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Showing posts from October, 2014

The Greene Square formerly known as Park

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Things have taken a strange and alarming turn downtown. Or am I being melodramatic? The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported last week that the Parks and Recreation Department have released revised plans for Greene Square Park that are radically different from what had been earlier proposed. Granted that it's only one square block of a mid-sized American city, but I think the change in plans says a lot about the city's vision for its downtown. I'm not liking what I'm seeing.

There is no question that Greene Square Park is currently underutilized, as indeed is the case for the downtown area writ large. Back in the day, it was called Washington Square, and it was the central park in town, the square bounded by the train station, the high school, the library and First Presbyterian Church. (See George T. Henry and Mark W. Hunter, Then and Now: Cedar Rapids (Charleston SC: Arcadia, 2003, p. 96.) As the town moved outward so did these facilities (except the train station, which wa…

CROP Walking

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Early October in Linn County, Iowa, as in other places, is time for the annual CROP Walk to support Church World Service--a Christian ecumenical organization formed in 1946 to combat hunger and poverty. Numbers on this year's walk aren't available yet, but last year people from 26 churches raised $27,766.59 (including $150 in matching funds from Schneider Electric, and $70.09 "unaffiliated"). [Source is Ellen Fisher of the CROP Walk Planning Committee.]

Iowa weather in early October ranges from sunny and colorful--as, in fact, it is this afternoon as I write this--to miserable. For a long time CROP Walkers were blessed with nice weather, but these last few years it's been rainy more often than not. This year it was cloudy, and rained both before and after we walked, but during the walk itself it was mostly dry.

Why walk instead of just contributing money? I can think of three reasons why it's worth taking the extra steps to have this event.

First, for the don…

In search of old 45s

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Some free time and lovely weather inspired me to a walking tour of Washington, D.C. record stores last weekend. The stores were interesting, the exercise did me good, and it might have something to say about urbanism to boot.
We begin at Dupont Circle, a wheel of pavement the spokes of which are Connecticut Ave, New Hampshire Av, P St and 19th St. The interior is a nice park, and the exterior has sidewalks on both sides, but I found it confusing to walk, even in light Saturday afternoon traffic. There are lights at each intersection, but the walk times are so few and far between that one is tempted to walk any time there aren't vehicles approaching. This is perfectly rational at a conventional intersection, but probably not at a roundabout.
West of Dupont Circle is Second Story Books, 2000 P St. It mostly sells used books, so its name is somewhat appropriate, although it occupies the entire building, and sometimes even... ..the sidewalk!

They did have a few LPs, mainly jazz, albe…

The future of economic inequality

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Something is happening in America. Perhaps it might be said that something is happening to America. Maybe we don't all agree on what that is, but the current Real Clear Politics average has 27 percent saying America is on the "right track" and 65 percent on the "wrong track." The Great Recession has long since ended, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average set another record a couple weeks ago, but most of are not feeling it. Poverty continues to hover around 15 percent, worse in regions with a weaker welfare state. Jobs created since the 2008 recession don't pay as well as the ones they replaced. There are serious, in my view justified, concerns about the future of employment, particularly for those of average and below-average skills, not to mention the sustainability of government efforts to enable equal opportunity.

Everyone surely knows that income inequality in America (and elsewhere in the West, but spectacularly so in America) has taken off in the las…