Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

More need for redundancy/"hardening" in the DC area rail transit system: Amtrak's temporary shutdown of service south of DC

The previous entry, "Not sure what to think about WMATA station closures ... and the National Mall," discusses how Metrorail shut down a number of key transfer stations in the Metrorail subway station, crippling its functioning as an everyday transit system. 

As part of anti-insurrection defense of the Inauguration of President Biden, Amtrak shut down through services between DC and Virginia on January 20th and 21st, while Virginia Railway Express (VRE) shut down service 1/18 to 1/20 ("Amtrak, VRE, DC Metro alter operations in advance of inauguration," Trains Magazine).

This suggests that there should be expanded thinking about how to go about maintaining such connections even in the face of other infrastructure shutdowns.

Rail-subway connection redundancy in DC.  The previous entry also mentioned some discussion that came up in the ad hoc advisory committee on the DC State Rail Plan ("New State Rail Planning Initiative in DC," 2015; DC State Rail Plan), where we discussed adding rail connections to subway stations in DC, to provide additional connections to the MARC passenger rail system, if for some reason Union Station is shut down.

Currently, all three MARC lines terminate at Union Station, without additional station stops within DC.  MARC's Brunswick Line has a station stop in Silver Spring, not far from the DC line, while the closest Camden Line stop is in Riverdale Maryland, and for the Penn Line, New Carrollton. VRE by contrast, also has a connection at L'Enfant Plaza.

In those State Rail planning discussions, one example was making a connection at the Fort Totten Station for the MARC Brunswick Line, which would provide a new direction connection to the Green and Yellow Lines, but also a Red Line connection independent of Union Station.  

A Camden/Penn Line station could be added to the New York Avenue corridor, but it would be without a subway connection.

And of course the ongoing discussions to extend MARC to Crystal City and Alexandria, although I argue for merging the MARC Penn and VRE Fredericksburg Lines into a single, integrated service.


One added benefit would be to provide better connections to Crystal City (now called National Landing) to provide better connections to the new Amazon HQ2, as well as better rail connections to National Airport from both north and south.


A Southeast Rail Corridor to complement and extend the Northeast Rail Corridor.  The Northeast Rail Corridor is built on the Pennsylvania Railroad connections between DC and New York and the old New Haven Railroad's connections between New York and Boston.


Another element in the DC State Rail Plan discussions then was how you could look at the Northeast Corridor of Amtrak, and Virginia's concept to extend the terminus so to speak, south to Richmond, by upgrading the tracks and Long Bridge.

Virginia is foremost focused on upgrading existing trackage between DC and Virginia, and secondarily extending high capacity trackage from Richmond southeast to Hampton Roads and south to Raleigh, North Carolina.  In turn North Carolina Department of Transportation is focused on extension not just to Raleigh but Charlotte.


These extensions would contribute to the creation of a Southeast high speed rail corridor complementing the Northeast Corridor, conceptualized as an extension of the existing rail assets. 



Brightline private passenger railroad program in Florida.  Plus, all the more reason to step up this planning given the expansion of the Brightline rail project in Florida, which will connect Miami to Orlando and Tampa ("Brightline plans to create high-speed passenger rail lines connecting Orlando to Miami — here's how," Orlando Weekly), and could theoretically be extended to Jacksonville ("Virgin Trains expands in Florida. Will it ever reach Jacksonville?," Sarasota Herald-Tribune) where it could connect to the proposed terminus of the proposed Southeast Corridor

DC and Virginia are connected by the Long Bridge.  
There is an ongoing program to renovate the Long Bridge which provides rail connections between Union Station and Virginia.

The Long Bridge is owned by CSX, which because the freight rail capacity of the bridge is adequate to their needs, has no interest in expanding the capacity of the bridge to accommodate passenger rail service.

Therefore, Virginia has taken responsibility for bridge expansion, as part of their rail initiatives under the Atlantic Gateway program.  

They did this because of its importance to the realization of a wide range of state rail rail initiatives.  Last year they also purchased from CSX hundreds of miles of railroad trackage, to be able to expand passenger rail service throughout the state ("Virginia to build Long Bridge and acquire CSX right of way to expand passenger train serviceirginia to build Long Bridge and acquire CSX right of way to expand passenger train service," Washington Post).

Concerning the Long Bridge, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association has advocated for including a bike/pedestrian connection on an expanded Long Bridge.  And I advocated for bus transit lanes, to provide redundancy in case the 14th Street Bridge is closed or incapacitated ("Tilikum Crossing Bridge as a model for the DC-Virginia Long Bridge Expansion Project," 2018).

The recent bridge closures in advance of the Inauguration demonstrates this is worth considering, as well as shifting from a bridge to a tunnel connection between DC and Virginia for regional and multi-state rail passenger services.

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Thursday, January 14, 2021

Not sure what to think about WMATA station closures ... and the National Mall

This guide to how to use the Metrorail system was published in advance of the system opening, and was an advertising supplement in the Washington Star, 3/21/1976.

In the wake of the threat of violence around the Inauguration, WMATA, the heavy rail operator in the Washington metropolitan area, has announced the rolling closure of stations starting later this week ("Metro to close 13 stations for a week amid threats of inauguration violence," Washington Post).

From the article:

Stations closing on Friday include: Farragut North, Judiciary Square and Union Station on the Red Line; Archives on the Green and Yellow lines; Arlington Cemetery on the Blue Line; Farragut West, McPherson Square, Federal Center SW, Capitol South, Smithsonian and Federal Triangle on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. 

 Stations closing Saturday are Metro Center and Gallery Place, two of the largest transfer stations.

Now they've always closed some stations for the Inauguration because of crowd control or their location within the security perimeter.

But closing Union Station, which connects to regional passenger rail services, and Metro Center and Gallery Place, the two biggest transfer stations in the system, renders much of the system useless.

At the very least, free shuttle buses should be provided from Union Station to aid rail riders in connecting to the Metrorail system, to be able to complete their trip.

And it also demonstrates the need to have more rail station redundancy within DC to provide opportunities to connect to the MARC and VRE services apart from Union Station (on the Penn Line you can connect at New Carrollton to the Orange Line, on the Camden Line you can connect at Greenbelt and College Park, and on the Brunswick Line you can connect at Silver Spring).

VRE does have an additional train station link within the city at L'Enfant Plaza.  Merging the MARC Penn Line and the MARC Fredericksburg Line is one way to provide more station redundancy and inter-connection ("A new backbone for the regional transit system: merging the MARC Penn and VRE Fredericksburg Lines").  Adding a connection to the MARC Brunswick Line at Fort Totten would connect it to the Green Line independent of the Red Line, and is a reason to do so even though there is a Red Line connection at Silver Spring.  

... when I was in Liverpool a couple years ago, I was constantly surprised by the number of security personnel in the train stations in the core.  It seemed like more than one dozen people (some of the LA Metro transfer stations seem to have lots of police very visible too.)

I figured it was to give people confidence, that maybe they were afraid of the city.

It's hard to believe that when designing the Metrorail system back in the 1960s, they should have been thinking about designing "hardness" into the stations to be able to ward off insurrection.

Ironically, after the last couple Inaugurations, I argued that it was a good way to stress test the system ("The subway and the inauguration," 2009) and that they should make Metrorail transit free for that day ("Should transit on Inauguration Day be free?," 2013, 2016), as a crowd control measure.

The first Obama Inauguration in 2009 was probably the absolute peak of success for WMATA, with more than one million subway riders that day--and it was about 6 months before the terrible crash at Fort Totten which killed nine people.

National Mall Closure.  Since the WMATA announcement, it has also been announced that the National Mall will be closed to the public for the Inauguration also ("Entire National Mall to close on Inauguration Day," Post).

Normally (pre-covid) there was always National Mall access control on Inauguration Day.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

I didn't realize Blair Kamin retired as architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune

Blair Kamin received the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism and the webpage includes a number of his articles including a 1998 series on public space issues concerning the Chicago waterfront.

He's retiring from the Chicago Tribune "Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin reflects on 28 years of reviewing Chicago’s wonders and blunders, and why such coverage should continue," taking a buyout from the company's venture capital owners ("Chicago Tribune's Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic exits," Crain's Chicago Business).

From the article: 

Whether or not you agreed with what I wrote was never the point. My aim was to open your eyes to, and raise your expectations for, the inescapable art of architecture, which does more than any other art to shape how we live. 

So I treated buildings not simply as architectural objects or technological marvels, but also as vessels of human possibility. Above all, my role was to serve as a watchdog, unafraid to bark — and, if necessary, bite — when developers and architects schemed to wreak havoc on the cityscape. 

This was a conversation between you and me, the critic and the readers, and I was often inspired by how you responded. 

Some of you engaged me to talk architecture at spots ranging from the Art Institute to the Belmont Avenue “L” station to O’Hare’s security gates. Many of you wrote letters and emails to express how much you appreciate that the Tribune remains one of the few American newspapers that still covers architecture on a regular basis.

About 20 years ago, when I first started getting involved earnestly in local civic affairs, in particular urban revitalization, newspapers weren't quite the basket case they are now although it was on the horizon, and many newspapers had architecture and/or urban design critics writing weekly or more frequently, along with business beat writers covering development and real estate, art critics writing about museums and culture, and too rarely, good writers on the transportation beat.



I owe a debt to those many writers, including Robert Campbell at the Boston Globe, Blair Kamin at the Chicago Tribune, Whitney Gould at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (deceased), Christopher Hume at the Toronto Star, John King at the San Francisco Chronicle and Inga Saffron at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Edwin Heathcote at the Financial Times , Ed Gunts at the Baltimore Sun, (I wasn't enamored of Benjamin Forgey at the Washington Post), Christopher Hawthorne (now working for the City of Los Angeles) and Christopher Knight at the Los Angeles Times, Steve Litt of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, various writers at the Toronto Globe and Mail, Ada Louise Huxtable (deceased) and Michael Lewis at the Wall Street Journal, and others, for helping to educate me about architecture, urban design, cities, and culture.  

-- "Robert Campbell and Inga Saffron win Vincent Scully Prize for architectural criticism," Boston Globe

Similarly, even though it was many years before I put my toe in the water and got involved, in the late 1980s and into the early 1990s, I read the urban design columns by Mark Jenkins in the Washington City Paper.  It helped prepare me for later.

On the architecture and urban design side, Campbell, King, Lewis, Litt and Saffron are still writing.  

Most of them are not, and when they retired in most cases, they weren't replaced. 

This is a great loss for communities, because these writers and coverage of architecture and urban design helps to raise the bar for quality, and attention to how real estate development works, and provides people with a vocabulary they can use when interacting with elected and appointed officials and their fellow citizens.

The Post's Philip Kennicott writes about architecture and the arts--this is the most recent, "Trump decreed that we should worship classical architecture. Then his supporters defiled the Capitol," but not multiple times per week the way that Blair Kamin did or John King, Steven Litt, and Inga Saffron do.

-- 

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The hypocrisy of Republican calls for "reconcilation"

 After the insurrection, Republicans are criticizing Democrats for pursuing impeachment of President Trump, instead calling for "national unity."

They don't want unity, they want the continuation of lack of accountability.

If they want unity, rather than calling for b.s. commissions to study problems that they've created (a majority of Republicans don't believe the November election was fair, because Republican elected officials and other stakeholders, starting with Trump, said it wasn't, without any evidence to back up their allegations) they should propose serious initiatives to demonstrate their good faith.

The Post's Jennifer Rubin had some ideas ("Republicans want reconciliation. Here’s what they need to do first."), and in response I listed some more:

+ Many Republicans in addition to Kevin McCarthy should resign to demonstrate their good faith commitment to healing and unity and to acknowledge their culpability in Trump's insurrection.

+ Republicans should introduce a Constitutional Amendment to eliminate the Electoral College and make the popular vote the sole determination of election for president.  After all, winning the popular vote is the most direct and clearest definition of winning.

+ Introduce legislation to require independent reviews before Presidential pardons can be granted, especially in cases involving the president.

+ Introduce legislation making it clear that sitting Presidents can be indicted for criminal acts.

+ Fox television station licenses should be challenged because parent Fox demonstrates with their management of cable channels an unwillingness to broadcast truth.  (The example is how RKO lost television and radio licenses after illegal acts and failure to be honest with the FCC.  "RKO loses Boston station," New York Times, "RKO Faces Loss of 14 Radio and TV Station Licenses," AP)  Note that in the UK, Murdoch's improper acts at newspapers led to the company being deemed unfit in their application to take full control of British Sky Broadcasting ("," Rupert Murdoch not fit to run a major company, British panel says," Washington Post).

+ same for Sinclair in the way they manipulate news coverage in a systematic way across their network of stations that are primary providers of "local" television news for hundreds of stations across the country ("Sinclair Made Dozens of Local News Anchors Recite the Same Script," New York Times, "How America's Largest Local TV Owner Turned Its News Anchors Into Soldiers In Trump's War On The Media," Deadspin).

+ Give DC control of its National Guard.

+ Support Statehood for DC and Puerto Rico to help address the rural small state imbalance of the Senate.

+ Introduce legislation to add 100 seats to the US House of Representatives.

+ acknowledgement of antidemocratic repercussions of gerrymandering and support for independent nonpartisan district mapping in every state.

Government organizational failure as standard operating procedure

Even before the pandemic response, the media reported on various federal government failures throughout the Trump Administration.  More recently in an article about the transition to the Biden Administration, was the mention that the key policy units supporting the Secretary of Treasury have had staff reductions in the range of 40%.

Obviously, the failure of the federal government's public health response ("How the CDC failed public health officials fighting the coronavirus," "The CDC chief lost his way during COVID-19. Now his agency is in the balance," USA Today) to the coronavirus is the ultimate example of this cross the board failure, although many state governments have been equally culpable ("Judge: South Dakota can’t use COVID-19 to delay trial," AP)--Florida and Taiwan have about the same population but Florida has over 23,000 deaths from covid, while Taiwan has 7.  

-- "US virus death toll hits 350,000; surge feared," AP, January 3rd, 2021

The coronavirus response alone ranks #1 in the Organizational Failure Hall of Fame.

AP photo

This is the logical result of 40+ years of the neoliberalism paradigm, which exalts the private sector at the expense of the public sector, not only denigrating government but defunding it, so that the criticism of public response as inadequate comes true because of the hollowing out of government staff and expertise.

But some recent reports bring this up the topic of organizational failure yet again.  It's so typical that it appears as if failure is the preferred outcome.

As I wrote in November, I don't like to bandy about the word "corruption" when it comes to government. Corruption has a specific meaning and the word is too often misused when people excoriate politics and politicians. 

But there is no question that putting "politics" over "governance" and quality outcomes has subverted and degraded what government does and can do, in ways that dis-serve the public.

Even if individual officials are not corrupt, we have created "corrupt systems" where dysfunction is the standard outcome.

-- Corrupt Cities: A Practical Guide to Cure and Prevention, World Bank
-- "DC ethics legislation misses the point: focus on what produces corruption as a regular outcome, not monitoring," blog entry, 2011
-- Spring 2015 issue of the alumni magazine of the International Anti-Corruption Academy

1.  Flint water crisis.  AP reports ("Michigan plans to charge ex-Gov. Snyder in Flint water probe") that the State of Michigan will be indicting previous government officials (Republicans, including former Governor Rick Snyder) over their creation of and failed response to the Flint Water Crisis.

All they needed to do was spend less than $100,000 to treat the water, once they changed from "Detroit water" to water from the Flint River.  But state officials inexplicably said that treating the water was unnecessary and this led to lead leeching into the water.  At the time, the city, bankrupt, was under the direct control of the state government.

Put that in perspective when reading about how a settlement of $641 million is being negotiated to settle various suits ("$600-million Flint water crisis settlement bills pass state House, move to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer," MLive/Flint Journal, "Critics say they are "gravely concerned" about proposed Flint water crisis settlement," Michigan Public Radio).  

$100,000 is 1/6410 of this cost alone.  The state government is providing $600 million towards the settlement, which is funded by a bond.  So with interest costs the cost to the state is likely to be more than $1 billion in total over time.

Outside of indictments, and it's hard to get criminal charges sustained for these kinds of organizational failures, how can accountability be imposed?

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. As Congress prepares to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory, thousands of people have gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump and his claims of election fraud.(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

2.  US Capitol Police fail to adequately respond to reports of likely attack on the Capitol.  Wow, just wow.  Talk about organizational failure ("With big budget but little accountability, long-troubled Capitol Police face questions after siege," Washington Post).  

Even though Trump has been amping up Republicans by falsely claiming the election was stolen, and with reports of the potential for violence ("FBI report warned of ‘war’ at Capitol, contradicting claims there was no indication of looming violence," Washington Post), the USCP treated the event as a "normal demonstration" and didn't increase staffing beyond a normal day, nor did they institute basic protocols to defend the Capitol in the face of the potential for violence.

3.  And yes, while the coronavirus is #1 in organizational failure, the federal government public health response continues to be inadequate, now with regard to rollout of vaccination ("Vaccines were a chance to redeem failures in the U.S. coronavirus response. What went wrong?," Washington Post).

Instead of coming up with a master plan, giving it to states, and then modifying it, the CDC asked each state to come up with its own plan.

This reminds me of when I was a commercial district revitalization manager in DC.  There were 11 Main Street programs.  They would ask us to each respond to some type of program, rather than providing a best practice template.  I thought this was a massive waste of resources and a failure to leverage potential network effects (benefits) from having multiple programs in one city.

This was the problem with Obamacare too.  They should have piloted it with a few states, with a master website instead of rolling it out at once, and with different websites for every state.  Then they should have upgraded everything based on one year's experience.  Did the 2.0 reboot.  Rolled it out to more states, tweaked it some more, and then with 3.0 rolled it out to the rest of the country.

The vaccination program probably doesn't need that many iterations.  But certainly it could be done a lot better.

Who knew there is a

-- World Immunization Week, held the last week of April, sponsored by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and other organizations

Honorable mentions

Aerial photo of flooding in downtown Midland, Mich., Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (Photo: Kelly Jordan and Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press).

4.  I wrote about this in May, but Michigan is also notable for another federal-state failure, last year's failed dams on the Tittabawassee River, which flooded the City of Midland.  "Displacing a problem doesn't solve it: an example of how restrained regulation can cost millions of dollars | Flooding in Mid-Michigan from a dam break."

Instead of correcting the problem, when the dam owner failed to act, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission took away its hydroelectricity generation permits, and kicked the oversight responsibility to the state.  What they should have done is appointed a receiver and fixed the dams.

5.  The failure to adequately regulate Washington Gas and requirements to replace regulator valves prone to failure, which contributed to the explosion of a furnace room in a suburban Maryland apartment complex, killing 7 and injuring scores more ("Faulty vent and regulator caused deadly Silver Spring explosion, federal investigators say," Washington Post), "Washington Gas Light fined over program linked to 2016 Md. apartment blast," Standard & Poor's Global).

6.  WMATA operations and management ("Metro Safety Commission Finds ‘Distractions, Fear, Threats and Conflicting Instructions’ in Control Center," Loudoun Now).


Etc.

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Monday, January 11, 2021

Extension of the High Line "park" to Penn Station in New York City as an element of the pedestrian mobility network

Last week's insurrection interfered with my writing plans.  Instead I doomscrolled for the rest of the week, reading all sorts of coverage.

Once the mail sorting room of the 1912 James A. Farley Post Office Building, this vaulted space is now the central highlight of Moynihan Train Hall, which opened at the end of 2020 as a much-needed extension to New York’s Penn Station. Photo: Lucas Blais Simpson, SOM.

One in-process piece uses the opening of the new Moynihan Train Hall extension to Penn Station ("Moynihan Train Hall is a New Year’s Gift to New York City," Metropolis Magazine) as a jumping off point for repositioning "national" railroad passenger planning at multiple scales.

A 1,200-foot elevated walkway will connect the existing elevated park at 30th Street to a pedestrian path at Manhattan West.Credit...Office of Governor Cuomo.

A related element is the proposed extension of the High Line elevated linear park to Penn Station ("$60 Million High Line Expansion to Connect Park to Moynihan Train Hall," New York Times).

Then it can become a more purposive element of the horizontal mobility network, not "merely" a park. 

In the second plan for Manhattan, c. 1969, produced by the independent nonprofit the Regional Plan Association, there is a great document Urban Design Manhattan which looks at horizontal and vertical and separated plane mobility elements between transit stations, the surface and buildings. 

It's a great template for thinking about horizontal and vertical connections as more planned elements within the mobility system, especially at transit stations.  

Stairway connecting 1st Street SE to New Jersey Avenue in Capitol Hill, Washington, DC.

Places like Chicago and Toronto that have related underground pedway networks, Minneapolis and St. Paul with their above-ground skyway networks, the various improvements finished or underway around Grand Central Station in New York City, and stairway, escalator, gondola/aerial tramways, and elevator connections in various places ranging from Hong Kong to Medellin to Portland, Oregon to Berkeley, California to New York City to Monaco are practical examples of how to do this.

I expound on the concept here in this piece, "In many places) Public improvement districts ought to be created as part of transit station development process: the east side of NoMA station as an example," although the piece starts out by discussing financing and implementation mechanisms.

Public escalator in Commune 13, Medellín. AP photo by Luis Benavides.

While this piece aims at creating a complete framework for the elements of mobility, "Further updates to the Sustainable Mobility Platform Framework."  The framework needs an update. In the interim, I add bits and pieces through the comments section.

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Thursday, January 07, 2021

A day of the highest highs, ends with the lowest of lows

For some time, I've been singing to myself the refrain from the David Bowie song "Cat People," -- "Putting out the fire .... with gasoline! -- given Trump's actions in questioning the election, which he lost, aiming to get states to change their results in his favor, and stoking unfounded dissent and disbelief about the election among his followers.

While Trump is the chief arsonist, providing the gasoline but not the literal match, he has plenty of co-conspirators.

In late October, the Guardian published an article, "Republicans closely resemble autocratic parties in Hungary and Turkey – study," about the results of a study by the Vdem Institute, which found that the US Republican Party is as authoritarian as the worst radical right parties in Europe.

It took about three weeks for the Washington Post to get around to mentioning the study ("GOP leaders’ embrace of Trump’s refusal to concede fits pattern of rising authoritarianism, data shows").

And here we are. Trump calls on people to demonstrate in Washington on January 6th, the day that Congress certifies the election ("‘Be There. Will Be Wild!’: Trump All but Circled the Dates," New York Times).

He holds a rally, calls on demonstrators to march to the Capitol -- after Ammon Bundy, after armed protestors invading the Michigan State Capitol, after insurrectionists planned to take prisoner Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and try her for treason, fomented by Trump's calls to "Liberate Michigan."

And after more than 100 members of the House of Representatives and 13 Senators announce that they will challenge the Electoral College results from many states.

President Donald Trump speaks during a rally protesting the Electoral College certification of Joe Biden as President, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (Pete Marovich, New York Times)

Georgia Senate Win.  Waking up Wednesday morning, learning that Raphael Warnock had already defeated Kelly Loeffler and with strong likelihood that Jon Ossoff was going to defeat David Perdue in Tuesday's Georgia Senate runoff races, for one of the first times since the November election, was I not depressed.  

Brandon Bell/Getty Images.

Sure, Biden won the Presidential election, but across the board--in the House, Senate, and State races, Republicans more than held their own. And the fact that most state legislatures stayed Republican ensures that post-Census redistricting will be shaped by gerrymandering favoring Republicans.

The only saving grace from the election besides Trump's defeat, was the opportunity to still take the Senate, because of runoff elections, because no candidate in either race won 50% of the vote.  

What threw the Georgia races into runoffs was a Libertarian candidate in the Perdue-Ossoff race, and the open election in the other, a special election, resulting in twenty candidates, making it all but impossible for any single candidate to get 50% of the vote.

And having two races on the ballot increased the likelihood of Democratic turnout, when traditionally, turnout falls off in runoff elections.

Around the time that Congress started certifying the election and during Trump's rally, the election for the other seat was called for Jon Ossoff.

A Senate majority for the Democrats means that a Republican Senate can not fully stymie a Democratic agenda.  Although it would be even better if a couple Republicans would cross the line and caucus with Democrats, because the Republicans are so anti-government.

US Capitol enveloped in tear gas in response to Trump anti-election riot, 1/6/2021
Photo: Evelyn Hockstein for the Washington Post

Violent election overthrow demonstrations in Washington, DC.  But at the end of yesterday, I can only believe that the US has ceded all moral authority when it comes to judging or cajoling other nations and their politics.  

So much for Brand America ("Re-branding America," Boston Globe, 2005).

How can the US condemn Chinese imprisoning of demonstrators in Honk Kong ("China compares U.S. Capitol riots with Hong Kong protests," CNBC) or the eradication campaign against Uygur Muslims (("China Undercover" documentary, PBS Frontline) when the President foments his own group of Brown Shirts to perform Nazi type acts comparable to Kristillnacht and the Reichstag fire ("The True Story of the Reichstag Fire and the Nazi Rise to Power," Smithsonian Magazine) at the US Capitol.

What Trump fomented was no different than the anti-government protests and violent overthrowing of governments that the US criticizes (or creates, e.g., Iran, Chile, etc.)

The very first week of my first year at college, in a class we had to go see the documentary "Battle of Chile," which covered the fall of the Socialist government in Chile, which had happened 5 years before.  It's violent and brutal.  I had no idea that my country could be so brutal in supporting the overthrow of a duly elected government and being just fine with outright killing of citizens of Chile (but also the US and other countries).

So was yesterday.  

Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

There should be a reckoning.  Of course, given the Republicans authoritarian turn and all the amping up by Trump the last two months, abetted by elected officials and other stakeholders, yesterday shouldn't be a surprise.

Most of the Senators who intended to challenge, state by state, Electoral College results, were chastened by the attempt at insurrection and backed off.  But few of the Republican Representatives from the House backed off, but without a Senator to support their challenge, their challenges went nowhere.  

There is talk of removing Trump from office, using the 25th Amendment although the likelihood of the Cabinet stepping up is minimal, even if VP Pence was himself under attack yesterday.

Police response "inadequate."  Wow, did the US Capitol Police f* up or what?  Many people have pointed out that the response by law enforcement to last summer's BLM protests in DC was much more brutal.  There is video yesterday of Capitol Police letting demonstrators through the fences and taking selfies with protesters.

1.  This protest, including the assault on the Capitol was organized on conservative social media for many days in advance ("Before rioters stormed the US Capitol, Trump supporters called for violence online," CNN).  

Don't DC's Metropolitan Police Department and the US Capitol Police (which is controlled by Congress) have "intelligence" capacity?  Shouldn't they have known?  Did these police departments reject intelligence that could have been provided by the Department of Homeland Security and other federal law enforcement agencies.

2.  Because of the backlash from last summer's BLM demonstrations, DC discouraged federal law enforcement from organizing for yesterday.  DC failed.  They should have asked federal law enforcement agencies to plan and organize "just in case."  These officers should have been held at the ready, with the ability to act immediately.

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. As Congress prepares to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory, thousands of people have gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump and his claims of election fraud.(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

3.  The Capitol Police totally blew it.  And probably and sadly, there need to be better preventative measures in place other than easily overturned temporary fences less than 4 feet high.  Many many people should lose their jobs over this, including the police officers who consorted with the demonstrators.

According to reports, DC MPD and Capitol Police communicated beforehand and the USCP said they were fine.  I've organized events in DC where we needed to close the street.  You have to go before a massive committee, including representatives from the police, fire, EMS, homeland security and other agencies.  You get grilled.  You have to provide a plan beforehand and then modify it in response.  You can go through many iterations before approval is granted.

Clearly, the USCP security and response plan was nowhere near adequate ("Capitol Breach Draws Sharp Condemnation of Law Enforcement," New York Times; "Capitol breach prompts urgent questions about security failures," Washington Post).

4.  DC MPD and related agencies should have planned for the capacity to arrest large numbers of people.  Few people were arrested because "the police departments didn't have the manpower" to arrest them, but instead focused on clearing the Capitol.  WTF?  No repercussions encourages further unrest.

Police sure were prepared during the BLM protests ("D.C. Police Used Tear Gas, Arrested More Than 40 People During Black Lives Matter Protests In Adams Morgan," DCist; "D.C. Protesters Hail The Hero Of Swann St., Who Sheltered Them From Arrest," NPR).

Police line in DC in June during the George Floyd protests.
Evy Mages, Washingtonian Magazine

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Monday, January 04, 2021

Quality of messaging: fact-based versus post-truth Republicans

-- "Post-truth politics and why the antidote isn’t simply ‘fact-checking’ and truth," The Conversation
-- "Defining Post-truth: Structures, Agents, and Styles,"  Ari-Elmeri Hyvönen
-- "Truth vs. Lies," October 2020 special issue, Scientific American


Yesterday, the Washington Post released a blockbuster, "I just want to find 11,780 votes’: In extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressures Georgia secretary of state to recalculate the vote in his favor," a story with the audiotape of a call made on Saturday by President Trump to Georgia's Secretary of State, asking him to come up with 11,780 votes in Trump's favor, so the previous decision awarding the state's electoral votes to Biden could be challenged.

-- "Here’s the full transcript and audio of the call between Trump and Raffensperger"

(I listened to most of it, and while Trump was repetitive and evasive and a wack job, I wouldn't say he sounded "mentally ill," as many others have said.)

Today, a different Georgian election official had a press conference ("Trump made false claims in call pressuring Georgia secretary of state to undo Biden win, official says," NBC News) where he refuted each of Trump's fallacious claims.

What struck me was the "presentation board" he used to support his presentation.  It's matter of fact.

NBC News photo.

I thought back to the Republican campaign by members in the House of Representatives to impugn witness Michael Cohen testifying about his experiences working for and with Donald Trump ("'Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire,’ and Other Contentious Exchanges From Cohen’s Congressional Hearing," New York Times). Here's the quality of their presentation boards.

Reuters photo.

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New Year's 2021 Post #1: The pandemic

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Re-dated from Saturday January 2nd to Monday January 4th, because of the addition of a new online New Yorker article, "What the San Francisco Bay Area Can Teach Us About Fighting a Pandemic," focused on the response of the San Francisco Bay area, and how long term commitment to funding public health, engagement of the UCSF medical campus in ongoing public health efforts, and experience that grew out of the response to the AIDs epidemic, in dealing with at risk segments of the population, were drawn on to make for a relatively exemplary response.

SF has 900,000 residents and 189 deaths from covid.  The 8+ million eight county Bay Area metropolitan area has fewer than 3,000 deaths from covid, which is about one-third of the overall US death rate from covid.

Additional comments interspersed below.

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Over the past decade, on many New Year's Days, I've written one or more posts, looking back with hope going forward.  For example:

-- 2016
-- "New Year's Post #3: More thinking on "return on investment" from different types of sports facilities and DC, and an Olympics in DC," 2015
-- "New Year's Post #1: Defining mediocrity up and the 2014 elections in DC," 2014

This year, it'll be more a set of pieces over the course of the next week.

Magazine long form writing on important issues.  When I was in England in 2018, during that time the London Review of Books published a full issue "article," The Tower," on 2017's Grenfell Tower disaster, where a fire killed 70 people and injured many more, and illustrated organizational and regulatory failures which contributed to the catastrophe.  

I picked up a copy but it was so overwhelming I never got through the article.

New Yorker's "The Plague Year".  In the US, the New Yorker has been known for its support of similar long form writing.  Pieces by John McPhee or the first publishing of John Hershey's Hiroshima, on the impact of the atomic bomb's dropping on that city.  And others.

Coronavirus Christmas ornament.

The current issue has a 40 page article on the pandemic, "The Plague Year: the mistakes and struggles behind America's coronavirus tragedy" by Lawrence Wright.  

We got the issue yesterday, I picked it up today, and spent the last couple hours reading it.  

I've touched on the pandemic in occasional writings since March:

-- "Rush Medical Center (Chicago) clues us into a gap in state and regional health care planning: planning for disaster and epidemic response"
--"More communities need to integrate health care and public health programming: Prince George's County, DC, etc."
-- "Blaming the victim vs. blaming the system: Federal officials blame pandemic deaths on poor health practices of individuals"
-- "How far has Brand America fallen? The US as a failed state"
-- "Memorial Day musing | Repositioning failure as success: pandemic; urban revitalization; voter suppression"
-- "Planning for winter outdoors in the wake of coronavirus"
-- "No we're not in this together: it should be obvious that people and places with more resources fare better,"
--"Coronavirus series in the Financial Times and the failures and successes of governance"

My primary interest is in systems and the quality of decision making, and what pandemic response communicates about needed changes to the health care "system."  WRT decision making, it's about how the quality of decision making has declined, that even in noncrisis situations a lot of people make bad decisions, and in crisis, few people are good at rising to the occasion.

This has definitely been proven the case as it relates to the pandemic.

The New Yorker article doesn't necessarily break anything new, but it's amazing that the author, was able to provide that kind of overarching coverage, reminding us of so many elements that are easily forgotten in the tsunami of news and reporting about the pandemic over the course of the year.  Like I'd forgotten about the soldier's home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and the 75 deaths there.  And I had even written about it.

-- "Not that I want to defend management failure and unnecessary death, but that was an outcome determined by a corrupt system"

A different New Yorker article, "What the San Francisco Bay Area Can Teach Us About Fighting a Pandemic" discusses how SF's largest "old age home" is owned by the city and run by the public health department.  By contrast to the Holyoke operation, SF neither stints on funding nor staff (who are well paid) and the facility is run by the city public health department.  They managed the covid response excellent, and extended this approach to other nursing homes in the city (and area), resulting in relatively few nursing home related covid deaths, whereas nationally nursing home deaths comprise 40% of the total.

My thoughts about the pandemic and what the response should be have mostly been covered in earlier pieces.  And given the virulent disagreement between progressives and conservatives about health care, the idea of "Medicare for All" ("Medicare for All: What Is It and How Will It Work?," healthline), and the role of government more generally, I don't see much changing, despite the catastrophic failure of the federal government in addressing the pandemic.

The New Yorker article closes discussing the two elements that differentiated countries in their response to the coronavirus.  First, experience with pandemics and therefore a willingness to not think the coronavirus was just a bad flu, but something novel and deathly serious.

The second was the quality of decision making and management of the response.  For example, Wright contrasts successful nations like Taiwan to the US, but also within the US, states like South Dakota and Vermont.  Both have Republican governors.  But while SD is known for its laissez faire approach and rapidly rising infection and death rates, Vermont was an early actor applying best practice public health measures.  If all the US had the same death rate as Vermont, there would be fewer than 90,000 deaths, instead of 350,000 and climbing.

But at the very least, this should happen.  

1.  Change health insurance to health and wellness care.  Like I outlined in "More communities need to integrate health care and public health programming: Prince George's County, DC, etc.," which is an extension of the series on what DC should do when rebuilding the United Medical Center East of the River.  While they'll be doing one or two out of the many dozens of innovative ideas I suggested, mostly it's a missed opportunity at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

2.  Relatedly, when building new hospitals, ensure there are pandemic preparedness facilities incorporated into the facility. ("Rush Medical Center (Chicago) clues us into a gap in state and regional health care planning: planning for disaster and epidemic response")

3.  Integrate public health measures, including the repositioning of the US public health system along the lines of how the US Agriculture Extension program is set up, linking federal agencies and research units with colleges of agriculture in every state, and "county extension units" providing technical assistance ("More communities need to integrate health care and public health programming: Prince George's County, DC, etc.").

The New Yorker article, "What the San Francisco Bay Area Can Teach Us About Fighting a Pandemic" discusses at length the public health response in San Francisco and the Bay Area, and how long term investment in public health systems there were leveraged to address covid.  The area's death rate is 1/3 that of the US as a whole.  NYC's death rate is 134x greater than SF.

The way that SF has continued to invest in public health, do great outreach, and engage the local university into the process is a model that should be adopted nationally.

4.  Address failures in urban and rural hospital economics, by taking over failing hospitals and keeping them in operation/Medical deserts I mentioned this in "What should a domestic Marshall Plan/21st Century New Deal look like?".  A model would be in the UK's railroad franchising system, where the state has the ability to take over franchises when run poorly or there is no bidder.

This is a problem in cities like Chicago and Philadelphia, and also many rural areas ("States with the most rural hospitals at risk of closing," North Platte Telegraph).  It's continued through the pandemic, when we need more health care options, not fewer.

There have been lots of problems with the Veterans Administration hospital network, because it's been underfunded and negatively impacted by neoliberalist approaches to government, and special interests trying to carve off part of the business of medical care ("The VA Is Privatizing Veterans’ Health Care While Launching a Campaign to Deny It," American Prospect).  

But in the 1990s and into the early 2000s it had been fixed and was considered a national best practice example of the potential for government provided care ("The Veterans Health Administration: An American Success Story?," Millbank Quarterly: A Journal of Population Health and Health Policy, 2007).

The first VA hospital I was ever conscious of was the one in Allen Park, Michigan.

The model of a successful, nonprivatized VA could be a model, and extended to operate hospitals that would otherwise go out of business in rural and urban areas.

5.  A public health and wellness approach would help us better address social determinants of health, disparities in outcomes and equity ("Covid-19 has shown us that good health is not just down to biology," Guardian; "Social Inequities Explain Racial Gaps in Pandemic, Studies Find," New York Times). 

I mentioned this in the Marshall Plan piece and it permeates the entries on the UMC, community health ("Community Health Improvement Planning"), on equity planning, and those cited above.

The New Yorker article, "What the San Francisco Bay Area Can Teach Us About Fighting a Pandemic" is particularly relevant to this discussion.  The SF Bay experience is that by far the people with the greatest risk for covid were "special populations," workers in food service and health care, primarily Latino and black, living in crowded conditions, without the means to take off work if sick, and not able to adequately quarantine if required.  The public health response addressed all those elements in creative, systematic ways.

6.  Creating a federal equity planning initiative.  Earlier this year, the Federal Office of Management and Budget banned training programs related to equity ("OMB calls critical race theory ‘divisive, un-American,’ orders agencies to cease training," Federal News Network).  The New Yorker article discusses Dr. Ebony Hilton, an anesthesiologist at the University of Virginia.  Last year, she and two colleagues wrote to the Biden Administration calling for the creation of a "Department of Equity" to address such matters.

While I don't think such a cabinet level agency would ever be approved as long as the Republicans control at least one branch of Congress, creating a formal equity initiative within the President's Office, the way that the Obama Administration created an Office of Urban Affairs to provide an Executive Office focus on urban issues.

At the city level, more places, like Toronto, are adding an "equity lens" to their policy, programming, and budgeting.  A similar approach applies a "women's lens" ("Gender Lens on the Budget," NFAW) or "children's lens" ("Assessing the Impact of economic trends on children," UNICEF) to policy and budgeting.

7.  We're going to have to figure out senior/nursing care and add it to a health care for all program.  Seniors have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.  People older than 70 are particularly at risk and have much higher death rates ("The plight of nursing home residents in a pandemic," Harvard Health Letter).

Various reports ("How government incentives shaped the nursing home business — and left it vulnerable to a pandemic," Washington Post; "Long-Term Care Policy after Covid-19 — Solving the Nursing Home Crisis," New England Journal of Medicine; "This Is Why Nursing Homes Failed So Badly," New York Times, not that they are really news, demonstrate that the nursing care industry stints on health care to increase profits.  This is true for for profit firms, and can be true even for nonprofits.  For example, a rural Utah hospital has purchased nursing homes throughout the state and uses the profits from them to subsidize losses at the main hospital.

By contrast, San Francisco's city run "old age home" is a model example of what happens when care is not stinted.  From the New Yorker article, "What the San Francisco Bay Area Can Teach Us About Fighting a Pandemic": 

Laguna Honda is by most measures the biggest skilled-nursing facility, or S.N.F., in the United States. It usually houses seven hundred and twenty residents, who are cared for by seventeen hundred staff members—as many people as one might find in all the S.N.F.s in a midsize American city. In January, therefore, when San Francisco began preparing for the coronavirus, it did so with one remarkable advantage: an unusually large proportion of its nursing-home residents lived in a facility owned and operated by the San Francisco Department of Public Health. 
Nursing homes vary widely in quality, and studies have found that a few factors combined can predict the level of care they provide. Size is important: facilities larger than a hundred beds tend to be harder to oversee and more prone to outbreaks. The percentage of patients on Medicaid is another indicator: because Medicaid reimburses care providers at lower rates than Medicare does, facilities that rely on it seek to cut costs. More than half of American nursing homes are owned by chains, and these tend to be worse than nonprofit, smaller for-profit, and government-run facilities. (Having been purchased by private-equity firms, many are under intense pressure to slash budgets.) But the most crucial determinant of quality is probably nurse staffing. Higher staffing levels, especially of registered nurses, or R.N.s, are consistently associated with significant improvements in care, while for lower levels the reverse is true.

Ironically, people live longer because of declines in tobacco use and other health care improvements such as cardiac care.  But before, smoking would kill off people before they got old enough to exhibit dementia and related ailments.  And taking care of people with dementia is hard and costly.

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DC area airport planning

The Washington Post reports, "GAO study examines impact of long-distance flight limits at National Airport," on a GAO report on National Airport.  Because the federal government owns National and Dulles Airports, Congress and the Executive Branch is heavily involved in the oversight of these airports.

-- REAGAN NATIONAL AIRPORT: Information on Effects of Federal Statute Limiting Long-Distance Flights, Government Accountability Office


Most of my writings on airports focus on the DC area and the planning elements of ground transportation, which I find wanting.  

I've argued that the federally designated transportation planning organizations should jointly plan for the area's airports, two of which are in the DC area, and the third main airport in Baltimore.  

-- "A clear signal of a failure in "metropolitan" transportation planning: a proposal to eliminate a subway station from Dulles Airport," 2012
-- "More on transportation to the DC area airports," 2013
-- "More on airport-related transit/transit for visitors," 2013
-- "A brief comment on ground transportation at National Airport vis a vis VRE rail service," 2016
-- "Revisiting stories: ground transportation at airports (DCA/Logan)," 2017
-- "Why not a bicycle hub at National Airport?, focused on capturing worker trips but open to all," 2017
-- "Airport transportation demand management in flux," 2019
-- "London's Stansted Airport provides digital information on transit options," 2019

The thing is that Virginia aims to prioritize development around Dulles Airport and Maryland around Marshall/BWI Airport, and the jurisdictions around National Airport in Arlington County on the Potomac River across from DC want to minimize operations because of plane noise, even though from a mobility efficiency standpoint, it's the easiest airport to reach and boasts super convenient subway access.

So getting the two MPOs to work together and for the region to create a single airport planning initiative is a pipe dream.

These posts make the point that in regional transit planning you want to connect an area's primary destinations, especially airports, with the aim of creating a functioning and robust transit network, as opposed to a constellation of somewhat connect transit modes and assets.

-- "Airports and public transit access: O'Hare Airport and the proposed fast connection from Downtown Chicago," 2018
-- "Manhattan Institute misses the point about the value of light rail transit connections to airports | Utility and the network effect: the transit network as a platform," 2020

This piece discusses how planning and operational discoordination can result from airport privatization, at least in the US (although airports across the world are privatized and quite successfully).

-- "Privatizing Dulles and National Airports," 2018

These posts discuss the economic development aspect of airports.

-- "Aerotropoli and rethinking the scale of mobility networks in the context of a global economy," 2013
-- "Economic impact of National and Dulles Airports," 2014
-- "Do tax incentives pay off? : Illinois; Tennessee; Rosslyn + "The Airport Access Factor"," 2017

FAA rules hinder transit network integration.  A big problem in airport transportation planning more generally is that FAA rules don't allow for airport funding revenues to be used for transit not controlled by the airport.  So either the localities pay for transit connections, or they satisfice it and do a poor job, or the airport builds independent transit requiring extra transfers.  WRT the latter, that's why JFK has its own rail line separate from the NYC Subway and why the N/Q subway was never extended to LaGuardia Airport. 

Fortunately for airports, because they are such large trip generators, transit systems go out of their way to connect to them, even if the airport doesn't financially contribute to the construction.  Cleveland's Hopkins Airport was the first to get a local subway connection.  O'Hare Airport has direct subway connections.  Midway Airport in Chicago has a proximate subway connection. Philadelphia has rail commuter service to terminals.  

Over time, more and more metropolitan transit systems have added connections to airports, such as BART in SF, light rail in Portland and Seattle, Baltimore's light rail connects to BWI, etc.

And when rail lines are close to airports, they add connections like Amtrak for BWI, Amtrak and regional rail for Newark International, etc.

CityDistance to DowntownmodeTrip time
Atlanta12 milesheavy22 minutes
Baltimore to Baltimore11 mileslight30 minutes
Baltimore to Baltimore12 milesrailroad10 minutes
Baltimore to DC33 milesrailroad35 minutes
Chicago Midway11 milesheavy 29 minutes
Chicago O'Hare12 milesheavy 45 minutes
Cleveland14 milesheavy 50 minutes
Dallas25 mileslight 50 minutes
DC National Airport5 milesheavy 15 minutes
DC Dulles27 milesheavy 52 minutes*
Philadelphia12 milesrailroad24 minutes
Phoenix3 mileslight 29 minutes
Portland, Oregon9 mileslight 62 minutes
Salt Lake City7 mileslight 20 minutes
San Francisco15 milesheavy 30 minutes
Seattle15 mileslight 40 minutes

In Downtown Chicago, I seem to recall that at least one of the subway stations displays airport arrival and departure information.  In any case, the airport stations for the S-Bahn station serving the Hamburg Airport, and the O'Hare subway (elevated) station does this.

Airport planning and the DC area.  WRT the DC area, the problem with focusing on Dulles for growth is that it is far from the core, and development there promotes sprawl.  Although "soon" the airport will be better connected to the core by the extension of the Silver Line Metrorail which includes an airport station.

The Silver Line is a classic example of Steve Belmont's criticism of most transit networks being polycentric and promoting sprawl instead of population and activity concentration.

It will still take an hour from the core to get there by Metrorail, and longer from other places.  Plus the station won't be as well connected to the terminal as is the station at National Airport, making the trip less convenient. (Heathrow is the gold standard for rail transit connections to airports.  The London Underground connects to three terminals, and there is train service as well.)

Expanding National Airport's use does come at a quality of life cost because of airplane-related noise, but helps the core of the metropolitan maintain its relevance to commerce and headquarters location, and focuses development monocentrically as opposed to polycentrically.  

Certainly, it's no surprise that Amazon's HQ2 has located in Arlington County, Virginia, within one mile of the airport, rather than in a location that is less well served by a major airport, metropolitan subway service, and local transit.  (There is regional railroad service, but as discussed in above-cited entries, it's quite poor compared to BWI Airport, which is served by Amtrak as well as seven day/week MARC commuter railroad service on the Penn Line.)

As Amazon expands and other businesses locate nearby, demand on National Airport will only increase, putting more pressure to ease restrictions.

-- "Crystal City Arlington as Amazon one-half of HQ2 | Part 1: General + Housing impact," 2018
-- "Why Amazon’s New HQ2 Will Boost Airlines, DCA Airport," 2018, Point Me

In terms of leveraging Amazon HQ2's location and the airport for improving and extending the transit network, and strengthening the economic development of the core of the Washington region, see:

-- "Crystal City Arlington as Amazon one-half of HQ2 | Part 3: Leveraging Amazon's entrance for complementary transit network improvements," 2018
-- "Crystal City Arlington as Amazon one-half of HQ2 | Part 4: Pie in the Sky transit improvements," 2018

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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Obituaries, 2020

While I include obituaries as posts throughout the year for people who are significant figures in urbanism at least the way I see it, for the past few years (e.g., "Urbanism related obituaries -- 2019" and "Urbanism/community development obituaries -- 2018"), I try to publish a single entry at the end of the year, featuring entries about people who have died during the year who are particularly noteworthy to urbanism.

Pandemic.  2020 is a year marked by death, given the excess deaths resulting from the coronavirus.  The virus was first seen in cities, because of how air travel is centered around cities.  Air travel brought the virus to the US from both China and Europe.

Death.  More than 300,000 people are dead in the US, and many of these deaths have been concentrated in urban areas, particularly amongst people of color ("Covid-19 has shown us that good health is not just down to biology," Guardian; "Social Inequities Explain Racial Gaps in Pandemic, Studies Find," New York Times).  Cities like New York, Detroit, and Chicago were especially hit.

Is the city dead?  As a result of the coronavirus, office districts have emptied out, with people working at home.  In cities like San Francisco and New York there was an exodus to the less crowded suburbs.  Retail and hospitality businesses have been wiped out--some studies say 30+% of small businesses are likely to remain permanently shuttered, along with the night time, culture, and tourist industries.  Transit is on the ropes, because much of its usage is driven by commuting, and people fear transit as a locus of infection.  Commercial real estate may never be the same.

Retail, hospitality, entertainment, culture. And the elements of urban life most damaged by the coronavirus--small business, entertainment, cultural offerings, walkable communities, the ability to congregate, etc.--are what make city living attractive.

Vaccines will likely bring the cities back.  But it will be a long process.  It will be hard to recover from business failure and the failure of the Republicans in Congress and the Executive Branch to support a response that could have mitigated a lot of this loss.

Black Lives Matter ("2020 was the year America embraced Black Lives Matter as a movement, not just a moment," Los Angeles Times).  2020 was marked by more needless deaths of African-Americans by police and self-deputized vigilantes. 

Photo: Wally Skalij, Los Angeles Times.

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked protests across the country, with some attendant violence, including terrible rioting and property destruction in Minneapolis, centered on Lake Avenue, although much of this violence was either fomented by rightists or initiated by opportunists looking to loot businesses for personal gain.

The "Defund the Police" movement sparked by the latest round of needless deaths has sparked important discussion about warrior policing and more complete and complex ways of thinking about public safety and how to deliver it ("An Alternative to Police That Police Can Get Behind," Atlantic Magazine).  At the same time, it was controversial and likely generated some blowback which affected the 2020 National elections.

The sad case of Breonna Taylor in Louisville ("Breonna Taylor’s Life Was Changing. Then the Police Came to Her Door.," New York Times) also shed light on how police resources are focused and procedures that are supposed to protect the rights of citizens are often sloughed off.  

In terms of police resources, Louisville targeted the area that Taylor lived in, as a high crime area, although others argued this was a way to speed along gentrification or neighborhood improvement ("The role of police in gentrification," The Appeal).  I don't agree but can see why people would make the argument.

Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas, AFP/Getty Images, from "Mapping Black Lives Matter Protests Around The World," WBUR-FM/NPR.

People who should be remembered

Bruce Boynton, challenged segregation in transportation ("Bruce Carver Boynton, who helped spark Freedom Rides, dies at 83," Washington Post).  He brought the case where the Supreme Court struck down separate but equal interstate transportation facilities and practices, and he helped to create the civil rights Freedom Riders campaign.

Dan Camp, developer in the Cotton District of Starkville, Mississippi, home of Mississippi State University ("Dan Camp, Who Created a Mississippi Jewel, Dies at 79," NYT).  Camp was a university professor who saw value in the rundown Cotton District--home to a then closed cotton refinery--it being proximate to the city's downtown and the university campus.  In 1969, he started building infill housing in what 20 years later would be called the "New Urbanism" approach, later adding retail and office space.   Below is a link to a story on the district, from the Mississippi Public Broadcasting program "Mississippi Roads."


His work predated the "New Urbanism" movement by many years.  Although its broader impact was minimal it was important to Starkville.  There is a lesson in that for understanding social and policy change in why it takes so long and how best practices can be "wolflings" that are never adopted and don't end up becoming positive examples that are diffused through innovation networks (cf. Rogers "diffusion of innovation".)

“The Gates” in Central Park in 2005. For two weeks, thousands of strollers wandered 23 miles of the park’s pathways, passing underneath steel frames supporting free-hanging panels of saffron-colored fabric. Andrea Mohin/The New York Times.

Christo, public artist ("Christo, Artist Who Wrapped and Festooned on an Epic Scale," New York Times). He, with his wife Jean Claude, did massive public art installations, mostly in natural settings, but also in cities.

Joe Coloumbe, Trader Joe's specialty markets (Chicago Tribune obituary). He founded the Trader Joe's chain, originally as a small division of a large drug store company, which wasn't interested in maintaining ownership, so he bought it.  Early on he sold the firm to a German supermarket family, but stayed on to manage and grow the company.

For many years TJ's wasn't interested in urban locations, but this changed, and today, the demographics of their stores retail trade areas show the highest household income of any supermarket company ("Analysis From ATTOM Reveals Fresh Take on Grocery Stores Impacting the U.S. Housing Market," ATTOM Data Solutions).  

-- Video on the store's 50th anniversary.

Boston Globe photo.

Joseph Corcoran, Boston real estate developer ("Columbia Point gives way to upscale Harbor Point," Boston Globe, 2015). According to the website of the Boston College Center for Real Estate and Urban Action, which he founded, he:
earned a national reputation by transforming a Boston neighborhood now known as Harbor Point from a crime-ridden housing project into a safe, vibrant mixed-income community that the residents are proud to call home. Joe blazed the trail for mixed-income developments by helping to enact state legislation, chairing the real estate registration board, and founding a nonprofit to revitalize distressed urban neighborhoods. "People don't grow up in poverty," he says, "they grow up in neighborhoods."
This was probably the first example of the rebuild of a "squalid public housing project"--this one was originally called Columbia Point, into a mixed use development that included market rate housing ("Joseph Corcoran Rescued a Squalid Boston Housing Project," Wall Street Journal): "Looking Back at the Success of Harbor Point ," Architect Magazine.

And it was Corcoran who approached HUD about taking on the rebuild, not the other way around.  According to the WSJ:
Completed in 1990 at a cost of more than $250 million, Harbor Point created a neighborhood where lawyers and graduate students lived alongside people qualifying for subsidized rent. They shared swimming pools, a gym and views of Boston’s harbor and skyline.
-- Video interview, Boston Foundation
-- Privately-Funded Public Housing Redevelopment: A Study of the Transformation of Columbia Point (Boston, MA), Institute for International Urban Development

Although some argue that the redevelopment of the site came at a great cost in terms of reduced numbers of housing units available to low income tenants.  The split was about 1/3 low income; 2/3 market rate ("REVITALIZATION OR REPLACEMENT? TWO CASES OF REDEVELOPMENT IN BOSTON: COLUMBIA POINT AND COMMONWEALTH," Joint Center for Housing Studies).

Debenhams Department Stores, UK
.  In December, the company announced they would be shutting down ("What went wrong at Debenhams?" BBC).  

I haven't usually included non-US firms in this obituaries post, when it comes to the death of retail companies.  There are plenty of examples, especially in the UK, as it is overstored as well, although not to the extent of the US.

Debenhams deserves a mention as it was a major British firm, even older than Lord and Taylor, with roots dating to the late 1700s.  

The firm came to my attention because in the last couple decades, it continued to open new stores in center cities, often with startlingly (for retail) modern architecture.  Now I regret not checking out the store, when I was in Liverpool.

New York Times photo.

David Dinkins, first (and only)  black mayor of New York City
("At New York’s Nadir, Dinkins Gave the City the ‘Freedom to Imagine’,""David N. Dinkins, New York’s First Black Mayor, Dies at 93," and "David Dinkins Doesn’t Think He Failed. He Might Be Right," New York Times).  Denigrated by his successor, Rudy Giuliani, Mayor Dinkins doesn't get enough credit for what he did do, including massive support for and expansion of social housing and neighborhood revitalization programs.  

He got the state to help fund not only more police, but after school programs open late into the night, and the significant crime drop experienced by New York City started during the last months of his term.  His administration was especially transparent, aimed to introduce innovation and made it part of labor contracts, managed to hold its own while negotiating with sports teams, etc.

Tony Elliott, creator of Time Out Magazine, with a calendar listing urban events ("Tony Elliott, Whose Time Out Clued Readers In, Dies at 73," New York Times).  Arguably, Time Out Magazine in London, launched in 1968, was the first city magazine with a weekly calendar listing events.  Alternative weeklies and other city magazines, like New York Magazine, adopted the idea.

The firm expanded, creating similar city magazines in almost 50 other cities -- although many of the magazines have these days been supplanted by the internet and have cut back on publication or shut down entirely -- and created a publishing and events company operating in 58 countries.

Joe Englert, DC restauranteur (blog entry).  He was a pioneer in opening night life establishments in Washington neighborhoods that had potential but weren't always recognized for their capacity for revitalization.

Berlin mural by EME Freethinker.

George Floyd
, killed by Minneapolis police, touched off renewed Black Lives Matters protests across the country, a serious reconsideration of the nature of policing ("Defund the police"), and deeper discussion about structural racism. 

+ Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others ("In Memoriam, I can't breathe," Renee Ater(

All of this spurred counter protesting too, and President Trump tried to manipulate events around the protests to aid his re-election efforts.

Arguably, while Trump lost his bid for reelection, fear of crime spurred by violence and property destruction in the wake of some of the protests aided Republican candidates down the ballot ("‘Defund the Police’ became a Republican weapon in suburban Philly," Philadelphia Inquirer), who did a lot better than polling had predicted--keeping most Senate seats, winning back many House seats in swing districts, and retaining control of state legislatures across the county.

Richard Gilder, became wealthy from his work in the finance industry, funded the creation of the Central Park Conservancy and was a major supporter of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research."Richard Gilder, Donor to Parks, Museum and History, Dies at 87," New York Times).

While there had been "park friends" organizations previously, the Central Park Conservancy was one of the earliest examples of creating what we might call a business improvement district for parks, a nonprofit organization that contributed significantly to fundraising, programs, and operations of a park.

The Wall Street Journal obituary (actually an editorial) said of Gilder "he discovered his calling--not making money, which he did, but using his money to solve civic problems."  He also was a major contributor to the New-York Historical Society, and the American Museum of Natural History.

The Manhattan Institute is a "conservative" think tank focused on urban issues.  They publish City Journal, and their fellows weigh in frequently on all kinds of issues.  I don't agree with all of their fellows (especially Heather MacDonald on policing), but they do push the discourse forward, often in surprisingly interesting ways.

These are important contributions.

Milton Glaser, designer, including the I Love NY campaign and co-founder of New York Magazine, one of earliest of the nation's second generation of city-focused magazines" ("How Milton Glaser Expressed The Best of New York," New York Daily News; "Milton Glaser, Co-founder of New York Magazine and Creator of ‘I❤NY,’ Dies at 91," New York Magazine).





Herman Goldstein, professor, originator of the "problem oriented policing" concept ("Policing pioneer, law school professor Herman Goldstein dies," University of Wisconsin).  In his writings, which included the books Policing a Free Society (1977) and Problem-Oriented Policing (1990), he made the point that police are hired and trained "to fight crime" but most of their time is spend "solving problems."

He called for a "social services" model to policing and public safety rather than the military or warrior model.  You'd never know that from how policing is organized and conducted.

In 2017, he won the Stockholm Prize in International Criminology, which in the field is considered the equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

-- "On problem-oriented policing: the Stockholm lecture, speech, Crime Science (2018)

James Goode, author of histories on Washington--he died in 2019, but it wasn't reported until 2020 ("James Goode, historian of Washington statues and architecture, dies at 80," Washington Post). Capital Losses, featuring descriptions and photographs of great buildings that have been demolished.  Best Addresses is a study of apartment buildings.

From Capital Losses I used the description of the old Esso Building (Standard Oil of New York) building, in an unsuccessful organizing campaign to try to convince BP to construct context sensitive gas stations in DC.

From "Make No Little Plans; Part III — Early Attempts to Develop the Air Rights":
The Esso Building was called the largest and grandest service station in the world. The building stood three hundred feet long and six stories high and was clad in limestone.

Given today’s gas station architecture, it is difficult to comprehend the grandeur of this dignified neoclassical structure. America’s post-war love affair with the automobile carried over to the architecture of automobile showrooms and service stations.

Early automobile service station design often included elements of Colonial, Georgian, Gothic, or other architectural motifs. None, however, surpassed the dignity of this building or its volume of business. Attendants pumped gas on the first floor and serviced cars in the basement and on the first, sixth, and top floors. Cars were transported between floors by elevators.

The second floor housed the Esso Tour office while three other floors housed the offices of the Ford Motor Company, the General Electric Credit Corporation, Prudential Insurance Company, and the Territory of Alaska until it became a state.
The building was demolished for the Center Leg Freeway, but in an interesting twist, the building for the US Department of Labor was constructed in its place on a deck over the freeway.

William Helmreich, Sociologist Known For Walking Every Block of New York City, Dies (NPR). 

Michael Hertz, designer of the modern NYC Subway map ("Michael Hertz — You’ve Surely Seen His Subway Map — Dies at 87," New York Times).

Charles Hobson, early producer of television documentary style programs on the black experience ("Charles Hobson, Who Helped Break a TV Color Line, Dies at 83," New York Times).

Irene Knouye, created the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, and as chair of the Kresge Foundation and Ford Foundation, she helped to organize foundation and other financial support to get Detroit out of bankruptcy, while protecting the art collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

This was necessary because the DIA was not separately incorporated, was considered an asset to be harnessed by the city's creditors ("Irene Inouye, 71, Fund-Raising Champion of Japanese-Americans, Dies," New York Times).

Larry Kramer, playwright and AIDS activist
.  AIDS especially affected gay men, usually living in cities, and had a pronounced effect on urban districts.  

NYC based playwright Larry Kramer co-founded a leading activist group, Act UP, known for in your face demonstrations ("Twilight of a Difficult Man: Larry Kramer and the Birth of AIDS Activism," NYT).  The group's efforts helped to shift attention onto AIDS as a public health crisis, one in which federal government practice needed to lead the response, the medical research agenda, and other elements toward an active addressing of the disease.

Paul Jablonski, CEO of San Diego Metropolitan Transit System ("Paul Jablonski, Metropolitan Transit System CEO, dies," San Diego Union Tribune).

MTS employees, transit officials and well wishers watch a 40-bus procession that passed through downtown San Diego honoring Metropolitan Transit System Chief Executive Officer Paul Jablonski. Photo: Sam Hodgson/The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Pretty rare to see a transit agency CEO honored on the signboard of a bus.  Photo: Sam Hodgson, San Diego Union Tribune.

I remember reading an article on him and the MTS in Mass Transit Magazine, around 2004/2005 and he made the point that one of the problems in the transit industry is that every agency wants to design their own fixed rail transit cars, which drives up the cost because of the loss of standardization and volume.

Charles Jones, civil rights activist
("J. Charles Jones, civil rights activist who led protest walk around Beltway, dies at 82," Post).  Among his many activities, he organized against housing discrimination in the suburbs.  

Photo: Steve Szabo, Washington Post.

Allen Lew, public administrator, manager of large scale construction projects ("Allen Lew, hard-driving D.C. city administrator, dies at 69 of coronavirus," Washington Post, "Allen Lew got it done," Washington City Paper).  He managed the construction of the Washington Nationals stadium, ran a not uncontroversial project to rebuild DC schools, and served as the chief administrative officer of DC Government under Mayor Vincent Gray.  Before that he ran various projects in New York, and had left DC last year to take a job as vice chancellor of facilities for the multi-campus City University of New York.  He died of the coronavirus.

John Lewis, Civil rights activist and Congressman (obituaryGuardian).

Ronald Lewis, creator of the informal museum, the House of Dance and Feathers, which aimed at preserving the street culture of Black New Orleanians ("Ronald Lewis, Preserver of New Orleans Black Culture, Dies at 68," New York Times).

Lord & Taylor Department Store chain.  With antecedents dating to 1824, the company was almost 200 years old.  But its demise has been coming for some time.

The company had been selling off real estate, including its flagship store in Manhattan, intending to keep a store on the lower floors, but then it decided to shut the store down. 

After many years of various ownership schemes, it was sold to an e-commerce focused mostly digital company, under that ownership, it lasted less than two years. 

Virginia Savage McAlester, historic preservationist, author of Field Guide to American Houses, ("Virginia Savage McAlester, best-selling author and ‘Queen of Dallas Preservation,’ dies at 76," Dallas Morning News). The book is a classic.

Rhody McCoy, New York City Educator and Professor ("Rhody McCoy, Key Figure in New York's School Wars, Dies at 97," NYT .  As Superintendent of the Brooklyn division of New York City's public schools, he initiated a program of decentralizing oversight of the schools, and providing for  community control, which put minority representatives in charge of schools serving their neighborhoods.

This was very controversial--opposed by teachers unions and white neighborhoods--and didn't last, precipitated by a city-wide strike by the teachers union.

Michael McKinnell, architect who created Boston City Hall.  Contemporary writing about the BCH called it humanizing.  To me it's an example of the anti-people architecture of urban renewal and brutalism, stark and off putting.  From the NYT obituary:
It wasn’t the proper government structure of Boston’s staid red-brick tradition; rather, it was a proudly monumental building that would command the vast plaza of the new Government Center complex with thunderous authority. ...

Spaces and forms interpenetrated. Sculptural concrete projections that housed the chambers and the mayor’s office protruded from a modular facade of offices. A brick amphitheater of stairs on the ground floor accommodated gatherings of citizens, even spontaneous sit-ins; the vast plaza in front, inspired by the Campo of Siena, Italy, anticipated the thousands of protesters of those riotous times.

It was a benevolent structure that took the side of the people, guaranteeing citizens free access through porous perimeters in that cradle of American democracy.
Eli Miller, seltzer deliverer (obituary, NYT).  Like milk and juice (and more recently, water), seltzer used to be delivered directly to the home in cities with large Jewish populations, like New York City.  Mr. Miller was one of the last to do so in NYC.  He retired from his Brooklyn route in 2017.

John Mooney, co-inventor of the catalytic converter ("John Mooney, a father of the catalytic converter, dies at 90," Washington Post).  This emissions control device was a major contribution to the improvement of urban air quality in the United States.
From the article:
The breakthrough invention, which Mr. Mooney created in the 1970s with fellow chemical engineer Carl D. Keith, was credited with preventing billions of tons of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides from entering the air we breathe. 
An Environmental Protection Agency report in the early 2000s estimated that Mr. Mooney’s invention helped save 100,000 lives and eliminate hundreds of thousands of cases of throat and lung ailments caused by the emissions of the internal combustion engine. “Billions of people around the world breathe cleaner air because of this invention,” Margo T. Oge, director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality at the EPA, told the New York Times in 2008.
Carvel Moore, neighborhood improvement advocate and consultant, New York City. As a community activist, she led the formation of the 14th Street Local Development Corporation in the early 1970s, which spearheaded the massive clean-up and transformation of Union Square Park, and the foundation of the City’s largest Green Market.

Her work with the 14th Street LDC prompted Carvel to champion the use of new legislation to create business improvement districts, through the imposition of a small additional tax on commercial property within the boundaries created for the special service district.  The 14th St/Union Square BID was the city's first, with Mrs. Moore at the helm. Carvel went on to form and run other BIDs across the City.

The railroad tunnel under Riverside Park, Manhattan, is used by many people who are homeless.

Margaret Morton, professor at Cooper Union, photographer of Manhattan's homeless (obituaryNew York Times).  From the article:
When the city bulldozed the park in late 1989, scattering those who lived there, Ms. Morton followed them and spent the next 10 years documenting their world and that of others on the margins, not only telling their stories but also advocating for their welfare. The author Philip Lopate, who described her as “our modern-day Jacob Riis,” said recently that “she pulled off a rare combination of socially engaged photography that was also formally exquisite.”

The ballerina Misty Copeland at Steps in 2015. She called the studio a “dance community staple” that offers dancers “a sense of community, support, love, and unbelievable opportunity.”Credit: Bon Duke for The New York Times.

Carol Paumgarten, founder of Steps on Broadway dance studio, New York City ("Carol Paumgarten, ‘Den Mother’ to a Dance Scene, Dies at 76," New York Times).  Steps on Broadway is a for profit dance studio, and is an example of anchor spaces, either for profit or non profit, which provide structure and continuity to artistic endeavor within artistic disciplines ("Arts, culture districts and revitalization," 2009; "Cultural planning and the need for arts-based community development corporations as real estate operators," 2018). 

John Pingree, former CEO of the Utah Transit Authority ("Longtime UTA chief John Pingree dies at 80," Salt Lake Tribune; "Guest opinion: John Pingree, father of today’s UTA, was a great example of leadership," Salt Lake Deseret News).

The UTA has come a long way from this 1972 photo: SLDN.

As director of the Utah Transit Authority, he successfully mounted a campaign to get funding for the light rail system in Greater Salt Lake City--today the agency runs bus service, light rail and a commuter railroad ("Utah Transit Authority has long, winding road of history," SLDN).

But the state is pretty conservative politically, and anti-transit elected officials deposed him, although the light rail project continued, and was an element in Salt Lake's successful bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Printed newspapers continue to die.  This year, the Salt Lake Tribune and Salt Lake Deseret News announced they were shifting to a one day a week printed newspaper, downsizing from seven day publication.  Many other newspapers went out of business completely.

Historically, newspaper readership was positively correlated with participation in local civic affairs.

  
Retail comic, 7/24/2019, featuring the "showrooming" phenomenon, where people go to stores to look at products, then buy them online

Retail Comic by Norm Feuti presented wry observations of working in retail, the travails of the job, of dealing with unreasonable customers, corporate dictates, and the financial instability within the industry. Given the importance of retail businesses to commercial district revitalization I always found it trenchant,   He ended the comic in February, by having Grumbel's, the department store chain featured in the strip, go out of business.  

Good timing, since the pandemic crushed retail, especially department and specialty clothing stores. 

The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, Oregon, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Photo: Bradley W. Parks / OPB.

Arlene Schnitzer, Portland real estate investor, arts proponent, and philanthropist ("Arlene Schnitzer, Oregon Philanthropist And Art Collector, Dies At 91," Oregon Public Broadcasting).  She is an example of the thousands of locally-focused people of means across the country who step up when it comes to making philanthropic investments in their communities.

Shopping malls.  Not dead yet, but secondary malls are definitely on the ropes.  The pandemic has accelerated negative trends.  Ironically, shopping malls usually in suburban locations, shifted retail activity from cities to the suburbs.  (In response, some cities built urban shopping malls, although they tended to not be particularly successful as they aimed to draw people off the city's streets into the mall, when what differentiates the urban experience is the activity outside.

In the US, over 2020 major companies like Macy's and JC Penney closed stores (JCP was also in bankruptcy).  Specialty stores like Steinmart went out of business.  Independent department store Lord & Taylor announced its demise.  And shopping malls are increasingly a distressed asset, the pandemic accentuating trends shifting retail towards an e-commerce dominated future ("Retail Bankruptcies Will Push Mid-Range Malls Over the Edge," Bloomberg).

Many shopping mall owners went through bankruptcy, and others abandoned properties to their mortgage holders, after determining it wasn't worth reinvesting because success was unlikely.

Michael Sorkin, architect, critic and writer ("Michael Sorkin, 71, Dies; Saw Architecture as a Vehicle for Change," New York Times).  Some essays.

Eusebio Leal Spengler, led the program to restore the historic architecture of Old Havana ("Eusebio Leal Spengler, Who Restored Old Havana, Dies at 77," New York Times).


Jane Walentas, artist, involved in the revitalization of the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn ("JANE WALENTAS, THE ARTIST BEHIND DUMBO’S HISTORIC CAROUSEL, DIES," Brooklyn Paper).  She facilitated the funding of the company created by her husband to carry out the program, and she inserted arts and artists supporting initiatives as a key element of the development program. A key project she oversaw was the realization of the DUMBO Carousel.

Keep Austin Weird!Red Wassenich, creator of the Keep Austin Weird slogan and campaign ("“Keep Austin Weird” Originator Remembered for Choosing Community Over Capital," Austin Chronicle).

Westchester Broadway (Dinner) Theatre, Westchester County, New York ("Westchester Broadway Theatre won't reopen, a victim of COVID shutdown," Journal News).  But one example of the failure of a culture institution as a result of the pandemic.  It was a for profit, and a reliable employer of actors for over 46 years.  It wasn't high art, but it provide opportunities for the audience as well as actors.

In my writings on cultural planning, this business failure also an example of how culture master plans need to include for profit entities that are part of the overall arts-culture ecosystem, and plan for their continuance, especially in times of financial exigency ("Federal shutdown as another example of why local jurisdictions should have more robust contingency and master planning processes," 2013).

Peter Wolff, publisher of the Intowner community newspaper, which covered the Greater Dupont Circle area of Ward 2 in Washington, DC ("InTowner newspaper publisher Peter Wolff dies at 84," Washington Blade). 

Community newspapers are a key element of local communications and provide reporting on local issues not usually addressed by larger newspapers and the broadcast media.  The Internet has been killing this sector of the media industry for a long time ("Newspapers, community media, and knowledge about and engagement in civic affairs," 2020).