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I don’t often become parochial in these columns, but in his Aug. 25 column Jon Russell asserted that America cities are dying because of their public policy choices. His list of dying cities included my hometown, Seattle.
I just returned from visiting family and friends in Seattle and marveled again at nearby, majestic Mount Rainer. If Seattle is dying, Mr. Russell better not tell Microsoft or Amazon, or the people who just built the new monorail into town from the airport, or those who tore down the unsightly viaduct along the waterfront.
Neither the educators associated with Seattle’s great academic institutions, such as the University of Washington, nor the doctors, nurses and technicians of its cutting-edge hospitals would see themselves in Mr. Russell’s characterization. Perhaps Boeing is having a spot of trouble, but one can’t blame that on local governments.
There is no evidence that local or state governments are passing unwieldy regulations that will bring the city to its knees or bring rats out of the gutters. Pike Place Market is as attractive as always.
Mr. Russell’s basic argument is that U.S. cities are dying because of homelessness, which he says is a consequence of local overregulation.
But in the wake of considerable scientific evidence, everyone else understands that homelessness is connected with mental illness, loss of income leading to loss of homes, PTSD, weaknesses in the Veterans Administration’s assistance to veterans, and corporations’ spread of opioids.
Mr. Russell completely garbles the facts concerning homelessness in Los Angeles, a city with a population of 4 million. The city has a homeless population of 60,000; it didn’t increase by 60,000. And that’s 1.5 percent of LA’s total population. You can read the facts about this incredibly complicated situation right here.
Predictably, Mr. Russell’s views on major urban areas echoes the president’s sentiments. To attack a member of Congress, Rep. Elijah Cummings, President Trump characterized Maryland’s 7th Congressional District as a place where “no human being would want to live” and claimed it ranked last in “almost every major category.” Not surprisingly, the fact-checkers had great fun demonstrating that Cummings’ district did not fit the president’s destructive Twitter rantings.
Howard County, Md., is the third-wealthiest county in America, with a median household income of $115,576, far above the national median of $57,652. The district, overall, has a median household income of $60,929, still above the national average. It has the second-highest median income of any U.S. predominantly black district, according to the Baltimore Sun. And as American statistician Nate Silver points out, the district has above-average college education rates.
Oddly enough, the bulk of Mr. Russell’s column was spent singing his own praises as the chair of the American City County Exchange, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the American Legislative Exchange Council, both of which are notoriously conservative lobbying organizations funded by corporate giants attempting to impose their views and objectives on state and local governments for their own profits. For a closer, alternate look try this site.
So, we ask, is homelessness due to a lack of programs or to overregulation?
We started with the thought that American cities are dying, and one data point was homelessness. But wait, by Mr. Russell’s measure, Culpeper is dying, too. Just ask the stalwart volunteers at our community’s Food Closet. They see homelessness.
Mr. Russell has been elected to take care of our community. Would he please tell us which specific local regulations the Town Council or the Board of Supervisors passed that caused homelessness in Culpeper? We ask in the name of problem-solving, not dogma, especially with elections for local offices coming this November.
Editor’s Note: This letter originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent, and is re-posted here with the author’s permission, and has been edited to incorporate his links to other websites.
Given his role as the Executive Director of ACCE, it’s no coincidence that Mr. Russell has taken to commenting on the Central Virginian’s and Toni Williams Facebook pages with his views about the counties Broadband project.
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