Posts tagged with "Politics":

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Former oil lobbyist confirmed as new Secretary of the Interior

The United States Senate voted 56-41 this week to confirm former fossil fuel lobbyist David Bernhardt as the new Secretary of the Interior. Bernhardt previously served as the deputy to former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who resigned in late 2018 amid a firestorm of ethics scandals.

With the confirmation vote, Bernhardt assumes stewardship of over 500 million acres of federally-owned lands across the country. The New York Times reported that due to his central role in crafting policy initiatives while working as Deputy Secretary, Bernhardt’s influence is already being felt across the country. Changes at the Department of Interior during the first two years of the Trump administration include shrinking several national monuments that had been expanded under President Barack Obama, including the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, as well as allowing for oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the National Petroleum Reserve, the nation’s largest pristine landscape. While working under the former Interior Secretary, Bernhardt also pushed for increased oil exploration activities off the nation’s coasts. A plan for how and where to develop additional fossil fuel resources off the nation’s coasts is due next year. Bernhardt takes over at a pivotal time for the Department of Interior, which runs the Bureau of Land Management as well as the National Parks Service (NPS). According to the National Parks Conservation Association, the NPS is suffering from over $11 billion in deferred maintenance costs, a nasty backlog that was fully on display during the 2019 government shutdown, when raw sewage and trash piled up across many national parks. According to the group, 18 percent of the maintenance backlog amount relates to the NPS’s building stock, which is in serious disrepair. NPS roads and water treatment facilities are also awaiting much-needed upgrades. Bernhardt himself has been plagued by ethics investigations and questions regarding his ties to former lobbying clients, but the concerns were not enough to halt his confirmation. Prior to his role in the Trump administration, Bernhardt served as Solicitor of the Department of Interior for President George W. Bush.
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Storefront for Art and Architecture's latest show spotlights the infrastructure of tyranny

At what point do urban interventions designed to protect the public shift to stifling their freedoms? How do hostile urban interventions enable repressive regimes to control the public? A new show at the Storefront for Art and Architecture and an accompanying walking tour through Lower Manhattan look to put the physical artifacts of tyranny on display. From March 28 through May 4, State of Tyranny will expand on Theo Deutinger’s book, Handbook of Tyranny. The exhibition will explore the design of tyranny through seven categories, from walls and surveillance cameras, to hostile architecture meant to dissuade public gatherings, to less tangible means of controlling the flow of people and information, such as passports. The shaping of public gathering spaces by big government or well-moneyed corporate interests to head off public protests and dissent is a well-known tactic that State of Tyranny will examine by placing physical artifacts front and center. Videos and detailed descriptions of these objects, which seek to directly or indirectly control human behavior, will supplement and add further context to these items. The Tyranny Trail, a walking tour hosted by artists and activists, will take visitors from the Storefront’s gallery at 97 Kenmare Street all the way down to the World Trade Center Memorial. Every tour will highlight both obvious and subtle methods of control, from concrete barriers to spiked benches meant to prevent the homeless from sleeping on them. The Tyranny Trail serves to remind that many design choices nefariously seek to influence the behavior of the public. A map of the trail will also be posted at the Storefront so that visitors can explore the Tyranny Trail at their convenience.

Architecture of Power: Short Story Contest

You are invited to the Architecture of Power Short Story Contest. $500 Grand Prize

Welcome to 2019; polarizing political views are an ever-present reality and it doesn't seem to be improving. Whether you live in the US or on the other side of the globe our environments are actors in the theater of influence. What happens when design becomes part of the equation? Write a short story that puts into narrative how architecture affects the lives of people in power and those on the fringes of society.  Standard: $24.99 55+ and Active-duty Military: $19.99 Student: $14.99 Grand Prize: $500 + Bonus Deadline: February 28th 11:59PM PST Winner awarded: March 31st
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Miami approved David Beckham's soccer stadium site in ballot vote

In yesterday’s midterm elections, Miami residents voted to approve a referendum that brings David Beckham’s Freedom Park soccer complex one step closer to fruition after a five-year battle. According to The Miami Herald, the referendum gets rid of competitive bidding for the property where Beckham and his partners now want to build, a 131-acre site near Miami International Airport currently home to the city-owned Melreese golf course. On the ballot, voters were asked whether or not the local government would be allowed to change bidding laws within the city charter to secure a no-bid deal at the massive public green space. About 60 percent of voters endorsed the measure, solidifying the chances that the $1 billion project, designed by Arquitectonica, will actually get built. The city can now begin to negotiate a 99-year-lease for a minimum of $3.5 million per year with Beckham’s Miami Freedom Park LLC, a group jointly-owned by Sprint chief executive Marcelo Claure, and business brothers Jorge and Jose Mas. The developers plan to use 73 acres to build a 25,000-seat stadium for Miami’s future Major League Soccer team, Inter Miami CF, as well as 750 hotel rooms, and at least one million square feet of office, retail, and commercial space. The referendum also calls for Beckham’s group to financially back a 58-acre public park near the complex, which will cost about $20 million to construct. The Miami Herald reported that critics of the decision to build the mega-project are defending the value of the golf club’s youth and mentoring programs. Concern is also rising over the toxic dirt that sits underneath the parkland, which was contaminated by an old municipal incinerator. The city will likely have to approve a serious land remediation plan before moving forward with negotiating final lease terms. Now that voters are behind the goal to build at Melreese, Beckham’s team will have to find a new vision for the nine-acre plot of land it owns in Overtown, Miami, where the soccer star previously wanted to develop a stadium designed by Populous.
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Senator Gillibrand and her Republican challenger spar over Syracuse's I-81

The fight to bring down an antiquated elevated highway in Syracuse, New York, is among the controversial issues being highlighted in the race for one of the state’s  U.S. Senate seats. On Monday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., told The Post-Standard she supports the effort to replace a portion of Interstate 81 with a street-level grid—a position she’s never spoken out on before. “Given where the stakeholders are—and given what I have heard from the community in the last several years,” she said, “ I really think the community grid is the better approach to not only revitalization, but to support all members of our community.” For years, higher-level politicians have shied away from taking a stance on the decade-long debate to fix one of Syracuse’s greatest transportation issues. The 1.4-mile highway viaduct cuts through the heart of the city’s downtown, segregating the community physically and economically. As of last year, it reached the end of its functional lifespan and is no longer safe for the thousands of cars that traverse it each day. Syracuse-based community groups, university leaders, and local politicians have spoken out about the dire need to address I-81. Some have come out in favor of any of the three proposed options—an underground tunnel, street grid, or rebuilt overpass—while some have stayed quiet. So far, Gillibrand is the most influential person to state her opinion. Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Representative John Katko, R-Camillus, have declined to comment. “I disagree with the tunnel folks because I think you’re just going to have a bypass of downtown,” Gillibrand told The Post-Standard. “Unfortunately, when you don’t invest in a downtown long-term, your city becomes less attractive. If you create thoroughfares and routes to skip downtown, what you get is boarded up storefront and you get a hollowing out of cities.” It’s no coincidence Gillibrand is speaking out just weeks away from the Tuesday, November 6, election for her U.S. Senate seat. Her Republic challenger, Chele Farley, criticized her decision to pick a proposal.  “I think it’s a little offensive for me to make a decision for Syracuse,” Farley said in a reactionary statement. “Let Syracuse decide, but then it’s my job to get the money and bring it back so the project could get funded quickly and it could happen.” Of all three options, the underground tunnel could prove the most expensive at $3.1 billion—another reason why Gillibrand doesn’t back it. A new elevated highway would be around $1.7 billion, while a boulevard, or community grid, would cost $1.3 billion. Most of the funds will be supplied through the federal government via President Trump’s recent infrastructure rule that places priority on interstate highway projects. But some worry Syracuse’s failure to unite on a decision will prevent the city from getting the money it needs on time. Gillibrand and Farley will face off in a televised debate this Thursday at 1:30 p.m. on WABC-TV. Whoever wins the Senate seat will take on the task of pushing the project forward based on the community’s final decision. The New York State Department of Transportation is now working on a new environmental impact study surveying the three options. It’s set to be published in January when a public commentary period will open.
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Tonight! Join AN's Matt Shaw in exploring energy, politics, and architecture in New York

Tonight, Monday, November 9, at New York's AIANY/Center for Architecture, AN Senior Editor Matt Shaw will be moderating a book talk between Janette Kim and Erik Carver, the authors of The Underdome Guide to Energy Reform, a new book released by Princeton Architectural Press. Stop by at 6:00p.m. tonight for light refreshments and beautiful drawings alongside a discussion about the future of ecologically minded architecture and urbanism. The Underdome Guide to Energy Reform is equal parts architect's handbook and toolbox for effecting environmental change with the built environment. The book maps different approaches to energy management and performance to examine their implications for collective life. Underdome catalogs a spectrum of positions argued for by a diverse cast including economists, environmentalists, community advocates, political scientists, and designers. In turn, it highlights in architecture questions of professional agency, the contemporary city, and collective priorities in the face of uncertain energy futures. Check it out on our events page here.
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"Jock tax" could fund new stadiums for Milwaukee Bucks; Populous, HNTB, Eppstein Uhen shortlisted to design

Wisconsin's NBA team, the Milwaukee Bucks, are getting a new stadium designed either by Populous, HNTB, or Eppstein Uhen, owners announced last week. Populous is an MVP of sorts in the world of stadium design, with the 2012 London Olympic Stadium to its name. Kansas City's HNTB designed the San Francisco 49ers' new stadium. Local firm Eppstein Uhen is known around Milwaukee for their redesign of Miller Park, among other projects. Basketball fans could attend games in the new stadium as soon as fall 2017 if all goes according to plan. But the project needs money, potentially from a controversial proposal to sell $220 million in state bonds still in limbo. Bucks owners have said they will provide at least $150 million, while former owner and former Sen. Herb Kohl has pledged $100 million. But Wisconsin Governor and likely Republican presidential contender Scott Walker has faced opposition from both sides of the aisle for his proposal to finance the private construction project in part with public funds. Liberals point out his willingness to slash state funding for higher education, social services, and renewable energy programs belies his poor priorities, while the conservative group Americans for Prosperity expressed worries about the Bucks bond deal's risk to taxpayers. The new stadium, intended to prevent the Bucks from leaving Milwaukee when their contract runs out in 2017, is estimated to cost $450 million to $500 million. If the legislature approves Walker's proposal, city and county financing is likely to make up the remaining money. Walker said if the Bucks leave the state, they'd take with them millions per year in income tax collections alone, reported ESPN:
Under what Walker called a "first-of-its-kind" plan, the more than $6.5 million that's collected from taxes on the salaries of the Bucks and visiting NBA players would continue to go to the state's general fund. Walker said that figure is expected to grow due to rising salaries and revenue from the NBA's TV contracts, so any money above $6.5 million would be used to pay off the bond by 2046.
Representatives for the team have said they hope to have a plan for a new home in place within the next month. Should the project go forward (with funding from state bonds or without), the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's critic Mary Louise Schumacher calls for thoughtful design: "Nothing will define the project — and its impact on Milwaukee — like the design."
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Campaign Seeks to Ease New York's Traffic, Build Transit With New Tolling Structure

Manhattan has a traffic problem. But, as of now, New York City has only taken marginal steps to fix it. To some, charging tolls on certain bridges and tunnels leading to the island, but not on others is uneven or unfair. To former New York traffic commissioner, “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz, however, it’s “a cockamamie system of charging people that makes absolutely no sense.” And today, Schwartz and Move NY are launching a campaign against that “cockamamie system” as they call for new strategies to ease congestion. Ahead of today's event, The Atlantic Cities is out with a great profile on the troubled past, and uncertain future, of passing congesting pricing in New York City. After former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pricing plan failed in 2008, it’s not clear if de Blasio will even take-up the fight. Considering the current way the city handles traffic, though, it’s blatantly clear that something has to be done. “[New York’s] current system of handling commuter traffic is completely busted,” wrote The Atlantic’s Eric Jaffe. “Case in point: the four city-owned bridges over the East River are free, but the two MTA-owned tunnels beside them cost commuters $15 cash round trip, leading to rampant ‘bridge shopping.’” The plan advocated by Schwartz and Move NY would change that. They call for lowering fees on already expensive bridges and tunnels, and raising—or adding—fees on others. The plan could hypothetically pay huge dividends for the city: a 20 percent improvement in traffic flow, easier commutes into and around Manhattan, and up to $1.5 billion a year in revenue. Despite its benefits, congestion pricing will still be a tough sell. Jaffe noted that Schwartz isn’t even calling his plan “congestion pricing.” Whatever it's called, the plan will likely face strong opposition from drivers who are currently getting a free pass on their commute. Convincing them that new fees are worth it won't be an easy sell. That's why Schwartz and Move NY are setting out on the age-old “listening tour.” The main focus of the tour is to hear from New Yorkers about where they want to see all that additional revenue spent. Most of the money is reportedly planned to go toward “maintaining current service and expanding into transit deserts.” This type of long-term investment would be necessary to provide transportation alternatives to those who could be priced off bridges and tunnels. In the short-term, though, this won't quell the backlash because these projects would take years to complete. Still, Schwartz and his team say this type of investment is vital to New York's long-term viability and the revenue raised from congestion pricing could help catalyze new transit projects. While this type of plan is widely regarded as the best way to ease congestion, its impact on low-income individuals cannot be overlooked; those with the smallest voice will most profoundly feel its effects. “Pricing a low-income driver off the road from a 40-minute car commute might be a win for traffic; but it’s a loss for society if that person now rides two hours to work,” wrote Jaffe.
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On View> "Colombia: Transformed / Architecture = Politics" at the Center for Architecture

Colombia: Transformed/Architecture=Politics Center for Architecture 536 Laguardia Place New York, NY Through October 26 Colombia: Transformed/Architecture=Politics, on view at the Center for Architecture through October 26, examines 11 recently built, socially-mindful developments designed by six leaders in contemporary Colombian architecture: Daniel Bonilla and Giancarlo Mazzanti from Bogotá, and Felipe Mesa, Juan Manuel Pelaez, Felipe Uribe and Orlando Garcia from Medellín. The projects in the show embody the change occurring in Latin America today and reveal themes of social inclusion in addition to inventive architectural forms and spaces. They include daycare centers, schools, a sport complex, and library, among others. Through photographs, slides, drawings, models, and film footage, the works commemorate how the public uses these projects and how lifestyles have been improved and uplifted as a result. The exhibition was curated by Vladimir Belogolovsky, founder of the New York City–based Intercontinental Curatorial Project, and Fernando Villa, associate principal of Magnusson Architecture & Planning.  
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Carpooling with Corporations: Exactly Who Is in the Passenger Seat?

Carpool lanes typically are meant to reduce congestion, not make political statements, but one Bay Area HOV lane finds itself at the center of a national controversy. NBC News reported that Jonathan Frieman has been trying to get pulled over for more than a decade, and now that he's been slapped with a $481 minimum fine for driving alone, he's hoping to challenge his case in court. The twist? Frieman claims he did have another person riding with him, brandishing his incorporation papers. According to California vehicle law and long-established U.S. federal law, corporations legally represent a person. More recently, in 2010, the Supreme Court issued its contested Citizens United decision, stating that corporate funding of political campaigns is protected under the First Amendment. Frieman, who opposes the concept, hopes to take the case to court in an attempt to overturn corporate personhood.
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Blood on the Tracks

The MTA finally passed its so-called Doomsday Budget today. If this comes as a surprise, well, you're not the only one taken aback. Last year, the transit authority was in a similar predicament—in part because the Legislature refused to implement congestion pricing but mostly because of the recession. But, as with most things in (at least New York) politics, an eleventh hour deal was brokered and the funds were found to stave off the draconian cuts. We figured that would be the case this time around, especially since the MTA's new and particularly shrewd boss Jay Walder made all the right cuts that would be politically unpalatable for Albany to keep in place, like, say, Student MetroCards. So then why did they pass? Granted the cuts will not go into effect until June, so there is still time to avert some, if not all, of them, though that is seemingly increasingly impossible. The reason is there simply isn't enough money to go around anymore to fill these gaping holes. The city is on the verge of axing thousands of teachers because the Paterson administration has raided those funds as well—the MTA lost $143 million to the state budget, coupled with a poor return on those eleventh hour bailouts, like a new payroll tax. We asked transit sage Gene Russianoff, head of the Straphangers Campaign, how it came to this, and he basically agreed that we've reached bone. "Tight money is part of the problem. Competition with education and health care for scarce money is not to transit's advantage," Russianoff wrote in an email. "There's also MTA's lack of credibility with public. Elected officials believe people will blame MTA and not them for service cuts. Jay Walder believes he needs to downsize agency to make every dollar count to buid up lost credibility." There is still hope, should the agency decide to trim its capital funds, as the Straphangers and City Council have been advocating, but the MTA continues to oppose such cuts, arguing they're worse than reduced service. We can keep our fingers crossed for more stimulus funds, or perhaps complain to Bruce Ratner. But it's starting to look like our last best hope might be good old-fashioned prayer.
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King of the Hill

Hard to believe Glenn Beck isn't already up in arms over the president's decision to nominate his long-time friend and former Weatherman (some might say terrorist) to become the Architect of the Capitol. Oh. Wait. Wrong Ayers. Stephen Ayers, who has actually been serving as AoC for the past three years on an interim basis, was nominated to take over full-time on Tuesday by the Obama administration. Previously, Ayers held the position of Deputy Architect of the Capitol, taking over when his predecessor, Alan Hantman, retired after a decade of service. Ayers has had a distinguished career of public service, including a stint in the Air Force, then a turn in the public sector followed by work at Voice of America, the government-run radio network in Europe. By all appearances, his experience in facilities management in general and at the Capitol in particular should silence critics who have been giving the industry grief over the AoC position in recent years. As we reported shortly after Hantman's retirement, some on the Hill had been agitating for a non-architect to take over the AoC position partly because of huge cost overruns and delays at the much-maligned (particularly by critics) new Capitol Visitor Center. But that's not the AoC's only responsibility, as the office also manages the entire Capitol Complex and surrounding grounds, a job the AIA and others said required an architect's unique and varied skill set. The institute issued a statement today calling for Ayer's timely appointment:
"Christine W. McEntee, Executive Vice President/CEO of the AIA, said, "Mr. Ayers has shown leadership, foresight, and a steady hand as he led the Architect of the Capitol’s office for the last three years. Mr Ayers has addressed many goals for the office in an exemplary manner. However, there are still urgent needs facing the Capitol complex, from reducing its carbon footprint to renovating buildings in need of repair, and the Office of the Architect of the Capitol will benefit from Mr. Ayers’ capable leadership."
Best of luck. He'll probably need it.