On the always informative Planetizen site a writer by the geographically intriguing name of Jess Zimbabwe sketches out for us what the Housing and Urban Development people in our nation's capital have in mind for small city downtown areas like ours. The article is entitled "A foray by HUD into telling small towns how best to use their land" (click here), and this is the point she makes:
In April 2009, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan spoke to the ULI Spring Council Forum in Atlanta; he stated that his administration's goal was "to put the UD back in HUD," and explained that HUD's over-reliance on housing solutions wasn't helping cities address their complex revitalization needs. Just over two years later, this small new funding program caught my eye on a list of new HUD announcements:
HUD HOPE VI - $0.5 million
Application Due: August 22, 2011
Eligible Entities: Local governments
HUD requests proposals for the HOPE VI Main Street Program. This program provides grants to small communities to assist in the rejuvenation of an historic or traditional central business district or "Main Street" area by replacing unused commercial space in buildings with affordable housing units. HUD encourages activities that actively promote sustainability through enhancing energy efficient measures.
(There is that word again. Sustainability. Has the Green Committee ever come up with a working definition yet? Have they issued a report? Last I heard they were kind of punting on the whole thing, and seemed content to just tell us how bad dirty air and cars can be. If anyone has seen an update on this matter please let me know. It does beg for discussion.)
Now the problem with a program like this is its irreversibility. In bad economic times such as those we are struggling through now, downtown areas are certain to suffer. And what in better times would be just fine now appears to be quite the opposite. But by replacing commercial space with low income housing (which can often turn out to be higher income condominiums once the paint dries), the make up of a downtown area would be changed forever. Permanently denying that city the positive economic contribution such a commercial district could have made once better times returned.
We all remember the often told tale of how one ambitious Sierra Madre City Councilman had journeyed to Washington DC a few years back in search of grant money that would "make a difference." The whole federal grant thing taking on a kind of mystical glow in the telling. A complex matter that only someone as suitably equipped as he to wheel and deal in the halls of power would be able to obtain for the good folks back home.
The truth, of course, is far more mundane. The federal government is awash with poorly conceived programs and offerings like this one, and any fool can get them. All you need to do is throw away a hundred or so years of community history and promise to build something most people living there would never want to see in their downtown.
Quite a trade off for just a little bit of cash.
Viral Internet John Shear Video
The actual Santa Anita security video of John Shear stepping in front of a rampaging race horse to save the life of a little girl was supposed to remain under wraps and out of the public view forever. The violence of that scene being deemed a little too much for most to stand. However, the video leaked and is now everywhere, so I thought it should be posted here as well. If you ever doubted the courage it took to do what John did, one look at this will change your mind forever. John, who has been around racehorses almost all of his life, knew exactly what this selfless act would mean to him. He did it anyway.
This footage can now be seen as part of a CBS News Los Angeles video, and is up on their website. Click here.
And now for something completely different
Some things just leave you speechless. And often one day's tragic event becomes trivialized beyond all recognition the next. This from The Times Of India:
Lady Gaga to eat Apples as tribute to Steve Jobs - Like many stars, Lady Gaga has taken to Twitter to express her sadness over the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. The 25-year-old 'you and I' singer said the thoughts of the technology pioneer's passing left her breathless.
"From his own invention I open my browser to it's homepage. Today it took my breath away. Thank You Steve. Going to eat Apples all day," Gossipcenter quoted her as saying.
There is an unfortunate irony to this. But I'm not going to go there.