pay attention, or only listened to minds that hate? The communication tools for placeless participation are new, and there is a struggle to use them well. Nevertheless, the new devices offer an evasion of experience that absorbs the placeless like a sponge.

      The quality of space is its climate. Care is taken to ensure sound, temperature, and color do not assault and that gatherings are not disrupted. People can exchange views, trade ideas, or data and negotiate over intent, desired results, and expectations. Change occurs face-to-face, in a place structure for participation, but it is not a system change. That requires an open exchange between the known and unknown.

      The Architect

      Kevin Lynch, in “A Theory of Good City Form” (1960), describes five elements for “legibility” in the urban or suburban experience of a place. Can it be adapted to the placelessness of digital communications.  We organize our ‘mental maps’ into elements that yield our relationship to physical sites. The way Lynch broke it down remains widely regarded as a good intellectual and graphic notation tool for communicating the abstractions of urban places and structures. 

      In” Image of the City,” Lynch isolates several categories of form-generation growing out of urban experience to measure growth and development: vitality, sense, fit, access, control, and two significant criteria – efficiency and justice.   Despite a generation of ‘interpreters,’ every element of Lynch’s analysis remains valid, yet it is without the power to implement. However, it is now possible to achieve in the virtual space, and anyone can do it because everyone can have a role in implementation.

      The Work Ratio

      When inputs predict desired output, efficiency becomes measurable. Still, the former loses value unless an impartial application of what is right occurs. Lynch describes this problem by emphasizing a second primary criterion — efficiency with justice. The spatial/or architectural bar described below asks, “what is the cost of anything else we would choose to value in achieving five goals: vitality, sense, fit, access, and control?  

      As for the performance dimensions of a human settlement, the five criteria map onto ecological parameters for community survival. They may be employed in designing a place. It is reasonable to assert that the organism tends to fail when actions destroy a plant or animal’s performance dimensions. If plants and animals have value only in their use to people, then any non-conversion of land must consider these values lost. The value of new houses or shopping centers is more significant. If plants and animals have an intrinsic value, then some extra-market systems must arise to embrace new values. Here is Lynch’s idea for the creators of urban environments.

      Vitality is the experience of energy and strength. The intellect is developed with the injection of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. The relationships established in a place based on vitality and sense produce an understanding of a fit conditioned by access and control. The remaining two suggest access in a variety of layers or portals in which the rights of entry are established.

      The overall effect of vitality, sense, fit, and access reveals a quality of control or the capacity to assure the recurrence of events, products, or processes. The purpose of understanding these elements is to recognize and expose their failures.

      The creation of a place in which people can change the rules of access and challenge control is possible. The difficulty of entering the placeless environments offered through digital communications is realizing and interpreting these elements without the physical functions in Lynch’s analysis.

      The design and development of online participation platforms are developing rapidly. In every virtual environment, nothing is impossible—first, a brief description of the physical aspects that facilitate civic participation.

      The use of passageways, conduits, and tubes links one destination to the next. These objectives will have a boundary or frame confirmed by a transition and experience of difference. Within these destinations, three central components will be found. A joining of assets linked to pathways passes through edges to form nodes that may become districts or regions defined by a constituency placing value on its uses. Each may have a range of functions, such as a university campus or a shopping district. These places have experiences, familiar sights, signs, and monuments as markers.

      Wilfred M. Thomas, Artist

      Participation in public affairs and friendly discourse is nonlinear when it is within the limits of a few lives, but its content tends to fold into the layers of a more extensive cultural process involving many lives. These creative cultures shape a person’s capacity to expose similar experiences in comparable periods with the different perceptions of others.

      In 1975, I became friends with an artist pictured here. He was very fond of his “riders” and drew them everywhere. We raised some money to paint murals. He painted because he wanted people to see and protect cyclists. He painted murals because he wished others to paint, but his bicycle drawings helped to change the NYC transit policy. In 1977, American Youth Hostels organized the five borough bike tour, and by 2020, 30,000 people annually participated in a city tour to raise funds to support cycling. It allowed people to see their city in a new way.

      In the 90s, architects and planners in a Pittsburg, PA, design center also wanted to raise funds and encourage people to recognize one another with a bike route. A project known as Pedal Pittsburgh (now PedalPGH) was born, and it was verified to be a robust exchange that crossed through the old race and ethnic lines, and people developed a new and joyful view of the steel city. Closing the streets for a bike tour once or twice a year is insufficient. It was a demonstration of a problem.

      Places for serving a specific interest, such as city cycling, vary, but as the following example will illustrate, Pittsburg, New York City, and cities all over the world have thousands of cyclists who are in danger. They need a right to the road among automobiles. From the seventies through 2020, a new power was discovered. Each rider’s experience and the purpose of riding could be shared in a virtual space to expose one truth – a bike trip in NYC (or any city) should not be a life and broken-bones experience or a flirt with death.

      At an early point (2004), a highly motivated communication effort steadily built an ability to air this grievance with many voices via “text” and a blog. When challenged for their sudden assembly power by the police authority, it became necessary to sustain “critical mass” demonstrations until negotiations were re-established more seriously and a system change occurred that saved lives and safely replaced automobiles for many trips. It opened up new pathways, albeit mostly etched into the road with paint, but it also began to mark the way and the place for various small multifunctional vehicles that could enrich the quality of life for all residents.

      February 2005, in the heat of debate, the New York Police Department was bearing down on our once peaceful critical mass. Enormous precedence was being set. The police were trying to define what critical mass was and fit it into some logical explanation to justify their mass arrests, just before the Republican National Convention came to NYC.

      To help define critical mass and make it be an ever-evolving, spontaneous unique experience for the individuals who participated in a bike ride happening on the same day in over 300 cities around the world.

      Michael Green

      Before examining the structure of system changes as facilitated by attacking a malfunction, it is essential to produce demonstrations that motivate the change agencies. Kevin Lynch’s observations do not provide a pathway to civic participation, only the context. The acquisition of new power, even in this “safe biking” example, requires a better understanding of why “the police” had to be engaged to create the leverage for a reasonable change in public transportation policy.

      Using passageways, conduits, and tubes to link one destination to another is a helpful metaphor. The places where you live, learn, and work as a network of physical destinations now include a new address. The old addresses have boundaries with transitions that express differences in experience. Within these destinations are four main components—a joining of assets linked to 1) pathways that pass through, 2) edges to form 3) nodes as place. A constituency then functions to create 4) districts. Familiar sights, signs, and monuments function as 5) landmarks within these places.

      Agency of Change

      The new address is a numerical label assigned to each device connected to a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol (IP) for communication. Your home/work and IP address serve similar functions. You are part of a host network with known physical boundaries and edges with location addressing at home and work. The difference is that an interface identification protocol (IPv4 and IPv6) increases communication access to every place worldwide. The path is for lightspeed travel, and the edge, as described by Kevin Lynch, is gone. Well almost.

      The edges that Lynch spoke of would mark a noticeable change in the environment as defined by a coastline or river or, more subtly, in transitions from a shack in the woods, to lonely single-family buildings, to brownstone rowhouses and tall, skyscraping multiple-use structures. The edges formed by IP addresses, on the other hand, build more keenly on economic circumstances and preferences in communication styles with the documentation of preferences and purposes.

      Estimates of nearly two billion websites include one person or family network to sites that serve millions of people daily, such as Amazon, Wikipedia, or Google. Also, some three billion people use the internet through several social media accounts. In this sense, participation along known paths and observed edges in a physical world have local launch pads in a physical place and a community that requires different observation of edge transformations. Connecting these two worlds with comparable pathways of participation requires a better understanding. Using a common language will help define the involvement choices that can improve control of both worlds.

      The viewpoint for this observation of participation begins with two choices. A website owned by a person or company is an authoritative launchpad that controls the subject matter. The services of a social media account are considerable, but the pages are not yours. The content is removable by others and can be altered and monitored—knowingly or unknowingly, the sale of user and usage statistics is routine. A personal or business website is the focal point for participation in other mediums, but it controls its content. Both choices will reflect expressions based on physical experiences. Both are directly affected by the quality of the place they speak. One is easily manipulated. The first edge defines this choice of use and determines how the human relationship aspects of involvement in a community develop.

      You live in the world on the left, but from a communications point of view, you understand that world the way Lynch produced “images” of the city on the right. The online communications medium of the internet is not as complicated as the pathways and edges that define movements involving home, family, work, neighbors, friendships, and life in search of social and economic well-being. Nevertheless, how Kevin Lynch adds nodes, districts, and landmarks to the urban arc of life is helpful. Imagine the city on the right representing physical locations and constituencies interested in improving a specific quality of life, such as using a human-powered vehicle for every trip with a substantial guarantee of safety. Now imagine the power to connect with every person in that limited environment that wants the same thing.

      With an IP address, the questions are. 1) what nodes am I a part of? 2) what kind of districts do they form, and what are the landmarks (attractions) of each? Using these three terms can reduce the jargon that describes the technical function of your phone or other computers.

      Search “IP packet,” and 17 million locations deliver in half a second because nodes on the internet are composed of servers.

      In 1960, when Lynch wrote his first book, a node was a concentration of some characteristic at the strategic focal point into which a participant enters. In Lynch’s case, those points were identified and defined using a series of Boston streets (image above). Thus, Lynch demonstrates how the psychology of cognitive mapping helps understand the city in the context of regional planning, urban architecture, and design.

      Edward Tolman (1948) wrote “Cognitive Maps in Rats and Men” to describe navigating an environment that uses spatial knowledge to make choices. In the early 70s, I traveled to Kentucky by car on a research project with a friend, a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and Bryant, an African-American. After arriving, we had a choice when told that sensitivity levels were a little “touchy” and to avoid a stretch of state highway. I assumed that “sensitivity” was White, but I learned Bryant thought it was Black weeks later. We laughed.

      Between 1970 and 2020, it is lightspeed that changes everything. Traveling with an IP address has made cognitive mapping choices very different. We create mental images of a place based on our personal experience or as given to us by others. At any moment, IP travel offers a series of narratives, videos, training programs, and product offers as choices. However, there are, as yet, very few resources to further your understanding of what an IP means as a place.

      Adding Lynch’s exploration of the urban form helps comprehend a unique IP self or social media membership. In the lightspeed world, distinguishing between an IP that identifies you in a dense local district produces attractions offering thousands of new types of engagement you can acquire by walking. An entirely new and rapidly developing fifteen-minute city business model aims to know the fine grain of who you are in a region the size of Boston or the Northeast.

      Finally, a set of attractions and landmarks form continuously. Examples are a specific data stream that meets a need or a planned set of experiences that signify achievements. Regardless of the order, we should learn to perceive and understand the digital environment, like walking or cycling. Both pathways have the quality of a physical object, which gives it a high probability of evoking a larger image in which one path becomes vital because it is a decision point, but is it yours?

      Multiple sizes and locations across these landscapes of common interest discovery have many successes and failures. The example in this post briefly explains why you will find bicycle lanes on city streets throughout the country. The more difficult explorations for discovery are explored in posts on system change. The resurgence of the movement for civil rights or the termination of racism has complex sets of partial success and qualified failure. The definition of a growing list of malfunctions exhibits the rise of urgency in human history. Three spatial forms describe how the engagement of participants leaves little room for reciprocity in teaching and learning about community change. These are the well-known times when a group is 1) manipulated, 2) called an exhibit, or 3) treated as tokens. 


      Those who administer an exit poll during an election, consumer market, or political opinion survey expect benefits. The product of their analysis of the data gathered provides an idea of what the immediate future holds. Identifying an unmet demand in the market for goods or services or taking a sample of a decision already made by a large group predicts outcomes.

      We are all familiar with election night exit polls. Nothing is grievously wrong with these forms of participation, but the opportunity for redress on the part of those used for these purposes is limited. It is participation without balance. The manipulation occurs in highly localized places such as a shopping district or a street outside a voting place. Surveys or other activities that offer little understanding of purpose are acceptable to people. They enjoy sharing their thoughts in person, on the phone, or online and do not expect the knowledge gained by others is shared with them at some future date. However, there is a line, and people will sense a lack of fairness when crossed. Whether they step or stumble across this line, numerous acts of betrayal are possible. Whether deliberate or unintentional, this is a significant responsibility in the practice of a community’s participation.

      Decorative Prescription

      Perhaps you engage people (especially students) in community projects, a political cause, a demonstration with a few placards for a march, or an event such as an awards ceremony. Here, the quality of participation is a lesson in how appropriate actions acquire benefits. Creating involvement in addressing a problem with public displays of concern, such as a brief march, will involve people. People are happy to purchase a ribbon and decorate themselves to symbolize identification with a cause. Still, they lack effectiveness beyond a show of power, an exhibition of solidarity, or the appearance of consensus. 

      Participation occurs through judgment about a problem to make it pre-extant. For example, you are raising money or distributing position leaflets. Also, to get a child’s participation by saying, “you are a poor reader because you just don’t read.” is a judgment different from offering a more attractive prescription by saying, “let’s find some things we are interested in reading.” A similar example, “you are within the law, but you are immoral,” differs considerably from working to see challenges within a larger ethical framework.

      Token Information

      Engaging in complex community development issues such as human rights, sustainability, basic safety, housing, and education affects many people differently in all urban landscapes. Presenting options that deal with concerns in these settings that direct residents to their rights and responsibilities can become “tokens.” Individual leaders may understand an issue well enough to stand up and say, “We have the answer; follow us,” and do so with all the persuasive powers at their command. While this might be true, it precludes participation and the opportunity for others to engage with the problem directly and define it for themselves. We may be quite willing to follow, but this weakens the chance to experience negotiation power regarding immediate and future actions. Participation is based on the information given and little else. It inhibits the development of new ideas and data.

      Participation as a “done deal” is reasonable; its weakness is the myth of the “now or never” demand. Its strength is implied rage built into “no justice, no peace” because it is not a threat. It is a prediction. What must be recognized is how the hopelessness that wells up when “Black Lives Matter” is countered with the “all lives” statement. The latter is a statement of willing ignorance or a poor understanding of history. The experience of no change, whether day-to-day or by generation, invokes the requirement for improvements in the public’s social change performance. It is painful to recognize differing perceptions of the same experience in a time and place as valid. How people interpret an incident may be correct or incorrect, but always perceived as accurate. There are many reasons for this, but two are best. First, it is well proven that we fill in visual data (color, images, light, faces) in the rush or stream of events before us, and second, doubting the correctness of our senses is considered a step toward madness. It is not merely sustaining the discipline to look both ways. but other ways.

      Newer forms of active participation produce leadership structures willing to give up predetermined conclusions and “re-enter” the problem from the beginning with participants in a continuous flow. Integral to the growth of democratic systems is knowing how other highly informed participants can broaden their perception of what is needed. What is the use of someone “knowing the way” when the capacity to follow will not grow or modify in the process?

      It is impossible to say a better way is possible when none can be exhibited with validity. Rage and hopelessness are the sisters of no change. This is where advanced communication systems focused on local engagement and participation can bring a form of experience that can effectively eliminate the despondency of our times.

      Toward More Effective Participation

      At this point, it is appropriate to bring up “mobilization.” Being organized can come from the willing participation in surveys without ever knowing the results, participating as an exhibit of an issue, or being treated as a token for a cause in a march. It is OK. We don’t mind answering questions or walking in a protest carrying a sign or wearing a ribbon. We are a society based on assembly. We share classrooms to learn, churches for prayer, offices for work, arenas for games, etc. Some gatherings are regimeoriginated, others purely voluntary. As institutions, they may help us choose what we need to know. We participate in protecting what we have. But, on the other hand, when we have nothing or the appearance of nothing compared to others, participation seems to have a very high cost and little evidence of immediate, exchangeable value. Why?

      For most, we freely allow ourselves to be part of the three most common forms of civic participation described above. The danger is not knowing the multiple types available. For example, the quality of a physical location experience is a product of active design drawn from consultation into form. The rows of chairs in a school or the line of pews in a church is a design asking people to listen and accept membership. The new pathways described below are unnerving. Participants lack clear, concrete objectives as the process is ambiguous. Luckily, ambiguity has the potential to be highly creative.

      The “Winding”

      The forms described above have one overall acronym – DAD (decide, announce, and defend). It is produced in fun urban terms such as a LULU (aka, a locally undesirable land use). One nationally active community organizing coalition describes the forms of participation described above as the BOHICA (“bo-hee-ca”) problem. Or bend over, here it comes again,” suggesting these forms of assistance might as well be a swift kick in the pants. Another described it as a beautiful path to achieve “maximum feasible misunderstanding” to play with the phrase “maximum feasible citizen participation” regarding impacts. 

      Unlike a metaphor, the winding is literal and applicable as an alternative. A winding can refer to rivers and roads, even clockmaking. When manipulated, shown for a cause, or asked to follow without the opportunity to question, the mind-shaping type has visceral, potentially violent consequences.

      Testing participants’ breaking and balance skills occur with a nonlinear injection of possibilities. The desire for speed is disrupted but can be replaced with a similar emotion – discovering how to absorb different preferences and perceptions in the wind of everyday experiences. Help in assessing risk/reward conditions builds energy people can share. A review and exploration of five winding experiences suggest new engagement strategies. The first presents two forms of consultation – assigned and composed, that outline resource packaging for participant-initiated projects. The next three describe member command structures by delegation systems, then data sharing methods, and the third introduces various control structures.

      Assigned Consultation

      Someone or some group has gotten people’s attention, and they assemble. A list of possible “projects” are offered that define and solve problems. A talk begins, and the people question the plans. We confront the quality of participation every day. We understand and accept most of them, whether getting signatures for a candidate, selling cookies for the scouts, or even when stuck in traffic on a commute. When something new is presented, the “projects” tend to define and solve problems simultaneously – elect a representative and raise money for the scouts. When this expectation fills a meeting place, ask and answer these accountability questions.

      1. Who decided to seek public involvement, and how is it planned?
      2. How is the involvement of people determined?
      3. What measures are used to evaluate contributions to the program and projects proposed?

      The discussion is guided by asking process questions such as:

      With the knowledge that accountability and a clear process will remain in constant review, the work required to establish active project-to-project participation rests when the imagined events are activated. Reciprocal levels may be hard to find, but they often represent a freely borne membership that “self-assigns” the consultation process. 

      1. When will the experience, thoughts, and energy of people shape or alter these projects? 
      2. How will this help resolve the problems we have just described?
      3. How will this help us to accept, reject, reframe, and define the opportunities offered?”

      Without a doubt, an emotional coil forms to represent the impossibilities. Some will call it the camel’s nose, others – the elephant. Whatever people want to call it, the rise of several small groups will begin to examine all sides of the thing. Encouraging self-assignment through consultation gives the go-ahead to poke and prod it just enough to discover the actions available to kill the potential for apathy.

      Composed Consultation

      Those who have control will make turns on or off the road. They have selected a whole series of possible projects as part of a planning-to-act process. It helps to determine mutual accord and the consent needed to move on down the road.

      Completing a fair summary of newly discovered information from recent events reveals the probability of moving too quickly. The process stops because of sweeping generalizations, placation, or other feelings that slide a crisis. The lack of human resources, skill, and cash, you name it. To help control the speed of participation, I recommend participant leaders develop the means to introduce the following consultations:

      1. Members generate the program plan in the selection of project activities. (list, prioritize)
      2. Resolve mistrust or confusion arising from the powerholders’ release of power.
      3. Encourage access to independent technical resources to those implementing projects.
      4. Compose groups implementing projects to define potential programs.
      5. Explore the issues and problems raised with adequate tools. (testing, skill assessments)
      6. Ask participants to delegate the responsibility in summation to a representative body.

      Summation involves proof of intensely undistracted listening. It requires a reading of non-verbal languages and the ability to exhibit the intelligence inherent to a collective enterprise. Top among them is to have a name for the various collaborations discovered to the time used.

      For example, consider forming a “scouting team” to look further up the road to report views as a “research group” asked to examine the past by interviewing participants in a similar effort about their satisfaction and achievements. Thousands of examples of “never doubt” groups are possible. The operation composed consultation is to sustain interest in discovering new resources applicable to all and, in doing so, broaden and composition of recent conferences. The prevailing summary statement should prove that “no one is as smart as all of us.”

      Participant-Initiated Partnerships 

      With a few places to go to achieve identified ends, deciding how to get there becomes possible – to choose a means. The power to maneuver, bargain, and negotiate also becomes distributable. In many ways, a good partnership plays in a low-risk trial-and-error effort. The game can be solemn among adults, but once skill development is well exercised – it’s usually called fun.

      The idea of a partnership contains many actions. They form to provide advice and consent opportunities, protect, assist, reject, or abandon an effort. For example, once a participatory project begins with young people, the partnership should be intelligent and skilled enough not to interfere with or over-direct the play as if they were surrogates. The roots of our learning abilities begin with games, followed by reflection with adults on their meaning. The reverse is equally possible.

      Adults tend to respond poorly to the initiatives of the young because it involves that transition from “I decide” to “you choose.” These changes shape the “rites of passage,” for which many benchmarks, portals, and passageways exist. One of the poorest of these “portals” is as follows: “as a child, you play. When you become an adult, you work.”  Non-interactive media such as TV, film, and reading dominate the game’s concept.

      It isn’t the absence of the desire to be helpful in community affairs for both young and old. Instead, it is more likely to lack leadership in forming participant-initiated partnerships that demand interactive forms of learning and experience. Here are some questions to use in building and supporting these organizations:

      1. Do the projects serve the interests and needs of individuals in small groups?
      2. Are these various designs recognized as part of a whole?
      3. Are quantified goals and objectives written about these projects?
      4. Is there a feeling of strategic accomplishment in meeting goals and objectives?
      5. Have issues of policy and priority been discussed?
      6. Are sufficient resources available to accomplish the projects envisioned?
      7. What is the evaluation practice of projects undertaken as part of the plan?

      The winding road metaphor opens up exhilarating world views when answers to these questions are easy. If unanswered, the participants do not have a vision of the future and do not know where they are going. The phrase, “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there,” in my experience, was restated best by Yogi Berra when he told us to be careful, “if we don’t know where we are going because we might not get there.”

      Planning what to do has been outlined. Participant initiatives reveal an ability to undertake decision-making and assume responsibility. Exposing this as an enhanced condition unfolds practical limits and prescribed periods. Decision-making power organizes participants into groups given individually selected but mutual learning needs or interests.

      Leadership is often “taken” as if it were power itself. On the other hand, effective leadership is given and taken in delegating and sharing decisions. This form is undoubtedly more complicated and often painful in its seemingly sluggish pace. The heart of knowledge is experience and reflection with other people. As the “winding road” speed will vary with every individual or group, we recognize how awareness (cognition) occurs at different rates.

      Delegated and Shared Decisions

      Delegation systems acknowledge that no one person or group has absolute control. We face degrees of delegation to ourselves (to-do lists) that even guarantee the capacity to make decisions for others. We also learn to negotiate the conditions that allow “outsiders” to change the list if the resources exist to respond to a delegation and delegate.

      There is a valuable image of a “mountaintop” on the winding road regarding decision-making. Everyone can get there by seeing it, but not all simultaneously or for the same reasons. The fact that it exists and is there establishes the means for a continuing relationship, consistently defined between task groups to get us all there in one or more of its many forms.

      The capacity to distribute resources produces a trading and bartering environment if the intent is to achieve mutual benefits. Many participant perspectives involving a series of reasonably well-implemented projects create individuals and groups with the power to contract for resource exchanges from the “outside” or “inside.”  The participants “know what they need to know” and control the process of gaining this information. The dialogue moves from “just tell us what to do or know” to decisions about the forms of mutual assistance available to discover what needs to be done and learned.

      At this point, there are drawbacks, like potholes, then boulders, when a group stumbles on a task or project. The esprit de corps climate can foster win-lose confrontations instead of win-win conclusions. The result will be participants who are or feel “left out” of the process. Competitive sport is an excellent example of this drawback. It has a dominant win-lose component of real value. Still, the often-neglected win-win conclusion is a broadly dedicated group of participants applying physical skills and necessary teamwork. Remaining focused on these win-win objectives is essential.

      All organizations run from the top down, but those closest to the source of information give power from the bottom if there is a way to bubble up. The freedom of those at the top can cause forgetfulness about the importance of stopping to look around. Delegating from the top to all participants is a power function to respond to demand from the bottom. This top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top data flow describes an organization’s capacity to achieve goals. Structured training experiences illustrate the importance of these types of events in real-life experiences.

      Controlling “We Decide”

      Control systems also recognize that organizations can establish definitive delegation power. As a result, control systems can have considerable influence over human conduct. Ask anyone with experience with New York City’s alternate side of the street parking regulations. While this example involves financial penalties for nonparticipation, active control systems are those fully embraced by community-wide value systems. After all, the New Yorker is experiencing alternate-side street cleaning as a commonly held community value. 

      A proverb states, “It takes a village to raise a child.” As a community value, it implies modest differentiation between parenthood and the responsibilities of the community. Too often, we forget this includes the child. The exclusion of children as full participants is frequently due to the research styles of social, psychological, and even anthropological sciences limiting participation to the first three described above. For example, written “permission” for the involvement of parents in various events (being interviewed, field trips) is rarely asked of a child. 

      Under what conditions are people of any age allowed to say “no” or asked to “give permission,“ even as a child? There is a fundamental difference between going through the routine demands of participation and having accurate management control over outcomes. This point occurs in the path of life but recurs continually in the development of a community. Ultimately, a person or a community can control what it can make recur. For this reason, seeking participation as an end in itself is invalid. More than any other force, involvement in the design of community activities is driven by the full and repetitive disclosure of values affirmed and expressed consistently and openly.


      There have been eight parts of participation presented here. The first three describe the weakest and most conciliatory forms on the road to active service. They seek to “educate” or “treat” participants but leave little room for exchanging knowledge and experience in managing change. I used a winding road analogy to introduce activities that support tradeoffs and negotiation to define intent, the predictability of results, and the clarity of mutual benefits. Our sense of fairness is a consequence of participation in civic affairs; however, the more severe issue is that “hope” does not produce a future. A plan does. 

      The most efficient form of assistance engages task and project groups with experiences and resources to establish the capacity for delegating decision-making. The basis of managerial power every community can obtain in managing complex activities leads to a planned course of events. These games are intuitive within the community circle or geography of the neighborhood.

      1. Research on issues is done by the people concerned socially or economically by degree.
      2. Research is a commitment to the individuals and their control of the analysis.
      3. Research begins when a concrete problem is identified; and
      4. We investigate the underlying causes of the pain selected so the members can address causes and solutions within a series of standard geographic reference points.

      On the other hand, when specialists evaluate a point or problem, they carry additional influence and responsibility for the structure and direction of subsequent actions. For example, it is possible to alter people’s experiences without their advanced knowledge or insight regarding the nature of the change. More positively, problem-solving establishes a self-empowerment process that encourages the provision and selection of self-enabling tools. In examining the availability and facility of these devices, the potential for a wrong is measured.

      The motivation derived from defining and investigating problems is powerful. Detailed environmental analysis or local history produces scientific and humanistic questions. These issues engage geographic reference points that function from the local to the global and back again. Participation processes can embrace all people’s validity of their personal views, experience, knowledge, and foresight. Investing in the value of citizenship in this manner creates a condition where anyone at any moment can have critical insight essential to success.


      Two essays that influenced this post are well-known Sherry R. Arnstein’s 1969 article in the AIP Journal, A Ladder of Citizen Participation. The second is by Roger A. Hart, in 1992, Innocenti Essays No. 4, “Children’s Participation – From tokenism to citizenship,” published by Unicef – United Nations Children’s Fund that added his interpretation. Finally, adding Kevin Lynch’s viewpoint of the urban structure in A Theory of Good City Form and Image of the City helped give the language of place to the participation process.