Masslive’s most passionate crime beat reporter published a story this week in which he acknowledged that: murders are down year over year in Springfield; overall crime has been dropping in the city for years; Boston murders are up over the same period last year; and murder is a volatile statistically speaking relative to judging a community’s overall crime problem. He didn’t point out that the raw number for Boston isn’t just higher than Springfield’s, the rate it represents is higher.
I’m satisfied that it at least represents progress in media coverage. I realize that “haters and trolls” will ignore anything nuanced regarding urban life and will still end up making only slightly veiled racist comments (Trump 2016!)about how and why the facts are wrong and the situation is worse than ever, but anyone looking for a better understanding of the circumstances on the ground would be able to get something useful therefrom.
It’s important to understand that Rational Urbanism is about thoughtfully processing the issues surrounding life in struggling second tier cities for people who would like to be urban pioneers, it has never been about convincing people who love suburban life to change their minds. Do I think that circumstances will obligate Americans to re-urbanize whether they like it or not? Yes. But the consequences of the suburban Ponzi scheme and limited fossil fuel energy have not yet reached the stage where their impacts are undeniable, and until those impacts are absolutely undeniable people who view the consequences thereof as unthinkable will not accept them. I don’t care about them. People who, subjectively, prefer a more traditional mode of non-agrarian living and/or prefer walkable, bike-able neighborhoods and/or enjoy historic architecture but feel as though spaces in places like Springfield, Hartford, Worcester, and the like are untouchable due to issues surrounding crime, education, race, poverty, among others can find, I hope, a balanced narrative regarding life in the city here on the pages of Rational Urbanism.
The call goes out especially to Millenials who, I’m told, are weighted down with enormous sums of student loan debt and therefor cannot achieve the American Dream of home ownership. First off, parents of soon to be college students, tell your kids; the goal should be, if a university education is important to their life goals, to get out of college with as little debt as possible regardless of the prestige of the school in question or of the living arrangements attending said school requires. Living for a year or two or three in the equivalent of a 3 star hotel with meals included when other, less expensive arrangements are possible is stupid IF you are footing the bill and especially if you’re paying with a credit card! Also, if your degree isn’t from the equivalent of Harvard, no one will care which 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th tier school you went to, so go to the school which offers you the best deal, or attend community college and transfer to a state school, and graduate with $100,000-$200,000 less in student loan debt.
The message self serving urbanist web sites are broadcasting far and wide is that this generation of young people don’t want to live in sprawl dystopia, but rather are craving a return to the walkable communities their parents and grandparents abandoned 70 years ago; cool, buy a house with special incentives for first time homebuyers in a struggling second tier city and live in a classic pre-war walkable mixed use neighborhood, within walking distance of your job and a city park, for $600 a month as a mortgage payment (offset by the rent from the in-law apartment an urban community like Springfield allows), get by with one car because of great access to public transit, and you’ll end up spending less for everything you need than Chip and Buffy are spending just to make monthly payments on their student loans.
I’ll take it one step further, Millenial or not: If you live in one of those horrid East Longmeadow raised ranch “houses” with the expanded driveway to accommodate the 8 cars your family needs, apparently, to do its daily business, and the $1,200 a month mortgage along with the $5,000 a year you pay in property taxes makes it difficult for you to afford your yearly trip to Orlando I don’t feel a lick of sympathy. “America” hasn’t let you down, the American Dream isn’t dead, you’re an idiot. And it’s time for you to pay for it.