Monday, July 28, 2014
Grey to Green: Creating "Cool" Cities Symposium Wrap-Up
Dallas, TX (July 21, 2014) — The cities where we live are heating up, but trees and green infrastructure can help them stay cool. In late May, the Texas Trees Foundation hosted a regional conference, Grey to Green: Creating "Cool" Cities. They've just released a wrap-up report from the symposium which featured keynote speaker Dr. Brian Stone, an expert on urban environmental planning at the Georgia Tech.
What makes a cool city? Green infrastructure, sustainable design, art, music, trails, walkability, greenways, complete streets, parks, open space, and really cool people.
Over 100 people gathered at the Dallas Museum of Art to hear keynote speaker Dr. Brian Stone, Jr., associate professor in the School of City and Regional Planning at the Georgia Institute of Technology and author of The City and the Coming Climate: Climate Change in the Places We Live.
Other speakers included David Hitchcock of the Houston Area Research Center, Dr. Robert Haley with UT Southwestern Medical Center, and Matt Grubisich, and urban forester with Texas Trees Foundation. All addressed the urgent need to manage urban heat and the role of trees and green infrastructure.
Managing urban heat in an increasingly hot and dry climate, such as Texas, is necessary to protect public health, infrastructure, the economy and quality of life. This makes trees and green infrastructure a priority.
The symposium report, "Grey to Green: Creating Cool Cities," is available online for download at http://actrees.org/files/Events/TXTreesUrbanHeatReport.pdf.
Friday, July 25, 2014
"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. . . . I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who are not even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you and have a lot more fun while doing it. . . .
Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. "
—Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, p. 28
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
"Housing First" Helps Keep Ex-Inmates Off the Streets (and Out of Prison)
// Next City Daily
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Many of the roughly 10,000 inmates who exit U.S. prisons each week following incarceration face an immediate critical question: Where will I live? While precise numbers are hard to come by, research suggests that, on average, about 10 percent of parolees are homeless immediately following their release. In large urban areas, and among those addicted to drugs, the number is even higher — exceeding 30 percent.
- New Law Attempts to Widen Employment Opportunities for Philadelphia's Ex-Offenders
- I Was Shot in New Orleans, But I'm Not Angry at My Shooter
- As Feds Move to Grant Clemency to Drug Offenders, Cities Must Take Steps To Welcome Residents Home
- Colorado's New Prison-Turned-Homeless Facility Costs Less Than Leaving People In the Street
"Without a safe and stable place to live where they can focus on improving themselves and securing their future, all of their energy is focused on the immediate need to survive the streets," says Faith Lutze, criminal justice professor at Washington State University. "Being homeless makes it hard to move forward or to find the social support from others necessary to be successful."
Although education, employment, and treatment for drug and mental health issues all play a role in successful reintegration, these factors have little hope in the absence of stable housing. Yet, few leaving prison have the three months' rent typically required to get an apartment. Even if they did, landlords are given wide latitude in denying leases to people with a criminal record in many states. Further, policies enacted under the Clinton administration continue to deny public housing benefits to thousands of convicted felons — the majority of whom were rounded up for non-violent offenses during the decades-long War on Drugs. Some are barred for life from ever receiving federal housing support.
As a result, tens of thousands of inmates a year trade life in a cell for life on the street. According to Lutze, with each passing day, the likelihood that these people will reoffend or abscond on their parole increases considerably.
Lutze and a team of researchers recently completed a comprehensive assessment of a Washington State program that aims to reduce recidivism by providing high-risk offenders with 12 months of housing support when they are released from prison.
The study tracked 208 participants in three counties and found statistically significant reductions in new offenses and readmission to prison. It also found lower levels of parole revocations among participants.
While housing is the immediate goal of the program, the Re-Entry Housing Pilot Program (RHPP) operates in concert with the Department of Corrections' Community Justice Centers to provide a range of reentry support services.
Participants live in heavily subsidized apartments, often with roommates, and are required to engage in treatment, secure employment and work toward self-sustainability.
Lutze says stable housing not only reduces violations of public order laws related to living and working on the street, but it increases exposure to pro-social networks and provides a sense of safety and well-being conducive to participating in treatment and other services.
That not only improves community safety, she says, but it "reduces the economic and human costs of ex-offenders cycling through our jails and prisons just because they do not have a safe place to live."
While this seems like a common sense strategy, programs that place housing at the forefront of prisoner reentry are actually relatively scarce in the U.S., and have historically been driven by a handful of pioneering non-profits.
Since the 1990s, the New York-based Fortune Society has graduated hundreds of ex-offenders from its transitional housing facility in West Harlem, known as "The Castle." The program has been so successful — with recidivism rates as low as one percent — that the group received city support to open a second facility, Castle Gardens, in 2010. A similar program run by the Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco, offers housing and support services to drug addicts, many of them ex-offenders, in six cities.
For all their success, access to these programs is limited, and demand regularly exceeds supply. But governments are starting to catch on.
As part of its Returning Home Initiative, New York's Corporation for Supportive Housing joined with the Department of Corrections and several city agencies to launch the Frequent User Service Enhancement (FUSE) program, which provides apartments to roughly 200 homeless people who had both four jail and four shelter stays over the previous five years.
By limiting trips to jails and shelters, the program generated savings of $15,000 per individual according to a two-year evaluation of the program released in March.
The program is now being replicated in nearly a dozen other cities, including Washington D.C. and Chicago, with a number of other cities in the planning stages.
If its past performance is any metric, in the coming years, FUSE is likely to help thousands of inmates across the country establish roots in the community, stay off the street and, ultimately, keep from going back to prison.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Whirlpool seeks ban on class-action suits tied to Energy Star program.
The New York Times (7/21, Wald, Subscription Publication, 9.79M) reports that Whirlpool, a leading manufacturer of home appliances, is lobbying Congress to ban consumer lawsuits that claim its "Energy Star" labeled products fail to deliver promised energy efficiency. The proposed bill comes after government testing "showed that scores of consumer products carrying the Energy Star label did not deserve the listing." The Times adds that Whirlpool "is threatening to withdraw from Energy Star, an Environmental Protection Agency program, unless it gets its way," but notes that and Energy Star distinction may boost a product's desirability, adding that "an E.P.A. survey found that the Energy Star logo was influential among 91 percent of consumers." The bill, introduced by Rep. Robert Latta (R-OH), whose district is "home to several Whirlpool factories," would "prohibit class-action lawsuits if the E.P.A. came up with a remedy, like reimbursing consumers, for products that did not live up to their billing." The Times reports that Shannon Baker-Branstetter of Consumers Union, the organization that publishes Consumer Reports, disagreed. "E.P.A. and D.O.E. can't be out there all the time," she said. "Consumers need that backstop of the courts to get redress." The Times also quoted a spokeswoman for the American Association for Justice, who said, "By eliminating consumers' access to the civil justice system, corporations will not be held accountable in court for swindling customers."
Friday, July 18, 2014
Over in Helsinki, Finland, the local government has announced a bold transportation venture that every Sightline employee can cheer. By 2025, the government aims to integrate shared and public transit into a single network, and the end goal would be to make car-ownership wholly unnecessary.