Wednesday, January 28, 2009


railroad tracks

Okay, I might have a problem, as no one should have this much to say about transportation funding in the stimulus bill who isn't getting paid. Honestly, that's one of the main obstacles to fighting for increased funding for public transportation and rail. There's no distinct lobbying group that represents all of the interests of the many people who could gain from this new money: straphangers, big cities, Amtrak, rail companies, unions, to name a few.

Well, it looks like this is changing, as a new group called OneRail is forming to make sure that rail gets a voice in the debate unfolding now. It's especially nice to see disparate groups, like the National Resources Defense Council and the Association of American Railroads, coming together for a good, green, productive goal. This is a big step, not just for this stimulus bill, but also the upcoming transportation bill that will happen later this year. More rail, less roads! Let's do this! OneRail!

What Do We Want? Infrastructure Investment! When Do We Want It? Now!

power grid

It's all stimulus bill all the time right now here at Street Ballet. I wanted to highlight two recent polls that just came out, one from Gallup and one from noted right wing pollster and Fox News contributor Frank Luntz, showing Americans overwhelmingly support infrastructure investment as a key component of the stimulus bill Congress is trying to pass. Hell, according to Gallup, 78% Americans consider it the most popular option for the stimulus! Now, take those polls and add this brand new report from the American Society of Civil Engineers that gives our nation's infrastructure a D and you can't help but wondering what the hell is going with the Obama administration and Democratic leadership that has them in a mood to cut and bargain and dilute.

As Steve Benen of The Washington Monthly and Jed L at Daily Kos both note, this is good policy that is immensely popular. As Jed says, "it's not only good economics to fund every single "shovel-ready" (or nearly ready) reinvestment project in America through this stimulus plan, it is also great politics."

Now, if only someone in the administration or Congress would take note of these developments. You've made the bi-partisan gestures, everyone knows that the Republicans have no interest in making a good bill; they simply want to scuttle this one and water it down as much as possible. I mean, as Josh Marshall writes, Boehner and McConnell are basically offering a plan modeled on the Bush one that got us in this f&*#@^ mess to begin with. Enough is enough. The polls are in your favor, the people overwhelmingly went Democratic in the last election, write the best possible bill and be rewarded down the road when it brings us back from the economic abyss. Fund public transit fully, thyink big (light rail!), lose the tax cuts, end the neglect of the building blocks of our society, change the pattern of development. In short, show some courage.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Declaration of Independence From Casinos! Philadelphia!

Declaration of Independence from Casinos

I had to mention today's event in Philadelphia, the Declaration of Independence From Casinos, a cause near and dear to my heart. Pleae head out to the Independence National Historical Park (5th and Market) today at noon for a rally to continue the good fight to keep casinos out of the city of Philadelphia. I'll let the great folks at Casino-Free Philadelphia explain the purpose of today's event:

Join us as we Declare Our Independence from Casinos. Join us to learn about our search for an elected official who will stand with us. Join us as we draft our manifesto against casinos in our City. Join us as we set out to organize citizens from all across Philadelphia.

There comes a time when it is necessary for the people of a city to stand up and say "This is our city; this is our home, and it is time for those who represent us to stand with us or get out of our way." That time is now.

On Tuesday, January 27th, we — the people of Philadelphia — will declare our independence from casinos.

You can join us outside Independence Hall at noon where our declaration will be read and everyone will be invited to add their signature. This will be the kick-off of our Declaration of Independence from Casinos campaign that will run until July 4th of this year. We are starting by signing a pledge to oppose casinos anywhere in Philadelphia, and we will be working between now and July to add at least one signature of a Philadelphia elected official to this declaration.

I will have much much more to say about this campaign and fight, but for now, head over to Independence Park and join with other Philadelphians to fight for the city's future. You'll also want to read the declaration (pdf file), a manifesto outlining the reasons for this fight and the goals that have been set. Once you've done that, become a supporter and get connected to one of the most important fights and best community groups around. I love you Philly, let's do this.

Friday, January 23, 2009

High Speed Rails

Eurostar train

Okay, needed to take a little break to finish up my personal statements for grad school, needed to keep all of my great prose that you expect here (don't laugh!) to that task alone. Street Ballet is now back though and we're so excited for 2009 and doing what we can to help shape cities.

One of the main reasons most people are excited for 2009 is the ascendancy of Barack Obama to the Presidency (and the departure of the worst President the nation has ever had). It was such a beautiful day yesterday with the inauguration that I hate to already start in with criticisms. But, hey, President Obama said it was time to get to work and so get to work for our cities we must.

We've been discussing the special moment that the economic crisis has opened up for a committed investment in our nation's infrastructure from the beginning here. We've already had everyone head over and recommend light rail be a priority in this spending bill. It is a unique moment where the country can radically redefine its development trends, where it can foster a cleaner, greener economy and help us out of one of the worst recessions in a century. Sadly, it appears that Obama is going to let this moment pass and continue us along the path of car-centric, anti-green development. Light rail projects and transit projects are being rumored to get short shrift in the budget proposal and that's a damn shame.

Check out John Judis' article, "Not Doing Enough," on the perception that Obama and his administration don't understand the severity of this recession. He sees light rail and mass transit as the missing component, an investment that not only would update our infrastructure but also revive domestic manufacturing, make the country more energy efficient and add jobs. As he notes, "unlike tax cuts--the benefits of which can be siphoned off in the purchase of imported goods--the money spent would go directly to reviving American industry and improving the country's trade balance." Especially intriguing is his notion that the struggling carmakers could become trainmakers in the future. How wonderful would it be if the very industry that helped destroy cities in the middle of the last century became the same one to lead to their rebirth in the new one. Read the whole article, as Judis also takes a look at the need for structural changes to the global economy to truly bring us back from the scary precipice we stand at now.

Obama and Dems Screw Transit

Trying to play catch up here, but following up on the last post, news came out late this week that indeed, light rail and mass transit would take a backseat in the upcoming stimulus package. What, you ask, is deemed important? Taxes! Yes, indeed, it's like the Bush years will never end. Economic problems? Tax cuts! Economy booming? Tax cuts.

Elana Schor of Talking Points Memo caught the admission from Rep. Jim Oberstar (MN-D) in his speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. "The reason for the reduction in overall funding...was the tax cut initiative that had to be paid for in some way by keeping the entire package in the range of $850 billion." I don't even know where to begin with this ridiculousness. Is it counting pennies on an $800 billion bill? Or slashing the transit side and leaving the money for road building intact, thereby making the climate change and end to foreign oil dependance initiatives more difficult? These are such stupid, shortsighted concessions to make at a time when even conservative economists are calling for massive public expenditures and large deficits.

Matt Yglesias nails this one, noting that these concessions have amazingly not placated the Republican opposition, who are now demanding more tax cuts. Obama and the Dems need to write the best bill possible and get it passed, end of story. They'll never make enough concessions for the right wingers and the more watered down the bill gets, the less effective it will be.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Vote For Light Rail At Change.Gov

High speed rail

Ugh, I have been gone for way too long, trying to put together applications for grad school has left me a little worried about using any excess brilliance on the Internets. We're coming up on the finish line, so posting will pick up in a big way shortly.

In the meantime, I wanted to check in quickly and recommend that all readers of this site head over to the site that the Obama people set up,, and vote on the Bullet Trains and Light Rail proposal being pushed as a priority for the new administration. It amazingly appears to be the leading vote-getter right now. While I have no idea if the Obama people will even take a second look at these results, it really can't hurt to show deep support for light rail in the US and a different approach to the infrastructure plans (more money for transit projects, less for roads and cars!) It really gets me dreaming about the US suddenly becoming like Europe, with all of the major US cities linked by light rail lines, making it possible to zip down to Miami or over to San Fran for a reasonable price. Death to the interstate highway system! Supertrains!

Search around the site, as there's lots of similar ideas floating around (like this and this) It takes a few minutes to register and get started, so there's really no excuse not to do this.