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Showing posts from March, 2009

Our Cities and the Environment

Recently Mayor Bloomberg in New York City sought to install congestion pricing for automobiles in Lower Manhattan. Yielding to cries from the city’s suburbs, at first, the State Legislature refused to permit the Mayor to introduce congestion pricing. The action by the State Legislature is an example of the difficulty mayors face as they attempt to respond to the challenges of climate change. How do we make our cities green when politicians respond so quickly to political pressure of those uninterested in protecting our environment? There is no easy answer to this but there are answers. Some cities have succeeded in initiating major changes to their environment. Seattle is the leader in environmental awareness. The city has established an Office of Sustainability and Environment which coordinates the implementation of the city’s environmental plans which include light rail, green buildings, cleanest city cars and trucks, rapid bus transit and an urban leader in recycling. Why don’t ot…

A Once Generous City

New York City has been a city of progressive thought and provider of generous social services for its citizens beginning with the Great Depression of 1929. The Great Depression was the opportunity for progressive elected officials to construct a safety net of social services for citizens. New York City did so by embracing redistributive policies. During the Depression, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, with financial support from President Franklin Roosevelt, established extensive governmental services for city residents – public housing, new public schools, rent control, expansion of public health services and public hospitals, to name some of the most important actions. The Great Depression brought substantial progressive services for citizens of the city for over 40 years until the fiscal crises of the 1970s unraveled the progressive social services safety net of that earlier period.[1] Today, the city retains a semblance of rent control, to the consternation of the powerful real estate …

Creditors and Debtors

The history of the United States can be examined through several lenses. It is the history of the power of ideas centering upon the natural rights of the individual. It is a history of our military power, fledging at first in Concord and Lexington, and later the supreme military power in the world in the destruction of Hiroshima. It is a history of the power of creditors over debtors as recession after recession demonstrated the struggle between the two. When Americans declared their freedom from Britain, they did so in part because of the struggle between British creditors and American debtors. In 1777, the Virginia legislature passed an act to sequester British property. Virginia citizens could nullify their debts to the British by paying the amount they owed to the Virginia’s treasury.[1] Of course payments could be made in Virginia’s paper currency, not British pounds, and the paper currency was worth only a tenth of the British pounds. Shay’s Rebellion (named after Daniel Shay,…

Lower Manhattan after 9/11

Much of Lower Manhattan has been rebuilt with little concern for input from the city’s residents. Although the 9/11 families have had input into the World Trade Center (WTC) site, citizens have been shut out of the rest of Lower Manhattan. Only a few weeks after 9/11, a group of highly organized business men called for the creation of a public authority that would be responsible for the reconstruction of Lower Manhattan. Who were these business and real estate leaders? - The Partnership for the City of New York and Chamber of Commerce, the Real Estate Board, and the Alliance for Downtown New York. The Governor and State Legislature created the state Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC). LMDC’s territory runs from Houston Street to the tip of Manhattan, from the East River to the Hudson, and oversees the revitalization and rebuilding of all businesses and housing except for those areas that are governed by other authorities; namely, WTC site governed by the Port Authority, …

The Struggle over the 15th Amendment continues today

Professor Sonia Jarvis told me she saw parallels between the struggle for passage of the 15th amendment in 1870 and the struggle for the Democratic nomination today. So I examined the issue. Why did Susan B. Anthony form the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869 and leave the abolutionist movement? Did it have anything to do with the passage of the 15th amendment giving black men the right to vote but ignoring the demands of white women who wanted the 15th amendment to include the word, “sex” and not only “race.” Of course it did. White women who were advocating for the vote were furious that Congress would allow black men to vote before white women. The woman’s suffrage movement split over the issue - Fraces W. Harper and Lucy Stone worked for passage of the 15th amendment while Elizabeth C. Stanton and Susan B. Anthony refused. Anthony “exclaimed disparingly that two million more men were now made tyrants over an equal number of women who had formerly been their equals” (Rieg…