You don't have to look at the buildings or the people in Washington, D.C.'s historically black Petworth neighborhood to see that things have changed. Some say you just need to look at the dogs. "It used to be nothing but pit bulls and Rottweilers around here," says a longtime resident who gives his name as Lattimore Jenkins. He sits on a blue cooler across from a new condominium building. "Now you got them little baby dogs, Jack Russells, Chihuahuas."
The community has undergone other changes, of course. The tony apartments squatting over the Petworth Metro station where a vacant lot used to be. The bright red bikes, available to rent, lined up along a rack on the corner. The organic supermarket down the street from a decaying Safeway.
The public is overwhelmed by budget deficits, shrinking public supports, and the inability of its government to compromise. In this climate, so-called minority issues seem like a distraction. But black and Latino men between the ages of 16 and 24 are profoundly more likely to be poor than whites, more likely to be unemployed or the victims of violent crime, and less likely to graduate from high school. This hasn't changed since Lyndon Johnson first tried to address problems of racism and poverty, calling American Negroes "another nation: deprived of freedom, crippled by hatred, the doors of opportunity closed to hope." Forty years later, young black and Latino men remain in a state of crisis, yet government has been, on the whole, unresponsive.
When Representative John Mica, a Republican from Florida and chair of the House Transportation Committee released his proposal for the overdue Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill earlier this month, liberals condemned the plan's lack of investment in infrastructure. They missed, however, a bigger failing: Transportation spending is not just underfunded in this country; it's broken, and we can't afford to wait another six years to fix it. House Republicans, though, haven't proposed sensible transportation policy changes, even ones conservatives should support.
Even before they began looking for land, Cara Fraver and Luke Deikis had a name picked out for their farm. Quincy Farm, they imagined, would be within 200 miles of New York City and would grow organic vegetables, which they would sell at farmers' markets and to members of a community-supported agriculture group. They didn't know much about farming, but they were accomplished gardeners eager to work a plot larger than their Brooklyn backyard.
Fred Stokes is a former cattle rancher who now runs a small family farm, mostly for his own use, in Mississippi. Stokes' county, Kemper, has only about 10,000 people, and Stokes, who is 76, says his small town has been shrinking; all the farmers are aging, most of the agricultural land is owned by one company, and it's almost impossibly hard to make a living as a rural American. "I'm not one of those who wants to reconstruct the Little House on the Prairie and be overly romantic," he says. "Mainly, I see the landscape being restructured in a very negative way."
On Friday, the Obama administration outlined plans to unwind the government-sponsored mortgage agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, essentially asking Congress to hand over responsibility for the nation's home mortgages to the very industry whose reckless support of the corrupt lending practices that provoked the current crisis.
Former Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns with students at Tucker Elementary School during the unveiling of the MyPyramid for Kids (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
On Monday, the United States Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services -- the guys responsible for the ever-evolving "food pyramid" -- released their national nutrition guidelines, which they update every five years. The basic message of the report: Eat less, make more of what you eat vegetables and fruits, and eat much less salt.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Not long into George W. Bush's second term, Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla introduced a measure to rename D.C.'s 16th Street -- a major north-south thoroughfare -- "Ronald Reagan Boulevard." Luckily for the heavily Democratic District, even Bonilla's fellow Republicans scoffed at the idea. As one noted, Reagan already has the airport; if Bonilla wants to name anything else after Reagan, "he has to look at his own district in San Antonio."
A Zipcar station in Washington, D.C. (Flickr/NCinDC)
Over the past year, it seemed that every major media outlet declared "the end of men." The latest in this series was last month’s Newsweek cover story, which declared that the economic meltdown has rendered males an “endangered species.” I’m as eager to see a gender shake-up as anyone, but I’m afraid that the obsessive focus on this one side effect of the economic crisis is overblown and distracting us from some other significant cultural changes. Gender may be shifting but so is how we consume and commune.
With more than 1 million total foreclosures predicted this year, the government is finally taking steps toward resolving a vexing dilemma: It has very few details about this very big problem.
Since the subprime mortgage market collapse in 2007, regulators, Congress, and consumer advocates have relied on what one housing expert describes as "a lack of even marginally accurate or complete data" on the level and nature of foreclosure activity. Incredibly, almost three years into the collapse, there is no nationwide, government- collected data on foreclosures.
Carol Coletta, the president and CEO of Chicago-based CEOs for Cities, directed the 100 or so young, urban leaders seated before her to look up at a map of the United States as she demonstrated the steady migration of Americans out of rural areas and into cities over the last 10 years. Little blue dots representing the population piled inward and on top of one another like bees to a honeyed hive. Coletta is a true city evangelist, as were most of those in attendance at last week's Urban Next Summit conference in San Francisco.
Karen Campbell of Everdale Organic Farm stocks carrots at a farmer's market. (Flickr/ckphotography)
While the Obama administration says it wants to support organic and local food systems and encourage healthy eating, the government still doles out most of its money to big, conventional farms. Almost all of the $15 billion in subsidies the government gave out in 2009 went to just 10 percent of farms. The vast majority of that money went to commodity crops used in producing the sugars for processed foods and feed for conventionally raised livestock -- making those foods artificially cheap.
Opening morning for the Phoenix light-rail system. (Flickr/funwithfred)
Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia may be in charge of a beautiful city, but he doesn't have much to take to the bank. Last year Philly's creditors put the city on a negative-ratings watch, following a borrowing spree that resulted in a couple of stadiums and a heap of bribes for a city treasurer who was hauled off in handcuffs. Last year, Philadelphia hiked taxes and squeezed pension funds to fill a quarter-billion-dollar budget gap.
Morse Pitts has been cultivating the same land in New York's Hudson Valley for 30 years. His operation, Windfall Farms, is the very picture of local, sustainable agriculture. From early spring to late fall, the farm's 15 acres are luxuriant with snap peas, squash, mint, kale, and Swiss chard. Its greenhouses burst with sun gold tomatoes and an array of baby greens. Pitts, who is in his 50s and is tall with gray hair, doesn't use chemical fertilizers or pesticides or any genetically modified seeds. He cultivates biodiversity, not just vegetables.