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May 3rd, 2003, 07:44 AM
May 4, 2003

City Slights


One of the paradoxes of modern urban life is that while cities have regained something of the glamour and prestige they enjoyed 40 or 50 years ago, most of them -- at least the glamorous ones -- are staring down the barrel of financial catastrophe. Big cities have become safer and cleaner; suburbanites are far more willing to send their children to urban universities, or to go downtown to take in a show or even a ballgame, than they were a decade or two ago. But the cities themselves remain woebegone, in part because so much of their potential taxable wealth lies in the suburbs, beyond their reach.

New York City, which has a large upper class concentrated in Manhattan and a larger middle class in the outer boroughs, is luckier than most. But save in good years, New York's obligations almost always outrun its revenues. And this is patently not a good year. The city is facing a deficit of at least $3.8 billion, and possibly quite a bit more, in its projected $44.5 billion budget. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has attacked the obligations side of the ledger -- belatedly, his conservative critics would say -- by proposing $600 million in service cuts and the layoff of 5,400 city workers. But that still leaves the city short, even in its least-bad-case scenario. So Bloomberg hopes to raise another $1.4 billion by reviving a commuter tax that the state allowed to lapse in 1999, and increasing it so that suburban commuters would pay the same New York City income tax as New Yorkers, a figure topping out at 2.85 percent.

Nobody, including the mayor, expects so high a rate to be authorized by the state government; a $500 million tax would still count as a victory. But the likeliest outcome may be zilch. Suburban legislators have denounced the commuter-tax idea. Their constituents are already facing big property-tax increases, as well as large hikes in tolls and rail tickets, and lawmakers are not likely to vote for anything that will increase the burden. What's more, Gov. George Pataki has insisted that a commuter tax would cost the city ''thousands of jobs.'' In fact, according to Edward L. Glaeser, an economics professor at Harvard, this claim has not been demonstrated. Glaeser says that his own guess is that while a commuter tax of almost 3 percent might well persuade already jittery employers to leave New York, a more modest tax should have little effect.

Simply as a matter of equity rather than of economics or politics, you would think that a mayor of New York ought to be able to say to all those doctors and bankers in Westchester, ''We've given you a beautifully refurbished Grand Central Terminal, and we've given you Broadway and Central Park and subways without graffiti, and we're paying to protect you from terrorists; give us a mite out of your adjusted gross, for God's sake.'' You'd think; but you'd be wrong. A decade ago I heard Ed Rendell, then Philadelphia's crusading new mayor, address the conservative reform crowd at the Manhattan Institute. They cheered Rendell when he talked about standing up to the municipal unions and slashing bureaucratic bloat. But when he added that since the city couldn't do it all by itself, he had raised the commuter tax, he was booed. Booed! Urban reform is good as long as the price is paid only by urbanites; suburb-dwellers are free riders.

What's so unfair about this is that suburbanization itself has sped the downfall of many a once-great city. In a 1993 study, ''Cities Without Suburbs,'' David Rusk, a former mayor of Albuquerque, observed that until 1950 almost everyone who worked in a central city area lived there as well, but that thereafter a growing fraction of urbanites lived in the ''outer city'' and were subject to county rather than municipal government. Cities that managed to absorb their own outer fringes continued to thrive, but the more common pattern, especially in the Northeast and Midwest, was the high-poverty central city surrounded by the ring of wealthy suburbs. ''The city-suburban per-capita income ratio is the single most important indicator of an urban area's social health,'' Rusk concluded.

''Cities Without Suburbs'' left barely a ripple, probably because Rusk insisted that the only lasting solution to the problem was the wholesale integration of city and suburb, a proposition that makes a 3 percent commuter tax sound mighty timid by comparison. But it is hard to argue with Rusk's broader point that older cities cannot simply reform their way out of their predicament. At the least, Rusk suggested, central cities must have access to ''a larger share of the wealth of metro areas.''

It's unlikely that Americans will resume the love affair they had with the urban in the first half of the 20th century, when every town worth its salt had a Great White Way and a Beaux-Arts theater. We are, perhaps irretrievably, a suburban nation. But we are no longer the anti-urban nation that we were. Cities no longer mean ''menace''; they mean ''culture'' and ''pleasure'' and even ''history.'' The terrorists of 9/11 targeted the World Trade Center because those giant buildings at the tip of Manhattan seemed to them to constitute the very heart of America. Maybe they were wrong; maybe the heart lies closer to Times Square. But it doesn't lie in Greenwich.

Time to wake up and hear the traffic. Our big cities are us. We owe them.

James Traub is a contributing writer for the magazine.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

September 28th, 2003, 11:32 PM

Ask Not What They'd Do for Your City


THAT was an unusually interesting debate last week — the exchange in Lower Manhattan featuring the 10 Democrats who want to be president.

They talked for two hours last Thursday, and as crowded as the event was, they got to a lot of issues, ranging from health care to tax policy and nearly everything in between.

Emphasis on nearly. Once again, nothing about urban America. Not one mention of one single subject of particular importance to city people. And this debate took place in an auditorium at Pace University, across from City Hall.

But if not for one or two pious references to the proximity of ground zero — a few blocks — the debate could have been taking place in Iowa. In a way, it was taking place in Iowa. The Iowa caucuses come first, on Jan. 19, followed by the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 27. The calendar rules. Candidates are so intent on winning votes in those two states that they are not about to talk about urban America. The contests in California and New York — states with the country's largest cities — are not until March 2.

Another factor in the lack of discussion of urban issues was who ran the debate. The three questioners — from The Wall Street Journal and CNBC, the debate sponsors — were clearly not about to ask for insights into the No. 7 line.

But maybe one nod to the debate's location would not have been unseemly. And since when do political candidates hesitate to veer from the script anyway? Deliberate digression is a well-honed political art. One of the candidates might have departed from the business-and-finance agenda. One could have cited the importance of mass transit, maybe discussed federal spending for buses and subways compared with highways.

Subsidized housing would have been another good subject. Education and the No Child Left Behind Act — the pride of President Bush, and the bane of many a school district. Homelessness. The status of welfare and the "war on drugs." The role of food banks and food pantries, which depend heavily on federal subsidies.

If this plaint sounds familiar, it is. Matters is borrowing from itself, from columns in previous presidential years about this very same subject — the conspicuous absence of an urban consciousness among presidential candidates. It was so in 2000 and in 1996, and here we are again.

The reason is not only that a rural state votes first, or that the race is national in scope and so issues like Social Security, trade and Medicare are going to dominate the political discourse. Those issues touch everyone, including, of course, city people.

There's also the political role cities play. They are not the central factor they used to be. They are the homes of immigrants, many of whom cannot vote because of their legal status, or do not vote yet, out of lack of interest or tradition. Many cities have large African-American and Hispanic populations, and the black and Hispanic vote is still relatively low.

THERE'S concentrated poverty in cities, too. Poverty is not a happy subject, nor is Medicaid, a costly burden for New York City and state after state. These were not under discussion at Pace University on Thursday. Not a word. Instead, the 10 candidates addressed about 20 subjects, among them these:

Gen. Wesley K. Clark's Democratic credentials; how each candidate would vote on President Bush's request for $87 billion more for Iraq and Afghanistan; tax policy; job creation; the definition of rich (nobody quite said); labor policy; budget balancing; the finances of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored buyers of home loans; health care policy; public works jobs; Social Security; prescription drugs for the elderly; energy, oil and the Arctic; tariffs; free trade; and the resignation of Richard A. Grasso as chairman of the New York Stock Exchange.

Find a specific urban issue in there?

Important matters, all. But so are pollution, traffic, poverty, education — especially education. The impact of the No Child Left Behind Act is being felt throughout the country. That law, from 2002, requires a focus on mandatory testing and is causing severe overcrowding in some places — including in parts of New York City — because it allows students to transfer from failing schools to better ones. Detractors criticize the measure for inflexibility and inadequate financing; fans praise it for demanding high standards in every corner of the country.

A good subject for debate, one might think.

Maybe in 2008? We have a feeling we will be letting you know.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

March 6th, 2004, 05:03 PM
The Urban Agenda (http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/issueoftheweek/20040126/200/852)

Presidential Candidates in NYC (http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/feature-commentary/20040223/202/877)

http://www.gothamgazette.com/feds/img/logo.gif (http://www.gothamgazette.com/feds)

March 6th, 2004, 05:09 PM
March 6, 2004

New York Struggles With a Weaker Voice in Congress


WASHINGTON, March 5 - Representative Gregory W. Meeks of New York City went through something of a legislative dry spell while the 107th Congress was in session, being the chief sponsor of exactly two resolutions and five bills. None of them passed, Congressional records show.

It was also a tough time for Edolphus Towns, another congressman from New York, who was the primary sponsor of 3 resolutions and 14 bills while the 107th Congress met in 2001 and 2002, the records show. None of those passed either.

Representative Nydia M. Velázquez, also from the city, did slightly better during that period, winning approval for 7 of the 27 measures she was the main sponsor of, though nearly all of them were amendments to major bills, according to the records.

A fluke? Possibly. But political analysts say that the legislative slump that these three New Yorkers went through is a stark reminder of the diminished stature of New York's heavily Democratic delegation, in a Congress dominated by Republicans.

Now, as the 108th Congress gets down to work on a slew of major issues, the delegation finds itself in its usual dire predicament: marginalized by the conservative leaders on Capitol Hill, lacking seniority on important committees and stripped of two seats as of 2002 because of population losses back home.

"It's really been weakened," Jeffrey M. Stonecash, a political science professor at Syracuse University, said of the delegation. "But I don't think it's because the members are not trying. It's just that some real strong factors are limiting their ability to be effective."

Even New York lawmakers acknowledge as much. "This is a very tough environment," said Ms. Velázquez, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan. In their own defense, New York lawmakers, chiefly Democrats, point out that Democratic lawmakers from other states have also had a difficult time getting their own bills passed in a Republican-controlled Congress.

More than that, they argue that being able to claim primary authorship of a bill that gets approved in either chamber is only one measure of success, particularly since Republicans are reluctant to give Democrats credit for much of anything.

There are plenty of times, these Democrats say, when they have little choice but to swallow hard and allow Republicans to take top billing on legislation that they themselves authored in order to ensure its passage.

"You have to decide whether you want to get stuff done when you're in the minority or if you just want to pitch a fit," said Representative Anthony D. Weiner, a Democrat who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens (and who, according to records, won approval for two of the 19 measures of which he was chief sponsor in the 107th Congress, including one that became a law).

Mr. Towns, who represents parts of Brooklyn, suggested that the climate is so partisan in the House that when he has not been willing to let Republicans claim ownership of a bill he authored, Republicans "just take it; most of the time, they just take it," he said.

New York lawmakers also say that they have been extremely effective at stopping some of the most radical elements of the Republican agenda and that they have also managed to get Republicans to make good on some of their own initiatives, sometimes through delicate compromise, other times through intense public pressure.

The unenviable position that New York lawmakers find themselves in comes as the 108th Congress prepares to get down to business on several issues that will have a major impact on the state.

The situation is not entirely bleak. New York's two Democratic senators, Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, have become significant players in Congress, partly because they have been able to forge alliances with Republicans and partly because the Senate is more cordial and collegial than the House in its workaday ways.

"It's night and day," said Mr. Schumer, who was a congressman from Brooklyn before entering the Senate in 1999. "I find it a lot easier to get things done in the Senate than in the House, even when you are in the minority.

"The reason is structural," he continued. "In the House, the majority has dictatorial powers and it's gotten even stronger and tighter since I left. In the Senate, either party can bring the Senate to a grinding halt, so even the minority party has significant power."

Part of the problem the New York delegation faces stems from turnover. In recent years, the delegation lost its three most powerful Republicans in Congress.

Senator Alfonse M. D'Amato, known for his ability to deliver pork-barrel projects to the state, was defeated by Mr. Schumer in 1998. That same year, Representative Gerald B. H. Solomon of Glens Falls, the former chairman of the powerful Rules Committee, left, as did Representative Bill Paxon from the Buffalo region, who was a member of the Republican House leadership team.

There have been major departures on the Democratic side, as well, in recent years. Representative Floyd H. Flake, a highly regarded six-term Democrat from Queens, retired, as did one of the delegation's longest-serving Democrats, Representative Thomas J. Manton from Queens. Perhaps the biggest blow to New York Democrats came in 1999, when the state's senior senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a four-term Democrat who used his seat on the influential Finance Committee to funnel federal aid to the state, retired.

Several of New York's representatives have served numerous terms. While Representative Charles B. Rangel and Representative Jerrold Nadler, both of Manhattan, remain hard-charging and generally respected, but they are seen by some as familiar, for better and for worse.

Much of the New York delegation's power in Congress these days is wielded by a handful of Republicans from the upstate region.

One of them is Representative Thomas M. Reynolds of Buffalo, a top political adviser to House leaders. He was recently appointed to head the National Republican Congressional Campaign committee. That gives him enormous influence over Congressional candidates around the nation, who rely on him for campaign cash, political advice and other support.

His legislative record during the 107th Congress is also telling. Mr. Reynolds sponsored a total of 48 bills, amendments and resolutions while the 107th Congress met during 2001 and 2002, with 28 passing in the House and two becoming law.

But even New York Republicans have often found themselves on the sidelines politically, largely because their moderate brand of Republicanism does not square with the national party's conservative agenda on issues ranging from gun control to abortion rights.

Still, some members of New York's Congressional delegation stand out for their moxie, kind of the way New Yorkers themselves often do.

Among the brashest members is Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, a Democrat of Manhattan. Not only is she prolific, having been the chief sponsor of 56 bills and amendments in the last Congress, but she also has a keen talent for generating publicity - like the time she gave a speech on the floor of the House, covered from head to toe in a blue burkha, to protest the treatment of women in Afghanistan by the Taliban.

"In order to get anything done in the minority in this Congress, it requires lots of hard work, lots of persistence and sometimes a little theater," Ms. Maloney said, noting that she helped secure $60 million in aid for Afghan women.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

July 26th, 2004, 03:32 AM
Urban Issues: Presidential Candidates and NYC (http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/issueoftheweek/20040726/200/1052)

July 30th, 2004, 10:03 AM
July 30, 2004


A War Against the Cities


Amid all the muscle-flexing in Boston this week ("my homeland security platform is bigger than yours"), it was impossible to hear more than the merest hint or offhand whisper about the demoralizing decline in the fortunes of America's cities over the past few years.

Paralyzed by a war in Iraq that we don't know how to end or win, we're in danger of forgetting completely about the struggling cities here at home.

Bill Clinton mentioned the 300,000 poor children being cut out of after-school programs and the increases in gang violence across the country. And he gave cheering delegates a devastating riff on the impending lapse of the ban on assault weapons and White House plans to scrap federal funds for tens of thousands of police officers:

"Our policy," he said, "was to put more police on the street and to take assault weapons off the street - and it gave you eight years of declining crime and eight years of declining violence. Their policy is the reverse. They're taking police off the streets while they put assault weapons back on the street."

But those brief comments were the exception. A clearer sense of the rot that's starting to reestablish itself in America's cities was offered in an article out of Cleveland by The Times's Fox Butterfield on Tuesday. "Many cities with budget shortfalls," he wrote, "are cutting their police forces and closing innovative law enforcement units that helped reduce crime in the 1990's, police chiefs and city officials say."

Cleveland has laid off 15 percent of its cops - 250 officers. Pittsburgh has lost a quarter of its officers, and Saginaw, Mich., a third. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has waved goodbye to 1,200 deputies, closed several jails and released some inmates early. In Houston, police officers are taking up the duties of 190 jail guards who were let go.

This is nuts. We know that low levels of crime and violence are essential if cities are to thrive. Tremendous progress - in some places, like New York, almost miraculous progress - has been made in reducing crime since the crack-crazed, gun-blazing days of the late 80's and early 90's. To even begin rewinding the clock to that time of madness would in itself be an act of madness.

Yet that's what we're doing.

Mayor Martin O'Malley of Baltimore, who co-chairs the Task Force on Homeland Security for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, told me in an interview that budgetary horror stories are coming in from police officials all over the country. There are many reasons, he said, including the recession and the weak recovery that followed, the antiterror obligations that have fallen to the police since Sept. 11, and "the cascading effect" of enormous federal tax cuts at a time when the nation is at war. Local taxes have gone up sharply, and services have had to be cut back even as federal taxes have decreased.

"This is all compounded," Mayor O'Malley said, "by the fact that there is just less money coming in from Washington" for traditional crime-fighting efforts.

Local police, fire and other agencies have also been affected by the call-up of thousands of military reservists and members of the National Guard. In addition to losing their services, most cities pay the difference between the municipal salaries of these men and women and the substantially lower pay they receive from the military.

In an address to the Democratic convention Wednesday night, Mayor O'Malley echoed many other municipal officials when he said police and fire departments are not even getting sufficient help from the federal government to maintain their antiterror efforts. The first responders, he said, cannot continue to finance their homeland security responsibilities "with increased property taxes and fire hall bingos."

The crime-fighting difficulties and underfunded homeland security responsibilities are part of a parade of very serious problems that have descended on cities in recent years. Tax cuts for the wealthy and the administration's hard-right ideology have removed much of the social safety net that we managed to weave over the past several decades, leaving us with a swelling population of vulnerable men, women and children. This has had a disproportionate impact on cities, and the outlook, both short- and long-term, is bleak at best.

These are important issues that could be wrestled with if cities were on anybody's agenda.

But they're not.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

July 30th, 2004, 01:10 PM
So maybe what we need to do is eliminate the federal government from a lot of our local programs, cut taxes even further, and raise local taxes!

Make it the same in the end, but save money by not having to ask for money BACK that was taken from the area in the first place!

Same thing for cities and suburbs. The city should not be viewed solely as an asset, or it eventually becomes a liability.

July 30th, 2004, 01:57 PM
Then the disparity in tax rates will further drive business (and people) out of the cities.

TLOZ Link5
December 25th, 2004, 10:40 PM
As shown on CBS News's Website:

Families Shun Industrial Cities
WASHINGTON, June 24, 2004

Detroit is still home to a big chunk of the U.S. automobile industry and now the NBA champion Pistons, but not so many people any more.

Detroit's population dropped by nearly 40,000 to about 911,000 between April 2000 and July 2003. That was the biggest loss for any city with 100,000 or more people during the period, according to Census Bureau estimates being released Thursday.

The Motor City provides the most graphic example of the decades-long exodus from many of the country's older industrial cities and stands in contrast to the population booms that have turned sleepy suburbs in Arizona and Nevada into big cities.

Gilbert, Ariz., in the thriving Phoenix metropolitan area, grew the most, surging 32 percent to 145,000. Two Las Vegas suburbs, Henderson and North Las Vegas, were next, each growing at least 22 percent.

Detroit's 4.2 percent population decline tied with Cincinnati for the second-largest percentage drop. St. Louis' 4.6 percent decline was the largest and dropped that city's population to 332,000.

While warm climates lure people South and West, the availability of jobs, especially in the service industry and in non-unionized businesses, is the primary attraction, says Kurt Metzger, research director for the Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University in Detroit.

"What's happening is that the businesses are pulling in the people," Metzger says.

Metzger and Rollin Stanley, director of planning and urban design for St. Louis, each questioned the accuracy of the census estimates and said the numbers may not account for recent economic development. Stanley cited building permits since 2000 for 9,000 new units and rehabilitations that the city hopes will add over 10,000 to its population by next year. (TLOZ's note: this, at least, is a silver lining if it is true, as St. Louis has lost more than half its population since the 1950 Census.)

To foster growth, places like Detroit, Pittsburgh and Baltimore have focused recent revitalization efforts in part on downtown projects like new sports stadiums and waterfront redevelopment.

These new projects help create trendy areas that attract young professionals looking to be close to work and nightlife, said Robert Lang, director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech University in Alexandria, Va. But they don't attract the families that help a community grow, he said.

"If a 25- to 40-year-old with a college degree leaves the city, someone replaces them, but if a family leaves they are not replaced," Lang said.

Detroit added two sports stadiums and a performing arts complex in recent years. But it hasn't been enough to offset crumbling outer neighborhoods, high property taxes and poor schools, said Duane Fueslein, who is vice president of a neighborhood association in northwest Detroit.

"There's a whole generation of people who have some bad experience with Detroit," said Fueslein, 48, who has lived in Detroit for 20 years. "Until their opinions pass away with their generation, Detroit will suffer from a lot of bad press."

Bruce Katz, director of the Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, said declining cities need to focus on long-term quality-of-life improvements like better schools rather than things like a new stadium that may provide a temporary lift but don't address underlying problems. (Disclaimer: I didn't post this article as fodder for the Jets stadium debate. Note that it says "declining cities", however.)

Metzger said many of the people who leave places like Detroit typically don't leave the metropolitan area, choosing to settle in suburbs that offer larger homes, less traffic and lower crime.

For example, Macomb County, just north of Detroit, gained population since 2000, as did suburbs in St. Charles County, Mo., roughly a half-hour's drive northwest from St. Louis.

Washington, D.C.'s population dropped 1.5 percent during the same period, placing it just out of the 30 cities with the biggest declines. But roughly a half-hour west of the city, population growth in a collection of small towns and planned communities has made Loudoun County, Va., the fastest-growing county in the nation.

By Genaro C. Armas
©MMIV, The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

TLOZ Link5
December 26th, 2004, 11:35 PM
Saint Louis Post-Dispatch

City reaches milestone; work remains
By Jake Wagman
Of the Post-Dispatch
Saturday, Dec. 18 2004

When the U.S. Census Bureau announced its population estimates last summer, it was like a punch in the gut for St. Louis: The city had lost a greater share of its population in three years than any other major city in America. More than Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland or any other of St. Louis' municipal peers.

But months later the census reversed its course, agreeing with city officials that population loss in St. Louis had actually stabilized for the first time in half a century. Mayor Francis Slay called it a "watershed moment" and declared "the city is back."

"For a city that has lost population unabated for the previous 50 years, this represents a huge milestone," Slay said Nov. 10 in an announcement that aides said was delayed until after the presidential election and baseball playoffs so that it would get maximum media attention.

Slay has focused on the population issue early in his re-election effort, declaring on the invitation to his campaign kick-off party that "St. Louis is growing again!"

Did the census figures really overlook nearly 16,000 people? Do more people mean that, as Slay has repeated, St. Louis is now "on the move?"

The numbers show the truth probably is somewhere in between. As Slay's chief of staff, Jeff Rainford, puts it, the new population figure is a milestone, but "it is a milestone in a long road." That milestone has seen hundreds flock to lofts on Washington Avenue and elsewhere downtown. Single-family homes have sprung up in seemingly desolate neighborhoods. Yet the city still, according to its own estimate, has more abandoned buildings than almost anywhere else in the country.

Many of the projects Slay's administration has pointed to as evidence of a civic comeback are for subsidized and public housing. Indeed, the appeal to the Census Bureau focuses on the undercounting of the city's poor. Demographers caution that the original numbers handed down by the federal government and the revised tally are just estimates, with significant margins of error.

The challenge

St. Louis officials did not even realize they could appeal the population estimates until an unpaid intern in the city's planning office - a Cornell University graduate student - found the challenge procedure while exploring the Census Bureau's Web site. On the cusp of the deadline, the city submitted a 90-page challenge packet. It detailed the claim that the population of the city, as of the summer of last year, was 348,014, making it 15,791 people more than the census's estimate.

Because of St. Louis' high poverty rate and influx of immigrants, officials argued, many of the indicators used by the Census Bureau - such as tax returns - provided an inaccurate count.

The city has an above average poverty rate, and has "a high percentage of persons with less than a grade 9 level education," noted the challenge packet, obtained by the Post-Dispatch through a request under public records laws. The city houses the vast majority of the region's homeless population, the report continued. "We believe this segment of our population is undercounted," although the homeless do not figure prominently in the revised estimate.

A better way to estimate population, the city says, is by counting residential building permits issued. From Sept. 1, 1999, to Nov. 30, 2002, the city approved 2,475 new housing units. Planners then subtracted the number of new units from the number of demolished units, a difference of 38. With other calculations and figuring about 2.3 people per housing unit, city planners estimated a population tally that was only 175 people less than the 2000 census.

They also claim that the revised estimate may still be low because it does not include 138 rehabbed homes.

State demographer Ryan Burson and other population experts agree that the housing unit method is a proven way to estimate population. As the mayor's office says, "People move, but housing units do not."

The Census Bureau, saying that the city's count was really a fraction short, added 25 people - residents of group quarters - to the final estimate.

Even with the building boom, the city still issued more demolition permits for abandoned homes than building permits for new ones. According to the challenge packet, up to one out of every 20 homes in the city is vacant. "Few cities have the number of vacant buildings that St. Louis has," the city told the Census Bureau, with the exception of Detroit and Philadelphia.

Newcomer is tickled

Slay and his staff say they believe the building permit figures show an upward trend and that the city has actually gained population - as much as 2,500 - since the summer of last year. Just under half of the building permits granted in that time are for upscale apartments and condominiums, from the converted shoe factory in Lafayette Square to the majestic former hotel on Lindell Boulevard.

Many are for single-family homes sprouting in previously barren neighborhoods where development has been staid for years. Now, ever so slowly, homes with Volvos parked in front and wreaths on the doors are appearing amid the empty lots and abandoned houses.

Vincent Young, a managing engineer at Boeing, bought his home three years ago on Cabanne Avenue in the city's West End neighborhood. Young moved from Black Jack in north St. Louis County, where he had lived for 20 years.

"I love it. I'm just tickled," Young said. "I get a thrill out of every morning getting up, being able to go to the park and being close to all the amenities in the downtown area."

Real estate broker Mary "One" Johnson, who sold Young his home, said she had to tear down five "crack houses" to make way for the development that is now Maple Acres.

Real estate in the city has shifted, she said, offering advantages normally associated with the suburbs: plenty of empty land, generous tax incentives and affordable prices.

"What's going on in the city now just blows my mind," Johnson said.

St. Louis, not Ladue

Even so, not all of the new housing in the city is being bought by professionals or loft-dwelling empty nesters. Many of the new homes cited in the census challenge are public and subsidized housing. The single largest development on one building permit, according to the census appeal, is a facility for older adults, a publicly funded project at what was once Homer G. Phillips Hospital.

Other projects include the Les Chateaux apartments, a sprawling complex built by the city housing authority, and mixed-income developments like the King Louis Square apartments.

Several of the projects were financed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, while other homes were built by Habitat for Humanity. St. Louis officials say that they are proud of the access low-income residents have to housing because it adds to the city's diversity.

"We do not aspire to be Ladue. We aspire to be a great city. That means diversity - of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and income," the mayor's office said in a written response to questions about the census.

Slay is not the only big-city mayor who has successfully appealed census estimates. In October, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley - less than a week before Election Day - used revised population estimates as evidence of a "rebirth" in the city, saying, "This is what Baltimore's comeback is all about." Six days later, O'Malley easily won a second term.

Slay, who is seeking a second term, has trumpeted rosy statistics before. During his census announcement, he lauded the city's plummeting crime rate only to learn later that the Police Department had omitted 5,760 incidents from its annual report.

"Population is an important symbolic measure," says William Frey, a professor at the University of Michigan's Population Studies Center. But, he says, equally important are the economic mix of residents and the tax base. Unlike the 10-year census, estimate results do not influence federal funding or congressional apportionment.

More than anything, increasing population is about civic pride and perhaps politics, Frey says. He notes that after each census count, there are typically several challenges, and the complaints are seldom that the estimate was too high.

Said Frey, "That means there is a political component to the whole thing, there is no question about that."

Reporter Jake Wagman covers St. Louis City Hall for the Post-Dispatch.

Reporter Jake Wagman
E-mail: jwagman@post-dispatch.com
Phone: 314-622-3580

Challenging the numbers

The city of St. Louis challenged estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau that said the city had lost 15,966 people between April 2000 and July 2003. The revised estimate puts the city’s population at 348,039, only 150 less than the 2000 census.

To get the revised number, city planners subtracted the number of new housing units (2,475) from the number of demolished housing units (2,513). Working with numbers provided by the census, the city assumed that 83 percent of city homes are occupied, that 2.3 residents are in each housing unit, and that 10,657 residents live in group quarters such as college dormitories, nursing homes and jails.

Population as of April 2000: 348,189

Census estimate for 2003: 332,223

Revised estimate: 348,039

©Copyright the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, 2004

TLOZ Link5
December 27th, 2004, 02:52 AM
Can't get the exact article, but Baltimore's population decline is said to have stabilized as well.

TLOZ Link5
January 30th, 2005, 01:37 PM
CNN Money

Motor City renaissance
After decades of decline, downtown Detroit is getting a makeover in time for the '06 Super Bowl.
December 2, 2004: 3:50 PM EST
By Sarah Max, CNN/Money senior writer

(CNN/Money) – While the urban centers in most major U.S. cities are blossoming with loft apartments, gourmet restaurants and pricey boutiques, Detroit has been waiting for its renaissance.


These nineteenth-century townhomes were recently renovated by Crosswinds Communities.


Seldom Blues is one of 18 restaurants that opened in Detroit's central business district within the last 18 months.

The city's population, about 950,000 as of the 2000 Census (TLOZ's note: 897,000 as of the 2005 Census estimate), is half what it was in the 1950s. Grand buildings, such as the 33-story Book-Cadillac Hotel and the 18-story Michigan Central Depot have been vacant for nearly two decades, save for urban explorers and Hollywood directors scouting locations for post-apocalyptic films.

But – finally – the city of ruins may be a city on the move.

"It's a shock when you visit for the first time," said Alexander von Hoffman a senior fellow with Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies and author of "House by House, Block by Block: The Rebirth of America's Urban Neighborhoods" (Oxford University Press). "But you get the sense that the worst has past."

George Barnes, Jr., who is the founder of Heritage Optical and a Detroit resident of 50 years says he knows the worst is over.

"I dare say that when Detroit hosts the Super Bowl in 2006 you won't even recognize this city," he said.

Company headquarters, loft apartments

General Motors is in the final stages of a $500 million renovation of its new global headquarters at the Renaissance Center, a move that is bringing in thousands of employees from the suburbs.

In 2003, Compuware moved 4,000 of its employees from its old suburban headquarters to its new downtown headquarters, and other companies are expected to follow.

"When you have G.M. and Compuware and others putting stakes in the ground it signals that it's not such a big bad place," said Peter Zeiler, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and an adjunct professor at Wayne State University.

Housing developers, restaurateurs and retailers are venturing into the city for the first time in decades. In 1994, the city of Detroit issued a handful of residential housing permits, according to Zeiler. He estimates that 3,500 permits will be filed this year.

"From 1975 to 1990 there was no market for new housing in Detroit," said Bernie Glieberman, founder and president of Crosswinds Communities, a national building and development company based in Novi, Mich. "So we built in the suburbs."

A few years ago, however, Glieberman returned to Detroit, building new condominiums and lofts near the downtown sports arenas and renovating six nineteenth-century townhomes.

Glieberman isn't alone.

In October, residents began moving into Lofts of Merchant Row, a 157-unit loft building on Woodward Avenue. Other historic buildings, including the Kales Building, once headquarters of the S.S. Kresge Company (a.k.a. Kmart), are also being redeveloped into lofts, restaurants and retail centers.

Home prices reflect the change. Over the past five years, home prices in the Detroit, Ann Arbor and Flint metropolitan area have appreciated by an average of 28 percent, according to Fiserv CSW. Prices in some zip codes in and adjacent to Detroit have appreciated more than 40 percent, significantly more than in the suburbs.

Food and entertainment

"We had employees who were kicking and screaming because we were moving to the city," said Gayle Bonner, who worked in human resources for Compuware during its relocation. "A lot of them had never even been to the city. Then they got down here and realized how much fun they were having," she said.

Bonner's own condominium, which is in the downtown stadium district, is now a hub of social activity for her suburban friends and family. "When I told people I was moving here they said they would never live here," she recalled. "Now they're here every weekend. My sister in Bloomfield Hills (an affluent Detroit suburb) even asked me if she and her friends could borrow my house."

Among the attractions are: Comerica Park, the Detroit Tiger's baseball stadium, which opened in 2000; the renovated Fox Theater; Ford Field, which opened in 2002 and will host the Super Bowl in February 2006; Campus Martius Park, which opened in November after a $20 million renovation and is to Detroit what Rockefeller Center is to New York.

In the past 18 months, 18 new restaurants have opened in Detroit's central business district.

"I lived in Houston and saw the revitalization there," said Frank Taylor, who co-owns Seldom Blues and Sweet Georgia Brown and plans to open two other restaurants in 2005. "I believe in what's about to happen here."

Change not without challenges

Those in the thick of Detroit's new development exude optimism. But, skeptics point out that Detroit has tried to reinvent itself before, and with no success. Crime and racial tension, they say, are just some of the challenges in the way of a bona fide renaissance.

Morgan Quitno recently released its annual "City Crime Rankings," which uses FBI statistics on murder, rape, robbery and other crime to rank cities. Last year Detroit topped the list as the most dangerous city. This year it ranked second, after Camden, N.J.

"Yes there are really tough areas, just like in New York, just like in LA., but there are also areas that are unbelievably safe," said Zeiler, adding that Morgan Quitno's rankings don't account for the fact that cities report crime data differently.

According to statistics for the Detroit Police Department's 1st precinct, which covers the central business district, there have been two homicides this year, and assaults, burglary and robberies are all down even though new neighborhoods have been added to the precinct's detail.

Stolen cars saw a minor increase, according to Commander Stacy Brackens, but that was largely because restaurant and stadium goers were getting lost. "People are still not familiar with where they are," he said. "This is a different Detroit than it was five years ago."

Though a common complaint among white suburbanites is that they don't feel welcome in Detroit, where about 80 percent of the population is black, community leaders say (you guessed it) this is a different Detroit, at least in the neighborhoods that are being redeveloped.

"Go to the new skating rink at Campus Marsius Park and you'll see a mixture of people, white, black, Asian," said Barnes. "It's refreshing. It's nothing like what people think about Detroit."

Given its size and the number of people who once lived in Detroit, said von Hoffman, it will take time for the city to turn itself around, but it's by no means impossible.

"It's true that there have been other attempts to revitalize Detroit and they did fail," he said. "But that was then."

©Copyright CNN.com 2005

TLOZ Link5
February 3rd, 2005, 11:17 PM
Toronto Globe & Mail

Motor City in motion

After decades of neglect, the city once known for packing heat is now generating some. Downtown buildings are being resurrected, eclectic eateries are springing up and the city has landed next year's Super Bowl. DOMINIC PATTEN goes exploring

Special to The Globe and Mail

Wednesday, Feb 2, 2005

As you chill the beer and open your dip and chips in preparation for watching this year's Super Bowl from Jacksonville, Fla., just take a moment to think about miracles. And I'm not talking about the Philadelphia Eagles defeating the odds-on favourites and defending champions, the New England Patriots.

I'm talking about urban miracles. Specifically, where a once-ominous and deserted nighttime downtown core is transformed into a teeming weekend winter wonderland. The type that's full of families in matching puffy coats and gaggles of teens cautiously eyeing each other over hot chocolates like something out of a 21st-century Norman Rockwell painting. That's what it was like at downtown Detroit's new Campus Martius Park for the very first Motown Winter Blast this year.

After decades of neglect and disrepair, the city that was once best known for packing heat is now generating some. "Detroit is a city undergoing a renaissance," Jennifer Granholm, the Vancouver-born governor of Michigan, said in an interview, "and now is the time to see it."

The city has become a burgeoning dining, sporting, entertainment and cultural centre. In recent years, Detroit has turned things around, building on the best of its past and betting on the future, and even landing Super Bowl XL in 2006.

Three casinos have opened in the city since 1999 and big business has returned. Many of the former ruins of Detroit -- the warehouses, factories and corporate headquarters -- have been turned into either retail stores or high-end lofts for the affluent professionals moving back downtown. New stadiums, hotels, clubs and restaurants have also opened their doors and flourished.

It's not the first time the city locals call "the D" glittered so brightly. As recently as the 1950s, when it boomed with the wealth of the auto industry, Detroit had it all. But cities, like heavyweight champions, never stay on top forever and even the Big Three couldn't withstand the riots of the 1960s, the flight of the middle class to the suburbs, the decimation of the manufacturing and tax base, and soaring crime rates that consistently saw Detroit labelled "the most dangerous city in America."

For years, the city virtually turned a blind eye to the urban blight that dominated downtown. Vandalism and squalor occupied many buildings. In 1988, not a single construction permit was issued in Detroit. For a city that was once renowned for its stunning architectural vista, it was a burnt-out husk.

"We all know the decline of the city didn't happen overnight," said Susan Sherer, the executive director of Detroit's Super Bowl Committee, "and it can't be fixed overnight, but there's a lot we've done, and lots more we can do."

Slight good news came late last year when the annual City Crime Rankings publication, based on crime data reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2003, upgraded Detroit to the second-most dangerous city in America, after Camden, N.J. Better news, like the devil, is in the details. The ranking is based on all of Metro Detroit, and as police insist, violent crime and petty theft is significantly down, especially in the downtown core. "I would put our downtown up against any downtown across the world," Second Deputy Police Chief James Tate said. "It is by far the safest place in the entire city."

This January, at the Motown Winter Blast, tens of thousands braved the cold and the downtown streets to take in dogsled rides and ice skating with local National Hockey League legends, as well as sample music and food from local performers and restaurants at Campus Martius Park. "We had around 250,000 guests here for the Auto Show and the inaugural Winter Blast this year," Deputy Chief Tate said, "and not a single incident."

That's a good omen for the Super Bowl extravaganza next February when Motor City expects an estimated 150,000 visitors and 800 million television viewers. (As a process of continuing beautification, the city is trying to deal with its abandoned buildings by aggressively identifying absentee landlords and opening cafés and retail stores on the buildings' ground floors in the coming year. If that isn't an option, some will be draped in flags and façades: a temporary but cosmetic fix for a potential Super Bowl eyesore.)

The Winter Blast and this year's Auto Show were but a couple of the events going on in Detroit over the next 12 months and beyond.

In March, there's a vintage couture exhibition including outfits by design houses such as Balenciaga and Dior at the Henry Ford Museum. The Majestic Theater Center on Woodward Avenue, in the city's downtown cultural district, will be the place to be in April.

That's when Detroit -- the hometown of Motown, the MC5, hip-hop superstar Eminem and the White Stripes -- launches the Motor City Music Conference with performances from more than 400 national and local-based artists in 40 different venues throughout the city.

The block-long Majestic complex, whose art-deco façade has recently been renovated, has been at the heart of Detroit's music scene for years. Some of the conference attendees may grab a bite at the Majestic Café or the Pizzeria.

Most, however, will want to either take in a big show at the theatre itself or check out the action upstairs on stage at the Magic Stick.

The Red Wings are clipped right now because of the NHL lockout, but Major League baseball will play its annual All-Star Game in front of 40,000 fans at Comerica Park, the home of the Detroit Tigers, on July 12. With its Ferris wheel, pantheon of fame and giant Tigers pacing the rim of the multipurpose stadium, Comerica Park, which opened in 2000, is almost a bigger star than the players on its field.

The theory is that big ticket events, along with the return of corporations such as General Motors and Compuware, and their thousands of employees, provide fuel that's turning the downtown around. So, while the Pistons, the current National Basketball Association champions, actually play out in suburban Auburn Hills, top-notch hoops will return in 2008 and 2009 when the regional and Final Four tournaments of National Collegiate Athletic Association are held downtown. "Having the new dual stadiums of Comerica Park and Ford Field right downtown has spurred numerous bars, restaurants, housing and new business," said Mike Healy, a spokesman for the Detroit Tigers.

Just a few years ago, the downtown was so pockmarked that the best part of walking around was the dramatic steam from the manhole covers. Now, getting around the city has become more pleasant thanks to multimillion-dollar renovations that have widened downtown sidewalks and beautified them with benches and better lighting.

The opening of the magnificently resurrected 40-storey Guardian building on nearby Griswold Street and the illuminating glass of Compuware's 15-storey world headquarters brought a further injection of retailers, including Borders Books, into the city's core.

After years of looking like a bomb crater, Campus Martius Park, the city's flagship urban space, was finally finished. With its skating rink, indoor café and warming area, the park, unveiled in November, 2004, was another benchmark in bringing a healthy street life back to downtown.

"The city has always had a lot going on," said Robert Stanzler, owner of the internationally sold Made In Detroit clothing line. He has been selling T-shirts and jackets that proclaim "Detroit Muscle" for almost a decade. Almost two years ago, Stanzler opened his first store, in the Greektown neighbourhood. It has been a success and Stanzler thinks it has to do with the changing ethos of his town. "We needed to show some positive hometown pride, to show what a cool, what a historic and significant place this city is."

The resurrection of Detroit has as much to do with fixing the old as it has with building the new.

Four 19th-century mansions were renovated in 2000 to make up the Inn on Ferry Street. Surrounded by museums in the city's cultural centre, the inn recalls the vast wealth that once permeated Detroit. "The inn," it was noted when the establishment was given a National Preservation Award in 2002, "is a signal to Detroit that preservation is good for business and lays a strong foundation for the future."

A century or two away from the Inn on Ferry Street, the Renaissance Center has put paid to the notion that modernity can't be fixed. A critic once called the four soaring towers, which dominate views of the city, "fortress architecture that cities ought to shun."

Now, after an eight-year and $500-million surgery, the centre has turned into a swan. The worldwide headquarters of GM, the aptly named Renaissance has emerged with an inviting Jefferson Avenue pavilion, a car museum, restaurants, a shopping mall and a glass Winter Garden at the rear of the complex that looks out on to the city's recently completed scenic river walk and park.

Seldom Blues, located on the same level as the Marriott's main entrance, opened its doors and its kitchen in June, 2004. The combo of jazz club and sleek dining might not seem a natural jam, but, it works.

Fine feasting has become a growth industry in Detroit. There's still the four-diamond pleasures of Iridescence and the palatial luxury of the Whitney, but the city has seen over two dozen new restaurants open in the past few years.

Want to nibble? Hit Small Plates, where almost everything on the varied menu is a delicious appetizer. Want atmosphere and American fare? Go to Congress, the basement ultra-lounge that is part nightclub and part good eats. Want some delicacies and dancing? There's the Rhino @ Harmonie Park, a soulful hot spot with great lamb chops.

Detroit has also much to offer to the cultural traveller. The now-thriving theatre district has more seats than anywhere else in the United States except New York. At the Motown Historical Museum, you can stand where the Supremes, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye recorded some of their best-known hits in Studio A. Or check out the ideals of arts and crafts at Pewabic Pottery or the healing power of song at the International Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

African Americans make up the majority of Detroit's population and the largest museum in the United States dedicated to their history is here. With Black History month upon us, the Charles W. Wright's permanent exhibition, And We Still Rise, which made its debut in November, and the travelling exhibition Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America, on display until Feb. 27, simultaneously reveal how far things have come and how far they still have to go.

Just up the street sits the Detroit Institute of Art. Though it's under renovation until 2007, the DIA is worth a visit. Auto fortunes brought the world's masterpieces to Detroit from ancient and rare Mesopotamian moulds to Chinese scholarly paintings to self-portraits by van Gogh and Warhol.

The most potent and localized gem in the collection is Mexican muralist Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry Frescoes. Nelson Rockefeller destroyed the Rivera mural his family commissioned in New York, but the auto barons ignored the artist's socialist subtext and revelled in his depiction of the physical power and design of their industry.

Visitors can glean some of Rivera's inspiration by taking a tour of the Ford Rouge Factory in nearby Dearborn. The muralist spent a month in 1932 studying what was then the world's largest industrial complex, producing millions of cars a year. Tours were discontinued in the 1980s for safety reasons, but last May, after years of refurbishment under the supervision of Bill Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford, the plant, with a new visitors centre, was reopened.

The new Rouge tour provides a bird's-eye view of the assembly line in action. The films and guide lectures are suitably self-aggrandizing, but once you're in the actual factory, the rubber really hits the road. Strolling the catwalks is a bit like being inside the Death Star from the first Star Wars movie, but in a good way -- the beauty and functionality of the Rouge's industrial design was a model in efficiency.

After the Rouge, buses take you back to the Henry Ford Museum. The museum, which opened in 1929, is filled with a collection that could have been curated by Dr. Seuss. There is a vast array of trains (including the world's oldest surviving steam engine), planes and automobiles, including the car JFK was killed in. The Henry Ford also captures the highs and lows of American Exceptionalism with such vestiges as the chair that Abraham Lincoln was shot in and the bus that Rosa Parks refused to go sit at the back of.

In many ways, it's emblematic of the history of Detroit. The rise, the promise, the fall and the stubborn refusal to take it any more.

Pack your bags


Inn On Ferry Street: 84 East Ferry; 313-871-6000; http://www.ferrystreetinn.com. History meets modernity.

The Marriot at the Renaissance Center: Renaissance Center; 313-568-8000; http://www.marriott.com. With its 73 floors and 1,300 rooms, it feels a bit like being on the set of a sophisticated sci-fi flick.


Seldom Blues: 400 Renaissance Center; http://www.seldomblues.com; 313-567-7301. Great vibe, jazz and views of the Detroit River.

The Whitney: 4421 Woodward Ave.; http://www.thewhitney.com; 313-832-5700. Lumber baron's mansion still sparkles with old world glamour.

Astoria Pastries: 541 Monroe St.; 313-963-9603. Try the house specialty -- frozen-lemonade smoothie.


Charles W. Wright Museum of African American History: 315 East Warren St.; 313-494-5800; http://www.maah-detroit.org. An abundance of culture, history and pride.

Detroit Institute of Arts: 5200 Woodward Ave.; 313-833-7900; http://www.dia.org. Under renovation, enough of its permanent collectionon is on display to make it impressive.

Comerica Park/Ford Field: 2100 Woodward Ave.; http://detroit.tigers.mlb.com. Replacing the fabled Tiger Stadium was no easy task, but Comerica Park, and its neighbour, Ford Field, do a pretty darn good job.

MGM Grand Casino: 1300 John C. Lodge; 1-877-888-2121; http://detroit.mgmgrand.com. Go any day, any time for the full-on experience.

Majestic Theater Center; 4120-4140 Woodward Ave.; 313-833-9700; http://www.majesticdetroit.com. Pivotal Detroit hangout.

Campus Martius Park: 800 Woodward Ave.; http://www.campusmartiuspark.org. Detroit's new people-watching perch.

Motor City Music Conference: (April 20-24); http://www.motorcitymusic.com.

MLB All-Star Game: (July 12) Comerica Park; http://mlb.mlb.com.

Made In Detroit: 400 Monroe St.; http://www.madeindetroit.com; 313-963-6080. Eminem wore some of MID's hometown gear in the movie 8 Mile.


Detroit Tourism: 313-202-1800; http://www.visitdetroit.com.

Super Bowl XL: (Feb. 5, 2006) Ford Field; http://www.sbxl.org.

©Copyright Toronto Globe & Mail, 2005

TLOZ Link5
February 9th, 2005, 04:58 PM
February 9, 2005

Baltimore Streets Meaner, but Message Is Mixed


http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/b.gifALTIMORE, Feb. 7 - Outside a Chinese takeout in East Baltimore, a cluster of heart-shape balloons, a street memorial to the dead, tells a depressingly familiar story.

Last Wednesday, a 28-year-old was shot to death as he left the restaurant just before dawn. The block was known for drug dealing, the victim was a convicted drug dealer and the killing was almost certainly drug related, the police said.

"He committed crimes there; he was killed there," a spokesman for the police, Matt Jablow, said.

So it goes in the toughest precincts across the city. After trending downward from a record 353 in 1993, homicides in Baltimore have ticked back up since 2002. They hit 278 last year, putting Baltimore in line for the title of deadliest big city in the nation, with a homicide rate three times greater than Los Angeles and five times greater than New York.

Last month, the city posted its bloodiest January since 1973, with 32 killings.


Sgt. Mike Fries, center, questioning men last week in a tough neighborhood of Baltimore.

The high rate - as other cities, including Washington, are reporting fewer homicides - has fueled hand-wringing by city officials, criticism by civic groups and new strategies by the Police Department. But it has also posed an intriguing riddle for criminologists. Even as the murder rate has crept back up, officials say, the overall crime rate has steadily fallen. Can a city be safer, yet deadlier, at the same time?

City officials say it can. Turf wars have made Baltimore more violent for drug dealers, they assert, but the city is freer from crime for the law-abiding majority than it has been in decades.

"Baltimore is actually a very safe city if you are not involved in the drug trade," Health Commissioner Peter Beilenson said.

To make their case, city officials have compiled studies that show a fine line between killers and their prey. Of the 38 homicide victims this year, 90 percent had criminal records and 68 percent had been arrested for violent crimes. The victims had been arrested an average of eight times each, typically for drug-related crimes.

"Our victims have identical records as our suspects," Marcus Brown, acting deputy police commissioner, said.

At a review of crime statistics last week at the police headquarters, computerized maps flashed onto screens as ranking officers sharply questioned precinct commanders on crime trends. Forests of blue icons pinpointed drug-dealing hot spots, many accompanied by red X's to denote homicides.

Yet as the maps showed killings increasing in some places, they also showed that other reported crimes, including rape, robbery, aggravated assault and burglary, were down in most precincts.

"As I ride down the street, I'd have to say the city is safer," Acting Police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm said.

Not everyone is so sure. Some criminologists have questioned the statistics, arguing that some precinct commanders may be downgrading serious crimes to lesser categories to make their districts look better.

Police officials vigorously deny that.

Other experts object to police officials' assertions that just drug dealers are in grave danger on the meaner streets.

Dr. Carnell Cooper, an attending trauma surgeon at the University of Maryland shock trauma center here, said such theories ignored the plight of law-abiding residents of crime-ridden communities.

"We get patients in our hospital who are shot while they lay on their couches," Dr. Cooper said.

Yet his experience confirms in part the police thesis that homicides typically involve criminals killing criminals. Many of the young men he treats for gunshots return weeks later with new wounds, sometimes fatal.

The surgeon became so tired of patching them up only to see them die - or kill -that he began a program to counsel victims of shootings, hoping to turn them away from the drug business.

"We put people in an environment where drug users are on the corner, guns go off all night, and we expect those kids to behave as if they live at Charles and Pratt," Dr. Cooper said, referring to a tony section of the city. "But they can't live up to the standards of civil society if we don't show them how."

The persistently high homicide rate has sparked debates over whether violence has become a part of the city's fabric, as much as steamed crabs or Anne Tyler novels. The city may have inspired the quirky comedy film "Diner" by a homegrown filmmaker, Barry Levinson, but it also provided the brass-knuckled grist for the television police drama "Homicide: Life on the Street."

The recent appearance of a homemade DVD, "Stop Snitching," that glorifies retaliatory violence and features a cameo by a local professional basketball star, Carmelo Anthony, has only fueled such concerns. Mr. Anthony, who plays for the Denver Nuggets, said he was unaware that his image was on the DVD and has agreed to create a public service announcement in support of legislation to prevent witness intimidation, a major problem in Baltimore, prosecutors say.

The firebombing of Angela Dawson's home in East Baltimore by a drug dealer in 2002 has crystallized the city's anger and fear of witness intimidation. Mrs. Dawson, who regularly called the police to report that drug merchants were on her block, was killed in the attack, along with her husband and five of their children.

Dr. Beilenson, the health commissioner, said cyclical violence had become endemic to drug gangs. He recalled the case of a 14-year-old who, with the help of a counseling program, quit his gang, moved to a new neighborhood and began attending school. But a few months later, the boy returned for a family birthday party, only to be shot dead by a rival gang member who was nursing a grudge. The gunman was later killed by the boy's cousin.

"This is the smallest big city I've ever lived in," Dr. Beilenson said. "Violence is very personal, because everyone knows everyone else or is a relative. If you shoot someone, the retribution will be fast and sure."

No one is watching the rising homicide statistics more closely than Mayor Martin J. O'Malley, a Democrat who was elected in 1999 on a promise to reduce crime. Mr. O'Malley was overwhelmingly re-elected in 2003 and is widely expected to run for governor in 2006.

He promised to reduce homicides to fewer than 200 a year, a goal he has never attained. Republicans have ridiculed him for falling short. And even Democrats have complained that repeated changes in the commissioner's office - Mr. Hamm is the fourth commissioner under Mr. O'Malley and the first from Baltimore - have created abrupt policy shifts and hampered crime fighting.

Mr. O'Malley points a finger elsewhere to explain the homicide numbers, criticizing the United States attorney's office as not prosecuting enough gun crimes and the state parole, probation and juvenile-crime agencies as not working closely enough with the city's police.

But the mayor also notes that, on average, there are 50 fewer killings a year now than in the mid-90's - several busloads of salvaged lives. And with violent crime down by 60 percent over the past year, job creation up and a $7 billion building boom under way downtown, the city is "by every objective measure doing much better now than five years ago," Mr. O'Malley said.

"It's not just a pipe dream or whistling past the graveyard," he added.

Such progress is not always apparent in East Baltimore, where block after block of vacant row houses stand in testimony to the declining population, where the drug-addiction and H.I.V.-infection rates are among the highest in the nation.

On a recent evening, a plainclothes police officer, Eric Spilman, stood by a window in an abandoned house, watching drug merchants open shop on the street. An unmarked police car drove by. Then another. Then a police cruiser, lights flashing and siren blaring, raced past. For that night, at least, the police were out in greater force than the dealers, a result of a crackdown ordered by Commissioner Hamm.

As he watched a young dealer peddle his wares, Officer Spilman recalled how a few weeks before he had helped guard a 32-year-old accused of killing four people while stealing their drug money. A typical Baltimore homicide, he concluded.

"He was a junkie who was robbing drug dealers," Officer Spilman said. "He looked harmless, like a homeless man. I guess you can underestimate some of those people."

© Copyright The New York Times Company, 2005

February 9th, 2005, 05:46 PM
Ive always wanted to visit Baltimore. Has anyone else visited? Ive only drove over it on my way up to NY. I have to agree with some though, crime isnt spontaneous. Most people are involved in something. If you keep your nose out of stuff it shouldnt be in, you'll be fine.

TLOZ Link5
May 11th, 2005, 05:13 PM
Police Counter Dealers' DVD With One of Their Own



Officer Namhyun Kim of the Baltimore Police Department on Tuesday gave a copy of the DVD "Keep Talking" to a man who asked not to be identified. The DVD is part of an effort to urge residents to report crime. (Steve Ruark for The New York Times)

BALTIMORE, May 10 - In an infamous DVD called "Stop Snitching," Baltimore drug dealers threatened to kill anyone who testified against them. On Tuesday, the Baltimore police countered with a DVD of their own: "Keep Talking."

Officers distributed 600 copies of the video in a drug-ravaged neighborhood of East Baltimore, in a direct response to the makers of "Stop Snitching."

"The men and women of the Baltimore Police Department would like to thank the producers of the 'Stop Snitching' video," Detective Donny Moses says in the new DVD. "In case you didn't know, you actually helped make Baltimore a safer city. If we didn't know before, now we know the faces in the game."

The police DVD includes footage from "Stop Snitching" and says that three people in the video have been arrested, including a man who appeared in it pulling a gun from his waistband.

Officers plan to distribute more copies of "Keep Talking" later this week in violent neighborhoods in the western and northwestern sections of the city and also plan to turn the video into a public-service announcement to be broadcast on local television stations.

The earlier DVD had drawn attention because of the appearance on it of Carmelo Anthony, a National Basketball Association star who grew up in Baltimore. Mr. Anthony has said he was unaware that he appeared on the video. He is scheduled to join Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. on Wednesday to start a separate anti-violence campaign.

While the police DVD speaks directly to criminals, its message, "keep talking," applies to others as well, said Leonard D. Hamm, the Baltimore police commissioner.

"What we're saying to the community," Mr. Hamm said, "is that we're going to help you solve crime problems so you can live decent lives, so people can sit on their steps again, so people can go to the store without being afraid because a neighborhood's inundated by violence."

The case for the DVD includes anonymous phone tip lines for reporting crime. So, too, do fliers the police are distributing with photos and names of those arrested and the charges against them.

In the neighborhoods where officers are distributing the videos, vacant houses stand out on block after block. When the police are not around, dealers work the corners, selling crack and heroin in a city with one of the highest drug-addiction rates in the nation. The drug trade, in turn, fuels violence in Baltimore, which had 278 homicides last year - a per capita rate five times greater than that of New York City.

The police say that violent crime has declined and that the number of homicides for this time of year has dipped to 83, compared with 93 last year. But they acknowledge that the city faces a daunting challenge in trying to reduce the murder rate, and that rampant witness intimidation hinders prosecution.

Prof. David M. Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, said the police video was a twist in efforts among law enforcement agencies to communicate directly with criminals. To succeed, Professor Kennedy said, such communication must be accompanied by evidence that the police will back up their threats with action.

"The key is to be credible," he said. By mentioning the arrests of three of the "Stop Snitching" stars in the new video, Professor Kennedy said, the police in Baltimore are sending a strong message "that says, 'Look, there are some things in particular that we won't stand for, and these guys didn't listen, and here's what happened to them.' "

The Baltimore police are also planning to install surveillance cameras in high-crime neighborhoods. They have recently begun shining spotlights from police helicopters onto drug corners, then quickly dispatching officers to try to identify suspected dealers. The department is also considering putting officers with binoculars atop lifeguard chairs in high-crime areas.

The videos heartened some who received them. Michael Booth, 36, an unemployed truck driver who described himself as a recovering addict, said he had known many people who had been killed on the streets of Baltimore.

"I believe that it will make a difference," Mr. Booth said. "Before, it was a case where your life was in jeopardy and you would be threatened and you would be scared if you reported violence. But now you feel like the police will step up to the plate and protect you."

Darlene Adams, 43, a grandmother who said she had seen dealers filming "Stop Snitching," said of the police video: "It will send a message to some, but some will think it's a joke. I pray it will make a difference."

View the "Keep Talking" video: http://www.nytimes.com/videosrc/national/KTalking2.mov

©Copyright The New York Times Company, 2005

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July 1st, 2005, 05:46 PM
New York Times
June 30, 2005

To the Chagrin of Detroit, Top 10 No Longer


DETROIT, June 29 - Cynics have signed this city's death certificate time and time again. But even for the many others who say Detroit is not dead, just on the cusp of an economic revival, the numbers are hard to ignore.

On Thursday, the Census Bureau will release its latest population statistics, showing that Detroit was not on the list of the top 10 most populous American cities for the first time since the 1900 census. San Jose, Calif., has taken its place.

Although the two cities are separated by a mere 4,324 people, in many ways they could not be further apart. Detroit, the Motor City, is the hub of the American auto industry and a microcosm of the nation's declining industrial base. The computer chips of San Jose, in the heart of Silicon Valley, are what have replaced the sheet metal and molten steel of Detroit in the new American economy.

"It's part of a pattern for the heavily industrialized cities, but I think Detroit is a specific case," said Dana Johnson, chief economist at Comerica Bank in Detroit. "There's been an ongoing dynamic here of people, middle-class people in Detroit, fleeing the city looking for better schools, better lifestyles, better services. So it has been a particularly hard fall."

The new census data show that other heavily industrial Midwestern cities are shrinking as well. Of the 10 cities with the largest population declines between 2000 and 2004, seven were in the Midwest. New York remained the nation's biggest city, with 8,104,079 people, followed by Los Angeles, which the Census Bureau measured at 3,845,541.

The fact that Detroit is shrinking is nothing new. Detroit has clung to its position on the list of the 10 most populous cities since the 2000 census when it first dropped below 1 million people. That was a stinging blow for a city that was the nation's fourth largest in 1950. Since then, it has shrunk in every census. The latest figures recorded 900,198 people, half the population of 50 years ago.

Still, some city leaders say Detroit is just beginning its economic and social renaissance.

"Sufficient groundwork has been laid for new investment that will increase the housing stock, jobs, and it portends for a good future for the city of Detroit," former Mayor Dennis Archer said. "I don't think anybody, with all due respect, pays much attention to a city's population."

To walk around downtown Detroit is a lesson in contrasts. On any given summer afternoon, people fill cafe tables on sidewalks while construction workers hammer away at new loft apartment buildings. But past 6 p.m., with workers back home in the suburbs and the construction crews gone, the city becomes a ghost town.

In this city, where four professional sports teams drive much of the economy, a nighttime Detroit Tigers game is one occasion when the downtown springs to life at night. In the winter, Red Wings hockey games have drawn suburbanites into the city. But with the National Hockey League shut down this past season, many local bars and restaurants that depend on Red Wings traffic saw their business slow to a trickle.

In San Jose, where the Sharks, an N.H.L. franchise, are the only professional sports team, the tech boom brought with it a construction boom downtown. Museums, a convention center and light-rail trolleys were put in, and streets were transformed into pedestrian promenades.

On the unofficial but closely watched "Best Of" lists, San Jose is a perennial performer. It has also been called one of America's best-managed cities, not to mention one of the most livable. In Detroit, "Best Of" accolades are hard to come by. Time magazine recently named Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick one of the nation's three worst mayors. His office declined to make him available for comment.

Part of the fallout from Detroit's population drain has been a sharp cutback in city services.

"You don't have the resources to stay vibrant if the tax base is declining," said David Littmann, a retired economist and longtime observer of the Michigan economy.

With a $300 million budget shortfall projected next year, more than 700 police officers and firefighters face layoffs. When the school year ended this month, 34 public schools closed for the last time.

The problem is not that people are leaving Michigan. It is that they continue to leave Detroit for the suburbs north and west of the city. With 5.5 million people, Detroit has the nation's eighth largest metropolitan area, according to the 2000 census.

Not that San Jose has been without its economic hardships. The city was hit hard when the dot-com bubble burst and has a 5.5 percent unemployment rate. That is higher than the 5.1 percent jobless rate nationwide but still lower than in metropolitan Detroit where 7.8 percent of the labor force is unemployed.

As manufacturing jobs have left Michigan and the Midwest, metro Detroit has experienced growth in business services. Employment in the public sector has also increased over the past two decades. "It's just not as attractive as the competition elsewhere," Mr. Littmann said.

Still, Detroit loyalists like Mr. Archer refuse to throw up their hands. "A lot of cities have their ups and downs," he said. "The city of Detroit has had its downs and we've had our ups. Now it's time for us to go back up."

Carolyn Marshall contributed reporting from San Francisco for this article.

The Detroit People Mover crossed the intersection of Bagley and Clifford in downtown Wednesday. But the rows of empty buildings suggest there are few people to move.

A new housing development six miles south of San Jose, Calif., which has eclipsed Detroit in population. San Jose has also been called one of America's most livable cities.

©Copyright the New York Times Company, 2005