Find me on:
This form does not yet contain any fields.
    Powered by Squarespace
    Subscribe
    Monday
    Nov052018

    Tulsa Struggles to Make Amends for a Massacre it Ignored for Nearly a Century

    BY  NOVEMBER 2018

     

    On weekday mornings, enticing whiffs of bacon and fried potatoes waft from Wanda J’s Next Generation restaurant in Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood. The smell of breakfast on the griddle offers a comforting contrast to the sound of big rigs and commuter traffic roaring by on the Interstate 244 overpass that cleaves the neighborhood in two. 

    At first glance, the Greenwood section of Tulsa doesn’t look much different from places in other cities where, in the name of urban renewal, new highways were erected in the 1960s, obliterating or dividing minority neighborhoods. Around the corner from Wanda J’s, there are signs of a revitalization effort -- or of gentrification, depending on whom you ask. A sign on an empty lot promises a future mixed-use development; a two-story historic building nearby has already been renovated with retail on the ground floor that includes a combo coffee shop and yoga studio, a bookstore, and a Vietnamese sandwich shop. 

    But the sidewalks that line the streets of this neighborhood offer a grim reminder of Greenwood’s darker past. Every 20 or 30 feet, a plaque lists the name of a business -- a restaurant, grocer, lawyer, doctor, clothing store -- and below it, the words, “Destroyed in 1921.”

    A hundred years ago, this 35-square-block section of Tulsa was home to one of the largest concentrations of African-American-owned enterprises and wealth in this country. It was so well-known at the time that Booker T. Washington nicknamed the area “Negro Wall Street.” At its peak, Greenwood was home to more than 300 businesses serving roughly 11,000 residents who, thanks to segregation, reinvested whatever they earned back into their community. By 1921, Black Wall Street, as it’s called today, boasted a three-story, chandeliered hotel as well as a public library, two newspapers, 23 churches and a high school that taught Latin, chemistry and physics.

    That all changed on May 31 of that year when a black teenage boy was accused of assaulting a white female elevator operator. Within hours, marauding white residents swept into the district and burned it to the ground.

    Click to read more ...

    Thursday
    Sep062018

    States' Capital Budgets Have Become Partisan Battlegrounds

    BY  SEPTEMBER 2018

    The picture spoke a thousand words: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his family were frolicking and sunning themselves on an otherwise empty beach at Island Beach State Park. The sandy shore was closed to the public because a budget impasse in 2017 had shut down the government. The stalemate threatened thousands of state residents’ July 4th plans that year.

    Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, legislators in Washington state were embroiled in a charged political budget battle over rural water rights. The lawmakers couldn’t agree on how to fix the problem of who had the right to dig new wells. The impasse lasted a nasty six months, but few people outside the state even heard about the freeze on spending it caused. 

    That’s because while New Jersey’s budget standoff was immediately felt by all state residents, Washington’s battle merely held up the state’s capital budget. While capital budgets are incredibly important for job growth and a state’s economy, in most places holding one hostage doesn’t cause a government shutdown. Hitting the pause button on spending to build roadways and school buildings doesn’t have the same impact as closing a public beach on a hot summer day. 

     

    Click to read more ...

    Thursday
    Sep062018

    Berkeley's Bold Bet on Bitcoin

    BY  AUGUST 2018

    Berkeley, Calif., has always had an independent streak. It was named after Irish philosopher George Berkeley, who advanced the theory of immaterialism or the belief that material things have no objective existence. Located across the bay from San Francisco, Berkeley has long attracted people and ideas outside of the mainstream. In the 1960s, it was the birthplace of the free speech movement and hippie counterculture. In the 1990s, an advocacy group tried to bring back the bartering system in protest of economic globalization. And in the 2000s, voters overwhelmingly approved the nation’s first-ever soda tax to counteract the damage done by high-sugar drinks.

    But now this city known for its out-there policies is taking perhaps its biggest risk yet: Later this year, it plans on becoming the first municipality in the country to issue municipal bonds using the blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrency. The project is the brainchild of Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Vice Mayor Ben Bartlett and is being billed as a way to make investing in municipal bonds more accessible than ever. That’s because, unlike the minimum $5,000 bond denomination common today, “cryptobonds” can be issued in denominations as low as $5 or $10. The bonds also have the potential to open up a whole new way for the city to raise money for housing. This is an acute issue since the Trump administration has slashed the budget for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, cut funding for Section 8 housing credits and targeted sanctuary cities such as Berkeley for federal funding cuts.

    Click to read more ...

    Monday
    Jul022018

    The New Gold Rush for Green Bonds

    BY  JULY 2018

    Hanging on the wall just outside Bryan Kidney’s office in Lawrence, Kan., is the framed first page of a bond offering statement. Unlike most -- or really, any -- bond statements, this one required a color printer. It could even be described as cheeky: It’s for the sale of the city’s first green bond, and every reference to “green bond” or “green project” is printed in green ink.

    Kidney, the city’s finance director who shepherded the $11.3 million sale last year, says the green ink originally started out as a joke. 

    But then, he thought, why not? When the projects are fully implemented, Lawrence is projected to save 3,201 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) annually, which is equal to burning 3.5 million fewer pounds of coal. “I get really passionate about this stuff,” Kidney says. “I was just so excited that Lawrence stepped up to be a leader in sustainability.”

    Click to read more ...

    Friday
    Jun012018

    Scott Wiener Thinks He Knows How to Fix California's Housing Crisis

    Other legislators aren't so sure.
    BY  JUNE 2018
    California's go-for-broke legislator failed this year in his bid to spark a revolution in housing policy. He's ready to try again. (AP)

    To California Sen. Scott Wiener, nothing epitomizes his state’s housing failures more than the seemingly endless fight over a five-story condo building at the corner of Valencia and Hill streets in San Francisco’s Mission District. The area is in the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, which rezoned a third of San Francisco in 2008 to increase density near transit and to make housing more affordable. The lot was formerly home to a fast-food restaurant whose neighbors included several three-story apartment buildings and the historic Marsh theater.

    Shortly after the Neighborhoods Plan took effect, a developer proposed a 16-unit building with two affordable housing units on the site of the restaurant. Although it adhered to the new zoning plan, the 1050 Valencia project was to be the tallest building for many blocks, and Mission District residents moved to stop it. In addition to complaining about the project’s height, they insisted the modern building would damage the historic character of the neighborhood. This was despite the fact that the stucco and wood-shingled restaurant there at the time was neither historic nor aesthetically appealing. In addition, the Marsh theater owner was concerned that construction noise and a proposed first-floor bar would disrupt theater business. It took years for the condos to be approved. The developer agreed to mitigate the noise impact and reduce the number of units from 16 to 12.

    Not satisfied, the opponents turned to the Board of Permit Appeals, which sympathized with them and lopped off the top story of the building. That reduced the number of units from 12 to nine—and eliminated the two affordable units. “Welcome to housing policy in San Francisco,” wrote Wiener, who was then a member of the city’s board of supervisors. “A policy based not so much on our city’s dire housing needs but on who can turn out the most people at a public hearing.”

    Click to read more ...