Gentrification Here In America

For this post I want to talk about an issue that hits close to home for me. It deals with a concept some may not know the definition of or have heard of but don’t know what exactly it entails. I’m talking about gentrification.

The exact definition of gentrification from Brittanica Academic is:

the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanied by a wave of middle- or upper-class people moving into the area and displacing poorer residents

And what’s further:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report Health Effects of Gentrification defines the real estate concept of gentrification as “the transformation of neighborhoods from low value to high value. This change has the potential to cause displacement of long-time residents and businesses … when long-time or original neighborhood residents move from a gentrified area because of higher rents, mortgages, and property taxes. Gentrification is a housing, economic, and health issue that affects a community’s history and culture and reduces social capital. It often shifts a neighborhood’s characteristics, e.g., racial-ethnic composition and household income, by adding new stores and resources in previously run-down neighborhoods.

The possible negative effects of gentrification are, but not limited to:

Displacement through rent/price increases

Loss of affordable housing

Commercial/industrial displacement

Unsustainable property prices

Displacement and housing demand pressures on surrounding poor areas

Community resentment and conflict

Homelessness

Secondary psychological costs of displacement

Increased cost and charges to local services

Loss of social diversity (from socially disparate to rich ghettos)

Under occupancy and population loss to gentrified area


Loretta Lees, Tom Slater, and Elvin Wyly, Gentrification Reader, p. 196. © 2008 Routledge.; Rowland Atkinson and Gary Bridge, eds., Gentrification in a Global Context: the New Urban Colonialism, p. 5. © 2005 Routledge.

This an important concept in terms of income-inequality rights. Big investors may come to a “ran-down” neighborhood, start some huge new development to serve bourgeois interests, and then drive people out of their homes along with other negative impacts. And it hits close to home for me because it is affecting a special place for myself right here in Louisville, KY. Let me explain:

There is an area in Louisville called Germantown/Schnitzelburg (G/S) which is composed of a few adjoining neighborhoods where an enclave of German Catholics moved into soon after arriving from Europe. And this is where my family is from and where I spent a lot of my young adult/university days. But G/S shares a border with the trendy/hipster section of town, and they are beginning to run out of real estate. So, in response, they are currently gentrifying G/S and bringing all the negative effects in with it. They are running out good, hardworking people from their family homes by increasing rent/tax prices and renovating old warehouses into apartment buildings and transforming little family bars into hipster hangouts.

The repertoire of the capitalist/bourgeois machine effects can hit the people in many ways. Gentrification is one of them.

EPA Announcement and Kentucky

KENTUCKY1-articleLargeToday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new regulations that would cut U.S. carbon emissions from power plants by 30% of 2005 levels by 2030. And this would mainly target the 600 coal-fired power plants that exist today, closing hundreds in favor of new, less-polluting energy sources.

Since STL is headquartered in the Bluegrass State, we know that coal is an essential part of our economy as implied by Democratic Senate Candidate Ms. Alison Lundergan Grimes today in Covington, KY. As the NYT reports:

On Monday, Ms. Grimes pledged to “fiercely oppose the president’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry” if elected.

Running against Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, in a fierce battle for votes, even a Democrat is coming out against the EPA’s announcement today for the supposed “war on coal” is such an important issue here.

So this whole issue has me  pondering a complex question: what would become of Appalachia if these cuts go through?

Eastern Kentucky is one of the poorest regions of the U.S. and there only reliable industry is coal mining. So what should be done about these people barring significant and costly social programs that have been failing the area for decades. I am all for the protection of the environment at almost all costs due to the gravity of the situation, but I am also concerned about the poorest people of the Commonwealth.

So I am making a call to all those who read/follow this blog to comment on how this conundrum can be solved. What do you say?

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McConnell Tied With Grimes

1399917485000-GrimesMcConnell1-300x194As reported in Louisville’s own Courier-Journal, the latest The NBC News-Marist Poll finds that Senate Minority-Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan-Grimes are statistically tied in the race for the Kentucky Senate seat that McConnell has held for over 30 years.

Also, the February Bluegrass Poll, which was conducted by the C-J and three other news organizations, showed Lundergan-Grimes leading McConnell 46%-42%, which is also a statistical tie.

So it looks like that us Kentuckians just might “Ditch Mitch!” this November and really shake-up Washington.

Read Here.

Sen. Rand Paul for Easing Voter Restrictions

rand-master675Living in Kentucky, I get a lot of news of Republican and Tea Party favorite Sen. Rand Paul, and it’s usually disappointing. But in a meeting in Memphis, TN (where there is a heavily African-American population) Sen. Paul came out for less restrictive voting laws.

According to an article in the NYT, he said these restrictions insults blacks and the poor who usually have a harder time obtaining an I.D. which are required by these new laws.

But as the last couple of paragraphs in the report states with quotes from G.A.Hardaway of the Tennessee General Assembly, is this a cynical ploy by Sen. Paul to make the GOP look like a kinder, gentler party which respects people with a lower socio-economic status?

Read Here.

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Obamacare In Kentucky

LOUISVILLE-popup-v2A must-read article in the NYT about how “Navigators” or “Assisters” in Kentucky (volunteers and insurance salesmen working to sign-up people for the Affordable Care Act)  operating with a State-ran ACA program (Kynect) with good success all told through their human stories.

Kentucky is explored in this article because of the relative success the State has had which should be a model for the federal program once all of the “obstacles” in signing up for benefits are cleared.

FULL DISCLOSURE: STL is based in Louisville, Ky.

Read Here.

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Waste of Time in the Kentucky State Legislature

An article from my local paper appeared Sunday that kind of touched a personal nerve with me.  The article highlights the (ab)use of resolutions by the Kentucky State Legislature to recognize entities and people around the state for their contributions.  The author notes:

Lawmakers passed 420 symbolic or ceremonial resolutions in the 2012 regular session — five times the number of bills Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law this year.

To some extent, it is reminiscent of the old quote about watching laws and sausages being made.  But there is a distinction that should be noted.  There are no laws actually being made when these resolutions are being created and then recognized on the floor.  One could make the argument these are legislative measures but let’s face it.  No one is thinking of this when they think about government and the creation of laws.

The reason this touched a nerve with me is that I served as an intern in the 2011 legislative session so I got a very close look at how the floor proceedings went.  Another element from the article that the author includes but does not elaborate on is the recognition of guests in the gallery.  Any time a guest of any importance to a representative was present they were generally recognized.  All-in-all, you could pretty much skip the first hour of every session roughly without missing any actual business, until they decided to change the rules (at least for the second part of that session) and made the recognitions at the end of the sessions instead of the beginning.

Sometimes the resolutions were very interesting and heartwarming when honoring some true heroes, for instance I believe at least one Medal of Honor winner was recognized with a telling of some of his story.  It’s hard not to be entranced a bit by some of these moments.  They are very dramatic and obviously we are drawn to that kind of heroics.  But for every one of those types of honors dealt out, there was seemingly a dozen or more where you just kind of stood there and went, “WTF?!  Shouldn’t you people be working?”  The worst day I can remember was walking into a session that usually started at 1 p.m.  I believe it was a little after 4 p.m. when they actually got to voting on any type of real legislation.  I could be mistaken but I vaguely recall the session adjourning around 5 p.m.  There were more days than I could count where the recognition of guests and the passing of resolutions took more time than the debating of any laws.

Now, I will make a couple of points here that should be noted.  The first is the importance of committees and the reality that most of the important debates on legislation happen there.  Committees give elected officials the chance to specialize in certain areas and that is a certainly good thing.  This means the floor sessions are not as in depth when it comes to debating the details of a typical bill and I see the efficiency in that structure.

The other point was made in the article:

Politicians use such measures to build relationships with voters. The gestures sometimes make the local paper or spread through the community by word of mouth — part of the advantage of incumbency.

And this makes perfect sense.  Elected officials use their platform to occasionally toot their own horns by bestowing symbolic honors on the people that support them.  Reasonable, yes, but when is it too much?

The ultimate question here is if all voters were truly aware of the amount of time devoted to these symbolic gestures that do not contribute to what most of us view as making law, would they really pay off and continue to be conducted by legislators?   In other words, if recognizing one person had a measurable effect of generating a positive reaction from ten people but a negative one from twenty, would this practice continue in its current form?

The answer is likely no but the reality is more people would have to pay attention to government in the first place for that to truly matter.