Blogosphere: September 2004 Archives

The Doyen of Dustbury


Charles G. Hill of the mythical Oklahoma City of Dustbury ought to be on your daily reading list, assuming he isn't already. I've plugged him in the past, but he's had too much good stuff lately not to remind you to pay him a visit. Here's a sampler of some recent output from this fount of common sense down the turnpike.

  1. Some observations about an older neighborhood and urban renewal:
    Now the roads through there aren't great, and I suspect the rest of the city's infrastructure is probably an upgrade or two behind schedule, but this struck me as a relatively nice, if obviously not at all upscale, neighborhood. (I spot-checked a couple of houses for sale, and you can still buy in around here for thirty-five to fifty-five thousand.) Professional worriers, faced with a few blocks like this, would undoubtedly start screaming "Blight!" and calling for intervention. And indeed, there's room for improvement, starting with what appears to be, at first glance, a higher-than-average crime rate. But I am becoming persuaded that the kiss of death for any neighborhood comes at the exact moment when the studies and the surveys and the recommendations start coming out and the focus shifts from "How can we make this area better?" to "How can we get these people out of here?" I, for my part, am loath to tear up an area of affordable housing just because it's not pretty.

  2. An open letter to a Muslim friend on the 3rd anniversary of 9/11:

    It's simply this: while the tides of history roll over everyone, they don't necessarily maintain an even depth. We are at war, Mo. And we are at war, not because of something you did, but because of things that were done ostensibly in your name, and in the name of your God. Until such time as we can weed out every last terrorist who claims to be doing the will of Allah, it is only prudent to assume the worst. Professional complainers call this "racial profiling"; the real world calls it "self-defense."

    (In the same entry, Charles links to this revealing quiz.)

  3. A look at an at-large council in a big city:

    Turns out that Austin has a council-manager form of government, something I'm familiar with, but there's a twist: all six of the council members are elected at large. Which means that whatever power base she's built up in her section of town (just north of the University) doesn't mean a whole lot, since she's got to make her pitch to the entire city of 650,000.

    I admit to being unable to understand why this is supposed to be a Good Thing. If each of the council members represents the whole city, why do they need six of them? The traditional complaint about ward representation, as used in Oklahoma City and more recently in Tulsa, has been that it encourages members of the council to think about neighborhood needs rather than the needs of the city as a whole, but the fact remains: neighborhoods do have different needs. Residents of Balcones Drive in northwest Austin don't necessarily have the same concerns as residents of Springdale Road on the east side.

  4. And an earlier comment on Ken Neal's Whirled rant about ward politics in Tulsa:

    "In effect," says Neal, the current system demands that councilors "are elected to try to put their district ahead of the overall welfare of the city." I don't live in Tulsa and don't have a grounding in Nealspeak, but I'll attempt a translation: "How can we do Great Things for this town if we keep having to piddle around with the petty needs of mere citizens?" ...

    And I'm still concerned with Neal's tossed-off phrase: "the overall welfare of the city." If you can't get five councilors to buy such and such a proposal, maybe it's not so good for the overall welfare after all, huh?

    There's a great comment on the same entry from McGehee:

    In my opinion, the opinions of editors and columnists at any major city's most widely-read daily newspaper should be disregarded out of hand -- especially in terms of civic reform.

    Media opinionmakers tend to be members of the local elite, and what they regard as "the overall welfare of the [community]" is almost always whatever enhances the wealth, position and comfort of their circle.

    And on the national scene this same phenomenon plays out on that scale. So...

    Charles had a visit to the hospital last week (duly reported on his blog) and I was happy to see that he was back at the keyboard the same day. Glad to have you back in the saddle, or at least hovering gingerly over the saddle...

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Blogosphere category from September 2004.

Blogosphere: August 2004 is the previous archive.

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