Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Chronicle's post NBA All-star hangover resolved with calls for central planning

It appears that the poor, star-struck media types at the Chronicle are in somewhat of a funk now that all the stars have left Houston, seemingly without a one declaring us to be the world class Houtopia they so desperately yearn for us to be. ($$$) But OH! (Sorry, channelled Lisa Gray there for a minute) what a weekend we had.

Ignore for a minute that Houston's infrastructure pretty much ground to a halt, that the roads around the Galleria were impassible and that "most" Houstonians chose to avoid the downtown and Galleria areas like the plague, as you read in the above pay-walled editorial Houston has "made its point" that we should get the Super Bowl (again) including all of the Pimp & Ho balls and flown in prostitutes that we can handle.

And it's not just the Chron, several local media outlets provided almost breathless, fawning coverage of the weekend that was.  And who can blame them?  The NBA All-Star game brought real celebrities to Houston, much more fun to cover than Whats-her-name Rose or Chloe Dao or a host of other D to E list celebrities that they usually have to cover.  This was a chance to maybe, possibly bump into a real star upon passing by.  Maybe even Beyonce! (Sorry, Gray again) Now we're stuck with the funk.  A post celebrity hang-over if you will which has the editorial folks at the Chron realizing that this fun-factory won't last forever and that something new and exciting needs to take place in order for the stars to come back.  Houston's media need celebrity like the Kardashians need attention. It's hard-wired into their DNA.

While most people rehydrate and take a vitamin B complex as a hangover cure, the juice that Houston needs (according to the Chron Ed Board) is a rather large (and presumably expensive) program to re-engineer Downtown's East side.  Now, you might think this odd, considering we were told that the building of Dynamo Stadium would generate Trillions of dollars of income and revitalise the area, the idea of spending even more money to accomplish what the first money didn't but, to urban planners, this is exactly the right thing to do.

The problem you see, although it is unspoken, is that the economic resurgence we're seeing is of the wrong type.  In other words, the wrong people are benefiting.

It's very easy for Houtopians to lay out a laundry list of good things that they wish to accomplish and, on the surface, they sound grand.  I'm of the firm belief that most of this lot are good people who really want to see blighted neighborhoods improved for the good of the community.  My problem lies with their vision and what they see as the community. While it is true that I view the motives of many "activists" with a jaundiced eye for the most part I think the average person who isn't a part of some "urbanist-activist" group really does have pure motives for what they are wanting.

When it comes to the "acitivsts" group however, that's a different story. In theory, new urbanism is pretty simple. At heart it's about building a bunch of things that Caucasian progressives like very much.  It's all about complete streets and urban lofts and coffee shops "like the kind you find in Paris" and trains that that can be taken to downtown, office jobs. To the true believers, this is what the next urban dynamic should be.  Of course, if minority groups reside in a central neighborhood with the right type of historic housing and a good road infrastructure with access to job centers (i.e. The Heights) then those can be easily gentrified (except in the case of the The 3rd Ward, where Garnett Coleman is a one person firewall against re-honkification) to keep the bungalows and cottages minus those distracting poor minority groups of course.  And what of the areas, such as the East End, where the houses are not so charming?  Well, in those cases the neighborhoods must go and "multi-unit" housing (preferably high end) needs to move in.

And what's to become of the displaced minorities? (who, to be fair, probably have some money since they sold their house for way more than what they paid for it)  Well, they can re-locate to the suburbs, and they're doing so, in large numbers. I, and others, have stated before these relocation patterns have been great for the 'burbs leading to new businesses popping up everywhere.  Of course, this has led to a different dynamic in the city center, which appears to be just what the new urbanists are looking for.

In closing, I should point out the first candidate in 2013 for most useless opinion piece ever. Frank M. K. Liu's 1 1/2 paragraph "I'm a capitalist but..." missive doesn't even rise to the level of a joke.  It's embarrassing for him and it should be for the Chron's opinion page staff. This doesn't even qualify as a letter to the editor, much less a well reasoned entry into the public debate.

Shame on you ChronBlog, hope you're hangover is better though, becasue that's the only reason I can find for only presenting one side of the debate on your editorial pages and letting the Liu piece get in at all.

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