Weekend Diversions

I very much enjoyed last weekend’s reading post, and since I am home again on a Saturday afternoon (a stress fracture in the sacrum is not conducive to long waitressing shifts so I am going in for the dinner rush only) I decided to write one again. Warning, there is a hefty amount of political ranting ahead. 

  1. How Bernie Sanders made Burlington affordableBernie Sanders, champion of all things liberal, implemented innovative affordable housing solutions in Burlington during his tenure as mayor in the 1980s. He funded the first municipally-backed community land trust in the nation, which remains the most productive and effective such trust today. It works by decoupling the cost of land from the cost of housing: the trust buys land, develops it or contracts to a developer, and then sells the homes while placing the land on a 99-year lease. The result is a more affordable mortgage. Covenants ensure the continued affordability of each unit by restricting value. Unlike with other financing options, affordability under this model does not expire. As a result, Burlington has a thriving and ever-expanding affordable housing market. This article does not mention outcomes (number of foreclosures, increased wealth of participating families, job stability, etc.) but I imagine the program would not still operate if it did not produce these desirable results. 
  2. The Inequalites are Still Savage -Education researcher Daniel Katz examines the class-based education inequalities identified more than twenty years ago by Jonathon Kozol in his seminal piece Savage Inequalities. Despite net economic growth in America since Kozol’s article was published in 1993, inequality is still rampant. Katz cites myriad depressing statistics about income, poverty and the state of school buildings. According to recent data, 21.1% of children 18 years old or younger experience poverty. This means more than one-fifth of youth may not have enough to eat; may not have stable housing; may live in neighborhoods where their schools are flooded, moldy and falling apart. Katz also examines the current situation in Flint, Michigan where residents have been subjected to lead-filled water for months with no recourse. Teachers in Detroit, whose classrooms are sprouting mushrooms from the walls, are being threatened with state-sanctions for staging sick-outs to protest the unhealthy conditions. The residents of both Flint and Detroit represent people throughout our country who have been disempowered by poverty. As Katz points out, aggregate wealth has not been a salvo against inequality.
  3. The Real You-And now, for something a bit lighter (I hope). Sarah Aswell relates with humor, insight, and great writing her experience using a DNA-testing kit from 23andMe. Some results were illuminating (she has a hefty amount of Japanese genes mixed into her Korean ancestry) others boring (she already knows she has brown hair and likes the taste of broccoli). Her mother, who also took a test, uncovered a genetic intolerance for caffeine that was causing heart atrial fibrillation. Her husband discovered his hatred of cilantro did not result from pickiness but from genetic coding. She even discovered an unknown cousin.  Her re-telling made me just a little more curious about my own genetic makeup. If I ever happen to have a spare $200 in my bank account, I now will have one more way to spend it. 

What stories have caught your attention this week? 

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