Sunday, November 24, 2013

A holiday tradition


Eli and I were over to the Brucemore Mansion National Historic Site this evening for their members' holiday open house. The rooms of the 1884 mansion are lavishly decorated, there was music on the Skinner organ (soon to be restored), and there were cookies and punch.. The mansion is about a block from our house, and is a Cedar Rapids landmark. We've gone over there before Christmas most years since moving to Iowa in 1989.

From my journal, 12/17/1991:
About 6, we went over to Brucemore Mansion for their Victorian Christmas. There was a contingent from First Congregational Church singing, after 7. When we got there, we were regaled by some performers from Youtheatre. Between acts, we toured the house and looked at the magnificent decorations, as we do every year. The decorations are pitched at the turn of the century, when the house was in its heyday, and give rise to all sorts of fantasizing. The Brucemore guides are able to answer most questions when curiosity strikes.
From my journal, 12/10/1996:
In the evening, we went to the Christmas open house at Brucemore Mansion. I had Robbie [aged 23 months] all psyched about going to the "Christmas house." We had unusual trouble finding a parking place, but once inside found it not too crowded. At first the Washington High School madrigals performed on the stairs, which was beautiful but made it hard to get upstairs. Later an old man played on their huge organ. We got to all three floors; Robbie was interested but couldn't figure out where the toys were. (Last year the lights sufficed for him, but this year weren't too captivating.) It was frustrating not to be able to touch what was there, but he did get to rock in an antique style wicker rocking chair. And he enjoyed the cookies, wangling two more than the one we'd planned to give him. (For the record, I had 5, Jane had 3.) 
From my journal, 11/20/2011:
We enjoyed a holiday tradition this afternoon, attending a members only open house at Brucemore. We walked over about 4:30 and were there at least half an hour. There were quite a few people there. The house is beautiful, and they seemed to have a few more rooms open on the third floor. There were Christmas trees in all the main rooms, and Christmas music playing on the organ. We walked around all three floors, then had refreshments (baked goods and hot apple cider) on the main floor. The peanut butter (I think) scotchies were incredible. I had two. Jim Kern was there, greeting people in his last month as Brucemore director. On the way home, Robbie imagined running Brucemore as an inn, which led to a proposal for a video game to be called "Inn Tycoon."
(main room, from the invitation postcard)

Brucemore's grounds and their beautiful gardens are open to the public, and it hosts a number of events throughout the year including a midsummer balloon glow, a blues festival, and the opening concert of the symphony orchestra season. This qualifies it as a civic landmark, particularly as it's only about two miles from the center of town. (On the other hand, many of its events through the year are pricey enough to be exclusive.)

(upstairs bedroom)

The house will be open five evenings during December: Thursdays the 5th, 12th, 19th and 26th (6:00-7:00), and Tuesday the 17th (5:00-8:00). Admission is $15 for non-members, $12 for members, and $7 for youth ages 6-18. Regular mansion tours are available during the day March through December, and are $7 for non-members, free for members, and $3 for youth ages 6-18.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cedar Rapids City Council runoff

Cedar Rapids voters get a second bite at the apple the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, as they choose among the four top finishers for two at-large seats on the City Council. The top city issues appear to be the budget, flood protection, street repairs and trust in government. None of these is unimportant, but they have pretty nearly crowded out issues of physical design and how we can all live together. For example, none of the candidates pushes discussion of the budget as far as questioning whether spending $10.5 million on buffing up a mall at the edge of town is a good use of scarce funds. Or whether the city's share of a $200 million ring road around the west side (which amount doesn't count maintenance responsibility for the rest of time) will pay for itself, given we're having enough trouble keeping up with the streets we have. None expressed any views on proposals for MedQuarter. None of the four candidates is visionary, though each has something appealing about them.

To the candidates, then! In what follows I rely on op-ed pieces by each candidate that ran in the Cedar Rapids Gazette on Sunday 10/20/13, and which are available on the newspaper's website, thegazette.com; follow-up interviews with each candidate done this weekend by reporters Rick Smith and Melissa Roadman; and, where available, the candidates' websites. (Brutally frank aside: None of the candidates takes much advantage of the opportunities for depth offered by the Internet. Four paragraphs by Carletta Knox-Seymour account for over 90 percent of issue discussion on the candidates' sites.)

Carletta Knox-Seymour, who currently operates two small businesses (house cleaning and baking),

touches on  urbanist issues more than the other candidates. She told the Gazette reporters flood protection was her biggest issue as well as her top budget priority. She expands on this on her website, focusing her concern on the neighborhoods that need help with "revitalization so they can thrive in business and increase in housing." Her flyer mailed out late last week has three additional bullet points under neighborhoods: "retrofit existing buildings for multi purposes... sustain and strengthen core neighborhoods... [and] encourage land infill development." Her October op-ed cites additional concerns with youth at risk, and inequality in general:  "Far too many people go to work for less than a living wage." She shows awareness of issues of economic opportunity that most candidates (hey, most people) don't mention.

Ralph Russell is retired after many years as CEO of the Howard R. Green engineering firm. I'm

impressed by his advocacy of economic development agreements with neighboring cities, which he mentions both in his op-ed and this weekend's Q-and-A with reporters. Not only is this approach a good way to avoid costly bidding wars, but it's a step towards controlling metropolitan sprawl. On the debit side he says his biggest issue is lack of trust in government. I'm not opposed to trust in government, but it is what it is, and over the years mainly seems to be a way to appeal to cranks. Yet he is the best funded of the four candidates. Could he be constructing a crank-elite coalition? Under community development he lists working with neighborhood associations in creating the city's comprehensive plan, and developing amenities attractive to youth. His biggest budget priority is public safety.

Chuck Swore has served on the City Council since 2009, prior to which he did business development

for a local contractor. He's proudest of pushing a "buy-local, build-local, employ-local" approach to flood recovery. On the other hand he's also proud of swinging the deal for Westdale Mall. In the Q-and-A with reporters he deferred to the city's professional staff on the big issues, while looking for "backburner" problems like train noise through downtown. This will be critical to developing downtown as a residential area.

Susie Weinacht is the executive director of the Iowa PTA, and has served in a variety of civic and

volunteer capacities. She is not, in anything I've read, big on details, but gets much credit for principles. Her op-ed expressed concern with flood protection, as well as making economic development sustainable by "adding new business, and finding new ways to create jobs and encourage investment." She is specifically attentive to NewBo, Kingston and Ellis Boulevard. She told the Gazette reporters her budget priorities are public safety and infrastructure: "We need to infill; we need to have property tax on our rolls." To another question, she added: "We need to prioritize what I'm considering the rebirth of our inner city--urban infill rather than sprawl." Hear hear! Her website's cryptic issues page says she wants the city to "[S]upport and encourage stronger, safer neighborhoods and positive youth development."

In the first round, I voted for Knox-Seymour and Anthony Brown. While each candidate has something to recommend them, Knox-Seymour and Weinacht are distinctive in their degree of attention to urban issues and our common life.

Results from the first round:
Chuck Swore 7950 (24.26%)
Ralph Russell 6334 (19.36%)
Susie Weinacht 6230 (19.01%)
Carletta Knox-Seymour 4931 (15.05%)
Jerry McGrane 3199 (9.76%)
Anthony Brown 2622 (8.00%)
Leland Freie 1187 (3.62%)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The 'new normal' economy and place


(The poor in America face other barriers to opportunity besides physical ones.)

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is flirting with 16,000 this week, which would not only be a new milestone but also about double where it was in the early months of the Obama administration. Part of the economy, at least, is back. The rest seems to stumble upward, slowly: economic growth is running barely 2 percent a year, and the unemployment rate remains stubbornly above 7 percent.

Those of us who are optimistic by nature expect that, sooner or later, pleasant days will return. Unemployment was much lower through most of the 2000s--it was 4.5 percent in spring 2007--and maybe we could get back there? But even the six years of growth between 2001-2007 were less than optimal, as poverty rates rose, and median family income never got back to its 2000 level. For those of us with longer memories, the late 1990s had even better economic indicators: Not only did poverty decline, and unemployment dip below 4 percent for the first time since the 1960s, but the federal government reaped enough revenue from the boom that it ran surpluses for three years in a row. Of course, like the housing bubble of the 2000s, the growth of the was fueled in large part by a bubble in the technology sector. In what seemed at the time to be a wonderful numerical coincidence, the federal government ran a $70 billion surplus in 1998, the same year that St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire set a new single-season record with 70 home runs. In a bubble economy, alas, the achievement was as phony as McGwire's androsterone-fueled power surge.

For people at the bottom of the ladder, the 1990s were at best a respite from a long sour period. A number of coincidental changes to the system in the early 1970s--including the end of manufacturing as a major source of American jobs, the end of cheap energy, the decline of labor unions--plunged the poorest third of Americans into a perpetual funk of high unemployment and low-wage jobs. Inequality soared as those at the top were able to become knowledge workers, take advantage of the opportunities offered by globalization, and in some cases work financial wizardry to great personal advantage. The share of income going to the lowest 40 percent of the population dropped from 15.3 percent in 1968 to 11.5 percent in 2012. Poverty rose from its all-time low of 11.1 percent (1973), and through good times and bad has stayed around 15 percent.

All of this has me wondering what, if anything, is economically attainable for ordinary Americans. In October, economist Stephen D. King of HSBC published a troubling New York Times op-ed in which he argued the good old days are over, both for the United States and Europe. King argues the leap upward in living standards in the years after World War II was due to a set of happy circumstances the likes of which we are not likely to see again: acceleration of global trade as tariffs were removed, innovations in consumer credit, social welfare policies ("the safety net"), the entry of women into the employment market, and an upsurge in levels of education. King concludes that what we've got now is the new normal. It's now our choice how to cushion or distribute the pains. He specifically suggests "a higher retirement age, more immigration to increase the working-age population, less borrowing from abroad, less reliance on monetary policy that creates unsustainable financial bubbles, a new social compact that doesn't cannibalize the young to feed the boomers, a tougher stance toward banks, a further opening of world trade and, over the medium term, a commitment to sustained deficit reduction."

This week economist and Times columnist Paul Krugman also addresses the end of the good old days, reporting on a presentation to the IMF by former Treasury secretary Larry Summers. Krugman notes that "our economy remains depressed" four years after the economy began to rise from the bottom, and that it wasn't going so great even before the 2007-09 collapse. To King's list of happy circumstances he adds a sixth, the rise in the working-age population after 1968 when the baby boomers hit adulthood; the current more stable population means demand grows more slowly if at all for things like houses. Household debt relative to income rose from 1985 to 2007, a trend which obviously is unsustainable, yet even with that Keynesian push the economy didn't grow all that fast. A future with stable household debt and working-age population means adjusting our expectations to the reality of "an economy whose normal state is one of mild depression, whose brief episodes of prosperity occur only thanks to bubbles and unsustainable borrowing." He advocates continuing the Federal Reserve Board's loose money policy "for a long time."  

Krugman's prescription, depending on how long "a long time" is, runs up against King's desire for "less reliance on monetary policy." At the same time, while King directly addresses the realities of our common lives, I don't see where the political will is to pull off King's ideas. Which brings us to two implications for the concerns of this blog.

First, persistent stagnation is going to make living together more difficult. It will be harder for good things to be more widely distributed. The most likely political scenario has the rich fighting to keep their benefits, and those who have spent the last four decades at the margins of the economy finding their opportunities even more circumscribed. More diversity, more despair, fighting over thinner slices of pie--this is not a recipe for social harmony.

Secondly, everything I've written this year about the future of Cedar Rapids has depended on using development of downtown and surrounding areas to build connections with poorer neighborhoods. If there are no economic opportunities for poorer people, none of this works. Objections to proposals for development of "affordable housing " on the Monroe School lot may smack of NIMBYism, but they're spot on regardless. (I would prefer neighborhood-friendly commercial development, like a corner store and a family restaurant, which admittedly may not have impressed the objectors.) The stretch of Pioneer Avenue between 30th and 34th Streets already is full of cheap apartments, of widely varying conditions. Putting more poor people on that block is likely to tip it into a ghetto. Worse, there is nothing commercial anywhere near the area. Walkscore rates it 29 ("car-dependent"). The Mount Vernon Road strip, including a Casey's convenience store and True Value Hardware Store, is half a mile away. Where are these people going to work?

That's the question of the century, if King and Krugman are right: Where are these people going to work? Until that gets answered, I feel like the whole urbanism project is built on sand.

SOURCES

Stephen D. King, "When Wealth Disappears," New York Times, 7 October 2013, p. A23
Paul Krugman, "A Permanent Slump?," New York Times, 17 November 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/18/opinion/krugman-a-permanent-slump.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss
Rick Smith, "Council Gives Strong Backing to Monroe Plan," Cedar Rapids Gazette, 20 November 2013, 1A, 8A [http://thegazette.com/2013/11/20/cedar-rapids-council-approves-incentives-for-two-new-projects-with-some-dissent/]


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Downtown, where all the lights are bright?


(People's Savings Bank, 101 3rd Av SW;
photo by me of an older photo in their offices, of unknown provenance)

Late last week came news, thanks to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, that this former bank building, occupied most recently by Wells Fargo, is going come April to be an "upscale" Italian restaurant called Popoli Ristorante. This is a triumph for historic preservationists, who worked long and hard to save this building, designed by Louis H. Sullivan and erected in 1912. It's an exciting business opportunity for general manager Brandon Godwin. And it's a first step towards redeveloping the west side of the river in the downtown area.

Popoli will join several other fine dining establishments in downtown Cedar Rapids: Zins', Cobble Hill, and the just-opened Syndicate European Pub (described by its owner, my neighbor Kory Nanke, as offering "elevated pub food"). I wonder how many upscale dining establishments our downtown can support? My friend Niles wonders whether downtown as a whole is going to be an enclave for the smart set?

He has a point. During the day downtown Cedar Rapids offers a variety of lunch places and coffeehouses. At night what stays open are mainly bars and upscale restaurants. (A couple notable exceptions are The Lost Cuban, which is open for dinner four nights a week, and the Blue Strawberry Coffee Company, open every night but Sunday. Both specialize in sandwiches. A pork chop, or spaghetti of the non-upscale variety, are harder to come by.) The theaters and the convention center are usually--though not always--pretty pricey as well.

I think it's premature to criticize downtown, which is in transition. Downtown Cedar Rapids, like any locality, obviously should encourage and welcome business investment, and such as has occurred so far has understandably responded to what is happening there now. The nature of future investment, then, depends on what downtown's in transition to, and also whether both options are still open given what development has occurred.

Right now downtown is a intra-city destination. As yet few people live there, and there's very little surrounding it, so it's an island of culture, food and (on weekdays) offices accessible mainly by car. Will this continue to be the case in the future? Without diversification downtown will remain something of an upscale enclave, vulnerable to downturns in the economy or changes in fashion. (In the early 1990s Cleveland, Ohio developed a former heavy industrial district near the Cuyahoga River into a fashionable destination called "The Flats," but within ten years the smart set had abandoned it for other destinations. Presumably the New Bo folk have heard of this?)

Another, better possibility is that downtown becomes the hub of a connected city. This is going to require filling in much of the empty quarters that surround it, and doing so in a way that attracts a variety of residents and businesses. A reasonable amount of foot traffic would transform, for example, Phong Lan, a wonderful and
(photo swiped from www.urbanspoon.com)

reasonably-priced Vietnamese restaurant in the MedQuarter district that currently seems to survive on take-out orders. A critical mass of people at all hours of the day and evening, the Jane Jacobs formula, would produce a very different downtown than we've got now... one with "vibe," to quote one Coe student's one word diagnosis of what is currently lacking, and one accessible to everyone in town. Very likely it would be able to support intercity rail service as well.

A connected, urban city needs more than a vibrant downtown. It needs lively neighborhoods which are more than collections of houses. Niles and I live in different parts of town, but neither of us lives within casual walking distance of a single restaurant or store. My Coe colleague Bob Marrs suggested that Mound View,
the neighborhood adjacent to Coe (with Dairy Queen, the Tic Toc, and Hy-Vee) is probably the only

neighborhood in Cedar Rapids where it is customary to walk to places. Not all parts of town have the potential to host corner stores and "third places" within walking distance of most residents, but where they can be built they would go far to revivifying our neighborhoods.

P.S.--Notice I haven't said anything about the casino, despite its presence on the near west side, practically across the street from the Popoli Ristorante. I think of the casino as its own planet, where people come and leave without doing anything else in the area. The fine dining establishments downtown, then, will succeed or fail on their own, without regard to the casino. That's probably true of the overall development of the downtown-and-surrounding-area, though given the space the casino will occupy it will be something of an obstruction.

P.S.S.--Mentally, I am woefully understaffed when it comes to local economic development. I hope in the weeks to come to learn more about this topic, specifically what research elsewhere suggests is possible here.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Talking about walking

This week we received a flyer in the mail from a City Council member running for re-election. He counts among his proudest accomplishments the approval of plans for redoing the Westdale Mall property. Well, I won't be voting for him. As I've already written, not only is the city's $10.5 million contribution outsized, but as a pocket bounded by multi-lane streets it does little to resolve issues of the city's future.

Designing a metropolitan area around the free movement of cars has specific negative consequences for people. A big, maybe the biggest, issue in this election is the condition of the city's streets, which are pretty bad in many places. Most candidates have endorsed a "yes" vote on the referendum to extend the one-cent sales surtax, with revenues dedicated to fixing the streets. I'm inclined to discount mayoral candidate Greg Hughes's complaint that the money was always there to keep up with the streets, but was spent on other things. Of course any expenditure has opportunity costs, and some degree of waste is inevitable no matter who's the mayor, but if all that money could be recalled and redirected to the streets we'd be hurting in other areas. Hughes's comments are true, strictly speaking, but not profound or helpful.

The problem is this: a sprawled city requires a lot of infrastructure, and with taxable property spread over a wide area will have trouble generating the revenue needed to keep up with maintenance and repairs. Even if the 2008 flood hadn't set so many things back, we'd be having trouble filling all the potholes. There's an argument to stop building new streets. As someone living less than two miles from downtown, why should my tax dollars subsidize developments farther and farther out? Which brings me back to crabbing about the money to facelift the mall. Let us move on.

Across the country, city planners are thinking urbanism, not redoing malls. All of a sudden, it seems, plugs for walkable cities are coming from a variety of places. "Cars are cars, all over the world," sings Paul Simon, but in the years after World War II the United States got a head start in automobile-focused development. In designing places around efficient car travel, we cut neighborhoods apart to make room for wider streets and interstate highways, made spaces between destinations wider in order to make room for parking lots, and for a long while stopped building sidewalks altogether. A more spread out society has more difficulty sustaining a public life, while those left behind are consigned to ghettos of extreme poverty. Effluents of auto engines pollute the air and contribute to climate change.

"White flight" was driven on the demand side by the hopes of escaping polluted, crime-infested central cities. Now data are emerging that the quiet and leafy suburbs have menaces of their own. A recent column in The New York Times's Tuesday Science section cites a number of studies to the effect that the costs of auto dependence "to both physical and mental health are hardly trivial." Long commutes to work, shopping and/or extra-curricular activities are associated with greater rates of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, exhaustion, stress, lack of sleep and days missed from work. The writer plugs Fortune editor Leigh Gallagher's "prophetic new book" The End of the Suburbs (Portfolio, 2013), which is certainly on my reading list.

I've also read the dangers to suburban children of cars is at least as great as the dangers to urban children of crime. No source I can put my finger on, though.

If future development is more walkable, more human-scaled, one of the heroes of this bend in the curve surely will be William B. Helmreich, a sociologist at the City College of New York who has just completed a book, The New York Nobody Knows, detailing his four-year project of walking every single one of the 150,000 blocks in America's largest city. Helmreich interviewed people he met about their neighborhoods, coming to discover that New York City, while large, is a very connected place. "Every block can be interesting," he says in the Atlantic post. "It's not about covering ground, it's how you cover ground." Walking, and public transit, allow for multiple interactions you can't get in motor vehicles, and so make for a more interesting place. Even cooler, Helmreich began his interest in urban neighborhoods as a boy, when he and his father explored the neighborhoods at the ends of different NYC subway lines. (They called their game "Last Stop." I might try it next time I'm in Chicago.)

(For the record, Cedar Rapids's Stoney Point subdivision lies at the end of the #8 bus line.)

Walkability is also a hot topic in Washington, D.C., where the Zoning Commission is about to begin hearings on proposed amendments to the zoning code that will relax some of the rigid statutes common to many zoning codes. Specifically, they will allow features like accessory apartments ("granny flats") and corner stores that are currently prohibited. Among other beneficial features of the proposals, they have the effects of increasing the population density of neighborhoods and providing practical places for people to walk. David Alpert of the Greater Greater Washington blog anticipates a lot of resistance to the proposals from people who fear changes to their neighborhoods, and is soliciting testimonials from people who need affordable housing, or who would like to be able to walk to stores. More power to him.

For too long our residential designs have valued security above all else, except maybe convenience. These are individual values, and worthy of respect. But we need to live as if the community matters, too.


SOURCES

David Alpert, "Is a Walkable Neighborhood Out of Reach for You?" Greater Greater Washington, 1 November 2013, http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/20655/is-a-walkable-neighborhood-out-of-reach-for-you/

Jane E. Brody, "Commuting's Hidden Cost," New York Times, 29 October 2013, p. D7

Stephanie Garlock, "One Sociologist's Epic Quest: Walk New York City, All 120,000 Blocks," The Atlantic Cities, 1 November 2013, http://www.theatlanticcities.com/neighborhoods/2013/11/one-sociologists-epic-quest-walk-new-york-city-all-120000-blocks/7431/

Rick Smith, "How Should We Fix Our Streets? Cedar Rapids Gazette, 3 November 2013, 1A, 9A, http://thegazette.com/2013/11/03/cedar-rapids-mayoral-candidates-find-little-common-ground/

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween 2013



We had 145 trick-or-treaters at our house, towards the low end of what is a typical Halloween on our street. (I'm already bracing for next year, when Halloween falls on a Friday!) In our part of town, at least, it is a major civic festival. And why not? Our street is well-lit, there are sidewalks on both sides of the street, and homeowners are both into the spirit of the thing and financially able to pop for piles and piles of candy. For one fall night, at least, the dark street is full of people, making the walk both safe and festive.

There were some memorable costumes. Any number of children, mostly boys I'm guessing, were dressed as Star Wars characters with glowing red eyes (that were, alas, hard for some of them to see through). A little girl and her brother came as Fern and Wilbur from Charlotte's Web. There were a couple box-like characters from the game Minecraft, which we recognized thanks to having teenage game players among us. The excitement was contagious, and I didn't mind contributing a little--well, a lot of--candy to fuel the celebration.

How did our block come by all those children? It is 2013, after all, not 1953. Quite obviously people come from elsewhere to trick-or-treat here. You can tell because they come in cars. That's fine with me, because not every neighborhood is as walkable or as welcoming as ours. Most park and walk, joining in the hubbub, but some drive from house to house, which misses the point by becoming purely a candy-amassing exercise. Join the group, I say!

Occasionally, very rarely really, a parent would ask for candy. Well, all right, I'm not judging. And there were older children who seemed too old for trick-or-treating but were just scoring candy. There were a couple guys who looked about 20 who didn't even dress up. I am not judging, I am not judging. I am, frankly, enjoying myself too much at this point to spend psychic energy on disapproval. So I am not judging. But, really, we should find you some other way to participate.

I saw no evidence of vandalism in our neighborhood, except that our next-door neighbor's sign promoting the public library book sale was ripped down. Even that could have been someone stumbling over it in the dark.

So, hooray for Halloween! And, now that it's the morning after, and I've picked about a dozen candy wrappers off the sidewalk, I have some newfound psychic energy that I can spend on disapproval. I disapprove of Doing Halloween Wrong. That mainly means detracting from the civic nature of the festivities.

My neighbor Lyz Lenz posted earlier this week about "Booing." Booing is where someone leaves an anonymous May basket-like package of Halloween goodies on your doorstep, with the instruction that you are to do the same for two other people. This seems on its face like a way to spread joy; I know some people are into this sort of thing, and if it amuses them they should do it, but don't inflict it on other people. Speaking personally, Christmas and birthdays and Valentine's Day are anxiety-producing enough without adding another shopping festival. Halloween can be for walking the block with your neighbors and their children... or, as Lyz says, "Devil worship and candy." Let that be enough.

More troubling are reports that Halloween is moving into the private realm. A recent post on the Christian Century blog expresses regret over the emergence of "trunk-and-treat," in which the Halloween traditions are moved part and parcel to church parking lots. The writer, Debra Dean Murphy, says:
I don’t want to get too heavy-handed with the theological significance of these rituals but there is something to the idea that we open our door to strangers on a dark, autumn night, a grinning lantern on the porch to light their way. It’s a small gesture of hospitality, a willingness to want to know our neighbors. (Of course it’s also about the candy).
There is room in our world for both private and public spheres, and in fact there need to be both. Whatever security we get in retreating to an enclave is counter-balanced by the loss of community in shared public space.

A Massachusetts correspondent reports all but ten of the children in his neighborhood went to stores instead of door-to-door. Same logic applies, although my first thought was, "You have 'shops right around the corner?' That's mighty cool!"

The scary side of urbanism

Harvey Weinstein (Source: videomovie.in) Film mogul Harvey Weinstein's resignation-in-disgrace has unleashed a social media campaign...