The working-class neighborhoods of New York do not need a long-term comprehensive plan to solve their housing problem. They need strategic plans focused on housing. Perhaps as many as fifty-nine. Why? Every problem is a housing problem.

There is a slight chance of sustaining existing affordable housing and building a lot more to meet the need, but not without a strategic outlook. There is one big reason, organizers must be encouraged to think and act more tactically. Those served will be displaced if they don’t.


Think of the purpose of castling in chess for a moment. It is a function of timing and real estate. There is not one city that does not have wealth contained in urban centers. The non-wealthy will be found in informal settlements and favelas of various sizes from these centers outward. By 2030, of the six-plus billion people on the earth, about two billion will live in informal settlements throughout the world. Several locations in the world have become the subject of studies (here). The global displacement force of real estate capital is well known to economists. It is not easily controlled, but governments can negotiate for positive effects and mitigate negative impacts. Ideas like rent control and stabilization, fair market returns, inclusion, and regular public housing are well known.  All of them are imperfect, but families are saved, their children have a chance to prosper in secure neighborhoods. It is the institutionalization of these locations that should cause concern.

“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.” 

Mike Davis in Planet of Slums


The fear of ordinary working-class people is being removed from their homes.  Data on housing displacement is difficult because it tends to be post-trauma. The measure is the percentage of individuals and families who have been receiving assistance from the Department of Homeless Services (DHS)

Tenant’s rights agencies cannot organize with long-term success while families struggle to maintain their dignity, privacy, and jobs.  

In Manhattan (NYC), high rents began moving like a wave into Harlem and are now crashing into Inwood. These areas of Manhattan have a high percentage of rent-stabilized apartments. Displacement does not “just happen.” It is a long battle, and it will not go away.

The strategic investment would be best in organizers to help people understand what is happening and help families protect themselves, their kids, and their neighborhood.  One hundred and twenty-five highly trained community organizers (planners with law degrees) are required to connect every community district with the city’s housing development policy with a primary focus on preventing displacement.  Why?  Because every problem is a housing problem.  The anti-displacement strategy would place two people in each community district and have five or six citywide coordinating staff.  The cost for this deployment of personnel is about $8 million a year for five years. 

Is there $40,000,000 million out there for a project to protect the people?  According to Forbes, there are over 100 billionaires in the Greater New York Area.  That is just $400,000 from only a hundred of them.  So, yeah, the money is there.  If this was an actual proposal with legs, the facilitating leverage in public funds would be available, as would support from CBDOs and the District Board offices. An ombudsperson proposal could happen. It will not happen because this is the following view of the housing market by people with the power to keep it this way.  Watch twice. I’m serious, twice.

OK, So Now What?

First, have a look at housing as a market that sells square feet. Getting a piece of New York City comes at different prices for a variety of places.  Here are some rough 2015 averages.  To own a bit of Manhattan, you will need to pay $3,400 per sq. ft. on Central Park South.  An 8 by 10-foot closet would cost you $300,000 (furnished, of course). In Inwood, the average cost to get some of that real estate is $430 per sq. ft.  Simple question: where would you buy low to sell dear? The same problem is in the outer boroughs with locational differences across New York City’s 325 reasonably distinct neighborhoods and 59 Community Districts. The acquisition cost ranges from $200 to $2,000 per square foot.

Remember the two main points in that video?  One of them is on the mark, create conditions to produce lots and lots of housing. The first point is you can make housing affordable by any means necessary.  But first, it must exist to do so.  The second point is a cop-out, a dodge, and a side step. The government can create a community-owned housing market, and it can control all the margins of development and operation.  It can do much more than subsidize market failures. 

The architectural design of a castle, like the chess move, is strategic.  It protects the kings on the board and their real estate.  The action literally puts a chess piece named “the castle” into a position of greater power. However, it is illustrated here for its fun, not the proof, just a worn metaphor to drop into your subconscious.

The idea is that Manhattan with its (1) easily fortified entrances, (2) moat-like rivers (3) and bridges, (4) various wards and internal parks, (5) its many towers. (6) a few prisons, perhaps a donjon, (7) various chapels, and last but not least (8) entertainment sustained in multiple museums, galleries, and theaters. In the eyes of a much older group of world civilizations, nations, and cultures, capturing a piece of Manhattan must undoubtedly have great appeal. It appears as a citadel to the world.  It holds fortunes equal to the enormity of its ever-increasing mass, a bastion fortifying cash and personhood with its many offerings.

It could be possible to see those distinct neighborhoods or community districts like little castles in the city’s landscape.  There could be a sense of boundary defined by entrances, a tower here and there, some justice adjudication centers, social wards, parks,  chapels, entertainment. It is possible to see a democratic process to support a leadership group willing to represent a place with a boundary.

A lot of bad things happen in the world.  One of the worst of them is when the king fails to protect the people.  Manhattan is not the enemy, nor is it an enemy of the people. Nevertheless, the working people of New York have every right to fight the global real estate force it represents. They have a right to do so with everything they can think of to protect themselves. People also want the many protections of a fortress. Being cast into the wilderness is one thing to fight. If the city does not serve this protection function, perhaps seeing a neighborhood more like a castle is the strategy required.  

Build Your Castle

The citywide examples of defense against displacement are not doing well. The Mandatory Inclusionary Housing law that requires a percentage of all new housing units will be maintained as permanently affordable is reasonable. Still, hey, “The Rent is Too Damn High.” Why? The private market-rate housing market drives the process. The process requires big, tall buildings that seem to pop up wherever there used to be regular working-class jobs.  It now represents a failure in distributing income from work to in-kind-redistribution systems such as means-tested vouchers. These are failures. The government could be a competitive producer of housing.

The law uses NYC’s zoning power to trade additional square feet for a few affordable apartments at rents many neighborhood residents consider extortion.  When the City Council passed the law (2016), the members were euphoric. However, when introduced to the 59 Community Boards who function as advisors to the Department of City Planning, fifty-two disapproved. It was called a massive giveaway to real estate developers bypassing local zoning rules. Leadership acquiesced with statements like, “only game in town,” but too few said a “bad bargain is worse than no bargain.” Far fewer stepped forward to build the progressive coalition of labor and CBDOs needed. The reasons for this are many. 

First, the inclusion program occurs because the national government is weak on housing for people in cities. The lack of a federal role in resolving the national housing issue was solidified in one persuasive economist viewpoint. There is plenty of affordable housing in the United States. It just happens that it is in the wrong place.

Second, the “wrong places” happen to be dense urban cities.  The economist’s equilibrium argument (forced displacement for many) is that people will find it eventually. The lack of reinvestment in federally financed public housing has led to disrepair. It is used to thwart discussion of a new national public housing program.   What else could be used to create a stronghold neighborhood?


Type the word exaction into the search engine NYU Furman Center to reveal just one 2010 research paper with the following tags: Employment; Affordable & Subsidized HousingLand UseZoningNeighborhood ConditionsEconomic Development

The report is entitled, Community Benefits Agreements: A New Local Government Tool or Another Variation on the Exactions Theme? (PDF: 164 KB) The basics are all here in the CBA paper. I recommend reading and questioning the content. One other resource is the larger world of economic argument in the nation. Here: The Economic Implications of Housing Supply by Ed Glaeser and Joe Gyourko Zell/Lurie z Working Paper#802 craft of January 4, 2017. It has more recent data. There is no doubt regarding the accuracy of these examinations. They describe the trouble we are in and remain bereft of little more than Woulda Coulda Shoulda (psych). Why? They are the explainers, not strategists for the pawns displaced. Read them for the language, use that narrative to find actions on the street to support their philosophy. It might work. The style needed for successful strategic resistance to the status quo to establish leverage for exactions, not reasons for “a benefit.”

Strategic Exactions

An exaction is a concept in US real property law well-known to New York housing advocates.  A set of conditions for development is imposed by the city’s power to zone and its regulatory agencies to scrutinize and evaluate.  Examples are its departments of buildings, finance, and environment.  Other conditions include knowing the effect of a specific development project on citywide or local needs.

The purpose of itemizing existing conditions in a community is to determine what to provide during periods of relatively rapid change periods.  What specific material goods and services are needed to alleviate anticipated impacts. This can range from fear to employment assistance and public education on rights and needs. The community’s rights could be protected with legal services help (evictions, capital improvement investigations, health, and welfare safety nets). The community’s needs can be identified and defined in planning partnerships.  Each partnership would be established to meet those needs with a combination of resources drawn from the proposed development conditions and all those that continue to remain unmet in specific, measurable terms.   

What should be expected in the strategically organized community?  It is a highly accurate evaluation of what and who we are and how to change what needs to be changed.  These are rightfully organized as long-term issues. To make them precise, well defined, and renewable, they must be dealt with daily, annually, and carefully measured. There are many practical examples.  Groups of young people by age can become the number kept thriving and healthy. The number who enter higher education with dreams or just good pay trade can be known.  Failures are confirmed, success is celebrated.  Interventions to act on goals are implemented and tested, but not by some abstract agency.  Community-based organizations know it is not about the rent. It is about the work.  They are paid to develop responsible action for their community. They are willing to be accountable for results, no matter what they are, and without blame for one primary reason.  It is incredibly complicated.

The rationale for imposing the exaction in the short term is to offset the costs, defined broadly in economic terms, of the neighborhood’s development.  However, exactions can also be established as long-term impact fees.  Direct payments to local governments can also be paid for negotiated periods and included with the stated development conditions. 

Planning Together: Part VII

One Take…Subcommittee on Capital Budget  and Committee on Land Use 

The underlying theme in the February 23, 2021 hearing on the proposed legislation examined one point.  Where and how can long-term planning fit into the city’s policies regarding the budget, land use, and zoning? Best comment heard… if the city could fix the digital divide first, you might get your ducks in a row to cross that pond.

The Department of City Planning’s (DCP) special districts and zoning customizations have developed into a finely honed contractual practice that resists the legislative exercise.  The 2019 Charter Revision produced a symptom of this problem but not a cure for its cause. There is a legislative desire to do more. (here) Watch calendar (here).

The 2019 Charter was asked to incorporate long-term planning but would not take it up, the DCP did not want to do it, and so the City Council facing all the heat from their constituents decided to develop a concept that would give them something to work with at the grassroots. Civic Engagement has its own commission. Have a look (here).

Councilmembers are always responding to or looking for capital investment opportunities. Much of it occurs outside of the zoning process, and rightfully so.  The difficulty of attracting investors’ confidence from within the community is a fundamental problem further exacerbated when a rezoning is announced at the behest of what appears to be (and in many cases are) major outside investors.

The city’s capital and expense budget will not support an expansive community engagement process designed to sustain the community-based power only to be politically advisory.  Politically the city will not go any further than to accept the community’s counseling. The Mayor’s negotiating control of the budget as approved through 2021 suggests the opportunity for balance in the short term, but it has produced a long list of serious fiscal challenges through 2025, (overview from IBO is here and from the CBC here).

The Takeaway

  1. The cash and justice question with the capital budget has the code name “equity.” As a nation, we have failed, but we have not fallen. The DCP has developed many relationships with the city’s agencies such as HPD and Health and citywide nonprofits with data to define issues and develop consensus where it is achieved. The DCP points to specific citywide topics.
    • The implementation of “Where We Live”  under the heading of a plan for “fair housing” is the example to follow.  Districts cannot speak with one voice, but on issues, a plan can get consensus accomplished.
    • DCP’s contribution to the Food Metrics Reporting (pdf here) as an issue affecting the city’s quality of life with a focus on food security since 2009 is another example to follow.
  2. The writers of the legislation did not reach out or conduct any pre-plan planning.
    •  If they had, they would have realized a strong sense of need, but not the social infrastructure or skilled resources required to succeed.  The legislation is top-down by default.
    • Expense budget cuts to Community Boards do not recognize the LTCP as a priority, and all agencies are affected “across the board” through FY 2024/5
  3. City Councilmembers do the official budget “ask” in response to community capital budget needs. Many entered politics as leaders on Community Boards but,
    • They feel separated from the process, but are they? They see poor agency coordination in their districts and CBs, and want back in to help with that and be more responsive to their constituents.
    • The Ten-Year Capital Strategy has goals and strategies in the front of “the book” and per agency funding in the back, and the connections between them are weak.  The budget office says it will release a new strategy in April that may look better.
  4. NYC  has a robust report production regime. 
    1. Legislation by the City Council should determine which of them add value and when that value is achieved and discard the function if no value occurs. That is the legislation needed.
    1. The implication is there is no reason to read or seriously work through the reports. For example, the fair housing plan has a laundry list of accomplishments, but they are not measured against something as simple as defining the problem.  For example, 1,000 homeless families in permanent housing (yea!), but measured against what and when?  Such terms should all be measured annually by FY and by place.

Other Observations

Complex information such as injecting racial equity into the process cannot be presented in a complicated way. A citywide education campaign helpful to all parties on this generational question is needed, what we all need to do about it from year-to-year, decade-to-decade. The “where we live” plan is a document full of facts that may be accurate. Nevertheless, a mechanism is not presented for understanding if any progress is being made against the problems the city is facing in housing affordability.

The word piecemeal was used a lot, and it can mean “step by step,” which is how DCP sees it or “in pieces” as the way Councilmembers and residents feel it.  Tooth and nail, lot-by-lot, 197a plans have value, and they are educational for writers, researchers, and participants.  Apparently, the DCP cannot meet residents halfway or at all. No one seems to be getting at the why other than it will cost too much.  The slipperiness of 59 cities with budgets to enforce co-terminality and resist change appears to DCP like disorderly and unpredictable fragmentation, a true Balkanization.  

There are CBs that are far stronger than the lower-income districts.  The (SoHo/NoHo) report is an example. — it is transit-rich and needs a push into affordability and fair-housing, job retention, and so on. Communities do not speak with one voice, but you can get them to focus on single issues and agree to terms project-by-project in places such as SoHo/NoHo.

The ULURP process has only turned down one application in Brooklyn.  What was that one, and why? Was it the Brooklyn Heights Association and a bevy of lawyers? The community can be at the center of the process, and the LTCP as an idea could help, but not this legislation if the testimony is the measure. It offers little hope of balanced growth citywide, notwithstanding that capitalism still runs NYC. It requires imbalances to function. 

The LTCP suggests a GEIS for the city would suffice, but DCP sees the city as far too complex to be stuffed into it with too many litigation opportunities. The DCPs own the manual sees comprehensive plans as a good candidate for a GEIS on projects such as the Hudson Yards, but not the entire city.   

The government knows what to do. It is the how that is difficult.  It is challenging to build new and preserved affordable rental housing and prevent displacement in private markets. It is hard to sustain long-term investments that eliminate the concentration of poverty, expand rental assistance, and establish permanent supportive housing for the most vulnerable.

I am predicting this legislation will get twenty-six votes just because that is how pissed some Councilmembers sound. It will pass with amendments that require more resources for district residents, local nonprofits, and Community Boards. Section 20 of the New York City Charter will be given a chance at a life with a creep-along budget.  Amendments could set the clock back to 2024, perhaps 2025. 


Step Three — Amendments

In this space and the hundreds of other blogs that might be read on this issue. What are they talking about, and how do they stand on this issue.

The proof that communication has been successful when aimed at anyone is if there has been a persuasion to act. I was persuaded to write up my impressions. Corrections with added perceptions are requested, cross-linked, from ANHD, CHPC, MAS. the OBP, PN member of the university elite in planning and the Grizzly in the room, the REBNY regarding changes to the law.

Strategic Plans

I have already invested in a few strategies that might offer the quality of change in community-based development.

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Planning Together – Part VI

Political people, perhaps more than many others, live in a dichotomous world.  They run for office, care about issues, and have a political ideology. They are required to express instinctive and emotional thoughts. Still, when it comes to making decisions, we expect them to be more deliberative and logical. They are ordinary people, and we are all subject to these two aspects of behavior. The objective is to define the dichotomy. Do we trust in their emotion and their science?  Is there a gap between them or a chasm?  Remember this exercise on the Flushing zoning change is using the Long Term Comprehensive Plan (LTCP) to see how it might work. The implementation schedule is (would be) roughly the same period. Flushing zoning will get changed, but will it be in a good way or a bad way?



Are the announcements made in the Planning Together legislation deliberately understated? Somewhat ambiguous language is used to describe an administrative mess. The descriptions of the problems may not fit the complete definition of doublespeak, but it is close. One aspect remains. It implies but avoids saying the confusion is the fault of Department City Planning and the City Planning Commission’s decisions. Enter the New York City Council’s only hearing on February 23, 2021.

“I reminded [the soldiers] and their families that the war in Iraq is really about peace.”

President George W. Bush, April 2003 classic doublespeak

The Department of City Planning and “the community” relationship has never been worse and continues to deteriorate. The two parties, “the community” and the DCP, have severe communication vs. actions-taken gap. The question is who is available and what skills are needed to define its size and seriousness?

The effort to remove the participation of ordinary people is continuous, as it is too expensive. The people tend not to be well informed but resist change for the sake of being so. It is difficult for administrative leaders to understand the difference between political representation and common citizen concern. Here is a story of when the Bloomberg administration (2008) wanted to remove Community Boards from the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). See another story here.

The community, especially residents with a high percentage of low- and moderate-income, is fully immersed in averting loss of a home, income to rent instead of food, or just the quality of their neighborhood experience. Here, the judgment is quick and decisive.  On the other hand, the Department of City Planning is framing what they see can be produced based on the tools and options available for action. That description fits in the nutshell that everyone can hold somewhat.

Recruiting a few influential social scientists, psychologists, and cultural anthropologists is needed to help in this situation (know any – seven degrees?). The Report works with over forty good collaboration tools. Urban planners recognize severe gaps but need recommendations on closing them in a language that ordinary people, organizations, and agencies can use.

Psychologists can prove a loss is more significant than the equivalent or probabilistic offer of benefit. What planners need to know now and with some urgency is whether implementing a long-term comprehensive plan in a ten-year process in February 2022 will provide relief or make things worse?


New York City is a place stuffed with progressive community planners and professionals who routinely challenge the megaplans of big developers and global investors. The appropriate response has been to outline demands for exactions, benefits agreement, and related considerations. Confirmation bias is a good thing in many ways, but it weakens people. Critical conditions in the City’s development improve for some but worsen for many. It does not look good. The remedies are weak. Transparency is flawed if not opaque. The old cries of “the people united….” “hell no,” and my favorite “BOHICA” for bending over here it comes again have not been enough. Two old things are needed in a new way.

The Legislation

The proposed law is a multidisciplinary approach to research and decision-making. It fails to build in the resources for that approach. There is a need to get a communications psychology of the law’s noticeable reduction of participation into the token Sherry Arnstein described in 1969 (here)

A look at the quality of the law’s inception is needed from the original idea to the legislation’s flawed structure.  There are twenty-five changes to the City Charter in one bill. That seems like a lot, so how many changes would it take to trigger a Charter Commission hearing? Is there a law?  So you get the drift. Halfway up the ladder is failing us all.

All of that is null now. The natural first step is where this analysis began. There is the dichotomous nature of the elected officials involved. I do not believe anyone can get emotional about a 10-year planning cycle, which means the technical, deliberative question is essential.

“Political language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946

So who wants to dig into the following and get into the “what-ups,” “who’s whos,” and where votes are for “out of committee and on to passage?” If it does get out of committee in its current disagreeable form, where might the rest of the City Council be on the issue? The list of City Council decision-makers that may or may not like to amend or mess with the LTCP and commit to a significant upgrade in funding. This is New York City — this is low-hanging harmless-looking fruit in a planner’s piñata.

Step One: Get on a Constituents List

If you do not already know, use the City Council’s Map Widget and pick your geography as a constituent. Organizations can make positions known. It is equally important to make one personally in your residence (or work) district. New races and the rush for campaign matching dollars have begun. Communication supporting an organization and a personal statement of a constituent is appropriate.

The Committee on Government etc. is the other hearing participant. I don’t know why the Finance Committee list (below) was made here. Did they bow out? I think Finance was part of it initially; maybe they don’t want to answer, “how much is going to cost? I’m working on it, but with zero interest in tracking down the relevant/nonrelevant City Council politics. Still, if a political scientist out there can take a Machiavellian look, it would be advantageous.  Because why?

Reason One: Two-Year Terms!

Council members are elected every four years, except for two consecutive two-year terms every twenty years, to redistrict between the terms. This is due to the national census (starting in 2021 and 2023 for the 2020 Census)

Reason Two: Ranked Choice

The primaries will use ranked-choice voting for the first time as approved by a ballot question in 2019. Whoever wins gets two years, twice if re-elected. Four-year terms will resume in the 2025 election.  Wow, if the person in the second spot can remain relevant in Flushing, it could significantly impact the re-election try.  Here is the ‘why’ for that “wow.”

Scenario One: Pocket Books

Sandra Ung will win (promising jobs), and John Choe will lose (promising justice).  A pocketbook win on the coattails of the post-pandemic recovery is a good bet.  Suppose the capital for developing the project has not evaporated.

In that case, a ULURP application will show up during her first term (or sooner) because they will be projecting a second term and four years in 2025, essentially to the end of the decade. Bang, the people have spoken. Developers have leverage when they talk about campaign costs.

Scenario Two: The Benjamins

John Choe could win (promising jobs with justice) Sandra Ung could lose (proven corrupt while promising jobs). That is not going to happen. Nevertheless, not knowing either person becomes an identity politics race, friendliest face, smile, and all-around charisma election. Proof of corruption by association is a tough one, unlikely from a progressive candidate, and Ung’s endorsements are the type that brings the votes to the booth.

Accepting Scenario One is prudent. Therefore, activate a plan that argues for an equitable solution to the project’s callous greed and avarice. And, it works with a Scenario Two miracle.  Also, six other people have filed, so a wild card is added to the thrill of ranked-choice voting.  

The ULURP and the LTCP

The image is a lesson in rapid change and the vast amount of global capital seeking refuge in a democracy while driving a Lexus to sit under an olive tree and argue with zombies. (Sorry, that was uncalled for and rude, well so is the image, The Report sees ULURP as the Owl, and LTCP is the seasick pussycat.

I call your attention to the Zoning Application Portal. The data provided is solely for informational purposes. The City makes no representation regarding the accuracy of the information or its suitability for any purpose. But, you have to love our democracy. So, first, for the reasonable evidence of ongoing capital development throughout NYC, it gets better.  Second, the public is asked to help DCP be aware of data errors using the “Report Data Issue” button on each project page.

The LTCP changes to the Charter alter the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Every change is oddly obscure, but it is aimed at a new agency. Section 20 of the New York Cty Charter establishes The Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability. This office’s role and responsibility are extensive and do not have more than two staff members. It replaces PLAN2030.

Committee on Land Use

Thanks to all the people who want to keep the following up to date. However, it is a political science question that must be set aside in this context and put into the “The Limits of Term Limits” and the “Election Encumbancy vs. Integrity” discussion if the LTCP gets legs.

The Committee on Land Use has jurisdiction over New York City’s land use and landmarks review process and the City Planning Commission, Department of City Planning, Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, and Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Sitings, and Dispositions The Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Sitings, and Dispositions reviews and makes recommendations on New York City’s designations of property as landmarks or historic districts, as well as decisions to site public facilities and decisions regarding the use of maritime facilities such as piers.

  1. Kevin Riley (Chair)
  2. Peter Koo 20
  3. I. Daneek Miller
  4. Inez Barron
  5. Mark Treyger

Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises reviews and makes recommendations on modifications to New York City zoning regulations, changes in zoning districts, applications for sidewalk cafes, and resolutions authorizing the City to make franchise agreements.

  1. Francisco Moya (Chair)
  2. Carlina Rivera
  3. Diana Ayala
  4. Barry Grodenchik
  5. Stephen T. Levin
  6. Antonio Reynoso
  7. Joseph C. Borelli

Committee on Finance

The Committee on Finance has jurisdiction over New York City’s Banking Commission, Department of Design and Construction, Department of Finance, Independent Budget Office, and Office of the Comptroller, reviewing and modifying the City Budget and municipal fiscal policy revenue from any additional sources.

Subcommittee on Capital Budget / Finance

Step Two — February 23 Hearing

In this space and the hundreds of other blogs that might be read on this issue. What are they, where are they? Will it be worth updating the committee membership and tracking this legislation?

The proof that communication has been successful when aimed at anyone is if there has been a persuasion to act. I was persuaded to write up my impressions at the link above. Corrections with added perceptions are requested, cross-linked on any insight possible regarding the lame-duck City Council

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Planning Together: Part V

The Wicked Problem Plan

Financial crises, health care, hunger, income disparity, obesity, poverty, terrorism, and sustainability are examples of wicked problems further complicated by climate change, biodiversity loss, persistent poverty, and food insecurity.  The difficulty is knowing how everything happens all at once and why everything is connected to everything else.  Wicked, right?  Maybe not, with a wicked problem plan for knowing how and why all you need is where. The Report picks Flushing.


Flushing, Queens

The planning process for dealing with wicked problems would simultaneously initiate three interdisciplinary actions. Evaluate community business visions, examine technical capabilities, and conduct a comprehensive assessment of community/user needs. If there is a match, you have a plan.

If the geographic units for a constant data flow are clearly established (even as a sketch), it may be possible to fully understand the interdependencies and relationships that reasonably account for billions of interactions. It begins by getting everything to the east of College Point Blvd. to focus on everything west of it with a vested interest. It provides the grist of a plan.

The interest could range from open space access to job retention to affordable housing. It is easy to get resistant to change because the fight is to get a piece of the action.

Beware of the work to produce a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). Unregulated agreements between local, influential actors and developers are at the core of the accountability problem for the lack of implementation.

The Flushing Creek environment as it stands now has astounding contradictions. The UHaul is readily available to move displaced families while the Assi Food and Households Goods Market is closed. The vitality of the UHaul appears to stay, while the market is to be replaced with housing and the possibility of retention within a new complex.

Permissible data points and technology set the restraints for the capture and distribution of all the business interests. Gathering these interests determines the full effect of the standing Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) as it attempts to alter the current zoning envelope.  These points can also be drawn out for data on a building-by-building, square-foot-by-square-foot basis on a vast set of variables. Of them all, what are the most relevant (see map below).

Another Brief but Interesting Digression

One other vital element too often forgotten is technology demands a continuous ability for experimental thinking. In other words, the process needs art. (See: Galileo). For example, if given an unchanged boundary and the prospect of extensive high-density locations, is it possible for a city’s total floor area to be unlimited and still retain a viable open space ratio? If the answer is an essential yes, how would a rising sea matter?

Back to the Wicked Problem Plan

Extending access to information beyond a library or a laboratory to enrich life requires confidence in integrative disciplines. The tools needed to accomplish robust interdisciplinary methods must first discover the knowledge in people. In this case, the people of Flushing. The meaning of data can be found in a person. Small specialized groups can deal with wicked problems at the local scale. They are strengthened further with rapid communication systems. Where are they? Who are they? They can support a wealth of joint actions and, most notably, a shared understanding of the effort. The grist for a plan becomes known, and for the people, it turns to “it depends” questions.

Apologies – another brief digression

Urban construction is an intentional operation that entangles those nearby. Human responsibility has moved from its single-center (the human in nature) to the duality of multiple centers numbering in billions of known interactions. The new centers are the ones from which gigantic numbers of small groups move toward and away simultaneously.  These two forces circle indefinite urbanized structures and their constructions. One force moves to a center (a dot on a map, the centroid example), and another is accelerating outward and away from the data – from wilderness to farm to lanai garden. This human force rarely recognizes the species made extinct to produce a sweet pear for consumption on a high-rise balcony. The centers are unfixed, always incomplete, yet capable of continuously producing observable results of continuous replacement.

OK, OK, put it this way, the data set has been prepared. It awaits your use. The dots (centroids for GIS nerds) on this map represent place-based data. It can be enriched enormously for the empowerment of the people of Flushing. The data is tabla rasa, and it awaits purpose. Who will use it? Who knows how to use it? Find them, and you have a plan. Is there an MYSQL and ArcGIS person available?

Observation of a meaningless or harmless intervention is now impossible.  Everything changes once an event is observed.  The big difference today is everything in urban development is intentional.  For example, we experience design most often in various symbolic and visual communications.  One of the more relevant communication documents relevant to this examination is the Generic Environmental Impact Statement which reviews many aspects of state and local EIS processes. (see pdf here). The context of a document such as this stands available for comparisons and critiques of impact.

Any course of action involving the manipulation and management of natural resources may result in altered conditions. The Flushing waterway, from a natural estuary a half millennia in the past to the use of waterways for industrial use a century ago, to the attempt at naturalization in the future, can all be construed as having adverse effects, but know this, all action agendas have conflicting results. Thus, the mitigation argument demands an accommodation to what planners and developers know about the stewardship of natural resources including human life quality. There is no bounded rationale insurance.

We are surrounded by material objects that are products of a design process. Unfortunately, a few products end up as discarded material. A recent article on the Gowanus Canal and Flushing Creek by the Architectural League (here) exposes the issue of what development actually costs. Here is a quote from that article.

Bodies of water (the Hudson River, Bronx River, Flushing Creek, Coney Island Creek, to name a few) receive harbor sewage and legacy contaminants. Industries on a rising waterfront risk release of what are called “fugitive chemicals” with every storm. Aquifers, the city’s last reserve in case of drought or water system failure and Long Island’s sole supply of drinking water, are exposed to indestructible and bioaccumulating “forever chemicals.” Buildings (schools and residences especially) harbor lead paint and pipes. The air is compromised outside and in by emissions from highways and gas cooking stoves.

Mariana Mogilevich • May 26, 2021

We engage in work and life through various activities expected of us. We use a long list of organized services. Each is designed to respond to complex systems and environments for living in a city made for play, work, and learning. So the question for a planner serving a community that feels and senses a threat is clear. The best way to get really close to defining the issue is to smell and taste the cash it breaths. Once disclosed Mariana’s critique will not sound like a post-mortem, it would have the sound of hope.

Famous Chinese hot pot chain opens first U.S. restaurant at Tangram in Flushing, from QNS. In the Sichuan cuisine of China, Shoo Loong Kan’s 5,029-square-foot restaurant represents a kind of bipolar urban development. It is unfearful of the long-term impact due to the lack of assigning a share of those costs to the present as “it” looks to the Flushing Creek waterfront.

A Wicked Plan is Better

What is required is a double repositioning of the design problems associated with wicked problem planning in gaining participants within an interdisciplinary forum. The comprehensive plan idea pretends to mash them together, but it does not. The first presumption of planners and participants is that people will move into action based on information.  The opposite tends to be true far more often. People will likely engage in analytical reports based on their independent actions using stories based on empirical knowledge they can explain to others. Activity helps make additional information more absorbable, used, and understood as applicable to a current situation. In the day you are in now. The required steps are to move from the familiar and expected to new experiences leading to new data acceptance. The data is always there, always waiting for reasons that will bring it to use. Once established, reciprocity is formed in the learning experience between residents and agents of change. The idea is simple – accept the wicked and deal with it as a thing akin to bull riding in 8-second intervals.

The last aside. The following editorial can be found in The New York Post dated May 3, 1973.

Planning and Communities

When the City maps out community development projects, it is not uncommon to find that the plans as drawn have familiar features.  It often turns out that they follow the boundary lines of least resistance.

In other words, an organized neighborhood with a coherent development plan of its own stands an infinitely better chance of challenging proposed “improvements” – under either private or public auspices – than an area lacking the ammunition to fight City Hall.

As this newspaper reported yesterday, professional consultation is available for community organizations with such needs from the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development.  Its client is the public.

“Community action” is a familiar phenomenon by now; some politicians’ allegations that it has failed are, in fact, an indication of its success.  The non-city planning centers are productively serving similar purposes. When a neighborhood is told that changes are going “according to plan,” it is important that the neighbors share in the drafting.

To know that The Post is today from what it was in 1973 is to know all one needs to know.

Part VI – Planning Together (Is it Doublespeak?) or back to Index

Planning Together: Part IV

bird s eye photography of high rise buildings


A Story of Megadevelopment Impact

Zoning is used to protect people. Today it exists to help residents oppose change. Something is wrong. It is a metaphor for our times. Here is a story from way back in the olden days– say the 1940s and 50s. Change for the worse has begun.

Council legislation seeks “long-term” planning. (LTCP) Neighborhoods need strategic planning

A decade before WWII, an immigrant family came to the city and turned a small business idea into a large successful business within two generations. Family investors acquired equity in a few land purchases and expanded business locations.  The effort ensued with hardship and sacrifice, but investors continued to over the decades to build a community. Then big outside investors began to see the community as safe for investment and ready for displacement.

Small family groups like this began in places such as the Lower East Side in Manhattan. It continues in neighborhoods such as Flushing in Queens today. The same dreams continue to live — acquire capital and invest in expanding local businesses. A bakery factory is envisioned. A storage warehouse and a site for the assembly of human-power-assist vehicles are planned.  The vehicles will be designed by brilliant industrial design engineers, the grandchildren of veterans in the Flushing family who served in the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion. These plans are done quietly and without much fanfare in the ordinary course of business growth and investment located in an area west of College Point Blvd.

Unknown to this community, investors associated with the New York Real Estate Board meet with the Department of City Planning (DCP) Director. They present several projects coming onto the table for negotiation, and they provide an advisory on pre-planning projects coming off the shelf. The total investment is estimated in 2017 dollars is $250 to $400 billion.  The Director is pleased. As sensitive property acquisitions are ongoing, independent calls to the affected community’s business groups and political officials were not advised. At that moment, the dreams and traditions of small local investors are attacked. While considering billions in financial concessions, The DCP, the agency responsible for the city’s land use and community development, became a contributor to durable inequality policies in New York City. 

Why does zoning exist to help residents oppose change?  Huge residential investors (REITs) can legally combine with large but ordinary local real estate investment groups. They can hire planners and architects to look for opportunities in older, mostly industrial urban areas. In many ways, they appear on the scene like marvels of certainty. In other ways, it is a valid symbol of a tragic time when the availability of overwhelming capital can quietly blame residents for opportunity hoarding, referring to those who had been quietly investing in the community since WWII.  (See story on another angle of the subject (here).

Zoning has become the battleground of sides. It offers a binary choice of capital in vast amounts or the perception of comparative nothing. It threatens decades of ordinary neighborhood transformation. It produces well-known t-shirts such as “Blight Me” and “Develop, Don’t Destroy.” Although most development occurs within a set of existing (albeit complex) as of right rules, zoning is now used for various reasons, and perhaps too many. From the basics of land use planning to forecast municipal finance or its use to help with preservation, it has a history of racially motivated exclusion, and more recently, funding affordable housing inclusion.   (see Manhattanville) In other words, it is not pro-growth vs. anti-small growth. The zoning situation has become New York City’s wicked problem (wiki).

A Brief Digression

This view of problems has a fascinating history and following. When Richard Buchanan (Case Western) connected design thinking to wicked problems, the impact created a substantial change in problem-solving from definition-to-solution into a condition-change assessment. Read his paper (a pdf is here). The questions surrounding community design draw from planning, architecture, and engineering as creators of a physical realm. However, changes in community conditions occur in the overlap of these professions with the psychology of a place.

In today’s community development practice, we see two separate forces that believe they are correct. Both are at odds on how and why investment functions. It is wicked because the two parties are unaware of the other; thereby, they are without data: their values, outlook, economics, and culture conflict. Points of intervention are possible but difficult to imagine. The uncertainty poses the creativity possible in ambiguity, but the ships have already passed in the night. Finally, the forces of resistance often lead to their repression. Whether imposed or internalized, the impact of repression alters mental health conditions. It is far too easily ignored, but the results of stress, anxiety, and depression have proven harmful to the individual and have a community impact.   

The Carbon Neutral Strategy

Calculating carbon footprints is still in its infancy. Still, the standard calculation today is based on an estimate of $400 per ton of emissions.  If you are Bill Gates, you more than double it to make another point.  He recognizes the Green Premium cost and is quite willing to say he can easily afford to pay it. He is not sure about the rest of us, so he suggests we ask and decide what we can do as individuals. 

Policymakers can take on only so many problems at once. Getting on that “only so many” list will require concerted political action. A regional support strategy will help local organizers get on that list. For example, it could alter or stop an environmentally suspect development project in Flushing Queens.  Drawing encouragement from regional to citywide to neighborhood organizations willing to focus resources on one example can be used to push climate change to the top of that list. 

Political leaders need to sense concerted political action from their constituents.   Climate change and the Flushing Meadow project can be encouraged as an example of a grave error that must not be allowed anywhere in the region.  Digging into the specifics of these errors will help every participating organization.  Some examples are:

  • The Flushing Development is not paying the Green Premium. The project needs to tell the energy systems companies, services, and utilities what it will pay to address climate change.
  • The Flushing Developers, architects, and engineers have no idea what a zero-sum, carbon-neutral project would look like. 
  • The developer is only complaining about its profit margin. Simultaneously, the project’s failure and its cost will fall on the city and the state when the community is flooded and stays flooded.
  • The list of households most likely to be displaced by climate change (flooding/storm surge) is about 4,000 today.  The Flushing project could double that figure and quadruple the cost.

A focus on getting a more aggressive regional and citywide partnership on this project is needed.  The attention can help produce a carbon-neutral development or stop one that isn’t.  Either way, it is an important market signal. The political action statement is straightforward. Not paying attention to the carbon footprint issue today could put your grandchildren on the endangered species list tomorrow.  It is that serious. The science of this argument and proof of this project’s failure to recognize the problem is the work that lies ahead.

The big question: Is the idea of a Long-Term Comprehensive Plan capable of adjudication? Can it confirm or refute any of the fears of the people? Can it alter the inexorable facts of climate change and its impact on Flushing? As a BOA site will the developers, provide services and funding covering lifetime health-related illness from work or living on the proposed site. You get the drift.

A Muddling Strategy

Zoning is well-established police power, yet it is officially opposed and challenged, questioned, and denied—a political pawn of progress. Consider the possibility of an impeccable elimination of racism, classism, sexism, and the all-around favorite “placism” in the zoning text and resolution as policy. \Is there a way to bring its original health and safety purpose more explicitly focused on the pace of neighborhood change? Deliberate but incremental negotiations could help charge ordinary people’s expectations with a new interest in community investing. Plans for a mutually determined and purposeful change quality can be absorbed by the community, but gradually. This helps alter the lock on the status quo and governmental privilege systems into more of an emollient for progress.

Rusty Toaster Pill

The New York Metropolitan Region is a megacity, yet zoning (or changes to it) only considers a few blocks at a time. Given mobility throughout this region, its people can live in places where they can become most productive.  The missing resource is the lack of information, innovation, and opportunities to meet and optimize these choices. Instead, the “transit-rich” locations in the city are sold for minor capital improvements. These deals between a failing private corporation (MTA) and the local, state, and federal government responsible agencies. The inevitable common-sense conclusion could be zoning is failing communities that are not transit-rich by establishing transportation dependency in all others. A rapidly advancing capacity for equitable movement would be to make everything in the region within reach of everything else within an hour or less. 

One excellent example is Downtown Brooklyn, NY that is the most transit-rich region of New York City. The fight over Atlantic Yards an expansive uncovered rail yard serving the Long Island] Railway. New York City partnered with a developer, Bruce Ratner, to develop the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. (contention) The construction of an arena, the Barclay’s Center, was first to develop, to yield the headline.  How to Build a Sports Complex by Promoting 2,000 units of Housing.  The proposal engendered legal and political battles for a decade.  The use of eminent domain, how the developer would bid the project, and even the developer’s vision were challenged in the courts by residents. The Civilians, a musical theater troupe, produced a popular musical farce detailing indignation only to prognosticate the ephemeral promise of affordable housing.

Meanwhile Back in Flushing

In 2010, the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation received a grant under the New York State Brownfield Opportunity Areas Program.  The State used it to develop plans to replace vacant and underutilized properties and revitalize Flushing’s waterfront area. If approved, the development would serve as an extension of Downtown Flushing.  The Special Flushing Waterfront District was established by a vote of 40 to 4 margin on 12/10/2020. This brings the process to the final ULURP process. Unfortunately, we have not seen the application.

Impressive Eye Candy

Flushing is For Sale

The Hill West Architecture firm has an impressive portfolio of projects (here) with a few waterfront locations.  However, the Flushing development concept has yet to make it to their list or map all projects (here) real and digital hopes. The proposal’s renderings available now are useless preliminary sketches projecting the total floor area allowed in a set of unchallenged zoning approvals. New York Yimby seems to have the best set of illustrations (here).  But let’s pretend the following is real and will be built, and the architecture might look like this project in Brooklyn.

On the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn

The proposed 1,725 units are criticized for including a minimal amount of affordable housing and 879 hotel units. However, as housing advocates know, hotel rooms are used to house displaced families as an alternative to warehoused children in shelters.  Is there an “off-table” agreement here to provide such units as needed, and if so, how might it be included in the city’s incentive package without been seen?

Office space and community facilities, and retail space are estimated at 700,000 sq. ft. Parking & BOH: involves 440,500 square feet, and the waterfront public space may have about 160,000 square feet. Is that closed Assi market sized into this structure? Would the rent be fair?  Will there be competitors?

On to:

Part V – Wicked Problem Planning or back to Part III on the energy displacement issue, or back to Index

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

Planning Together: Part III

carbon dioxide equivalent in metric tons per square foot, per year

Two forces are at work in the continuing creation of NYC.  First-force is energy aimed toward “centers.” Second-force moves outward and away from its centers.  Implementing the Climate Mobilization Act (CMA) is an interesting example using a comprehensive urban planning perspective of both. The centers are locations where there are buildings with more than 25,000 square feet in NYC.  The force is generated by a global condition demanding a reduction in GHGs. The focus is on large urban centers within large metropolitan cities.



The CMA requires building owners to contribute to meeting the 80/50 goal.

By 2050 NYC will reduce GHG’s to 80% of current levels.


If the legislation passes, the first milestone in the ten-year LTCP will be the City Report’s Conditions (COC). The narrative will draw on the ongoing objective, measurable data that City agencies generate every year over the last five years and punch it into the COC. The COC focus on long-term issues as embedded in the data concerning long-term planning and sustainability will have to face the Climate Mobilization Act’s impact.

Suddenly the Climate Mobilization Act marches into the room from 2021 to 2024 with compliance requirements through 2029. If there were anything like a 1,300-pound Grizzly in community planning, it would be every building owner in the community with square footage over 25,000 square feet yelling, “the investment in energy efficiency, for the reduction of GHGs, will cost the community jobs and displace residents.”

The law says tenants will be protected, but we are in a buyer beware world. The following was set from “deepdive

“When the act originally passed last year, owners of buildings where rent-regulated units make up less than 35% of the total were given an alternate path to compliance due to what officials called “outdated” rent laws in New York State. That path allowed landlords to pass the cost of building upgrades to tenants by charging for major capital improvements through higher rents.”

“Then in July, the state-level Housing Stability and Tenant Protections Act of 2019 altered how such improvements can be imposed by only allowing rent increases for rent-stabilized units if they make up 35% or more of the units in a building. While this adjustment saves tenants from having the costs of capital improvements and retrofits passed on to them, some councilmembers worried about landlords’ ability to absorb those costs themselves.”

Elected officials said while more established landlords can likely take on the costs for improvements like HVAC and lighting upgrades. Still, those who manage smaller buildings may not be able to, especially as the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has affected their rental incomes.”

Residential building owners will see it as a perfect opportunity to displace tenants through major capital improvements with added harassment efforts. Major Capital Improvement (MCI) and careless rule enforcement allow building owners to raise rents on the unsuspecting. Documented abuses in monthly MCI rent hikes over $800 per apartment are well-known and feared.

Is it possible to imagine that the plan that eliminates jobs doesn’t matter because the people who have them will be displaced anyway? A counter-measure is available if the focus on the green economy is on jobs. The data is available in jobs from the production of a net-zero supply-chain to the production of well-educated people in the universities NYC has to offer. (See list)

Whether that ridiculous scenario occurs or is more likely in some neighborhoods than others, the Climate Change crisis is that Grizzly in the long term. It has the capacity to push aside all the other issues, education, transportation, public health, arts and culture, economic development, zoning, and land use.

Set by climate policy, the Climate Mobilization Act’s implementation priority will focus on projects that involve about 50,000 buildings in this category, about 2,500 have a million square feet or more. NYC’s Open Data portal has an example Building Footprints to illustrate that the city can be super-square-foot smart on a building by building basis.

The GHG reduction goal is a force applied from the outside toward these locations. The impact on sales and acquisitions in real estate markets for all land uses old, new, and proposed will be significant. The buildings are known and mapped. This is where defining the second-force comes into play.

An old example of a first-force, “center-inward,” and a second-force “center-outward” impact was global thermal nuclear war and auto-technology.  The policy was to spread out urban life, leaving energy-efficient public transit systems behind and in decay. The priority was to produce the massive growth promised in an auto-driven economy.  Hey, it looked great for a long time, but now hundreds of articles available from the GBC and elsewhere talk about the lack of balance in this policy.


The building owners and communities involved and informed by the Climate Mobilization Act will be encouraged to understand its requirements. These reactions to a problem will occur outwardly from the lawmakers who know stuff to ordinary people who haven’t been told and may never know.

The conduct required involves analyzing existing energy use, building condition, and capacity for financing implementation. Depending on the community, facility projects will either fail or comply with their carbon emissions reduction to 26% by 2024 – 2029.  The Green Building Council (GBC) here provides details.  The structures involved are organized by space classification, and fines and penalties for non-compliance may not be significant.  A good example is the Empire State Building will have to pay $1.25 million as a fine for failure.  See story, The New York Times


Poorly defined second-forces can include the displacement of low- and moderate-income households in rapidly complying and gentrifying NYC neighborhoods due to the well-known impact of “major capital improvements.”. A well-funded outreach and community planning process is needed to get beyond the dubious effect of fines. Assured compliance with Social, Economic, and Environmental Design (SEED) and the LEED nod to this issue is essential. The SEED Evaluator and certification framework establishes social, economic, and environmental goals for building projects to measure success. Buildings are the major contributor to global warming. Still, the people of dense cities such as NYC are the low per capita energy users.  The people in the buildings (residents and workers) should have a higher value than the buildings.

The lessons of displacement are throughout the United States.
I urge you to hear Colette Pichon Battle. What she knows now, we need to know.

The Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy and Colette Pichon Battle’s work raises awareness on equitable disaster recovery, migration, economic development, climate justice, and energy democracy. Climate change is not the problem. It is a symptom of a more significant system problem the American people must address. TED presentation (here).

The NYC Zoning Resolution is now open for business as a negotiating tool.  Mandated inclusion to subsidize rental housing is the most recent example.  A mandated subsidy drawn from the energy savings produced could be used to prevent displacement and sustain affordability.  A therm saved is one earned. The thing is, there is no negotiation with a rising ocean, only the duty to protect all people from all the forms of displacement it will cause.

Exposure to all the wiggle room (cash savings for wealth owners) could help line up social justice and equity goals with needed compliance. For example, Local Law 84  mandates benchmarking and disclosure of energy use.  However, it exempts buildings with 10%+ (really, seriously) floor space devoted to data centers, trading floors, or broadcast studios.  No Energy Star score is required because disclosing a terrible energy use intensity (EUI) is awful PR. Example abound in this arena of the wiggle.


Carbon offsets are allowed. Purchasing unlimited renewable energy credits (RECs), also known, can reduce reported emissions for electricity.  A citywide emissions trading scheme (ETS) focused on greenhouse gas emissions will come up in 2021 and so on.  Every dime should turn into an anti-displacement dollar for one reason — the law outlines “guidelines” most of the specifics have yet to be reconciled. And, in addition to Local Law 97, the Climate Mobilization Act includes other laws:

Local Laws 92 & 94 – Green Roofs & Solar PV: Requiring green roofs solar PV systems on specific new construction and renovation projects.

Local Law 95 – Building Labeling: Adjusting metrics used for letter grades assessing building energy performance.

Local Law 96 – PACE: Establishing clean energy financing tools for building owners

Local Law 98 – Wind Energy: Obliging the Department of Buildings to include wind energy generation in its toolbox of renewable energy technologies.

Thankfully, there are resources to help building owners navigate this evolving regulatory landscape. The NYC Retrofit Accelerator supports building owners’ efforts to improve their buildings’ energy efficiency. (calculator) At the state level, NYSERDA has several programs geared towards putting buildings on the path to energy efficiency.

Voluntary nonprofits are gaining traction to assist institutions with the measurement tasks for a price. A good example is CRIS — The Climate Registry’s greenhouse gas (GHG) measurement, reporting, and verification platform, accessible at This tool is used by The Climate Registry (TCR) reporting members, TCR-recognized Verification Bodies, and the general public to measure and/or communicate the carbon impacts of organizations of all sizes across all sectors.

Part IV or back to Index

Part IV applies to New York City neighborhoods and is available: here

Planning Together – Part II

Thanks for the comments, edits, and recommendations — no one is as smart as all of us!

Roll the dice?


The one thing we learn from our history is that we don’t learn much. We, therefore, remember negatively. New York has a sizeable group of relevant organizations to fight what we all know is about to happen. Political leaders will be asking for austerity and sacrifice for the common good. The so-called “v” shaped recovery is real, it will occur, but the rich/poor separation accelerates into pain. Cuts to basic social services: schools, healthcare, housing will occur if current New York State budget plans go forward without federal relief. The IBO has an economic forecast and analysis of the Mayor’s 2022 Preliminary Budget and Financial Plan through 2025. It also discusses some of the positive and negative. See it here.  You can also jump to Planning Together Part III that opens a dialogue on the displacement effect of the Climate Mobilization Act (here).

We also know the austerity will not aim at those who fight in the courts or attack the lobbyists. We know massive contributions to identity scrubbing PACs will continue. We know a thousand other tips and tricks of the political elite, such as primary threats, misleading information, and outright lies are more likely than not. What are the ordinary people of the city to do?

How about trusting a citywide movement led by term-limited political leaders. How about a Comprehensive Long-Term Plan? 

To introduce the subtle elements for a ten-year comprehensive plan in the city of New York, spend a few minutes with two professionals responsible for producing plans in our city. Carl Weisbrod’s presentation is first, speaking as Chair of the thirteen-member City Planning Commissioner in 2016. The second is by Marisa Lago speaking as Director of the Department of City Planning and less so in her role as Chair of the City Planning Commission. Combined they provide a sense of how these professionals are likely to respond to the City Council’s big comprehensive plan idea. Get an adult refreshment, it takes about an hour. It is well worth the time if you weren’t there or have not seen them.

Please reflect on these presentations (text). What caught your attention? Comment.

Planetizen published an interview with Marisa Lago as part of its “Planners Across America” series in May 2018 that provides an excellent comparison and in 2021 she left her position as both the Director of the New York City Department of Planning and Chair of the New York City Planning Commission to become an undersecretary of commerce for international trade at the Department of Commerce in the Biden Administration.

Dan Garodnick, a former city council member and president and CEO of the Riverside Park Conservancy will serve as Chair of the City Planning Commission and Edith Hsu-Chen who served as the Manhattan Director at the New York City Department of City Planning was appointed as the Director of City Planning by Mayor Adams, January 2022.

Trust in Planners

The meat of the legislation establishing the Long-Term Comprehensive Plan (LTCP) reveals the current system’s timelines and some new content. All of us have a desire to see positive change from the grassroots up. Advancing this point boosts democracy, yet the first step is a standard one with a topping of community charrettes. Language is important — community development professionals equate charrettes with interactive brainstorming sessions. In the context of a “needs” discussion, the charrette has the potential to be a magnificently dysfunctional practice. If this goes bad, will community planners ever be trusted again? Is that the point?

“I am led to conclude that there are aspects of the old, end-of-the-project charrette as a design process that remain relevant and valuable. This helps explain their persistence in architecture schools and for competition entries in the profession that are “design and idea-driven.” Two forms of the charrette stress alternative kinds of design thinking. The new charrette is founded on planning and problem-solving, the old on improvisation and bricolage. The new charrette aligns fairly well with what product designers call “concept generation.” A weakness of this process may be that it generates many possible design strategies without ever getting to a point, particularly in the absence of time pressure, when difficult tradeoffs between alternative strategies can be made.”

Daniel Willis (here). Paraphrasing Schwartz, Paradox of Choice, 126–39. Worthy of solemn reading.

Long-term goals are not products of an evening’s chat. Two or three whole days could be sufficient outreach resources to the Community Boards and Council Districts if it forms a network. The implied goal (or the one sought) is a unified movement for equitable change. Remember Weisbrod saying close to half of the households in NYC are too close to distress and one crisis away from poverty. Lago nods to the fact as well. Before that real problem can be defined well, there is another one to examine.

Still, we hear two very different sounds from the top of the profession (rah, rah) and from the neighborhoods (oh, no, oh, no) Longfellow says it best in Tales of a Wayside Inn.

Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, 
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness; 
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another, 
Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Plan for New York City was well used by the students of community development.

The descent “Critical Issues” by Commissioner Beverly Moss Spatt (pdf oral history) is one of the best parts of that work. It even gets a quote in LTCP City Council version. The 1969 plan professed to be based on an interventionist role of government claiming the role of coordinator.  It would treat the physical, social and economic development of the City as a unified whole. So that never happened.  But when one door closes, another one tends to open. The task remains. The commitment to that task is another question evading the answer.

Ships in the Night

Given this condition as reasonably accurate, the streamlined cycle (right) demands a focus on one thing at a time, even though we know everything happens all at once in the current system (left).

A deadline system is in both processes. The fourteen event deadlines described by law on the left could be found within one of the eight “focusing octagons” on the right. In examining the calendar below, we see the deadline clocks extended. It isn’t obvious, but there is a hint of the logic involved. The hope is that each stop within the clockwise pattern prescribed in the octagons can co-occur.  That as we get to know each octagon, some fog is lifted by the long view. Small study groups in your circle of change agents know that running through a cycle such as this one at speed (from a few minutes to a week) can enrich the experience.

The salary of a Community District Manager (Civil Service Title Code #56086) will range from 75K to $90K, and the office can have up to four paid staff members. The staff’s responsibilities are maintaining a meeting space and agendas for politically appointed volunteer District residents regarding many community issues. The Independent Budget Office provides a funding history (here). The average budget is $315,000 and 2.3 employees per district (2020), with sizeable differences in OTPS across boroughs. A deeper analysis would help the public to understand why the promise of community-based planning authorized by the New York City Charter (197-a) has not enjoyed top-down support. The Department of City Planning has not invested in staff professionalization or physical facilities that would be beneficial. This is a huge failure in management behavior, as a fundamental rule is that decisions are best made by those closest to the information.

One Way Ticket

The CPD Director’s view of Community Boards is limited. They can contribute to the city’s budgeting process, not planning. In this regard, the department has invested in digital tools for a Community District to advocate for their needs. See screenshots below.

Using short cycles of general knowledge enrichment and reflection help to bring consensus to final commitment points.  The plan’s development is a sacrifice of action limited to rhetoric and narrative (reports and legislation); however, the gift of reflection through these cycles will be activism. Or, at least, it should be expected. A better source for what should be expected is from the Furman Center (here). NYU Furman Center’s Neighborhood Data Profiles are an in-depth look at the demographic, housing market, land use, and neighborhood services indicators for the city’s 59 community districts. Dive into the numbers in the neighborhood where you live, or test your New York City knowledge. Get the answer in our State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods report, powered by

The letters of hope approach remain one way. The end product sought is a narrative report for use at the top. On the other hand, spending some time thinking about what your community is not getting, even though repeatedly requested, leads to activism combined with despair. Why should a process for a comprehensive community development effort do it backward?

The economics and social demography of New York City say the odds are fifty-fifty right now on hopelessness and desperation. Whether “v” shaped recovery will be sufficient, the coming pandemic-caused austerity crisis remains with the most vulnerable. A shift in those odds in the wrong direction is easily triggered with insurgency behaviors.

The Climate Crisis is long term re-direct problem. What if the energy savings were captured as an inclusionary social equity issue? Finally, a long-term plan is ineffective unless something, a big or tiny bit of fruit, can be seen routinely. Throwing the dice looking for a seven is, at best, a thirteen-percent roll.

Here is a brief example of a long term approach.

The Cycle in 215 Words

Priority Needs

City Condition

City Wide Goals

Preferred Land Use Statements

Long Term Plan Submitted

Capital Strategy



One Community Board’s priority need is for new and rehabilitated housing affordable to the district’s median income for rent and ownership. The “city conditions” report from OLTPS now (MOR) states a citywide demand for X00,000 new and rehabilitated affordable housing units but uses the AMI to establish eligible cohorts. The citywide goal statement on the affordable housing gap concurs, “The City of New York will close the median income gap in affordability.” It offers a set of objectives for measuring success in this effort. One long-term example among hundreds available might be — Objective: The percentage of households paying over 50% of income for shelter will be reduced by 10%. This district’s preferred land use seeks new four-story buildings (R4 to 5) and very low-cost loans for rehabs and accepts R6 to R10 in the “transit-rich” sections, including mixed-use services. The long-term plan codifies these as advisory desires. It then turns to the city’s ten-year capital strategy in search of the financing available to serve this one district and all 58 others. That takes us to the final focusing octagon in the cycle that seeks alignment. It is a cards-on-the-table analysis of all standing applications. About 80% of the ULURP application are “as of right.” Also, new offers for housing development are encouraged that “effectuate the plan.

Fast Cycle/Slow Cycle

It took about twenty minutes to run through a streamlined cycle above using a housing invention and the imagination. It is a useful thought experiment. In the end, priority needs in the district may be met or not. In this sketch, setting a goal to close the gap may not succeed. Ignoring that it is “the gap” that is on everyone’s mind isn’t helpful either. The process may heighten expectations, but adding resources for adjustments using fast/slow cycles appropriate to the district’s condition can strengthen the body as a whole. The cycle concludes with a look at resource implications and “alignment,” A better or perhaps more accurate word is reconciliation.

The process does not have to be super formalized. It can be fun. It can allow a community’s “gut” to be trusted. If some people (like city officials) are presumed to have more power, if given the time to conduct “good listening,” they too discover ways they can be trusted.

Whether in short or long-term iterations, drawing in new data to the cycle can occur as it becomes available. The plan should release itself from an “arrow-of-time” approach and forgettable, years-apart milestones. From a strategic point of view, faster is better when driven by the data available. It is vital to recognize an accelerated flow of data with increased accuracy. Just one hitch, though, the data, the technology for use, and local experience with it are very underrepresented in distressed communities. The plan is long term, but in this sense, it is getting ahead of itself. The work is still that of the agencies of the city. Getting another watcher, perhaps just a lookout spectator, cannot be helpful without a reconciliation process.

Reconciliation describes federal law (Budget Act 1974) that allows expedited consideration of specific tax, spending, and debt limits with advantages for passing a controversial budget or a tax measure. Obstruction is not permitted, and amendments are limited.  See CBPP article (here). Research on the interest in NYS or NYC regarding this point would be helpful. Still, if the proposed planning process is to be successful and for “the good,” it will need some people as smart as Elizabeth MacDonough on reconciliation powers, government role, and some serious philanthropic interest.

Following is a first look at the Charter’s changes designed to empower the role of a comprehensive long-term plan (LTCP). This is a quick (probably too fast) run of changes. It will need corrections and clarifications. All are welcome. What does all this seems to do is add a layer. Contact

Alterations to the City Charter

Section 5 Annual statement to council. of the LTCP effective as of 12/31/2022

Section 17 Strategic Policy Statement  from the cycle of 4 years to five and alignment with sec 20 provisions and substantial additions under the new heading “Citywide Goals Statement.”

Section 20 Office of long-term planning and sustainability the greatest number of additions are made to this section of the charter —  goals to reduce and eliminate disparities in quantitative citywide targets and policy goals, some about the waterfront, with such targets established by the long-term planning steering committee, other quantitative community district level targets for each community board within each category enumerated  equitable distribution of resources

Population project requirement was repealed

  1. Section 82 (subdivision 14) Powers and Duties of Borough Presidents Five-year cycles instead of four
  2. Section 197-c. Uniform land use review procedure. a statement of alignment describing how the application aligns, conflicts, or does not apply to the comprehensive long-term plan prepared according to subdivision d of section 20  rules to determine whether such applications align with the comprehensive long-term plan subdivision d of section 20, including notice of conflicts with the LTCP
  3. Section 197-d. Council Review.  notice of conflicts with the LTCPand a land-use scenario found in paragraph 7 of subdivision d of section 20
  4. Section 205 Comprehensive waterfront plan. REPEALED until….?
  5. Section 215 Ten year Capital Strategy detailing the cost to maintain existing city infrastructure and how to align with each goal or citywide budget priority in the LTCP align with each goal or citywide budget priority outlined in the LTCP
  6. Section 219   Project initiation; commitment plan. Projected capital projects not previously anticipated
  7. Section 228 Draft ten-year capital strategy.  Five-year cycles instead of every other one
  8. Section 230 Community board budget priorities. Needs not previously stated is have to be pointed out, and a new interface is implied as a responsibility of the Mayor’s office
  9. Section 234 City planning commission hearing and statement on the draft ten-year capital strategy.  Every five years
  10. Section 248. Ten-year capital strategy. Every five years
  11. Section 668 Variances and special permits. A grant or denial of the board must respond to recommendations included in the comprehensive long-term plan required by subdivision d of section 20
  12. Section 1110-a. Capital plant inventory and maintenance estimates. Ending in 2022 and restarting in 10/2023 with an online machine-readable format and hooked up to subdivision i of Section 20 and according to paragraph 1 of subdivision b of section 215.
  13. Section 2800 Community boards.  Annual statement of needs now every two years (6)   Render an annual report to the mayor, the council and the borough board within three months of the end of each year and such other reports to the mayor or the borough board as they shall require (such reports or summaries thereof to be published in the City Record)


Calendar of the LTCP (rough draft)

The Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability and its powers are defined in Section 20 of the New York Charter. This office’s role is substantially amended in its relationship to City Planning, the Mayor’s Office, The City Council, and others.

New York City’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability (OLTPS) was created as part of the Mayor’s Office by local law in 2006. The Office coordinates with all other City agencies to develop, implement, and track the progress of PlaNYC and other issues of infrastructure and the environment, which cut across multiple City departments.

Released in 2007 and updated in 2011, PlaNYC is an unprecedented effort undertaken by Mayor Bloomberg to prepare the city for one million more residents, strengthen our economy, enhance the quality of life for all New Yorkers deal with climate change. In addition to producing PlaNYC, the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability promotes the integration of sustainability goals and practices into City agencies’ work and all residents’ and visitors’ lives.

The following timetable is a rough approximation of the plan. It will be useful for comparison with actual events with a clearer indication of the resources allocated in the ongoing flow of Charter mandated events as they are drawn into the LTCP,

Section 2800 Community boards 

Annual statement of needs every two years. No mention of the Community Affairs Unit CAU or the Civic Engagement Commission 

Annually, the most frequently mentioned issue is “affordable housing,” with 30 of 59 boards nominating it as their top need. The trend remains upward.

Repair and Replace
Conditions of the City


February 1, 2022             

Convene a 13 Member Steering Committee with expertise in planning, transportation, sustainability, resilience, housing, public utilities, social services,  and economic development.

section 6 of this local law shall take effect for long-term planning steering committee and borough steering committees.

September 1, 2022

Convene Borough Steering Committees to prepare and provide a strategic policy statement for the borough see obligations under paragraph 2 of this subdivision.

sections 10 and 19 of this local law shall take effect;

September 15, 2022                               

a statement of community district needs, and every two years after that

section 24 of this local law shall take effect to a standardized survey for Community Boards

October 1, 2022

mayor provides estimates of costs by agency and project type and, within project type, by personal services and other-than-personal services (OTPS), necessary to maintain all significant portions of the capital ending in 2022, see Oct. 2023

December 31, 2022

Report on the city’s long-term planning and sustainability efforts

section 5 of this local law shall take effect to acquire annual reports on long-term planning and sustainability


January 31, 2023             

issue a report to the mayor and speaker of the city council that describes each committee’s meeting and any other activities undertaken by the committee for the immediately preceding year.

February 7, 2023                                         

Submit Conditions of the City report. Detailing conditions for comprehensive long-term planning

Sections 3, 8, 9, 15, 16, and 17 of this local law shall take effect 3 repeals population projections

March 1, 2023                                               

Steering Committeeestablishes  the citywide targets described by section 17 by majority vote, and no later than July 1 of the corresponding years

April 15, 2023                                           

the director of the office of long-term planning shall submit a preliminary citywide goal statement           

sections 1 and 26 of this local law shall take effect

July 1, 2023

the director of long-term planning shall submit a final citywide goals [strategic policy] statement

October 1, 2023

the mayor shall transmit to the council an updated repair, replace or maintain recommendation of each capital asset contained in the ten-year capital strategy

under paragraph 1 of subdivision b of section 215.

section 23 of this local shall take effect


January 31, 2024

issue a report to the mayor and speaker of the city council that describes each committee’s meeting and any other activities undertaken by the committee for the immediately preceding year.

February 1, 2024

adopt the community district level targets for any category within the previously adopted citywide targets, no later than and every tenth February 1, 2024 after that

April 15, 2024

submit a draft comprehensive long-term plan. No later than 150 days after the submission, present a recommended preferred land-use scenario for each applicable community district, and may adopt suggested amendments to the corresponding community district level targets

sections 2, 12, and 20 of this local law shall take effect immediately; sections 4 and 7 of this local law shall take effect

November 1, 2024          

Draft ten-year capital strategy. Every five years after, the director of management a draft ten-year capital strategy prepared according to section two hundred fifteen provisions.

section 18 of this local law shall take effect


January 16, 2025

the city planning commission shall submit a report containing its comments on the draft ten-year capital strategy submitted per section two hundred twenty-eight of this chapter every five years after that,

section 22 of this local law shall take effect

January 31, 2025             

issue a report to the mayor and speaker of the city council that describes each committee’s meeting and any other activities undertaken by the committee for the immediately preceding year.

Planning Together: Part III (here)or back to Index

Planning Together: Part I

New York City is not the center of the universe. Recognizing that it contains the most complex issues facing any community in the nation should put it there. Notwithstanding this desire, a conservative and narrow view toward solutions prevails. There are progressive answers to injustice, and for many, they are well known, yet this knowledge alone fails to lead us toward resolving the difficulties of implementation. Another form of action is required. Is this something that might be available in the four-year implementation plan outlined in the “New Comprehensive Planning Framework?” It is time to take a patient look at the possibilities of accountability.

The Report


The New York City Council launched an idea called “Planning Together” in December 2020. So far, we offer a two–maybe a multiple-part examination of the concept. Part One uses the GOS-3P-RE™ format to develop a review that accepts or rejects the statement of “the problem” as well defined. That is, NYC does not have a comprehensive plan, and it needs one to fix the current chaos and a boatload of new problems just over the horizon that need a long-term view. Call it the “first agreement.”

The second part will critique the bias and questions developed in part one, and the assumptions built into the problem. This analysis will offer suggestions and decide whether our natural period of skepticism can become the leverage required to support the work outlined in the New Comprehensive Planning Framework (NCPF) Report (it should be the Long Term Comprehensive Plan (LTCP), but the authorizing legislation will be tabled. Requiring, authorizing such a thing as a comprehensive long-term plan (here) is moot in an election year. Still, the long look is important, the question is how vital. Again, here is the Full Report a link to the Legislation, and here is a link to a pdf-plain language summary. The term MEGO should come to mind for “my eyes glaze over.”

The legislation represents one final public decision – a comprehensive long-term plan is needed. Imagine the law has passed, the plan will be launched and an LTCP will be sent to the Council for approval in about three years. As the saying goes if it is authorized, how well will it be allotted?

The small group of people who were involved in this idea are like those Margaret Mead described. You remember, something like “small groups can change the world’, and it is the only way it happens. There is no reason to believe all such efforts are for good. Therefore, it is sensible to review the plan’s inherent goals, objectives, and strategy. Examine the policies and list of programs or projects for a sense of priority. Finally, the resource demands and implications of the work itself require an evaluation.


All of 2021 is available to examine the implications of an authorizing decision before the proposed official launch in February 2022. The first group of the “accountable” will be 13 people on a steering committee. The first major product is working and underway by City Planning — as the legislation calls for a report from the director about the city’s “long-term planning and sustainability efforts” on December 31, 2022. (ongoing initiatives found here).

The current versions of data and needs statements for all 59 Districts (here) for review. The needs statement sections are available in portable document format (pdf), as shown in the lower right corner of the image below

one of the authors of the proposed legislation lives in this district

Start with District Needs (Statements and Data)

The first chart (below) covers a four-year implementation for continuing public participation. The second chart covers the proposed ten-year cycle that begins September 15, 2022, with the Needs Statements containing declarations of continuing support for existing programs and capital projects, a limited number of needs given high priority, plus the specific rationale for new or reprioritized necessities in the each District. The current versions for all 59 Districts are (here) for review.

Please take a moment to review the charts.

Steering committees are advisory bodies composed of experts with experience on issues, such as budgets, new projects, policy, strategies, and project management concerns. The thirteen chosen to work with the Speaker, the Director, the Agencies, and the Mayor will be the first indicator of “seriousness.”


The introduction of a New Comprehensive Planning Framework (NCPF) tells us it may not be concrete or technical. Therefore, it is a political one. The origin in the New York City Council of the NCPF indicates an emphasis on “needs” and “goals.” It is not a poor step, just one that can get very slippery, especially in the last few weeks among a bevy of term-limited Council members or when a major capital investment group frightens the residents in a member’s district. Still, that crunchy ethical detail will be saved for Part II.

Comprehensive planning is hugely complicated yet easily simplified into electoral goal setting. Such plans have only two uses: to outline our faults in a positive way and to elude commitment. So it all fits. Goals are vital, but only if they can be widely shared. Take a couple of examples regarding the importance of demanding the future perfect tense to set goals.

By the end of each fiscal year, the City will provide proof of:

  • strong support for modern and sustainable public hospitals in an expanded health system
  • innovative financial mechanisms, and support for a growing supply of affordable housing

Many similar goal statements can quickly achieve a substantial base of consensus.  When objective measures are set to define the public health system fully, we see it as writhing in debt.  In NYC, this system continues to represent billions in baseline losses.  By 2024  the debt will double to $2 billion/year, which was pre-pandemic. Or what if the massive increase in the direct cost of homelessness became a priority measure?  DHS expenditures have grown since 1994 from $500M to $2.4B in 2020.  These goals have a long-standing public policy lineage, yet we stand today in this condition.  Why? They still stand because they are without accountability to progress.


There are two hot-button examples of how a plan’s purposes easily disconnect from the available resources without a specific prescription for a solution.  As described above, goals may fail to be achieved. Still, the promise of every “new plan” initiated by political representatives should be capable of such acknowledgments. Making events happen differently, as if there was never a plan, is not new. It is tiddling. 

In other words, a goal is only as good as meets the concrete definition. A good plan can transform itself the way New York City often does—with self-confidence and occasional aplomb. A plan can be agile, its proponents willing to hang together (vs. separately) yet unafraid of the fearful truth. Still, it isn’t a plan if it does not remain accountable. 

Measures of the cost of services do not define complexity well, but dollars do provide a follow-up path.  Unlike previous decades, substantial increases in information flow to measure success and failure provide benefits.  The process of evidence-based, outcome-driven, and measurable performance practice is well understood in public and private planning offices. One of the most important discoveries of expanded data management capacity is that traditional problem discovery, defining, and solving processes no longer work well.  Using data-crunching techniques to examine precise changes in system conditions is helpful.  The framework condition “A” becomes condition “B” using appropriate time intervals.

The benefit of this new sensitivity to system conditions changes and facilitates a relatively rapid regulatory solution. The “City Conditions” should reflect the investments required and minus the amount deployed by day, month, and year. When objectives are met quickly, the tasks involved are more easily mandated by law to achieve a timely response. Understanding system conditions leads to system change. These activities will become subservient to ongoing system evaluations as the pace of new stable measures is set and objectives are met. All of this is coming, and it is well on the way.


A good strategy follows concrete objectives.  It provides accurate comparisons of what is different and why.  Plans can do well on this point of period-to-period comparison.  However, the planning studies that express specific interests such as preservation, open space, and the waterfront establish an automatic constituency.  In these cases, the place matters, and vested interests are exposed alongside the people most directly affected by the anticipated change.

A cyclical ten-year planning cycle is promised.  It encourages integration and efficiency. However, a path to equitable and sustainable growth is not promised. Perhaps it’s a little too scary. Therefore, the test will be how meaningfully City Planning powers connect to the City’s budget process in annual cycles. The purpose of planning is not to make things work in the abstract. Its purpose is to define how well or poorly it meets needs in its overall spatial effect.  

Inequity has latitude and longitude.  The city planning power can deal with discrimination, injustice, and inequality in its capacity to manage and govern new land-use choices.  It should not allow these superpowers to negotiate floor area mechanics for fungible cash arrangements.  A New Comprehensive Planning Framework’s promise must outline its goals and objectives with strategies that see all families’ needs at the end of each day. Priorities, projects, and policies should focus on the most vulnerable as a simple matter of honor because it leads to knowing and deciding who we are. However, the City also enters an era of “climate change roulette,” coupled with viral infections.  External forces like these can destroy life anytime and everywhere; thus, every action must prove hope is alive for all.

Policy, Projects, and Priority

Using the term streamlining suggests reorganizing the planning and budget-related actions required by law.  What drives the demand to improve coordination across City agencies for this new outcome? Statements of proof for demand from agencies are needed. What is the evidence of benefits from reorganization?  Who will activate the performance measures? A typical product offered is a reduction in time and direct costs. If these efficiencies are proven, how and with whom are savings shared to balance inequities over the prescribed 10 years?

Community-based planning at the neighborhood level is a resource for establishing a shared vision, a goal that cannot be a waltz-in-waltz-out, three charrettes effort among the 59 districts. The term charrette is not found in the legislation. How is the concept of “shared vision” measured? The plan’s approval is limited to adoption by the City Council.  In the context of proving a broader consensus, it would be presented to the City’s people by the Community District using District Need Statements. Are the presenters and charrette facilitators representing Council Districts? The budget will be examined in Part II.

Here is a fun test. What strikes you as “comprehensive” in the following list of some of the significant work conducted by City Planning over the last half-century.   Please, take a moment. 

  1. Plan for New York City. A Proposal (1969) (Critical Issues)
  2. Neighborhood Preservation in New York City (1973)
  3. The New York City Waterfront. (1974)
  4. New York City Waterfront Revitalization Program (1982)
  5. Waterfront Public Access in New York City (1986)
  6. New York City’s Waterfront: A Plan for Development (1988)
  7. Open Space and the Future of New York (1988)
  8. New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan (1992)
  9. Plan for the Manhattan Waterfront (1993)
  10. Shaping the City’s Future (1993)
  11. A Greenway Plan for New York City (1993)
  12. Shaping the City’s Future: NYC Planning and Zoning (discussion report) (1993)
  13. New York: The City’s Land Uses (1995)
  14. Comprehensive Manhattan Waterfront Plan (1997)
  15. Recreation and Open Space in New York (1997)
  16. The New Waterfront Revitalization Program (1999)
  17. PlaNYC Greener Greater New York (2007)
  18. New York City: A City of Neighborhoods (2009)
  19. Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan (2009)
  20. Vision 2020. New York Comprehensive Waterfront Plan (2011)
  21. Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) 2013
  22. The New Housing Marketplace Plan (w/HPD) (from 2003 — 2014)
  23. Housing New York 2.0. (2014) and all of the Consolidated Plans
  24. OneNYC(2014)
  25. One New York. The Plan for a Strong and Just City (2015)

That is correct; of the twenty-five significant planning efforts listed, “waterfront” is ten titles. In seven other studies, it is powerfully connected to plans for greenways, bikeways, and integrated open space networks supporting recreation and people’s health.  Finally, there are plans for resiliency and hazard mitigation. It is vital to learn if these improvements can be kept as commitments.

That is the “water is coming” knock on the door?  Did you hear it?

In contrast, “housing” gets two titles in the nod that led to mandatory inclusion as a housing subsidy tool. On March 22, 2016, the City Council approved the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing zoning text amendment. It produced a vehicle for permanent affordability from new construction. Some would call these small victories with modifications sufficient to glaze over an ordinary resident’s eyes regarding what is affordable. Most are unaware of the affordable housing roller coaster of this policy. It would look like this in the last CPD “snapshot.”

Resource Evaluation

The last part in preparing a plan is to examine the costs. The Report has yet to see “the budget” that implements the New Comprehensive Planning Framework, but there is a lesson learned from Number One on the list of major plans. The first comprehensive plan didn’t make it. It took too long. Time passed it by in the ashes and politics of a rapidly changing city for one reason. It was in crisis. Whole neighborhoods were dropping dead.

It is still a topic of conversation among planners. It still is a beautiful and reasonable “snapshot” of the city’s neighborhoods. The descent “Critical Issues” by Commissioner Beverly Moss Spatt (pdf oral history) is one of the best parts of that work. It even gets a quote in this new City Council version. The 1969 plan professed to be based on an interventionist role of government, claiming the coordinator role.  It would treat the City’s physical, social, and economic development as a unified whole. So that never happened.  But when one door closes, another one tends to open.

Walk into that room. Enter the New York City Council’s acquisition of land use powers in 1989 to comply with a successful lawsuit demanding a constitutionally reorganized government. Twenty years later, you will find Planning Commissioners known to openly ridicule the community voice while buttering their morning toast and responding to texts about tweaks in the city’s behemoth zoning resolution. 

Notwithstanding Mayor David Dinkins’s three years as mayor, the Planning Commission became dominated by two Republican Mayors (Giuliani and Bloomberg) through 2013. Both men were quite willing to support system conditions that allowed the city to conduct uninhibited negotiations with “market forces” to shape the city’s development. This remains the game in town today.


The resource implications of this initiative’s implementation are unclear. With a bit more wiggle room in the De Blasio administration, members of the City Council have responded to the comprehensive plan idea. We read. It is a good idea to take a big-picture look at New York City. Spending a lot of money on that kind of planning is a bad idea.

The Office of Strategic Initiatives publication outlines a change in the power relationship. Louis Cholden-Brown, the deputy director, and Annie Levers, the assistant deputy director, were responsible for developing the opportunity for that change. As of August 2021, Levers became Senior Advisor to Brad Lander’s run for NYC Controller. The office is not listed in the city’s Agencies and Administrative Officials Listing (here).

Without a doubt, this is Brad “Spanky” Lander’s effort to an unknown degree. Some insight into his work as a council member is (here). He is term-limited out of the City Council and has a Master’s Degree in City Planning. Anne Levers was his Budget and Policy Director, and a few years before that, she served as a Policy Fellow in his office. Credit for contributions to this initiative also goes to the Council’s Land Use and Finance Divisions. The two major committees and three subcommittees share four members—more on who, when, where, why, and how much in Part II.

One of the 1969 City Plan products became a lasting institution. The addition of Community Districts to the political landscape and a rough idea about the “coterminal” — creating common boundaries with all other service-providing agencies. The groundwork for an expansion of democratic practices in neighborhood government was envisioned. It was conceived as a place where a neighborhood could self-study with agency professionals and define and solve their problems without marching into City Hall. They remain as goals, functional shadows in the fog of the city’s culture war. However, the city now appears to be less unwilling to look at its systemic racism in the face.

The Department of City Planning has the police power to regulate and a responsibility to be responsive.  The question is, who is it sharing that power with, and how responsive is this agency? Is there a balance? If a new citywide planning comprehensive process were earnest,  the map of community-based planning would have more than nine ongoing efforts.

If charged with launching a significant four-year initiative across a highly populated and diverse region, the agency would have a larger pre-engaged constituency to help get the ball rolling.  Before launch, a director would have sought commitments (MOUs) for multiple agency support for at least thirty community-district locations on local issues of concern. (The legislation does speak to this point.)

The Report sees the need to secure time from community-based nonprofit organization staff with active work in all or some of the 55 sub-borough areas for a baseline data approach to housing issues in partnership with the Furman Center and others. Reaching out for individual sit-down meetings with the Chairs of every City and Regional Planning Graduate and Undergraduate program in the region to talk about the possibilities of participation would be prudent.  Conducting interviews with all community board members, staff, and managers, current and retired, regarding their opinion of the planning process should be formal. Checking off the boxes on impacts and outcomes of initiatives by the Department of City Planning and other agencies as the conversations and locations dictate is important homework.

A long-standing criticism is that the Community Board Appointees do not represent the community well. How accurate is that critique? These outreach efforts can reveal two crucial things: the emotional and factual basis for supporting a comprehensive planning effort. It would be a simple up or down vote—an act that board members are pretty familiar with. These and other actions may claim to be engaged, but the resources deployed appear frail now.

Outreach is vital to getting a broad basis for content built on participation. By definition, these steps involve a short-term two-way community education process.  In the long term, the viability of content will depend on two components.  The plan would acquire a commitment to setting goals using words well-heard and understood in every community.  Second, evaluating the resource implications implied by the programs would be recognized as the essential constraint to not getting everything everyone wants.

Planning Together – Part II

As a teacher, this reporter asked what problems you want to define during the next fifteen weeks. I would write GOS-3P-RE on newsprint. The Report takes a plan-to-network point of view to the City Council’s initiative. If you were one of my students or a subscriber interested in this issue, you might recall this exercise. The activity is designed to expose personal goals first and a go-to-network next.

The headings in this narrative follow that structure, exposing team biases and a planning approach to evaluating the NCPF. If it develops into the LTCP, the network component seeks to manage the development of “the plan” to examine with others who share a common interest or desire for knowledge. It was apple fun then, and it is orange fun now.

Part II will take a more detailed look in late February or March.

You know what to do if you are interested in this particular rabbit hole (contact). Read: Part IIthink Part III

Part II starts with a bold assumption. We are looking at apples and oranges. Perhaps. We have always known NYC planning exhibits the exquisite practice of disjointed incrementalism, also known as zoning. That description was coined here in NYC, and we rarely pretend it to be otherwise. That would be the big apple on the left. That would make that precise-looking gameboard on the right the orange. The use of the octagon traditionally expresses renewal, rebirth, and transition. Do you see the dice rolling across it? All the stuff on the left remains in play. It has been reasonably well resourced. Now, is this initiative trying to stuff that apple into the orange or simply trying to make them both sweeter. That will be our next task.

Go to Part II (here) or back to Index

Critical Politics

Do not worry about these brief essays for editing. None of them have been.

The analysis of public response to the Great Recession of 2008 reveals similar errors compounded in the Pandemic of 2020.  The failure to produce a system change from the private and public realms regarding these two instances is evident and a little frightening. Now is the time for writers to demand improvements in critical thinking from every mountaintop.  It was not until political interference was exposed in the POTUS45 DOJ investigations that the possibility of a similar financial manipulation occurred.

Financial service companies, insurance agencies, and families went underwater on bad loans and poor judgment. Thousands of people have become sick and face financial disaster. A high percentage of the most vulnerable to infections have died. Fire, flood, drought, and a rising sea is encircling cities all over the world. Ending what is beginning to look like the tragic cycle of change requires a summary of the public response to correcting the “money” problem. Money, faith in trade, and its use for the oblivious accumulation of goods are the root cause of this trouble. The use of it dominates the argument and the conversation. It is accurate but a distraction to the purpose of consequence. More plainly, my super wealthy grandparents just said, you cannot take it with you, and we (all of us) should only get a leg-up on confidence with a dose of tenacity.

In 2008, the American business community won the case – use federal funds and reestablish aggregate demand, sustain liquidity for global trade, and keep employment up, but income marginal in a high percentage of households. Attack tax rates, government interference, and expose public incompetence. Continue to reduce and weaken mechanisms for public oversight of private financial practices. These are highly persuasive claims and strategic practices from the business community. They draw values such as individual freedom and independence that took over two centuries to establish a Republic built on a foundation of slavery.

The struggle for the freedom of all people remains unexamined. Civil rights, social justice, equity, and a basic “leg-up” is falsely claimed as a strain and a distraction. Despite the depth of the 2008 and 2020 global economic tragedies, several questions go unaddressed disproportionality.  Why wasn’t it disproportionate when eight percent of the households in a Georgia county were slaves? That isn’t the issue today, but The Report has comparable questions.

Why does the world function as if the acquisition of equity is the only means of power? Where are their attempts to succeed with alternatives? The vote seems a possibility. Yet, the dividing lines tell us to separate the ability to meet human needs in the private marketplace from those found essential to the validity of a public realm.

Only one modern American hero has a national day of remembrance for the courage it took to lead his challenge in the public realm. His agony became ours, and his name was Martin Luther King. He was murdered in 1968 by something much bigger and more heinous than the racism of his era.

King’s anguish for justice held the U.S. Constitution to account first, but this did not extinguish his view on the economics of politics. He believed the solution was not in a “thesis of communism or an antithesis of capitalism.”  His demand was for synthesis based on two facts. An economic system built on slavery and imprisonment will not change the rules. Change must, therefore, come from changing something else.

“I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective – the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed matter: the guaranteed income…” MLK

Where do We Go from Here? 1967

The economic crisis of 2008 and the health and financial crisis of 2020 has one word that tends to stop any discussion of change dead in its tracks.  That word is “debt.”  Less understood is the concept of equity as it is a thing larger than cash.  An accountant will tell you that “equity” combines your assets and liabilities. One of the first pre-eminent sources of it in the United States is homeownership. With the help of government mortgage guarantees, it is the prime asset held by most Americans. Still, confidence and trust in each household is the one thing that makes the liability expressed by a mortgage possible. Thus, the question. If it is confidence, where are the approaches to building it anmog those to which it is denied.

Recently the idea of retaining that trust and confidence was expressed by none other than the American Enterprise Institute in a map of the United States they tweeted to the world. The map illustrated the relative GDP of individual American States with other countries globally so that people would be more confident – to trust the system.  I would call your attention to Wisconsin before you read the next paragraph.

Source: here

In response to the pandemic, Europe understands the “system exchange” relationship between public and private equity.  I have one example of why Wisconsin should have no difficulty changing their health care system if they were like Denmark.  The Denmark government stepped forward to continue paying wages even when they were not working.  People kept their jobs with their employers.  Denmark retained some business and family income and stopped the COVID-19 virus from spreading efficiently. The policy maintained the cultural status quo of the nation’s steady anticipation of ending the crisis. Denmark’s business activity restarted with as little cost and disruption.    

System Change

I have a request in closing this bit of critical thinking about the need to produce a system change first with the idea that this would allow the rules to change. The first is to ask you to conduct a brief exercise, followed by taking the concept outlined above further in some way and sharing it with this blog – a link would do.

The habits of the mind that contribute to critical thinking involve the following types of thought.  The first one should be on the word critical. In health, the word describes a “short-term” condition. Here is a quick exercise.  Run through the following ten words in ten seconds, asking.  

What is?

  1. contextual perspective
  2. confidence
  3. imagination
  4. elasticity
  5. inquisitiveness
  1. intellectual integrity
  2. intuition
  3. open-mindedness
  4. perseverance
  5. reflection

If you had a rapid response to each one of them, know three things 1) you have some or all the skills listed below, and 2) if it took even a bit longer than ten seconds, more work on “critical” thinking is essential and 3) they are just words — you can pick your own ten if you choose.

  1. analyzing
    1. break the whole into parts to discover practical relationships
    2. list the parts piece by piece
    3. sort the things into things
  2. applying criteria
    1. judge using well-known rules
    2. apply personal, professional, and social standards
    3. compare and assess the means
  3. discriminating
    1. recognize differences and similarities
    2. rank things together or separate in groups
    3. differentiate categories or decern status
  4. information seeking
    1. evidence
    2. facts
    3. sources
  5. logical reasoning
    1. inference stated
    2. conclusions made
    3. basis of evidence
  6. predicting if that then this
    1. envision events
    2. plan futures
    3. determine possible consequences
  7. transforming knowledge
    1. changing conditions
    2. converting function
    3. alter concepts

Pick Your Own

Critical thinking can be brief, momentary, temporary, short-lived, impermanent, cursory, fleeting, passing, fugitive, flying, and like lightning.  It can also be transitory, transient, temporary, brief, fading, quick, and meteoric. Not being curious enough is a problem — inquisitiveness exercises human intuition. It helps a person run inference, seek integrity, and demand contextual change.  Therefore, differentiating the language as becoming more demanding, or obscure, improves hearing.

Just after the election of POTUS45, one message kept getting repeated about the need to produce change at the local level that moved to the city, county, and state governments.  Only then would a change have a chance for federal legislation or be recognized as a new cultural norm. The example given most often was the demand to make laws governing marriage far more inclusive.  The changes began locally but rapidly across the United States.  The rules change issues regarding women’s rights and voting rights. All are noted here because few of them go unchallenged, and all of them require leadership demanding a civil discourse and faith in the law. The following table or chart is one of the easy-to-read summaries of the process.

To solve problems adequately or ask more satisfying questions. The Report uses the following chart to create a change.


Storm Politics

Storm Systems

The progressive movement’s political struggles involve much more than the loss of Sanders as a Presidential candidate. He has laid a new foundation, but there is much more to learn by defining some malfunctions. There are embedded in twenty-first-century center-left political thought. A good source is to go back to the day of his bid for the presidency in April 2015, he leaned gracefully away from the Democratic Party’s failures, and that leads directly to Joe Biden’s nomination and ultimate success. On the positive side, he effectively repositioned where a Democratic Socialist can stand on the American political spectrum in just five years. That is a strong indication of an expanding political organization.

The thirty to forty percent of voters who accept the historic social ideals of the Democratic Party have a new problem. The need to find about a thousand new Bernie Sanders, or an average of one hundred per State. Democratic Socialists are not challenging to find. Identifying those more clever than Bernie is the question. How many will have the skills to become a national leader, run for President, and keep the burn real? Many are in office but placed into the oddly shaped, swayable, gerrymander-purple of districts where despair is easily defined as the failure of those who have it. Today seven households can be pushed into despair by a storm for every 3 capable of weathering any threat. The odds are moving toward eight to one against, and the world is entering a century of storms. This indicates a need for the expansion of political leadership organizations.

Storm Metaphors

You Know the Ad

The malfunction includes the inability to describe this shift in odds as a political policy product, not destiny, and not jargon like “globalization.” Real? Yes, but falsely used to blame others amid divide and conquer economics. Sanders succeeded in teaching every American the words “billionaire class.” He failed to help Americans understand what that “class “has done to the Democratic Party’s leadership and social justice politics generally. The American people are still looking across a chasm of fog and clouds filled with inadequate descriptions. For instance, “the one percent 98 percent of the wealth.”

The average American’s eyes glaze over when the percent of what questions regarding wealth categories are all described as fungible.  The progressive movement’s ideological malfunction remains. It is the inability to illustrate the widening gap between working people and those earning $5,000 per week and up.

When the power to influence is set by corporate “identity scrubbing,” negatively influence the lower seventy percent, you get lists of storm makers such as the following (here). Alt-Right index Dark Right index) These lists need to be thoroughly understood far more thoroughly than the ordinary person can do alone. Who should tell the story and share it well enough for it to be believed without question,

Some traction has been added to the storm metaphor. Beyond the useful but battered ones, there is a new disorder. Call it climate change roulette. No matter who you are, your number is on that wheel. In this century, the impact predictability of storms beyond a few days or minutes creates the opportunity for catalytic cooperation as a strategy for avoiding catastrophic resolution.

The 2020-2021 pandemic is a storm lesson people can understand as a catalyst demanding collaboration. Resolutions to big problems like this are led far more adequately by science than politics. We fail as a nation by quietly allowing political science to displace the message of medical science. We missed the opportunity to teach some hard science from the top down.

Storm Mitigations

America’s social democracy ideals will be exhibited in Biden’s platform more strongly, given success in Georgia, but with not much credit to Sanders.  Still, both men are embedded in this predicament of honest speech in a society so willing to accept lies.  The race for the Senate in Georgia became an economically overheated representative of a winner-takes-all system. Why are so many people screaming fire in a crowded theater? Why are the stakes so elevated, why are the shares in the American economy sought with such desperation?

One answer comes in four words from one of America’s billionaires, capable of being progressive. He said, “Never bet against America.” Warren Buffet’s words speak of pure confidence. They have a dramatically calming effect. Frightened people in a wealthy nation can clearly understand that message. Even so, public policy has got to start proving it. Think of the conversation that might occur using a few reasonably precise talking points. 

  • We are a diverse nation that cherishes liberty and freedom from fear.
  • We are a nation that lifts people up and away from the horrors of despair
  • We select multiple opinion and influence leaders with different perspectives
  • We can name the sources of news and information we use daily.
  • If the quality of life is reduced, you are not its origin. It is a product of public policy.
  • What has been taken from you? Who took it? How? Why? When and Where?

One other corporate position needs to be added. They are best heard from a speech by Betsy Bernard on “rules” delivered just before the election of POTUS45.  In a few memorable minutes, she will give you seven reasons why POTUS45 was a one-term, dishonest President (here). I also learned how quality leadership could produce trusted-responses and strengthen American values in challenging times.

Progressives and Democratic Socialists can find doors to open that could expand social justice organizations toward success in challenging times. The work before them will require far greater effort. First, to find those best to knock on, and second on how lightly or firmly. In rugby, it is forward in the direction of the dead-ball line. In economics, it is when a return becomes unlikely, if not impossible.

Storm Forecasts

There is no doubt. The dangerous world became more so as a product of the 45th President. America’s 2021 geopolitical position may take years to resurrect. In the previous four years, systemic racism and violent, outright bigotry in America is benignly accepted by this rude President and his raw manners.

On January 6, 2021, the President’s demand for mob insurrection has led to a call to use the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  These and other remedies are compelling, as would a second impeachment, but it was all too late.  And we all knew better.

What will matter most is that on January 20, 2021, the nation’s heart can be set on a new path, and its head will turn in a new direction. A journey demanded by the U.S. Constitution and put deeply into its foundation as – e Pluribus Unum — out of many, one. That will always be the goal of America.

The two projections touched on here points to reform how political representation is established from precinct to State. At the center of a healthy representative government is how the voting structure for a free and fair election system is sustained as transparent. The second issue describes the need to analyze political influence structures and corporate identity scrubbing in funding political organizations and campaigns. The media-spheres of the 21st c. present a complex issue that travels all the way to the Supreme Court U.S. and the U.S. Constitution.

These two problems tell me of one pressing need.  We need to find new alliances and allies. We need to them not just from the streets and neighborhoods of America, but from the vast storehouse of wealth, these streets and neighborhoods have produced. That wealth now rests in an extended new class of investor-owned businesses. Our representatives have done their bidding, a massive accumulation of wealth has occurred. The time to ask with a strong sense of urgency – has this policy worked?

Storm Politics

The Democratic Party is best known for its past in job creation, fight for equal pay, and quality education and health care for all.  It sees the future of clean, renewable energy as the best way to meet every other goal. The Democratic Party is reasonably aligned with the Working Families Party (WFP). This progressive political organization now sponsors candidates in nearly twenty states, and it is growing in popularity.  The WFP fights to make every voice matter, first in the sanctity of the vote, and second as grounded in free speech principles. The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is the largest socialist organization in the United States. It is a  U.S. affiliate of Socialist International.  Like the WFP, it believes working people can democratically manage the economy and build a diverse society that reduces profiteering and still invests in the future.  A federation of state Green Parties committed to ecology, non-violence, social justice, and grassroots organizing established the Green Party of the United States.

The two other major players in the American conversation of social democratic principles are the Labor Party and the Socialist Party USA.  The labor party stands for a democratic social revolution from the grassroots up in opposition to a single political party’s violent seizure of power. The Socialist Party USA is recently founded.  In June 1996, delegates from several hundred local and international unions and individual activists came together to identify new ways to advocate for working people.

Spend some time with the websites and confirm for me the following idea.  Thanks in advance to all.

All six of these organizations recognize in varying degrees the need for a more radical democracy. There is a need for a government that will fight against and exposes racist, fascist, communist-style state control. These organizations can help assure primary government institutions, from the small town fire and police departments to the U.S. Department of Defense, serve the people well.  These political parties believe in a diverse society. They know they can end racism. They are confident in building a new American understanding of a shared egalitarian future.  Can these organizations lead people to a socialist society that values cooperation, work, home, and community? If not them who, and if not now, when?

For a summary of responses and contributions use the link below

Planners Network

My interest in the Planners Network ADPSR. ACD, SFI/Design Corps, and OAC in a brief who am I introduction with a plan of action seeking coordination with others on strategy.

Most of my city planning experience was about creating new land uses and changing the rules if needed. I helped to design and build many vest-pocket parks when Lindsay was mayor. (Yes, that old.) The city was littered with demolished building sites. Mostly, I remember the lawsuits paved with that good intention.

I also sustained old land uses. My favorite was writing the first historic structures report that contributed to the Weeksville Society’s preservation of three historic structures and constructing a multi-million dollar cultural center. Over the years, and with CDBG funding, I learned a great deal and wound up teaching a Historic Preservation Planning studio with former Landmarks Commissioner, Gene Norman.

The Brooklyn Sports Study resulted in the Cyclone minor league baseball stadium and significant new investment in Coney Island, a good place to play. It also left one of the sites I identified wide open for the rusty toaster, aka the Barclay Arena.

From major league sports to neighborhood commercial centers, the small business world contributes a source of community leadership that is naturally conservative and a source for gaining important perceptions. I enjoyed my predictive analysis of Myrtle Avenue’s future hugely as most of it came true. My last market analysis project on Malcolm X Avenue in Bed-Stuy is still dead because CPC’s zoning work ignored the miracle occurring on Throop. Access to more of my general BS is here

Resistance to change from communities is one of NYC’s most creative forces, perhaps the world. It helps create a basis for negotiations. A good example is when homes were taken in Brooklyn’s Northside for the “promise of” jobs, the fight was about replacing the homes lost. Replacing non-conforming but continuous use structures was a difficult argument. The mixed-use zoning law solution that came of it made Coney Island Mixed-Use District easy. Resistance in one community can contribute to many others’ success, but the jobs-housing ratio issue is the major lesson. The homes leveraged in Northside are still there, the jobs promised have come and gone, but new jobs are there, and the nondisplaced remain with equity to take them with a history of the power of resistance.

Network Regionally

I want to enjoy some added national and regional reflection on housing with Planners’ Network, ADPSR, ACD, and SFI because they are national membership organizations with a long history. The transformation of AFH into an Open Architecture Collaborative to sustain its global “open license” environment is another important institutional membership lesson. Social change movements see success when system change principles sharpen them. The measure for success was written best in the Port Heron Manifesto a half-century ago. It is a statement about the values and principles of participatory democracy (my take is here).

All these groups can do a much better job of communicating on common ground issues. I think a strong focus on the jobs/housing contract by region is the way to get that ball rolling. It is either that or a sad response to the only higher priority — food and water.

This is because of one thing Conor Dougherty said. His book Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America, where the housing shortage is dire makes a great point that stuck with me — “Every problem is a housing problem.” I understand why this mild exaggeration makes a great point. Even though his stories are about the Bay Area Renter’s Foundation (BARF) he describes a national problem. We need local, state, and federal initiatives to create lots and lots of housing, with a strategy for affordability and in that order. You can’t make the fight for an affordable apartment/condo until it exists and it will not exist until there are lots at a market rate documented (here) in the German study. This ain’t the USA, but new housing supply developers there, lower rents throughout the rent distribution, shortly after the new units are completed. After that, and everyone should know this, it only about the cost of money.

I connected this to the “insights” outlined in the Geography of Jobs by the CPC metro office (here), to his jobs per housing unit observations in San Francisco at four to one. View and download the Geography of Jobs data (here). Sample charts below.

Every problem is a housing problem

The tri-state metropolitan region is covered in layers of governance. The region’s 3E growth problems have divided the management of shared natural resources and infrastructure into political chunks. Not good. The regional planning environment needs new and aggressive leadership to search for a more equitable metropolitan, multi-state future by untangling these layers and borders.

  1. Planners Network is Regional
    1. City Planning Metro Office
    2. Furman Center on Regional Displacement
    3. Community Land Trusts (here)
  2. Zoning GHG/NYC Energy Conservation Code
    1. Green Zone PDF (here)
    1. Ten years since the council approved
    2. Find reports measure progress
  3. Biden’s $640 billion housing plan was dropped in February – why?
    1. It is well-established community development legislation.
    2. Provides for financial assistance to buy or rent w/down payment assistance
    3. It had refundable and advanceable tax credits & full funding of federal rental assistance

The above is how I would write the PN four-year action plan (Biden and NYC) tuned regionally to the job/unit relationship. I am not in the position to do that, and I will have to wait to see if one. I will also do the same for the other membership organizations with a social justice agenda. The assumption is I will find common ground and that I will be able to compare things like mission statements and multiple year goal/action plans that reflect their memberships. I could be wrong, but wtf – won’t know until I look.

ADPSR continues to succeed on moral issues with the national AIA and it is growing in membership. ACD has its roots in a 1968 national conference of the AIA and has now become an empowerment vehicle for women-owned architecture firms with an interest in public service. Structures for Inclusion, Design Corps, SEED exhibit the power of networks in Public Interest Architecture training and accountability to social, environmental and economic change. One could say Sambo Mockbee’s Auburn University Rural Studio program in Hale County, Alabama is why it all came to be. Great design comes from a large heart, not a big bank account.

The final group of some interest (Architecture for Humanity) is a study in the pain involved in the attempt to produce a nonprofit architecture program. Health professionals have them, lawyers do, but engineers and architects remain closed to the idea of a national progressive movement in place making. Desipie basic mistakes in fund management Humanity became the Open Architecture Collaborative and continue to develop educational programming for designers and architects.

The placemaking idea by planners, designers and architects remains strong in the desire to inspire ownership and civic engagement by providing design leadership to traditionally marginalized communities as well as the 98% of the population that are held at arms length in the shaping of the places where they will live and work. It seems to a growing number of professionals that there is something wrong in sustaining a system that encourages place-ignorance.

Vote Splitting

There are so many political scientists around lately that I asked a friend if they ever manage to amass a small fortune. He said, “Well, you have to start with a large one and know when to stop. That said, if you ever must get rid of one at your door, just pay for the pizza.” Still, I have decided to command everyone near and far to do one thing despite all this silliness. STOP SPLITTING YOUR VOTE! If you need persuasion, I suggest reading:

  1. Why Americans Split Their Tickets, Barry C. Burden and David C. Kimbal and
  2. No Middle Ground How, Seth E. Masket


Political scientists determined to address election problems afflicting Americans give three points of view. First, the preference of Americans for a divided government is no longer a mandate for compromise. Second, the modern-media age falsely sharpens or intentionally blurs party differences to sustain the incumbency advantage. Third, this leaves one and only one thing of concern — the Benjamins for the next election. You can already sense the good and bad of these conditions concerning lections. However, it is time for one party to rise or fall on the vote, and that option alone. The “split tickets” book referenced above is about California. One about New York would be interesting – their methods are transparent. “No Middle” is scary.

Of course, other factors are in a vote for democracy. The main one is how partisanship is thrust on political leaders by actors outside the government to manipulate elections, especially primaries. The number of informal party-based organizations also contribute to polarized legislatures. I believe political leaders would prefer pragmatism to partisanship if voters had a way to give them that opportunity – ranked-choice voting is one. Maybe it solves the “split” problem in every election. Similar sophistication is needed to re-establish the vote as a device that reduces conflict. The interest now seems to create conflict. I am all ears on adding ideas there. See voting reform story (here) from City & State New York

Of course, the ideological positions of candidates still matter in American elections. Political parties have gained strength in state and national governments. Still, due to the false premise of compromise, the harmful effects remain among the three equal branches in local, state, and federal governments. It is time to say, “I solemnly affirm to pick one party, and only one party, so help me, God.” This leaves one central question.

I would leave a final judgment to historians. Yet, when this control occurs across the three-branch system, I see a thriving belief in Democracy because things can get done and evaluated. I offer the following modern examples:

  • 1927-1933, Republicans controlled all three branches of the government when Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover occupied the White House.
  • 1937-1945, Democrats controlled all three government branches during the administrations of Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.
  • 1953-1955, Republicans held all three branches during the presidency of Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, nine senators died, and one resigned. These changes shifted the balance of power in the Senate with each new replacement, according to the U.S. Senate website.
  • 1961-1969, Democrats controlled all three branches during the administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson

Then it gets politically complicated, and not in a good way. During the last half-century, wealth has flowed exponentially to the top, leading to a growing sense of irresponsibility, if not outright confusion in their use of that power. The last time one party held all the chambers.

  • 2001-2007, Republicans held all three with interruptions. From 2001-2003 the Senate flipped to Democrats as one senator switched party affiliation, and one senator died. The 2002 midterm elections shifted control of the upper chamber to Republicans.

My taxi drove by the U.S. Congress in D.C. and I said, “I wonder how many people work there?” The driver said, “I’d say, less than half.” It was fun to laugh because it reflected a truth about recent political behavior that erodes American belief in its basic institutions. That will be the next post, researching the positions, opinions, and actions.

This post was stimulated by a recent ask of people on the “Indivisible” Map in BK and SI to exchange a few words.

  • Liat Olenick & Lisa Raymond-Tolan – Indivisible Nation BK (Indivisible)
  • Mustafa – Staten Island Women Who March (Facebook)
  • Nidhi Kanna – Staten Island 4 Change (Young Democrats)
  • Adelle McElveen – Indivisible Brooklyn (
  • Janet Cardone – Indivisible North Brooklyn (Facebook)
  • Sally McMahon – Fight Back Bay Bridge (Facebook)
  • Reid Curry – New York Congressional Delegation (Facebook)
  • Saul Austerlitz – Brooklyn Resisters (Get Well Saul)
  • Celeste Wright – Indivisible Brooklyn Do or Die (Facebook)

Supreme Dark Money

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) gets into the impact of “dark money” on the Supreme Court. His introduction on 13 October is here or below, and important to see before you watch his 14 October follow-up here or below. Attention to the facts is why I am a Democrat.

13 October 2020

14 October 2020

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham scheduled a committee vote for 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, the morning of the last day of hearings.

Barrett’s nomination is expected to be brought up for a vote at that meeting and then delayed for a week, per committee rules to 22 October 2020.

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

Three Rules

In all of our worlds (social, political, economic, biometric) we search for things considered necessary. We see closed doors, glass ceilings, and tables with no invitations. The good news is we have a set of new rules that could make change more positive.

Nikola Tesla

A way to develop answers to change rests with the combination of several very new organizations such as the World Wide Web Foundation and some old scientists such as Nikola Tesla pictured (left). Both are excellent examples of learning and unlearning everything to begin every day differently than the day before. Pioneering access to information has always been available at the speed of light thanks to your hippocampus, but now it is a many-brain experience. We need new skills.

The first rule of knowledge is that it expands through the experience of frequency. The second is you control what you make recur. The third rule is books do not hold truth or meaning. Meaning is in people, and the truth is just outside your front door. Take a long-looking walk every day.

These three rules draw a vital connection to the immensity of comparative change. Here is an example. It is a comparison of Nikola Tesla and Tim Berners-Lee. Here we find two people who looked just outside their door but managed to see the whole world. Just under a century ago, Nikola Tesla explored every aspect of energy he could imagine. Just a few decades ago (1989-1991) Tim Berners-Lee and others created the URL and HTML as a fast method for sharing and editing documents on a worldwide basis. There is a connection.


I came across an examination of Tesla’s writings and interviews on the subject of the future at The Smithsonian. In Tesla’s vision, leaning to control the energy of everything will establish the recurrence of all things good. A movement to elect scientists instead of lawyers to leadership positions in the legislative branches of government has begun. In a 1935 Liberty Magazine article, Tesla was among those who saw science as the parent of law and writes,

Today the most civilized countries of the world spend a maximum of their income on war and a minimum on education. The twenty-first century will reverse this order. It will be more glorious to fight against ignorance than to die on the field of battle. The discovery of new scientific truth will be more important than the squabbles of diplomats. Even the newspapers of our own day are beginning to treat scientific discoveries and the creation of fresh philosophical concepts as news. The newspapers of the twenty-first century will give a mere ” stick ” in the back pages to accounts of crime or political controversies but will headline on the front pages the proclamation of a new scientific hypothesis.

Something Is Wrong

A century later, for every $100 paid in U.S. federal income tax, well over half of it still goes to the military in the 21st century. Something is wrong.

Tesla saw the ability of science to improve people in the same way law sought to protect. Called eugenics at the time, these discredited and immoral practices present a view of the world based on the distorted views of privileged white males, and this has yet to change in a meaningful way. Nevertheless, the debate continues in a broad spectrum by manipulating DNA in thousands of lifeforms. CRISPR will continue to press for the inclusion of the human genome. The practioners must be watched. Something isn’t right, if they are not.

Tesla recognized the lack of control over the waste machines create as he was a builder of them. He envisioned a national agency with the mission to prevent pollution (waste nothing) and regulate the discarded materials of production for the specific purpose of protecting the land, air, and water. Unfortunately, the EPA did not form until 1970. President Nixon was in office. Something isn’t right, waste continues beyond reason, and it includes human beings.

Tesla’s outlook on the energy requirements of the human diet eschewed all stimulants except alcohol. Perhaps he was like Mark Twain, who said that “too much of anything is bad, but too much Scotch is rarely enough.” Still, he knew it was possible to provide “…enough wheat and wheat products to feed the entire world.” He criticized the industrialization of animals for protein. He was a contemporary of Dr. Norman Borlaug.

Tesla recognized energy drawn from the burning of fossil fuels as wasteful and dangerous. The identification of global warming gases began in the Nineteenth Century. He saw clean energy from sources such as water-power and the scientific preservation of natural resources would end the agonies of drought, forest fires, floods, and viral infestation. Instead, Federal Disaster Declarations have doubled and tripled since 1955. Something isn’t right.

Science proves Right

Tesla’s favorite work is in the invention of remotely controlled machines designed to automate production. He understood communication as wireless. In 1935, he said, “At this very moment, scientists working in the laboratories of American universities are attempting to create what has been described as a thinking machine. In all of our worlds, for right or wrong, the only proof of communication is persuasion. Can a “thinking machine” isolate the wrong of a lie?

Image result for tim berners-lee
Tim Berners-Lee

In 1994, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) formed an international community devoted to developing open web standards. Tim Berners-Lee is the Director of W3C (2017). The question is direct. How well can this resource advance the frequencies of useful change that Tesla envisioned? In 2009, Berners-Lee formed The World Wide Web Foundation and began operations as an independent, international organization fighting for digital equality. It envisions the continuing implementation of an open web as a public good and a basic right. Its mission is to help build a world where everyone can access the web and use it to improve their lives. The internet community produced the following revolutionary ideas.

The Rules are Under Attack

In August 2020, the United States, under the Trump Administration, began to attack the idea of internet sovereignty in favor of an authoritarian view that would redefine the idea of free expression. The following principles of an open and free internet are therefore under attack.

  • Decentralization: No permission from a central authority to post anything on the web, there is no central controlling node, so no single point of failure … and no “kill switch”! The implication: freedom from indiscriminate censorship and surveillance.
  • Non-discrimination: If I pay to connect to the internet with a certain quality of service, and you pay to connect with that or greater quality of service, then we can both communicate at the same level. This principle of equity is Net Neutrality.
  • Bubble-up design: Code is in full view of everyone (Ctrl/Shift/I) to encourage maximum participation and experimentation. All you have to do is right-click and select inspect.
  • Universality: For anyone to publish anything on the web, all the computers involved have to speak the same languages to each other, no matter what different hardware people are using, where they live, or what cultural and political beliefs they have. In this way, the web breaks down silos while allowing diversity to flourish.
  • Consensus: For universal standards to work, everyone had to agree to use them. The achievement of consensus occurs by giving everyone a say in creating the standards through a transparent, participatory process at W3C. The consensus to agree with everything, at least “somewhat” and a known degree.


Two immediate suppositions are evident when comparing Tesla’s ideas (turn of the 20th) about the world’s future with what the World Wide Web now offers (turn of the 21st). The first insight reveals a public education policy at risk, and the second is one big assumption. The risk is that a probable series of severe social, economic, and environmental events will increase and continue to occur as “chaos costs.” The assumption is the threat of these costs will lead to repression as if the cause/effect in this situation is a certainty. It is not.

A third observation is less reactionary—the documentation and implementation of two resilience strategies can serve as benchmarks. For example, putting a global price on GHGs and focusing on investments in new energy solutions are arguments for action in less than a decade. The reasonable deadline appears to be 2050 by most observers to achieve net-zero. It could be sooner.

If initial benchmarks establish firm roots, a path will become apparent on improving our global selves with the aid of super useful “thinking machines” focused on facts and knowledge instead of death and war. Envision a world where trust is about truth and not about machine ownership. Something is wrong. The internet is not a machine.

A responsive market approach can succeed. The value system accepts disruption in parts of the physical and emotional community, but not the spirit of people in the wake of that change. The infusion of world wide web values now offers decentralization, non-discrimination, a bottom-up design, super universality, and consensus. This is a compelling alternative to authoritarian rule. The rules are clear for building pathways to new physical realities. Implementing one hellish set of trusted, tried, and true algorithms remain along with the desire to go outside. Have a good, long look at the world. (Knowledge share link here).

CD Choice

Examine Choices

It has never been more important.

On June 26, 2018, the residents of the Ninth Congressional District had an opportunity to test leadership in Congress on criteria established by voters. Clarke won by a slim margin. Challenged again in 2020 she won again big time. Adem Bunkedekko was the closest rival, capturing 17% of the vote among four other bird-dogging candidates – all democrats.

Political leadership has gone to hell. New York leaders are useful when they respond to an urgent condition on a single issue. There is no outright fear for democracy, because better than most, they know it is practically gone. None of that is occurring. The only live-die-repeat is incumbency and the dead ones are the challengers.

Step One

Have a good long look at the candidates and their “watchers.” (See examples: Inside Elections, Sabato’s Crystal Ball.) Ballotpedia’s fine details are here. Money equals victory. A national watch group, Open Secrets has the data to prove it, including the outliers that illustrate exceptions. The deep end of the data pool is with reports at the New York State Board of Elections.

Leaders with skills in critical thinking, creativity, responsiveness, and obedience will do well. Proof of unselfish giving is through service that includes a record of judgments publicly specified with grace and dignity. After reviewing the public expressions of our federal leaders, are challenges within the party positive and optimistic? Does the officeholder or the challenger have a bias toward getting results? Finally, good leaders know how the practice of listening to be heard gets their constituents to help themselves do the hard stuff.

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Adem and Yvette

Adem Bunkeddeko Lost in the first race by a slim margin, and he machine tanked him in the second

He got more votes the second time, yet adding votes from the three additional not really serious, probably “bird-dog” candidates, he would have still lost. The third time is the charm, I said. Off years are best. I hope he will write a review of the loss. Meantime, he now works as an Executive Director for CORO. He has been cultivating young leaders who seek to make a difference in our city and tackles the complex issues affecting New Yorkers. Please drop him a line at in**@ad*************.com and if you want to know more before you do that, visit Adem’s Website and Facebook and Twitter accounts. He also has Instagram and Snapchat if you must.  If snail mail is your thing, you can write them to this mailing address: Friends of Adem, P.O. Box 130-427, Brooklyn, NY 11213.

Yvette Clarke
Drop the candidate a line on the federal website. She has Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts. To write via snail mail the local address, 222 Lenox Road, Suites 1 & 2 Brooklyn, NY 11226, and a D.C. address, 2351 Rayburn HOB, Washington D.C. 20515. I would be amazed if you get an answer beyond stat and pat. She is a guaranteed tow-the-line Democrat, so there is that, I suppose.

Step Two

The national Campaign Finance Institute confirms the long-term success of this legislation in its testimony to the NYC Campaign Finance Board in 2017. (The Act). After thirty years, the NYC CFB has protected voters. Perhaps the best example is NYC representatives sustain the “F” rating from the NRA in their demand for stringent legislation regarding the use and purchase of weapons for war. That is where the feds (your representatives in Congres) come into the picture to confront and confirm national policy.

In NYC, the Campaign Finance Act has kept the local government on the side of working New Yorkers for the last three decades. A $6-to-$1 match of small donations turns a $100 donation into $700. The law has strict contribution limits and an outright ban on all corporate money, and an excellent enforcement record.

Political Action Committees

The Political Action Committees (PAC) come into the picture today as a permanent part of federal election campaigns. They represent almost 40 percent of an elected candidate’s campaign funding. A challenger is far less likely to be supported by a PAC.  The PAC phenomenon began in the 1950s, but since then, their corrosive influences over Congressional Representatives reflect the concentration of wealth in the U.S. and the rule that corporations have a right to political speech as people and that money is speech.

Unlike people, wealthy corporations can live forever. Corporate outfits such as the NRA and the Koch brothers have a large bag of political tricks designed by well-paid political operatives to protect specific interests, not including the bot/troll issues that confuse voters further. It was a sign of real trouble when New York’s Senator Chuck Schumer asked his constituents to help fight against Koch Brother attack ads against a fellow Senator, Joe Donnelly (D) from Indiana with a help him Keep His Seat! Email blast.

Representative Government, Election Waves, and Money
Three Republican Congressmembers (Faso, Tenney, Katco) in NYS may have “toss-up” elections in 2018. To keep things in perspective Faso’s 2016 spending was: $2,904,089, Tenney’s was $885,895, and Katco’s was $2,384,152. These races could contribute to a wave-election referendum on the chaos in the Executive Branch and the House of Representatives and shift as many as 25 seats to Democrats. (See NY Mag summary here). The 2018 mid-term election might have a single issue.

Peter King, a member of the Republican Party, is completing his 14th term in Congress, having served since 1993, and he quit. Clarke has been there twelve years and barely serves and runs on “good attendance” and perks from PACs.

Federal Committees of NY Senators

By way of Ballotpedia

Chuck Schumer is a Member of:
Joint Committee on the Library
Joint Committee on Printing
Committee on Intelligence (Select)
Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control

Kirsten Gillibrand is a Member of:
Committee on Aging (Special)
Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry
Committee on Armed Services
Committee on Environment & Public Works


Participants were able to produce a slim margin in 2020,

Club Democrats

Take a look at all of the “political clubs” in Brooklyn.  Rarely are these outfits exposed as nonviable components of local leadership, and when they are it seems to matter little. Those who have a detailed understanding of the inner workings, tips, and tricks of a Board of Elections system needs to be understood by the ordinary person in much greater detail.

The Report

Congress Member for Life

There are nineteen political clubs in Brooklyn that attempt to decide what issues candidates can speak to with credibility. For the candidate, they will examine records of accomplishment of their opponent and coach on the hot buttons of the day (i.e., health care costs, immigration, DACA).

The political clubs and their candidates are the up-from-the-grassroots owners of a process that makes the top-down discussion of congress members, senators, and judges come alive as constitutional actors. It is in these settings where ordinary people determine who runs and how. The analysis continues by district and office from local to federal that allows participants to compare incumbents to a challenger. But why are incumbents 98% successful in defeating possible challengers. Why is AOC the outlier? The answer is made obvious below. Review with the knowledge that there are over 300,000 registered voters in this CD9! The focus of our analysis is on the one percent. Ironic.

Why did the founders make representatives every two years if we get them for life? I have a “legacy” representative in Congress with a “D” rating. So The Report supported an alternative candidate (Adem). His candidacy sought the office for two congressional election cycles. He almost won the first time, got the “club” attention, and got crushed the second time. Is an incumbent representative the best option of the clubs? Yes. Why then do primary elections become chock full of opposing candidates. Does it seem obvious that diluting the field with multiple unknowns is used to assure the status quo?

Why Does the Democratic Party Sustain Incumbency as a Priority? Is the System Broken?
JUNE Primary 2018 and 2020 – In Brooklyn, a Primary Win is a Win in November.

Democratic Primary June 2018: Fundraising efforts increased to get out the vote after this close

Yvette Clarke*14,80451.9%
Adem Bunkeddeko13,72948.1%
Four Candidates Assures IncumbencyVOTESPERCENT
Yvette Clarke (Incumbent)37,10662.3%
Adem Bunkeddeko10,64717.9%
Chaim Deutsch5,6229.4%
Isiah James5,5769.4%
100.00% of precincts reporting (532?/?532) (source)

Once the choice of candidates for a political office or a judicial appointment is complete and aimed at the next election cycle, the value of local issues in the form of votes is exposed. An incumbency win is therefore easily recognized as a big money win on the issues and far less so on the issues affecting people’s lives. What do you think about 50% of every dollar you pay in federal taxes is paid to the military people, but the medical and science people have to fight for scraps in the battle for the other half? Are the big-money interests dangerous? Are they looking out for you?

A candidate does not have to be rich to be a leader, but improving the grassroots knowledge of the problems of wealth, power and government is a starting point of high value on every question related to the quality of public life. The cash from a PAC and other significant funding sources compare directly with vote capture and the percentage of contribution from ordinary citizens and public matching remains a token.

The capacity of civic engagement to get results is being pushed toward, well-known as well as unexpected breaking points. The big paying interests only have one interest in mind — to keep the government as a predictable entity, not an honest one, or fair or even one that cares. With this level of power, it is not possible to see a difference between the availability of cake and day-old bread. That is the terror of it.

In the Wind

On January 4, 2013, The New York City Independent Budget Office of New York City published a study on the cost of Hurricane Sandy in overtime pay. As part of that study, the chart below illustrates who made the most money. There is a way to look at this sarcastically but helpfully. The Police as an institution is making a mess like Hurricane Sandy, but Sanitation was available to help clean it up. When it comes to the police, the people have no sanitation. There is an irony about this as the result of a modest bit of digging by the IBO because of a hurricane.

Irony: The nation’s rage is that hurricane.

The IBO: Reduced Funding for Reform

I know the connection to hurricane overtime pay is a stretch, (details here), but I’m sure the overtime numbers will be equally interesting in overtime pay for police, ironically in the name of the public’s safety and the protection of property. Last November, voters approved an increase in Civilian Complaint Review Board staffing. Does the Mayor’s Budget Plan Provide the Funds? No. Staffing for what would be a modest reform effort at best would be below the level approved by voters. Find out more: here for the deep end. Some of the points are:

  • In January, the Mayor released his Preliminary Budget for the upcoming fiscal year and included funding for 17 additional Civilian Complaint Review Board positions to comply with the new City Charter mandate. In April, the Mayor dropped these positions from his Executive Budget for a savings of $1.1 million in the fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1.
  • The City Charter revision approved by voters in 2019 included language providing the Mayor with authority to declare that “unforeseen financial circumstances” prevent the city from being able to attain the 0.65 percent minimum staffing requirement.
  • The city’s financial plan now includes funds for staffing the additional Civilian Complaint Review Board positions in 2022—one year later than previously planned. IBO estimates the city’s budget shortfall for 2022 is nearly $6 billion, a much deeper budget gap than the city faces in 2021.
  • Moreover, the actual size of the review board’s staff as of the end of February stood at 203, or 16 fewer than currently budgeted.

Prepared by Bernard O’Brien New York City Independent Budget Office

The NYPD still makes a giant money-sucking sound and the city runs on $90 Billion. A substantial sum. That is why the only good news is as of today June 30, 2020, Mayor Da Blabla – cut one billion out of the NYPD’s budget. Dig in: Office of Management and Budget –

I would like to eventually find out if the staffing for the Review Board will be replaced, and what was cut, and if it makes sense to the police reform advocates.

Seven Facts About the NYPD Budget (here)
Source: Citizens Budget Commission

  1. About $11 billion from the City’s budget are allocated to the NYPD.
  2. The NYPD has the third-largest agency operating budget.
  3. Most of the NYPD budget is for salaries and wages, and the largest share funds street patrol.
  4. About one-third of NYPD employees are civilians.
  5. The average pay for police officers was more than $90,000 and as high as $190,000 for captains, including overtime.
  6. The NYPD budget has grown by one-third since the fiscal year 2010.
  7. NYPD headcount grew by more than 3,000 employees since the fiscal year 2010.

Funding Sources of the NYPD Budget

Most of the NYPD’s budget is funded by City tax dollars:

  • 92 percent, or $5.2 billion, is City-funded
  • 6 percent, or $349 million, is federally funded
  • 2 percent, or $82 million, is State-funded
  • Less than 1 percent is from other categorical grants

Represent Us! Damn It!

Unbreaking America: Justice For Sale, an 8-minute short film

Expose the connection between the prison industry and our corrupt political system. The failure of America’s criminal justice system is a failure to trust. Trust this film. Pass the word.

Desmond Meade was in prison for 3-years, and Omar Epps grew up with the system stacked against his Brooklyn community.  We now know that lobbyists and special interests have worked together for decades to keep our criminal justice system broken. They pressure politicians for harsher sentences, they push to keep our jails filled, and they even get tax kickbacks for using inmates as free labor.

Represent Us is getting better and better. For the posts that caught my attention, just search “represent us.” Send them a few bucks. We might get our congressmembers back. The emphasis in this outfit is on one word Us.


Kara Springer created the image/public art above. A Small Matter of Engineering, Part II.

“The attention given to the social construct of race and racism is four-hundred-year-complicated, the subject of multiple doctoral thesis, many excellent books, and legislation. On the other hand, there is an uncomplicated pre-systemic solution to racism for ordinary people available right now. Become a playful toddler again, and stay that way, We would just have new friends to play the game of growing up in the world. We could sustain the social context of newness without bias. The lesson here is we do not have a self-identity in these first years of our lives and that the bias now held is learned and can be unlearned.”

Rex L. Curry

Yes, white people do something. Everything we think we know about the world is wrong, and that is an excellent way to look at it if we expect to learn anything new. I found Corinne Shutack (also white), who found Kara’s work (above) to be a helpful image for distributing 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice. Her list helped me get into racism as one of several American malfunctions I am working on and drafted for you to scroll through (here).  

Gill Scot-Heron (1949-2011) lyrics (here) 1971

Shutack’s work helped me view recent events as having system change potential, a process described in five other posts (here).

Even though the world has been brought down by one innocent pangolin, the private lesson of the dystopian pandemic is the exposed super-power of a national strike for health and social justice in a wet market. Coupled with ongoing racial injustice events, I must now plead with you to gird your loins, gear up, and steel yourself for the return to normal.

Do Not Let That Happen.

One of her brilliant teachers said the problem is not whether the events are racist or not. Instead, the question is this: “How much racism was at work?” A regular person sensitive to this condition can tell you what that is personally (here).

It is necessary to recognize possible impediments to challenge inequality. Number one on the list should become the disparities of culture, race, and ethnicity that pose grievous imbalances caused by each of those obstacles. Those that are products of city, state, and national policy offer many opportunities for change. They aim at every human being from New York City to Los Angeles and from Minneapolis to Houston. Yet, each of them produces vastly different consequences for everyone on the diverse spectrum of America.

The blue note is coming for all to hear and understand (listen) (read). Common interest groups will form, and coalitions for change will be built by those groups. System changes occur all the time (here).

Love the One Your In?

A significant part of American history and perhaps of the whole world include patterns of race insecurity. The system we are in fosters that anxiety. The combination of insecurity and fear attracts opportunists of all kinds. Those with political power often seek out and exploit emotions to sustain or advance their position. Recognize the overarching pathway of this behavior as follows: Pick a group, ostracize them, identify a weakness to exploit or strength to fear, support false but agreeable “like-with-like” ghetto policies, and next, isolate and then criminalize the poverty of the marginalized people. Finally, find or select behavior to define as a crime, confiscate their possessions through forfeiture, and then seize and imprison them. As a process, this is a historical lineage nourished by hate and fear. Reform is a failure with this kind of unremoved, unexamined sickness in the world.

The history of this pattern is that of political practice. It reveals a design to fund and eradicate equality as a self-sustaining Apartheid. In America, the persecution of Chinese immigrants, the internment of Japanese citizens, the eugenic sterilization of the “unfit,” the criminalization of drugs vs. health treatment for the addicted are well-known political power moves. Justice speaks when these practices are exposed, the crimes are admitted, and payment for reparations is agreed upon. On a rare occasion, paid up.

Vox developed a story on the four times reparations were paid in America by Americans, six times. Think about that ratio. Vox also encourages close reading of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ case for reparations. Since the early 1970s, the genocidal aspects of American racial policy remain in the slow-motion systems associated with the so-called War on Drugs. Like all wars, the one on drug use has failed the people while enriching the businesses of war itself. Reform is a failure; a revolutionary perspective for change is on the horizon. The debate for me hovers over the idea called a “new era of public safety” vs. “the end of policing as we know it,” and that’s all right.

The two contemporary responses of enlightened leadership on race and cops can be considered pivotal. First, the wisdom and vision of Barack Obama to even tackle the subject and the far less known insight of Alex S. Vitale, a “critical criminologist.” Second, of the thousands of research efforts available for discovery, I recommend two of them as follows:

“…here’s a report and toolkit developed by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and based on the work of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing that I formed when I was in the White House. And if you’re interested in taking concrete action, we’ve also created a dedicated site at the Obama Foundation to aggregate and direct you to useful resources and organizations who’ve been fighting the good fight at the local and national levels for years.” The whole 416-page full policing pdf report is (here).

Barack Obama 2020

The second response includes the excellent criticism of the Task Force’s thorough but modest volley toward a fundamental change in policy by Brooklyn College Professor Alex S. Vitale. His book, The End of Policing, reviews the multifaceted work in this field that recognizes the path on which law enforcement now stands has made it a significant contributor to America’s spiral into deeply racist and racialized practices. There is no double or triple bottom line; cops do more damage than good, and “protect and serve” is the exception to the rule. The bottom line is Fidelis ad mortem does not have to be the NYPD’s motto. It can translate as “faithful (unto or until) death, and there you have the poetic vs. narrative art of the blue wall.

The call from the President of the United States to serve is a compelling and personal honor. A review of the task force report and toolkit reveals a set of thoughtful, experienced change agents. The movement for racial justice in America must call upon the task force’s people to confirm progress, if any, and consider the next steps.

To fully understand the task force report’s failings, excellent insight is offered in Vitale’s book and through his media interviews (here). In addition, the Policing and Social Justice Project has an implementation arm for the movement. Finally, life-long learners on the subject should subscribe to The Criminal Criminologist (here), where he interviews scholars and activists. It is a great way to meet people you have yet to work with or encounter.

The Malfunction

The relationship of policing to racism requires using the inverse proportion rule. It occurs when one value increases (more people working to solve non-police problems), decreasing another (i.e., the incidence of unproductive police tasks). Adding more workers to a scheme to reduce the time to complete the task is inversely proportional. Reducing the time to get law enforcement less harmful is now critical (meaning short term) or back to the same old and seriously wrong-normal.

The best relationship between Americans and neighbors should be about a child’s structural, materially unequal experience when entering the world. Instead, the systemic inequality of life chances for newborn children of color is exposed decade after decade. The facts are exhibited as shameful but continue unchanged, even though it would be good for every kid.

The use of law enforcement tends to be the hammer that helps to silence criticism. The rightfully enraged also hold a hammer. The better question is, who and what put that hammer in both their hands? Why is the hammer the only tool available? Much of the problem is already well understood, and solutions can be implemented using financial levers and a social fulcrum, but not with a hammer. Wilson (below) can tell you in a few seconds with perfect intensity.

William Julius Wilson

Since the early 1970s (Nixon), the severe problems (the ones requiring a sophisticated toolbox) got fully embedded in racism. Ever since Nixon, every President has presented to the American people ideas with an air of cultural sensitivity. They are truisms such as the need to improve ties, strengthen lines of communication, and make right past wrongs. But unfortunately, all of them are politically calculated half-measures and part of the problem. A social reflex in America is to hide from its history while acknowledging our nation as immigrants. However, ignoring the record of formal attacks on the “value” of every new group requires exposure and condemnation from every leadership position available on slavery.

Marginalizing the oldest mass immigration group explicitly enslaved since 1619, to build the nation requires uncovering the cover-up of all cover-ups. The failure of remedies for yet another century of repression angers the mind and fills the heart with hopelessness. Neither form the basis for a system change.

Perhaps the violence of human history and centuries of brutal intolerance that the American Constitution sought to purge from people’s governance. Instead, it aims to enable and encourage people to sustain the hope for change outside of the system by establishing a false representative government using majority vote rules to kill compromise. The idea is that excesses of either could be no longer be rendered invalid by the other.

Nevertheless, America’s social and economic power continues fueled by slavery and imprisonment. Moreover, a governance system appears unwilling to entirely deactivate rules that encourage and support racism even though the incidence of injustice persists. Change must, therefore, come from changing the system.

The system changes, and for an hour and a half, I ask you to please watch white folks talk about the bifurcation of America by Robert Putnam and friends regarding the subject of “our kids.” Beware, the time spent here is informative, but it can make you a little crazy. They know, they really do know, and have the numbers and the argument for change, so why are we supposed to think they will? They do not create change. Is it because they are just “talking points?” Have we failed to empower them to turn their power into change? Do not let it go back to normal.

Robert D. Putnam

Join Your MovementPick a System – Change It

Put a grand in a black bank, find one (here) Five-year CD, whatever – your choice. Not for you? Then go to – 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice and have another look.

Live-Long Learning Choices

  • Watch: Eugene Jarecki’si “The House I Live In”  and Ava DuVernay’s 13th (here) and stay on that path for a while until you get to her presentation on Colin Rand Kaepernick‘s experience in a dramataized autobiography.
  • CNN put “The First Time I Realized I was Black” together. Must watch them all.
  • Vox on the four times of the six on the planet when reparations were paid to people victimized by the racism and bigotry

Did this already? Then go back to 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice. She said it is a work in progress and will continue to develop.

One last thing. If you believe in the power of working-class greatness, remember the super-power revealed the 2020 pandemic – a national strike for health and justice could get health and justice. If a bug can bring capital to its knees and put some in your pocket, that bug is telling you something. So encourage everyone to have three to six months of savings to cover the basic, essential living costs. This is challenging, but it is doable and intelligent for many reasons.

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Jobs and Education

Software, digital hardware, and the life-science industries can add jobs indirectly to a local economy as multipliers, in much the same way as the manufacture of autos and appliances contributed decades earlier with one significant difference. The education of the workers.


Research and development firms in physical, engineering, and life sciences were the first to take full advantage of information management’s technological revolution. As a result, these industries deposited economic growth into regions with innovations in software and hardware. Perhaps the best-known example of this marriage of technology and science is our understanding of DNA would have been impossible otherwise, leading to exponential growth in these industries into exclusive new fields.

Economists have several explanations, but two words get to the multiplier effect for business and jobs – supply chain. The 2020 pandemic revealed specific concerns regarding breaks in this chain, reflecting national security concerns. The logistics of technology for refining material acquisitions into “just in time” cash-saving packets fail miserably during periods when critical conditions demand everything “all at once” to avert a crisis. Global terrorism, climate change, and pandemic conditions more than hint at this issue. Each occurs like an hour hand, but it is the second hand that sweeps the planet with a new reality regarding readiness. Frightening concerns as these are recommitting Amerian policy to jobs and education may be the only way for the economy to stop shaking. It is time to stop looking at the promise of a chrome future and think of it as something a lot more fleshly.

UC Berkeley Economics professor Enrico Moretti’s The New Geography of Jobs examines places in the United States that illustrate the critical difference between economic growth and decline in the context of winner/loser locations in a rapidly globalizing economy. Using U.S. Census Bureau data, Moretti’s book exhibits maps of the United States to reveal the system change’s location impact.  The growth areas were those with a high percentage of college-educated people. He shows a decline in the regions that still have many “smart people” to this day but failed to produce, keep, or attract educated people in the newly growing system change businesses.

Scholarly observers labeled “the losers” as shrinking cities, pointing to Detroit, MI, and others of the Northeast “rust belt” following their 2000 and 2010 Census analysis. Studies of similar “shrinking” conditions throughout Europe focused on this as a phenomenon of industrial globalization, regional deindustrialization, and suburbanization. In all cases, the winners were those who had in residence or could attract well-educated people. The analytical resources are available for the ordinary observer to dig into these changes as a dynamic force and one affected by public policy. In 2020, the importance of easy access to vital information and re-establishing confidence in the small business and banking community was more important than ever. As the history of the Bureau of the Census shows in its “understand America” mission, it has grown to become a major business subsidy for nationalizing businesses. Moving forward is how to make the Bureaus’ “jobs and education data” more widely available and easily accessible by the small business. Here is a quick look.

Geographic Support System Initiative (GSS-I)

For the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau’s reengineered address canvassing reduces costs. In December 2015, BOC published a 100-page report entitled, 2020 Census Detailed Operational Plan for the Address Canvassing Operation to describe this new Address Canvassing methodology. The practice has been routinely updated through 2018 (here) and eventually rolled into the GSS Program.

The maps (left) should be of interest to all Americans. Authorization constraints still hamper the advancement of this resource toward the routine use of a small business. The API from BOC has tutorials on how the data can help businesses. A tutorial of an analysis that links small businesses with congressional elections (here) is an excellent example.

The policy impact on regional economic growth or decline ranges from why Microsoft owners decided to move to Seattle to attract business policies two decades later. Microsoft took their small but rapidly growing 1970s company to Seattle because they were from and felt comfortable. However, the decision by the fledgling Microsoft is also like, but the reverse of public initiatives in regions hoping to find growth.  Both are equivalent, as they are a roll of the dice, plus confidence. Federal officials would not learn of the software and hardware technology industry’s explosive growth until the early 1990s when various attraction-bets came logically into policy.

I doubt that Bill Gates went to the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system to select Seattle as the optimal location. The SIC was developed in the late 1930s as a New Deal-era initiative by the Interdepartmental Committee on Industrial Classification. His business was barely on the list and would not be there solidly until the reinvention of the SIC in 1997 turned it into the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). By that time, Microsoft had already put sad little Seattle on the wow-map, but it was not all by itself. It happened because of the enormous attractive power of the industry. Seattle was not a place with a high percentage of educated residents in the 1970s. Over the next twenty years, Microsoft attracted whole businesses, and they all attracted people with educations that met their needs.

The nerd factor here is essential in another way. The mayors of cities called up their planning, and economic development commissioners said, “get me some of that!”  So they put the staff that loved digging into the nooks and crannies of the NAICS to define their regions for comparison to all others economically. As a result, more mayoral questions on the decline and what to do tended to get answers such as publicly investing in “cultural transformation” that led to the arts and a bet on people’s instinct not only to be creative but also productive artisans.

A search engine for NAICS (here) now takes researchers into a six-digit code that parses twenty industry sectors: five goods-producing industries and fifteen services sectors, all geographically searchable at the Bureau of the Census (here). Thus, in looking at the economic structure of employment, the basics are:

  1. Jobs drive economic growth wherever they are located.
  2. So, where you find around 50 percent of workers with college degrees, there is growth.

Strategic Gates

When the meaning of the word strategy is to get the advantage, examining sector-based development is a good idea. When it comes to isolating specific industries by region, this is especially true. Shared needs mean common supplies and mutually beneficial investments in human capital. Public “attraction” strategies that attempt to connect a worker to an employer are an abstraction. It functions well in the short-term, but in the long, it is a malfunction sustaining the myth that low-end employment leads to a ladder that has rungs. They are there, but very far apart if the business model is the provider, without public partners.

What works more effectively are efforts that alter the worker/employer relationship with massive investment in skills that add choices to the worker and their flexibility within a region. Flexibility has cards to be dealt into the public policy hand as well.  The options range widely from help with a car, or specific procurement practice, to a fully paid training program or support for a master’s degree. An added benefit of worker-centered investment is that participants can contribute to the advancement of policy decisions in the future of meaningful work.

Whether that work is by a forensic accountant or a cashier, the purpose of a system change is to build on challenges, opportunities, and futures of them both into eloquent experiences in personal development. The idea of winners and losers will probably always be a macroeconomic point, but it should never exist as a community-based experience. Instead, what should happen in the heart of the cashier or the business owner is the opportunity for growth and knowing there is a higher education resource that is unquestionably and unequivocally available.

The Malfunction

The national partnership between employment and education is a failure. In 2014 the Economic Opportunities Program of the Aspen Institute and the American Assembly (Columbia University) published Connecting People to Work: Workforce Intermediaries and Sector Strategies. It is a 500-page set of whitepapers. The paper to read in this book (pdf here) examined the February 2012 announcement of the Community College to Career Fund. An eight-billion-dollar investment was seeking to bring skills that lead directly to good jobs with the goal of two million workers. The program aimed at high-growth industries by funding regional or national industry groups tasked with identifying workforce needs in their fields and developing solutions like standardized worker certification, new training technologies, or collaborations with industry employers to define career pathways for workers.

When a 500-page document becomes available for the ordinary reader, parsing it for keywords is a powerful tool for skimming the material, searching for specific content using one or two words. I discovered the essay on public investment in a community-college program this way. This one brought out the economic “malfunctions” that affect connecting jobs and education to community development. The words below are ranked from most to least.

The word “sector” occurs 1,319 times and “national” 817 and “region 468 times. The word “federal” occurred 197 times but “federal government” just 14 times. Community College was 151, “university” 115 with cities at 86 and “suburb” only 5.  I found “local government four times, and “regional government” just once. The use of the word “schools” – 20 with high schools getting only three mentions. The choices are many, “union” was interesting as was “interprofessional” and training.

Central to improving connections between job seekers and producers is the idea of fairness or balance. In a global economy where the imbalances are overpowering, local efforts can seem heroic. This is what is wrong with them.  With this view, the use of the word “race” was a mere 36 times, that broke down to “African-American” 24 times and to Hispanics just 7 with the rest mixed in with the word “gender” 18 times.  These are not hot-button words for the footnotes. The issues the people face with these labels must drive the conversation forward, not help it disappear.

Again, the brilliant, heroic work at the local level is not the issue. The megaregions of the nation hold over 85% of the nation’s GDP. Still, the usefulness of regional institutions beyond a structure of few mutual benefit corporations is nil. Malfunctions in jobs and education remain piled into a quagmire of State policy competition neatly encouraged by national policy scant.

In every developed nation in the world, children are considered the top national resource. In the United States, the policy appears to be the children of America are among the highest percentage of low-income whites amid towering imbalances involving people of color. Programs that look at popular fixes such as H1B visas and other short-term job filling policies fail to fully consider a thirty to fifty-year generational failure aimed at children from low- and moderate-income in America.

“The vitality of architecture does not stand on the strength of its foundations or the vision of its builders. It stands on the dignity of life formed in the heart of all of its creators.”

Rex L. Curry (Review of video by Mike Yellen for Ironworker Union 2017) Watch below.

The video above will also be found in a “system change” post on planning, architecture, and engineering (here). It opens like this: “Your bones tell you, you smell it, there is the challenge of unclear change on the tongues of the public speakers. The sticky multiple versions of the truth offered in our modern lives’ political-speech will be swept away by the clear mind of science. This is a call for help in that simple pursuit.”

Below: a sample of data available from U.S. Census Interactive Maps as described above.

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Life Imitates Malfunctions

This section on malfunctions prepares a larger narrative. We are working on how America has 1) an unqualified health problem that includes the inability to self-study health challenges. The importance of recognizing how 2) equality and equity for all Americans requires a system change that clearly shows the flow of equity as a factor of race and gender. Central to these two issues is how capital can become 3) more digitally non-fungible today than in Western civilization’s entire history. (Yes, blockchain might be compromised.) The door is wide open for thieves of credit. The most perplexing malfunction is that 4) trust and confidence appear broken as agents for change. (The request “Follow me I know the way”, is compromised.) These are the vague, often confusing signals of malfunctions in America. Like a series of little failures, they multiply combinations of confirmation bias with cognitive dissonance to which American’s are uniquely susceptible, and there is no one helping the people figure it out. Why?


Introduction to Malfunctions or Chasing Vaporous Cash.

The weakening state of America’s physical and mental health and the inability to build a platform for advancing equality and equity are malfunctions aggravated by many uncaptured thieves busily destroying ordinary people’s self-confidence and trust in change. The following examines all four of these observations through a lens of how familiar, essentially small groups of people should define problems. The first is learning how to eliminate the axis of contention that tears at the American spirit.

Please consider returning to this page as additions, edits from contributors continue, or comments will be logged here, under the category “Malfunction” with the parent category System Change.

Housing Rents

The causes of the housing problem can give you a facial tick. Here goes one recent example; the housing market has added single-family-rental securitization. This specimen is made of our old friend mortgage-backed securities backed by inflated home value and a rising market for rental housing. Combined with the collapse of employment, a friend from Michigan said this could turn into a nasty brew of outraged and hungry people, all of whom have guns.

In 2016, 95 percent of the distressed mortgages on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s books were auctioned off to Wall Street investors without preconditions and few provisions. As a result, the market recovered but without homeowners. Instead, private-equity firms acquired over 200,000 homes. While cities like New York are attractive but expensive investments, a substantial percentage of these new acquisitions occur in middle-class and low- and moderate-income suburban neighborhoods. Single-family buildings have been in the rental market for a long time, but only recently has this practice added volatility to the market with the public humiliation of eviction.

Matthew Desmond’s book focused on eviction as a cause and consequence of distress in low to high-density communities. Once considered a big-city problem where evictions occurred formally through the courts. Less known and understood are management practices using subtle displacement, such as “rent to buy schemes,” where low rent is the “hook,” and high down payments provide the profit. Overall, the increased rate of housing displacement is driven by weak government policies attracted to quick fixes, leading to the rise of institutionally managed and owned rental housing and a court system that does not recognize the rights of tenants as comparable to landlords or developed the capacity for mediation before calling a U.S. Marshal.

“The moment these moratoriums are lifted, we’ll see massive evictions.” 

Professor Emily Benfer, Columbia Law School to CNBC reporter Annie Nova

The best source for monitoring policy changes in NYC is the New York University Furman Center. For the final tally on pandemic impact evictions. The market recognizes home value fluctuations with increased tenants available to cover mortgages. However, the market could not recognize the collapse of renter capacity to prioritize shelter over all else. Another fly in the soup (aka malfunction) is the invisibility of increased corporate ownership in low-density areas whose legal systems heavily favor owner over renter. The table below shows how NYS is attempting to protect its 8.2 million people [? population of Lima, the capital city of Peru]

A 2018 study of New York eviction cases (Collinson & Reed, here) established a connection between eviction and homelessness in New York City.  The malfunctions of the housing market go both ways. A similar graph showing the percentage of household income for rent would also move steadily up from a baseline of affordability at 30%, rising to over 50% in 2019.

America’s complicated housing market story includes a blaze of web articles (example here) that claim property management and rental housing acquisitions are suitable investments based on the volatility of sales (figure 3 below), offering the fun of bargain hunting coupled with the steady upward trend in asking rents (figure 2 above).

Wall Street as Landlord

The Malfunction

Wall Street’s $60 billion [? net worth of Bill Gates, 2011] real estate purchases have altered housing markets throughout the United States. (NYT Story) The total funding for the Housing Choice Voucher program (Section 8) was a third of that at $20.292 billion [? cost of 2005 Hurricane Wilma] in FY 2017. As in the 2008 recession, the malfunction is not paying attention to the possibility that former housing policies that put equity in ordinary families’ lives through homeownership have disappeared just as the public might have been ready to recognize the inequity built into the system since 1950 could be corrected for the damage to families of color.

New York City’s real estate market includes some of the most high-profile properties in the world. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most expensive investments. This wrinkle is the invention of publicly traded real estate investment trusts (REITs). 

These outfits are companies that invest directly in real estate through properties or mortgages. The Internal Revenue Service requires REITs to pay taxable profits in dividends to shareholders. Companies with REIT status do not pay corporate income tax. It has developed adjudicative services with support systems recognizing residents’ rights as renters. Investopedia’s description of Investing In New York City REITs is recommended reading.

In 1968 the Citizen‘s Housing and Planning Council of New York (CHPC) produced a little sixteen-page booklet on the housing problem with the above graphic on the cover. As a housing affordability advocacy group, they wanted people to understand what it took to build and operate affordable housing. So they put it in the form of a five-room apartment in which the average cost of its development came to $20,000 $20,000 [? Per capita income – Taiwan, 2005] in 1967, based only on the consumer price index changes that would be $155,000 in 2020 to yield a total inflation rate of 675% or 12.73% /year. The genius of the CHPC presentation is how the five rooms (image above) represent the five main factors for development composed of 1) construction, 2) taxes, 3) land, 4) money, and 5) operating costs. Of the five, what has the determining impact on rent? Answer: the cost of money. Today a change of one percent in the average interest rate from development through permanent financing could alter rents by $120 [? Smartphone cost per month] per month. Manipulate all the other costs, which will yield minimal impact on rent.

Housing affordability is built entirely on Wall Street’s finance and banking industries’ desire to sustain low (for them) and higher interest rates (for everyone else). Since 1967, or just over fifty years, the rate is based on the CPI alone, the trend toward high and almost 675%.

The lack of affordable rents and housing (a human right) sits squarely on government steps in handling the cost of money for the American people’s safety and health. A researcher on this question will find reasonably up-to-date data in another post (here).

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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.

Second Change

Part Five – Every Change is a Second Chance:

Change does occur by chance. Having a readiness for it, on the other hand, requires an eagerness to be fit for the job. Hitting a search engine with the phrase “Theory of Change,” you get something like the mosaic below. My favorite is the Theory of Change website from ActKnowledge and their offer of certification and use of their TOCO software.

Mosaic of Chance Change. Pick a Theory Tile

Feedback is a response, reaction, or comment when you ask people for one. It is best when it is immediate, given freely, and on occasion fearlessly. The emphasis on this first creates an understanding of behavior changes in people’s education as it deepens knowledge in organizations. My experience has taught me that mission statements (i.e., uprooting poverty, ending the conflict, improving health) should be avoided until the power of evaluation is firm and established. These pools use feedback systems as basic as students working individually, pooling ideas in small groups. Structure from various institutional evaluation sources is available for use and essential to discovering and implementing standards.

In the three mission statement examples above, we can see the importance of these attainment measures. Uprooting poverty became a central component of the Civil Rights Movement. Along with the idea of ending sexual/racial conflict, the rise of Me Too and Black Lives Matter are building institutional coalitions for transformative change. Finally, the idea of improving the health of Americans due to a pandemic put a spotlight on the reluctance (perhaps denial) to examine structural inequality, social and economic conflict, and the health of people as the same.

One and the Same

Successful change agents work with people where they are found. The idea of “where” is locational as in a physical place with a view of something. A more complicated element is how the view includes the desire for outcomes defined by measures of outlook. Without the skills to work the language of outcomes, outputs, inputs, feedback, and some solid interpersonal communication instincts, it is challenging to develop “the same” into something vital.

Therefore, it is best to have some language to describe yourself, your community, and what you want to do to it or have it do to you because if you do not have these insights, this is when change becomes regressive. There are a lot of neat ways to keep from going backward. I like digging into change models, but it is equally important to look internally in the know thyself to know others’ kind of way. There is a “thyself” one you can use for just $50.00 or less in bulk if you are already in a never doubt group. Buying your own Myers-Briggs report allows you to acquire a four-letter MBIT type as listed below. You can explore that idea further (here).

  • Inspector – ISTJ
  • Counselor – INFJ
  • Mastermind – INTJ
  • Giver – ENFJ
  • Provider – ESFJ
  • Idealist – INFP
  • Supervisor – ESTJ
  • Visionary – ENTP

Agreeing to the proposition that you can be one of the personalities listed includes possible combinations because people do change, and we do have differences. Knowing an MBIT type in establishing goal-oriented relationships in the organizational setting is a useful “be open” experience. Being in an environment that sees change as an act that recognizes growth, personal advancement, new skills, and so on is useful, especially among the never doubters. As the mosaic below illustrates, the web and tons of print publications are replete with the fun of using personality types as communication and organizing tools.

Mosaic of Briggs-Myers Personality Til es – Have a look.

If an activity is plausible or even feasible, it can lead to an impact. Knowing the content of that impact comes from your ability to test and confirm actions in short-term, micro-focused cycles. Once in motion, these facts create the long-term result known as a system change. The two search engine mosaics above illustrate a grand range of templates available for guidance. The only missing element is called the first step.

The selection of interventions that take you from the beginning to the middle and the end are changes that should be joyful and hopeful. Understanding people’s knowledge and then in their organizations establish the plausibility of a framework for creating change. Like a good film, there are many connections between the early efforts to begin a story and to start on a path toward something, to get near the end, to sense a climax and a possible denouement, but just like the movies, there is no big “The End” anymore.

Back tp System Change

System Change

Smithsonian “Salute to the Wheel”  Map of Mesopotamia (3500 B.C.)

Revelatory, that is what it was revelatory.  Not the amusing face of God kind, more exact. It started when Thunderbirds and Blue Angles in their F-16C/D Fighting Falcons and their F18C/D Hornet Fighters trimmed out to conduct aeronautic acrobatics. They covered the entire city in a thirty-minute fly over of the Boroughs.  Fine, I said to myself, a good show, celebrating all the first responders of New York City in a salute to their courage in the fight against a pandemic. There are moments when a system change explodes into existance.


Read five explorations of system change. One is about discoveries, which lead me to malfunctions as the heart of the issue. Skills are needed, so the next three are critical thinking, gambits, and pathways. I conclude with the idea that every change is a second chance.

Imagine a day in 3500 B.C. when a sculptor was chipping away at smoothing a stone and creating the shape of a wheel.  As a social creature, the sculptor shared this object with others who rolled it and laughed when, one day, one of them asked for one with a hole in the center. That is when a system change exploded into existence with the production of round objects made of clay on a wheel. Centuries passed before the wheel became a vehicle, but it did.

The battles of writers, sculptors, fine artists, and all other coders continue to this day for nothing more than joy and your attention, if not curiosity. Modern humans chip away at their vast capacity for system change by sharing information, exchanging ideas, and dispensing them to others who may also roll them and laugh. The second revelation is about the act of discovery upon which all the others rest.

Recall my experience with the jet fighter flyover. The display of power like this can raise every hair on your body with awe, terror, and fear of death.  I know the fear well because it happened to me a long time ago in a roar that ripped something from my being. For me, the fly-over of gratitude recalled that lesson. In just those few minutes, I thought how easy it is to turn every bridge and tunnel to rubble, along with whatever else a dozen warships could do to destroy NYC. Trust is the fact implied. This is absurd and unlikely intellectually, but I felt it emotionally as if in a film I’ve already seen. The back of my neck sent me straight into logic models and the theory of change for answers, so I didn’t question the emotion. I just started thinking differently.

Using code to cope with the unthinkable offers a range of content management systems (CMS) in our minds and places like this to share thoughts. You may recognize the CMS terms. Some of the most common are Java, Perl, PHP, and Python, among many others.  As code systems, they represent an accepted, partial existence drifting unseen in the Ctrl+Shift+I background of more familiar titles such as Chrome, Edge, Safari, and Firefox.  If the browser Netscape sounds familiar, consider the others as tribes sharing a new hunting ground. Through these surviving vehicles, the world is laid at your feet. You stand on platforms like WordPress, Medium, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and hundreds of others you use to manage your content, get others’ attention, and perhaps make people curious.  Go ahead, pick one.