Archive for May, 2019

Where’s Waldo?

May 24, 2019

Announcements of the past week included that the population of the City of Columbus is greater than that of San Francisco (but where’s your heart?). And that Newark is ostensibly in a class of only 4% of American cities – with a population over 50K. That means that about 24,000 people in Newark reside in non-owner occupant housing (give or take a few, but who’s counting?). And what of those with no house? “Community-based group aims to reduce chronic homelessness in Licking County” the online Newark Advocate reported (Michaela Sumner, 5-23-19). “In April, the ad hock community-based group, comprised of representatives from Newark Development Partners, United Way of Licking County, the Licking County Coalition for Housing, and others, joined in a series of stakeholder meetings to determine what they’re asking a consultant to do.” Who’s the consultant? The next line answers that. “Those meetings resulted in a proposed request for proposals, or RFP, defining the group’s priorities for a consultant to address in their study of homelessness in Licking County, according to Aaron Domini, who works for the Columbus community planning firm OHM Advisors.” Their website heralds “We are more than an architecture, engineering and planning firm. We are the community advancement firm.” Part of their Google representation gives “Newark, Ohio’s downtown square, designed by OHM Advisors, centers around the courthouse.” Indeed, that’s who did the “community advancement” that…. Well, you can only guess when it comes to those without housing. Analysis won’t say “ironic” but after the observations made in the previous post (Location, Location, Location 5-19-19), the consultation is misdirected, in the least. A bit farther in the Advocate report Sumner writes “Many groups suggested adding a representative from faith-based groups, education, and grass-roots organizations to what’s being called a tactical group, which will review the proposed RFP and select a consultant. Others had questions about who would be overseeing the consultant and getting regular updates, and concerns the consultant would also need to address pockets of homeless people in Heath and Buckeye Lake.” Consulting with an architecture and engineering firm to address concerns regarding the unseen, living in even more unseen residences, borders on obscene. Adding to this faith based belief that the “problem” can be addressed antiseptically by the same design logistics that provided roundabouts and gobble de gook downtown parking restrictions (park it elsewhere but don’t overstay or you’ll pay) is more faith based groups. Indeed, when it comes to more, then houses of worship are up there in the 4% category. Unfortunately, Analysis was unable to locate a data base numbering the “faith-based groups” in the 50K city but guesses it is quite extensive. Why do those unable to find housing go unseen within such a panoply of houses of worship? The Islamic mandate of Hajj requires “stoning the devil” as part of the ritual. The devil meets even less sympathy amongst the other Judeo-Christian originations. One curious and revealing variant is the “Prosperity Gospel.” Wiki gives insight with “Prosperity theology views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver security and prosperity. The doctrine emphasizes the importance of personal empowerment, proposing that it is God’s will for his people to be blessed. It is based on interpretations of the Bible that are mainstream in Judaism (with respect to the Hebrew Bible), though less so in Christianity. The atonement (reconciliation with God) is interpreted to include the alleviation of sickness and poverty, which are viewed as curses to be broken by faith.” Analysis finds being sick and/or poor to be functionally one step removed from being the devil incarnate. Who wants a curse in the proximity of their wonderfully designed and engineered downtown square? What kind of an antiseptic engineering solution do you think the courthouse square design team will come up with? It is not only the mayor who wants those unable to afford non-owner occupant housing to relocate out of the design, but the entire city government prefers to throw stones at the devil rather than reconcile with humanity. Collecting money on “sin taxes” is a wonderful thing, but when it comes to zoning the location of “curses,” we find ordinances keeping such entities well away from residences, schools, and churches. Left to houses of worship and architectural designers, where will the unseen, living in unseen residences, be located?

 

Location, Location, Location

May 19, 2019

On 5-16-19 The Freedom School of Licking County screened “Inside Akron’s Tent City” at the GMP hall in Newark. The film was about the tent city on private property in Akron available as a shelter opportunity for those without any. The showing was partially as a response to the unacceptable actions by the Jeff Hall administration in bulldozing the tent shelters of those without any alternatives this past winter. After the showing there was a lengthy discussion regarding various aspects of what can or could be done, what is being done, and what has been done elsewhere. Newark is not alone in having a population in need, of shelter, nutritional food, transportation, medical care and education. It is also not alone in refusing to address the need in any comprehensive or systematic manner. Ever since the first President George Bush advocated for his “thousand points of light” as a solution to community needs, Newark has embraced that solution. And the need only grows. One area of muddlement found in our culture today is that any discussion addressing these needs involves one and the same subjects. This mix up becomes divisive, branding a certain population as “always and every way in need.” A recent obituary described the deceased as a “proud and strong willed self made man.” The insinuation is that he was “self reliant” in meeting his needs. As the movie pointed out, it is damn hard and continuous work surviving Ohio’s climate without resources. True, the same person who is without shelter may be without any transportation options, which in turn challenges accessing food, medical care, or education. Analysis shows that food pantries are not located near grocery stores or restaurants. This is no coincidence. Food pantries rely on such establishments for donations of unmarketable yet still consumable goods. The business in turn wants credit for its contribution but not a direct link, knowing its customers would not pay for what they believed could be acquired otherwise. Distancing of source through chain of distribution to recipient is all but mandatory. So we find headlines like “Bikers bring 30,000 meals to feed migrants at facility in New Mexico” (USA Today 5-19-19) but never any announcing “Newark Landlord Makes 20 Units Available For Those Without A Place To Live.” Distancing of source through chain of distribution to recipient is practically impossible when it comes to addressing the need to shelter those without one. Knowing the other person is in class to be educated because they also need to learn is normal. Knowing someone else in the waiting room is in need of medical attention the same as you is not controversial. But having the next door neighbor living in an apartment just like yours without paying rent while you do can become quite dicey. Distancing of source through chain of distribution to recipient with regard to shelter has de facto been relegated to government. Analysis finds this to be ironic since the founding fathers went out of their way to prioritize those who have property from those who do not (see how and why the senate differs from the house of representatives as well as the electoral college). Meeting the need for shelter differs fundamentally and generically from that of other needs. It cannot be met through entering a room, receiving assistance, and leaving. It requires locating the individual recipient of care amongst those not in need or with other needs (see the hoops group homes, half way houses, etc. must jump through). And we all know that real estate is Location, Location, Location. Mayor Jeff Hall’s solution to those in need of shelter in Newark is to locate them OUTSIDE Newark. This is in keeping with the constitution’s founding fathers and the thousand points of light. A city’s official policies to real estate ownership and its citizens is fundamental to addressing the need for shelter for those without one. No one said it would be easy. “Landlords to challenge Seattle’s fair housing law” (Charlotte West, NBC, 5-19-19) makes that clear. Seattle opted for a “ban the box” ordinance for its returning citizens when seeking accommodations as one way to deal with shelter in a city where affordable housing is a challenge. “”There are laws and policies that are in place that prevent us from being successful people,” [ordinance advocate Michelle] McClendon said.” “But Seattle’s fair housing ordinance goes one step beyond “ban the box.” It doesn’t allow landlords to consider criminal histories at all. However, landlords who share single-family residences with their tenants or who rent out an accessory dwelling unit (aka “mother-in-law apartment”) are exempt. Property owners may continue to check the sex offender registry in some circumstances.” “Ethan Blevins, staff attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, represents the Rental Housing Association of Washington and other landlords in the lawsuit against the ordinance. He said that his clients recognize that people of color are disproportionately impacted by criminal records. “That sort of discriminatory impact begins much earlier with racist or discriminatory law enforcement practices,” he said. “The landlords shouldn’t be the ones who are saddled with the burden of dealing with a problem that was actually created by law enforcement practices that need to be reformed.” Blevins added that landlords oppose the ordinance because they want to be able to thoroughly vet tenants by using all of the information publicly available to them.” Analysis finds the need for shelter to be unique amongst the many public concern needs addressed by communities. It ultimately always hinges on how we govern ourselves. The basis of that governance (Constitutions and charters) de facto prioritizes property rights. And we all know real estate is Location, Location, Location.

Sunk Cost

May 15, 2019

The language of capitalism is part and parcel of our everyday culture. We are unable to speak with each other save in the terminology of “investment opportunities”, “economic efficiencies”, “deals”, “We’re dealin’”, “Jobs”, “economy”, “marketable skills”, “political economy”, etc. The list is endless and ubiquitous. We are startled and taken aback to hear someone speak who has organized their values otherwise than profit/loss. Just the word “political economy” already implicates business speak through the inclusion of “economy.” One word not heard, if at all, is “sunk cost.” In business speak, WIKI gives a sunk cost as “a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered.” In everyday parlance it is about a purchase made that, after its completion, turns out to be detrimental to the purchaser’s intent or well being. Everyday examples would be like the purchase of a meal or event ticket. “Too much not tasty food but I will eat it because I bought it.” “Not what was promoted as the principal entertainers, something better elsewhere but I attend the event because I bought the ticket.” On a grand scale (political economy), sunk cost is often given as the rationale for America’s longest war in Afghanistan (as well as elsewhere. “Too much has been invested in terms of lives and treasure.”). Locally it can be found in the recent news (specific and general) regarding nuclear energy/waste (like “love and marriage”, you can’t have one without the other). The recent premature closing of a Pike County school comes to the forefront (“Zahn’s Corner Middle School is about four miles from the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which is in the process of decommission by the U.S. Department of Energy.” Steve Brown, WOSU, 5-14-19). Lurking behind the scenes is Ohio HB6 which proposes to charge all the state’s electric utility customers an additional fee in order to keep First Energy’s two nuclear power plants in operation though they are not economically feasible (business speak from a business perspective). Where the rubber meets the road is that closing the plants, like closing the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant would require what was done in Portsmouth – the nuclear waste or material could not be sent “out of state” (as there is no place) but would need to be stored on site. In Portsmouth it is in the form of a glorified landfill (nuclear waste storage facility). In northern Ohio it would be adjacent Lake Erie, upon which the plants are reliant for cooling water. The most insidious aspect of sunk cost comes with the culture surrounding it that never includes mention of “sunk cost.” HB6, we are told, “Will save Jobs!” The folks who once found employment at the Gaseous Diffusion Plant opted to take jobs storing the waste. Ditto would be the case for Davis-Besse and Perry power stations. Residue from the various operations involved with shuttering the Diffusion plant and making the landfill are what closed Zahn’s Corner Middle School. In radio interviews folks living in the area pretty much admitted knowing that the residue surrounded them (by default). Many declined to be interviewed because they work at the Plant or have relatives or acquaintances who do. Ditto has been the case in documentaries regarding oil processing geographies in Texas or Louisiana. Not only do people decline to be interviewed, but they become defensive over the state of their communities. After all, this is where they generate their livelihoods, raise their children, and live out their aspirations for a better life. They have invested in “a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered.” The fallacy of sunk cost is enabled by the precedence and priority of the value of loyalty which appears to underlie it. Analysis reveals this may be the explanation for the absence of “sunk cost” from the lexicon of contemporary “positive” culture. Then again, language itself is a kind of sunk cost. The words we chose to use ultimately own us and we must be loyal to and abide by their meaning, “a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered.”

Family Tradition

May 2, 2019

White supremacy came out of the closet in August of 2017. Reaction to the terrorist front ran the gamut from “Gasp!” to being poo pooed as only the workings of a handful of wing nuts to “Very fine people…” Of course, white supremacy in the US is nothing new. It has been lurking in the water, mostly below the surface, for over 150 years. It’s that surface that has many concerned, especially when it is broken as it obviously was in 2017. Cultural thinkers and workers say we have become a culture preeminently preoccupied with surface. White supremacy has depth? This is the most shocking concern which Charlottesville revealed (and too numerous racist terrorist attacks since). News outlets focus on the surface, few bother with penetrating the depths. Groups like the ACLU, SPLC, ADL, or Black Lives Matter will say that the depths of white supremacy in the US is found mostly through the stranglehold on institutions that is maintained by those oblivious of its history. May Day (5-1-19) found news exposing this nuanced institutionalization of white supremacy. AFP (one of many) reported US to give migrants DNA tests to prove family ties. “US border authorities plan to give migrant families DNA tests to determine whether or not the adults and children are related, Department of Homeland Security officials said Wednesday. A “Rapid DNA” test program is being launched in several places along the US-Mexico frontier, where tens of thousands of undocumented migrants have been crossing the border each month, many in family units asking for asylum. US officials say some involve adults using unrelated children as a means of entering and remaining in the United States, and the new tests aim at preventing this.” “”We know the problem we are seeing, we know these are fraudulent family units,” an official said on condition of anonymity.” Analysis finds that on the surface this sounds pretty authoritative! Elsewhere, same day (5-1-19), Karen Kasler for WKSU.org reports: Northeast Ohio Lawmakers Hope to Encourage Adoption with Tax Credit Proposal. “There are around 16-thousand kids in foster care in Ohio right now. And two state representatives from northeast Ohio have proposed changes to the current adoption tax credit that they say will help those kids and the families that want to bring them home, as well as the state.” “And the lawmakers said they know well the benefits. [Rep. Reggie] Stoltzfus and his wife adopted six years ago, and [Rep. Janine] Boyd is the adopted daughter of former Rep. Barbara Boyd and hopes to be an adoptive parent herself someday.” Laudatory indeed until someone wants to prove “these are fraudulent family units” through a “Rapid DNA” test. Wherefore problem? Yes Virginia, in societies without deeply engrained bureaucratic institutions, neglected children are often subsumed into existing “family units”. In institutionalized bureaucracies the legal definitions of these same children vary as well as what constitutes adoption. An ideological or philosophical, even religious disposition formulates the interpretation of what is “a child in need”, “adoption” and “family”. The current administration’s Department of Homeland Security’s “Rapid DNA” tests of migrants, to verify “family units”, is based on the racial purity disposition championed by white supremacists (Migrant “family units” might include adoptees? Gasp!). The myth of racial purity is fundamental to the advocates of white supremacy. Such a myth would weaponize DNA testing to serve its pseudoscience purposes of ethnic purity (and cleansing) while eliding the very real, and varied conditions and situations of individual children, families and social communities. It goes without saying that the white supremacist definition of what constitutes a family would exclude any falling outside the white supremacist orthodoxy.