HSR would have made World Series even sweeter

World Series 2016 aftermath: Cub fans crying in the streets of Chicago, rejoicing around the country, and Indian fans themselves not feeling cursed but just glad to be a part of a World Series for the ages. ESPN declared Game 7 as the greatest game of all time.

I had the pleasure of being in Chicago, as a Cleveland fan, during Games 3 and 4. I was in Chicago anyway for work and a concert that weekend. I love Chicago and make the trip frequently, as do many others in Ohio. Chicago is the Paris of the Plains, and for those of us within a 5-hour drive shed (OH, MI, IN, IL, WI) of the Windy City, it is the best weekend getaway around.

However getting there can be unpleasant. You have to drive through flat, ugly Indiana.

Considering the role that Chicago plays as the Midwest’s hub city, it stands to reason that if the Midwest had a functional transportation network, Chicago would also be the hub of that. Right now advocacy on regional rail development is stymied by entrenched political interests that don’t want that. Case in point: Ohio and Wisconsin giving back $1.2 billion of high-speed rail funding.

Michigan however has not been shy about its intent to benefit from its proximity to Chicago and other states that don’t want to similarly profit. So for that reason, the idea of a Midwest hub-and-spoke rail network is primarily being advanced by Michigan at this point. So much so that they’ve even put together this awesome video of a White Sox fan hopping on a train to Detroit for a White Sox – Tigers game.

There is no reason that this video couldn’t be real life in the future, and not just limited to White Sox and Tigers fans, but also Cubs and Indians fans. This World Series benefited from the proximity of both cities, as well as the similarities of both long-suffering fan bases.

However it could also apply to anyone aspiring to a weekend getaway, for fun or family or business. As the Midwest grows closer together, we should all benefit from our proximity relative to the rest of the country. Embarking on a regional plan for transit is one of the top means the Midwest has at its disposal for remaining competitive, and even edging out the rest of the country in the future. The question is if our politics will allow it.


Breitbart gets in on “Gentrification” myths

Somehow this junk piece from Breitbart ended up in my news feed, and my iPhone was really insistent that I read it, so I did. It is good to read contrasting viewpoints that challenge you. If you believe in racial unity and equitable gentrification, and aren’t afraid of black people, you too will benefit from this piece challenging your thinking.

I have to boil this down to the simplest terms possible because responding in their own language, with veiled references to the scary #BlackLivesMatter movement, makes me want to lose my mind. Despite constituting the most significant right-wing/conservative acknowledgment of urban migration since Joel Kotkin’s screeds, it was clearly written from a suburban perspective. See the lead-off:


The premise is this: Gentrification is a function of safety and nothing else. On its own, this treatise is reasonable enough, although I don’t completely agree. I think there are cultural factors that are even stronger, and I think moderate improvements in safety were the vanguard, while it took a virtuous cycle cemented by gentrification to bring urban crime down to where it is now. I am willing to overlook all of that, however, as mere details.

As we have seen, gentrification is a function of safety; the young and the restless might be up for a little yeasty adventure in the big town, but they don’t wish to be mugged or murdered—that’s taking the urban experience too far.  So we can say: Where there is no public safety, there is no urban renaissance.   -James P. Pinkerton, Breitbart.com

So I guess for those of us on this yeasty adventure, whatever the %$#! that means, Breitbart has some advice for us: It was fun, but it’s over, and now’s the time to throw in the rag and come back to the suburbs.

In fact they state that we are seeing the emergence of a third migratory wave, “Re-Suburbanization.” No, not right now. But it will happen, as soon as all those urban lovebirds see what they see.

The assertion that this will happen hinges on the emergence of BLM and a perceived backlash against “broken windows” policing. “Broken windows” policing is pro-active policing that goes after early signs of trouble, rather than reacting once it’s too late. I am supportive of this. So too are most urbanites.

The section on the “broken windows” backlash is mysteriously devoid of links or evidence to back up the claim against the backlash, except for one: a linked article in which Martin O’Malley’s 1999 Baltimore mayor campaign pledged “zero tolerance” against petty crime. That proves it! Especially because O’Malley clearly has the Democratic party apparatus under his thumb.

Conveniently Forgotten Details

Yes, “broken windows” policing is a thing. Breitbart is correct that it works, but they are wrong that there is a backlash against it. It is however true that policing is in a state of transition, as superior police departments (not all police departments are the same) are naturally honing their police tactics to today’s context and challenges. This is where we are seeing the emergence of community policing.

Breitbart would like to convince and scare readers into believing that the transition is from “broken windows” policing, to simply no policing. Read more about the concept of community policing on discoverpolicing.org. It is a very simple three-step process that similar to “broken windows” in the 1990s, has proven to be very successful in the 2000s: 1, build effective community partnerships; 2, engage in problem solving around community deficiencies; 3, implement those partnerships to deter and solve crime.

Under this model, cops walk the same beat they always have. They are very visible. They spend a lot of their time helping people find their way, talking to neighbors, asking how people are doing, visiting schools, and even making youtube videos where they pull people over just to give them gift cards. They aren’t not policing. They are instead focusing on rebuilding trust so that they can work with people that might know more about potential crime than they do. Cops can’t do it alone.

Nobody can do anything alone.

This last thought gets me to something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Most of the societal and organizational failures that surround us are because people cannot improvise. More often than not, people freak out rather than embrace change. I see this as the root cause of so much anguish that grabs the headlines nowadays.

False Choices

One of my grad school professors has an excellent article quote arguing that comedic improv could basically save the world:

Upon learning Jason Sudy started city planning firm Side Street Planning and co-founded improv troupe Fake Bacon, I was intrigued− mainly because I couldn’t find a common thread between the two. Then he mentioned the central tenet of improv: “yes, and…”

In improv, especially with a surrounding cast, you have a split second to react and build upon what your cast mate just did. You can’t stand there and grandstand him/her, disagree, and suggest what he/she should say instead. All you can do about it is “yes, and…” Which, I think is perfect.

How often do transit proponents, who should be on the same side, come to blows over bus versus rail? Both sides simply cannot bring themselves to say “yes bus, AND rail.” This applies to virtually every other public discourse we have over seemingly competing choices. We waste most of our time getting sucked into the fallacy of false choices.

This brings me to my last point, which are the false choices that Breitbart wants people to make regarding cities.

It’s not unlike the whole backlash against BLM. Some people have deluded themselves into thinking that Black Lives and Blue Lives cannot both matter at the same time, it must be one OR the other!

Or, not unlike the infrastructure funding battles we fight everywhere. We cannot invest in both urban and suburban areas, it must be one OR the other! Must choose one (guess which one).

Or, not unlike the battles we wage over gentrification. Go to Citylab.com and you’ll see a gloomy narrative of white people aggressively colonizing minority communities and kicking them to all the curb. Breitbart meanwhile is weaving an alternate narrative of angry minorities going around and threatening would-be gentrifiers on their yeasty adventure in the big town. Even though the latter narrative is 100% absurd and adverse impact on minorities is a real thing, both of these narratives push the same false choice, and erode the public will to live together in harmony.

I have an alternate theory of my own: Anyone pushing the false choice is on the same side. Citylab and Breitbart are merely the two sides of the same coin that we don’t have to keep flipping, expecting different results.

Acceptance is good for business

Indiana’s loss is Ohio’s gain. While the recent trend has been sort of contrary to that, with fast-growing Indy frequently siphoning jobs off of its older, more developed neighbor – that state’s conservative politics, with its attractive low-tax environment and “pro-business” rhetoric, may become its own downfall. We all know what happened with the gay community in Indiana, which is a shame. The fallout did two things: Ended Mike Pence’s 2016 aspirations, and cost Indy a lot of business.

The incident led Indy-born Angie’s List canceling a planned 1,000-job expansion of its HQ. Not only does Angie’s List not support state-level discrimination, but it views the fallout as a threat to its own ability to recruit and retain top-level talent, and wants no part in even supporting Pence’s regime. The truth about Indiana though is that the Pence regime is a middle-right coalition in a further right-wing state, in which the discrimination law was passed overwhelmingly, and enjoys a broad support base across the state. It’s no fluke, that really is Indiana being Indiana – kind of like a little spite house wedged between big blue blue states like Illinois and Ohio.


Senator Brown backed by city executives from Toledo, Dayton, Canton, Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati

Now, Ohio (a liberal state with a surprisingly conservative leader) is even benefiting from some counter-flow out of Indiana. While Ohio as a state has done a bad job of taking any actual stance on really any social issue, its cities are all-in on LGBT policy. Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincy routinely earn 100% marks from the Human Rights Campaign – as one of the first adopters of civil partnership registries, which is a nifty policy tool that enables same-sex couples to qualify for partner benefits at the federal or employer level. Columbus’ long-time (now ex-oficio) mayor Michael Coleman is an unabashed supporter of the surprisingly large (Ohio State-oriented) gay community in that city. Ohio State is one of the few pro-LGBT major athletic programs. Ohio’s congressional delegation also does a lot, led by the Good Senator from Cleveland Sherrod Brown. Even the Bad Senator from Cincinnati Rob Portman became the first pro-gay Republican in Congress.

So yes, despite state inaction (and a weird brand of Yankee conservatism aka Kasich), Ohio has a strong record on LGBT rights. Immediately following the Indiana ordeal, Ohio leaders staged a big policy event at the Statehouse, geared specifically toward recruiting businesses at the expense of Indiana. Brilliant move, but we all doubted it would do anything.

Well it did. I was surprised to read that Pokemon is still a thing, but apparently it is, and it had a national conference “Trapathon?” in Indianapolis. Well not anymore. The event, which routinely drew 1,000 people annually to Indy to “Catch ’em all,” has found a new home in Columbus. Apparently last year’s Trapathon actually coincided with Indiana’s PR-disaster, which left a very impression with all of the “Pokemon trainers.” Sure, I’d rather have those 1,000 Angie’s List jobs, than their Pokemon conference – but if economic bits and pieces of Indiana are apparently up for grabs, an annual conference that draws 1,000 isn’t too shabby.


Below is the perfect-score cities in bad states from HRC’s Municipal Equality Index, which the HRC calls its “all-stars” (not bad press):

Did your city earn the title of MEI All star?

  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Austin, Texas
  • Bloomington, Indiana
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Detroit, Michigan
  • East Lansing, Michigan
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Missoula, Montana
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Tempe, Arizona
  • Tucson, Arizona
  • Wilton Manors, Florida
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Fort Worth, Texas
  • Dayton, Ohio
  • Ferndale, Michigan
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Tampa, Florida
  • Indianapolis,  Indiana
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • San Antonio, Texas
  • Alexandria, Virginia
  • Tallahassee, Florida
  • Arlington County, Virginia
  • Oakland Park, Florida

The state is purportedly going to lose billions of dollars over this, in many cases to the cities above. Other Indy companies that are either leaving, no longer having their events in Indy, or similarly throwing their weight around: Eskenazi Health (Central Indy’s leading healthcare provider), Cummings (world’s largest diesel engine maker), Eli Lilly & Company (which employs 12,000 in Indy), Yelp, Apple, Salesforce (which employs 3,000 in Indy), and even the Disciples of Christ church will move its annual conference in the future.

Don’t be Indiana. It’s not worth it.