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Thread: America's throwaway culture continues

  1. #1
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    America's throwaway culture continues

    Copyright 2005 The Baltimore Sun Company
    The Baltimore Sun
    May 12, 2005 Thursday
    FINAL EDITION
    TELEGRAPH; Pg. 1A
    1021 words

    Baltimore's `inner suburbs' showing their age;
    Study: UMBC researchers urge greater public and private reinvestment to revitalize Beltway communities struggling with stagnation and decline.

    Timothy B. Wheeler, SUN STAFF

    In the 66 years she's lived in Lansdowne, Dixie Yankulov has seen the ups and downs of this historic mining and railroad community just inside the Beltway in southern Baltimore County.

    Crime got so bad a few years back that some elderly residents of this leafy suburb of modest homes were afraid to sit on their porches or venture out at night. So her husband, John, and others formed a citizens patrol to help spot trouble.

    While there are hopeful signs for Lansdowne, its troubles are shared by many other aging suburban communities around the Beltway.

    A new study by researchers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County finds that these "inner suburbs," which boomed after World War II, are now struggling with stagnation and decline, increasing poverty and deteriorating infrastructure as jobs and younger, more-affluent families have tended to migrate to the outer suburbs over the past 25 years.

    The study, by UMBC's Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education, calls for greater public and private reinvestment in these aging communities to stem the loss of open land and increasing traffic congestion as the region's suburbs keep spreading outward.

    Though some of the city's early suburbs, such as Catonsville, Lutherville and Linthicum, remain stable and even are thriving, the study finds that many of the neighborhoods around Interstate 695 have seen little or no growth since 1980, while those where manufacturing plants closed have lost population.

    "In a sense, these inner suburbs are almost caught in the middle between what's going on in the central city, where there's some revitalization and gentrification, ... and what's going on in the outer suburbs," said Bernadette Hanlon, a research analyst at the UMBC center and co-author of the report.

    Analyzing census data from 1980 through 2000, Hanlon and co-author Thomas J. Vicino found that residents of Baltimore's inner suburbs tend to be older and poorer, to live in smaller, less-valuable homes, and to have lower-achieving schoolchildren than counterparts in the outlying suburbs of Carroll, Harford, Howard, and even the rest of Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties.

    The study notes that the period saw a racial transformation in western Baltimore County. Woodlawn, where 85 percent of the residents were white in 1980, became 51 percent black by 2000, while nearby Lochearn went from roughly 50 percent to 78 percent black. Historically, both communities had more black residents than other inner suburbs, the researchers point out. The rest of the inner suburbs remain predominantly white - a pattern of segregation that they warned could affect the communities' stability.

    Noting that Baltimore's inner suburbs are the kinds of existing communities where new development ought to be encouraged under Maryland's Smart Growth policies, the UMBC researchers called for government intervention to revive them. Local, state and federal agencies must offer incentives to attract and retain businesses and homeowners, and shore up the aging housing stock and struggling schools, they said.

    The aging, smaller homes in many inner suburbs represent bargains in today's overheated housing market, the report says, which could help attract young families if the communities' other problems are dealt with.

    "We're left with two options: Continue to build farther out and sprawl more," Vicino said, "or reinvest in our older communities."

    Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. said that that is just what his administration is doing under its Renaissance program aimed at revitalizing the county's older communities. "It's a great county," he said, "but we've got some age on us."

    Over the past dozen years, the county has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in road improvements and beautification around the Beltway, most notably in Essex and Middle River, where as a portent of that area's turnaround, private developers are building pricey waterfront condominiums.

    "It's still a work in progress," Mary Harvey, director of the county's office of community conservation, said of the east-side rehabilitation. But similar efforts are under way elsewhere around the Beltway, she said, pointing out that the county has helped arrange for redevelopment of two abandoned shopping plazas on Liberty Road.

    While budget problems have curtailed state community-revitalization grants, the Ehrlich administration is helping in other ways, Smith said. In the past week, the Baltimore County executive attended kickoff ceremonies for three affordable-housing projects in Dundalk, Middle River and Lansdowne - all financed with the assistance of state tax credits.

    "The economic climate has helped," Smith said, acknowledging that home values have soared throughout the region in the past few years. "But this didn't happen yesterday. ... We planned ahead." He predicted that in another five years, the Beltway communities would all be showing signs of resurgence.

    The changing fortunes of Baltimore's inner suburbs are fairly typical of older cities in the Northeast and Midwest, said Donald F. Norris, director of the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research, also at UMBC. But because most of the Beltway communities are under the control of a single jurisdiction - Baltimore County - there is more likelihood they can be revitalized.

    As helpful as bricks and mortar can be in reversing a community's decline, experts say, the grit and spirit of residents are just as crucial. In Lansdowne, leaders such as the Yankulovs say they sense a rise in community pride that gives them reason to hope.

    "I like our neighborhood," said Dixie Yankulov. "I wouldn't live anywhere else. After five generations, why move now?"

    Police say crime is down. The county is about to spiff up Hammonds Ferry Road, the main thoroughfare, with street lamps and benches and reopen the neighborhood library, which was closed more than a decade ago. New people are moving in, drawn by the more-affordable homes.

    "Lansdowne has been here for 100 years," said Yankulov, who notes that five generations of her family have called it home. "It's going to be here for another 100 years."

    May 12, 2005

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally posted by jmello

    The changing fortunes of Baltimore's inner suburbs are fairly typical of older cities in the Northeast and Midwest, said Donald F. Norris, director of the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research, also at UMBC. But because most of the Beltway communities are under the control of a single jurisdiction - Baltimore County - there is more likelihood they can be revitalized.


    I think that the fact that they are not incorporated is the most important factor...Racial isolation (segregation) is not a good thing, but an even bigger concern ought to be segregation by income. Here are the median household incomes for these Baltimore suburbs in 1999, all of which are unincorporated and thus have the county as their local government:

    Lutherville $61,500
    Linthicum 61,400
    Catonsville 53,000
    Lochearn 49,500
    Woodlawn 48,800
    Dundalk 39,700
    Middle River 37,900
    Lansdowne 37,100
    Essex 34,900

    So a pretty significant disparity, though none of these places, as of 1999 anyway, had bottomed out (although low $30Ks for median household income is pretty low for a fairly expensive part of the country like Baltimore, unless there are lots of single people). And since they are all part of the county, they must be less stressed than they would be if they were all incorporated and had to rely more heavily on their own (declining) tax base. I know very little about Baltimore, but I think that its suburbs date almost exclusively from post-WW II and so probably lack the sort of character that is now in vogue. Still, I would guess that the conditions and prospects of the declining suburbs on this list are better than they might otherwise be (if, say, they were suburbs of Detroit or Cleveland). Of course, a suburb that is not incorporated is, for historical reasons, less likely to have a downtown or "traditional" business districts. (Arlington happens to be an exception.)

  3. #3
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Blacks and Whites still have not learned how to live together in this country.

    To me, the older suburbs of Baltimore really begin inside the beltway, in the first residential areas outside of the CBD. In the seven years I lived in Baltimore, I didn't see too much of the further out suburbs because I don't drive. Inside the beltway, Baltimore has a pronounced segregation pattern. Whites live within a narrow band of prosperity that begins in Federal Hill, becoming integrated in the downtown area and then gradually becoming increasingly white as you head north to Johns Hopkins University and beyond. With the exception of gentrifying Canton and Butcher's Hill in the SE., the west and east sides of the city are almost exclusively Black.

    Baltimore has a lot of crumbling two story rowhouses, many of which are as narrow as 8 or 10 feet. These were the railroad suburbs which were fine in their time, but most people today demand a much bigger and wider house, let alone one in a neigborhood where you don't hear cop sirens every night. Because the city has lost a third of it's population in less than 50 years, many of these rowhouses are vacant. For enterprising landlords these houses could be resuscitated by knocking down walls to adjoin two of them thus yielding a decent sized house. But the level of racial mistrust, suspicion and animosity is such that no middle class person of any race wants to walk through these neighborhoods even in the light of day. A Black person can riskily wade through these waters if dressed like a bum, any White person who walks through these neigborhoods even dressed as a bum must have a death wish, and is surely tempting fate.

    I guess White people are getting what they deserve from a city that saw the first bloodshed of the civil war, when an angry white mob attacked a regiment of union soldiers passing through on their way to protect the Capitol. As a pale skinned person myself, I don't know how many areas remain where Blacks are in serious danger if they enter. So many whites have left the city that Blacks pretty much have it to themselves.

    Blacks and Whites still have not learned how to live together in this country. Many Whites continue to throw out old neighborhoods by buying into new developments that segregate via their own socioeconomic strata, as they spew more pollution into the air and drain more tax dollars away from poor urban minority neighborhoods.

    I left Baltimore because, to ride a bike there is suicidal, especially if you a White guy. Now in Portland, I'm in the most bike-friendly big city in North America, unfortunetly it also happens to be overwhelmingly White. I chose to leave Baltimore altogether to live sustainably and safely. Baltimore Whites that keep chewing up the exurban landscape in search of safety, only exacerbate the problems of poverty that they seek to excape downtown, while relying on the increasing scarcity of oil to shield and move them in their tanks from the wrong side of town.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

  4. #4
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Blacks and Whites still have not learned how to live together in this country.

    To me, the older suburbs of Baltimore really begin inside the beltway, in the first residential areas outside of the CBD. In the seven years I lived in Baltimore, I didn't see too much of the further out suburbs because I don't drive. Inside the beltway, Baltimore has a pronounced segregation pattern. Whites live within a narrow band of prosperity that begins in Federal Hill, becoming integrated in the downtown area and then gradually becoming increasingly white as you head north to Johns Hopkins University and beyond. With the exception of gentrifying Canton and Butcher's Hill in the SE., the west and east sides of the city are almost exclusively Black.

    Baltimore has a lot of crumbling two story rowhouses, many of which are as narrow as 8 or 10 feet. These were the railroad suburbs which were fine in their time, but most people today demand a much bigger and wider house, let alone one in a neigborhood where you don't hear cop sirens every night. Because the city has lost a third of it's population in less than 50 years, many of these rowhouses are vacant. For enterprising landlords these houses could be resuscitated by knocking down walls to adjoin two of them thus yielding a decent sized house. But the level of racial mistrust, suspicion and animosity is such that no middle class person of any race wants to walk through these neighborhoods even in the light of day. A Black person can riskily wade through these waters if dressed like a bum, any White person who walks through these neigborhoods even dressed as a bum must have a death wish, and is surely tempting fate.

    I guess White people are getting what they deserve from a city that saw the first bloodshed of the civil war, when an angry white mob attacked a regiment of union soldiers passing through on their way to protect the Capitol. As a pale skinned person myself, I don't know how many areas remain where Blacks are in serious danger if they enter. So many whites have left the city that Blacks pretty much have it to themselves.

    Blacks and Whites still have not learned how to live together in this country. Many Whites continue to throw out old neighborhoods by buying into new developments that segregate via their own socioeconomic strata, as they spew more pollution into the air and drain more tax dollars away from poor urban minority neighborhoods.

    I left Baltimore because, to ride a bike there is suicidal, especially if you are a White guy. Now in Portland, I'm in the most bike-friendly big city in North America, unfortunetly it also happens to be overwhelmingly White. I chose to leave Baltimore altogether to live sustainably and safely. Baltimore Whites that keep chewing up the exurban landscape in search of safety, only exacerbate the problems of poverty that they seek to excape downtown, while relying on the increasing scarcity of oil to shield and move them in their tanks from the wrong side of town.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

  5. #5
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Whoops! I ended up posting virtually the same thing twice. Sorry. Didn't mean to do that.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

  6. #6
    Quote Originally posted by dobopoq
    A Black person can riskily wade through these waters if dressed like a bum, any White person who walks through these neigborhoods even dressed as a bum must have a death wish, and is surely tempting fate.
    Are you kidding me? Check out the crime reports in Baltimore. Like most other cities with its demographic mix, the vast majority of violent crime in Baltimore is black-on-black. The idea that it's "black people" (as some monolithic group) out there just preying on "whitey" is ridiculous. Black people don't get a hall pass when they walk through bad neighborhoods. Junkies and drug dealers typically don't descriminate. African Americans aren't a secret society of thugs ready to do you in. The life of your average Baltimore African American is significantly hurt by street crime. Most of Baltimore's murder victims are black people who are forced to live in those neighborhoods, not white folks venturing through the "wrong side of town." To compare Baltimore's street crime to the racism of the Confederate South is ridiculous. There is no black institutional racism that's bearing down on white folk in Baltimore. Slays aren't racially motivated-- they're motivated by poverty, hopelessness, and that good ol' All American individualism that convinces people that shiny cars and cell phones are more important than anything.

    Further, your indication that "Blacks pretty much have it to themselves" seems to imply that all black people are muggers and criminals who can now be left alone in their slum. What horse****. Black people--honest, hardworking folk--are terrorized by street crime in Baltimore more than you you and me. You had the means to leave Baltimore. They don't

    Drug dealers shooting people in black neighborhoods is hardly some kind of perverse payback for white racism. Instead, it reflects the deindustrialization and abandonment of inner cities to the point where people choose illegitimate means for success when legitimate means aren't percieved to exist for them. Baltimore's ghettos were created from the outside.

    Anyway, this thread is supposed to be about the inner-ring suburbs, not the city proper. I think we're getting a bit off-topic.
    Last edited by passdoubt; 14 May 2005 at 1:03 PM.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    I don't live in Baltimore yet, but lived right outside it for four years and plan to move there soon. I have friends and acquaintances (black, white, and Asian) who do live there, some of whom grew up there, and I have explored it quite a bit, mostly on foot. Many parts are dangerous for anybody of any race or income level, but many other places are comparatively safe, especially during the day. Passdoubt is right that most of the crime is black-on-black, and most of the victims are people who live in the worst neighborhoods. The crime rate is still inexcusably terrible, but with the exception of homicide it has declined significantly in most of the city (even parts of the ghettos) over the last several years. Also, while the city has been majority (currently about two-thirds) black for years, a large percentage of the black population is middle class, and there are still a couple-hundred thousand white people in the city. And they aren't just in the corridor from Federal Hill north to Govans; there are many in Hamilton and other parts of the northeast, in many parts of the west, mainly beyond Rosemont, in Highlandtown, and in the south, especially Brooklyn.

    Now to get back on topic, most of the inner suburbs, especially outside the Beltway, were small towns or farmland until after WWII. Dundalk (inside the Beltway) and Essex and Middle River (outside), though, were factory towns by the 20's and swelled with war workers; some of the old housing projects being torn down in Essex started out as short-term housing for war workers. Several areas inside the Beltway, including parts or all of Dundalk, Rosedale, Overlea, Parkville, Towson, Pikesville, Lochearn, Woodlawn, and Lansdowne, were already streetcar suburbs by the time WWII started, although all of these grew further after the war. These places do have some of the popular old-fashioned character Kovanovich mentions.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Are you kidding me? Check out the crime reports in Baltimore. Like most other cities with its demographic mix, the vast majority of violent crime in Baltimore is black-on-black. The idea that it's "black people" (as some monolithic group) out there just preying on "whitey" is ridiculous.
    passdoubt, you missunderstand me. What I'm saying is that because many of these rowhouse neighborhoods are so overwhelmingly both poor and black, a white person stands out and is immediately heckled with hostile threats from the neighborhood thugs (Only a few people). I'm not saying this doesn't happen to blacks too. I'm just saying that because of the lack of white people, any white person seen there is immediately noticed as being an outsider and thus an easy target. I am quite aware that most of the crime is black on black.

    What I was also trying to get at with my post, is that suburbanization fuels racism and racism fuels suburbanization. The farther people have to travel from the city center to find a safe place to live, the more segregated and impoverished these inner suburbs become and the more a car must serve as a tank as well as a means of transportation to protect the passengers from the violence of the inner city which they have only made worse by their slavery to the automobile. It is a classic viscious circle.

    Further, your indication that "Blacks pretty much have it to themselves" seems to imply that all black people are muggers and criminals who can now be left alone in their slum.
    I lived in Mount Vernon which is well integrated and just north of the CBD. All types of people are welcome in this neighborhood. But If I went half a mile to the east or west, I was immediately targeted as an object worthy of hatred basically because there I would be the only person with pale skin. I was lit up like a christmas tree for the thugs of the neighborhood. I'm not saying that I think "all black people are muggers and criminals". I'm saying that because of the extreme segregation of these areas, I was an easy target.

    What I meant by, "Blacks pretty much have it to themselves", is that there aren't many areas of the city left where people are both poor and white and will treat blacks with hostility. But since I'm not black, I can't really know to what extent this is the case. I certainly met plenty of white people who had ignorant and racist views toward blacks which I disagreed with. I heard from black friends of many areas where whites would throw stones at blacks who entered their neighborhood in decades past, but white flight has gotten to such an advanced stage that the whites you see downtown today are almost all suburban commuters.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

  9. #9
    dobopoq, would you agree that the lack of ghettos in Canada has made this problem of declining older suburbs almost a none issue there? I believe Michael Moore did a film once comparing Canadian cities to American cities and why they are so different.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by cnyOntario
    dobopoq, would you agree that the lack of ghettos in Canada has made this problem of declining older suburbs almost a none issue there? I believe Michael Moore did a film once comparing Canadian cities to American cities and why they are so different.
    cnyOntario: I have not been to Canada as an adult, but I have considered emmigrating there. Toronto interests me in particular. From what I have read, (and I'm sure TranPlanner, and other Toronto based Cyburbians could enlighten us), Toronto is remarkably clean and safe for such a huge diverse city. There are certainly neighborhoods that have concentrations of specific ethnic groups but Canada seems to do a pretty good job of mitigating the pathologies of extreme poverty. I gather that the poor in Toronto are more dispersed in affordable dwellings throughout the city rather than concentrated in enclaves of ethnic and socioeconomic homogeneity as they are in the U.S.

    I believe the Michael Moore film you are referring to is "Bowling For Columbine", in which Moore briefly explores the curious lack of trigger happiness in Canada, despite plenty of those who hunt there, compared to the wild-west-style violence of America and the NRA.

    I briefly read from a google link that although slaves were often treated harshly in Canada, slavery was never even nearly as economically successful as it was in the U.S. south. And by the time it was outlawed in 1834, most former slaves were already free and it passed with little opposition. So it seems that slaves that made it to Canada in the 19th century weathered much less oppressive conditions than their brethren did even in New England. Plus, the post-war migration of blacks from the rural south to the urban north didn't seem to penetrate as far north as Canada. For these and many other reasons of which I am ignorant, yes I would venture to infer that Canada probably does not have the same type of problem of declining inner suburbs, driven largely by racism, that America does.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

  11. #11
    Cyburbian ChevyChaseDC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Kovanovich
    I know very little about Baltimore, but I think that its suburbs date almost exclusively from post-WW II and so probably lack the sort of character that is now in vogue. ...Of course, a suburb that is not incorporated is, for historical reasons, less likely to have a downtown or "traditional" business districts. (Arlington happens to be an exception.)
    Catonsville, Lansdowne, Arbutus (birthplace of "Bobby Haircut"), Pikesville, Dundalk, Essex, and some others actually do have traditional business districts, although some of them may have been bastardized by the continual widening of the main street into a high-speed arterial. Also, no one's really brought up Towson, which has a large and dense downtown. Even though there is no rapid transit service nearby (it's several miles to either the Lutherville or Falls Road light rail stops) downtown Towson is very similar in character to Silver Spring, Clarendon-Courthouse, and downtown Bethesda (though not quite so fancy-pants as Bethesda). And, of course, Ellicott City, though in Howard County, boasts a quaint (and very flood-prone) historic district that is as old as Baltimore itself.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally posted by dobopoq
    Plus, the post-war migration of blacks from the rural south to the urban north didn't seem to penetrate as far north as Canada. For these and many other reasons of which I am ignorant, yes I would venture to infer that Canada probably does not have the same type of problem of declining inner suburbs, driven largely by racism, that America does.
    I think this is at the heart of it.

    The fundamental difference between race relations in Canada and the US is that Canada was almost entirely white until the mid-20th century and has since then used immigration to rapidly diversify. In Canada, racial politics are very much tied to immigrant issues. Not so in the US, at least not in cities like Baltimore. Instead we have that messy legacy of slavery to deal with.

    Almost all non-whites in Toronto are first or second generation immigrants, unlike American cities which continue to maintain a struggling black underclass. Most black people in Baltimore probably have a longer American lineage than most white people.

    In the US, the "blackest" places often have extremely low immigrant populations. Mississippi has the highest percentage of African Americans in the union, yet it's got one of the lowest rates of immigration. Canadians would probably find that contradictory to what they're used to understanding.

    The most "notorious" neighborhoods in Toronto are in the suburbs. News anchors throw around intersections like "Jane and Finch" (a suburban corridor of government housing which even has a big shopping mall that takes the name) to strike fear in the hearts of canucks. The "old city" of Toronto is largely an expensive and preserved white enclave, with a smattering of Asian and European immigrant neighborhoods. Most black people (primarily Caribbean immigrants of course) live out in Scarborough and other cheaper suburbs. They arrive by the plane-full every year and fill more tiny snoutnose houses and isolated highrises. But really, the fundamental difference is that black (and non-white in general) people in Canada are mostly immigrants coming to the country on their own volition, with employment, skills, jobs, fresh ideas, etc. Baltimore could use some immigration. It'd do the city a lot of good. Immigrant families would kill for those "undesireable," archaic, tiny rowhouses. It's what has kept New York alive for so long.

    Free healthcare and better-funded social services help a lot too. I'm no expert on Canadian politics, but I think their Liberal party courts the massive "immigrant vote" in much the same way that Democrats have tried to attract black voters to the booths in the US. Even dispite all the scandals of the last regime, my friend's family all marched out in support of them on this issue alone, afraid that a Conservative victory would lead to restrictions on immigration and social services to help immigrants get their fair share.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    passdoubt:Thanks for your insightful comparison of Canada and the U.S. I concur. I think there is often a degree of antipathy between newly arrived African immigrants and African Americans descended from slaves. To be let in, these immigrants are usually better educated than Americans in general, so they could arouse some jealousy. Certainly, you can't overestimate the impact that having your ancestors forced to come here as slaves continues to have on African Americans, versus, choosing to come here as a free person.

    Unfortunetly, it often seems that the cities that have vibrant downtowns are also too expensive and end up having suburban ghettos. At least in these cities, the affluent don't have to chug oil and pollute in order to live and work in a safe area. The trick is to create neighborhoods of diverse economic strata without scaring the wealthy away.

    For all the progress that America has made in seeing blacks progress to higher-paid professions, I think the age of suburbia, and the car culture that defines it has arguably lead to an even higher level of segregation between whites and blacks in terms of actual distance, than existed during the Jim Crow era. Although racial mixing was very controversial in the 50's and 60's, at least neighborhoods were only a matter of blocks away rather than miles.

    You can bus kids in to create diverse school populations but as long as parents continue to isolate their children among people of their own ethnic strata, our society remains mired in racial tensions "bred", by fear and ignorance of the other. Kids don't learn culture while sitting still hearing a teacher babble at them for an hour. The culture they learn most comes from spontaneous play with their peers who live close by.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

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