Friday, August 21, 2015

Remembering Marinwood's Past


A little house with three bedrooms,
one bathroom and one car on the street.
A mower that you had to push
to make the grass look neat.

In the kitchen on the wall
we only had one phone,
And no need for recording things,
someone was always home.

We only had a living room
where we would congregate,
unless it was at mealtime
in the kitchen where we ate.

We had no need for family rooms
or extra rooms to dine.
When meeting as a family
those two rooms would work out fine.

We only had one TV set
and channels maybe two,
But always there was one of them
with something worth the view.

For snacks we had potato chips
that tasted like a chip.
And if you wanted flavor
there was Lipton's onion dip.

Store-bought snacks were rare because
my mother liked to cook
and nothing can compare to snacks
in Betty Crocker's book.

Weekends were for family trips
or staying home to play.
We all did things together --
even go to church to pray.

When we did our weekend trips
depending on the weather,
no one stayed at home because
we liked to be together.

Sometimes we would separate
to do things on our own,
but we knew where the others were
without our own cell phone.

Then there were the movies
with your favorite movie star,
and nothing can compare
to watching movies in your car.

Then there were the picnics
at the peak of summer season,
pack a lunch and find some trees
and never need a reason.

Get a baseball game together
with all the friends you know,
have real action playing ball --
and no game video.

Remember when the doctor
used to be the family friend,
and didn't need insurance
or a lawyer to defend?

The way that he took care of you
or what he had to do,
because he took an oath and strived
to do the best for you.

Remember going to the store
and shopping casually,
and when you went to pay for it
you used your own money?

Nothing that you had to swipe
or punch in some amount,
and remember when the cashier person
had to really count?

The milkman used to go
from door to door,
And it was just a few cents more
than going to the store.

There was a time when mailed letters
came right to your door,
without a lot of junk mail ads
sent out by every store.

The mailman knew each house by name
and knew where it was sent;
there were not loads of mail addressed
to "present occupant."

There was a time when just one glance
was all that it would take,
and you would know the kind of car,
the model and the make.

They didn't look like turtles
trying to squeeze out every mile;
they were streamlined, white walls, fins
and really had some style.

One time the music that you played
whenever you would jive,
was from a vinyl, big-holed record
called a forty-five.

The record player had a post
to keep them all in line
and then the records would drop down
and play one at a time.

Oh sure, we had our problems then,
just like we do today
and always we were striving,
trying for a better way.

Oh, the simple life we lived
still seems like so much fun,
how can you explain a game,
just kick the can and run?

And why would boys put baseball cards
between bicycle spokes
and for a nickel, red machines
had little bottled Cokes?

This life seemed so much easier
and slower in some ways.
I love the new technology
but I sure do miss those days.

So time moves on and so do we
and nothing stays the same,
but I sure love to reminisce
and walk down memory lane.
With all today's technology
we grant that it's a plus!
But it's fun to look way back and say,
Hey look,guys, THAT WAS US!

Editor's note: This poem was sent to me by a neighbor who moved to Marinwood in the early 1960s. It was an affordable place to raise his family and call home.  Now political and financial interests want to destroy this community they call "sprawl" in favor of high density low income apartments and condominiums.  Although he wants to stay in our neighborhood, he is fed up and will be moving to another state soon. He is concerned with crime, more taxes and decline in property values,  He has been a pillar of our community for decades and will be missed.

Penn Jillette: Why I Am A Libertarian

Global Warming scare tactics with polar bears

Herding the Poor .

Herding the Poor

Low income people love being close together?

According to TransForm’s report, poor households who live in TODs drive only half as much as poor households who live away from TODs, while rich households who live in TODs drive about two-thirds as much as rich households who don’t live near TODs (see figure 1 on page 7).

Based on this, TransForm proposes that California build lots of “affordable housing” in the TODs, then herd encourage poor people to live in the TODs. Apparently, TransForm’s thinking is that moving poor people into TODs will have the greatest effect on driving, energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions. Putting “more affordable homes near transit … would be a powerful and durable GHG reduction strategy,” says TransForm (emphasis in the original).

Unfortunately, TransForm’s proposal is grounded on a seriously flawed analysis and morally questionable reasoning. First, TransForm has committed a simple arithmetic error when it concludes that the best greenhouse-gas reduction strategy would be to focus on low-income people. Though the data show rich people in TODs drive only a third less than rich people away from TODs, the rich drive so much more than the poor that the greatest impact would come from herding the rich into the TODs.

According to TransForm’s data, poor households in TODs drive about 21 fewer miles per day than poor households away from TODs. But rich people in TODs drive 29 miles less than rich people away from TODs. Thus, if you believe TransForm’s numbers, the best greenhouse-gas reduction strategy would be to coerce encourage rich people to live in TODs.
Low income people love taking the train?

However, I don’t believe TransForm’s numbers because TransForm has made the classic error of ignoring self-selection. That is, people of all incomes who want to drive less are more likely to live in TOD-like places, while people who want to drive more are more likely to live away from TOD-like places (which are typically the most congested and least auto-friendly).

Note that all of TransForm’s numbers measure miles of driving and other factors per household, not per person. Households in TODs tend to have no children, while households with children are far more likely to live away from TODs. It’s a mistake to think that, because people who want to drive less tend to live in TODs, getting people who want to drive more to live in TODs will lead them to drive much less than they do. As economist David Brownstone concludes, after taking self-selection into account, the effect of urban form on driving is “too small to be useful” in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Low income people love living in compact multifamily homes?

TransForm’s third error is in failing to calculate the costs of its “powerful and durable GHG reduction strategy.” Developable land in the San Francisco Bay Area is very costly, and land in the city and suburban centers that make up the region’s TODs and potential TODs is the most expensive of all. Buying that land, building housing on it, and selling or renting it at “affordable” prices is going to require huge subsidies. If I believed in the TOD strategy at all, this would be one more reason to focus on the rich, rather than the poor, as any necessary subsidies would be much smaller. But I suspect that even herding the rich into TODs would end up costing thousands of dollars per ton of abated greenhouse gas emissions, while McKinsey & Company says that anything that costs more than about $50 per ton is a waste of money.

Perhaps most embarrassing, TransForm’s herd-the-poor approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is condescending (or worse). California’s SB 375, a law promoting TODs, imposed an affordable housing mandate that is supposed to be as strong as its greenhouse-gas-reduction mandate, so TransForm poses this idea as one that will solve both problems. But it really won’t, partly because the state simply can’t afford the billions of dollars in subsidies that would be required to build tens of thousands of “affordable” units of housing in Bay Area TODs.

Poor people are politically weak, so the idea of packing them into cramped apartments isn’t going to have as much pushback as a proposal to coerce the rich to live in TODs. While poor people themselves are politically weak, California low-income housing groups are politically powerful, and they would be only too happy to accept huge state subsidies to build low-income housing in TODs or anywhere else.

The average dwelling unit in a TOD is about half the size of an average dwelling unit in the suburbs. People who are transit-dependent are less than half as mobile as people who have cars. Cramming poor families into dense housing and limiting their mobility is prescription for keeping them poor.

If TransForm wants to advocate a policy that really would make housing affordable, it should demand that Bay Area counties abandon the urban-growth boundaries that have confined 98 percent of the people in the region to just 17 percent of the land. And if TransForm really wants to target carbon emissions, it should focus on making housing and cars more energy efficient, which is a far more efficient strategy of reducing carbon emissions than trying to get people to live in apartments and take transit.

Instead, TransForm promotes the “pack-‘em-and-stack-‘em” strategy that has obsessed urban planners for the last three or four decades. We know this strategy doesn’t work: between 1980 and 2012, the population density of the San Francisco–Oakland–San Jose urban areas grew by 55 percent, yet per capita transit ridership fell by a third and per capita driving grew by 5 percent.

Aside from the fact that this strategy doesn’t work, its moral problems seem to go right past the “progressives” who support it. It’s like a movie in which poorly educated villagers are ready to riot about some frightening event, when someone—probably the perpetrator—points at a persecuted minority and yells, “They’re the ones who did it—get ‘em!”

Sadly, the California politicians who passed SB 375 are all too likely to fall for this line of thinking.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Incredible Bread Machine Film (lessons in real world economics)

At time 20:00 there is a narrative on urban renewal which states the number of housing units destroyed are greater than the number replaced. This net loss of housing would of course create a housing shortage which would allow the justification of additional government intervention in housing. Government having created the problem allows government to step in and "solve" the problem.

This is exactly what will be happening with Marin City.  Good buildings will be destroyed and a community displaced.  Future residents will be "mixed income" i.e. gentrified and the needy families will be priced out of the community.

Happy Birthday George Orwell!

On Tuesday, surveillance cameras in the center of the city of Utrecht were decorated with colorful party hats to celebrate the 110th birthday of George Orwell, Dutch art duo Front404 explained on their website.

On Tuesday, surveillance cameras in the center of the city of Utrecht were decorated with colorful party hats to celebrate the 110th birthday of George Orwell, Dutch art duo Front404 explained on their website.

“George Orwell is best known for his book ‘1984’, in which he describes a dystopian future society where the populace is constantly watched by the surveillance state of Big Brother.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

California to seize as many as 300 farms for still-unapproved water tunnels (Here comes Eminent Domain Abuse)

California to seize as many as 300 farms for still-unapproved water tunnels

Jerry Brown
California Gov. Jerry Brown talks about the drought and water restrictions following a meeting with San Diego County officials to discuss continued conservation efforts Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Associated PressBy Associated Press 
on August 17, 2015 at 7:58 PM, updated August 17, 2015 at 8:29 PM
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — State contractors have readied plans to acquire as many as 300 farms in the California delta by eminent domain to make room for a pair of massive, still-unapproved water tunnels proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown, according to documents obtained by opponents of the tunnels.
Farmers whose parcels were listed and mapped in the 160-page property-acquisition plan expressed dismay at the advanced planning for the project, which would build 30-mile-long tunnels in the delta formed by the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers.

"What really shocks is we're fighting this and we're hoping to win," said Richard Elliot, who grows cherries, pears and other crops on delta land farmed by his family since the 1860s. "To find out they're sitting in a room figuring out this eminent domain makes it sound like they're going to bully us ... and take what they want."

Officials involved in the project defended planning so far ahead regarding the tunnels.
"Planning for right-of-way needs, that is the key part of your normal planning process," said Roger Patterson, assistant general manager for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, one of the water agencies that would benefit from the twin tunnels.
The district serves 17 million people in Southern California as well as large farms and businesses.

Brown's administration said re-engineering water flows of the delta — the largest estuary on the West Coast — is essential to undoing mistakes of past water projects and to supplying water to Southern California.

Brown has pushed for a massive delta makeover since his first stint as governor in the 1970s and 1980s. In May, he told critics of the tunnels to "shut up."
Opponents say the tunnels would jeopardize delta farming and destroy vital wildlife habitat.

"If these reports are correct, then we have further confirmation that the tunnels project has been a forgone conclusion," state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, who chairs a committee on the delta, said in an email Monday.

The environmental review, "which should be used to choose a project, is simply being used to justify the favored project," she wrote.

Through October, the project officially is in a period of public comment on the environmental impact of the tunnels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which opposed an earlier version of the project, also must still weigh in.

Restore the Delta, a group of farmers, fishing associations, environmental groups and other opponents, released the property plan that was obtained with a request made under the state open records law. The plan targets public and private land in Sacramento, San Joaquin, Contra Costa and Alameda counties to be acquired for the project.

Under the plan, landowners would have 30 days to consider and negotiate a one-time state offer, while officials simultaneously prepare to take the land by forced sale if owners declined to sell. "Negotiations to continue in parallel with eminent domain proceedings," the plan notes.

Contractors also appear to call for minimal public input.

"All transactions are conducted, reviewed and approved internally by DCE staff and managers to maintain control and avoid unnecessary delays to schedule," the property plan outlines. "DCE shall seek to minimize external review and approval requirements."
DCE is short for Delta Conveyance Facilities Design and Construction Enterprise, a private-contractor group embedded within the state Department of Water Resources to work on the proposed tunnels.

In a June interview, Neil Gould, an attorney for the Department of Water Resources, said planning for the proposed tunnels was no more than 10 percent complete and had focused on assessing the environmental impact.

Asked if planning the process of eminent domain was warranted as part of the project's environmental review, Department of Water Resources spokeswoman Nancy Vogel said Monday in an email, "identification of properties that may be within the project area is necessary ... as DWR needs to estimate the proposed project's potential impacts to those properties."

Public water agencies paid for the property acquisition plan, Vogel said. Those include water agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area and Central California, as well as Southern California, she said.

Patterson, with the Metropolitan Water District, said the latest revisions to the overall tunnels project laid out using more public land and less private land.

Osha Meserve, an attorney for some of the delta farmers fighting the project, said the latest plans still proposes taking roughly the same land as before.

Marinwood residents demand cleanup of dry cleaner chemicals

Marinwood residents demand cleanup of dry cleaner chemicals

The PCE plume that has extended under the freeway and into nearby Silveira Ranch’s ground water shows traces are not present at toxic levels. Erin Lubin — Marin IJ archive

Residents long concerned about chemicals from a former dry-cleaning business at Marinwood Plaza are pushing for immediate cleanup of the area.
As studies continue on the spread and severity of the toxin PCE, or tetrachloroethene, and other related compounds associated with the dry cleaning solvent, residents say they are growing impatient with the lack of action. Contaminants were first reported in the area in 2008 and soil testing recently revealed chemicals have migrated under the freeway to Silveira Ranch.
Residents with the Save Marinwood Now oversight committee are circulating a petition demanding immediate cleanup of the “toxic hotspot” inside the cleaners, and for further testing in neighboring residential areas such as Casa Marinwood.
On Wednesday, four committee members went to Oakland to voice their concerns to the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.
“They need to start doing a (remedial) injection now,” said Bill McNicholas, who spoke at the session. “The way I look at it, it’s like an oil spill, do you take corrective action or find out what caused it and where it’s going? That’s how I look at it. They need to get action going now to stop the spread.”
Read more HERE

PLEASE NOTE THAT STEPHEN HILL OF RWQCB states there is not problem with soil vapor. His own test data shows that it is THREE TIMES the allowable levels for residential locations.  Have you every heard of an Oil Company being allowed FOUR YEARS to "study the problem" of a toxic waste spill? Clean up should commence IMMEDIATELY while further testing is done.

A family in public housing makes $498,000 a year. And HUD wants tenants like this to stay.

A family in public housing makes $498,000 a year. And HUD wants tenants like this to stay.

By Lisa Rein August 17

A public housing project in Brooklyn. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson/File)

A family of four in New York City makes $497,911 a year but pays $1,574 a month to live in public housing in a three-bedroom apartment subsidized by taxpayers.

In Los Angeles, a family of five that’s lived in public housing since 1974 made $204,784 last year but paid $1,091 for a four-bedroom apartment. And a tenant with assets worth $1.6 million — including stocks, real estate and retirement accounts — last year paid $300 for a one-bedroom apartment in public housing in Oxford, Neb.

In a new report, the watchdog for the Department of Housing and Urban Development describes these and more than 25,000 other “over income” families earning more than the maximum income for government-subsidized housing as an “egregious” abuse of the system. While the family in New York with an annual income of almost $500,000 raked in $790,500 in rental income on its real estate holdings in recent years, more than 300,000 families that really qualify for public housing lingered on waiting lists, auditors found.

(HUD Office of Inspector General)

But HUD has no plans to kick these families out, because its policy doesn’t require over-income tenants to leave, the agency’s inspector general found. In fact, it encourages them to stay in public housing.

“Since regulations and policies did not require housing authorities to evict over income families or require them to find housing in the unassisted market, [they] continued to reside in public housing units,” investigators for Inspector General David Montoya wrote.

[During the shutdown, a HUD employee put thousands on his agency credit card for hotels, groceries]

The review, conducted in 2014 and 2015 at the request of Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), found that 45 percent of the 25,226 public housing tenants with incomes higher than the threshold to get into the system were making $10,000 to $70,000 a year more. About 1,200 of them had exceeded the income limits for nine years or more, and almost 18,000 for more than a year.

HUD sets the low-income limits at 80 percent and very low-income limits at 50 percent of the median income for the local area. The agency sets “fair market rents” every year based on incomes, housing demand and supply. In Los Angeles, for example, the threshold was $70,450 for a family of five. In Oxford, Neb., it was $33,500 for an individual.

New York, Puerto Rico and Texas had the most over-income families in public housing, while Utah, Idaho and Wyoming had the fewest, investigators found.

(HUD Office of Inspector General)

About 1.1 million families in the country live in public housing. The over-income tenants represent 2.6 percent of the system. Based on these numbers, HUD officials said the inspector general was “overemphasizing” the problem. But the watchdog didn’t buy it.

“Although 25,226 over income families is a small percentage of the approximate 1.1 million families receiving public housing assistance, we did not find that HUD and public housing authorities had taken or planned to take sufficient steps to reduce at least the egregious examples of over income families in public housing,” the audit said. “Therefore, it is reasonable to expect the number of over income families participating in the program to increase over time.”

The watchdog estimated that taxpayers will pay more than $104 million over the next year to keep these families in public housing, money that should be used for low-income people.

[HUD offers help to ‘surviving spouses’ who are facing the loss of their houses]

But under HUD regulations, public housing tenants can stay as long as they want, no matter how much money they make, as long as they are good tenants. The agency is only required to consider a tenant’s income when an individual or family applies for housing, not once they’re in the system. This is different from the housing choice voucher program that used to be called Section 8, which gives families subsidies for rentals in private apartment buildings. That program has an annual income limit; tenants who go above it get less money.

Tenants can wait years to get into both programs.

(HUD Office of Inspector General)

HUD tweaked its policy on high-earning tenants in 2004, encouraging the thousands of housing authorities in the system to move families out of public housing if they earn more than the income limit for their area. While HUD gives money to the housing authorities, they’re run by states and local governments.

But the 15 authorities investigators looked at told them they had no plans to evict these families, because if they did, poverty would continue to be concentrated in government-subsidized housing. The goal, they said, was to create diverse, mixed-income communities and allow tenants who are making good money to serve as role models for others.

HUD officials repeatedly objected to the audit, saying that evicting over-income families could “negatively affect their employment and destabilize properties.”

“There are positive social benefits from having families with varying income levels residing in the same property,” Milan Ozdinec, HUD’s deputy assistant secretary for public housing and voucher programs, wrote in a lengthy rebuttal to the inspector general.

“Forcing families to leave public housing could impact their ability to maintain employment if they are not able to find suitable housing in the neighborhood,” Ozdinec wrote. “Further, for families with children, it may be more difficult to find affordable child care, and it may impact school-age children’s learning if they are forced to change schools during a school year.”

The watchdog said it didn’t believe that HUD should kick out every family that earns more than the income threshold. But at the very least, the agency should create “limits to avoid egregious cases.”

Lisa Rein covers the federal workforce and issues that concern the management of government.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Obama, the Left downsizing the American Dream

Obama, the Left downsizing the American Dream

BY JOEL KOTKIN / Staff columnist

Barack Obama has always wanted to be a transformational president, and in this, at least, he has been true to his word. The question is what kind of America is being created, and what future does it offer the next generation.

President Obama’s great accomplishment, arguably, has been to spur the evolution of a society that formerly rested on individual and familial aspiration, and turn it into a more regulated and centralized regime focused on broader social and environmental concerns. This tendency has been made much stronger as the number of Americans, according to Gallup, who feel there is “plenty of opportunity ahead” has dropped precipitously – from 80 percent in 1997 to barely 52 percent today.

The shift away from the entrepreneurial model can also be seen in the constriction of loans to the small-business sector. Rates of business start-ups have fallen well below historical levels, and, for young people in particular, have hit the lowest levels in a quarter century. At the same time, the welfare state has expanded dramatically, to the point that nearly half of all Americans now get payments from the federal government.

In sharp contrast to the Bill Clinton White House, which accepted limits on government largesse, the newly emboldened progressives, citing inequality, are calling for more wealth transfers to the poorer parts of society, often eschewing the notion that the recipients work to actually improve their lives. The ever-expanding regulatory state has powerful backing in the media, on campuses and among some corporations. There is even a role model: to become like Europe. As the New York Times’ Roger Cohen suggests, we reject our traditional individualist “excess” and embrace, instead, Continental levels of material modesty, social control and, of course, ever-higher taxes.

Progressive advances

Three ideas prevail in shaping today’s new politics: sexual liberation, racial redress and environmental determinism. The first notion has made rapid progress, in that gay marriage now is, rightfully, legal, and women are making steady gains across the employment spectrum. No matter how much Republicans fulminate in debates or on the campaign trail, this aspect of the basic progressive agenda has been largely accomplished, and is particularly accepted among the young.

The second major thrust of the reconstituted American Dream is the imposition of a regime of permanent racial redress. In contrast to assuring equal rights, the new drive is to guarantee similar results. In every aspect of life, from immigration and housing to school and work, “people of color,” which increasingly excludes Asians, will be categorized by race. This includes the call for “reparations” for African Americans and essentially open borders for undocumented immigrants.

This logic carried to extremes can be seen in the “disparate impact” rules promulgated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and now blessed by the Supreme Court. Under this concept, any town can have its zoning and planning upended if the bureaucracy, or some plaintiffs, decide the town is too white, too Asian or too affluent to meet the standards of “social justice.” This could be extended down the line to every institution, from the workplace to the university. The new approach could be accurately characterized as affirmative action on steroids.

The Green Dilemma

When the United States took big steps in the 1960s to open its society, the economy was basically very strong, with lots of jobs, making initial accommodations to new entrants, minorities or women, much easier. But economic growth in the current “recovery” has been somewhat meager and wage gains all but nonexistent. Any attempt to extend the new version of “civil rights” protections – essentially taking opportunity away from the majority – would be far riskier at a time of economic torpor.

Worse still, the third major lodestone of current reigning ideology – environmentalism – increasingly tends to tilt against broad-based economic growth. Environmentalism, defined as a movement of conserving resources, extending parks and improving environmental quality could co-exist with an expanding economy, generating the funds to finance such improvements.

But today’s climate-change-focused environmentalism increasingly opposes economic growth per se, seeing in it a threat to the planet. For some people, the solution for the planet lies in depressing living standards by such steps as ratcheting up the cost of basic necessities, from energy to housing. Environmental advocates often work in concert with those who benefit from subsidies for everything from solar energy to transit lines, but the goal remains to constrain consumption and raise prices for such basics as housing and energy.

Yet these negative impacts don’t mean much to many green activists who, notes the Guardian’s George Monbiot, see the climate struggle as a way to “redefine humanity.” The target here is the economy itself, which remains driven largely by the desire for material wealth, upward mobility and support of families. Monbiot envisions a war against what he calls the “expanders” by the rational legions of green “restrainers” who will seek to curb their foes’ economic activities.

The celebration of economic stagnation is accepted openly among European greens who support an agenda of “degrowth.” It is also reflected in American calls for “de-development,” a phrase employed by President Obama’s Science Adviser John Holdren. The agenda, particularly in high-income countries, seeks to limit fossil fuels, raise energy prices, stem suburban development and replace the competive capitalism system with a highly regulated economy that favors designated “green’ energy industries over others.

what of future generations?

Constantly expanding pressures to accommodate both the environmentalist credo and the demands of protected identity groups may continue to shift older Americans to the political right. Forced to pick up the bills while enduring insults about their unconscionable “privilege,” it’s hard to see how they, for the most part, can become anything but more alienated by the progressive credo.

One worry for the older generation is their kids and, particularly, their grandchildren. Parents today generally see things getting worse for their offspring and grandchildren, with only 21 percent, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, expecting things to get better for the new generation, compared with 49 percent in 2001. These sentiments may make older folks more solicitous about helping their own, but one doubts how much they desire to pour out their retirement savings to save someone else’s kids.

The biggest impact of the new politics, however, will be felt by the new generation. Some of their attitudes are certainly congenial to the progressive positions in such areas as interracial and gay marriage, and a certain commitment to greater social justice. Yet they might find they, too, need a little “justice” themselves, since their incomes, adjusted for inflation, are actually lower than those of their counterparts in 2000, or even 1980. They may be better educated than their predecessors, but it’s not quite paying off.

Take, for example, that more millennials are living with their parents than in predecessor generations. Many also are burdened with enormous student debt, which makes moving forward, for example, by starting a business or buying a house, more difficult. Most disturbingly, pessimism about the future is greatest among the youngest millennials, those still in high school.

This decline in prospects – as evidenced by consistently weak income and growth numbers – could, ultimately, reshape politics. Millennials may have different social attitudes than their parents, but that doesn’t mean they reject their parents’ aspirational dream, most notably to buy a house, preferably with some decent space. Although they have been far less able to achieve homeownership, surveys consistently show that most millennials want to own a house, get more space and seem increasingly willing to move to the suburbs, even the exurbs, to get it.

This will no doubt prove a disappointment for the highly influential cadre of generally wealthier, environmentally focused baby boomers, who celebrate millennials being satisfied as apartment renters – for life. Perhaps this is one reason that, in recent surveys, young people have been less likely to identify as “environmentalist” than previous generations.

Similarly, millennials may be very tolerant and welcoming of diversity, but one has to wonder how many – particularly those outside the protected classes – are likely to chafe at a regime that disfavors their own prospects. The fact that white millennials have been trending Republican should be seen by Democrats as something of a warning sign.

Ultimately, the future of American politics will not be determined by those mostly graying legions rallying to Donald Trump. It will be largely forged by young people seeking some way to transcend a weak, and largely unpromising, economy. They will be the ones to decide whether the aspirational model still fits America, or how far they want to embrace a new, more Europeanized version imposed from above.

Joel Kotkin is the R.C. Hobbs Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University in Orange and the executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism (

His most recent book is “The New Class Conflict” (Telos Publishing: 2014).

Dismantling the Corporate State

Monday, August 17, 2015

How Safe Is the Artificial Turf Your Child Plays On? (a Question for all parents of children who will play on the new Miller Creek artificial turf)

How Safe Is the Artificial Turf Your Child Plays On?


Amy Griffin, associate head coach for the women's soccer team at the University of Washington, sits on the bleachers before a game in Portland, Oregon. Griffin, who has coached goalkeepers since the 1980s, is questioning whether chemicals in crumb rubber artificial turf are making goalkeepers sick. HANNAH RAPPLEYE / NBC News

Soccer coach Amy Griffin was in a Seattle hospital visiting a young goalie who was receiving chemotherapy when a nurse said something that made the hair on Griffin's neck stand up.

It was 2009. Two young female goalies Griffin knew had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Griffin, associate head coach for the University of Washington's women's soccer team, had started to visit the women and other athletes in local hospitals, helping them pass the time during chemo with war stories from her three decades of coaching.

That day, the nurse looked down at the woman Griffin was sitting with and said, "Don't tell me you guys are goalkeepers. You're the fourth goalkeeper I've hooked up this week."

Later, the young woman with the chemo needle in her arm would say, "I just have a feeling it has something to do with those black dots."

Artificial turf fields are now everywhere in the United States, from high schools to multi-million-dollar athletic complexes. As any parent or player who has been on them can testify, the tiny black rubber crumbs of which the fields are made -- chunks of old tires -- get everywhere. In players' uniforms, in their hair, in their cleats.

But for goalkeepers, whose bodies are in constant contact with the turf, it can be far worse. In practices and games, they make hundreds of dives, and each plunge sends a black cloud of tire pellets into the air. The granules get into their cuts and scrapes, and into their mouths. Griffin wondered if those crumbs - which have been known to contain carcinogens and chemicals - were making players sick.

"I've coached for 26, 27 years," she said. "My first 15 years, I never heard anything about this. All of a sudden it seems to be a stream of kids."

Since then, Griffin has compiled a list of 38 American soccer players -- 34 of them goalies - who have been diagnosed with cancer. At least a dozen played in Washington, but the geographic spread is nationwide. Blood cancers like lymphoma and leukemia dominate the list.

No research has linked cancer to artificial turf. Griffin collected names through personal experience with sick players, and acknowledges that her list is not a scientific data set. But it's enough to make her ask whether crumb rubber artificial turf, a product that has been rolled out in tens of thousands of parks, playgrounds, schools and stadiums in the U.S., is safe for the athletes and kids who play on it. Others across the country are raising similar questions, arguing that the now-ubiquitous material, made out of synthetic fibers and scrap tire -- which can contain benzene, carbon black and lead, among other substances -- has not been adequately tested. Few studies have measured the risk of ingesting crumb rubber orally, for example.

Casey Sullivan, left, plays soccer at home with his daughters Raegan, 2, and Taylor, 4, in Gig Harbor, Wash. Sullivan, a former goalkeeper, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin's Lymphoma when he was 21 years old. He and his wife, Caitlin, 27, right, wonder whether his time spent on crumb rubber artificial turf exposed him to harmful chemicals. Both parents say they won't allow their daughters to play on the surface. HANNAH RAPPLEYE / NBC News

NBC's own extensive investigation, which included a review of the relevant studies and interviews with scientists and industry professionals, was unable to find any agreement over whether crumb turf had ill effects on young athletes, or even whether the product had been sufficiently tested.

The Synthetic Turf Council, an industry group, says that the evidence collected so far by scientists and state and federal agencies proves that artificial turf is safe.

"We've got 14 studies on our website that says we can find no negative health effects," said Dr. Davis Lee, a Turf Council board member. While those studies aren't "absolutely conclusive," he added, "There's certainly a preponderance of evidence to this point that says, in fact, it is safe."

Environmental advocates want the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission to take a closer look. While both the CPSC and the EPA performed studies over five years ago, both agencies recently backtracked on their assurances the material was safe, calling their studies "limited." But while the EPA told NBC News in a statement that "more testing needs to be done," the agency also said it considered artificial turf to be a "state and local decision," and would not be commissioning further research.

Annika Dybevik, 18, in her hospital bed being visited by coach Amy Griffin. Courtesy Amy Griffin

"There's a host of concerns that are being raised," said Jeff Ruch, executive director of PEER, an environmental watchdog group. PEER has lodged complaints against both agencies. "None have risen to the level of regulatory interest."

The EPA refused multiple requests from NBC News for an interview, and declined to expand on their statement that "more testing needs to be done."

From 'Chemgrass' to crumb rubber

Invented in 1964 by Monsanto, the first iterations of artificial turf were little more than synthetic 'grass' laid on top of concrete. First called "ChemGrass," the product became famous as "AstroTurf" after it was installed in Houston's Astrodome in 1966. Some athletes, however, complained that the thin, synthetic surface made for hard landings.

By the early 2000s, a better form of artificial turf had emerged. Called styrene butadiene rubber, or "crumb rubber," the new turf contained tiny black crumbs made from pulverized car tires, poured in between the fake grass blades. The rubber infill gave the field more bounce, cushioned the impact for athletes, and helped prevent serious injuries like concussions.

Since then, the material has become increasingly popular. Municipalities across the country have floated multi-million-dollar bonds to pay for new fields. Local leaders, some facility managers and companies say that turf costs less than natural grass to maintain, and can withstand heavy use year-round."THERE ARE BENEFITS HERE. THE POTENTIAL RISK, AS WE KNOW IT TODAY, IS EXTREMELY LOW."

Today, according to figures from the Synthetic Turf Council, more than 11,000 synthetic turf sports fields are in use in the U.S. Most of them are crumb rubber. Crumb rubber infill is also used in children's playgrounds across the country.

Crumb rubber is an "environmental success story," said Dan Zielinski, spokesperson for the Rubber Manufacturers Association.

Not only have turf fields diverted millions of tires from landfills, said Zielinski, but they don't require fertilizer or pesticides, and can save municipalities hundreds of thousands of gallons of water each year.

"There are benefits here," Zielinski said. "The potential risk, as we know it today, is extremely low."

'Turf Bugs'

Jordan Swarthout, 22, started playing soccer when she was 4. She became a goalie at 9, already addicted to the "adrenaline rush" that comes each time the ball hurtles toward the net.

By 11, Swarthout, who grew up in Sumner, Washington, about 45 minutes south of Seattle, was playing almost entirely on crumb rubber turf.

When she and her team asked what was in the turf, "old tires" was the best answer she got. "We always wondered what was underneath it," she said. "What we couldn't see."

But the smell that hangs over crumb rubber fields - the scent of tires baking in the sun -- became as familiar to Swarthout as her endless goalie drills.

She even got used to the "turf bugs," as she and her teammates called them.

During high school, she played on multiple teams at once, with two-hour practices five days a week, and games at least twice a week. Every day, she tried to clean the black rubber pellets, the "turf bugs," out of the abrasions and burns she suffered as a goalkeeper on turf. Every day, to the chagrin of her mother, she shook them from her clothes and cleats onto the laundry room floor. She brushed them out of her hair, and spit them out of her mouth.

A soccer player holds a pile of crumb rubber infill, collected from an artificial turf field. Athletes and parents across the country are concerned about chemicals and metals in the crumb rubber, which is made out of pulverized tire. HANNAH RAPPLEYE / NBC News

"The little black beads," she said. "In the games and practices they'd get in my eyes, they'd get in my mouth, they'd get in my nose. My mom would get so mad at me because I'd go to the bathroom to take a shower, and the turf bugs would be everywhere."

Jordan's mother, Suzie Swarthout, said her daughter probably swallowed hundreds of tire crumbs a year.

Yet neither Jordan nor Suzie worried much about it. "We all had the confidence that the proper steps had been taken, the research had been done, that it had been proved to be safe," said Suzie.

"We all know how bad tires are," said Jordan. "You don't eat tires. Yet we were. You'd get it in your mouth and you wouldn't think about it."

In 2013, after more than a year of mysterious thyroid problems, a biopsy determined that the star athlete had stage three Hodgkin lymphoma.

It was one night this past May, months after doctors declared her daughter to be in remission, when Suzie Swarthout saw Amy Griffin's story on a local news broadcast.

Suzanne Swarthout, 52, sits with her daughter Jordan Swarthout, 22, in Bonney Lake, Wash. Both Jordan, in remission from Hodgkin's Lymphoma since June 2013, and her mother wonder whether the artificial turf she played on as a goalkeeper exposed her to dangerous chemicals. HANNAH RAPPLEYE / NBC News

"I immediately after the newscast emailed [Amy] and said, "You could add another subject to your statistics,'" recalled Suzie.

Griffin said that since she first started collecting names of goalies with cancer and other diseases, she's had people like the Swarthouts contact her, and her list has grown.

Griffin and the Swarthouts said that they know it's nearly impossible to figure out the origin of a disease like cancer, and that young people are exposed to hundreds of carcinogens.

But, said Jordan Swarthout, "If we have it available to us to research this, why shouldn't we? Why can't we?"

'Every tire is different'

One of the problems with researching the potential health hazards of crumb rubber fields is the sheer variety of materials used in the product.

Tens of thousands of different tires from different brands may be used in one field. According to the EPA, mercury, lead, benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and arsenic, among several other chemicals, heavy metals, and carcinogens, have been found in tires.

Darren Gill, vice president of marketing for FieldTurf, a prominent turf company, said that those ingredients might worry consumers, but the manufacturing process ensures that their product is safe.

"If you look at the ingredients that go into a car tire, some people take those ingredients and turn them into health concerns," Gill said. "But after the vulcanization process, those ingredients are inert."

Industry leaders say while they encourage additional research, studies have shown that the substances found in crumb rubber are not at levels high enough to be at risk to children or athletes.

"There are certainly chemicals in small amounts [in turf] as in many other things," said Lee, of the Synthetic Turf Council. "You could evaluate most any material out there and you're going to find at some level, some chemical that might cause concern."

"The levels as they exist in tires, ground up tires, are very, very low," he added. "The EPA has not found adverse health effect. Several state organizations have investigated it quite thoroughly."

Existing research has attempted to measure the risk of exposure to harmful chemicals through the inhalation of gasses and particulate matter, as well as skin contact.

Studies have found that crumb rubber fields emit gases that can be inhaled. Turf fields can become very hot -- 10 to 15 degrees hotter than the ambient temperature - increasing the chances that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and chemicals can "off-gas," or leach into the air.
Jordan Swarthout, 21, left, with boyfriend James Kramer during her chemotherapy treatment. Courtesy Jordan Swarthout

One study performed by the state of Connecticut measured the concentrations of VOCs and chemicals in the air over fields. In addition to VOCs such as benzene and methylene chloride, researchers identified various polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

The report concluded that "the use of outdoor and indoor artificial turf fields is not associated with elevated health risks," but that more research was needed to better understand chemical exposures on outdoor fields during hot weekends and in indoor facilities, which showed higher levels of chemicals in the air.

Other studies have looked at whether run-off from crumb rubber turf is harmful to aquatic life, or whether the rate of injury on turf is lower than on natural grass.

Few studies have looked at the issues unique to goalkeepers - whether ingesting the particles by mouth or absorbing them into the body through cuts and scrapes is dangerous.

While many studies conclude that the fields studied do not present acute health risks, they often add the caveat that more research should be conducted.
One, published in 2013 in the scientific journal Chemospheres, which analyzed rubber mulch and rubber mats, concluded that, "Uses of recycled rubber tires, especially those targeting play areas and other facilities for children, should be a matter of regulatory concern."
A 2006 Norwegian study evaluated inhalation, ingestion and skin exposure to crumb rubber in indoor fields. Researchers identified VOCs such as xylene, acetone and styrene, in the air above the fields. The study determined that inhalation of such compounds would not cause "acute harmful effects" to health, but that it was "not possible…to carry out a complete health risk assessment." Researchers also concluded that oral exposure to artificial turf would not cause increased health risk.
Another 2013 study attempted to measure ingestion, inhalation and dermal exposure risk to users, and determined that the fields presented little risk. But researchers identified lead in the turf tested, including a "large concentration" of lead and chromium in one sample. "As the turf material degrades from weathering the lead could be released, potentially exposing young children," the report states.

According to Dr. Joel Forman, associate professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at New York's Mt. Sinai Hospital, in all these studies, data gaps make it difficult to draw firm conclusions.

"None of [the studies] are long term, they rarely involve very young children and they only look for concentrations of chemicals and compare it to some sort of standard for what's considered acceptable," said Dr. Forman. "That doesn't really take into account subclinical effects, long-term effects, the developing brain and developing kids."

Forman said that it is known that some of the compounds found in tires, "even in chronic lower exposures" can be associated with subtle neurodevelopmental issues in children. "Those are always suspect," he said.

"If you never study anything," said Dr. Forman, "you can always say, 'Well there's no evidence that's a problem,' but that's because you haven't looked. To look is hard."

"I would like to see some more research," he concluded.

'Not an Issue'

It is unlikely, however, that further research will be conducted by federal agencies.

In 2008, tests performed by New Jersey found lead on three artificial turf fields. The results spurred media coverage and concern across the country.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, the federal agency in charge of regulating consumer products, tested turf samples. While the tests detected lead in the synthetic grass blades, the agency announced that turf was safe to play on.

That same year, an official from a regional EPA office wrote to three agency offices in D.C., including the Office of Children's Health Protection, and recommended that the EPA undertake extensive testing, according to documents obtained by the watchdog group PEER. "My staff has reviewed the published research on the safety of tire crumb," wrote the official, "and has found information suggesting that children's chronic, repeated exposure to tire crumb could present health hazards. However, sufficient data to quantify toxicological risks from tire crumb exposure are not available."

Shortly after, the EPA tested samples from two artificial turf fields and one playground. The concentrations of VOCs and other chemicals researchers found presented a "low level of concern," the agency reported, but it declared that due to the "very limited nature" of the study and the diversity of crumb material, it was "not possible to reach any more comprehensive conclusions without the consideration of additional data."

While the industry cites both studies as evidence that rubber crumb is safe, in response to complaints filed by PEER, both the CPSC and the EPA declared last year that their studies were limited in scope. In its press release, the CPSC wrote, "The exposure assessment did not include chemicals or other toxic metals, beyond lead."

Since its initial tests, according to the CPSC, the agency has worked with the industry to develop voluntary standards for lead content.

The EPA refused repeated requests from NBC News for an interview. It said in a statement that the agency "does not believe that the field monitoring data collected provides evidence of an elevated health risk resulting from the use of recycled tire crumb in playgrounds or in synthetic turf athletic fields."

"The agency believes that more testing needs to be done," said the agency in a separate statement, "but, currently, the decision to use tire crumb remains a state and local decision."

When NBC News first contacted the EPA in 2013, Enesta Jones, an agency spokesperson said that in 2010, after a meeting with state and federal officials, "EPA determined that this is not an issue."

The agency does not have plans to conduct further studies, but is currently working on a "summary" of available research.

New Controversy

Others across the country say their questions about crumb rubber turf remain unanswered.

Some cities have elected to scrap crumb rubber turf in favor of alternative infill. The New York City Parks Department stopped installing crumb rubber turf in 2008 followed the next year by the Los Angeles Unified School District.

In Maryland, a group called the Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition has been organizing against a bill that would allocate state funds to build artificial turf fields. The group has also been trying to advance legislation that would require warning signs to be placed around artificial turf fields.

For at least four years, citizens and advocacy groups concerned about crumb rubber turf have been fighting against the installation of artificial fields in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

Early this year, a judge dismissed a suit against the city that alleged the environmental impact report conducted by the city violated California law by failing to disclose the risks associated with turf. The case is currently being appealed. Two turf-related propositions are on the ballot for the city's upcoming elections. One would bar the city from installing the fields in Golden Gate Park, and the other would give wider latitude to the city's Parks and Recreation department to install similar projects.

Those concerned about turf suggest using alternative in-fill for artificial fields, such as coconut fiber and cork, or prohibiting toddlers or other young children from using fields and playgrounds with crumb rubber.

An environmental group called the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) ledlitigation against several artificial turf companies in California for violations of Proposition 65, a state law that prohibits companies from knowingly exposing consumers to specific chemicals and heavy metals, such as lead, without clear warning. In a series of settlements, the companies agreed to reduce the amount of lead in their products sold in California and agreed to replace fields under certain conditions.

Caroline Cox, research director for CEH, said that while studies haven't definitively established that crumb rubber turf is harmful, the surface contains chemicals known to be hazardous.

"We know they're there," said Cox. "The point is, let's go with better alternatives instead of spending years and millions of dollars establishing harm. If there's a better way to do this, let's just do it."

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"Turf fields come with a number of real risks and a number of real benefits," said Dr. Joel Forman. "And every community … has to kind of weigh the different risks and benefits."

Looking for answers

When Amy Griffin first started using turf -- her team practices on it throughout the year -- she thought it was a "win-win."

Now, her team collects paper cups of crumb rubber on each field they play on, handing them off to her so she can ship the granules to a lab to be tested.

"I'm looking for answers, because I'm not smart enough to come up with them on my own," Griffin said. "I would love someone to say, 'We've done some tests and we've covered all of our bases. … And yes, it's safe.' That would be awesome. … I would love to be proved wrong."

School replaces artificial turf over cancer concerns

School replaces artificial turf over cancer concerns

Health concerns prompted Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, Washington, to make a last minute change to its brand new football field set to open next week, CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO reports.

It heard about worries nationwide that a component called crumb rubber, found in most artificial turfs, may pose a health risk.

"We were days away from the infill process," Principal Mike Prato told KIRO reporter David Ham. "We said regardless, stop everything."

The crumb rubber is made up of ground tires that is used as infill in the fake grass on the field. It helps to absorb shock, but can also end up in odd places.

"Every once in a while you'll get a rogue little bead in your eye or something," said Kennedy football player Ben Josie.

"We are a family and we're going to make sure we get them the best possible field and the safest possible field that they could get us and they did," said football coach Bob Bourgette.

Prato said administrators heard news reports where University of Washington assistant soccer coach Amy Griffin voiced her concerns on the issue.

She's compiled a list of at least 50 soccer players nationwide that have cancer and think there may be a link between the crumb rubber and athletes getting ill -- although no scientific studies have confirmed a connection.

"I believe that there are a lot of bad things in crumb rubber," said Griffin.
She added, "it's more than my gut, it's what I read and toxicologists and researchers and have heard about the story and have told me that I'm not wrong."

Prato wrote to parents about the situation saying, "We appreciate the feedback and concerns we have heard from some of you as we were just days away from installing crumb rubber fill - the final step of the installation process on our own field. Because the news is still breaking, and it will inevitably take some time for all the scientific testing to be completed and reviewed, we have decided to make a bold move as a school to prevent any unnecessary risk to our student athletes. We are replacing the black rubber fill with a cutting edge product called Nike Grind - which is simply ground up tennis shoe soles provided by the Nike Corporation."

The memo went on to note that "Kennedy Catholic's field will be one of only a few nationwide to feature this recycled material and the only known high school in Washington."

The cost of swapping out the crumb rubber for the Nike Grind material will cost the school an extra $20,000 or more. The new stadium already cost about $2.4 million to build.

"My pocketbook is going to be a little bit less robust but it's the safety of the kids that's going to be a piece of mind for me," said Prato. "It's the right thing to do."
"I think it's a big peace of mind that people are doing a good thing and are safe," said Griffin.