Housing and Climate

Tweets from housing advocacy groups warned of the 2008 Recession for five years (here). They see another housing crisis forming in America caused by raising public awareness. It is about how equity was kept away from people by Americans against themselves. It is an issue defined by the nation’s 400 hundred-year heritage of enslavement, cold, racist terrorism, and bigotry. These facts also describe the world’s history, but it is the U.S. Constitution that had some ideas about how moral people could change immoral societies.

RLC – OCCUPY

Housing is Equity

Problems that hurt people and go undefined and unanswered create a climate for authoritarian solutions. The often-told answer is an old retort of hard work, healthy homes, communities, and families. The response is correct but blind to the history of privileges extended to white America as it became the United States. For centuries rights and freedoms were extended to all people. Yet, policymakers made denial of pathways to equity routine. The bias crime barred the accumulation of wealth from property to serve succeeding generations. The quiet yet insidious reduction and denials of opportunity from education are proven. The lack of equity is significant.

Over a half-century has passed since the idea of forming nonprofit housing development corporations was established by concerned residents and city officials. In Brooklyn and throughout New York City, this emergent network of housing rights advocates works as nonprofit partners with housing developers drawing on various financial mechanisms to defend low- and moderate-income households from the myth of “market rate” access to housing. Formed in the early 1970s, the Association of Neighborhood Housing Developers (ANHD) initially sought to bring equity to families by acquiring publicly owned (in rem) housing and converting it to various local ownership structures. The idea began during the great wave of housing vacancy and abandonment that started in the 1950s that destroyed entire neighborhoods. The pathway to equity remains narrow, easily recognized in the subtle name change of ANHD from developer to advocate. It is now the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (here).

A public map listing of Brooklyn organizations is (here). One question is whether equity is created for low- and moderate-income households? Brooklyn’s housing rights and development organizations will struggle with the pandemic-stimulated crisis in rental housing. Yet, in this crisis, there is an opportunity to create new partnerships toward equity in housing because the issue is straight forward as this heading states:

In the centuries that led to the rise of American hegemony, not one person, not W.E.B. DuBois or even Martin Luther King, fully articulated the loss of equity. The voice of Ta-Nehisi Coates is the most current (here). He stands on firm ground because the U.S. has participated in reparations six times. The seventh time should take a long hard look at housing as linked to the displacement challenges posed by climate change.

Every problem is a housing location problem.

Ending the Wherever Movement

After WWII, localities keep a hold on the tail of the revenue bull while blind to the beast. As a result, in the last century, millions of households benefited from federal housing policies with only one location principle – housing wherever you want. However, in this new century reducing the mortgage interest subsidy on the demand side and weakening a long list of development incentives on the supply side has severely weakened federal leadership in housing preservation and development to continue the “build wherever” policy.

A new housing crisis is in the air for reasons other than systemic racism in America. Every issue connects to a housing problem. For some time, the equity crisis re-establishes classicism under headings such as “culture wars,” but the results change little. The metaphor is weak. Using resilience principles, the facts on every “next disaster” can be different. Technology offers opportunities to build a broader coalition on equity with justice that includes race by correcting past wrongs yet moves forward to circumvent long-established rules of “divide to conquer.”

The surge of affordable single-family housing in America continues in the hot wetlands of the south with periodic drought and the flat drylands of the south- and northwest with asymmetrical flash floods and fire. However, the onset of climate change will drown the wetlands, scorch and burn the drylands, and cause enormous disruptions in every region of the United States.

Recurrence Denial

Denying the annual recurrence of this possibility is a repudiation of science and a political endorsement of catastrophic resolution. I will not be surprised if we experience a bout of biblical pestilence in the narrative of the resistance to this long-term, permanent threat. Long before the direct links to climate change formed, the impacts of disastrous choices in land use development are rightly defined as “environmental racism” by pointing directly at the disproportionate number of low-and-moderate-income people losing equity. The damage and despair reveal a broad swath of painful historic bigotry, but now the dangers are thrown at everyone.

The opportunity to write national housing policies occurs routinely. The 2020 decade began with unmet demand for five million new homes.

The opportunity to write national housing policies occurs routinely. The 2020 decade began with unmet demand for five million new homes. It is possible to re-establish national housing development policies as the leading edge of a new strategy re-focused by climate protection. First, it can build on resources that combine restoration with resilience. Second, a new housing policy will create sustainable equity in communities. Finally, the procedures are in place to help people survive the hatred and bigotry injected into the threat of high water, drought, sickness, and fire.

It is possible to re-establish national housing development policies as the leading edge of a new strategy. First, climate protection will be re-focused on resilience and restoration. Second, it will create sustainable equity in communities. Finally, long standing human rights policy will help people survive the hatred and bigotry far too quickly injected into the threat of high water, drought, and fire.

Two Centuries Out

Living way up in Maryland’s Appalachian blue ridge range, it is easy to find seashell fossils.  When a friend built a house up there, they removed a boulder covered in Trilobite fossils, and there was a shark tooth that said to me the sea was here for a very long time, and it will be back.

The following summary of Tweets is from this site’s Tweet-O-Rama (July 2019.

The idea of a summary is that it may be possible to find threads of principle in policy that alter pervasive opinions.

One example is the purpose of a large national government.

As a result, it will be possible to forge new policy from environmental protection as a national defense strategy forced by the bright light of survival and a much more severe focus on the big picture. I offer one example.

The ocean’s tide can flow up and into the Great Appalachian Valley from Maine’s ports to South Carolina’s shores over the next few centuries. The ancient geological record proves it has been there before. Given a long-term view, getting ready should be a top priority. Preparation for this kind of “sea change” in all its meanings is the most critical action of this century (the original map as shown below is here). Issues like this are just the beginning:

Hundreds of practical policies governing housing equity and location can be surmised with a review of the location of vulnerable households.

The percentage of elderly who reside in coastal locations as provided by a Climate Central study.


Take your pick of issues for building a constituency on housing development and location. If the Gulf of Mexico’s fate is an alga thickened swamp, we need policies for what that means. If the Pacific Ocean’s vast torrents alter the Gulf Stream, El Niño yields unsurvivable surface heat or hundreds of tornadoes and hurricanes. Not being ready is a super bad idea. Whether friendly or with horrible force, heed the words, “the water will come.” The plan seemed different when time itself became for sale, and that is not a surprise if you know how non-fungible tokens (NFT) and blockchains changed all financial transactions.

Policy People

Please enjoy looking at the national Tweet-O-Rama organizations focused on housing (here). With those thoughts in mind, it is logical to look at politics as a sport and as a practice that is now very different from the role of leadership that it implies. A growing number of elected national representatives now complain of a system of government that appears to ignore the will of the people.

Buildings and Energy

  • Improve energy incentives in buildings by centralizing incentives. Update the State Energy Code swiftly and expedite “climate-friendly” projects. Prioritize energy efficiency initiatives for affordable housing.
  • The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) should be raised from 25% to 30%.
  • The Public Service Commission should be permitted to require time-of-use pricing, which allows the price of electricity to more closely track the actual cost of producing it on an hour-by-hour basis.
  • Provide incentives for installing a “smart meter” to allow for data exchange between the electricity provider and the customer’s electric meter.
  • Sub-metering should be required in all buildings to allow building owners to bill tenants for individual electric usage.
  • The State Energy Code should be amended to cover more building renovations; currently, only renovations that involve the replacement of 50% or more of a building’s subsystem must comply with the Code.
  • All new or substantially renovated school buildings should be required to meet green building standards.
  • Water and wastewater treatment plants should be required to adopt energy conservation requirements.
  • Reinstate the State Energy Planning Board

Land Use

  • The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) regulations should be amended such that GHG emissions are considered for projects that are subject to it.
  • GHG emissions should be factored into local comprehensive plans.
  • Wind projects, including those offshore, should be encouraged and New York should adopt a statewide wind energy goal as part of its RPS requirement.

Vehicles and Transportation

  • Continue to strive for a 10% reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) below business as usual within 10 years; to this end, New York should initiate a VMT Task Force.
  • Consider imposing feebates on the purchase of new vehicles with low fuel economy and offer rebates on the purchase of vehicles with high fuel economy.
  • Encourage the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles.
  • Include Energy-saving vehicle maintenance techniques as part of the vehicle registration process.

Additional recommendations

  • Encourage the expansion of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) by promoting the adoption of an economy-wide cap on GHGs; in addition, consider lowering the existing cap.
  • Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology should be pursued provided that adequate federal funding is available.
  • Green workforce development should be promoted by enhancing educational and job training programs throughout the state.
  • Encourage the Interagency Committee on Sustainability and Green Procurement to be aggressive in setting green specifications for certain goods that are purchased by State agencies.
  • Promote methane capture by requiring or encouraging it in all municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills.
  • Improve its floodplain mapping system by taking into account future sea level rise.

New York State Bar Association Task Force on Global Warming reviewed New York’s existing laws and programs, including existing and pending federal laws regarding climate change.  The Task Force is chaired by Professor Michael Gerrard, Director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University School of Law.  (Jan. 2009.)  The proposals are organized into four categories: buildings and energy, land use, transportation, and others. In addition, the following was edited from the Executive Summary excerpted in the Law of the Land blog.

Political Waters

Jeff Goodell at Long Now Foundation

Goodell is a journalist focused on energy systems and climate change. At the end of his talk, Jeff Goodell was asked what he would do with $200 billion. His answer was surprising. He said he would spend it all on finding ways to improve the quality of political change and its ability to adapt to solving big long-term problems. He said we have the intelligence and capacity to deal with the problem of a constantly rising sea. Still, first, it must be recognized as daily and inevitable by our leadership. He adds this is a problem that will last for several centuries, so we might as well get started.  His full discussion of “The Water Will Come” is available at the Long Now Foundation.  His five main points are below. Buy “The Water Will Come.”

1. Gravity

Sea rise is like the existence of gravity. It is all around us; it is happening now every day. Like gravity, the increase in seawater is subtle, and it is a fixed part of the world because you cannot make water go away. All you can do is watch it get redistributed. In every locality, the hydrology of the rise will be unique. The conservation of matter remains the physical driving principal – added moisture in the atmosphere; the higher intensity in storm surges is part of a global system with a deep billion-year-old history.  The need for action to deal with sea-level rise and adapting to it is not physical. It is the hyper-political “not on my watch” principal. They are incompatible. What we can do today is the value to instill in leadership.

2. Rate of Change

The geological record covering billions of years shows 25 to 60 feet of sea-level rise is part of the system, leaving the central question’s time and rate. Jeff refers to Richard Alley as the world’s top ice analyst (climate scientist) who finds the rise of 15 feet by 2100 “is not out of the question.” The geological record also suggests the sea rise occurs in pulses, but the historical average is 13 feet per century. Huge unknowns remain. How will trillions of tons of water change the sea due to the catastrophic collapse of Antarctica? How big and fast questions will last for a century and vary in probable impact in places worldwide. Definitive answers to these questions drive political policy toward resilience. For example, the effect of climate change in the form of “storm surge” on the value of the coastal property is top on the list. The political response, on the other hand, is little more than a finger in the dike.

3. Value

Long before any individual city or region comes up with mitigation resources, the “troubles” will have spoken and measured in dollars. A part of the American culture is that it tends to leave the important things unsaid. For example, the coastal states are losing property value. People are selling (caveat emptor) and moving to get ahead of their sea rise fears following one experience: a sunny day flooding or a crushing surge in the ocean’s new normal. Others take advantage of generous publicly funded encouragements to sustain tax revenues with “move to the shore,” campaigns deemed essential to borrow long term financing for local “fixes” (higher roads, bigger dunes, pumps, and so on) and. In political words, what we have here is a capital mess with a Catch 22 attached.

4. Resilience is Now

There is no way to know what plan will work best or who will call for spending and take the win/lose leadership responsibility to protect against the impact of sea rise. Goodell has traveled the world and has seen brilliance and stupidity. Some jurisdictions pump the water from one place to another. Others raise buildings, but protecting a city is a very different problem. The who is in and outside a mitigation area screams substantial social justice issues on why protections planned for one locality are not in another. Resilience policies are in response to ongoing “chaos costs” because it is too late to achieve sustainable development for five main reasons outlined by Dennis Meadows over a decade ago.

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

5. Why “Catastrophic” Resolution?

The business models used to treat climate change as an economic opportunity is often disguised by waiting for catastrophe. Nevertheless, there are places far less driven by profit-making than the quality of life that may be getting it right and doing so in a timely way.  Lagos is a floating place to live, others in the Netherlands and similar geographies find ways for the sea to take what it will. The re-building design for a flooding world is easily envisioned across the economic spectrum of engineering. Geo-engineering work will attempt to physically alter the atmosphere by buying time or opening Pandora’s box but will not stop the sea-level rise. The question “what now” will help regions know what to do, the skills exist, and get them. To get creativity from skill, it will be necessary to make climate change risks transparent to get the markets and governments to function.

What?

North America’s coastlines are urban, dense, and represent 80% of the nation’s GDP. From the islands of New York City to Virginia’s shipyards to the North and South Carolina beaches’ soft links and from Savannah to Miami, the sea is rising. From hot and sunny New Orleans, Louisiana to San Diego, California, and way up north to the cold and wet of Seattle, Washington, the sea is rising. It took three centuries to build this coastline, and this investment continues.

To sustain these economic giants as viable will require a new force capable of combining political will, economic genius, design, and engineering brilliance and bringing it to the forefront of our thinking. They are all unique urban environments requiring solutions specific to each place’s geology and hydrology, but they are all equally threatened. There are no “need to know” problems, only the need to make an effort. The alternative to a successful push for democratic transparency on these problems will be an authoritarian process that will choose winners and losers the way despots have always chosen.

Glaeser, Pendall or Fulton

The names in the title are scholars. Put their names into the Google Search Engine to bring up the list of their papers and something you don’t see often without asking for “images”, a list of documents available for academic consumption.

Scrolling yields more ideas than the entire class of graduate students from every urban study, anthropology, architecture and urban planning program on the planet can read and understand in a term. An enormous body of work for consumption at very little cost other than the megawatts required for delivery

William Fulton, Rolf Pendall, and Edward Glaeser are among a legion of urban observers aligned with an even larger multitude of undergraduate students and colleagues on a band of words circling the planet. It seems to me, across the top of each image above, a story of their work explodes. Very quickly, the search reveals a random grab of key-words for a planet of cities that is unready to be a planet of cities.

“territorial governance, measuring sprawl, smart growth, urban sprawl, urban areas, cities, planning, density, geography, Brookings, metropolitan.”

All of our scholars will agree these are the issues, yet remain gleeful in naming the exceptions that has got to stop. The movement for cities will begin as one of those moments when these words are spoken quietly but routinely:

“You are in, and you (yes, you – so very sorry) are out.”

The time for neat, exploratory examinations of the trouble brewing will end when these individuals are hired for refugee analysis. The synergism here will be determined by the ability of social and physical environment designers to produce shelter, food, clothing and most importantly, strong opportunities for people and whole families to escape from the causes of environmental threat, including one another. Based on my reading they are not ready. My brothers are ready, they are not.

The Urban Planet

“The social contract for authority is at the center of money, politics, and religion. No surprise there. Each center’s loci has confirming elements such as the high priest’s temple or another supreme power object represented by the elite and their agents. These three realms are carefully designed for the acquisition of wealth. The purpose is to create predictable rates and periods in a political or religious mix. Because it is expected, these failures also predict products such as, when to buy low, followed by the distraction of an intractable political confrontation.”

Rex L. Curry

Money, politics, and religion have yet to recognize the earth as a place. Photographs from the moon made it an island in space ruled by the sun. Still, of the billions of people on the earth, only a small percentage realize the Earth’s location in a solar system of a galaxy, among many. The “Earth Rise” and “Blue Marble” photographs taken a half-century ago from orbit and the surface of the moon through all of the Apollo Missions (1968 – 1972) takes us back a mere five hundred years ago when Galileo began to figure out the earth’s place in our solar system (1600). The first contact with the universe’s vast nature must have yielded a compelling sense of spatial abundance. Galileo would be surprised by how limited it is today among our finite planet’s “knowing” observers. It is the way Galileo used his mind that should be remembered by the scientists of today. Read of his thought experiment (here).

Mountain ranges and vast oceans compare to a sea of galaxies in the opposite sense. The earth’s density is close and personal. It begins with roughly 100 people per square mile and climbs to nearly 150,000 people in dense clusters. How do these two experiences “of the earth” and “the city” fit together? That “fit” is oddly similar to the earth in the galaxy.

New York City’s Manhattan island has a residential density surrounding Central Park of around 67,000 people per square mile (2000). Should Yellowstone National Park experience the same fate in another few centuries? After all, the argument for the investment in a “central park” increased adjacent property values. The United States averages less than 85 people per square mile. Methods to evaluate this range became of interest following the 2000 Census with specific new definitions of density in the Census Bureau.

The designation “urban” has long been in the bureau’s lexicon, but the term “urban area” is new Census 2000 terminology. It is a way to include everything from small urban clusters (less than 50,000 but at least 1,000 people per square mile) down to “at least 500 people” per square mile, in areas immediately adjacent for the cut-off to not urban something else like exurban. Establishing the urbanized area (UA) category and the “urban growth area” (UGA) is helping policymakers to identify areas where urban development regulations predict/prevent growth. Maryland and Oregon have closely monitored examples.

A UA benefit is how it reveals “low density” settlement patterns (less than 100 people per square mile). The presumption that these areas do not alter ecological systems comes from the lack of understanding of either system. Yet, they shape the nation’s mega-regions as we know them today. Low-density areas can be hotbeds of hidden environmental degradation without boundaries. Could such places be given a border? Where would the challenge draw a line fall? Would it be at the <100 thresholds or at the edges of a <50,000 or within a community that is >100,000 population per square mile? It comes down to perceived value and the primacy of private ownership in confrontation with public interests. (Bundy)

The change in the urban definition of places and census-designated places led to a mild refinement that splits a UA population between urban and not-urban components based on 500 people per square mile. The Census Bureau estimates this change may classify an added 5 million urban people in 7 percent less area (about 6,600 square miles. How much “less area” will continue to be a central question in each recent population census. It may be too late if a policy of urban unification and the wilderness’s defragmentation becomes a recognized priority.

In the Bureau’s decennial cycle, these refinements contribute to local and national policy changes’ poor timing. The American Community Survey may resolve this problem with an equally accurate predictor of annual population characteristics and vital statistics. Growing trust in its sampling technology could help sustain the ecological balance between urban and the remaining landscape. Being able to establish a strategic difference will be crucial.

Fire illustrates the importance of understanding an urban area strategy best.  It is possible to let a forest wilderness fire burn, but less so when the wild is also urban using the 2000 definition. The Paradise Fire in California, 2018 is a clear example of needing a strategic difference policy. Extending this sense of difference to when a river breaks its traditional banks and expands into a flood plain, but far less so when the river upland of a river basin still requires dikes and channelization as seen across the entire Los Angeles basin or bayous of Louisiana.

I do not believe that our sense of fragile earth in a vast galaxy and the sense of ongoing calamity in the world is going unnoticed. Trillions in costs driven by environmental changes to which humans are making a substantial contribution are closely monitored. The “Man versus Mother Nature” series by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Finance and Development in March 2014, Vol. 51, No. 1 by Nicole Laframboise and Sebastian Acevedo make the case quite clear.


This photo of “Earth Rise” over the lunar horizon was taken by the Apollo 8 crew in December 1968, showing Earth for the first time as it appears from deep space.

Catastrophic Resolution

Good for the City in Small Pieces

“Some years ago, and a year or so after the 9/11 disaster, I was standing near a conversation at a town hall session, when a constituent decried failing systems in service to the simple act of voting – long lines, ill-trained, confused poll workers, broken machines, deplorable participation rates, falling registrations, and so on.  The Senator, politely nodding, said, “Little will happen on any of these issues until voting breaks down completely. Only if that happens can action with money be taken, in the meantime…” when the constituent interrupted and said, “But Senator, all the dots are in a row here,” it was like being slapped.”

Rex L. Curry

The policy of catastrophic resolution is supported as a congressional decision-making model. It trickles as policy all the way to cities. In New York City, as an example, the policy is to wait until the water main breaks. “It is the only way to find them to fix them.” claimed the officials with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) at the time.

While reasonable in one sense, it has become a disease of denial regarding the value of prevention. Today, a variety of life-denying systems within the western economies are held by self-styled anthropophagus-like altruists whose logic would destroy the village to save it and govern at an “arm’s length” with the help of psychopaths they put into public offices. They are not the oligarchs of old that hold the spoils of war. In their worlds, surrounded by the obsequious kindness of others, I believe many of them do not know what they do or have done to damage the future. The clutch of sycophants in their spheres quietly whisper in a gaggle of insistence, saying there is no need for decisive action on the unprovable loss of a single species or global breakdowns in seasonal patterns that bring fire, drought, and thunderous waves from a rising global ocean or the searing heat across ever-widening dry plains. The policy of “no need without undeniable insistence” must not occur.  There is a need for revolution, and I think I know where it might begin.

The synergy of dense urban living appears to create or at least support the rise of conditions that prevent damage to future generations as it defines and solves problems squarely ahead. It can be sloppy. However, most of the cycles of sloppiness are short, cover small geographic areas because only parts of the systems that glue the city together fail at any one time. A city in constates of repair is a city with powerful expertise. When an ancient, wood water main breaks, a sewer fails, a gas line leaks and an electric power loss occurs, only a few people are affected and only for short periods because of compacity. A word that describes many people nearby that know exactly what to do or how to get it done.

ConEdisons Outage Map shows the number of customers affected by location.
New York City’s “Outage Map” by Consolidated Edison
illustrates outages for 3.5 million customers by location.

If you are in a dense area you can experience compacity (the feeling of density) by taking a walk for fifteen to twenty minutes in a reasonably straight line, make four right turns to get back where you started, and you have probably walked a square mile. On average, you have enclosed 30,000 to 80,000 people, miles of road, and thousands of homes. If you are in New York City, you may have come across multiple subway stations, several hundred commercial retail, institutional service, and public facilities such as schools, police, and fire stations. All in a little over a one-hour walk. Amazing.

The central and overriding responsibility of political leaders and public and private service agencies is to assist in the readiness of people to respond to problems of any kind or any sort. They should know and understand this capacity as it represents the beating heart of NYC’s future. In every one of these square mile enclosures in any one of hundreds of neighborhoods, the capacity for positive change is undeniable. Still, it needs to be taught as a practical matter of citizenship, of what to do or not when the need for help is immediate or anticipated like the tide.

If or when a city’s potential for positive change or the need for occasionally rapid response is denied or obstructed, it is readily recognized as a conflict against humanity in the place where it occurs. The origins of the forces behind these life-defining conflicts may begin as “person-against -person,-nature, -self, -society, -technology or the raw unknown. These are not the elements of fictional narratives. They represent the day-to-day experiences of regular people. They produce these occurrences of conflict with relish in all things, from the simple exchange over the price of bread for currency to a course in high-school algebra for a grade. They are all things wrought by the compacity of urban life that are continuous and in many ways unrelenting.

In many places throughout the city, your walk would have included observing a highly diverse population. You would have heard many voices speaking combinations of familiar and unfamiliar words. Your opportunity within this environment to purchase and consume your requirement for protein or clothing, a laugh, or a smile is easily acquired. Your business is appreciated. A twenty to thirty-minute train ride will take you to some of the world’s finest hospitals and universities or airports and trains to see far-off places. All of these little break-downs and celebrations renew the place and the person.

 

 

 

Cities are Different

“One number above all other metrics suggests a housing affordability and infrastructure emergency is pending. In New York City, one emergency is around 40,000 people living permanently in shelters, with a growing percentage of emotionally distressed and mentally ill people in the population. The number alone is less telling than realizing how and why it lasts for decades.

Homelessness has become a production function of cities.

In NYC, an additional 35,000 people, by official estimates, are homeless as transient or invisible. There are no rules or initiatives to stop these numbers from exponential growth.”

Rex L. Curry

Pushed Out”  illustrates displacement and its impacts.  Produced by: UC Berkeley Urban Displacement Project, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and The Great Communities Collaborative, an initiative of The San Francisco Foundation

The history of cities is about how problems are defined and solved. The political skill of the dense city is different than other places. The city is regularly expected to create change that people will believe in, even though combinations of corruption and inspiration determine each change. The effectiveness of either or both is fixed in the experience of communities and demonstrated in neighborhoods. Inexplicably, is this what makes the celebration of cities so unique and important in advancing human thought?  Here is one example.

From the 1960s to the early 90s New York City experienced rapid cultural and physical changes unlike any other. Initially, it confronted wholesale infrastructure deterioration coupled with a profound housing crisis, population loss, racism, double-digit inflation, a significant recession, and a nation embroiled in a foreign war. The city responded with improvements in race relations, education, and training. So far, there was just enough of a federal response to prevent catastrophic collapse. Why? People with disadvantages and other people with extraordinary power found themselves face-to-face with the problem of being face-to-face.

The appointment of a financial control board control over the NYC credit crisis lasted a decade. Ending of the mid-1980s. You know the old story borrow $5,000 from a bank and don’t pay it back; you are in trouble, but make that $500,000 with a run into trouble, you have a new partner. The concept of leverage is thematic in urban development. It includes knowing the power in the phrase of many community organizers, “people united can never be defeated.”

The agreement struck was to build equity through housing rehabilitation, rent stabilization, education, and good employment.  Community control of schools and ideas on creating neighborhood government matured and created community-based development corporations in partnership with charitable foundations and city agencies. They had one purpose. Confront the city’s issues directly before them and create a better city.  It worked, but new problems without easy solutions dug into the city’s flesh as irreversible displacement and permanent homelessness became continuous, like a tide.


Displacement and Homelessness

The examination of the causes of displacement summarized in the UC Berkely presentation has some solutions and remedies offered at its conclusion. Unfortunately, zoning is not one of them.  In fairness to Mike Bloomberg, his comment on the issue was, “Hey, this was the only game in town, so you’re either in or out.”  To this extent, he is correct, the Federal response to urbanization continues to allow the market to have its way until it doesn’t, and the great recession of 2008 was not far off. 

What is poorly understood is how low- and moderate-income people find housing in the suburbs for work and affordability by combining unrelated individuals and families in shared housing arrangements as under the radar as possible. The irony is that shocking zoning is used in the dense urban environment to include low- and moderate-income families in town and keep them out in the suburbs.


Evidence of failure to implement the remedies for ongoing home displacement is in the number of individuals and households (largely women with children) estimated in distress.  A detailed look at this is described in a brief article entitled A New America. It describes the beginnings of a federal role in housing production, infrastructure, and economic mobility due to the rise of displacement, formal and informal homelessness in America.  Here is a brief excerpt: 

“When violent change hits a community, the question turns to the first responder’s capacity, then speed, followed by when (or if) the full weight of federal support occurs. If the change is massive but slow, as if following the logic of a cancer cell, a long-term sense of resilience is essential. Political leverage for needed change will be found when people link these fast and slow forms of damage to climate change and energy. The “small fires” response to sudden catastrophes in the national context produces quality emergency management skills. More is needed.

Service providers with advanced communication systems can reach deeply from federal to local levels. The service of a slower and national pre-trauma framework is building strength because it is vital. Still, first-response systems are quickly overwhelmed without a reliable set of front-end steps in mitigation that can pull its people out of trouble at a steady pace. Along with outright prevention.”

RLC

Students Who Do Nothing

Business School

At a business school in New York City with my Freshman candidate son, I suddenly felt very strongly about the offer of forming “a club.” and that he should call it “Students Who Do Nothing. (SWDN)”

When I said it out loud, he grins. But, for me, it was a Grameen Bank moment because I recalled a statement made by its founder (Muhammad Yunus) that he could not do what the banks ordinarily do. Therefore, it was necessary to unlearn everything.

My overwhelming feeling was that it would be highly oversubscribed and would not implode in its own popularity. We need a new generation of business leaders willing to unlearn everything and do so as rapidly as possible. The greatest business problem we face is not misusing the resources of planet earth. It is about the good people who believe they can do nothing. As a faculty member of a private university, I never met, nor did I expect to meet a bad young person or one who would be harmful to others. Universities don’t teach “badness.” They entertain discussions of existential threats and offer coursework on ethical conduct. So I decide on a mission, reverse the “I can do nothing” pattern.

John Elkington

I’ll admit to the influence of several other factors for wanting my son to start this club. Just before the “admitted student’s event,” I came across John Elkington’s pitch for restating and rethinking the goals embedded in the triple bottom line. (3BL). As an accounting framework, it measures social and environmental impacts as economic costs. A June 2018 HBR article (here) sums his experience up in one sentence, “Clearly, the Triple Bottom Line has failed to bury the single bottom line paradigm.” 

In the quarter-century since the idea of 3BL was established, a pitiful number of corporations have adopted the holistic vision of the “B Certified” corporations throughout the world (UK example). Not quite the maximum well-being solution promised by minimizing consumption, but a step closer to solving the many difficult problems every solution creates in implementation. The “B” corporations are different, unlike the typical “C” or “S” or other corporate forms found in the subchapters of the IRS code and those of other developed countries. The “B” describes a business that has adopted a mission to promote the public good in certain ways but remains vague and still demands a lot of uphill law to organize nationally. 

The Green New Deal has Three Parts

In 2018, single bottom line entities focused on increasing profits using the tax act (12/2017). I believe Elkington’s radar was also observing strength in the gradients of support for ideas that became bundled into Resolutions such as the Green New Deal (GND) (wiki). It touched on another time in American history when people became desperate, hungry, and isolated, positioned the GND Resolution less as a prescriptive remedy than a clear warning of science. Warnings do not come from the balance sheets and income statements. However, they seem to be busy emptying the store shelves of an era in human development that is rapidly coming to an end. The quality of that end is why creating “Students Who Do Nothing” clubs in every business school in the world is needed. To move this idea forward, I offer the following facts for inclusion in the independent charters of these university-based organizations.

The reason for the SWDN is it meets a need. It offers a powerful filter through which only a few ideas, events, investments, and inventions can pass successfully. Doing nothing is a very high bar against which all the “somethings” we must do stand to provide for ourselves and the strong communities we need to be members of.

The challenge the SWDN puts forth is stressful as the failures it will reveal along the way will be many. Great thinkers since the Club of Rome have already conceded the failure of sustainability. Harm will be inflicted on future generations without resilience leading to a sustainable community. They all speak of resilience to policymakers throughout the world and urge them to prepare as rapidly as possible. In the simplest possible terms, the global ocean will take whatever, and wherever it wants, the drylands will burn with fury, and the “city,” while still a vague notion in mind the earth’s vast array of human settlers, is the best way forward. The following elements of the charter are offered for start-ups.

Throughout the world SWDN organizations do nothing that will:

  • cause mass migration from regions most affected by climate change
  • contribute to the $500 billion in lost economic output or risk $1 trillion or more in damage to coastal infrastructure and real estate in the U.S. by 2100
  • destroy the earth’s coral reefs
  • increase GHGs from human sources to achieve net-zero by 2050

The members of the SWDN do nothing that hides or conceals:

  1. declines in the provision of basic needs in clean air and water, or the cause of inaccessibility to affordable and healthy food, wellness care, housing, transportation, and education
    stagnation of wages, reduction in social and economic mobility leading to harmful reductions in earning and bargaining power
  2. continuous and ongoing increases in income inequality seen only in the decade before the Great Depression and defined in 2018 by the top one percent who accrued 91 percent of gains in the recovery from the 2008 Great Recession
  3. the racial wealth divide amounts to a difference of 20 times more wealth of the average and largely white family than the average black family, further exacerbated by the earnings gender gap resulting in women earning approximately 80% of median income.

The global responsibility of the SWDN is to do nothing that sustains systematic injustices that:

  1. disproportionately harm indigenous people, people of color, war, climate refugees, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities
  2. isolate rural and suburban communities, the working low-income poor, people with disabilities, and the simply impoverished wherever they reside or work.
  3. hurt the elderly, the young, and the unhoused found in all other communities
  4. establish threat multipliers to the economic, environmental, and social stability of communities

The SWDN will do nothing that inhibits system change opportunities that:

  1. establishes continuous efforts to produce social and economic diversity in the U.S. in fulfilling the goals of the Constitution of the United States
  2. creates new, good quality, high wage employment opportunities for all
  3. maximize investment in net-zero innovations
  4. establishes ongoing foundations for resilience in the path to sustainability


“Man’s desire for the approval of his fellows is so strong, his dread of their censure so violent, that he himself has brought his enemy (conscience) within his gates; and it keeps watch over him, vigilant always in the interests of its master to crush any half-formed desire to break away from the herd.”

– W. Somerset Maugham, 1874-1965

The Synergy Project

Density and Compacity

Politics and Plans

Density and compacity are terms useful for places like the New York Metropolitan Area. Several technical measures produce components by volume and within these volumes, fine granular distinctions of enormous importance.

Volumes are also the subject of power in politics and plans. They distinguish one leader’s area from another, they reveal distinct responsibilities for services such as police, fire, and sanitation or how water, gas, electricity, and bytes serve your community.

Energy and Synergy

The lines are multi-linear. They can define you by a zip code, or the train or road used to a set of career routes to and from places that shape human life. People know exactly where they are in the NYMA and when not. Boundary lines separate one thing from another, and the stuff that makes the NYMA separate from everything else is tied to the density of things per unit of land or water. At some point, the area is not dense enough to be called metropolitan. Although these many densities combine to form measures of compacity, of everything we know, and to the detriment of humanity, it remains a vague notion.

The premise of combining stories and writing about the densities and compacity of urban life and the many opportunities it offers includes elements of personal political leadership essential to educate and inspire the will to create change on a scale so massive it appears impossible. It is not.

energy = infinity + entropy
energy = infinity – entropy

Remember Muir

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1911, pg. 110)
Sierra Club Books 1988 ed. See all of Chapter 6 on the Sierra Club website.

At the close of the century, the World Watch Institute’s call to “minimize consumption” and “maximize well-being” set the best tone with the fewest words. Dense environments can reduce consumption — per cap/per km/per day –24/7/365. The dense city alters the structure of consumption on many levels. So how do we create a renewed sense of abundance in life using these constraints? Remember John Muir.

Urbanization takes about a third of the earth’s surface and about forty percent for food. The remaining twenty-plus percent is the trickiest as a hodgepodge of fragmented spatial leftovers, it is a “SLAP” in the face to everyone from John Muir to those who walk in his footsteps.1

Beyond deserts and high mountain ranges, there are seeds for change, thousands of accessible places, Alaska’s wild glory, and “parks” from New York City’s Central Park all the way up to Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks. Our land use policy tends to give “the wilderness” a boundary and, most vexing of all, nearly ignores the simplicity of our need for it as a thing separate and untouched.

Photo: Carleton Watkins – University of the Pacific digital collections,.

The name John Muir is synonymous with the importance of wilderness.  The tool was to be conservation, but today the river that cut the Grand Canyon no longer reaches the ocean. Muir put it this way in my head, the wilderness is the only way to look directly into the face of God and like it. He could not have imagined we would turn that privilege into our most vulnerable link to the incompetent use of land, labor and capital


1. SLAP — space leftover after planning

Civic Engagement

Civic Engagement

Most of us are lifelong learning type of people, and every so often we find opportunities online that help one to think things through. Recently, I have been exploring the expansion of political engagement in the United States and discovered an easily audited MOOC (a massive online open course). For $50 you could draw down proof of purchase with an academic compliance certificate after taking an odd little quiz. The Dr. Nicholas Carnes, the author of The Cash Ceiling and White-Collar Government, offers Civic Engagement in American Democracy along with Dr. Bruce Jentleson, a seasoned historian and author of The Peace Makers. With several others on the Duke University faculty serving the Stanford School of Political Science, the course via the Coursera platform examines political structures and leadership.

If you don’t give these mostly white male academic actors their $50 you are not allowed to finish the audit and get answers to a crafty “think independently” style quiz. These disappointments are instructive of the racket that is American higher education, but that said, there are worthwhile things to share in this Duke-MOOC.

The course starts with civic engagement as a top-down prerogative found in the U.S. Constitution,  a document designed by our privileged founders in such a way that it became inclusive of all people. For that, we give them a lot of credit. The course briefly breaks down government structures while implying one central question.

Do we have political representatives that become powerful due to their response to the demands of leadership in their time, and therefore yield lessons of success and failure for serious study?

When forced to ask if there is such a thing as profiles in courage or is it more likely the practice of covering up mistakes creatively, the assumption is you can do both. Applaud and boo and hiss. This avoids one other possibility. Has America become a nation where the most important things cannot be discussed or debated. The important things go unsaid.

The Duke-MOOC’s questions about leadership reveal distinctions between the style of presidential leadership vs. the presidency as an institution. The course design implies the need for the renewed focus of political scientists on system dysfunctions, but that is not relevant, lest the core message of this MOOC goes unrecognized as follows:

Political leadership in a democracy does not have a beating heart worthy of a stethoscope unless it helps ordinary citizens discover the conditions conducive to opportunities for successful change. It must have enough force to demystify and redesign failing institutions. The institution of the presidency in this context as recognized in the laws of Congress is limited but shapeable, even flexible when it remains outside of individual leadership styles, especially those that are suggestive but not dispositive of any question such as the concepts for change made by the President of the United States, people began to experience in 2017.

Background

Following the debate initiated in the Federalist Papers (Jefferson, Hamilton, and Jay) the Articles of Confederation matured. One question was whether the national leadership should be “a President” or an “Executive Council”. The newspaper format not only established a set of values for a high quality of governance, but it also did so with transparency. The result became the separation of powers, checks, and balances. A President (Article II), a Congress (Article I) and a Judicial Branch (Article III) will rule “a Republic if we can keep it” as Ben Franklyn is described as saying. The Federalist Papers are revered because they brought to its participants a clear, well-thought-out settlement of the issues.

In this design, power and influence could shift between the Presidency and Congress (examples) however, the central governing authority gave Congress the capacity to remove a President, but not the reverse. Another is the President is the Commander-in-Chief, but only Congress can declare war. Treaties with other countries are signed and negotiated by the President, but the Senate must approve (2/3 vote). Top officials are appointed, but the Senate must confirm by a majority. Finally, the Constitution gives more power to Congress on trade with other nations and among the states. All these capacities for leadership were developed as powers vested in the Constitution and specifically designed to prevent the emergence of an autocratic and monocratic presidency.

Perhaps the most beautiful concept of the design is how it provided for a network of federal courts that could be easily replicated by the States. The Republic continued to build, first in the ratification of the Constitution and to each new State the rights to supreme power lawfully held by the people and their elected representatives. The prospect of a renewable union through elections and local, state, and presidential nominations expressed balance in its concern for the people. It holds an essential concept for change as reasonably manageable and a promise of a process for justice through law.

Enter the Great Ho-hum

In 2018, the ordinary citizen’s understanding of presidential powers is very different on issues such as war, treaties, top officials, commerce, and global trade. It appears the President is in charge of it all and when it goes bad, the question turns away from the institution of the Presidency and toward individual Presidents as powerful actors. The issues surrounding the 116th Congress Congress 1/2019 to 1/2021 are whether investigations replace legislation. Will there be an insight into the creation of law as this is their mandate? Will both houses of Congress slide into an oversight malaise? Will it provide evidence of honor or obstruct the evidence of dishonor? Will it be wrong if nothing is resolved?

Connecting the lessons of 2018 with the future (2020 and beyond) is how well the forces of civic engagement in a democracy can restate America’s vision, dreams, and tragedies. Just as these events were experienced by our Founders, they extend from every first-year student to graduating class and from elementary schools to colleges, and how this easily translates into leadership by representatives, staff, or volunteers in helping to identify, define and solve problems.

The American political system works through a set of crucial actors with varying power during specific periods of the election cycle. These components are not well known, yet they continue to build toward an “election day” and engage organized “club” voters who make decisions that will influence the electorate based on participants and issues. For good or ill this is where the heart of a democracy beats, so why is it considered boring, monotonous, dull, even deadly? One answer is the people they inject into politics don’t do what “I’m Just a Bill” says they do or what School House Rock missed. (Here).  The House website has all the details for bill making (Here). Spend a few minutes with these processes and the disconnect with local concerns is apparent, along with the tendency to make bad laws that trigger poor use of our Article III powers.

The ordinary citizen’s engagement with political leadership is rarely exposed as viable unless your subscription to Netflix is considered equivalent to your representatives’ Twitter feed. The addition of participants with the capacity to organize large sums of money and talent notwithstanding, the “up-from-the-grassroots” process is what makes the top-down behavior of congress members, senators, and judges come alive as constitutional actors. Local political clubs of ordinary people determine who runs and how. An analysis continues by district and office from local to federal that allows participants to compare incumbents who are 98% successful in defeating challengers. These clubs decide what issues candidates can speak to with credibility. They will examine records of accomplishment and coach them on the hot buttons of the day (i.e., health care costs, immigration, DACA). It is condensed to one of my favorite street phrases about modern-day political representatives – “They can talk the walk, but they can’t walk the talk.”

Once the choice of candidates is complete and aimed at the next election cycle, the value of local issues in the form of cash and vote capture is exposed. A candidate does not have to be rich to lead but improving the grassroots knowledge of the problems of wealth and government is a starting point of high value on every question related to the quality of public life and the capacity of civic engagement to get results. Comparing the percentage of contribution from ordinary citizens and public matching with the cash from PACs and other significant funding sources also compare neatly with decisions to suppress or build-up voting. In the nexus of these forces determining vote capture is where the fulcrum for change in the quality of civic engagement requires placement.

There are rules.  I cannot give my Congressional Representative that extra half-million in mattress cash, but I can run ads on TV against her opponent, which is more fun and more effective than talking up her accomplishments and general wonderfulness. Because this is a power that can only be accomplished because I am rich makes it seem unfair. The idea of constitutional power extends from “natural persons” to corporations and similar entities and that they make everyone else listen to them using TV time and campaigning more than any single person also tilts the field.

Within this broad spectrum of power and latitude lies the creative point of law, from which corporate personhood as we know it has emerged. Despite beautiful legal minds, why does the creation of this new force in society feel so haphazardly developed, contentious, antagonistic, and from which it will no doubt proceed indiscriminately? Two sources are offered for review. The first is a leader in opposing the principles presented in the Citizen’s United case by the Center for Economic Policy and Research (Here), However, going straight to the Supreme Courts Blog will offer a more direct route into the business of Constitutional Law as it is practiced today before the people (Here).

The Politics of Value
Mass Media as Sensationalist and Lazy

The information age provides a variety of translators regarding the meaning of events due to the actions of a specific interest group, a political party, a community, or a private business activity. All these actors, including those who are violent, exhibit in an environment of multiple perceptions, persuasions that communicate with documented actions. The coexistence of these views as pluralism has become corrupt due to our new world, the one that contains a proliferation of media platforms. The MOOC upon which this essay builds describes this condition with dog metaphors. It goes something like this: A media outlet can have a “watchdog” approach, always looking for an intruder or investigating one. The stories are appreciated, but their watchfulness can also be described as “lapdog” in a social or economic climate of good times and news. To attract more readers Seeing Eye Dog media envisions pathways of change to the future. Reader boredom will lead a hungry media outlet into an “attack dog” frame of mind. It will search for “man bites dog” stories. Finally, you will find Puppy dog journalism presenting cuteness as its source of attention.

A dog is an enjoyable companion, as a metaphor for media, it puts a news outlet into the retail entertainment environment. As such it will struggle to survive in a digital market that humanly speaking is a ruthless sovereign more easily than any other autonomous form. Multiplatform media is a problem if the value of political thought is to remain sustainable, in the sense that it does not cause harm in the search for our better selves in the way William Wordsworth spoke of it:

When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
How gracious, how benign, is Solitude.

 The Rise of Dog-Media

The value of metaphors such as doglike digital media is transparent. It provides for an analysis of categories of news activities such as politics, sports, entertainment, food, real estate, even pets. There is exchange value in the trade for knowledge in each of them. Instead of looking for attention or getting a trick or two with some treats, this digital dog media wants a complete recording of your online existence as an expression of your life. From a civic engagement point of view, the question for debate is whether it is a fair trade. The history of political accountability builds on the separation of government from the press to assure free expression, but it also leads to tough choices concerning responsibility, and rightly so.

The Federalist Papers encouraged its readers to recognize a variety of viewpoints. Still, in the framing of our Constitution, the public demand for a system of solutions had a priority, the best decision is the one that holds and controls the high ground of consensus. The proof that a process can maintain and manage events toward goal accomplishment is because they will recur. Here are two examples:

In Federalist No. 70 (1788), “The Executive Department Further Considered,” The idea of a council was proposed as an alternative to a President. Hamilton argued for a single executive. He believed it would be less dangerous to democracy because one corrupt person would be more straightforward to remove from power than bad actors in an Executive Council. Hamilton’s position prevailed on this point of recurrence, and it built on other conditions such as the speed needed for many decisions coupled with the capacity for secrecy when required. Here, the full admission of the positive and negative aspects allows a process where decisions were made final and ratified. The legacy of the papers remains well known, as challenging debate articles reprinted in news and magazine formats for distribution. That world is now a vast digital network where essential priorities can be lost. Here is an illustration of this complexity.

As the CEO of Public Radio International, Alisa Miller’s insight regarding changes in the human knowledge condition has focused on the exponential change in reporting the news in broadcast media’s super-connected world. She points to the revenue issue by comparing the number of seconds used to report events in February 2017 (Nuclear North Korea, United Nation’s dark report on global warming, flooding in Indonesia) and then points out why the death of Anna Nicole Smith received ten times the coverage of the UN report. First, it was cheaper to recycle AP and Reuters. Second, the 50% reduction of foreign news bureaus by American media outlets, and third, most people get their news from local TV stations that who spend only 12% of their time on world events, while according to a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found over 50% of Americans have a severe interest in global issues. A clip of chart (below) from her TED talk illustrates this contradiction.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

To help illustrate the rate of change since the observations made by Alisa Miller in 2008, all the above and more are available for viewing and reading across “all of your devices.” In partial recognition of this new exponent in media, the TCPA charges the FCC with making it unlawful to use automatic dialing equipment and prerecorded messages to contact consumers on their mobile devices without prior consent. Parallel businesses such as Neustar have formed to help telemarketers assure (or evade) compliance.

Other companies such as Granicus are digital communication services designed to provide sources of public data (e.g., legislation, policy changes, meetings, minutes, voting, lawsuits) for political representatives and government agency clients. The business model of both use digital platforms that integrate information and communicate content conveniently to their client’s constituents. Restrictions on telemarketing messages distributed on rapidly changing platforms inject ambiguity into the making of public policy. For example, federal government officials and agencies are not subject to the TCPA rule, but the FCC has yet to address whether the TCPA federal exemption applies to state and local governments. Since the passage of this law (2005), it remains unclear what the FCC will do.

States and local governments’ interest in citizen and community engagement is an investment in content management. Granicus is designed to serve individual households with a citizenship experience. Public agencies seek the use of digital services for meetings, data delivery, general access, and record keeping. People can sign up and get alerts straight to their inbox when minutes are digitally published or laws drafted. Digital services can help neighborhoods and communities to define and solve problems with government agencies and staff.

Location-aware, internet-connected devices in the pocket of nearly every adult and child have an enormous capacity for the provision of information from changes in transit schedules to Amber Alerts. Often touted as an integral part of the smart city or government, the public charge is to assure accountability in the provision of accurate and reliable information. While the jury is out on “smartness,” laws such as the TPCA, suggest principles that encourage transparent management of public documents. In the screaming birth stages of digital devices, growing pains are inevitable. Like an eye-to-eye handshake, paying close attention to the public’s digital face and grip has been added to the watchfulness requirement. Public website portals provide a foundation of necessary access to information, including routine evaluations of the agency’s outcomes in regular reports. Performance-based management of every public act will be known whether it is the never-ending work of street repairs to managing the legislative process, each is an act of leadership in the public interest that can be recorded.

Human Resources and the Fifth Element

On the question of human nature, Milla Jovovich, playing the role of Leeloo in The Fifth Element says, “Everything you create, you use to destroy.” Her message is one that produces a millennium of drum beats. More than the existence of earth, air, fire, and water is the reality of love in resistance to hate.

Reading the Constitution via the National Archives may be an excellent pastime on how legislative bodies can make laws but offers little insight into the processes changing a life today. In contrast, reading the debate framework of The Federalist Papers reveals reverence drawn from historical relevance, experience, and reflection. We see how the ratification of the Constitution became possible, June 21, 1788. That it took twelve years to accomplish also captures attention. The details of the entire process are available from the National Constitution Center (here).

Over a two and a half-century period, the formation of a two-party system became central to the process of American self-governance. During that period, we have watched large-scale corporations and institutions grow too complicated to comprehend fully. Imagine yourself in the expansive boardrooms of a global corporation; its glass curtain wall exposes a vast urban landscape. The ocean glistens toward sunset. The agenda in this boardroom is to review the methods underway to sustain the expansion of global market contracts for the members around the table according to earnings reports confirming another quarter of extraordinarily continuous growth. All following conversations address mitigations by staff to meet that end. These two parts – sustaining market power and mitigating threats are one in both business and politics and represent a “third party” with a global scale.

Replacing concern for two-party politics, with interest in global organizations will improve the governance of democracies.

The power and mitigations process of the two-party system is unlikely to weaken, even though 43% of the electorate prefer a focus on issues as independent thinkers, thereby expressing significant disdain for the “them vs. us” condition we live with today. In a segment of the Duke MOOC, Phillip Bennett presents a kind of hopelessness on this point. He suggests the review of many sources confirming gloom and doom and starts by calling out David Broder’s book The Party’s Over. He also recommends The Pew Research Center and Gallup tracking of this condition in reports such as “Americans Less Interested in Two Major Political Parties,” at Gallup (2015).

In contrast, Tana Johnson seems hopeful, in her book, Organizational Progeny. She presents “bureaucracy” as a tainted entity, but more importantly, she sees progress in the growth of global governance structures as bureaus. Her book draws up an index of non-state actors around the world for analysis and points to a new depth of social networks, multinational businesses, and the thousands of independent agencies working on global markets and environmental concerns. These agents are achieving steps toward parity with state actors. The consensus is on one point. National political and business self-interest practices are harmful to the well-being of the earth. The proof is forthcoming slowly on specific dangers, involving death from large groups of people to coral reefs. The framework for building this knowledge does not come from state actors, but by paying attention and understanding the expanding role of International Intergovernmental Organizations (IGO). The central idea is the so-called “international community” does not exist today, but once (or if) a common set of values are found, it could. The European Union’s efforts to improve the market conditions for trade are based on a shared interest. The EU is summarized here.

Successful organizational development design includes structures that support decisions made by those closest to the source of information on an issue, in how they address problems on the ground, evaluate causes, and recommend the next steps. A good example is represented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Instead of concern for the fate of national politics and their parties, the interest of the IPCC in the global, intergovernmental system offers insight into ways to improve governance in a Democracy as a civic engagement issue.

The earliest lessons in the creation of democracy begin with the struggle for independence found in the growing respect for law as an alternative to obstruction or war. Rules that prevent the design of an IGO as a creature of a nation-state assures decision-making methods are built on majority opinion or voting among groups within their bureaus. Internal respect for mission grows by not allowing low-level hindrances such as control of individual project funding or vetoes aimed at preventing the implementation of research, or demonstration programs. Designs with co-equal parts also provide a laterally broad (vs. vertical), organizational structure with interconnected and autonomous. The injection of financial resources from related IGOs further insulates their activities from the control of an individual country, state, or powerful actor.

The experience of the IPCC in developing policies and support for initiatives to increase independence and implementation capacity is in the design of the IPCC by the Reagan Administration. It was their decision not to install mechanisms that could obstruct and this led to a variety of “unorthodox methods to intervene in the IPCC’s work” by the George W. Bush Administration many years later. It was too late to inject state control mechanisms. Why? Tana Johnson selects one word — progeny. The formation of new global interest organizations as of 2000 represents 80% of all IGO formations, and they are the progeny of existing IGO agents, not nation-states. The increase is up from 40% of new post-war IGO starts 1940-1949. The crucial element is how the organizational design is developed in contrast to a nation state’s typical imputation of controls that could be used to put a local interest ahead of global concern. IGOs with a worldwide mission framework thereby include the support of many small states. In effect, Republics are forming based on common ground issues and self-interests in global networks designed to obtain a majority vote capacity.

Funding diplomacy as a problem solver is far less costly than weapons.
Human relationships are repairable and renewable, armament is nothing more than lethal waste.

In 1971, Bretton Woods (IMF & World Bank) renewed its charge on global currency objectives amidst extensive criticism. A half-century later the subject is how the IMF and World Bank function with greater independence than imagined yet fail. War, famine, under-employment, and other deteriorating global conditions exhibit the inability to resolve past wrongs more effectively. Correcting bad decisions and weak behaviors are not functions of the fiscal discipline demanded in loan agreements. Infrastructure projects financed by the World Bank Group also draw criticisms on the ethical issues associated with funding projects that cause the displacement of indigenous people only to reflect the dominance and priority of the industrialized nations. National economic policies are predetermined under IMF G7 styled packages (20 in 2018) leads to the loss of authority to govern the economy, especially among the small states. The G7 was formed to sustain a steady flow of fossil fuels and function today without the consultation of developing countries or those that are changing rapidly due to climate change. The lack of a useful organizational design built on controls over capital alone exposes the central principle of global stewardship that one nation can never be as smart as all of them and an organizational mechanism for one has become apparent.

Given the subject, Organizational Progeny has sustained readability. In the first 20 pages, the lessons for improving the U.S. democracy tell me not to look at political representatives by a party in any nation-state, but by how many political representatives understand their bureaucracy. The proof is in the following eight chapters. Improvements in global well-being through an expansion of IGO capacity to produce a self-improving progeny is possible, but one look at the index of U.S. Bureaucracy (HERE) gives one no such hope.  Nevertheless, establishing greater international relationships through these agencies is a route well worth exploring.

The most prevalent form of presentation of over 430 American government agencies is a list organized alphabetically. (but) Perhaps, organizational design is possible in the sense that defining “a system” can only be accomplished by using an even larger and more complex one. There is no authoritative list of the vast American bureaucracy; perhaps the Federal Register index/add year is a better source. The Register allegedly updates it at the end of each month. The legislation that created the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA.gov) is maintained by the Department of Justice]. Here, about 80 independent executive agencies with 175 executive departments are on their list.  The criteria for the selection of this number is they comply with FOIA requirements, although they are imposed on every federal agency.

Perhaps more than all the other agencies representing government largess, instrumentality, mission, or management, the people in the FOIA offices represent the rise of a specific status group. Standing in public service remains central to officeholder credibility. If the mechanisms for access to public information begin to fail, think “house of cards,” think of yourself as impressionable and incapable of independent thought because you cannot prove your sources as reliable.

Michael Lewis reports on the Trump administration’s approach to staffing the federal government in his 2018 book, The Fifth Risk. There are examples such as 1) WMDs at home going off, an attack from 2) North Korea, or 3) Iran or fundamental infrastructure failure, especially 4) our fragile electric grid. Lewis sees the fifth risk 5) as “the thing you’re not thinking about when you’re worried about whatever you’re worried about.”

He sums up that fifth thing under the heading of “project management,” and despite the public hostility toward the services of government, the battle to reduce and destroy them from the top down has accelerated under conservative leaders in Congress since Obama’s mid-second term. Conservatives project individual strength (wealth, deal-making, and skepticism with press critics who among others are openly demonized. The management practice is to weaken or eliminate service institutions, especially if not statutorily protected. These are the ingredients of authoritarian business.

One quick story that Lewis tells that sums up his main concerns with the government. Catherine Woteki is a world-class authority on agricultural science. Her responsibility at the Department of Agriculture was to manage and review research grants approaching $3 billion, much of it on examining the impact on food production in the U.S. due to extended periods of drought, heavy rain, high winds, and substantial flooding. In January 2017, Trump replaced her with Sam Clovis, a right-wing talk show radio host from Iowa. He is without a science background, but he supported Trump in 2016. I hear Trump’s voice as he says, “Call my friend Sam if you need research money.” He’s a great guy.” Clovis withdrew his nomination in November 2018 following his connection to Russian interference in the election and substantial opposition in Iowa. Lewis points out that resistance to “old boy” politics is one reason for the structure and success of the Civil Service. Have you ever heard of the Sammie Award? Have a look (Here). It is about loyalty to the United States and its people.

Given the broad historical sweep of Congressional power, the rise of public cynicism, and policy, the strongest tend to occur during periods of prosperity.  The power of the president strengthens if there is economic trouble or threats. The strength of this power is diminished as Congress responds to discontent over the Vietnam War. When the Watergate scandal erupted, it was Congress that forced people to tell the truth and that led to President Nixon’s resignation. Nevertheless, Congress’s role requires the regular citing of relevant provisions of the Constitution to sustain its power, and there stand nominations to the Supreme Court. There should be a copy in the pocket of every member of Congress. Here are some reasons.

The work of the executive branch staff works hard to put Congress, as a coequal branch, in a subordinate position. Congress will often fail to take the power the Constitution gives it when difficult questions are posed. It avoided a vote on the war in Iraq, and when that happened it became known as Congresses, “use-it-or-lose-it” power, therefore yielding to the emergence of an “imperial presidency” since it was the first attempt in the Gulf of Tonquin, Vietnam.

The 1994 midterm elections reduced Bill Clinton’s power when Republicans captured control of the House and the Senate for the first time in 40 years. In that year, Speaker Newt Gingrich’s (R-GA) “Contract with America” sought to make Congress the center of the federal government and implement significant tax cuts. Then Congress was eclipsed by President Bush due to the 9/11/2001 that allowed him to draw on the President’s role as commander-in-chief.

Since 2001, the Supreme Court has found federal laws unconstitutional 14 times. The justifications for doing so generally fall into three distinct categories described (Here)  Putting Congress on the curb allows the executive branch to stonewall its party representatives on all issues from energy to the replacement of the Senate Majority Leader (First R-TN replaces Lott (R-MS).

The power The Executive might wane with the rise of congressional “oversight” power, but the word tends to mean lack of sight and routine mistakes. It is a congressional oxymoron. When Congress finds itself boxed in by Presidential powers, it is time to sit in the Senate and listen. If there are great debates taking place with respect for facts, the country’s leadership can strengthen, if not it is every citizen’s responsibility to find out why they are not talking openly.

Finally, in the spirit of MOOCs around the world, look for the work of our youngest professionals n screaming out of the academy in search of something that stands firmly in the world, does not equivocate or sidestep the reasons we love our country and earth. All people are different yet inspired by a straightforward opportunity – to live a good life, to be unharmed yet fearless in the search for a more perfect union. Here is just one more idea of precedent among millions of other insights worthy of the few thousand others that seek the simple truth of human existence. It will come down to what humans must have to grow and change, and that is a threat to their survival. We see something on the horizon that appears to be the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of vast swaths of the Natural world.

Science as Agitator

In the five year run of the TV series Third Rock from the Sun, John Lithgow was an Alien named Dick Solomon. He gave us the opportunity to laugh at the challenge of big problems with this observation.

“Where would we be without the agitators of the world attaching the electrodes of knowledge to the nipple of ignorance?”

John Lithgow

The Union of Concerned Scientists is an international group aimed at the planet’s most pressing problems and backed by sound scientific analysis. This organization has responded well to growing resistance to decisions based on political calculation and corporate hype.  Evidence came soundly in when results of the 2018 mid-term election added ten new scientists to Congress and all seven scientists endorsed by 314 Action who were up for reelection won their races as did seven other, other incumbent scientists.  (More on the Union and 314 is in Media & Measurement)

The concrete structures of a problem become known through a set of expressions. For example, climate change expressed as extreme weather events can have a metric such as the moisture in the air, which in turn can be sourced to warming ocean temperatures and that to the increasing presence of heat-trapping gasses in the atmosphere. In this case, the big heading is global warming. It has just one number, the “too late year” or the tipping point after which the science suggests the changes predicted cannot be reversed. As big problems are groups of small ones, it is especially tricky when they represent a change framework involving centuries. Global warming is not fast enough to be experienced by people, and an extreme weather event or fire cannot be linked to it as a cause. Big problems also live in the middle ground between fear of the unknown and confusion about science. They combine to produce apathy in an ordinary person and a career for a climate scientist.

Technological systems are available to “draw down” gases that heat the atmosphere. However, the global production of these gases is increasing at a rate higher than Nature’s service, or that technology offers to lead to a zero-sum conclusion. Furthermore, political solutions to reduce emissions require an enormous reduction of apathy regarding the issue, and greater trust in science, its disciplines, and practices. Reshaping the world or just the United States requires technology. However, the major contributor to atmospheric gases is without a technical solution.  The waste in energy use created by modern land-use patterns is the primary cause followed by the way food is produced and delivered. There is no drawdown technology for these practices; it is a consumer choice problem for policymakers that is almost impossible to explain. Here too, the set of expressions are many.  Isolated housing, auto dependency, high per capita infrastructure costs, fragmented uses, and environmental damage are all traced to a failure of urban planning, architecture, and engineering, not because what they did was wrong, it is just no longer right.

The chart below illustrates all the major sources of energy used by all the major sectors of the economy. Transportation, residential, commercial life, and industrial production are the major sectors that require electricity to function. All but the producers of electrical power (who have an efficiency of distribution problem) have a major impact on land use and food production. The current uses of land and the food energy people need are expressions of problems. Each is a clue to the concrete structure of the larger one. Energy in the use and management of land and food will require a much better vehicle for its use and best described today in one word “city,” the function and purpose of which is the most significant problem humanity has yet to face.

Source: https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/

Measurements

Getting more scientists into Congress has become a necessity of our time.  Too many of our lawmakers are not making any sense. We need people who make evidence-based decisions that are outcome-driven and measured by a performance from day-to-day and century-to-century.

Rex L. Curry

There are many origins of human progress; election cycles may not be one of them because of how willing we are persuaded to act in our interests. Sharpened stones and sticks, fire, and the wheel are on the early list of ways to simulate community interests. More recently, the primary source of human advancement today comes from the ability of scientists to explain phenomena in ways challenging, if not impossible, to vary. The political structures of our survival will change for that reason. I will tell you why.

With both excellent and poor results, improvement in the world is due to a verb, science. When Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene (1976), criticized Lovelock’s Gaia principle as a failure because it suggests the earth has a cause or a purpose, he got support from the non-theist community. Scientists will accept ideas of God or Gaia as metaphors for profound mysteries the same way they would admit to thirst or hunger. The aggressive acquisition of knowledge for survival, on the other hand, requires a far higher footing than metaphors for the unknown.

As a measure, the law has done what it can to expose its deficiencies from a local magistrate to a Supreme Court Justice majority.  The necessity of science to become political managers, act in defense of science, and on behalf of society is apparent but slow to persuade. Speedy persuasions are not like this profession. It is crucial to have a more comprehensive view of things to be done, whether in urgency or over the next century or more from today. Here is why.

Modern legislation requires science to solve problems. It now needs to be politically persuasive. Organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) examine many contemporary social concerns, from nuclear weapons to food and energy. However, exposing inappropriate political interference is needed to get science out of the crisis news cycle. UCS’s Michale Halpren is director of the Center for Science and Democracy. This center’s analysis fuels the new kind of talent Shaughnessy Naughton of 314.Org is hoping to find.  Naughton and her team have excellent methods for putting science principles to work in politics. With the help of people from STEM backgrounds, its mission is to find and elect scientists to political offices in preference to lawyers. 314 Action’s national networks of pro-science advocates are organizing to combat notorious attacks on fundamental scientific understanding. The need for leaders that will advocate for evidence-based reasoning is a priority for one reason.

Extended problems such as pollution are subject to clinical analysis, and those associated with climate change require continuous outcome-driven policies designed to meet performance measures. As a result, the political dialogue will shift to the debate over resources needed to protect the public. The resource argument is that corporate-survival hype can be a forgivable strategy Evidence from industries in big tobacco, pharma, and fossil fuels is overwhelming.

Leaders in the U.S. Senate, House, State Executive, and Legislative offices who express unwillingness to recognize science as a concluding arbiter require exposure. The name “314.org” elicits a well-known scientific formula for determining the area of a circle – Pi. The  “Under the Scope” project of 314.org aims at the anti-science members of Congress. They analyze votes against the facts, data, and behavior that promotes anti-science policies. The open-ended discovery of knowledge is a counterinsurgency effort aimed at the non-scientific community in all political bodies. The rise in questioning authority and distrust of empirical evidence has never been more critical.

Giant flows of new evidence prove political leaders are highly unreliable sources of knowledge. The explosion of new instruments for measuring phenomena in every field makes the availability of an ever-lengthening chain of cold digital reasoning a matter of record. The capacity of science to test and disprove conjectures continues. What remains is a world filled to the meniscus with adjustable explanations and versions of fact in which misinformation is used as an obstruction strategy. A fact-sloppy world is not a place to solve problems, especially when the tools are in hand. Firm, high-impact daily-actionability is now available in multi-integration forms of data involving cycles from one hundred years to microseconds.

Last Chance to See

In Last Chance to See, Douglas Adams (writer/artist) and Mark Carwardine (zoologist) describe the journey to see wildlife before extinction. What if it was what we now call a chicken? In an introduction to their book, Richard Dawkins noted that all living things are genetic cousins; some are just more distant than others, so if one unique part of the global biomass slips into nothingness, so does a part of all of us. In this view, Doug and Mark’s journeys are not about species extinction; they are about the problem of not knowing that the species ever existed.

We acquire knowledge of life on earth and the physical universe by testing to disprove hypotheses. Demanding improved flows of information establishes a balance between valid data and theories. Here we come to the central problem of science.

What do we do when, what we think we know needs to be disproved continuously?

The exponential nature of knowledge in the world is concerning. One of those expansions draws from Darwin’s initial findings to complete the first Genome Project. Communicating this knowledge widely adds complications as it spreads the demand for evidence. Defining the genetic structure of evolution has been ongoing for a half-century, and the findings continue to be astounding throughout the debate on Dawkins.

One Chance

A change in one cell can also produce grave disadvantages, such as HIV and Covid-19. Nevertheless, every variation of the DNA code in cells adds depth to the design of instruments for storing data for knowledge of life. The diversity of beingness builds in these genetic pathways’ toward infinity, and the storehouse is human curiosity plus machine storage with which a more profound relationship is desired.

The best “last chance” example is the evolution of sight. The transformative advantages of responding to light energy are evident in many species and from unicellular eyespots to vertebrates with image-forming eyes. Seeing the relationship between HspB5 (a heat shock protein) in the genetic code for alpha-crystallin reveals how the full spectrum of sunlight became a force in species diversity.  The evolution of sight is complicated, so Joshua Harvey details the 500 million year story of the human eye here for the curious.

Another Chance

Normal atmospheric pressure at sea level translates to about 14.7 pounds [? Men’s shot] per square inch. In the big January 2018 storm hitting the northeast, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) explained bombogenesis’s new metric. With the growing interest in connecting climate change with evidence provided by big storms, a key element will be the rate of change in atmospheric pressure. Typically, significant winter storms are nor’easters or winter hurricanes. The “bomb” metric puts the rate of change in the spotlight when the barometric pressure drops 24 millibars or more in 24 hours. On January 3, 2018, at 9:51 AM, the pressure was 1027.0, and at the same time, on January 4, the pressure was 996.2, a 30.8 drop.   A January morning can begin as cold and fair, and 20 inches of freezing snow and fog by the next morning. (Table)

A Billion Other Chances

Viable routes to millions of discoveries share a common theme. In explaining phenomena, they tease out the elements that are easy to vary. A mathematical and observational components’ variability provides proof of insufficient data, ineffective thinking, and the lack of a testable hypothesis. In The Fabric of Reality, the quantum physicist David Deutsch promotes the “above all” practice of using two principles: problems can be solved because problems are inevitable. He offers one reason beneficial for every inquiry. Precautionary principles or methods cannot avoid the unseen. These challenges are hypothetical and rare, if not unimaginable, but it is not impossible to implement vigilance.

The questions and procedures that might lead to solutions remain unknown until too late. For example, could the fires that destroyed the towns have been prevented? Yes, but only if the towns were never there. After decades, information proves human emissions of GHGs caused a slowly rising global sea and melting ice sheets at the poles. The location of significant impact areas is now everywhere, making the final delay action question is, how many people are life-threatened?

The data on conveyed gases into the atmosphere remains an annoying controversy in the scientific community due to a long list of non-scientific reasons built on the attrition model of human survival used in war slowly being applied to the world, but what is to be done as everyone is threatened everywhere?

The losses of both Antarctic and northern ice sheets across Canada and Greenland and the Russian tundra to the North Pole are facts. They connect to anthropogenic warming. Science links these facts to temperature, and it is a question answered by well-funded analytical rigor. As sea-level rise continues, the science suggests it is unlikely to become critical before 2100 (defined as 6.6 to 16.4 feet). Rather than determine the fixed probability set in the unstoppable motion of ice into liquid in the coming decades, there is the irrational belief that it may be alterable. Unknowns are just that, unknown. Best question contest:

What do you do when the stakes involve the displacement of over a billion people?

The argument for increasing urban density and resilience is a reaction to the problem of temperature and less so the issue of global warming gases. Rising temperature is the “ugly fact,” it is the asteroid, in the otherwise beautiful climate change theories. While science may argue methods for managing “atmospheric gases” for decades, it could also peer review the fabric of our reality into neatly defined tipping points of chaos.

Applying Deutsch’s and his colleagues’ extraordinary scientific discipline requires redirecting. Theories of parallel worlds may be fascinating but unhelpful. Instead, it would be far more supportive for the community of scientists to develop full knowledge of the cities we share now in ways that will persuade the whole world to change.

See Federal Register (drill down to your state or city)

Start Button Pushing

The button string of agency logos above represents multiple agencies attempting to connect “the dots.” The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, often referred to as the Supreme Court of Science described Climate Change and its dangers as a “settled fact” in 2010. In the 2014 report, specific impacts on a region, such as a significant increase in precipitation, help them share and connect critical buttons. The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) is anticipated in late 2018 and will not combine all of them. Climate impacts quantified by region and season will drive direct hands-on action. Therefore the subtlety in the added detail will not (or should not) be lost on city and state climate analysis organizations or first response agencies. Directly or indirectly, the additional data will enhance localized reactions to and preemptions of specific events. The range of detail now available marks ranges from the upward trend of “heavy downpours” by counties in Iowa to the dots connecting the impact of drought, followed by big fires, heavy participation, and mudslides in the canyons of California.

The discovery of sustainable human settlement ecosystem relationships in the Anthropocene era is well underway. Encouraging climate scientists to engage in testable theory engineering will be more complicated than the advances made by the more practical stepchildren of Climate Change, the proponents of resilience. A diverse and adaptive set of urban settlements worldwide already demonstrate the practice of urban resilience and their trial and error relationship with a rapidly changing global ecosystem. Farsighted investments in urban places are well underway to make them “climate-proof.” Like temperature, they are available as measures of effectiveness accompanied by several instructive cautions in using variables.

The exact location of these places and the population protected have begun to exhibit the political structure of a “them and us” crisis. The central non-scientific problem is distinguishing between the unseen hazards of survival by location. As physical entities, these places can be socially and economically diverse. They can be resilient and unique laboratories of the sustainable ideal, vast BTU storehouses, exemplary learning centers, and without a massive change in political outlook, little more than a few caves sheltered from the misery of the humans left behind.

When problems are questions, we want or need answers. When the answers are known, and a pathway forward is clear yet impossible to implement, the questions tend to get labeled as evil or wicked. Examples of the “not enough” type of problems such as “money.” These are public education concerns, safety, food, and water security. When measured against fairness or equity, the decisions turn to political power or priority measures. The best use of standards is the general assurance of well-being through governance, accountability, and transparency. Examples of the “too much” problem are corruption, poverty, religious conflict, and large/small-scale warfare. Complex phrases such as Global Climate Change describe combinations of “too much, not enough” questions. The destruction of natural resources, viral pandemics and extreme weather, and thermonuclear war are anxieties without containment; they are sloppy expressions wrapped in cloaks that encourage nervous intolerance, claims of injustice, and many proofs of inequality. The solution is simple but impossible to implement without an intensified global awareness. Put every combination of the human condition into one boat or one well-contained set of urban places, and the choice is evident – fix it or sink.

From the pale echo of evening light, from the big bang to the stuff of stars that we are now, the capacity for measurement has only managed to imagine a tiny part of what creates the space that allows “matter” to exist. But, the enormity of cosmological physics aside, the ordinary observer can walk away from dark matter and energy theories with one helpful fact. If only 10 percent of the physical universe is available for measurement, why is human existence in such a tiny part of that completely unexplored? Could it be that the button for that is in our backyards?

Science begins with the unseen and grows with the unknown. Still, given the promise that the revelations of science can continue indefinitely, we face one flaw, an unlikely continuation of intellect in the absence of less than habitable earth and only where the necessities of survival redefine the luxury of inquiry.

A New America

America has not seen an argument for affordable housing, and infrastructure since the post-WWII 1950s.  At that time the incentive was in the service of veterans and a national defense strategy to spread out the population.  The approach today would be to build on American capacity for diversity and building America’s energy future. The civil rights movement provides the Constitutional bedrock for a fair and successful investment in housing. However, the fossil fuel industries political purchase of the “fracking states,” has federal government’s lawmakers legislatively groveling before the demands of this giant industry.

More than a half-century later, the House of Representatives has an opportunity to assist (if not force) a Senate debate on these issues (housing, energy, and infrastructure) as they continue to gain national significance as local priorities.  An opportunity to create a New America awaits. Each state delegation understands their constituent’s desire to keep or acquire affordable homes, clean water, and reliable sources of renewable energy. House and Senate members also gain public support when they seek common ground and reach out to strengthen the body of America as a whole. No matter where people are or how well they live in their districts, they are sensitive to bad news. They also know their character, and that of their community echoes in the least among them. It is time to close in on new policies that support investment in the future of energy, housing, and infrastructure.

When violent change hits a community, the question turns to first responder’s capacity, then speed, followed by when (or if) the full weight of federal support occurs. If the change is massive but slow, as if following the logic of a cancer cell, a long-term sense of resilience is essential. Leverage for needed change will be found in these fast and slow forms of damage. The “small fires” response to sudden catastrophes in the national context continues to produce quality emergency management skills. Service providers and communication systems reach deeply from federal to local levels. The service of a national post-trauma framework is building strength because it is vital, but first-response systems are quickly overwhelmed without front-end steps in mitigation that can pull its people out of trouble at a steady and reliable pace along with outright prevention.

There are a few people in the House and Senate that have a growing sense of urgency because they see more “small-fires” and the evidence of cancer in housing and infrastructure. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has found a shortage of 7.4 million affordable rental units for America’s 11.4 million extremely low-income families. (report here). The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a series of reports on America’s infrastructure needs. One of them is on the current “bait and switch” mirage plan.

False choices emerge during stress. One option is to go against your neighbor as a solution, and the other is to find ways that build a stronger, more perfect union among neighbors and nations. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s American Housing and Economic Mobility Act is a stronger union idea with two parts worth study; we will build 3.2 million affordable homes and provide $10 billion for a competitive infrastructure program. Senator Kamala Harris Rent Relief Act, (tax credit) identifies millions of households in need of help, and Senator Cory Booker wants more state and local governments to adopt inclusive zoning policies. Warren sees the big picture, Harris aims at families facing displacement because rents are moving well past wages (see Pew Research Study) and Booker wants 20% of the housing in market-rate development made affordable to moderate-income families. All work to avert a crisis with supply and demand side incentives and subsidies.

The increase in proposed House legislation on housing since 2016 is built on facts demanding a fair and equal investment in people, health, transportation, and education. (See Lincoln Institute analysis on inclusion (here) and dozens of other publications (here). Behind these initiatives prowls the lessons of the 2008 Recession. Fannie, Freddie, and the Federal Housing Administration guaranteed 90% of new home loans in the United States at a time when banking regulation and trading in mortgage securities blended to produce fraud and put at risk the loss of billions in taxpayer’s money. For a decade, 2008 to 2018, the Treasury has yet to figure out how to sustain Dodd-Frank (see weakened status here) in order to get more private capital into the market so taxpayer money is not as much on the line despite the caveat emptor hook.

One number above all other metrics suggests a housing affordability and infrastructure emergency is pending. It is around 40,000 people living in NYC shelters with a growing percentage of emotionally distressed and mentally ill people in the population. The number alone is less telling than realizing how and why it is staying and lasting at this number for decades. Homelessness has become a production function of cities. In NYC, an additional 35,000 people by official estimates are homeless as transient or invisible. There are no rules to stop these numbers from exponential growth.  Homelessness in the United States goes up slightly for a few years and declines. Rising rents and natural disasters contribute to the increase.

The lack of “job access through reverse commutes” to regional opportunities known as JARC was discontinued in 2016. Some funding programs remain, but the focus on balance is lost. Losing the battle for affordable access to jobs through pre-emption services also produces an unknown number of homeless entering suburban and rural areas. These communities have affordability concerns too and the presence of invisible homelessness is repealing laws that prohibit the co-habitation of unrelated individuals. The lack of a federal role in recognizing urban economic stress also involves sole dependence on cars for mobility and the affordability of suburban and rural housing.

The Housing and Transportation Affordability Index (H+T) looks closely at neighborhoods by combining the cost of housing with the cost of transportation. H+T analysis reveals an urgent need for innovative investments in transit-based housing and infrastructure. The Center for Neighborhood Technology’s index finds the annual cost for the use of one car ranges from $7,500 to over $10,000 based on vehicle type and miles traveled. The cost of public transit is also included. The cost to households per mile per capita will increase in sensitivity and alter development patterns. More than any other structural component of a region, the quality of transportation is central to the management and maintenance of all other structural services such as water, power, and energy. The nation needs better policy basis on the cost of providing infrastructure services by using per person and per mile metrics.

Improving the Government of the People 

We are the change we seek. When the 31-year-old Adem Bunkeddeko, son of refugees from Uganda decided to mount a primary challenge to Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, (NY D-9th CD), he discovered affordable housing had major traction as both a right and a federal responsibility. He got the attention of Brooklyn voters but fell just 1,852 votes (pdf) short of a primary win and a seat in Congress. His run for office highlighted the national demand for balance instead of power.  You see, there is no federal housing responsibility.

The political voice on “rights” 2018 mid-terms expanded when 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, toppled Joseph Crowley’s (NY D 14th CD) ten terms in office (2004). The world paid attention to that win. Not only did she seize the issue of housing as a right, but she also took firm hold of a broader mission — build a path to all human rights as a national representative with a seat in Congress. She proved Joe was not building that path and in 2020 it may not be Yvette Clarke or several others, Democrat or Republican if candidates such as Adem and Alexandria keep showing up with the simple desire to rebuild a government of the people. The “blue wave” was different this time. The sense of impending crisis stirs in the blood of ordinary people base on two events. First, the traditional political powers steadily abandoned labor’s demand for something more than a living wage. The second is the grave error of believing in and trusting an authoritarian leader’s promises.

In either blue or red districts, incumbents have a 98% retention rate. When challenged in a primary both Democrat, and Republican candidates speak to “rights,” one suggests you have inalienable “rights” and government will take them away, the other believes that government will help to get “rights” taken or never gained. Why is such a tragic choice given to the American people by its political leaders? It is a false choice, and it will remain so until the key indicators such the plight of catastrophic illness, starving wages and the threat of homelessness stops pushing a growing number of people into the “one event” threshold. That one event is when the cost of a car accident, a fire, or illness and hospitalization is a trauma that puts people sleeping rough in streets, cars, and tents. The question is easy. How big does a national catastrophe need to be? How many families facing this condition or the threat of it does the federal government need to act in service to localities in need? Is an emergency band-aid enough when the cause is cancer?

The Kindness of Strangers

From New York City to Seattle, the median price of a home is going up and over $1 million. They are not outliers, urban homelessness in America’s cities is recognized, if not well understood, but it is not spoken of in the heartland of America. The big cities have the skills to manage homelessness, but without a national focus, the ongoing production of unaffordable housing will continue to displace people from the city as rapidly as the market will bear. Today, 50% of American households are paying more than half their income for housing. The 2017 homeless number went up for the first time since 2010 to 554,000 people as an official accounting, but critics of the crisis put the number of homeless at 1.5 million, to include the invisible people. The increase comes from cities. However, the seven to ten percent of the homeless that have come to live in rural/suburban areas are less understood. Janet Fitchen describes the increase in families who are on the edge of homelessness and housing insecurity in rural America (See research study (here). Like the invisible 40,000 homeless in NYC, the nation is full of people who are “doubled up” with family or friends, live in vans and other transient accommodations. Homelessness is a quiet, sneaky cancer, but unlike a disease that presents too late to cure, Americans have access to a huge immune system of wealth, the solution will not come from the kindness of strangers or emergency responders. The call to the people is clear, “we are the change we seek” and if gets called progressive social democracy, so be it.

The House is a group of strangers blended by the U.S. Constitution into an institution designed to build the means for consensus on the rights of Americans. Concerns such as health, housing, and a living wage continue to grow. The financial mechanisms are important to determine, but less so than meeting goals that assure healthy, well housed, and economically resilient communities. The House’s reflection on constituent concerns also involves the business community as a key local and national player. Here is one example of how a view toward balanced interests outperforms narrow special interests. A company called Apartment List, is actively engaged in the nationalization of the rental housing market. Having acquired $50 million (2018) in Series C funding, this company is well on its way to a successful IPO. The affordability of rental housing and home acquisition affects the economy of every State. When it also threatens a national listings business model seeking 50% of the national market, they become strong advocates for a federal role across the aisle.

It is also in the business interest to see public efforts on the employment uptake side such as support systems that encourage business responsibility in this area. A model worthy of study in the UK called Business in the Community is designed to connect disadvantaged groups and businesses to help both entities gain and sustain employment. A summary of American initiatives largely at the state level with some federal funding is available for research and review at End Homelessness.org.

The incidence of housing distress using the homelessness as a single indicator in a national “base test” show how reductions in the cost of 1) affordable housing, 2) transportation, 3) child care, and 4) education, are causal factors that reduce the incidence of incarceration, mental health and substance abuse problems that contribute to homelessness (Burt & Anderson, 2005; Burt, Aron, & Lee, 1999; Taylor, 2001). Homelessness is reduced substantially if the first four are readily available for individuals or families in response to a distress event, but face it, those four things are good for everyone. If these elements are not available the next three become part of the problem. Incarceration, mental health, and substance abuse are far costlier and more difficult to resolve. From a policy point of view, the winning argument is clear. Assuring affordable housing and mobility through access to education, training, and transportation is financially sound, and good for every household all the time in every community. What is missing? Health, if doctors could prescribe a safe, healthy home for people, wow.  Hey, it’s not impossible (see this Article).

Economic rationalizations such as “cost/benefit analysis” ignore variables if they lack metrics and infringe on the two indispensable experiences of democracy; the use of individual rights and with the use of these rights, the potential to develop equity and the capacity to manage change. The people of Flint, MI were not engaged in a public process regarding changes in the source of their water supply. The decision was made to save money. When high concentrations of lead, known to cause brain damage, was discovered it revealed a lack of metrics for a variable that could have put a number on the rights violated and a value on lost potential. In this process, a value is not be assigned until after damage occurred and sadly this too is part of the cost/benefit fallacy. When the social framework for change is overrun by economic reasons the opportunity for continuous damage to people and whole communities increases. Lead in water, toxins in the air, land and sea and homelessness are economically rationalized as an individual or corporate failure when the actual cause is the erosion of basic moral understandings and a commitment to specific values and principles.

One of the specious economic arguments on housing in America is that we have plenty of affordable housing, but it is in the wrong place. The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Alliance to End Homelessness and many others have set their moral compass on placed-based housing rights and opposes such hollow statistical abstractions. Nevertheless, a missing component appears to be a pre-emptive demand from the business community for federal solutions that can continuously produce affordable housing where needed and include support for affordable transportation to places of work. If that can be made to recur, the Senate might get its top-down act together on housing and infrastructure. The creative opportunity for renewable energy, affordability, and economic mobility is staring the American public in the face. The missing element appears to be a legion of people ready step into the future of democracy and the promise of the pursuits outlined in the laws framed and disseminated in the U.S. Constitution.

Follow-up Interview Sources

Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
Diane Yentel, President, National Low Income Housing Coalition
Nan Roman, President, National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Chris M.F. Figueredo, Executive Director, Ballot Initiative Strategy Center
John Kobs, CEO Apartment List

Guns, guns, guns

Open Letter to MAA

Re: Mathematics Competition

Some 330 million people in the United States (see pop clock), of which 75 million are younger than 18, to yield 255 million adults that could own a firearm.  Among this group estimate, 55 million of these adults wouldn’t touch a gun or be too infirm to handle one or physically unable to do so because of imprisonment or other factors restricting civilian gun ownership. The 200 million left would be among 393 million civilian weapons in the United States. The control ratio of adult-to-weapon is 1.965.  This number is significant enough to evaluate the U.S. as a probability space (the deep end is here).

A word of caution and challenge.  The call to mathematize death by a weapon as a personal experience within the odds framework can be the wrong approach. Death by civilian gun ownership is not be compared with lightning strikes, a fall down the stairs, or a trip in front of a bus. Perhaps the comparison would be instructive enough for Congress. (January 6. 2021 comes to mind,) Regardless of the weapon, control measures from national to local, applying the law of probability to the data sources available for analysis is tempting but sends the wrong message because we live in a world of dull messages.

The almost daily occurrence of a mass shooting by firearms provides the hot button that gets our attention. Death by a weapon is now a national experience of human tragedy and represents an unparalleled threat to our culture as a society of caring people. The existence of this condition allows us to envision a world of armed guards standing before every place of assembly like pawns in a lifelong chess game of potential violence.


There are alternatives to cognitive dissonance, and throughout the remaining days of this decade, the possibility of a far better vision for life in America is possible.  I fear for all those who would enclose a weapon into their hearts and hands to achieve an end. A far better vision is possible. Please call upon mathematicians to identify the United States as a sample space and use a set of events in which each involves zero or more outcomes of gun violence.  Here is the hard part, the assignment of probabilities to events will ignore the individual experience from events to probabilities.

A sharp math person could produce a new expression re-focused by the massive volume of weapons and the likelihood of general use in the form of interpersonal violence as a message.  Create a number from the national experience and call it the cultural endangerment factor or the national pain index.  Above all other goals, your membership’s analysis contributes to a language of hope for us all.


More detail and discussion (HERE) in the Washington Post and from the BBC on American gun culture (HERE) and why the NYS Attorney General is charging the NRA with fraud (HERE). One other thing. The math people didn’t respond beyond “Americans are more likely to kill each other.”

Truth in a Hurricane

Wealth above all other social factors can push the door closed on people, especially when they are men without means or women, but only if they don’t push back. The righteousness of wealth will spin the story, wag the dog, and fake the news without fact or journalistic integrity. The “maleness” premise regarding errors of judgment, leading to lies, cover-ups, the war for profit, cannot be questioned for facts or become dispositive. Yet, throughout human history, it has been, without doubt, the male force that sustains these errors of power with the equanimity of profound blindness. The challenges to power in the new age of data alter the demand for balance, but if technology is stealing government, there must be a way to get it back.

The Truth in a Hurricane and Other Takings

Based on centuries of case law, the last two SCOTUS appointments (2017 and 2018) challenge America’s ability to provide health care to all. It supports an imperial presidency and returns the claim on women’s bodies (See Rebecca Solnit). Given that legal precedent is now available in terabytes, good change can come from an unseen hand to remove a regulation unfamiliar to many for an unknown entity. Other typical disturbances involve the role of state legislators and jurists in the service of wealthy individuals. The majority of these actions can be considered “for good,” however, the question now posed is why the actions of some private actors that might be dangerous remain unknown until lethality is exposed. 

The law is post-mortem in its attempts to mitigate or prevent the actions of an individual with a deadly assault rifle.

The regulatory breakdown of a corporation handling toxic chemicals is therefore complete. However, no one is safe in the biochemical era of guns and randomly poisonous compounds.

Hurricane Money

Congress members need at least $300,000 every two years (and more every six years for Senators) to communicate to their district or state if challenged in a primary and general election. A member’s salary is under $200K per year, yet the average income is over $1 million. Sadly, alternatives include saving money by suppressing the vote to twenty percent of their registered electorate. The nature of this numerical playground has the pay-to-play problem, and it occurs unscathed due to one presumption. Those who do not make profits (or win) are unfit. While the prerequisites of profit have merit over reasonable periods, instant profits on demand do not. The practice turns natural functions into risky behaviors such as breathing air into your lungs or altering the performance of the earth’s atmosphere. These become recognized as a “long train of abuses.” the right, duty, and the consent of the governed include “throwing off” that government.

Hurricane Land

The following examples are worthy of the careful and devoted attention of writers. Understanding poverty for its cause on a broader footing focuses on the number of households of all kinds who are physically displaced over multiple generations. For example, recent climate change events intensify land ownership/control identification with poverty indices. Like equity, the use and power over land skew toward the top. The income-only definition neglects land, not only for its value but the dangers associated with its location. Hurricanes and their floods contain truth in their wake. Land regulation, even in public ownership, serves unevenly. Historically, the land is the equity of all people, yet access to it is patchy, unfair, and environmentally racist. Three words of the Marxist define the problem – property is theft. To which the historic response is in six words “To f’n bad. I’ve got mine.” Hopefully, this leads to knowing the mean of all climate change events by household location. With that, the question of poverty will include land. Where is it owned (or rented), and how so? (Penn State Paper and World Bank)

Hurricane Law

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently deferred to the right of states to make their determinations of “public use.” In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, terrorist attack, federal agencies acquired land for offices lost in the World Trade Towers. Today, projects managed by the Land Acquisition Section of the U.S. Department of Justice include obtaining land along hundreds of miles of the United States-Mexico border, ostensibly for the public purpose of curtailing illegal drug trafficking and smuggling. The general purpose of these acquisitions is to mitigate terrorism customs facilities. A similar practice on the displacement impacts of climate change is possible. However, this is where politicizing the law reveals a subtle, if not adverse, effect.

In 2012, while serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Judge Kavanaugh struck down the Clean Air Act’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. In combination with the Acid Rain Program created in 1995, the Cross-State rule has brought steep reductions in the air pollution that causes acid rain and smog.  The people of the Adirondacks will tell you these efforts are why Bear Pond and the entire Saint Regis Canoe Area in New York State are healthy again. Unfortunately, in 2014, six Supreme Court Justices overruled Kavanaugh’s opinion, and the Cross-State rule was reinstated. Justice Kennedy’s clarity of thinking sustains EPA’s authority to safeguard the nation’s air quality. In Kavanaugh’s opinion, it appears victims must show they are harmed or dead. Ruling against pre-emptive efforts reduces lawsuits against power companies and other sources of pollution and reveals how the law may not be what leads the court.

View from Long Pond Mountain of the Saint Regis Canoe Area, NY 8/2006. Photo by: Mwanner

Models representing extreme heat days, freezing days, days with extreme precipitation, and extreme weather events (e.g., tornado watches) can predict migration and displacement patterns. The hedonic categories used to challenge these extremes become lease about the rights of wealth and refocus on the basic comforts of food, housing, renewable energy, and “other pleasures” as expenditures of a higher priority.

Hurricane Risk

Aggregated data on these four elements define a set of “marginal willingness to pay” factors from region to region. Each can be refined further by changes in median income per decade. Populations remaining in high extreme incident areas expose a percentage of households with the capacity to leave yet stay and those without a migration choice. Empirical examples confirm these predictive models, such as the household displacement from nine hurricanes that hit category five before landfall from 2005 to 2018 — Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Dean, Felix, Matthew, Irma, Maria, and Florence. Also, migration preferences are well known, such as the number of older households that migrate to warmer climates to avoid extreme cold days.

Two categories for national regions and their communities emerge in these models—those who can develop the strength to do bold things and build strength and those who will face eventual displacement. The planning required to identify and act on this second category will not occur using predictive weather models or empirical analysis. Instead, it will mandate new central governance powers coupled with a market response to be effective.

Planning has begun to assess the national capacity to absorb household migration due to fear of extreme events and the number of households displaced directly. However, it is equally important to recognize that the investments in establishing safety criteria by region are not occurring in the name of national security or “health, safety and welfare” concerns but left to market forces and the private sector on a post-trauma basis.

Few events more terrifying than a California wildfire can give you the feeling that we have become the consumers of an illusion. The social, environmental, and financial practices that separate the “haves” from the “have-nots” are well known. But, with the advent of extreme events, the separation of the “knowing” from the “unknowing” is the fuel injection offered by the information age.

Managing Change

We the People Series: The following paragraph summarizes history’s “maleness” through the lens represented by Brett Kavanaugh’s recent appointment to SCOTUS.  So here goes.

Safety in social relations is on top of the list, but it has matured into a desire to live free from fear. The need for physically strong protecting leaders facilitated male dominance. However, the connective tissue composed of dominant men throughout this history fails to reveal alternatives. It must.  John Elkington’s introduction of TBL brings this point home in the last sentence of the first chapter.

“Developing this comprehensive approach to sustainable development and environmental protection will be a central governance challenge – and, even more critically, a market challenge – in the 21st century.”

Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business,” Capstone, 1997

The expression and fulfillment of need, once represented by trade as a social and economic activity, has become the abstraction of “stock” as an economic activity. Elkington asks,

“Is it progress if a cannibal uses a fork?”

The “central governance challenge” has yet to be accepted in the following decade. The Senators are talking without listening, members of Congress scurry and hurry better than ever.   There are warnings by Elizabeth Warren (D-CT) on the weakening of Dodd-Frank’s demand for accountability.

Tribes form, and trade or war between matures into national security through conquest, or becoming interdependent through trade. Little has changed in this give-and-take process for 5,000 years. One problem, though, physical supremacy is still considered the final prize. It is not. 

The annual value of trading derives from bets on labor, innovation, and cheating. Today, the dividend value of this bet is thousands of times higher than the total paid in wage income in the same period. From the viewpoint of observers, this path leads to catastrophic social events, the most recent being the Great Recession of 2008. A few years later, in January 2020, Elkingon’s prognosis of the challenge exposed once more the fragility of assumptions built on capital and nothing but wealth, so help them, God.

A few years later, in January 2020, Elkingon’s prognosis of the challenge exposed once more the fragility of assumptions built on capital and nothing but wealth, so help them, God. Tribes form, and trade or war between matures into national security policy through entirely new forms of conquest, such as becoming interdependent through trade. Little has changed in this give and take between men and “their” families, tribe, and nation for 5,000 years. One problem, though, physical supremacy is still considered the final prize. It is not. 

How Did We Get Here?

One of the sources of this failure comes from establishing a basis for congressional independence and power.  Bruce Babbitt, Bill Bradley, James Fallows, Mike Kinsley, and Chuck Peters were encouraged by Nicholas Lemann, Gary Hart, Paul Tsongas, and other privileged white males to develop workable across-aisle relationships with the minority party and the Executive Branch. Upon implementation, that became Bill Clinton in 1992, when the Congress of the United States lost its ability to govern.

A new, wealthy group of equity owners arrived to forecast the shift from manufacturing to the information age. Supporting working families and unions decreased in favor of technical professionals. Laborers live in other countries. Economists called it the “death of distance.” The influence smelled like big packs of crisp hundred-dollar bills in every urban electoral district. The government’s national leadership fell into vats of cash because they needed it. The tragedy of the George Bush wars and the policy obstruction aimed at the Barach Obama presidency like a shotgun exposed every raw nerve of America, leading to POTUS45.

If this sounds a little off to you, please read about the Atari Democrats.  The Atari video game is gone, but not the rise of the neo-liberal compromise. Make your case for when and how we got into this mess (Comment) (NY Times Story).

The logic of how technology stole government, from the lessons stretching back to the Atari Dems to today, leads this “we the people series” to the root of being good people to the third in this series. If you subscribe a return to it in a couple of years will occur. Got now, please read Truth in a Hurricane.

Urban Mobility

Artists of various urban futures are fond of envisioning the easy movement of people and goods as a visually exciting urban benefit. We see crowded, yet free-flowing shoulder-to-shoulder sidewalks, sweeping multi-layered elevations serving every possible land use linked to a landscape capable of moving everything from the fruits of a 24/7/365 vertical farm to thousands of colleges students from class to internships across regions.

The visions such as the image (above) presented on the Foster Foundation’s website have begun to meet the technology needed to implement an extraordinary integration of movement with architecture. Three broad questions must be answered to establish a foundation for this vital parts of urban design.

  1. Where would it be best to attempt this expand and integrate free-flowing movement?
  2. What are the political mechanisms for linking the movement of people and goods to the architecture of places?
  3. How does movement infrastructure merge with the architecture of buildings and the layout of cities?

The first question on where this vision might be implemented were examined by the Foster foundation and others using three city typologies – Mexico City with 16,000 residents per square mile as a high-rise, high-density city core, London with 7,000 residents per square mile as a medium-rise, high-density city and the region surrounding the 47 square mile City of San Francisco involving 7 million people in nine counties and 101 municipalities representing the spreading typology of a low-rise, low-density metropolis.  Surrounding counties such as Sonoma have about 4,500 residents per square mile while Marin has a resident population density of around 200 people.

 

 

Truth or Dare

You can get something from new representatives about the truth, even a Republican from Nebraska. On the first day of the Judge Kavanaugh hearing, Sen. Ben Sasse made a strong, almost non-partisan point.  He says Congress must stop pushing its power to the executive branch to avoid taking responsibility and promote reelection. He stopped short of calling it cowardice, just saying that was no way to live your life. He warned that a politicized Supreme Court is a failure of congressional representatives’ duty and begged his colleagues to keep politics in Congress and leave the Supreme Court alone. 

Watch the clip below or the longer PBS clip here. And here is I”m Just a Bill and The Constitution from School House Rock as Ben suggests.

Ben Sasse is a stand up critic of the political axe. A Republican with a brain and four neat points.

“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

George Orwell

Authoritarian control is a pattern that repeats, from Rome’s bread and circus to today’s popcorn and Netflix. Subtlety is the only difference. The interest in lowering education, limiting cultural exchange, and individual expression is the historic pattern across the modern spectrum.

Love the “Black Panther” typography.

Alexandria Stands

George Monbiot is a writer that is paying attention. The news from The Guardian is as hopeful as it is accurate. I urge you to read and subscribe.

A Revolution Has Begun

Posted: 17 Jul 2018 06:09 AM PDT published in the Guardian 11th July 2018

“The little-known history of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in a New York primary hints at a coming transformation in US politics.  Even at first sight, it is exhilarating. The overthrow of one of the most mainstream and senior Democrats in Congress by a 28-year-old Democratic Socialist with a radical programme and one-tenth of his funding is, you might think, interesting enough.

But since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez knocked out Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary election in New York’s District 14 (which means that she will almost certainly enter Congress in November), I’ve been interviewing some of the people who lit the fuse that caused this detonation. What has emerged is just how marginal and improbable their movement was when it began, and how quickly it is now gaining momentum. A revolution has begun in America, and it is time we understood what it means.

While the effort to find and run insurgent candidates arose from the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016, the handful of young people who launched this movement struck out entirely on their own. They had no resources and no political standing. Neither Bernie Sanders nor any others in the old guard were prepared to support them or endorse the candidates they found.

In a way, this tiny group, that at first called itself Brand New Congress, that evolved into the Justice Democrats, marginalised itself. It wanted nothing to do with a traditional left it saw as being obsessed with positioning. It wanted to escape the shadow of people who seemed stuck in the 1980s, who didn’t take environmental issues seriously or understand the need to challenge structural racism and gender inequality or to reach millennials trapped in terrible housing and miserable non-jobs. They were mocked, ignored and dismissed as well-intentioned but hopeless idealists. One of them told me how he was literally patted on the head by an older Democrat.

At first, it was chaotic. Most of the volunteers they recruited had little or no experience. Some turned out to be wonderful, others less so. Their original aim was to find 400 candidates to challenge both Democratic and Republican incumbents. They sought bartenders, factory workers, small business people, community organisers, teachers, nurses: ideally people who had never held public office before. While Democratic candidates are usually chosen on the grounds of how much money they can raise, the Justice Democrats looked for people who could not be seduced by big funders. They reasoned that if the people they met had served their communities instead of themselves, they were unlikely to sell out once they were elected.

They found plenty of brilliant potential recruits, but they struggled to persuade them to stand. Without mainstream support, they didn’t have the credibility required to convince hundreds of people to give up their lives for an improbable cause. They managed to persuade a few dozen, however, and among them was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They phoned her, invited her to dinner, and asked her to attend a meeting in Kentucky with other potential candidates, in the hope that they would inspire each other to run. She took her time and toured District 14 before she agreed.

She was, as we have seen, a fantastic candidate: determined, indefatigable, brilliant at explaining complex issues simply and directly. Alexandra Rojas, the campaigns director of Justice Democrats, tells me: “She has a way of making issues that others see as radical seem simple, straightforward and pragmatic.” Everyone I spoke to remarked on her grace and stability, and how she calmly absorbed the dramas that surrounded her bid. The original organisers were joined by extraordinary local campaigners, combining traditional fieldwork with the Big Organising tactics developed during the Sanders campaign: using proliferating networks of volunteers to fill the jobs usually reserved for staffers.

Remarkable as she is, there are others like her. Cori Bush in Missouri, Jess King in Pennsylvania, Kaniela Ing in Hawaii, Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts, Sarah Smith in Washington, Linsey Fagan in Texas and Kerri Evelyn Harris in Delaware are just a few those now fighting for Democratic nominations or seats while renouncing big money, relying instead on the enthusiasm of the communities they hope to serve.

The Justice Democrats are not expecting all these candidates to win, but hope for a few spectacular victories at the congressional elections in 2018 and 2020, not only replacing corporate, money-tainted Democrats, but flipping a couple of Republican districts as well (look out, for example, for the campaigns by Brent Welder and James Thompson in Kansas). As soon as such people take their seats in Congress, one of the core organisers, Saikat Chakrabarti, tells me, the aim is to “legislate the hell out of everything, like the Republicans do … proposing the boldest, biggest ideas on Day One”. By 2022, using the momentum gained from a few strategic victories, they hope to run a full slate of new or re-energised candidates. The aim is to create a genuinely populist Democratic party, that speaks to people across the political spectrum who have been alienated by the corruption and drift of mainstream politics.

Thanks in part to the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United ruling, which removed the caps on political spending by lobbyists, US politics is dominated by billionaires and corporations, buying the candidates and policies they want. They can’t be outspent, but they can be outmaneuvered, by recruiting incorruptible people who can speak past the money. Eventually, the Justice Democrats hope, there will be enough strong and inspiring people in Congress to overthrow Citizens United, purge the institutional corruption from US politics and turn democracy in America into a meaningful concept.

So far, the Democratic party has reacted in two distinct ways. Some senior figures, like Nancy Pelosi and Tammy Duckworth, dismiss the significance of what Ocasio-Cortez has achieved. Others, like Kirsten Gillibrand, have suddenly switched positions in response to her victory, echoing her call, for example, for the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, that has been separating children from their parents on the Mexican border. Both are forms of self-preservation, but if more revolutionary candidates win their races, the second variety is likely to prevail.

By understanding how the great reversal in New York happened, we can begin to understand what this movement of outsiders might achieve. It could yet change the world.”

www.monbiot.com

 

 

Justice, Jobs, Power

Criminal Justice
Issue: Prison is a failure of humanity and a perversion of justice.

Response: America’s prison population is composed of low-income black and brown people. The unfairness of this exhibits the failure to serve people of color with the destruction of systemic racism in America. It has made 3.1 million Americans unable to vote despite paying their debt to society.  It is wrong, and it will change, just as the documentary 13th will change you, if it hasn’t already.  See Ava DuVernay.

The Brennan Center for Justice produced a report entitled, Criminal Justice: An Election Agenda for Candidates, Activists, and Legislators (here).Will you read this report and will you encourage your constituents, friends and neighbors to subscribe to the Center’s newsletter and join the reform movement?  You can help (see map below).

The Vera Institute is a nonprofit national program for criminal justice reform. Will you support and encourage your constituents, friends and neighbors to become members? On June 13, 2016, NYC’s Criminal Justice Reform Act became law.  Will you demand an evaluation of its progress in NYC? Will you call your state representatives to demand state laws will conform to this initiative?  The Brookings Economic Analysis of Poverty provides a comprehensive overview of the issues affecting the efforts of people to build a more civil society.  Will you read and comment on its content?

Jobs and Power
Issue:
Who are the employers in CD9 that share power with employees in the development of their businesses?

Response: Worker-owned and cooperative small businesses can make a difference. What new local, state and federal tax policies will encourage industry to share profits and prioritize resident employment?  The Murphy Institute (CUNY) started the Community and Worker Ownership Project (CWOP) to support worker-owned cooperatives, economic democracy, and community planning. As CD9 represents many nationalities another excellent source of global action in this area is Worker Control.net.

As residents of a community where job injustice is prevalent do you know or can you find owners of business that can help patronize locally-owned businesses?

Or pick a place to get to  know better.  Here is a location guide:

The person to go to on this to get started is Jeff Coltin, a staff reporter at City & State. He covers New York City Hall. @jccoltin

Urban Change

Many factors are at work, but the heart of the zero progress problem in education and the direct relationship with inequality. For African-Americans, the data shows a gap in college achievement that remains wide. Those with undergraduate degrees are less wealthy than white counterparts, and the chance that both spouses will have undergraduate degrees is lower.

The concentration of poverty is unfair. One of the steps taken was population dispersion under many names – national highways, urban renewal, demonstration cities renamed to model cities, etc. By the mid-seventies, a fragment of local power began to form in defense of those left behind. A nod from the power brokers produced community-based nonprofit development corporations. They would become advocates for people willing to grab at rungs on the ladder and straps on their boots.

Only a little of this is accomplished. Urban blight and deterioration were reduced, and new mechanisms to alter America’s manifest destiny as a “white-thing” acquired a civil rights and “strength through diversity” foothold. A beautifully accurate book that fails to be persuasive (like lots of academic work) says somewhat antiseptically:

“While taking steps to enhance families’ ability to live wherever they choose is essential, attempting to engineer the movement of large numbers of families from specified high-poverty neighborhoods to specified destination neighborhoods should not be a primary policy approach to ending the cycle of multi-generational disadvantage.”

The resilience of investment in the urban redevelopment will require non-displacement policies coupled with durable human capital investments that flatten the barriers to the correction of past wrongs. The physical list is long and easy to draw from lead paint to cheap housing in flood plains under the big heading of environmental racism to the lack of equal protection under the law, the list is short on changes needed in the psychology of human relationships built on ignorant concepts of race. Patrick Sharkey describes much of this in Urban Neighborhoods and the End of Progress toward Racial Equality. Urban policy discussion is excellent following the standard academic style of argument.

The Workplace

Differences in isolation and subtle forms of prejudice make the question of racial discrimination an unsettled scientific matter. Even though subject to indirect methods of measure, American society’s discrimination levels may have decreased over time in dense urban areas, largely because of proximity and shared experiences, workplaces reflecting the city’s diversity, professional sports teams, and packed subway cars, to name a few. In dense areas, opportunities for cultural integration grow and change quickly. The study of change in workplace discrimination against African Americans has been ongoing since 1989, and this work suggests that it has not changed much nationally. The persistence of discrimination in US labor markets is more striking in less dense areas masking progress in a city such as NYC.


Families are institutions with exalted political values. Except in cases of neglect or extreme abuse, parents across the full spectrum of the population and family type have the liberty to set their own bar on parenting quality. This means some families do not know they are not creating a supportive and stimulating home for their kid and more than likely resent it as an accusation. The measure of a child’s chances of cycle-ending success begins with the family through six major resource investments.

The Parenting Society

The link between parenting quality, income, race, education, and action regarding the issues raised tends to be “unclicked” by legislators in preference to the family stereotype. Policymakers, on the other hand, demand specific attention to the full spectrum of family needs. Their studies examine patterns of parenting quality. They also know how to design programs that get to those who might benefit. The projected result is kids on pathways that break the cycle of poverty, overcome the sensitivities of race and become cross-cultural without losing the gratification of their origins. This kind of liberation comes from exceptional educators and fantastic health care experts with unique training and talents. Parents who have a low income, are poorly educated, are African-American, Hispanic, or unmarried and all of the above need the well-paid time of these professionals, and they are not getting it. They are the ones who can disentangle the influence of race from socioeconomic status.

Parenting influences child outcomes, and good programs improve parenting. The proof is in the depth of scholarly articles surrounding the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) using data following participants from 1979 to 2014. Disadvantaged children face complex internal and external threats, so it is a given that policies and investment in professional intervention can eliminate them all on both fronts. Mobility on the social change scale will remain beyond public policy reach without an agreement to this as fact. The graphic illustration above comes from one of those scholarly articles entitled, The Parenting Gap by Richard V. Reeves and Kimberly Howard (here). It examines parenting issues with sampling data and provides an extensive bibliography. The trial of a program (Memphis, TN) integrated health professionals with low-income mothers who rank below the sample median on an index of intelligence, mental health, sense of mastery, and self-efficacy. These are amazing, thoughtful findings, accurate and true, supported with an extraordinary depth of peer-review findings. They are persuasive, but the barriers that create unfairness remain, so the question is why and what is missing in their arguments to produce implementation?

The Money Society

How do you fully understand the return on investment in people and places? The answer is in the free availability of public policy data that shows how private resources combine to meet goals. Public abstractions such as “a more perfect union” or “freedom and justice for all” must prove progress in the public investment realm. Private abstractions such as accelerating the advent of transport with electric cars must also prove to sustain investors.

Data on social mobility continues to disappear from the public record when it becomes private. Without unrestricted data, public goals cannot be accurately developed, stated, or confirmed if accomplished. This leaves only one measure—the success or failure of capital invested in goods that produce returns. The proof of how this endeavor creates a better country in terms of diversity in social mobility remains unknown. When groups of people start decrying the lack of fairness and are unprovable, the measures and tools for proof are hidden or gone. Who has them, and where are they?

Perhaps the best example is how difficult it has been to prove the need for vitality in a reform movement dealing with incarceration, the rates of incarceration, and who is incarcerated. The data calls it out as a pure aberration of justice with a zero chance of a remedy attached. There is a range of problems that ring discrimination when prison populations who cannot vote are used to sustain a rural congressional seat. The continuation of policies that help to assure one-third of the 620,000 people released from prison return.  In this example alone, the great American Apartheid is revealed, and the reform movement has begun.  Another crime in the name of the money society is the failure to collect mortgage data (HMDA plus) and protect consumers from unfair practices that lead to the denial of credit access.  Here again, the federal responsibility to conduct its business in ways that reduce inequality can be ignored by cutting back on the information needed to show progress.

Brookings is one of those “think tanks” considered to be left of center as its focus tends to be the proof of progress in eliminating the failure of American Democracy to assure human dignity and make right its mistakes, especially in how public policy has wrongly damaged the lives of its minority citizens.

Groups conduct these issues described above, like Brookings at the deep end of the pool.  If any reader here wants to make sense of your block, in your neighborhood, and with your neighbors, please do so.  In your blog, link your work or give work to people focused on their Congressional Districts and the city and state representation shared by that district.

Deep end: Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States: An Intergenerational Perspective (PDF) and see the result of poor outcomes for black men. See longer Technical Paper (PDF) and the full Results here.

Affordable Housing

We can dream and have goals, but it is impossible to think things into existence. Direct action is required to be creative. A leader needs parents and friends that believe in action. A leader needs to be interested in exploring new steps and strategies that will end inequality and injustice.

The action takes courage, ideas, funding, and time. Suppose you would like more of that in the Ninth Congressional District (Map). We are everyone who reads this to share their personal experience, ideas, and actions in response to the issues and responses on housing.

Report on Hot Buttons

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, Table B25070 (2005-2016); retrieved from American Census.

The map shows the percentage of renter households who spend 50% or more of their income on rent.  In the CD9 area, this represents 27% to 35% of households as Rent Burdened.  It is unaffordable, with over 30% of household income. 

Housing Networks

The housing expertise in New York City represents an extraordinary depth of staff, from its network of neighborhood organizations to the extensive analytical prowess of national offices. So why are they failing?

Brooklyn’s nonprofit community development corporations and others have decades of experience in preserving and developing housing throughout the city. However, this resource faces a variety of new challenges in the prevention of displacement. To succeed,  they will need a far more sophisticated network for sharing housing innovations and achieving political change.  Not doing is why they face catastrophic failure. Just one example: The Trump Administration proposed an $8.8 billion cut in funds serving a low-and moderate-income community (an 18.3% reduction)in FY 2019 Budget. Will opposition to this proposal succeed? No, not until the 2020 loss.

The primary asset forged from the grassroots up coupled with the ability to serve short-term needs while producing long-term solutions. Regardless of the “feeding-hand” problem that publicly funded organizations confront, the congressional delegation of New York City will still be the first in the nation to fully understand the subtle waves of displacement aimed at the vulnerable but working members of their community. The question becomes will they lose their self-respect if they do not resist these forces with every talent they possess? The maps that follow attempt to visualize a Brooklyn Housing and Community Development Summit membership that will ask and answer just one question.  What information do community-based organizations need to share in building a more comprehensive and progressive community development strategy?

On the map below, CAMBA illustrates the ability to see people in real places before data.  The services represented by this map also visualize the importance of a comprehensive approach to community development in the context of the Ninth Congressional District and its immediate surroundings. Have a look, and for more detail, click (here).  This process is replicable for all geo-filters from Census Tracts to city and state political districts.

Global Density

Add fees on Amazon books below will be assigned to our effort. This one brings the lessons of the explosive structure of density from observers along the Pacific Rim. Comments regarding content are appreciated.

Evacuation

Don’t run, just know where to go.
The zones vary

Most observers know from experience that the low cost of land and lower population densities occur from the center of their nearest large city outwards in a pattern of uses best described as the fragments of leapfrog development. They also knew they live in one of those fragments, and protecting its value is important. The link below reveals an image depicting evacuation zones based on extreme weather threats in a dense urban setting. However, the fragments of safe locations remain unclear.

Hurricane Evacuation Zones and Evacuation Centers 

The urban world is clearly observable as uncontainable. The image above can stretch to every coast south. Like most things that grow and behave this way, they begin and end, grow and decay. Nothing shows how wasteful urban development is like big storms and fires.

Natural systems that react to storms and fires leave nothing behind that does not have a use in the renewal of the larger system. The detritus of urban decay is not an abnormality or malfunction without use or function; however, corporations such as Waste Management (WM) do not fill critical observers with confidence. The best yet sad statistical example is in WM’s 2106 Sustainability Report that suggests a 36% waste recovery rate (see: Video below).

“Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value.” R. Buckminster Fuller

On the other hand, if the city is a container with firm geography, bounded like a water bottle or one of WM’s containers, it defines its users. Accordingly, it will develop to assimilate severe challenges, but not without a preset of physical parameters. Whether water, waste, or something else, if not organized for use in a container of some kind, some remain unknown. Of necessity, the city must become renewable as a whole with reusable components.

One of the people working on getting from the unknown to the known is Michael Storper, author of Keys to the City. He is an economic geographer contributing to our understanding of urban life. He separates “growth” from “economic development” using quality of life and standard of living measures such as real per capita income (nationally), distribution of revenue (locally), and social structures as they attach to income levels nationally and locally.

Storper’s data-rich keys are from highly urbanized places in the United States and Great Britain. The information reveals combinations of urban structures that describe the impact of innovation, agglomeration, or clustering that produce stable urban economies that also offer amenities (e.g., schools, tolerant neighbors, recreation, mobility) to produce choices. Some come with hard economic data for analysis about the softer measures of preference. An obvious top preference is affordable housing in urban areas. In NYC, inclusionary housing loans and square foot zoning bonus rules produce housing for low- and moderate-income households for occupation in the same building and market alongside high-income families.

Two families of three, one earning $63,000 and another $280,000 (2017), will have rent they can afford in the apartments of a multi-family building in a city and neighborhood where both households’ skills are interconnected (See ELLA and Inclusionary Zoning). Using a thirty percent of household income as a measure of affordability, one rent would be around $1,500/month, and the other would be $7,700/month. Arguments examining the drawbacks and benefits of this arrangement are ubiquitous in the urban sociological and economic literature. No matter the depth of each argument, the designers of the containers, define the contents.

Innovations such as inclusionary zoning and similar programs push standard market forces toward choice with civility in a workable urban proximity. Stroper’s observations regarding this kind of urban development identify regional land use patterns as “territorially unequal” exhibiting two types of inequality. The first is that urbanization is itself a form of extreme unevenness: it packs people, firms, information, and wealth into small territories.” It also concentrates poverty, many types of physical deterioration, and social inequality.

Both empirical and statistical evidence of social fragmentation and economic displacement recurs with routine persistence. In the case where low- and moderate-income households live successfully “next door” to higher income households who help assure stable economic settings is a product of policy. The housing market is a “teacher”, but in the experience of a lightly contained city such as New York, it takes far too long to recognize and separate the right lessons from the wrong.

Stroper’s second type of unevenness in urban development is statistically observable over thirty to forty years. Individual metropolitan regions throughout the world undergo considerable turbulence in their fates, rising and falling in the income ranks, and gaining or loosing population at different rates. None of this is bad. Ever since the invention of capital, this behavior is the world’s most successful development process. Trial and error, up and down, back and forth, here or there is how the world works. Stopping the human part if it is stupid and besides, it is not doable. Turning the earth into a machine is well underway. The application of conservation of energy rules, on the other hand, says there is no way to isolate the energy of a machine system. While theoretically possible, conserving energy within a machine is not possible. In short, it stops.

Infra-What?

Infrastructure investment in the United States is approaching a classic “line in the sand.” One side of the line, federal legislators believe big-ticket investments can only be triggered by the unspoken policy of “catastrophic resolution.” On the other side, legislators stand with, “whatever my constituents want and need” as if they had other leaders.  The former is a vague plan for entering the tunnel, the latter is the source of most of the tunnel vision in the world.

RLC

  • The pessimist sees the darkness in the tunnel.
  • The optimist sees a light at the end of it
  • The realist sees that light is a train.
  • The train conductor sees 3 fools on the tracks

Here is an example, NYC there are several 50- to 100-year-old subway tunnels. If one crumbles, it could cripple a small portion of the northeast economy for a decade and require a heroic response. In less dense areas in comparison, support for rebuilding failing highways to struggling big-box shopping malls is not the way to go but can keep voters happy, or less discontent. Politically, this is the kind of win/win ‘ do-it-anyway concept deemed the “earmark” remains acceptable in legislative quarters and they are tragic failures of policy.

In this form of federal leadership, infrastructure failures of any kind also have to get to a critical mass of some definition. It might be horrifying deaths or vast losses in general revenue due to a breakdown in goods transportation, building code enforcement, unstoppable forest fires, or floods. The central issue is the lack of a classification to designate a line in the sand condition.  This is the pornography of public policy – they only know it when they see it.

In Your Face

A grant from the National Resource Defense Foundation (NRDC) brought a video to the public in 2014 that sums up decades of advocacy by Joe Minicozzi of Urban3).  Take a moment to watch it.

There you have it, a basic set of facts about why density works. Getting leadership from local to federal to get it to work is the real problem. Without a policy toward a dense urban metropolitan framework over three-quarters of the American landscape is in peril.

Why?

A large group of urban developers from the general advocates of public well-being have solutions as environmentalists, scientists, architects, urban planners, real estate developers, and community organizers have solutions.  The first one is to eliminate the vague notion of what a city is and make the building of them a real issue.

Surging Tides and the Rising Seas

Will limiting development in a flood zone community improve resiliency? Not if it floods. Nevertheless, reducing the number of people displaced by major flooding, high tide events like Hurricane Sandy (October 2012) makes limiting growth a reasonable measure of resilience. Another measure is an improvement in estimates of “damage reduction” provisions for all the folks who refuse to leave the zone or take a buyout. Here are two examples.


East Shore Special Coastal Risk District, Staten Is. (N 170374 ZRR; C 170373 ZMR

Single-family housing districts in large low-lying coastal areas in New York City are addressing the reduced impact measure of resilience with special districts initially proposed August 9, 2107. The Staten Island special district is roughly four square miles and addresses the surge area impact of Sandy’s 2012 super hurricane The district will allow new single-family development and the elevation of existing buildings. In this sense, the rezoning by a special district is also a challenge aimed at better design concepts.

Zones are toothless if the danger is short-term. We shall see.

Hudson Yard Development plans are well known along the waterfront, but the question of growth goes in the opposite direction given the image above. The area affected by various water influx zones will change as atmospheric data sets change to predict areas of impact.

Similarly, the area now subject to the East Shore Special District can be examined using the map below. Zone 1 is most likely to flood to Zone 6 as least likely. Remaining aware of the variables associated with storm surge, sea rise, wind and rain remain the responsibility of the property owner and insurers.

Source: https://project.wnyc.org/hurricane-zones/

Rethink School

Rethinking School 
This NPR/TED “radio podcast” was released August 11, 2017, for parents and educators on concepts in education.  The lead in reads:
“For most of modern history, humans have placed smaller humans in institutions called schools. But what parts of this model still work?  What needs to change.” 

Apparently a lot...TED has a vast collection of short presentations by educators.  NPR’s TED Radio Hour introduces those that prompt system changes and if it interests you, you can go to the whole TED presentation.

TED has a vast collection of short presentations educators.  The NPR role introduces those that prompt change and if it interests you, you can see the whole TED presentation.

The first interview with Tyler Dewitt on science education and when he got a damning critique from a young student, he changed his style as an educator by working to de-formalize learning.  He is a strong over-the-top style that cannot be duplicated.  What can be duplicated is the idea that a teacher is free to try new things.

The interview with Sal Kahn about how Kahn Academy got started and how it works as a tool that teachers can adapt to their curriculum and focus on what the student understands as opposed to the what is in the book or likely in a test.

The other interviews introduce Andreas Schleicher who wreviews some European models and Linda Cliatt-Wayman a school principal describes her “So what? Now what?” experience in schools where the majority of students are in poverty.

Create 2,000 Dense Places

I have a plan for 2,000 dense urban places, with 20,000 people each connected to high-speed communication systems. Each is an urban core offering specific opportunities for unlimited growth in a limited area. If they do not alter their boundary until 2160, I will give each one of them $20 billion dollars today over and above existing federal fund commitments.

Rex L. Curry

Imagine the nation re-designed in this way. Could it become 2,000 places with 2-10 million each, limited in land area, but not in growth, worldwide? All those left outside of the bonus core, say an average of 400 locations per state would become stewards of growth and all those outside protectors of the environment and wild place caretakers. These areas would have a few hundred people per square mile, a bonus in its own right includes ease of access to the specialized services of the bonus core. This solution will happen. It is the answer to every problem that would end the disordered, sloppy, and inefficient phases of urban development that plague the earth. The right question is how do we get there?

Infrastructure investment in the United States is approaching a classic line in the sand of public policy. On one side of the line, federal legislators support a policy called “catastrophic resolution.” especially if their eye is on eventually paying for a big-ticket investment that actually offered a big return. On the other side of the line, legislators stand for “whatever my constituents want and need,” leaving only a thing called the “debt ceiling” problem. The former see 100-year-old tunnels that, if they crumble, cripples the northeast economy for a decade. The latter will support rebuilding roads and highways, leading to failing big-box shopping malls.

In this form of federal leadership, infrastructure failures of any kind need a critical mass definition of crossing the line. How many horrifying (or just ordinary) deaths cross the line? What is the national dollar amount tallied up in general revenue losses due to a breakdown in transportation or unstoppable forest fires or floods? The thing is, no one knows, and no one will classify or designate a line condition. This is the pornography of public policy – they will know it when they see it.

A grant from the National Resource Defense Foundation (NRDC) brought a video to the public in 2014 that sums up one element of advocacy by Joe Minicozzi of Urban3 that guarantees $20 billion as a solid investment in America. Take a moment to watch it.

There you have it, a basic set of economic facts about why density works. Similar snippets support ideas about building a better federal leadership lever, others describe the power of diversity, and still, others offer new concepts of growth. These ideas are worth debate and analysis and tossed to the wind because the American landscape has a seriously undefined problem. It can regularly absorb substantial damage levels, and no one seems to have a line on how much damage might be too much.

The Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) keeps the data for the world. Much of it is made available freely, but short of making some “end of days” speech, there is no line drawn that will change the trend in the general direction of trouble.  Below is a brief example of just four kinds of trouble.

Define and solve catastrophic resolution problems beginning with CRED data, and there may be a pathway for building a viable urban America that becomes resilient, and with some luck, sustainable.  There is one other table, and it looks at U.S. Federal Disaster Declarations in the same period below.  The trend is as real as it can get.  What needs to be added is a number in lives and dollars.


Source: U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Disaster Declarations by Year” (www.fema.gov/disasters/grid/year). Accessed 6 February 2015.

So now what?

I am developing a list drawn from the general advocates of public well-being. It will include some of the specifics offered by environmentalists, revolutionaries, scientists, architects, urban planners, all kinds of real estate developers, community organizers, and political scientists.

Practically everyone lives in an urban area and practically all those who do not feel urbanized see their world threatened by urbanization.  Both share a vague notion of what cities must become, and that is the central issue because creating a clear vision for one means will save the other.

Facts for why 2,000 dense and well-contained urban centers will be needed will become very apparent, very soon.  These metrics can be trusted, and if that can be made to occur and recur, that will lead to a sense of shared control.  A language that will communicate based on these facts will find people from the feds on down and our roots on up.  If this communication occurs, the proof will be whether or not we as a nation will be persuaded to pony up the 20 billion of each urban core.

What is the language needed?

Subtle, conditional messages are not effective.

Ninth Congressional District

Yvette D Clarke (D-NY) ranks 381st in the House with an estimated net worth of $115,502 in 2014.  (More Recent)

CD9 is super important because the average net worth in the U.S. House of Representatives is over $6 million (2014). Nevertheless, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Yvette D. Clarke received 82% her of campaign contributions ($537,295) from outside district. (Rank: 206 out of 421.), and she received 32% of campaign contributions ($211,772) from outside state. Over her career, for Responsive Politics)

Draft for Comment and Selection of Research Roles

Congressional Districts in dense urban environments do not sit in a vacuum easily separated from other neighborhoods, especially in NYC, and even more so in Brooklyn. The following litmus-test issues are important, but there is a larger issue.  How do we recognize the power available to our congressperson and strengthen it if necessary? Second, what is the overall political power of NYC and NYS congressional delegation in the U.S. Congress? Here are five main issues to consider:

  1. Immigration Reform
  2. Affordable Care Act (gov) (County Health Indicators)
  3. Broadband Policy (franchise accountability and capital investments)
  4. Coastal Flooding, Extreme Weather Resilience, and Global Warming
  5. Homelessness Crisis, Supportive and Affordable Housing and the role of HUD in NYC

Government services build through the committee positions held by elected officials that is reviewed below and demands long tenures. Congressional District’s are won or lost on two issues — Jobs and Taxation. Tenure for a Ninth Congressional representative is threatened by the top two.

Based on American Community Survey Data 2015: Congressional District Nine earns over $4.5 billion in annual payroll, but over half of it is from health care and social services. The total 2015 annual payroll for the district is $4.5 billion and $2.4 billion comes from the provision of health care and social assistance.

Immigration reform (aka family disruption) threatens the well-being and employment of low- and moderate-income wage earners. This is the exact opposite of what people believe. Worse still, cuts in Medicaid and the gutting of the Affordable Care Act (that can be fixed) means significant job losses in the Ninth.

The Republican opposition design is complicated (e.g. the Faso and Collins upstate play is part of a national attack on Dem govs.), but for our district, the assault on Medicaid alone threatens the jobs and well-being of Brooklyn families in a very serious way. The Downstate medical campus (Winthrop/Clarkson) already face serious institutional deficits, but the issue is broader than that employment base alone.

Will our the NY Congressional delegation influence, authorize and allocate? Can they clarify these issues and resolve problems? How much time do they need? They must stand for NYC and NYS first, and only after that argue the positions of their respective political party. To this end,  an intense focus on CD9 first and then the NYC delegation as a whole to evaluate their effectiveness regarding specific concerns affecting the economic health, well-being, and diversity of urban life in NYC.

To begin, an examination of District 9 and the participation the NY Delegation’s committee assignments will be the first primary task.  These committees respond to the development of legislation that can expand or reduce the government’s role in your life and after that, in the authorization and future allocation of public resources.

Please review the following for the NYC locus of power in the House of Representatives committee structure.  Below are Evette Clarke’s assignments in the House. Pick an area of research that interests you and begins a fact-finding mission. Share this interest for coordination with other teams of Indivisible 9th as our communications protocol develops.

Be concrete and limit data to facts. These are names, places, dates, times, and other numbers. An idea can be concrete only if named individuals are accredited.

Yvette Clark’s Committees and Subcommittees

The following is aimed at developing a Research Group

Energy and Commerce Committee

Energy and Commerce are the oldest standing legislative committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Committee is vested with jurisdiction over matters relating to healthcare, energy, consumer safety, telecommunications, and trade.

  • Subcommittee on Communications and Technology
    • This subcommittee reviews electronic communications, both Interstate and foreign, including voice, video, audio, and data, whether transmitted by wire or wirelessly, and whether transmitted by telecommunications, commercial or private mobile service, broadcast, cable, satellite, microwave, or other mode; technology generally; emergency and public safety communications. The primary concern is cybersecurity, privacy, and data security. The main agencies are the Federal Communications Commission, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Office of Emergency Communications in the Department of Homeland Security; and all aspects of the above-referenced jurisdiction related to the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Subcommittee on Energy
    • This subcommittee examines national energy policy; fossil energy; renewable energy; nuclear energy; nuclear facilities. The main agencies are the Department of Energy; the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. A primary concern is the use of synthetic and alternative fuels; energy conservation; energy information; utility issues; interstate energy compacts; energy generation, marketing, reliability, transmission, siting, exploration, production, efficiency, cybersecurity, and rate making for all generated power; and pipelines. This committee is responsible for the laws, programs, and government activities affecting energy matters and its jurisdiction as they relate to the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
    • The committee’s responsibility is to conduct the evaluation of agencies, departments, and programs related to the jurisdiction of the full committee on oversight and investigations.
  • Subcommittee on Health
    • This committee’s primary concern is with issues related to public health and quarantine, drug abuse, hospital construction; mental health; biomedical research, and health information technology. The main concern is privacy, and cybersecurity; public health insurance (Medicare, Medicaid) and private health insurance, including medical malpractice and malpractice insurance. The regulation of food, drugs, and cosmetics is also a prime responsibility. The main agencies are the Department of Health and Human Services; the National Institutes of Health; the Centers for Disease Control; Indian Health Service; and all aspects of the above-referenced jurisdiction related to the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Subcommittee on Environment
    • This committee examines all matters related to soil, air, and water contamination, including Superfund and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The primary concern is the regulation of solid, hazardous, and nuclear wastes, including mining, nuclear, oil, gas, and coal combustion waste. The authorizations derive from the Clean Air Act on air emissions.  The nation’s emergency environmental response in industrial plant security, including cybersecurity; the regulation of drinking water (Safe Drinking Water Act), including underground injection of fluids (e.g., deep well injection or hydro-fracking). The regulation of toxic substances (Toxic Substances Control Act) including noise; and all aspects of the above-referenced jurisdiction related to the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection
    • Interstate and foreign commerce, including all trade matters within the jurisdiction of the full committee; regulation of commercial practices (the Federal Trade Commission), including sports-related matters; consumer affairs and consumer protection, including privacy matters generally; data security; consumer product safety (the Consumer Product Safety Commission); product liability; motor vehicle safety; and regulation of travel, tourism, and time.

Small Business Committee

Initially a “select committee” it a became permanent standing committee in 1975, the House members granted legislative jurisdiction and oversight to protect and assist small businesses. The Committee has jurisdiction over matters related to small business financial aid, regulatory flexibility, and paperwork reduction. Additionally, the House Small Business Committee has legislative authority over the Small Business Administration (SBA) and its programs.

  • Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy, and Trade
    • The committee addresses policies that enhance rural economic growth, increasing America’s energy independence as focused on how well small businesses can compete effectively in a global marketplace. There are five oversight responsibilities 1) on all agricultural policies, 2) on environmental issues and regulations (including agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers), 3, regarding energy issues, including expansion of domestic resources whether they are renewable or non-renewable. The remaining concerns regard international trade policy with particular emphasis on agencies that provide direct assistance to small businesses. The main bodies are the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) the Office of International Trade, the Department of Commerce’s United States Export Assistance Centers, the Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, and the Export-Import Bank. Oversight of infringement of intellectual property rights by foreign competition is also a major concern.
  • Subcommittee on Health and Technology
    • The committee addresses how healthcare policies may inhibit or promote economic growth and job creation by small businesses. Members examine small business job growth through the creation and adoption of advanced technologies. Oversight includes implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Maintaining the availability and affordability of health care coverage for small businesses is a top concern. The committee examines general technology issues, including intellectual property policy in the United States, telecommunications policies including, but not limited to, the National Broadband Plan and allocation of electromagnetic spectrum. The Small Business Innovation Research Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program are the main implementation resources
  • Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access
    • This committee evaluates the operation of the financial markets in the United States and their ability to provide capital to small businesses. It reviews federal programs, overseen by the SBA. The impact of federal tax policies on small businesses requires oversight of capital access and financial markets and the Implementation and revision of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. All SBA financial assistance programs, including guaranteed loans, microloans, certified development company loans, and small business investment companies are its central concern, including the Department of Agriculture business and industry guaranteed loan program. The management of the SBA disaster loan program is included in its oversight responsibilities.
  • Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight, and Regulations
    • This committee examines the operation of government programs that affect small businesses, including the SBA. It creates proposals to improve cost-effectiveness, and it reviews the regulatory burdens and how they may be alleviated. Oversight includes all issues affecting small businesses and federal agencies, the management of the SBA, and the SBA’s Inspector General. It oversees the implementation of the Regulatory Flexibility Act and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget. It uses the Congressional Review Act. It calls for transparency of the federal rulemaking process as required by the Administrative Procedure and Data Quality Acts and supports the implementation of the Paperwork Reduction Act.
    • Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce
      • This committee assesses the federal procurement system, including the participation of small businesses in providing goods and services to the federal government. The committee examines technical assistance services to small businesses in general and reviews the broad scope of workforce issues that affect the ability of small businesses to obtain and maintain qualified employees. Oversight includes government-wide procurement practices and policies that inhibit or expand participation by small businesses in the federal contracting marketplace. All contracting programs established by the Small Business Act, including HUBZone, 8(a), Women-, and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Programs. Technical assistance through SBA personnel as it involves the Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, and Procurement Technical Assistance Centers The committee also oversees the SBA Surety Bond Guarantee program all federal policies that affect the workforce including, but not limited to, the roles of the Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board. The SBA’s entrepreneurial development and technical assistance programs unrelated to participation in the federal government contracting is of equal interest.

Ethics Committee 5R 4D

The Committee on Ethics derives from authority granted under House Rules and federal statutes. Various authorizing rules govern the scope of the Committee’s role, and laws  see: http://ethics.house.gov/search/node/jurisdiction

  • There are no subcommittees

Other Areas of Interest to RESEARCH

Yvette Clarke is also involved with
Congressional Progressive Caucus  https://cpc-grijalva.house.gov
Congressional Black Caucus http://www.cbcfinc.org

Evaluating the State of Congressional District Nine

It is reasonable for Indivisible Ninth to provide our representatives with supports of every kind.  RESEARCH if Indivisible Ninth can imagine strengthening the position of Evette Clarke in the U.S. Congress in a variety of ways. Our goal is to do so until it becomes necessary or apparent for us not do so. That is our right as voters.

We also recognize that representing the Ninth Congressional District and the community is a family tradition of the Clarke family.  Yvette’s mother, Una Clark is a Former NYC Councilmember, 40th District, Brooklyn, New York, and in June 2015, Major Bill DeBlasio appointed Mrs. Clarke to the Board of Trustees of the City University of New York (CUNY), an institution that breaks down barriers and glass ceilings with great success.

A goal of Indivisible Ninth is to assure it reflects in its membership the people of this district based on what they know is right outside their front door and what they feel in their hearts as voters.  The Indivisible Ninth membership sees its diversity as one of the great powers of NYC that must be respected, whether we citizens or not, whether native or foreign-born, of any racial or ethnic origin that we care to describe ourselves.  We will stand as one and make our views known to one another.

See on the demography of CD9 for details.  In brief, CD9 has over 750,000 people. Name a country; we have people from there.  Our West Indian population is our largest, our Congressperson, Yvette Clarke has Jamaican roots. District Nine has a growing population from the Middle East and Latin America.  We are old and young, white, brown and black and we like it that way. We will fight to keep our diversity with every resource at our command.