Archive for the ‘Urban Planning’ Category

Medical Districts and Their Arterial and Access Streets Should be Off Limits to Demonstrations

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

With demonstrations an almost daily occurrence in Chicago, it now makes sense to bar demonstrations from medical districts and from the arterial and access streets leading to those districts within a two mile radius.

While police can sometimes allow emergency vehicles to pass through a demonstration, too often surgeons, physicians, nurses, technicians, expectant mothers, the ill, the elderly, and critical supplies, if not organ donations, are delayed in traffic to and from hospitals, particularly Northwestern Memorial, especially by demonstrations along the Magnificent Mile. Ohio and Ontario Streets, Lake Shore Drive, and all streets leading directly to and from, should not be obstructed by demonstrations within two miles of Northwestern Memorial.

The same should go for the Illinois Medical District on the Near West Side, and for the University of Chicago Hospitals.

There are plenty of places in Chicago where demonstrators can make their point. But their point should not come at the cost of putting the medical care and health of others at risk. Health care providers and critical supplies should at all times be able to travel to and from medical centers unimpeded. Expectant mothers, senior citizens, and the ill should not be stuck in traffic for hours because of the demonstration du jour, however worthy the cause.

© Copyright 2016, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

The views posted at sanityandsocialjustice.net are those of Albert J. Schorsch, III, alone, and not those of any of his employers, past or present.

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African American Legislative Caucuses Commit Slow Suicide by Supporting Abortion

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

Despite the African American total fertility rate in the US shrinking to less than the replacement rate for the African American population, African American legislative caucuses continue to commit slow suicide by supporting abortion. With each redistricting to come, whether in civic, state, or congressional elections, the number of predominantly African American legislative districts will continue to shrink, despite activist politics at redistricting time and more and more ludicrous gerrymandering.

There is no fighting demography in the long run. As the African American population shrinks in the US due in no small part to abortion politics, so will shrink the hard-fought political gains of African Americans. African American legislative caucuses are beginning to die by their own hand. After 2030, if present abortion trends continue in the African American community, it is possible that African American legislative districts at all levels could shrink by 40% to even 50%.

This self-inflicted blow was first struck by now elderly legislators of the Civil Rights era who bought into supporting abortion in order to gain and retain power. These foolish elders have dealt their own legacy a death blow, but given the human life span, they will likely not survive long enough to witness the bitter fruits of their own stupidity.

© Copyright 2016, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

The views posted at sanityandsocialjustice.net are those of Albert J. Schorsch, III, alone, and not those of any of his employers, past or present.

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How to Fix the Chicago Schools Without Building More of Them

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

In a few neighborhoods in Chicago, there is a call for building more public schools due to overcrowding. But when one looks at vacancies in public schools adjacent to these overcrowded schools, one often finds excess capacity that can accommodate more students. It is therefore apparent that some schools are overcrowded because they are schools of refuge from less desirable schools. Nevertheless, the public constituency for what I refer to as “refuge overcrowding” calls for the building of new schools rather than fixing the adjacent schools that are less desirable.

Because neither the state, nor the county, nor the city have enough money, the means to build a new school of refuge is usually a Tax Increment Financing district, or TIF. A TIF is basically a public means to rob Peter to pay Paul, through public financial slight of hand that prevents Peter, Peter being whoever loses in the TIF deal, from ever finding out the truth of the matter. Even so, the public sector bears an undue capital burden to build a new school when an adjacent school has excess capacity. The public sector in Illinois, be it state or local government, barely has enough money to avoid bankruptcy and utter collapse. Despite this fundamental change in the fiscal position of government, public leaders continue to argue for capital expenditures as if we were in a period of growth, which we are not. This wishful thinking is sheer folly, since their proposed new capital expenditures cannot be completed to a high degree of quality, nor sustained and maintained in a declining future.

I therefore propose a different way to think about preK-12 schools, and that is to think of all such schools, be they public, charter, parochial, or private, as all one educational system. If we look at the capacity of this combined educational system of all schools, there is more than enough capacity to educate all the available children. But what is seemingly missing is a financial mechanism to fund all the schools.

I wrote “seemingly missing” because the financial mechanism is educational or school vouchers which are unpopular with a vocal fraction of the political sector. Educational vouchers help prevent needless capital expenditures on new public school buildings by funding the more efficient use of all existing educational buildings. They are a better use of public funds for education primarily for this very reason–that they preclude the need to build new schools by funding the whole educational system rather than funding new capital improvements for the often stressed or dis-functional public fragment of it.

Educational vouchers would easily allow non-public schools to accommodate many of the students facing overcrowding in nearby public schools when one factors in the reduction in capital outlays. Due to the dire financial condition of the public sector in Illinois that prevents capital expenditures, there is presently a real opportunity to make the school voucher argument as a way to reduce the need for future capital spending. It is therefore surprising that the argument for vouchers is not made more forcefully at this very time of opportunity for school vouchers by educational, non-profit, and religious leaders responsible for non-public schools. This could be due to lack of insight, to distraction, or perhaps, to cowardice.

© Copyright 2016, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

The views posted at sanityandsocialjustice.net are those of Albert J. Schorsch, III, alone, and not those of any of his employers, past or present.

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Canceled Catholic Dorm Contract is a Loss to UIC and to Chicago

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

According to the Chicago neighborhood paper the Gazette on 5/2/14, after several years of trying to obtain City approval, the St. John Paul II Newman Center at UIC, due to City delays and perhaps some preservation and NIMBY opposition, lost the contract option for the property at 1352 S. Union St., which would have added another dorm to the UIC South Campus community–

http://www.gazettechicago.com/index/2014/05/uic-newman-center-loses-dorm-contract/

This is a great opportunity lost for the UIC campus, and for the City of Chicago. A corresponding Newman dorm at UIUC is a major part of the campus landscape, a draw for students nationally, and a contribution to the diversity of the university —

http://sjcnc.org/Facilities.aspx

That any bona fide entity ready and willing to invest in building and supporting a complementary dorm for the UIC community should fail to receive City approval does not bode well. Chicago is losing population, and therefore losing taxpayers and all that this loss means economically and socially. But a university draws population to a city, and strengthens a city as a creative center. Each opportunity lost to build a university community is another opportunity lost to further build a city.

There are many willing to stop projects and to interpose and to shape them, but there are very few willing to sponsor projects who are also capable of actually making them happen. Chicago is littered with decades-old ghost buildings and vacant properties with no funding to put them into use that serve as dingy daily rebukes to those who can stop projects, but who can’t build them. Chicago needs more builders, not more stoppers.

Perhaps another opportunity will arise. . .

© Copyright 2014, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Science vs. Religion vs. Fornicating and Going on the Internet

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

In the science vs. religion debates, how few people who claim to base their lives on either science or religion actually do so!

Instead, we as a society follow politically correct, symbolic, faux science and religion.

If we did base our lives upon real science and religion, we as a society would, for example–

  • Eat right and exercise to avoid disease, and structure our homes, schools, and work environments to help us do so;
  • Treat alcohol and addiction as diseases in terms of public health and homeless assistance policies instead of politicizing “the homeless” to be used as a partisan footballs each election cycle, without actually healing their ills;
  • Treat sexually transmitted diseases in order to cure and to eliminate them, without regard to political correctness that instead enables and thereby spreads them;
  • Follow proper agricultural conservation principles;
  • Consistently focus educational resources based simultaneously upon ability and aspiration and achievement, and not simply upon one or upon another;
  • Maintain our roads, bridges, transportation, utilities, and communication systems in a self-sustaining manner using scheduled preventative maintenance;
  • Run our businesses, our charities, our government, and our bureaucracies based upon established scientific quality control measures to advance better customer service and achievement of mission and purpose;
  • Better match sources of funds with uses of funds in public policy decisions, e.g., pay for alcohol treatment with the alcohol tax, tobacco-related illness with the tobacco tax, instead of funding every other use of funds with a mishmosh of every other source of funds;
  • Regularly measure and test the effects of government action and taxation on a municipal, regional, national, and international basis (political parties are terrified of an unbiased, third entity measuring their actual achievement);
  • Educate prisoners while in prison, since abundant research shows that the more a prisoner is educated, the greater the reduction in recidivism;
  • No longer build homes or businesses in flood plains (which politicians allow generation after rebuilding generation; e.g., please see Ian McHarg’s 1969 book, Design with Nature, for a prediction of exactly where in New Jersey and Staten Island, New York, not to build because of the flooding potential of these locations; McHarg’s predictions were borne out by Hurricane Sandy);
  • No longer build homes, businesses, government projects, schools, or laboratories without adequate safety (especially fire) and without adequate security provisions.
  • But we are no more a scientific society than we are a religious society. We are instead really neither. Our familiarity with science and technology usually ends with the tips of our fingers. Our trust in God too often ends with the mottoes emblazoned on our coins.

    After lip service to both science and religion, when it comes to very important issues of human organization, we as a human society fundamentally ignore both.

    We are instead the uninformed and selfish inertia society, propelled by unenlightened self-interest pointed in the same direction that we may deny we have long been pointed: toward ourselves.

    But even there we miss the mark. Hamartia, for the Classic Greek author the hero’s tragic flaw, for the Christian the New Testament word for sin, literally means “to miss the mark.” We are indeed both a tragic and a sinful society that does not even act effectively in our own self interest:

    “A single sentence will suffice for modern man. He fornicated and read the papers. After that vigorous definition, the subject will be, if I may say so, exhausted.”

    Albert Camus, The Fall

    In her 11/11/11 talk at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture annual conference entitled, “Forgetting Jerusalem: Has the West Lost Its Way?” University of Chicago scholar Jean Bethke Elshtain updated and paraphrased the Camus quote above as: “We [Modern Man and Woman] fornicated and went on the Internet.”

    In her same presentation above, Prof. Elshtain mentioned hearing Julian Huxley confidently predict many years ago a scientific, non-violent, non-religious society “by the year 2000.”

    Julian Huxley apparently forgot that for scientific principles to be applied to address society’s problems, a certain amount of social altruism is needed.

    But scientific reason has heretofore not been the principal fountainhead of human cooperation and unselfishness. It is religion which has steadily, despite notable failures, urged its adherents to think and to act with the well-being of others in mind. The reason of science follows the altruism of religion.

    Catholicism in particular specifically recognizes not only Rome (Church teaching) and Jerusalem (Scripture), but also Athens (Reason).

    Science needs religion-based altruism in order to implement society-wide its best findings in the human interest. Religion needs science in order to separate altruism from self-centered self-deception.

    Both science and religion require a lifetime of study and work in their pursuit, which may explain why both science and religion–to expand G. K. Chesterton’s famous usage about Christianity–are “found difficult and left untried.”

    The greatest threat to religion is not atheism, but consumerism and one of its effects: weekend sports scheduled during times of worship.

    The greatest threat to scientific advance in society is not religion, but the scientifically-verified fact that approximately 25% of the collegiate population is abusing alcohol to the point that it interferes with their studies.

    The search for scientific truth and the pursuit of religious truth are compatible pursuits which spring from a human hunger for truth.

    Those who search for the truth of both the body and of the Spirit need each other in order to implement the best of their gifts of knowledge and wisdom to positively change our world.

    Otherwise, just fornicating and just going on the Internet will continue to shape society according to both tragic and sinful human inertia.

    Science is needed to prevent and to recover from tragedy, and religion is needed to prevent and to recover from sin. Both tragedy and sin stand in the way of human progress.

    Because the world thirsts for both an end to tragedy and an end to sin, science and religion can work together to more quickly advance a better humanity and a better world.

    © Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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    Implications of the Weapons from The Day the Earth Stood Still

    Saturday, October 27th, 2012

    Reports over the past years have tracked the progress of non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse weapons, which can disable most electronic components within a given area, reminiscent of the classic 1951 science fiction film, The Day the Earth Stood Still. Here’s a recent update on the development of one such EMP weapon.

    Such weapons have both offensive and defensive capabilities. A city hit by such a weapon would immediately be cast into the 1940s pre-transistor age, but without having access to the analogue technology of the 1940s. Not only would communications and vehicles not work, but neither would hospital equipment, furnaces and refrigerators built with modern digital components, nor would the utilities supplying electricity, nor would in some cases water and natural gas utilities function properly. The maintenance of human subsistence in such areas would decline rapidly. Supply chains of food and medicine would dry up. Police and public safety officers would not be able to communicate with one another, and the web of human care which has been so advanced by electronic technology would revert to verbal, paper, and the most basic forms of communications. Google and Facebook and cell phones would be worthless, transactions would revert to cash and barter, and it may be difficult after such an attack for a city to even effectively signal its own surrender.

    I can imagine a scenario in which a nation constantly besieged by terror attacks would keep a permanent EMP zone around itself, to prevent coordination of terror attacks or the use of any but the most basic weapons against itself. I can also imagine a more strategic scenario in which an entire country could be kept in a permanent 1940s state by repeated EMP attacks, and be forced to remain totally dependent on other countries for technology and goods and services. The use of such EMP weapons will change warfare forever.

    Preparations for civil defense against such weapons are just about non-existent. I remember what life was like without our present technology, and as a person who studies planning and systems, I shudder to imagine what society would become if the use of such weapons against cities became widespread.

    © Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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    The German Birth Dearth’s Implications for the Social Safety Net

    Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

    According to recent demographic news, Germany may not have enough of a younger generation in coming years to pay the taxes to sustain a social safety net.

    Immigration may not be able to close the gap, because immigration policy is a mass of contradiction in many developed countries.

    In the US, states already have massive, unfunded pension obligations, even before the larger effects of a demographic winter are felt in a few decades.

    Progressive dogma posits both low birth rates through universal artificial birth control and a social safety net.

    But as births decline, fewer and fewer people pay the taxes and the debt for the larger group of the elderly, and the population chart begins to look like an inverted pyramid, with more of the old on top, and fewer of the young on the bottom.

    With US immigration policy at an impasse, there is no ready solution.

    Therefore, our present anti-birth progressive social policy doesn’t add up in terms of long-term public finance.

    We can’t have low birth rates and a sustainable social welfare safety net at the same time, unless we open the doors to immigrants and give them the chance to succeed.

    Please see my earlier posts on this general topic.

    © Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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    Treating Alcoholism and Addiction as Diseases of the Brain

    Friday, July 20th, 2012

    Those of us who have served to assist the homeless in some way may think we are quite familiar with the problem of alcoholism.

    But now we must think anew, because in some very important ways, we have been deadly wrong.

    Despite the fact that the scourge of alcoholism has been known for centuries, advances in neuroscience have radically changed our understanding of the disease, which kills with the grim efficiency of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

    Yet the response of society to alcoholism appears almost hopelessly embedded in social, religious, familial, and legal patterns laid down centuries ago.

    Alcoholism wounds and reshapes the brain in ways that make recovery from alcoholism very difficult, especially given the fact that the brain needs almost nine (9) months of sobriety to begin making strides in the neurological healing process.

    Alcoholism also reshapes social relationships, be they familial or employment-related. It in addition alters the social and even physical dimensions of cities and towns where later-stage alcoholics gather. An amazing amount of physical space in cities is utilized not only to sell alcohol, but to recover from its effects. Many major cities not only have hundreds of locations to purchase liquor, but hundreds of sites for AA and related recovery meetings.

    In recent decades, DUI or DWI laws have decreased legal tolerance for driving under the influence, at least in the United States. The establishment of Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s, the subsequent founding of Al-Anon and other support networks for families, and the growth in the cultural awareness of what has been called “enabling behavior” or “co-dependency” since the 1970s have helped individuals and society cope in better ways with this disease.

    But if scientists are correct that alcoholism is a disease of the damaged brain, and that the brain needs nine months of sobriety before it can seriously begin to heal, then the composite response of law, politics, health care, social work, insurance, employment, labor relations, and religious ministry to the disease of alcoholism amount to a confused and contradictory, ineffective and expensive, harmful mishmosh.

    To treat the problem of homelessness as a solely political or civil rights problem, when such a significant dimension of homelessness is connected with public health problems such as alcoholism, addiction, and mental illness, borders on self-indulgent delusion.

    Alcoholism is a disease that damages the brain and the rest of the body in certain well-known and predictable ways. It devastates family life and hurts innocent spouses and children, in addition to the alcoholics. In its later stages, it sets those who suffer from it out onto the street in a staggering march toward their own deaths.

    But much of this suffering from alcoholism is now avoidable.

    If we think we understand alcoholism, we are probably wrong.

    We can start learning more by reading Healing the Addicted Brain by Harold C. Urschel III, MD, and by visiting his website, or by accessing the resources at enterhealth.com.

    © Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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    Why Research Universities Merit the “Freedom of the City”

    Sunday, May 6th, 2012

    What I shared with university colleagues on 5/6/12–

    Colleague,

    I’ve been thinking of implications of the various [Illinois] pension bills in the light of the larger question of the need for economic development in Chicago and in Illinois.

    Yale economist Robert Shiller, the co-originator of the Case-Shiller housing index, recently made a dire prediction, that the housing market may not recover for a generation, meaning “in our lifetimes.”

    The implications of this prediction, if correct, are profound. The political game of chasing around and announcing “jobs, jobs, jobs” may shortly be practically useless. Longer-term sources of economic growth besides tax incentive gimmicks to attract and retain businesses will have to be found.

    Cities have historically grown and thrived because, as centers of commerce, they were in some sense free economic zones that became magnets of opportunity for both migrants and for entrepreneurs. But our generation of legislators, whether federal, state, and local, have somehow embraced bureaucracy and regulation as a solution, and are locking out opportunity.

    By reducing constraints upon UIC’s [University of Illinois at Chicago] growth as an urban, state research university, Chicago and Illinois could become a greater research and educational magnet, drawing more scientists, more businesses, and more students, and rival Boston or LA within two or three generations, if we collectively make the right decisions to unshackle our research universities and institutes and let them grow and thrive. The “freedom of the city” must be extended to the University of Illinois (both UIC and UIUC [University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign]) and to partner institutions as research leaders.

    In order for such a strategy to succeed, civic leaders who are alumni of NU and U Chicago will have to drop their elite snobbery and allow UIC to thrive as well, since UIC in the long term can “bring the big numbers” of both graduates and researchers to help Chicago and Illinois thrive. But even these three Chicago research universities are not enough to build a “rival Boston” strategy for this region.

    That is why legislative action that drives away research talent, and the dollars that senior professors and principal investigators bring with them, is exactly the wrong economic development strategy for Illinois.

    As long as state research universities are lumped into legislation covering all matter of non-research institutions, and subject to numerous unintended consequences and unpredictability, the state research university will not thrive to the extent that it could in Illinois. We already see talented colleagues voting on the expected results of such election-year legislation with their feet before the final votes are cast.

    Infrastructure alone will not bring Illinois or Chicago back. We have to have a “somewhere” to where the roads and bridges lead. Because real estate will not be an answer for perhaps a generation, state and other research universities do help answer the question of “somewhere.” So let’s not sandbag research universities with bureaucratic disincentives for success, OK?

    There are so many encouraging changes taking place at UIC, especially UIC College Prep–there should be dozens more such Chicago and Illinois high schools!–that I’m sad to see some of our colleagues go at this critical moment for UIC.

    But we do have a great opportunity, even in these awful times for Illinois, to actually make the right legislative decisions to shape a better future.

    Regulatory freedom for the Research Universities of Illinois is part of the answer. The sooner the University of Illinois, including UIUC and UIC, can be set apart with its own legislation freeing the development of research and the attraction and retention of talent from regulatory constraints, the better.

    But who will take the lead in spreading this message? Who’s got the guts to do this in an election year?

    Much easier to add more bureaucracy and to call it “reform.” Yet where is the economic development–which is what we really need–in that?

    So far, the legislature has taken the safe DMV approach–more rules and more roads. But rules and roads leading to what?

    Cordially,

    Albert Schorsch, III

    © Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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    Aphorism L

    Thursday, March 29th, 2012

    In the spirit of putting dreams into action, we went to the Moon.

    Then we asked, If we can go to the Moon, why can’t we resolve war, or poverty, or education?

    Then we tried to resolve war, and poverty, and education, and didn’t.

    Then we stopped going to the Moon.

    Now we couldn’t go to the Moon any time soon, even if we wanted to do so.

    (I thank one of my sons for the last line).

    © Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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