Knowledge and technology have a way of inserting themselves to change customs and traditions of the past. What a person believed and spoke about in one era could be accepted as true, only to determine that it was false later because of a deeper understanding of the subject. I still believe Galileo was a heretic.
As I visited cities across America between May 15 and June 15, 2021, I felt very secure walking around 70 towns and cities. I had a couple of incidents but nothing major. Most of my career has been spent working in less than stellar areas and performing community development tasks. I am familiar with the routine of hard-core teenagers and unstable homeless seeking to be aggressive.
As I muddle through the plethora of options on flood recovery and mitigation in Downingtown, I have been struck by the FEMA and PEMA staff's professionalism. We have been able to make inroads in flood recovery due to their involvement and participation.
Recently I was asked to help with the flood relief effort in Downingtown. As in many cases, I am helping at no cost. Unfortunately, the Borough of Downingtown is up against it with the flooding this year. There have been two floods, and the lower-income areas that have typically been located in flood plains and industrial areas were hit hard.
The Borough Building was flooded and the flood mitigation plan was destroyed. My mission was to expedite the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) buyout program.
What I have found interesting is the debate over what is being taught in schools. For example, when I was young, in Fords, New Jersey, school #14, we said the "Lord's Prayer" right after the Pledge of Allegiance. Then someone would be required to read a bible passage in front of the class. It was almost putting you on the spot. You had to be able to read, and if you went up there and stumbled around, it did not reflect well for you.
The first time I tried to work on passenger rail service to Phoenixville (Greenline project), I thought we had a good chance of completing the project, and, at the time, the Citizens for the Train group was in high gear. There was a contribution from Liberty Property Trust to do the initial study, and there was participation from Norfolk Southern as we negotiated for the line.
As I toured America the last month or so, I saw that many cities were ghost towns. If there was a large office concentration, those buildings stood vacant. Corresponding retail was either completely closed and all of the inventory pulled off the shelves or closed without notice of closure with inventory and fixtures remaining inside. It was hard to tell if the stores with inventory remaining would ever open.
I have finished my trip across the country trying to assess public/private space in the cities.
I was gone from May 15 to June 15 and stopped in many cities along the way. I took the southern route to head west and used a northern route to return.
I perceived that the virus has had different outcomes in many of the cities. A common factor was the vacancy rate, and it appeared to be exacerbated by communities that experienced civil unrest. There is considerably less foot traffic in almost all of the towns.
As social mores and values change, so do the programs offered by various agencies of government. Things become popular, and there are buzz words that are used and not fully understood. One of the things that have been given more prominence recently in the news media is the concept of “equity.”
I recently saw a newspaper article about the Municipality of Norristown proposing repositioning the municipality in the regional marketplace. It was refreshing to hear someone take a serious approach to improving the town.
Norristown has witnessed a hyper-segregation of low-income people in one area. The hyper-segregation of low-income people resulted from well-meaning people seeking to provide housing for that population. Unfortunately, clustering this type of development over the years has a cumulative effect.
As cities continue to come back from the pandemic, Center City Philadelphia is trying to track the foot traffic in relation to pre-pandemic 2019. Their recent study shows that it is about 77 percent of what would have been considered normal before Covid-19.
I have worked in several different sections of Philadelphia, and recently both of my former streets have been in the news. Repeated shootings on South Street have left the street shell-shocked and led to retail store vacancies far greater than anything I remember in my 30 years in Philadelphia. Kensington Ave (The Avenue) has continued to experience problems like those I experienced during my time there in the early 1990s.
Remote work has changed the office market in many cities. However, things are far from the ghost towns I saw in the spring of 2021 when I visited 70 cities to inventory and chronicle the effect of the lockdown on cities.
I visited South Street in Philadelphia this week to have lunch with a long-time friend. It was the day after there was a news article that had people questioning the closure of the side streets during the Made in America concert weekend. It appeared to me that the police were trying to limit access to the commercial area because they were afraid of violence.
For the past few months, I have been working with a committee in my hometown of Downingtown concerning flooding. I sent out a mailing asking interested people to form a committee. About ten people are involved, and each has a different interest in the process.
One Committee worked on mitigation and was eventually merged with the Borough of Downingtown Flood Committee to have one mitigation committee. Community members understand and know the conditions on the ground during a flood and have a voice at the table, which is how it is supposed to work.
Recent efforts to change how we feel about sexual identity have caused a stir throughout the hinterland. In a recent article, I explained that I had no problems calling people by their preferred pronoun.
But now, the term motherhood is under attack. You are no longer a mother but a birthing parent. I fail to see how that would mix with the freedom of pronouns, as it does not appear that all people could give birth. But I do not know, as people are having a problem defining what a woman is.
All, all that you dream
Comes to shine in silver lining
And clouds, clouds change the scene
Rain starts washing all these cautions
Right into your life, make you realize
Just what is true, what else can I do
Just follow the rule
Keep your eyes on the road that's ahead of you
I recently changed my pronouns to "It" and "Itself" because pronouns are not something I wish to address in my life. However, I still say "yes sir" and "yes mam" without regard for the nuances in public discourse.
Within days I will be rolling out a new website highlighting to my trip across the country from May 15 to June 15, 2021. I am glad I could make the trip to visit cities across America. Thank my benefactor, Manny DeMutis, for letting me work on creative projects.
I took special care to visit friends along the way as we shared stories of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Hazy memories of hazy times added to the lure of the visits. Being in Charleston, WV, where I went to school, and Memphis, Tennessee, where I was a union organizer, made me a little nostalgic.