Archive for the ‘Urban Planning’ Category

Comment on the New Chicago Ward Map

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

On 1/19/12, the City Council of Chicago approved a new ward map.

This ward map, shaped by racial power politics, threatens to hurt economic development by —

(1) gerrymandering some commercial and industrial areas into pieces requiring the cooperation of several aldermen in order to frame effective economic strategies, and

(2) separating some of these commercial and industrial areas from their surrounding neighborhoods, further diminishing the chances for coordinated economic development plans.

By fragmenting commercial and industrial areas, and by separating these from their surrounding neighborhoods, the alderman appear to have actually diminished their own effective power to improve the Chicago economy on the most local level.

The racial-ethnic caucuses in the Chicago City Council now have to show whether they are good for anything else other than perpetuating their own existence.

Racial and ethnic self-determination must actually be capable of improving an economy. The alderman appear to have instead marginalized themselves away from effective economic development.

Ineffective racial-ethnic stake-holding makes a useless mockery of the politics of self-determination. The measure of such self-determination must always be resultant economic development.

Instead, will the principal jobs saved by the new map be limited to the jobs of the aldermen themselves?

This ward map threatens to be more about self-perpetuation than about self-determination.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Update: Connecting Economic Recovery with the Advancement of Immigrants

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Distinguished urban planner, demographer, and USC Professor Dowell Myers has issued an update in the 1/11/12 New York Times of his arguments on why a thriving immigrant population is so important for US economic development.

Please see my earlier post taking up this same topic and mentioning Prof. Myer’s book, Immigrants and Boomers.

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

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Public space set aside permanently for ongoing, overnight anarchy (of whatever political persuasion) inevitably leads to violence.

Violence under these conditions is inevitable, because such continuous assignment of public space allows anarchist elements to mass through the process of anarcho-tourism and to progress to their logically violent conclusion.

Chicago learned its lesson on this point a long time ago, as just about any Chicago Police officer is willing to announce:

“Da bahrgk glozez atd levven B-M.”

Translation: “The park closes at 11 PM.”

Or simply: “Da bahrgk iz glozedt.”

Translation: “The park is closed.”

Freedom of assembly does not include the freedom to camp out on public property not assigned for camping use.

This simple stricture–no overnight camp-outs in city parks not designated for such use–will greatly allay the rise of another Weather Underground on the Far Left or of fascist mob rule on either the Far Left or the Far Right.

Such a stricture still allows for social movements to peacefully gather in civic public places during the daylight hours.

For more, please see my Aphorism on anarcho-tourism, or anarchotourism.

© Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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To Build and to Heal: A Response to 9/11/01

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Late in the day on 9/11/01, I began to compose a short letter, which was published in the Chicago Tribune on 9/15/01:

After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Chicago, with the help of New York and of international financiers, boldly committed itself to rebuild bigger, and better.

With New York’s and God’s help, and with its own hands, Chicago did.

Other great cities of the world have known disaster:

London burned down several times in 2,000 years.

Berlin, Tokyo, Beijing and other capitals had been leveled during World War II.

Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Romans and, previously, by other Near Eastern kingdoms.

Rome was sacked several times.

Warsaw was turned into a ghetto by the Nazis.

Each recovered, and grew beyond previous limits to maintain world stature.

New York, as America’s Empire City and one of our symbols of hope and freedom, must rebuild and heal beyond what it lost.

In five to 10 years, the world must see on the New York skyline a new center of world enterprise and leadership.

Building and healing, not war-making, make the strongest statement against terror, because building and healing are what terrorists can never hope to do.

About a year later, on 9/5/02, I jotted some further reflections:

While the [rebuilding] will some day come to pass, the scope of the human healing and enterprise necessary to rebuild humbles the dreamer in us. According to press estimates, an amount of office space equal to all that in the city of Atlanta was obliterated on 9/11. Eighty-five thousand jobs and a major portion of the tax base of New York City have been lost. From a cold fiscal standpoint, New York has no choice but to rebuild.

Such a prospect offers little comfort for the human suffering and loss, which no brilliant scale model of the architects can ever heal.

So something greater than a mere set of buildings must be rebuilt to surpass the hurt and anguish. That something is the city itself, in all its mundane and transcendent meaning, in all its grit and humanity, in all that we love about each other.

© Copyright 2001, 2002, 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Aphorism XXXIV

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Much has been made of the “eyes of the street” theory of Jane Jacobs. But air conditioning has changed all that, because when the air conditioning is on, the windows are closed.

When the windows are closed, their are no “ears of the street” to bring the “eyes of the street” to look out their windows. In a neighborhood where air conditioning dominates, there are many fewer eyes on the street, and many crimes can go unnoticed until too late.

Air conditioning is thus one of the principal authors of urban isolation and urban anonymity. On a hot day, a street gang can work a park or square–within a zone of quiet surrounded by air conditioned homes–with almost complete impunity.

© Copyright 1972, 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Film: Demographic Bomb

Friday, January 28th, 2011

The widespread belief in the threat of overpopulation is often more firmly held than religious faith, and persists throughout the developed world.

This belief has shifted across several elites in society over recent centuries, from the pious powerful seeking to eliminate the undeserving poor, to the progressives seeking to engineer a better society, to the eugenicists and their negative mirror image (and their sometime friends) the associated fanatics seeking to eliminate the weak and to grow a master race, to environmental idealists wishing to erase the human footprint from the earth, to enlightened and wealthy postmoderns seeking to incrementally reduce the sources of social dissonance as they shape a society to suit their fanciful self-image or their charitable foundation’s flavor of the week.

To all of these, the following film will come as something of a shock.

The 2009 film Demographic Bomb ran on EWTN on the evening of 1/26/11.

Demographic Bomb, written and directed by Rick Stout, who co-produced the film with Barry McLerran, includes top thinkers including Nobel Economics laureate Gary S. Becker of the University of Chicago, USC demographer and planning professor Dowell Myers, Columbia U. historian Matthew James Connelly, as well as partisans on opposing sides of the population debate such as Paul R. Ehrlich, the original author of The Population Bomb, and Nicholas Eberstadt.

The film’s most telling point from the standpoint of economic science was made by Prof. Becker, who cited Adam Smith’s insight that prosperity was associated with growing population, while declines in population were associated with declines in prosperity.

Indeed, the economic organization of our society is based upon the assumption of continued population growth. The outnumbering of the young by the old, which is implied by declining birth rates, places a great burden on the young, and can lead to economic decline. This is one of the basic arguments of the film, which notes a demographic trend underlying declines in real estate markets, where fewer buyers follow to acquire the homes built by the Baby Boom generation. This reduction in demand leads to declines in value, and thus also leads to economic decline.

Those political and social activists who believe that an economy can be legislated or regulated into existence might as well be trying to legislate the weather and the force of gravity. Underlying every economy are its markets. Underlying these markets are demographic forces, and underlying these demographic forces are tangible resources found in the land, the air, and the seas. Without exception, the underlying market, demographic, and physical forces eventually erupt and overcome foolish efforts to shape society that do not effectively acknowledge and harmonize with the powers of these underlying realities.

Demographic Bomb, the second film in a series preceded by Demographic Winter, lets the experts speak in their own words, but firmly draws its own conclusions that population decline, forced by misguided governments and organizations, is hurtful to human society.

Here is the trailer for Demographic Bomb.

Here is the trailer for Demographic Winter.

Please see my earlier post on the work of Prof. Dowell Myers for the importance of the advancement of immigrants to economic development.

© Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Connecting economic recovery with the advancement of immigrants

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Chapman University professors Steven Gjerstad and (2002 Nobel Prize winner) Vernon L. Smith have written a comprehensive analysis of US recessions and recoveries since 1929.

This analysis, along with their less technically written 9/10/10 Wall Street Journal Article entitled, “Why We’re in for a Long, Hard Economic Slog: Evidence from 14 U.S. recessions shows that the economy doesn’t recover until housing recovers” (you must be a WSJ subscriber to read this online), are well worth the read if you wish to understand the forces working to actually bring about an economic recovery. As Gjerstad and Smith state in their WSJ article:

“Our study of all the postwar recessions and the Great Depression leads to the following empirical proposition: If there is no recovery in housing expenditures, confirmed by a recovery in consumer durable goods expenditures, then there is no economic recovery.”

Looming underneath the “Great Recession” following the Banking Panic of 2007 is a demographic shift related to the aging Baby Boomer generation’s changing spending patterns accompanying their life-cycle transition.

In this vein, USC Professor Dowell Myers, a distinguished urban planner and demographer, wrote also in 2007 a very insightful book entitled, Immigrants and Boomers: Forging a New Social Contract for the Future of America, in which he argued that public policies which encourage immigrants to step into the economic and social gaps left by the departing Boomers would benefit the US: The quicker the US integrates our immigrants into full partnership in society, the better off we are as a nation economically as well as socially.

If the US were to pair the insights of Profs. Gjerstad and Smith with those of Prof. Myers, we might come up with more effective public policies that moved us out of recession to a better economic place. Because there are fundamental financial and underlying demographic forces at work behind this “Great Recession,” I agree with Profs. Gjerstad and Smith that we are in for a “long slog.” But Prof. Myers shows us one long-term way out: the integration of and partnership with US immigrants.

The economic argument here is a commonsense one: If Boomers are spending less as they age and this prolongs an economic downturn, someone else has to step into the gap. The more successful immigrants can become and fill this gap, the better off we are.

Because of the underlying demographic and financial forces, we shouldn’t expect recent pre-election Washington-based financial legislative “stimulus” gimmicks to have much of an effect. (See my earlier post mentioning the limited impact of presidents.) True immigration reform built upon the integration of talented and hard-working immigrants into American society would work to speed economic recovery, but don’t expect politicians to take on this difficult challenge any time soon. Presently, even though it is against our best interest as a nation, it pays politically in some quarters to marginalize immigrants.

Hence, we’re indeed in for a long slog economically, unless we somehow collectively come to our senses as a nation and realize that immigration, if it is accompanied by economic and social integration, is really good for us.

To date, Washington has not connected economic recovery with the advancement of immigrants. But the two are closely related. The longer we wait to integrate our immigrants both economically and socially, the worse off we will be as a nation.

© Copyright 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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