Tuesday, October 24, 2006


RICHARD LAYMAN, Washington planner/blogger passes on some striking stats
from Julie Glover of the Denton, Texas Main Street program

- 6 cents of every dollar spent with a big box retailer is retained or
recirculated in a community. [Rocky Mountain Institute]

- 20 cents of every dollar spent with a chain store is retained or
recirculated in a community. [Small Business Administration]

- 60 cents of every dollar spent with a sole proprietorship is retained
or recirculated in a community. [Small Business Administration]

Add to this the fact that the urban rich spend far more of their money
outside of their city compared to the poor and middle class and you
begin to see how misleading current talk about urban renaissances can

This is a point your editor has been making for over 40 years: it's not
the economy but what happens to the money afterwards.


Consider zip code 20032, one of the poorest in Washington, DC. 20032 has
a per-capita income of $9,039. By American standards that's not much,
but the total household income of this one poor neighborhood is $370
million a year. What happens to that $370 million after it gets to the
neighborhood is vital to what happens to the people who earn it. At
present, much of the $370 million simply flows through the community and
towards businesses, landlords and financial institutions outside of the
neighborhood. A key to the economic revival of the older city is the
development of self-generating economies. The self-generating economy
has a long history in America. Many of the country's early communities
were largely self-sufficient. This self-sufficiency, however,
disappeared with the rise of the modern corporation. Capital began to
flow through, rather than within, communities.


DAVID OWEN, NEW YORKER, 2004 - Most Americans, including most New
Yorkers, think of New York City as an ecological nightmare, a wasteland
of concrete and garbage and diesel fumes and traffic jams, but in
comparison with the rest of America it's a model of environmental
responsibility. By the most significant measures, New York is the
greenest community in the United States, and one of the greenest cities
in the world. The most devastating damage humans have done to the
environment has arisen from the heedless burning of fossil fuels, a
category in which New Yorkers are practically prehistoric. The average
Manhattanite consumes gasoline at a rate that the country as a whole
hasn't matched since the mid-nineteen-twenties, when the most widely
owned car in the United States was the Ford Model T. Eighty-two per cent
of Manhattan residents travel to work by public transit, by bicycle, or
on foot. That's ten times the rate for Americans in general, and eight
times the rate for residents of Los Angeles County. New York City is
more populous than all but eleven states; if it were granted statehood,
it would rank fifty-first in per-capita energy use.

STEVE COHEN, EARTH INSTITUTE - While New York may consume relatively
less fossil fuels than other American cities and may do a good job in
providing clean water, it does a poor job of reducing, recycling and
disposing of its waste. . .

Why do New Yorkers create so much garbage? The use of large amounts of
packaging material, and the relatively minimal level of recycling are
reflections of the community's collective values. New Yorkers clearly
value the benefits of the throwaway society. Moreover, it is hard to get
garbage on the political agenda. Let's face it, garbage is physically
unpleasant and reminds some of us of our great wealth in the face of
poverty. We discard food and clothing from which the world's poor could
derive sustenance. We prefer not to think about garbage or where it will
end up. This propagates the fantasy that those green plastic mounds of
garbage bags on the street are magically transported to some mythical
solid waste heaven.

The high population density of New York City would never have been
possible without a number of technological innovations: an extensive
network of mass transit, the electrical power grid, the water system,
modern sewage removal and treatment, product packaging, food
refrigeration, preservatives and, of course, solid waste removal. The
technology of waste incineration has advanced dramatically since the
1960s. In Japan, 70% of all waste is burned and generates electricity.
While incineration pollutes the air, there is no question that it is
less polluting than transporting waste in diesel-fueled trucks to
leaking landfills. Nevertheless, New York City's public does not trust
experts or government to tell the truth on this issue, and the
not-in-my-backyard syndrome dominates New York's waste politics. Science
has a "solution" to this problem, but politics makes utilizing new
technology unachievable.


No comments: