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Michael Barone - Cities should have room for everyone

Nearly a century ago, in 1920, the Census Bureau caused a ruckus when it announced that, for the first time, a majority of Americans lived in cities — even though its definition of a city included every hamlet with a population of 2,500 and above.

Today a majority of Americans live in what are by any reasonable definition very large cities, metropolitan areas with populations above 1 million. But the urban planning profession remains fixated on just one small portion of these metropolises, the central city downtowns, though none outside New York contains more than 10 percent of metropolitan area jobs.

That's one of the lessons of Joel Kotkin's new book "The Human City," which takes a wider and longer view. Kotkin shows how cities developed as religious, imperial, commercial and industrial centers. And he shows how what planners disparage as suburbs and sprawl emerged a century ago as natural parts of the city — and are now the home and workplace of the large majority of American city dwellers.

That's not how planners like to think about cities. Their focus is typically visual, and on the exterior of buildings and cityscape, easily reproduced in glossy coffee-table books, rather than on the interiors where people spend most of their hours. They take their cues from 20th century architects like Le Corbusier, who wanted to knock down all of Paris' historic structures and replace them with a few skyscrapers rising from parkland.

There is an obvious authoritarian thrust here. It is visible in Kotkin's home state of California, where zoning restrictions and NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) protests prevent new construction in coastal metropolises. Gov. Jerry Brown is pushing policies that would concentrate new housing in high-rise clusters around mass transit stations, with ready access to bike paths and walking trails but not to streets and roads for private cars. It's a good thing to offer people such a choice. It's a bad thing to deny them any others.

The result is that housing costs in coastal metropolises have skyrocketed far above the level affordable for median-income singles, much less married couples with children. These cities are increasingly the home of the connected rich and the disconnected poor. They have the nation's highest levels of economic inequality and the highest percentage of singles. The central city of San Francisco has 80,000 more dogs than children.

As Kotkin points out, the rationales for confining development in this way don't stand up to scrutiny. It's argued that suburbs, whose residents drive dozens of miles each day, are more wasteful of energy than high-rise central cities. Data don't bear that out. It takes lots of energy to build and maintain the high-rises, more than enough to compensate for less driving.

Central cities are also portrayed as more ethnically diverse. But that's not necessarily true: As Kotkin notes, blacks have been moving to suburbs, and most Asian and Latino immigrants head there directly. Meanwhile, the hippest neighborhoods of San Francisco and Portland, Brooklyn and Boston are increasingly monochromatically white.

And it turns out that tightly packing people from various ethnic backgrounds into small central city neighborhoods doesn't promote harmonious interaction. On the contrary, as Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam found to his horror, it reduces social trust and social connectedness. People hunker down and avoid contact with others.

You get more social connectedness and higher levels of trust in the supposedly dreary and dull suburbs. One reason is that people with children tend to head toward the suburbs, and childrearing encourages participation in school- and church-related voluntary associations.

Another is that suburbs, unlike central cities or university campuses, actually have populations with diverse opinions. On any suburban cul-de-sac you can find people who vote both Republican and Democratic. Good luck trying that in Manhattan or Harvard.

To his subject Kotkin brings a useful worldwide perspective. He appreciates the strengths and shortcomings of Singapore, understands that most Europeans, like most Americans, live in suburbs and notes that population growth rates have been falling in megacities like Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Tokyo and Beijing, as well as in New York and Los Angeles. Some cities evidently get too big for people.

Which is Kotkin's point: Cities exist for people, not the other way around. He champions "urban pluralism," cities that have room for singles who think they're the wave of the future, and, especially, for parents who are actually creating and raising the citizens of the future.

(Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin is the daughter of Filipino Immigrants. She was born in Philadelphia, raised in southern New Jersey and now lives with her husband and daughter in Colorado. Her weekly column is carried by more than 100 newspapers.)

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Law-abiding folks who are here illegally should be allowed to stay

To The Daily Sun,

Is Bernadette Loesch just being coy or is her reading comprehension declining, given her recent reply to my letter about illegal aliens or illegal immigrants? Or should I refer to those who crossed our borders illegally as undocumented immigrants, undocumented workers or new Democratic voters? One can't be too politically correct can one? Well not if you are on the left. Those would be the folks who lust for complete open borders so that we can all just become citizens of the world and our children can all become wards of the leviathan state collective.

She takes me to task for saying that folks here illegally receive "welfare benefits" because the native born kids of those parents who come here illegally are eligible. Yes Bernadette, I understand that makes the kids American citizens. But are they not tethered to their parents who are here illegally and so those parents therefore gain access to those benefits? I mean come on, those children are not yet tethered to the "collective" yet, as far as I know.

Then Ms. Loesch sites the Washington Free Beacon as my source for folks here illegally getting welfare. Actually, I sited the Center for Immigration Studies, which gleaned information from the Census Bureau. The Free Beacon source was merely a commentary on the situation. She assures us that the Beacon is not credible because the Atlantic, David Brock of Media Matters for America and the New York Times have all decreed it is so. So shiver me timbers and blow me down, the elitists on the left really believe they own the whole town. So much for my "shady and shallow claims," Ms. Loesch.

Bernadette states that U.S. Social Security Administration estimated that in 2013, undocumented immigrants and their employers paid $13 billion in payroll taxes that they will never get. Perhaps that could go to help cover the costs of the estimated $18.5 billion that we will all have to pay for health care for folks her illegally. That is according to a Rand Corporation study from the year 2000, when illegal immigrants accounted for $6.45 billion in national medical spending. When the number crunchers factor in all the variables 16 years later, that amount will likely have tripled. Oh, and the Center for Immigration Studies just came out with a report that shows that illegal alien households receive an average of $5,692 in federal welfare benefits each year. That turns out to be much more than the $4,431 average that native American households receive. "The total cost is over $103 billion in welfare benefits to households headed by immigrants (legal and illegal). A majority, 51 percent, of immigrant households receive some type of welfare compared to 30 per cent of native households, said the analysis of census data," according to Dennis Michael Lynch, who has spent months upon months investigating the illegal crossings at our southern border. Let's close the border and put Americans first while we still have a culture worth saving. Folks who have been here illegally, but have been law abiding should be allowed to stay. However, deport all the criminals and violent offenders here illegally and don't let them return. Remember Kate Steinle?

Finally, Bernadette Loesch has the audacity to claim that the Southern Poverty Law Center(SPLC) is a prestigious outfit. That is of course because they call out hate groups such as the KKK and all manner of domestic hate groups including skinheads, neo-Nazis and anti-government militias etc. Those are the terrorists we fear the most across this great land of ours and beyond. Oh wait, they are not in the news every day plotting to destroy this country and our way of life? Apparently not, because if that were so, the leftist media would be all over the atrocities with daily reports. No, it's actually the "Terrorist Next Door" (Erick Stakelbeck) who the left dares not mention by name that we fear. You know, those "lone wolves" and "workplace violence" nasties that have cause the TSA to check out disabled granny and our military to engage in "overseas contingency operations" strapped by "rules of engagement."

Make no mistake about it and let me make this perfectly clear, the SPLC is a despicable organization. Morris Dees and the SPLC have been running a direct-marketing scam for many years. William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection found out that most of their money goes to pay an exorbitant salary to Morris and to pay for platoons of telemarketers to raise money for his bogus operation. Apparently, most donors do not realize that their money is not going to a worthy goal, but rather to fund their money making scheme. That is of course why they had to greatly expand their hate map to anyone who dares to oppose the left's favored causes. That would be how Dr. Ben Carson and the Family Research Council made the list. Or why Pamela Geller and Daniel Greenfield made the list for pointing out and protesting the attacks on Jews by Islamists.

I do not expect Bernadette Loesch to do any research on the evil one, Morris Dees, but others may want to do so while holding your nose. Why the man is not behind bars is beyond me. Well, perhaps not totally beyond me. Perhaps belong the left means not only, not having to say you are sorry (for the vast array of failed policies fund by taxpayers), but also not having to go to jail for disobeying our laws. That certainly applies to the disgusting Morris Dees and the quite disgusting Al Sharpton, who is a frequent visitor to the White House while owing the IRS in excess of $4 million. And of course, the beloved "Clinton Crime Family." Scandal heaped upon scandal and yet Hillary fully expects to be the leader of the this great country. So many naïve folks have been duped by Morris Dees and the SPLC and are being duped by Hillary Clinton because they believe both parties actually care about them.

Russ Wiles

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