CD WiRe (January 19-25)Posted on January 25th, 2012 No comments
1. Take a Walk: For today’s new-home market, the road to profitability may be a foot path
According to “The 2011 Community Preference Survey,” a poll of 2,071 American adults conducted on behalf of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 77% of those polled considered having sidewalks and places to take a walk one of their top priorities when deciding where they’d like to live. Six in 10 adults said they would rather live in a neighborhood that featured a mix of houses, stores, and businesses within an easy walk, than a community of only houses that required driving to get to businesses.
2. Demand for top N.J. charter schools exceeds available seats
The dreaded night came on Thursday this year. The grim weather — a chilly drizzle as night fell — seemed fitting for what was sure to be a grim evening. This was lottery night at Learning Community Charter School in Jersey City. The K-8 school had 30 openings to fill. The problem: Roughly 1,000 families applied to fill them. Hundreds of them streamed into the auditorium to watch the process live, even though results soon would be posted online.
3. Is Route 1 a Street … or a Road?
What’s the difference between a street and a road? Many of us use these terms interchangeably to denote any linear stretch of pavement designed for use by cars. But recognizing the distinction can mean the difference between good and efficient planning and a dysfunctional waste of public resources. Charles Marohn at Strong Towns offers an interesting analysis of the difference between a street and a road: “Roads move people between places while streets provide a framework for capturing value within a place.”
4. Privatizing parts of N.J. park system stirs debate
A chain restaurant in Wharton State Forest. A Ferris wheel at Liberty State Park. Weddings, flea markets, and corporate events taking over New Jersey’s historic sites and scenic lands. That could be the future if the state goes forward with plans to privatize parts of its park system, some warn. “Next thing you know, you have to pay more for everything and the public’s access is limited,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club of New Jersey. “You’ll be getting fee’d to death.”
5. Urban Hope Act worth a try to fix failing N.J. schools
Imagine approaching a line of starving people with a bullhorn, telling them they must wait for food while you wrangle over whether it’s delivered by the government or a private nonprofit. Chances are, you’d be throttled. So when considering the Urban Hope Act, a pilot program that allows nonprofits to build and operate schools in three of the state’s poorest districts, try to think like a parent in Camden. Their children are in schools that are dangerous and failing. Whether that is fixed by the government or a nonprofit group is not the point.
6. When it Comes to Wetlands, It’s Hard to Improve on the Original
Before the Revolutionary War, George Washington had a professional interest in wetlands: He invested in a company that planned to drain the Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia and turn it into farmland. For centuries, Washington’s attitude was considered the only reasonable one regarding swamps, marshes, peatlands, floodplains, mangroves, fens, potholes, bogs, and other places of muck and slime: They should be avoided or drained for better uses. Only in the past few decades have citizens decided that these areas—what we now call wetlands—did more than sog up perfectly good farmland. Even though they cover only 1.5 percent of the earth’s surface, some experts estimate that wetlands provide 40 percent of renewable “ecosystem services”—jobs like water filtration and carbon sequestration.
7. No Obesity Link to Junk Food in Schools
In the fight against childhood obesity, communities all over the country are banning the sale of sweets and salty snacks in public schools. But a new study suggests that the strategy may be ineffective. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University tracked the body mass indexes of 19,450 students from fifth through eighth grade. In fifth grade, 59 percent of the children attended a school where candy, snacks or sugar-sweetened beverages were sold. By eighth grade, 86 percent did so. The researchers compared children’s weight in schools where junk food was sold and in schools where it was banned.
8. 10 Green Building Trends for 2012
The Earth Advantage Institute has certified more than 12,000 green homes, so it’s safe to say they know what’s going on with green building. Towards the end of 2011, the non-profit spoke with various policymakers, builders, developers, architects, brokers, appraisers, lenders, and homeowners to understand green building trends. Here are the 10 green building trends EAI says to watch for in 2012, which we’ve paraphrased below.
9. State Senators Lesniak and Cunnigham Seek To Reform Criminal Justice System
In an effort to address the state’s growing incarceration rate, State Senators Raymond Lesniak of Union City and Sandra Cunnigham of Jersey City have introduced a package of bills that they say will save tax dollars and reduce repeat offenses. “As a nation that imprisons more of its residents per capita than any country in the world, we should continually evaluate our penal justice system to determine if our current policies provide protection for the safety of our residents and are cost-effective, or if changes are needed,” said Senator Lesniak in a statement. “The four bills we are announcing today are designed to reduce waste and inefficiency in our criminal justice system and redirect resources to better protect the public by reducing repeat offenses. We have asked that these bills be moved in both houses prior to the budget break, so we can get on with changing our criminal justice system to make it more cost effective and to provide better safety to our residents.”
10. President Obama and the forgotten urban agenda
It’s safe to say that Barack Obama came to the White House with more street cred than any president in recent memory. As an African American, Obama was certainly privy to the forces of institutional racism that still shackle much of urban America. Before he got into politics, he worked as a civil rights lawyer, and before that, he worked as a community organizer in the mean streets of Chicago. (You will recall that Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin took turns mocking him for that last one at the 2008 Republican national convention.) When Obama became president, hopes were high that American cities would finally get a little love from Washington, which had spent fifty-plus years pouring money into the suburbs.
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