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Archives for December 22, 2013

On Gardening: Tips for savvy seed shopping

Every time I’ve opened my mailbox the last couple weeks, I’ve been greeted with seed catalogs. I’m not an avid reader, but seed catalogs really get my attention. They get the attention of my family as well. As I start making my selections, sharing my excitement over the seeds of a cucumber grown in West Virginia for more than 150 years, I remember there’s a drawer full of flower and vegetable seeds in the refrigerator, and in the trunk of my car.

There are seeds in the bottom of my purse.

The reason I have a surplus of vegetable seeds is that I tend to order seeds based on the pictures. I see something unusual or pretty and forget to read the description or even do a little research on the seed in question.

But this year I’m choosing more carefully and following my own advice:

Grow what you know. This is especially true of vegetable seeds. I have a few standbys that do well for me every year (provided no unnatural weather conditions come along) — Cherokee Purple and Better Boy tomatoes, scalloped summer squash (also called pattypan squash) and Clemson Spineless okra. It is easy to get wrapped up in growing something new. Adding and trying new items is one of the most fascinating things about gardening. But varieties that have produced well in the past deserve center stage. We all like to see the fruits of our labor.

Grow varieties suitable for your region. This has gotten me in trouble in the past. Seed companies offer plant material grown all over the United States and across the globe. But the climate in Alabama is not the same as the climate in Oregon, Maine or the mountains of North Carolina. It usually gets hot quickly here so when selecting summer seeds, be they heirloom or hybrid, look for heat-tolerant varieties. I once made the mistake of ordering the oddest looking tomato I’d ever seen with hopes of having a tomato unlike anyone else around. My hopes turned to ketchup as the heirloom tomatoes grown in the northwest region of the country succumbed to our heat and humidity. Read the descriptions. Some catalogs offer warnings such as “Not for southeast U.S.” Realize that veggies that say “Matures well in cool temperatures” may not make it through a summer in Alabama, but could produce well in Iowa.

Order on time. I would rather get seeds weeks earlier than I need them as opposed to arriving weeks later. Last year several annual and perennial flower seeds arrived a little late and had to be stored for planting this year. I see no problem with planting them a year later, but germination rates do decrease with time — especially if not stored properly. Some companies ship seeds and other plant material at specific times. In a recent catalogue, I saw wonderful pictures of these red potatoes but orders were not shipped to the southern U.S. until mid March. I try to plant potatoes a little earlier than that if I can so buying locally is a better choice for me. Pay attention to the local planting dates, especially if buying live plants, slips, bulbs — any material that cannot be stored, and make sure they ship when you want to plant them.

Share seed orders. I buy a lot of plants locally, but there are some that only available by ordering the seeds. Many catalogs offer bulk seed orders — going in with friends, family and other gardeners will help save on seed costs and spread the joy of gardening together. And sharing seeds is a much better idea than ordering too much. Again, germination rates decrease over time so it’s best not to keep seeds for several years.

This year I have great intentions of saving more seeds from heirloom plants — less money to spend the following year and more plants to share. Maybe next Christmas everyone will get cucumber seeds … yes, I ordered them.

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Hershey Gardens creates scholarship competition

HERSHEY — Hershey Gardens and Ames True Temper created the Garden Design Scholarship Competition for students in grades 10 to 12.

The competition is for students who are homeschooled or enrolled in a public, private or vocational-technical school in Cumberland, Perry, Dauphin, York, Adams, Berks, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Northumberland and Schuylkill counties.

The competition is offered for students who are interested in gardening, horticulture, landscape architecture, the arts and the development of public gardens as a community resource.

The design team awarded first place will receive $1,200 and work with Hershey Gardens staff to install their winning design at Hershey Gardens. Each member of the winning design team will also receive a one-year membership to Hershey Gardens.

Designs may be submitted by one student or teams of up to four students.

Second- and third-place awards will also be given.

The deadline for registering is Friday, Jan. 17, and design entries must be submitted by Friday, March 14. Additional details, submission requirements and a downloadable registration form can be found at Individuals or schools may also call 717-508-5968.

Article source:

Darryl Yamamoto: The mall artist

American architect Darryl Yamamoto shares design philosophies on transforming spaces into retail magnets.

IN his 25 years as an architect, Darryl Yamamoto, the principal of US-based DYXY Architecture and Interiors has personally seen to the creation of 700,000sqm of retail space in the United States, China, Taiwan, Philippines, India and Indonesia.

In Malaysia, he is credited with the transformation of Klang Parade, the shopping grand dame of Selangor’s royal town, due for unveiling soon.

Yamamoto’s firm will also see to the refurbishment of 1 Mont Kiara in Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh Parade in Perak, both due for completion by the first quarter of 2014.

But for all his accolades, the baby-faced Hawaiian native is stubbornly refusing to divulge his age, the badge Asians so often associate with wisdom.

“Oh, look at the time now,” says Yamamoto, feigning a busy schedule when the age question was popped.

He dares us to guess. Is he in his late 30s? A hearty laugh. All right then, might he be in his mid-40s? A little more than that….

Sensing the charade is tiring his audience, Yamamoto relents with an obscure clue: “In architecture, you don’t get good till you’re 40. That’s when you have acquired the layers of experience, learned the rules and codes after many projects,” says Yamamoto who was based in the island state for 10 years before moving to Los Angeles.

He recalls his first project, a resort in Kapalua, Hawaii, where a pineapple plantation once stood.

“I had just got out of school (University of Hawaii in Manoa), the economy was going crazy and all the senior guys were doing high rises. That left the smaller guys like us with the smaller projects. I was really lucky because that was where I learned how to do everything,” says Yamamoto.

He then worked for RTKL, a global architecture and urban design practice firm, where he sharpened his skills as a designer for large-scale international projects. In 2006, Yamamoto established DYXY with a group of partners, whom he had been working closely with for a decade.

On what makes his creative juices tick, he quips that working with clients who know what they want is a tremendous help. But on a serious note, he adds that an open mind makes one a better receptor to ideas.

“I usually come with an empty mind for the first recce. The first priority is to mark out the property line, location and the geometry of the site. To be frank, I never know what the final result is going to be when I start because designing is an ever-changing process,” he says.

Challenges will always be part and parcel of the profession. Yamamoto recalls having to move a 40-storey tower for a Taiwan project in 2000 at the behest of a feng shui consultant.

“I don’t recall the details exactly but it had something to do with opposing Tiger and Dragon forces. Fortunately, this was done at the beginning of the drawing phase.

“If we had to do that maybe a year into the project where some 500 million lines had been drawn, that would have taken a lot more time and cost,” he says.

The Yamamoto formula for turning spaces into retail magnets lies in the simple rule of balance and circulation.

A mall should not resemble a maze where a shopper can get lost, like the crowded arcades of Hong Kong in the 1980s, he says. In the worst case scenario, labyrinthine designs not only obscure retail tenants from potential customers but may also encourage criminal activity because of the many hidden corners.

Ideally, there must be clarity of space, where a shopper can take in the different retailers at a glance. There should also be a clear degree of separation when it comes to differentiating office blocks, hotels, dining and shopping. Strategic placing of escalators is also important so people can pass by every shop. The idea is to get potential customers passing every shop’s front door.

Entrances, adds Yamamoto, makes for an important feature in malls. From experience, most clients prefer the main point of entry to resemble a big mouth for its auspicious symbolism, but logically they are always located at the busiest intersection of a road.

On rare occasions should such an entrance placement be seen as bad feng shui, it is still advisable to have an open air restaurant and glass walls at the same spot so passers-by are afforded a glimpse of the action inside.

And yes, a mall has to be loud.

“You must have enough signage to let people know what’s inside. Otherwise, it’ll look like an office,” says Yamamato.

Speaking of his Malaysian mission, Yamamoto reveals having received an SOS from ARA Managers Asset management senior manager June Lim, who had sent him pictures of a very run down Klang Parade earlier in the year. Then, the occupancy rate was only at 50%. They had neither a supermarket nor cinema and the urinal area in the men’s toilet was sans cubicles, where only the less shy could seek relief!

In the last year, Lim’s bosses had bought over the ageing mall, bestowing it with a refurbishment budget of over RM100mil. Yamamoto, fresh from completing the Grand Indonesia Tower in Jakarta, was deemed the most suitable candidate to lead the makeover.

“I started from scratch with Klang Parade from changing the mall configuration to working on the finishes like flooring, lighting and furniture,” he says.

As the mall’s aim is to serve residents within the catchment area, Yamamoto decided on the universal theme of flowers and going with a refreshing floral hibiscus theme, using purples, blues, and orange shades to evoke vibrance.

“You can’t be too sophisticated when you want to appeal to the masses but there will be water features, landscaping, a café area and a grand two-storey-high entrance,” he says.

At Klang Parade, Yamamoto’s proudest features are the skylights, a green lighting solution not only favoured as a cost saver but for its cheering properties.

“People have a natural affinity for sunlight,” says Yamamoto, explaining that he feels nothing works better than a good dose of the sun’s rays to liven things up.

Back in his hotel room, Yamamoto gives an inkling how deeply connected he is to his work. On his bureau are four hand cut models of buildings he hopes to present to potential clients. Among the deals already closed are the Fantasy Springs Resort in California, Bank of Hawaii Office Tower, Orchard Boulevard Condominium in Singapore, and the Galaxy International Hotel and Office project in Shenzhen, China.

So, has Yamamoto ever sat back to gloat over his own work?

“The more you do to fine-tune, the more opportunity you have to ensure shoppers are happy. When they have a great experiential element when visiting the mall, they will come back,” says Yamamoto, hinting that a designer’s work is never finished.

But more crucially, Yamamoto reckons his is the role of a service deliverer. Be it a high rise, retail or residential project, he reckons it will be his job to do as much as he can, architectural-wise, to deliver success to the client.

“Ultimately, an architect’s job is to have people look at a property and say, ‘This is beautiful, I have to have it,” concludes Yamamoto.

Article source:

Architecture adds an upgrade to affordable housing in Santa Monica

“What we’ve done is take the typical L.A. dingbat, which I would characterize as a four-sided doughnut of a building, and break it apart and move toward the extreme edge of the property,” Daly said. Instead of introducing a radical new form to the block, 2602 Broadway improves on what already works for the neighborhood, he said.

Community Corp. of Santa Monica, a nonprofit that serves as developer and owner of 90 projects in the city, works with local architects such as Daly to transform infill properties or push forward on adaptive reuse. These projects are not only residences but also community landmarks: A Boys’ Girls’ Club at 2602 Broadway offers after-school activities to local children. Beyond such practical aspirations, one goal of CCSM is to provide housing that enhances how a neighborhood looks, Executive Director Sarah Letts said. “Buildings that both blend in,” she said, “and stand out in a beautiful way.”

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PHOTOS: Broadway aprtment complex in Santa Monica

Daly wanted to maximize the use of quality materials for the 33-unit complex. He said the key to keeping costs down was to remember that all four walls were not created equal: One side (the “hyper-performance facade,” he said) would always be exposed to the greatest amount of sun, and that’s where he could devote the bulk of the resources.

Deep, powder-coated aluminum awnings curve around the sunniest windows, providing shade and preventing interior heat gain. They also add a lovely sculptural element.

Big environmental moves included leaving a massive quinine tree to shade the lot and installing a cistern in the garden to collect rainwater. A screen made from planks of tornillo — a fast-growing and sustainable hardwood that ages nicely — weaves its way along the walkways that connect four buildings. The staggered openings offer snippets of sightlines in a way that’s almost cinematic, creating a pleasant interior view. But the design also cleverly affords privacy, which encourages residents to have their windows and doors open, Daly said.

With these simple features, Daly hoped to offer a broader definition of affordability — not just in terms of construction costs but also in how easily residents can maintain their homes. The simple lines and sustainable materials are appreciated by resident Marina Guerrero, who lives in one of the two-bedroom units with her husband and two children.

“You can really get creative here with the space,” Guerrero said. “It inspires me.”

Four ideas to borrow from 2602 Broadway:

Aluminum window awnings: The clever shading used here was manufactured by Machineous, a custom fabrication company in Gardena. The awnings shade the sunniest sides of the complex, increase privacy and simply look cool. Powder-coated aluminum is affordable and can add a pop of color to an otherwise blank wall. Inside some apartments, the windows actually have built-in seats and storage cabinets.

Tornillo privacy balustrade: Along the walkways, slender vertical planks of the hardwood tornillo are arranged in an undulating, computer-generated pattern. The net effect is fencing that feels more like a decoration than a barrier. Residents can keep windows and doors open without seeing into one another’s living rooms. This type of fence would work well between close dwellings, architect Kevin Daly said.

Cement board exterior cladding: To add texture and color to the exterior, Daly called for durable, affordable HardiePanel vertical siding. The matte finish of the cement board panels can be any color, and they have a texture that’s different from your typical stucco.

Landscaping color accents: Color is key for small spaces, but often homeowners don’t know where to start with a palette. Daly looked to the landscaping by Los Angeles-based Dry Design for cues, pulling shades of bright green and earthy browns that gave the building a sense of nature. The light blue is inspired by a marine-layered Santa Monica sky.

Article source:,0,6166076.story

How America abandoned its “undeserving” poor

The first transformation was economic: the death of the great industrial city that flourished from the late nineteenth century until the end of World War II. The decimation of manufacturing evident in Rust Belt cities resulted from both the growth of foreign industries, notably electronics and automobiles, and the corporate search for cheaper labor. Cities with economic sectors other than manufacturing (such as banking, commerce, medicine, government, and education) withstood deindustrialization most successfully. Those with no alternatives collapsed, while others struggled with mixed success. Some cities such as Las Vegas built economies on entertainment, hospitality, and retirement. With manufacturing withered, anchor institutions, “eds and meds,” increasingly sustained the economies of cities lucky enough to house them; they became, in fact, the principal employers. In the late twentieth century, in the nation’s twenty largest cities, “eds and meds” provided almost 35 percent of jobs. As services replaced manufacturing everywhere, office towers emerged as the late twentieth century’s urban factories. Services include a huge array of activities and jobs, from the production of financial services to restaurants, from high paid professional work to unskilled jobs delivering pizza or cleaning offices. Reflecting this division, economic inequality within cities increased, accentuating both wealth and poverty.

The second kind of urban transformation was demographic. First was the migration of African Americans and white southerners to northern, midwestern, and western cities. Between World War I and 1970, about seven million African Americans moved north. The results, of course, transformed the cities into which they moved. Between 1940 and 1970, for example, San Francisco’s black population multiplied twenty-five times and Chicago’s grew five times. The movement of whites out of central cities to suburbs played counterpoint. Between 1950 and 1970, the population of American cities increased by ten million people while the suburbs exploded with eighty-five million.

The idea that the white exodus to the suburbs represented “flight” from blacks oversimplifies a process with other roots as well. A shortage of housing; urban congestion; mass-produced suburban homes made affordable with low interest, long-term, federally insured loans; and a new highway system all pulled Americans out of central cities to suburbs. At the same time, through “blockbusting” tactics, unscrupulous real estate brokers fanned racial fears, which accelerated out-migration. In the North and Midwest, the number of departing whites exceeded the incoming African Americans, resulting in population loss and the return of swaths of inner cities to empty, weed-filled lots that replaced working-class housing and factories—a process captured by the great photographer Camilo Jose Vergara with the label “green ghetto.” By contrast, population in Sun Belt cities such as Los Angeles moved in the opposite direction. Between 1957 and 1990, the combination of economic opportunity, a warm climate, annexation, and in-migration boosted the Sun Belt’s urban population from 8.5 to 23 million.

A massive new immigration also changed the nation and its cities. As a result of the nationality based quotas enacted in the 1920s, the Great Depression, and World War II, immigration to the United States plummeted. The foreign-born population reached its nadir in 1970. The lifting of the quotas in 1965 began to reverse immigration’s decline. Immigrants, however, now arrived from new sources, primarily Latin America and Asia. More immigrants entered the United States in the 1990s than during any other decade in its history. These new immigrants fueled population growth in both cities and suburbs. Unlike the immigrants of the early twentieth century, they often bypassed central cities to move directly to suburbs and spread out across the nation. In 1910, for example, 84 percent of the foreign born in metropolitan Philadelphia lived in the central city. By 2006 the proportion had dropped to 35 percent. New immigrants have spread beyond the older gateway states to the Midwest and South, areas from which prior to 1990 immigrants largely were absent. Thanks to labor market networks in agriculture, construction, landscaping, and domestic service, Hispanics spread out of central cities and across the nation faster than any other ethnic group in American history. This new immigration has proved essential to labor market growth and urban revitalization. Again in metropolitan Philadelphia, between 2000 and 2006, the foreign born accounted for 75 percent of labor force growth. A New York City research report “concluded that immigrant entrepreneurs have become an increasingly powerful economic engine for New York City…foreign-born entrepreneurs are starting a greater share of new businesses than native-born residents, stimulating growth in sectors from food manufacturing to health care, creating loads of new jobs and transforming once-sleepy neighborhoods into thriving commercial centers.” Similar reports came in from around the nation from small as well as large cities and from suburbs.

Suburbanization became the first major force in the spatial transformation of urban America. Although suburbanization extends well back in American history, it exploded after World War II as population, retail, industry, services, and entertainment all suburbanized. In the 1950s, suburbs grew ten times as fast as central cities. Even though the Supreme Court had outlawed officially mandated racial segregation in 1917 and racial exclusions in real estate deeds in 1948, suburbs found ways to use zoning and informal pressures to remain largely white until late in the twentieth century, when African Americans began to suburbanize. Even in suburbs, however, they clustered in segregated towns and neighborhoods. Suburbs, it should be stressed, never were as uniform as their image. In the post-war era, they came closer than ever before to the popular meaning of “suburb” as a bedroom community for families with children. But that meaning had shattered completely by the end of the twentieth century, as a variety of suburban types populated metropolitan landscapes, rendering distinctions between city and suburb increasingly obsolete. The collapse of the distinction emerged especially in older inner ring suburbs where the loss of industry, racial transformation, immigration, and white out-migration registered in shrinking tax bases, eroding infrastructure, and increased poverty.

Gentrification and a new domestic landscape furthered the spatial transformation of urban America. Gentrification may be redefined as the rehabilitation of working-class housing for use by a wealthier class. Outside of select neighborhoods, gentrification by itself could not reverse the economic and population decline of cities, but it did transform center city neighborhoods with renovated architecture and new amenities demanded by young white professionals and empty-nesters who had moved in. At the same time, it often displaced existing residents, adding to a crisis of affordable housing that helped fuel homelessness and other hardships.

The new domestic landscape resulted from the revolutionary rebalancing of family types that accelerated after 1970. In 1900 married couples with children made up 55 percent of all households, single-mother families 28 percent, empty-nesters 6 percent, and nonfamily households (mainly young people living together) 10 percent, with a small residue living in other arrangements. By 2000 the shift was astonishing. Married couple households now made up only 25 percent of all households, single-mother families 30 percent, empty-nesters 16 percent, and nonfamily households 25 percent. (The small increase in single-mother families masked a huge change. Earlier in the century they were mostly widows; by century’s end they were primarily never married, divorced, or separated.) What is stunning is how after 1970 these trends characterized suburbs as well as central cities, eroding distinctions between them. Between 1970 and 2000, for example, the proportion of census tracts where married couples with children comprised more than half of all households plummeted from 59 percent to 12 percent and in central cities from 12 percent to 3 percent. In the same years, the proportion of suburban census tracts where single mothers composed at least 25 percent of households jumped an astonishing 440 percent—from 5 percent to 27 percent—while in central cities it grew from 32 percent to 59 percent. The share of census tracts with at least 30 percent nonfamily households leaped from 8 to 35 percent in suburbs and from 28 to 57 percent in cities. These changes took place across America, in Sun Belt as well as Rust Belt. Truly, a new domestic landscape eroding distinctions between city and suburb had emerged within metropolitan America. Its consequences were immense. The rise in single-mother families living in poverty shaped new districts of concentrated poverty and fueled the rise in suburban poverty. Immigration brought young, working-class families to many cities and sparked revitalization in neighborhoods largely untouched by the growth and change brought about by gentrification.

Racial segregation also transformed urban space. The first important point about urban racial segregation is that it was much lower early rather than late in the twentieth century. In 1930 the neighborhood in which the average African American lived was 31.7 percent black; in 1970 it was 73.5 percent. No ethnic group in American history ever experienced comparable segregation. Sociologists Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton, with good reason, described the situation as “American apartheid.” In sixteen metropolitan areas in 1980, one of three African Americans lived in areas so segregated along multiple dimensions that Massey and Denton labeled them “hypersegration.” Even affluent African Americans were more likely to live near poor African Americans than affluent whites. Racial segregation, argued Massey and Denton, by itself produced poverty. Areas of concentrated poverty, in turn, existed largely outside of markets—any semblance of functioning housing markets had dissolved, financial and retail services had decamped, jobs in the regular market had disappeared. Concentrated poverty and chronic joblessness went hand in hand. Public infrastructure and institutions decayed, leaving them epicenters of homelessness, crime, and despair. Even though segregation declined slightly in the 1990s, at the end of the century, the average African American lived in a neighborhood 51 percent black, many thousands in districts marked by a toxic combination of poverty and racial concentration. This progress reversed in the first decade of the twentieth century. “After declining in the 1990s,” reported a Brookings Institution study, “the population in extreme-poverty neighborhoods—where at least 40 percent of individuals lived below the poverty line—rose by one-third from 2000 to 2005–09.”

Despite continued African American segregation, a “new regime of residential segregation” began to appear in American cities, according to Massey and his colleagues. The new immigration did not increase ethnic segregation; measures of immigrant segregation remained “low to moderate” while black segregation declined modestly. However, as racial segregation declined, economic segregation increased, separating the poor from the affluent and the college educated from high school graduates. Spatial isolation marked people “at the top and bottom of the socioeconomic scale.” The growth of economic inequality joined increased economic segregation to further transform urban space. America, wrote three noted urban scholars, “is breaking down into economically homogeneous enclaves.” This rise in economic segregation afflicted suburbs as well as inner cities, notably sharpening distinctions between old inner ring suburbs and more well-to-do suburbs and exurbs. Early in the twenty-first century, as many poor people lived in suburbs as in cities, and poverty within suburbs was growing faster within them.

In the post-war decades, urban redevelopment also fueled urban spatial transformation. Urban renewal focused on downtown land use, clearing out working-class housing, small businesses, and other unprofitable uses, and replacing them with high-rise office buildings, anchor institutions, and expensive residences. The 1949 Housing Act kicked off the process by facilitating city governments’ aspirations to assemble large tracts of land through eminent domain and sell them cheaply to developers. The Act authorized 810,000 units of housing to re-house displaced residents; by 1960, only 320,000 had been constructed. These new units of public housing remained by and large confined to racially segregated districts and never were sufficient in number to meet existing needs. “Between 1956 and 1972,” report Peter Dreier and his colleagues, experts in urban policy, “urban renewal and urban freeway construction displaced an estimated 3.8 million persons from their homes” but rehoused only a small fraction. The costs of urban renewal to the social fabric of cities and the well-being of their residents were huge. Urban renewal “certainly changed the skyline of some big cities by subsidizing the construction of large office buildings that housed corporate headquarters, law firms, and other corporate activities” but at the price of destroying far more “low-cost housing than it built” and failing “to stem the movement of people and businesses to suburbs or to improve the economic and living conditions of inner-city neighborhoods. On the contrary, it destabilized many of them, promoting chaotic racial transition and flight.”

Neither the War on Poverty nor Great Society slowed or reversed the impact of urban redevelopment and racial segregation on the nation’s cities. President John F. Kennedy finally honored a campaign pledge in 1962 with a federal regulation prohibiting discrimination in federally supported housing—an action that “turned out to be more symbolic than real” on account of weak enforcement. In the 1968 Fair Housing Act, President Lyndon Johnson extended the ban on discrimination, and the practices that produced it, to the private housing market. Unfortunately, weak enforcement mechanisms left it, too, inadequate to the task throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

For the most part, the War on Poverty and Great Society rested on an understanding of poverty as a problem of persons, or, in the case of community action, of power, but less often of place. Opportunity-based programs addressed the deficiencies of individuals, not the pathologies of the places in which they lived. This hobbled their capacity from the outset. The conservatives who seized on the persistence of poverty to underscore and exaggerate the limits of the poverty war and Great Society retained this individual-centered understanding of poverty as they developed a critique of past efforts and a program for the future, neither of which was adequate to the task at hand.

The coincidence of America’s urban slide into deep urban racial segregation, concentrated poverty, deindustrialization, physical decay, and near-bankruptcy coincided with the manifest failures of public policy, notably in urban renewal, and in the efforts of government to wage war on poverty. No matter that the story as popularly told was riddled with distortions and omissions. This narrative of catastrophic decline and public incompetence produced the trope of the “urban crisis,” which, in turn, handed conservatives a gift: a ready-made tale—a living example—to use as evidence for the bundle of ideas they had been nurturing for decades and which emerged triumphant by the late 1970s.

The Conservative Ascendance

The growth of urban poverty did not rekindle compassion or renew the faltering energy of the Great Society. Instead, a war on welfare accompanied the conservative revival of the 1980s. City governments, teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, cut social services; state governments trimmed welfare rolls with more restrictive rules for General Assistance (state outdoor relief); and the federal government attacked social programs. As President Ronald Reagan famously remarked, government was the problem, not the solution. The result of these activities reduced the availability of help from each level of government during the years when profound structural transformations in American society increased poverty and its attendant hardships.

Several sources fed the conservative restoration symbolized by Ronald Reagan’s election as president in 1980. Business interests, unable to compete in an increasingly international market, wanted to lower wages by reducing the influence of unions and cutting social programs that not only raised taxes but offered an alternative to poorly paid jobs. The energy crisis of 1973 ushered in an era of stagflation in which public psychology shifted away from its relatively relaxed attitude toward the expansion of social welfare. Increasingly worried about downward mobility and their children’s future, many Americans returned to an older psychology of scarcity. As they examined the sources of their distress, looking for both villains and ways to cut public spending, ordinary Americans and their elected representatives focused on welfare and its beneficiaries, deflecting attention from the declining profits and returns on investments that, since the mid-1970s, should have alerted them to the end of unlimited growth and abundance.

Desegregation and affirmative action fueled resentments. Many whites protested court-ordered busing as a remedy for racial segregation in education, and they objected to civil rights laws, housing subsidies, and public assistance support for blacks who wanted to move into their neighborhoods while they struggled to pay their own mortgages and grocery bills. White workers often believed they lost jobs and promotions to less qualified blacks. Government programs associated with Democrats and liberal politics became the villains in these interpretations, driving blue-collar workers decisively to the right and displacing anger away from the source of their deteriorating economic conditions onto government, minorities, and the “undeserving poor.”

Suburbanization, the increased influence of the South on electoral politics and the politicization of conservative Protestantism, also fueled the conservative ascendance. “Suburbia,” political commentator Kevin Phillips asserted, “did not take kindly to rent subsidies, school balance schemes, growing Negro migration or rising welfare costs. . . . The great majority of middle-class suburbanites opposed racial or welfare innovation.” Together, the Sun Belt and suburbs, after 1970 the home to a majority of voters, constituted the demographic base of the new conservatism, assuring the rightward movement of politics among Democrats as well as Republicans and reinforcing hostility toward public social programs that served the poor—especially those who were black or Hispanic. The “middle class” became the lodestone of American politics, the poor its third rail.

Prior to the 1970s, conservative Christians (a term encompassing evangelicals and fundamentalists) largely distrusted electoral politics and avoided political involvement. This stance reversed in the 1970s when conservative Christians entered politics to protect their families and stem the moral corruption of the nation. Among the objects of their attack was welfare, which they believed weakened families by encouraging out-of-wedlock births, sex outside of marriage, and the ability of men to escape the responsibilities of fatherhood. Conservative Christians composed a powerful political force, about a third of the white electorate in the South and a little more than a tenth in the North. By the 1990s they constituted the largest and most powerful grassroots movement in American politics. In the 1994 elections, for the first time a majority of evangelicals identified themselves as Republicans. Although the inspiration for the Christian Right grew out of social and moral issues, it forged links with free-market conservatives. Fiscal conservatism appealed to conservative Christians whose “economic fortunes depend more on keeping tax rates low by reducing government spending than on social welfare programs that poor fundamentalists might desire,” asserted sociologists Robert Wuthnow and Matthew P. Lawson. The conservative politics that resulted fused opposition to government social programs and permissive legislation and court decisions (abortion, school prayer, gay civil rights, the Equal Rights Amendment, teaching evolution) with “support of economic policies favorable to the middle-class”—a powerful combination crucial for constructing the electoral and financial base of conservative politics.

Two financial sources bankrolled the rightward movement of American politics. Political action committees mobilized cash contributions from grassroots supporters while conservative foundations, corporations, and wealthy individuals supported individual candidates, organized opposition to public programs, and developed a network of think tanks—including the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the libertarian Cato Institute—designed to counter liberalism, disseminate conservative ideas, and promote conservative public policy. Within a year of its founding in 1973, the Heritage Foundation had received grants from eighty-seven corporations and six or seven other major foundations. In 1992 to 1994 alone, twelve conservative foundations holding assets worth $1.1 billion awarded grants totaling $300 million. In 1995 the top five conservative foundations enjoyed revenues of $77 million compared to only $18.6 million for “their eight political equivalents on the left.”

As well as producing ideas, conservative think tanks marketed them aggressively. Historian James Smith writes that, “marketing and promotion” did “more to change the think tanks’ definition of their role (and the public’s perception of them)” than did anything else. Their conservative funders paid “meticulous attention to the entire ‘knowledge production process,’ ” represented as a “conveyor belt” extending from “academic research to marketing and mobilization, from scholars to activists.” Their “sophisticated and effective outreach strategies” included policy papers, media appearances, advertising campaigns, op ed articles, and direct mail. In 1989 the Heritage Foundation spent 36 percent of its budget on marketing and 15 percent on fundraising. At the same time, wealthy donors countered the liberal politics of most leading social scientists with “lavish amounts of support on scholars willing to orient their research” toward conservative outcomes and a “grow-your-own approach” that funded “law students, student editors, and campus leaders with scholarships, leadership training, and law and economics classes aimed at ensuring the next generation of academic leaders has an even more conservative cast than the current one.”

Conservative politics fused three strands: economic, social, and nationalist. The economic strand stressed free markets and minimal government regulation. The social emphasized the protection of families and the restoration of social order and private morality. Where the state intervened in the right to pray or in religiously sanctioned gender relations, it opposed federal legislation and the intrusion of the courts. Where the state sanctioned or encouraged family breakdown and immoral behavior, as in abortion or welfare, it favored authoritarian public policies. Militant anti-communism composed the core of conservatism’s nationalist strand, fusing the other two in opposition to a common enemy. It favored heavy public spending on the military and focused on both the external enemy—the Soviet Union—and the internal foe—anyone or anything threatening the socialist takeover of America. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the bond holding together the social and economic strands of conservatism weakened, replaced at last by a new enemy, militant Islam embodied in Iraq and Iran and in the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Conservatives triumphed intellectually in the 1980s because they offered ordinary Americans a convincing narrative that explained their manifold worries. In this narrative, welfare, the “undeserving poor,” and the cities they inhabited became centerpieces of an explanation for economic stagnation and moral decay. Welfare was an easy target, first because its rolls and expense had swollen so greatly in the preceding several years and, second, because so many of its clients were the quintessential “undeserving poor”—unmarried black women. Welfare, it appeared, encouraged young black women to have children out of wedlock; discouraged them from marrying; and, along with generous unemployment and disability insurance, fostered indolence and a reluctance to work. Clearly, it appeared, however praiseworthy the intentions, the impact of the War on Poverty and the Great Society had been perverse. By destroying families, diffusing immorality, pushing taxes unendurably high, maintaining crippling wage levels, lowering productivity, and destroying cities they had worsened the very problems they set out to solve.

Even though these arguments were wrong, liberals failed to produce a convincing counter-narrative that wove together a fresh defense of the welfare state from new definitions of rights and entitlements, emergent conceptions of distributive justice, ethnographic data about poor people, and revised historical and political interpretations of the welfare state. This inability to synthesize the elements needed to construct a new narrative and compelling case for the extension of the welfare state was one price paid for the capture of poverty by economists and the new profession of public policy analysis. It resulted, as well, from a lack of empathy: an inability to forge a plausible and sympathetic response to the intuitive and interconnected problems troubling ordinary Americans: stagflation; declining opportunity; increased taxes and welfare spending; crime and violence on the streets; and the alleged erosion of families and moral standards.

Excerpted from “The Undeserving Poor: America’s Enduring Confrontation with Poverty,” by Michael B. Katz. Copyright © 2013 by Michael B. Katz. Reprinted by arrangement with Oxford University Press, a division of Oxford University. All rights reserved.

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Rain garden another learning tool for Olalla students

The students congregated near the playground area at Olalla Elementary School, each stepping carefully into the fresh soil with a green plant in hand.

But that marked more than just the culmination of a monthlong beautification project.

Kitsap Conservation District rain garden program manager Teresa Brooks said the one placed on top of a slope overlooking the school’s baseball field will serve as “an educational rain garden.”

“We’re trying to teach the next generation how important proper stormwater management is,” said Brooks, adding that students will be able to measure how much water is collected in the rain garden, which she estimates is 20 feet by 20 feet.

The idea behind the rain garden was spurred by Olalla second-grade teacher Lisa Wickens. Since 1987, Olalla teacher Greg Guariz has run a program where students raise and release chum and coho salmon into Olalla Creek. Along with the opportunity to enhance an area that previously featured scattered gravel, Wickens saw the potential to extend the school’s longterm commitment to protecting the creek.

“It’s much bigger than just the rain garden,” she said. “This school is really the center of our community because it’s such a small, little town. There’s a lot of community buy-in. It’s a community service project because it really does protect our creek.”

That particularly is important now as this area receives most of its rainfall in December. According to, Port Orchard averages more than 10 inches of rainfall this month.

“Kitsap gets most of its water from precipitation events,” Brooks said. “Right now a lot of the water just goes by surface and really quickly gets to the ditches. The ditches usually go to a stream. The water is rushing down really quickly and flooding out the stream ruining salmon habitat and whatnot.”

But erosion is not the only stormwater-related issue.

“When the water moves quickly over the surface it collects a lot of pollutants,” Brooks said. “Oils, all kinds of heavy metals and things from brake dust and carries it right into Puget Sound. It ruins our shellfish habitats and our lakes.”

This marked the 100th rain garden Brooks helped create since she developed the county’s program in 2010. Brooks said she has studied the work of Curtis Hinman, adjunct associate professor and extension educator at Washington State University. He researches and implements low-impact development stormwater management.

Brooks said Hinman and WSU students have studied the soil created for rain gardens, which is created from 60 percent sand and 40 percent compost.

“That’s a matrix that will clean water that has been studied at WSU,” she said. “They figured out a good mix that will really clean the water.”

But first, Brooks had to find an ideal location to place the rain garden. She determined the area just off the playground nestled near a slope made the most sense.

“This water was coming off the hard surface,” Brooks said. “We’ve placed the rain garden strategically to catch all of that water. Allow that water to soak into the ground. It slows it down, soaks it onto the property that created it and returns the water to the groundwater system and recharges aquifers. It also reduces flooding downhill slopes.”

With assistance from Abba Construction, Brooks said they excavated about two feet before laying the new soil. The natural soil then was placed around the edge of the rain garden to create a berm. Along with the new soil, several plants, including compact dogwoods, Oregon grapes, snowberry, red-flowering currants and tufted hairgrass, are strategically placed into three separate zones of the rain garden. Brooks said these plants — and their roots — are designed to clean the water.

“It will probably pond about 6 inches,” she said. “If we get an enormous rain event — like a 100-year rain event — it’s possible that the overflow will be used.”

Brooks worked on the Olalla project at no cost to the school and also has assisted several homeowners and businesses in unincorporated Kitsap County. During the last three years, Kitsap Conservation District has provided 50 percent grants of up to $500 each for people to purchase materials and construct their own rain gardens. That amount will increase to $1,000 next year, and will enable homeowners to use other stormwater-control methods, such as pervious pavement, rain barrels, soaker trenches, landscaping and lawn treatments — as long as that reduces runoff.

“Rain gardens have such a nice look to them that people really receive them well,” she said. “Homeowners are willing to put some money to put some in because aesthetically they’re pleasing.”

One of Wickens’ students, Ethan Edwards, recently had a rain garden constructed at his house.

“It’s very good for the environment,” Edwards said. “It’s nice.”

Wickens, who said the Kitsap Conservation District provided books with plants used in rain gardens for students, hopes to construct another one in front of the school later in the school year.

“We’re just trying to get our kids feeling environmental and being proactive with the environment,” she said. “Everyone wins.”


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Gardening Etcetera: Back to the future

Ever since my early college days, I’ve been in the habit of keeping a detailed calendar to remind me of future appointments, events and activities. A National Geographic engagement calendar fits this purpose nicely. In addition to providing ample space in which to write, the photographs from across the world are awe-inspiring.

So I wasn’t especially in the market for a new calendar when I noticed a stack of Coconino Master Gardener wall calendars while shopping at Warner’s one autumn day several years ago. Since I find anything pertaining to the field of gardening alluring, I leafed through it as I waited for the associate to ring up my order.

Upon viewing the full-page photographs, my first thought was, “Wow, people can actually create appealing landscapes and grow productive gardens such as these in the Flagstaff Region? Impressive!”

I decided to get the calendar to spice up my kitchen and to serve as an impetus for my husband, Hugh, and I to aim high in our landscaping and cultivating endeavors.

This year, I found additional purposes for my Coconino Master Gardener calendar: By merely jotting down any event associated with nature and gardening, I have used it as a reference to help us plan future gardening and wildlife viewing ventures. Here are some examples:

Looking at the month of March, I see that the night of the 23rd reached a low temperature of 13.8 degrees at my house. Surprisingly, a mere one week later, a pair of Western bluebirds commenced constructing a nest in the bluebird box set atop our fence. In future years, I’ll be able to reference back to March of 2013, which will remind me to have the bird box cleaned out and in full repair by the end of March. I also noted that the baby birds flew the coop over Memorial Day weekend.

With the onset on April, our yellow currant was one of the first shrubs in the neighborhood to break the drab monochrome of winter. Boughs laden with soft yellow blooms beckoned insect pollinators of all sorts. I’ll keep in mind that April is an ideal month to snap insect photos.

By May 18, Hugh had prepared and amended the soil in the vegetable garden plots one of which we set out tomato and pepper plants on June 3. (This was a bit risky because it’s not unusual for our neighborhood to experience frost up through June 10.)

I jotted down on June 8 that we planted corn seed, which had been soaked in water overnight. I’ll definitely refer back to this date next spring because this year, for the first time, the corn seed achieved nearly 100 percent germination. The first ears of corn were plucked on September 13. I kept track of the number of ears harvested by making tally marks at the top of the September page of the calendar; our crop yielded a total of 59 ears of corn.

I couldn’t recall the date I sowed our delightful bed of California poppies last year, so this year I gambled on June 20. The resulting germination rate was near zero. Poppy seeds require nearly constant moisture to germinate, so I assume that even though I watered their plot three times a day for ten days (as recorded) they didn’t receive enough. My Master Gardener calendar will allow me to look “back to the future” to motivate me to sow poppy seeds closer to the onset of the monsoon.

Anyone interested in obtaining a Coconino Master Gardener calendar will be glad to know that they’re available now at Native Plant and Seed, Warner’s, Noah Stalvey Allstate, Riordan Mansion, Wyatt Woodard NP, Pioneer Museum and the Coconino County Extension office on North Third Street. Your donation of $10 for one calendar or $25 for three will help fund Master Gardening projects. The gardens of Riordan Mansion, Emeritus Nursing Home, Olivia White Hospice, Sunshine Rescue Mission, Cromer Elementary School, YMCA, Flagstaff Medical Center and North Country HealthCare are a sampling of past projects the calendar proceeds have helped support.

Cindy Murray, who has written before about corn and apples, is a biologist, substitute elementary teacher, and a Master Gardener. Dana Prom Smith and Freddi Steele edit Gardening Etcetera. Smith blogs at and can be emailed at

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Geri Nikolai: Ideas for giving if you love nature and gardening

Posted Dec. 21, 2013 @ 8:00 am

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