Friday, December 24, 2010

The Politics of Planning in Grand Rapids: 1949-1959

Dorothy Judd

As 2010 draws to a close, I am pleased to announce the completion of a project that I began back in 2007. This month the Michigan Historical Review published my article which covered the intersection of politics and urban planning in Grand Rapids, Michigan between 1949 and 1959. The thought about researching this era began when I started digging around in the Bentley Historical Library while at the University of Michigan for another class project back in late 2006. One of the archivists noted that I was from Grand Rapids and asked if I had ever looked at the Judd Papers. I mentioned that I had not, and she led me to the twelve boxes of materials that Ms. Judd had left behind to the University of Michigan upon her death in 1989. These twelve boxes led me across the state of Michigan in search of other sources, whether in Grand Rapids, Lansing, or Detroit. I met a number of people, mostly notably Keith Honey, who were willing to talk about their part in the era and helpfully shared their stories. There was a great amount of material in dusty corners of the State Library and in the Grand Rapids archives that had never been examined previously, and this information illuminating.

Ms. Judd, who is pictured above and also on the cover of the Michigan Historical Review this year, was a remarkable woman. She was especially remarkable for leading the formation of a political coalition in Grand Rapids which ended one political machine that had lasted since 1916, transformed the city over a ten year period, and continues to impact Grand Rapids and Kent County politics in the present day.

The coalition that Ms. Judd led was in name non-partisan, but was at its heart a progressive Republican movement that propelled a west Michigan brand of Republicanism seen in politicians such as Gerald Ford, Paul Henry, and to some extent, Vern Ehlers. The end of the Ehlers era this year in some ways returns Kent County Republicans a pre-1949 ideology. The Republican who was bested by Judd in 1949 was Grand Rapids Mayor George Welsh, heeded a political ideology very similar to Justin Amash: minimal governmental spending, the labeling of any governmental role in the economy as unhealthy, and that the best thing for the United States was an unfettered role for private enterprise. In contrast to Welsh, Judd, her close ally Paul Goebel (also a close friend of Gerald Ford), the role of the state was essential to creating a better vision of Grand Rapids that improved the downtown, redeveloped neighborhoods, and connecting the metropolitan region. While Judd and Goebel succeed with many of these challenges, they significantly failed to improve residential neighborhoods or win support among the growing suburbs of Wyoming and Paris Township.

Of course, you could learn about this in greater detail if you read the article. There are plenty of good maps, and if you want political data from Kent County between 1930 and 1960, just let me know (I have truckloads). I consider this article to be the second of my three pieces of Grand Rapids; the first, which was published in 2005, covered the Civil War era in Grand Rapids and other Michigan communities. The third article, for which I will begin researching on next year, will examine the political evolution of Kent and Washtenaw Counties into two distinct political communities between 1964 and 2010. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Is there Hope for Wyoming?

28th Street, 1959. Photo courtesy of the City of Wyoming

One of the trends I expect to see further confirmed in the 2010 census data is the decline of many first-ring (or inner-ring) suburbs. Inner ring suburbs are communities that grew rapidly during the post-war economic boom that ran roughly from 1945 to 1974. As noted by Myron Orfield and other scholars, these communities were largely developed with features that distinguished them from existing urban communities, including the incorporation separate zoning uses into the predevelopment of the built environment, the relatively low levels of population density compared to the urban core, the predominance of the automobile as a means of transportation, and general exclusion of racial minorities during its formational period.

In metropolitan Grand Rapids, the cities of Wyoming and Kentwood clearly fall into the first-ring suburb category, as do portions of the city of Grand Rapids. Walker, Grand Rapids Township, Cascade, Ada, Alpine, and Plainfield Townships all experienced the bulk of their development after 1970, putting them in the exurban suburbs category, which developed differently than their inner-ring suburb brethren. Grandville, although incorporated in 1933, was a small town much like Rockford or Lowell until the 1970s, and thus should also be considered an exurban suburb. East Grand Rapids was developed as a Streetcar Suburb between 1880 and 1930, and has remained a wealthy enclave. While the city of Grand Rapids is considered the urban core, areas that the city annexed between 1956 and 1963 are similar in many ways to Wyoming and Kentwood.

Will Wyoming and Kentwood share the fate of many declining first-ring suburbs? While I do not see the population dropping yet for either community (Wyoming’s will probably be around 71,000, while Kentwood will rise to 47,000), the evidence of Wyoming’s decline as a commercial center has been well documented by the Grand Rapids Press and other local media. This decline is especially evident on 28th Street, which was long the heart of the city. In the past decade, destination businesses such as Rogers Department store, Studio 28, and Classic Chevrolet closed, as did a large GM stamping plant located at 36th and Burlingame, and vacancy rates in the Rogers Plaza Shopping Mall increased significantly. Recent attempts to resurrect the commercial strip (which included the relocation of Klingmans) have failed, leaving the city scrambling to find ways to restore its fortunes.

The decline of Wyoming’s commercial heart on 28th Street is compounded by the city’s demographic changes. Over the past two decades, the city has become significantly less white, with a large growth in its Hispanic population, especially north of 28th Street. With the Hispanic core neighborhoods in Grand Rapids along Grandville Avenue continuing to grow, many are finding more areas of affordable housing and better schools in Wyoming. By the middle of the next decade Wyoming might find itself with two distinct communities-a wealthy white portion south of 36th Street that I like to refer to as “Voorheestan.” Folks in Voorheestan are overwhelmingly conservative Republicans who like their taxes low, their God glorified, and dislike regional cooperation. The growing Hispanic neighborhoods north of 36th Street are generally much poorer, desire strong schools for their children, and have yet to find their political voice in local and state politics. Thus, while Wyoming’s political elite might remain white and conservative over the next decade, the demographics underneath them will continue to shift.

The efforts over the past year by city officials, planners, and consultants to remake Wyoming’s “Town Center” are interesting. A suburb that rejected everything about traditional urban form and density is seeking to redevelop its commercial core into smaller urban blocks. In Matt Van Bunte’s article from November 27, 2010 Grand Rapids Press, Van Bunte notes that

“public input shows a new street peeling to the south of 28th and cutting massive commercial parcels, including Studio 28, Wyoming Village Mall and Rogers Plaza, into smaller urban blocks. The vision could become a prototype for suburban redevelopment around Grand Rapids, a consultant said. The primary concept envisions a new street veering south of 28th just east of Burlingame and arcing back to 28th just west of Clyde Park. The road would slice through the large parcels, connecting with new north-south streets to create smaller urban blocks with better pedestrian access and more green space. The sketch features a roundabout at Michael Avenue, north of Prairie Street, with a mix of commercial, residential and office uses flanking the new street in each direction.”

For the full Grand Rapids Press article see the link below:

Map 1: Metropolitan Grand Rapids Population Density, 2008

The consultants with this project note that achieving this vision will be difficult. While people generally do not agree what the ideal density of a town center is, I bet that planners are looking at the Eastown neighborhood in Grand Rapids. As shown in Map 1 Eastown’s population density in 2008 was about 13,000 people per square mile. As Map 1 shows, many of the successful commercial corridors in Grand Rapids have a density that is similar or higher than Eastown’s.

Map 2: Wyoming Population Density, 2008

Map 3: Wyoming Town Center Population Density, 2008

Perhaps the greatest problem for any redevelopment of Wyoming’s Town Center will be the low levels of population density. Map 2 shows Wyoming’s population density, and Map 3 shows the density in the Town Center redevelopment area. As 28th Street changes from a regional shopping destination to neighborhood shopping center, the market capture for stores in the Town Center will increasingly shrink. In order for any redevelopment efforts to succeed, the residential base needs grow significantly. Changing the urban form of the Town Center area will be helpful, but unless the new commercial buildings contain residential units located above or within a1/8th of a mile, these businesses will just not survive.

For efforts to revitalize its commercial corridor to succeed, Wyoming must think about how to draw residents to this part of town. This might require the expenditure of tax dollars to create an urban grid, as well as finding anchor institutions willing to stick it out over the next few years. I personally think that the idea of creating a satellite Grand Rapids Community College campus at the intersection Clyde Park and 28th Street would be an excellent first step to bringing people to Town Center. The satellite campus could specialize in vocational training for students interested in working at some of the city’s industrial centers, which continue to provide a number of excellent paying jobs. A campus would for many new Hispanic residents to take courses near their homes, as opposed to trekking to downtown Grand Rapids. Similarly, a branch campus of Spectrum Health would provide some jobs and services for residents.

Wyoming is a first-ring suburb in the midst of continued economic and demographic changes. The question is whether its population and political leadership, especially those from Voorheestan, are willing to jettison a political ideology that has served it well for the past sixty years.

(PS-My article on urban planning in metropolitan Grand Rapids from 1946 to 1964 will be coming out in the next issue of the Michigan Historical Review. It is heavy on politics, planning, and personalities, which make for a good read. Let me know if you want a copy. PB)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2010 Recap Part II: Michigan State House

(Cross-posted at WMR, ML, BFM and SSP-pb)

Perhaps the biggest surprise on late hours of November 2 was the enormity of the Democratic defeat in the Michigan State House. While many had predicted that the Democrats’ margin of 67 to 43 would be reduced, few predicted that they would lose control of the lower chamber (myself included) and end up with 47 seats, a humiliating 20 seat loss. Indeed, Democratic numbers in the State House and Senate have not been this low since 1954, a time when Michigan’s legislature in the legislature was malapportioned prior to the 1964 Constitution. Just for reference, Table 1 below shows partisan control of the Michigan State House and Senate from 1955 to the present.
Table 1: Michigan Legislative Control, 1948-2012

What caused this twenty seat loss for the Democrats? Commentators have noted that Democratic turnout crashed on the rocks this cycle, with turnout in key Democratic precincts lower than even in 1998 or 1994 (or even 1966 for that matter). I think that the 2010 disaster can be explained largely by region, statistics, and redistricting.

Consider regionalism first. The map below shows partisan control of State House statewide.
Map 1: Michigan State House Partisan Control

One can see the 20 seats gained by the GOP on November 2 are largely concentrated in three regions of the state: Northern Michigan, downriver/eastern Michigan, and Macomb County. Of these 20 seats, 14 were open, while 6 were lost by Democratic incumbents. Maps 2-5 shows these areas in greater detail.
Map 2: Northern Michigan
Map 3: The Thumb/Macomb County
Map 4: Downriver and Eastern Michigan
Map 5: Western Michigan

Democrats lost six districts in Northern Michigan, two in West Michigan, eight seats in the downriver/rural eastern Michigan, two seats in the Thumb, and two in Macomb County. The loss of seats on a regional basis is significant to explaining the GOP’s success in 2010. The Upper Peninsula has long been a Democratic stronghold, although the Democratic Baseline (which is the average Democratic share of the vote cast for State Board of Education races) for the districts in northern Michigan (101, 103, 106, and 107) are much more Republican-leaning. The decline of the Democratic brand over the past two years is due in part to the retirement of Bart Stupak, who had long provided a strong conservative Democratic presence on the top of the ticket for Democratic voters in the north, and also the antipathy of voters to the first two years of the Obama Administration. This suspicion of the Obama Administration has cultural and economic roots, but is also due to the steady drumbeat of the GOP noise machine that has played on the fear and malaise of many voters.

The six seats lost in West Michigan, Macomb County, and the Thumb are swing (Districts 24, 32, and 91) or Republican leaning Districts (Districts 70, 83, 84). However, the eight seats lost in Monroe, Jackson, Lenawee, Washtenaw, and Wayne Counties are in many was due to Rick Snyder being on the top of the Republican ticket. Snyder almost carried his home county (Washtenaw), a county that Democratic candidates generally carry by a two to one margin. The fact that Snyder almost carried this county doomed the Democratic State House candidates in the two Washtenaw County districts (52nd and 55th). Similarly, Jackson, Lenawee, and Monroe Counties, which have generally had a slight Democratic lean over the past four election cycles, swung decisively towards the Republican column, costing Democrats four seats. In Wayne County, Democratic incumbent Deb Kennedy was caught napping in the 23rd District, while Republicans picked up the 19th State House seat, which has historically been a Republican seat.

Thus regionalism partly explains the 2010 results. Table 2 below attempts to explain the results based on demographic and economic statistical data for each seat. I pulled data on any race that was 1) a Republican pickup, 2) where the winning candidate won with less than 55% of the vote, or 3) was identified as a Weak Republican, Weak Democratic or Swing seat in my previous analysis. The categories in Table 2 are pretty self-explanatory, although a few deserve further explanation. Dem 2010% is the percentage received the Democratic State House candidate in 2010, while DB Avg% is the Democratic Baseline average from the 2004, 2006, and 2008 elections. %Black, %Min, %White is based on ethnic data from the 2000 Census, as is Pov% (poverty rate), Bach% (percentage of residents who hold a Bachelor’s Degree), Prof% (percentage of residents who work in professional sector), and Med House Income (Median Household Income). While this data is ten years old, it serves as a reference point for analyzing the data. Once the 2010 Census data is released next month, I’ll try to update some of this information.

In the 55 races, Democrats won 18 seats in 2010 (or 37%). In comparison, after the 2008 election they held 38 seats (69%). Some Democratic incumbents who won in 2010 performed slightly better than the 2004-08 Democratic baseline average, and only two Democratic incumbents (Terry Brown in the 84th and Dan Scripps in the 101st) who ran better than the baseline lost. Every other Democratic candidate (incumbent or challenger) performed worse than the baseline.
Table 2: District Analysis

Is there a silver bullet from the data that explains the Democratic disaster in these 55 districts? Besides the fact that Republican incumbents were invulnerable, and that every open GOP seat was held, a few trends appear when you do some preliminary regression analysis. With correlation coefficient.78, the 2004-2008 Democratic baseline average is the strongest predictor of Democratic State House performance in 2010. Which, in my opinion, is not all too surprising.
Table 3: Baseline Regression

The other variables have a much weaker predictive value and are not statistically significant. The only other significant variable is race, and there is a -.42 correlation coefficient with the white population percentage, which has a t score of 3.369. Essentially, Democrats won any district where the white percentage of the population was under 90%. Personally, I think that the financial data, which should be available relatively soon from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, will also show that a large financial edge for the winner will be statistically significant.
Table 4: White% Regression

Finally, how does redistricting explain regionalism and statistics? In 2001 the Republican Party controlled all three parties in the redistricting equation (the State House, Senate, and Michigan Supreme Court). The map drawn for the State House sought to maximize the Republican gains in the 2000 election, and as a result the number of seats controlled by the GOP increased from 58 in 2000 to 61 in 2002. However, the map cut too close to the margins, and Democratic wave years in 2006 and 2008 resulted in the GOP caucus being reduced to 52 and 43 seats, respectively. Perhaps a wiser map would treat 2010 as an aberration, and a new map would seek to draw 56 to 58 safe Republican seats. Given that there are 63 members of the Republican House caucus, I suspect that every incumbent will want a seat that protects his or her interests. For the Democrats looking for a strategy in 2012, I’d look really hard at trying to knock off the GOP in metropolitan Detroit (Districts 23, 24, 52, 55, and 56) as well as reclaiming districts 108 and 110 in the Upper Peninsula and Districts 101 and 103 in Northern Michigan. This would bring the party back to a narrow majority. However, given that a new map will be created in late 2011, closer targeting will need to wait until then.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

2010 Recap Part I: Kent County

The 2010 elections proved to be a profound disappointment for Democrats in the United States and Michigan. Reviewing the election data, did Kent County hold similar setbacks for local Democrats?

On the surface, the answer would be yes. The 3rd District Congressional candidate Patrick Miles, despite being the most formidable candidate in nearly two decades, lost to upstart Republican Justin Amash by 59.7% to 37.5%, by a 50,000 vote margin. Democrat David LaGrand, who nearly upset incumbent Republican State Senator Bill Hardiman in 2006, narrowly lost to Republican Dave Hildenbrand by 4,500 votes in the closest State Senate race in Michigan. On the County Commission level, four Democratic seats were lost, leaving four Democrats on the county board with 15 Republicans.

The Democrats woes in 2010 started at the top of the ticket with the gubernatorial race. Democrat Virg Bernero never gained traction against Republican Rick Snyder, who ran as a moderate from the first day of his primary campaign. Republican primary voters should be congratulated for nominating a centrist candidate as opposed to candidates like Pete Hoekstra or Mike Cox, who would have given Bernero more of a fighting chance. In any event, Bernero did poorly in Kent County, pulling only 30% of the vote, the worst Democratic performance in Kent County since Fieger in 1998 and Ferency in 1966. Bernero harmed the Democratic chiefly in terms of turnout rather than persuasion, reducing Democratic numbers in Grand Rapids (where turnout was 39.6% overall) and Kentwood. As a result, the Democratic baseline in Kent County was 35.5% in 2010, the lowest in a decade. In contrast, the Democratic baseline was 47.6% in 2008, 41.1% in 2006, 38.5% in 2004, 36.1% in 2002, and 38.1% in 2000. Maps 1 to 4 below show the Democratic baseline visually in 2000, 2006, 2008, and 2010. The reduction of Democratic gains in Wyoming since 2000 is quite apparent, and a smaller slippage is also present in Kentwood and in portions of the West Side of Grand Rapids.
Map 1: 2000 Democratic Baseline
Map 2: 2006 Democratic Baseline
Map 3: 2008 Democratic Baseline
Map 4: 2010 Democratic Baseline

As Map 5 shows, the decline in voter turnout was pretty uniformed throughout metropolitan Grand Rapids. Some commentators have noted that turnout in Republican areas of Kent County dropped, although not to as large of an extent as in metropolitan Grand Rapids.
Map 5: Decline in voter turnout, 2006-2010

At the same time, Map 6 shows how the Democratic baseline changed between 2006 and 2010. While the county-level baseline dropped by 6%, this decline manifested unevenly through metropolitan Grand Rapids. In the 3rd Ward, the Democratic baseline increased significantly, due in part to the absence of Republican Bill Hardiman from the ticket, who had always attracted the votes of conservative African American voters in the core portions of the 3rd Ward. The Democratic baseline also increased slightly in Kentwood and East Grand Rapids, perhaps providing a path for future Democratic gains. However, Republicans gains were significant in the West Side of Grand Rapids, which crippled any chance of David LaGrand beating Dave Hildenbrand in the 29th State Senate race. In retrospect the Republican resurgence in the West Side began last year, with the election of City Commissioner Dave Shaffer, who bested long-time Commissioner Jim Jendrasiak. Although a non-partisan race, Shaffer has identified himself as a moderate Republican, while Jendrasiak was long supported by Democratic interest groups. Yet the Republican resurgence on the West Side is largely due to the appalling drop in turnout among Democratic voters “at the bottom of the hill,” or east of Covell Street. Overall turnout in the 1st Ward was 36.5%, while turnout in the Republican precincts west of Covell Street was 53%, turnout was only 22% east of Covell and in the Hispanic neighborhoods along Grandville Avenue.
Map 6: Democratic Baseline Change, 2006 to 2010

As mentioned earlier, the combination of Republican resurgence and low Democratic turnout in the 1st Ward severely hindered David LaGrand’s chances in the 29th State Senate race (see Map 7). Bernero lost the 1st Ward by 20%, the Democratic baseline was 48%, and LaGrand won it by only 83 votes. Prior to Election Day I postulated that a Democrat could win the 29th by getting close to 50% turnout in the City of Grand Rapids, winning 58% of its votes, while pulling 43% in Kentwood. With turnout below 40% in Grand Rapids, LaGrand had an uphill battle, and splitting the 1st Ward did little to improve his chances. LaGrand performed on target in the 2nd and 3rd Wards, winning 55% in the 2nd and 61% in the 3rd, leaving him with 56% of the city’s vote. He even did better than any other Democratic candidate in Kentwood, pulling 40% of the vote.
Map 7: 2010 29th State Senate Race

Democrat’s fortunes in Kent County were better in the State House races. Representative Roy Schmidt significantly outperformed the Democratic baseline in the 76th State House District, winning with 64% of the vote. In the 75th, Kent County Commissioner Brandon Dillon also surpassed the Democratic baseline by 5% against Republican Bing Goei. Goei posed perhaps the strongest challenge to any Democrat in the city, having deep ties to the Christian Reformed Church and the aging Dutch neighborhoods on the southeast side of Grand Rapids as shown in Map 8. Indeed, Goei performed well above the Republican baseline south of Burton and west of Breton, a part of the city that has been steady trending Democratic over the past decade. Dillon’s strong campaigning efforts and strength on the north side of Grand Rapids allowed him to win this tight battle. Dillon’s victory is significant, since the 75th was the only open seat among the 15 targeted races the Democratic House Caucus won on election night. Likewise, the Democratic victories in 2006 and 2008 in the 75th do not appear to be an aberration but rather a long-term gain in Democratic strength on the east side of Grand Rapids.
Map 8: 2010 MI State House

Miles’ defeat against Amash also contains some potential silver lining. First, Miles held Amash to the lowest vote share in the 3rd District in a mid-year election in over two decades, keeping him below 60% of the vote in a year where Republicans picked up at least 62 Congressional seats. Miles ran strongly in Grand Rapids, won East Grand Rapids, and did decently in Kentwood. Miles’ fared no worse than any other Democratic candidates in the remainder of the 3rd District, paving the way for another run in 2012, although the 3rd District might be significantly altered during redistricting.
Map 9: 2010 3rd District Congressional Race

On the Kent County Commission Democrats lost four seats, while Democrat incumbent Carol Hennessey held on to narrowly retain her seat in the 14th Commission District. Of the four seats lost by Democrats, the 18th District seat vacated by Commissioner Brandon Dillon should have been retained by Democrat Richard Tormala. However, Tormala ran behind the Democratic baseline by five percent, and trailed Miles, LaGrand, and Dillon between five to ten percent. A stronger Democratic candidate will be able to retake this seat in two years.

So, was 2010 a disaster for Kent Democrats? On one hand, the loss of four county commission seats and defeat of LaGrand and Miles hurt. However, the fact that Dillon was able to hold the 75th in the worse Democratic year since 1998 shows how bad the political environment needs to be for the local GOP to make headway in the Grand Rapids. A more favorable political environment in 2012, redeveloping the base in the West Side, and vigorous party building outside of Grand Rapids, will help the Kent Democrats start a new age learning from a tumultuous decade in local politics.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Philadelphia Story: 2008-2010

My personal Philadelphia story actually begins in August 2007, when my sister started graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania. Since I was in the middle of summer break while attending the University of Michigan, I went and drove with Suzanne to her new place in the Graduate Hospital Neighborhood. I enjoyed Philly, but being a Midwesterner, I was a bit overwhelmed by the traffic, density, trash, and heat the only a sweltering Philadelphia summer can provide. I remember leaving on a Wednesday morning entering Walnut Street traffic near Rittenhouse Square and congratulating myself that I would never have to experience Philly traffic in my lifetime. Two hours later after sitting in rush hour traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway, I was on my way back to Ann Arbor.

On second thought, perhaps the Philadelphia story begins in the fall of 1993, when my dad had a sabbatical in Princeton, New Jersey. One of the great things about that year was we went somewhere every weekend, and I remember a weekend in early November going to Philadelphia for the first time. By chance, the week before I had come across a couple of books on urban planning in Philadelphia at the John Witherspoon Middle School library. The first was a book written by Edmund Bacon that was essentially a simplified version of his plan for Center City Philadelphia that was written in 1962, while the second was written ten years later comparing Philadelphia and Upper Darby, noting the serious racial and employment problems facing the former and the growing fortunes of the latter. During our trip to Philadelphia, I remember seeing Old City, clamoring for a drive through Society Hill, seeing my favorite revolutionary heroes at Independence Hall (for the record they are James Madison and John Adams, although John Marshall should have a big statue towering over dwarf-sized paintings of libertarians such as Jefferson and Charles Pickney). On the drive and walking around I also saw the woes facing a post-industrial city; homeless men begging in the shadow of Independence Hall, rundown and forgotten neighborhood in Kensington and Port Richmond from the heights of Interstate 95, and the sheer shabbiness of a worn and tired city.

To make a long story short, in July 2008 Susan and I moved to metropolitan Philadelphia for her Lilly Residency at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church. While reluctant to leave Ann Arbor, I did have fond memories of the region, especially from the two previously mentioned visits. While Susan thrived at her position at Bryn Mawr (which itself was undergoing a period of transition), the long time it took to find a job in Philadelphia made loving the region rather hard. While working for the Obama campaign was enjoyable, riches were made at the ballot box, not in the wallet. Spending hours networking for jobs and trolling employment boards was not life sustaining, although doing this from the comfort of a charming row house under the supervision of a lounging cat was enjoyable at times.

Yet it was through this miserable job hunt that I grew to love many things about the city. Temping in Center City exposed me to the joy of riding the trolley line and subways through parts of West Philadelphia kept me going through the early part of 2009. Working at the University City District in the second half of 2009 had me walking through almost all of West Philadelphia, seeing an array of housing stock and people that one rarely has the opportunity to view from a car. Doing consulting research for Bill Golderer at Broad Street Ministries led me to connect with Arch Street Presbyterian Church, a congregation in the heart of Center City that had once been a leading conservative stronghold in the Presbyterian Church that had been left for dead over the past twenty years. Becoming in a member there in October 2009 was a highlight from my time in Philadelphia.

Getting a job at the People’s Emergency Center (PEC) was another highpoint in my Philadelphia story. Working at a community development corporation which operated on the fringe of University City in neighborhoods that had seen the worst of disinvestment and urban blight over the past sixty years was a challenge, but also a great joy. How do you work in a community that is bordered on one side by the University of Pennsylvania, on the other side by Drexel University, and is surrounded by neighborhoods with rates of concentrated poverty (poverty rates over 40%)? PEC makes this happen, and I’m sure that it will continue to do so in the coming years under the new leadership of Farah Jimenez.

I am most thankful for PEC’s ability to help me flesh out some of the challenges and promises facing Philadelphia. Philadelphia has so many things going to its advantage, whether an affordable cost of living, a number of great neighborhoods, a host of colleges and universities that puts it in the second tier of global cities, great transportation networks (although the highway system is a nightmare) and a diverse mix of employers. At the same time, the city of Philadelphia is trapped under the weight of decades of demographic changes and poor choices. The city’s population has dropped from 2,071,605 in 1950 to a low of 1,517,550 in 2000 (although it has rebounded to 1,547,297 by 2009). Philadelphia’s poverty rate is 24.3%, while only 80% of residents had a high school degree in 2005, and 23% have a college degree.

Add to these woes Philadelphia’s governmental structure that is fifty years out of date. The city’s workforce has not significantly declined over the past fifty years. In 1960 the city had 27,500 employees for a population of 2 million, while in 2009 it had 24,585 workers for 1.5 million, meaning that 14% of the population works in the public sector (a percentage that is comparable to the national average of 15%). Adjusted for inflation, the city’s budget has increased from $2 billion in 1960 to $4 billion today. Why the enormous difference in spending? If you said libraries, pools, and parks, you are wrong; these three departments have seen their numbers decline significantly over the past twenty years. As noted in the Pew Center’s Philadelphia’s Quiet Crisis, $800 million of this money goes to pay for benefits for governmental employees. While the pay for public sector employees in Philadelphia is comparable to the national average, Philadelphia offers extremely generous benefits that require very little in terms of employee and retiree contributions. At the same time, adjusted for inflation, the per capita cost for this government spending has increased significantly over the past fifty years; in 1960 the cost of city government per person was $942, while in 2010 it is $2,600.

To pay for this increased spending over the past fifty years, the city has had to work with a smaller tax base in which poorer people compose a greater percentage of the population, doubly increasing the city’s tax burden. While much of the burden has been passed on to city workers (both residents and non residents) who pay a wage tax that brings in 46% of the city’s revenue, increases in property and sales taxes are much more apparent.

How can the city get a handle on increased taxes to pay salaries and benefits? By right-sizing the municipal workforce to eliminate useless departments and redirect the workforce towards public safety and amenities that will provide dividends down the road. By requiring existing city workers to pay a larger share of their health care benefits and pensions similar to the national average of 9% of their salary to ensure the long-term financial viability of the pension fund, while increasing the retirement age and switching to a defined benefit system for new hires. By reforming the property tax collection and reassessing properties to ensure a fair and equitable property tax system. By eliminating the business privilege tax to increase the competitiveness of the city as a place to do business and remain a center of economic growth. By making the State of Pennsylvania comply with the PA Supreme Court’s ruling to fund the county court system, a cost of $100 million a year that the Republicans in Harrisburg are unwilling to deal with, despite their love of local government.

Whatever woes befall the city of Philadelphia, the suburbs are not immune to these troubles. Already in eastern part of Delaware County and pockets of Montgomery and Chester Counties there are areas of growing poverty that challenge this region’s bright economic and social future. Having lived in Lower Merion Township, I know that the fortunes of even one of the wealthiest townships in the Philadelphia region are forever tied with the communities that surround it, whether it is Haverford Township or Philadelphia.

Part of Philadelphia’s governmental malaise lies in its history of one party rule. Since the 1830s, the city has enjoyed extended periods of one party rule, whether by the Jacksonian Democrats (1832-1860s), the Republican machine that governed a city that was “corrupt and contented” (1871-1951), and the Democratic reform coalition (1951-present) that has gradually evolved into a regime that preserves the status quo in an era of economic and demographic transformation. While a partisan Democrat, I firmly believe in the two-party system that requires a careful check on both the role of government and destiny of a community. This is a problem not only in Philadelphia, but in the central part of Pennsylvania.

On November 4, due to a fire on an R5 line that I rode from Bryn Mawr during the SEPTA strike (instead of my normal commute of taking the Norristown line to the Market-Frankfort Subway Line), I walked on Lancaster Avenue from City Line to Center City, a walk of about 5 miles. In a sense, Lancaster Avenue displays the racial divisions within the metropolitan region as shown in the map above. You can also see the economic fortunes of the region as one walks through west Philadelphia, from the areas of growing poverty in Overbrook, the sheer amount of abandonment between 59th and 48th Streets, the slowly revitalizing portions from 44th Street to 38th, to the Drexel University area south of 38th Street. While one can easily see the challenges that face the City of Philadelphia, one can easily see the potential for the 21st century city.

As I take leave of Philadelphia for the big sky of Dallas, Texas, I will fondly remember my time in Philadelphia. The city of William Penn and Edmund Bacon, of Benjamin Franklin and Jon Wanamaker, of Richard Allen and Wilson Goode, of Pattie LaBelle and Wilt Chamberlain, and of Ed Rendell and James Logan continues to inspire and point to a more perfect union of hope and reality. And for this I am ever thankful.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One Week: The Political Landscape of the Michigan State House and Senate

(cross-posted at WMR, ML, BFM, and SSP-pb)


A week from the November 2 election, races in the Michigan State House and Senate are coming down to the home stretch. Many pundits, anonymous party officials, and insiders believe that Republican Rick Snyder will be elected governor of Michigan over Democratic candidate Virg Bernero. Far less certain is the status of individual races in the Michigan legislature. While some pundits and partisan hacks boldly state that the Michigan Republican Party will hold 28 Senate and 59 House seats by the evening of November 2, the actual picture remains much more clouded. Can the Republicans capture thirteen seats to control the lower chamber? Will the Democrats be able to pick up four senate seats to control of the upper chamber for the first time since 1984?

The recent pre-general financial reports for candidates help shed light on the situation on the ground. Candidates must report the amount of money they have raised and spent between August 24 and October 17, and must also declare their cash on hand at the end of the reporting period. We can thus see how the financial condition of candidates has changed since the previous analysis in early September. As in previous analysis of the State House and Senate candidates, I have collected the reported financial data that can be viewed [ via the linked Google document].

State Senate

In my early September analysis, I postulated that the Republican Senate candidates and caucus’ strong financial edge would limit any potential Democratic gains in the upper chamber to one or two seats. The pre-general election financial filings confirm the GOP’s strong financial edge, an edge which has increased over the past two months. Yet does this edge translate into a GOP gain of six seats in the senate as some have predicted?

Reviewing the financial statements, I see no reason to change the earlier assessment that Lansing will certainly see eleven Democrats in the State Senate come January 2011. However, the four Democratic-leaning seats are potential sleeper Republican pickup possibilities upon first glance. However, in the 6th District (Livonia and Westland) Democratic incumbent Glen Anderson has an 18 time cash on hand advantage over Republican challenger John Pastor, who only has $4,086 on hand.

The other three races present better opportunities for the GOP. In the 10th District (Sterling Heights, Roseville, and Clinton Township) Republican Representative Tory Rocca has a sizable financial edge ($129,944 cash on hand) over Paul Gieleghem (-2,472), although Gieleghem has outspent Rocca by almost $70,000. In the 31st District (Bay County and the Thumb Region) Democratic Representative Jeff Mayes’ financial edge has dissipated after outspending Republican Mike Green by almost $140,000, with each candidate having around $40,000 cash on hand for the last week of the campaign. Internal Democratic polling has Mayes leading by a sizable margin, which has led the Senate caucus to direct their financial resources to the 38th District, a seat being vacated by Democratic senator Mike Prusi. Democratic Representative Michael Lahti and Republican Tom Casperson are in a tight battle in a historic Democratic district in the Upper Peninsula. While Casperson is perhaps the best candidate the Republicans have fielded in the Upper Peninsula in the most Republican year in Michigan since 1998, the long-standing Democratic baseline strength gives the Democrats an even shot to hold this seat.

The ten Republican-leaning seats are likely to remain in the Republican column next week. However, three seats bear watching on election night. District 13 (eastern Oakland County), the site of an epic 2006 race between Andy Levin and John Papageorge, has a strong Democratic challenger in Aaron Bailey, who has spent $151,874 in the past two months. Bailey’s spending has been surpassed by Papageorge’s $325,553. In the 16th District (southern mid-Michigan) Democratic Representative Douglas Spade remains an underdog against Republican Representative Bruce Caswell, who has spent almost $140,000 in the past two months. With two weeks left, Spade has a small cash on hand advantage over Caswell, which could provide an opening for an upset. Finally, Republican incumbent “Raging” Roger Kahn has spent more than $200,000 to hold his 32nd District seat against Democrat Debasish Mridha, who has provided significant self-financing to remain competitive against Kahn. While the 32nd District has a historic Democratic-lean, Kahn’s previous success in this district keeps him favored a week before the election.

Of the five remaining swing seats, four are currently held by Republicans, and one by a Democrat. With the death of Democratic candidate Robert Jones, the 20th District (Kalamazoo County) looks to be leaning to Republican candidate Tonya Schuitmaker, who has $84,000 remaining in cash for the final week against Bobby Hopewell, the Democratic replacement candidate. Republican candidate Geoff Hansen also has a significant financial edge against Democrat Mary Valentine in the 34th District (Muskegon County), although Valentine’s formidable ground game might pull out a victory. Republicans have an even chance of flipping the 26th District (Genesee County and northern Oakland County), as Republican David Robertson is facing Democrat Paula Zelenko. While Democrat Deborah Cherry held this seat in 2002 and 2006, the 26th is much less Democratic than expected.

Senate Democratic caucus’ best chances of picking up seats appear to be in the 7th and 29th Senate Districts. The 7th (western Wayne County), features a four way race between Democrat Kathleen Law, Republican Patrick Colbeck, and two independent candidates (John Stewart and Michael Kheibari). While the 7th District has had a historic Republican lean, a former Republican moderate like Stewart will take some votes from Republican Colbeck that improves Law’s chances. In the 29th District (Grand Rapids and Kentwood), David LaGrand remains neck and neck with Republican Representative David Hildenbrand despite being outspent by almost $150,000 over the past two months. With a week to go, LaGrand has a $25,000 cash on hand advantage over Hildenbrand

If the election was held today, I’d expect the Democrats to pick up two seats in the senate (Districts 7 and 29) while losing one (District 26), leaving 21 Republicans and 17 Democrats in the upper chamber. However, with a week left, the picture is far to fluid to make a final assessment. I’ll be watching the following seats on election night: Districts 7, 10, 13, 16, 20, 26, 29, 31, 32, 34, and 38.

State House

In September I noted that both parties had a number of safe seats in the State House that are not going to attract the attention of the opposing party. 35 Democrats and 27 Republicans will assuredly return to Lansing. Of the remaining seats, 18 lean Democratic, 14 lean Republican, and 16 swing seats.

Of the Democratic-leaning districts, only five bear watching on election night. In District 15 (Dearborn), Republican Suzanne Sareini remains financially competitive against opponent Democrat George Darany in a district that was a swing seat earlier in the decade. Likewise, in the 26th District (Royal Oak), Democrat James Townsend has recovered from an expensive primary to pull into a financial advantage against Republican Kenneth Rosen. In the 55th District (Monroe and Washtenaw Counties) the Democratic candidates Michael Smith has increased his financial edge against Republican Rick Olson. In the 75th District (eastern Grand Rapids) Democratic candidate Brandon Dillon seeks to hold an open Democratic seat against Republican businessman Bing Goei. The Michigan Democrat House caucus’ decision to dump $125,000 into the race in the past few days symbolizes the trust the caucus has in Dillon’s ability to hold this seat. In the 110th District (western Upper Peninsula) Democrat Scott Dianda has a significant financial edge over Republican Matt Huuki, although the edge many Republican candidates have might help Huuki in this historic Democratic district. Finally, the 31st District is a Democratic-held seat in Macomb County that could be a potential Republican pickup opportunity. Marilyn Lane is facing Republican Dan Tolis, who has poured more than $100,000 into his campaign coffers. Tollis has raised and spent little money since August 23 (raising $458 and spending $4,714), while Lane has spent heavily on the race.

Of the 14 Republican-leaning seats, three are being vacated by term-limited by Democratic incumbents (Districts 20, 83, and 107) and are likely Republican pickups. Six of the 14 seats are held by Republican incumbents, and face no competitive Democratic challenger. Of the five open Republican seats, GOP candidates have a small to significant financial advantage.

Of the remaining 16 seats, five are held by Democratic incumbents. The five Democratic incumbents (District 1, Tim Bledsoe; District 21, Dian Slavens; District 24, Sarah Roberts; District 39, Lisa Brown; District 70, Mike Huckleberry) all have large financial advantages over their Republican opponents, although Mike Hukleberry’s financial edge has shrunk with his massive spending against Republican Rick Outman.

The five Republican-held swing seats, all are open seats. Districts 30 (Sterling Heights), Districts 71 (Eaton County), 85 (Shiawassee County), 97 (Clare, Gladwin, and Arenac Counties), and 99 (Isabella and Midland Counties) all feature close races, although Democrats are in stronger shape in the 30th and 97th Districts.

The six open Democratic held seats are all in danger of being Republican pickups. The Republicans look especially competitive in Districts 52 (western Washtenaw County), although Republican Mark Oumiet’s financial shenanigans while a county commissioner are catching up to him. In districts 65 (Jackson County) and 91 (Muskegon County), self-financing Republicans Mike Shirkey and Holly Hughes are likely to pick up these seats. The 106th also looks like a possible flip, with Republican Peter Pettalia continuing to maintaining a financial edge against Democrat Casey Viegelahn. The two remaining open Democratic seats seem to be much safer for their party, with Van Sheltrown in the 103rd District (Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, and Iosco Counties), and Harvey Schmidt in the 57th District (Monroe County) each have an active local party, a financial edge and strong support from the departing Democratic incumbents.

As of October 26, I expect the Republicans to pick up nine seats while the Democrats will likely flip one seat, leaving the Democrats with a 59 to 51 seat edge in the House. On election night I’ll be watching 12 races in Districts 21, 31, 52, 55, 57, 65, 70, 71, 75, 103, 108, and 110.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Central Norristown Report

(another church report, this time on a congregation located in Norristown, an old river town in Metropolitan Philadelphia-pb)

Like many Presbyterian churches, Norristown Central Presbyterian Church was born in the wake of the Old School/New School Presbyterian controversy 1837. This controversy was born out of decades of polity and theological disputes within the growing denomination, particularly over the role of 1801 Plan of Union between Presbyterian and Congregational denominations and the issue of slavery. Being the center of northern Presbyterianism, the metropolitan Philadelphia region featured a number of church splits. This was the case in Norristown, Pennsylvania, which was the growing county seat of Montgomery County, just to the west of the city of Philadelphia. The First Presbyterian Church of Norristown, which was founded in 1819, had elected to join the New School Presbyterians in 1838. In 1855 a new pastor assumed the pulpit at First Norristown, and convinced the majority of the session to join the Old School Presbyterians, a move that alienated a number of congregation members, who promptly left the congregation.

These members formed Norristown Central Presbyterian Church, which formed in August 1855 at Hill Hall, which was located at the corner of Swede and Airy Street in the shadow of the County Courthouse. Like many New School Presbyterian churches, the congregation refused to adopt a pew rental system, and instead sought pledges from the congregation. This caused some discussion among congregation members, which are dutifully captured in the session minutes. This early dissent notwithstanding, the congregation was incorporated two months later on October 15, 1855, and the congregation called its first pastor Daniel Mallery (1856-1862). Under Mallery’s tenure the church’s first sanctuary was built in 1862 on the north side of Main Street between Cherry and Swede Streets at a cost of $16,000 (the equivalent of $341,155 in 2009 dollars).

Following Mallery’s departure in 1862 to serve as a chaplain in the Union Army during the American Civil War, Robert Adair (1862-1865) assumed the pastorate as the church began worship in its new sanctuary. Over the next forty years the congregation grew at the downtown location, due in party to a series of revivals conducted between 1871 and 1875 under the leadership of Pastor Henry Ford (1866-1875). Under the next three pastors (William Jenks, 1875-1881, Joseph McCaskie, 1882-1886, and Lincoln Litch 1886-1891) the congregation continued to grow, as Norristown’s population continued to grow. With the arrival of James Hunter as pastor in 1892, the congregation began to actively considering moving to the western portion of Norristown, which was growing rapidly. With the encouragement of First Norristown, the congregation selected a site at the intersection of Airy and Stanbridge Streets in January 1899. A chapel was built in 1901 on the present-day site of the church, and the congregation decided to sell the current sanctuary at a congregational meeting in March 1902. Inaugural services were held in the new chapel on November 16, 1902, and led by the pastors of both First and Central Presbyterian churches.

The new sanctuary was elegantly constructed in the English gothic style. The stain-glass windows were also constructed in gothic style, and were designed by Nicholas D’Ascenzo, who was a master glassmaker based in Philadelphia. D’Ascenzo and his studio also designed stain glass windows for the National Cathedral in Washington DC and Riverside Church in New York City. The most windows on the east side of the sanctuary are called the “Gospel Windows”, and reflect the Christ’s ministries; while the windows on the west side of the church are commonly referred to as the “Law Windows” and display scenes from the Old Testament.

Map 1: Downtown Norristown

Following the movement of the congregation to a new site and the retirement of Pastor Hunter in 1902, the congregation entered a period of transition during the first years of John Crawford’s (1903-1936) tenure as pastor. A number of congregants who lived in the downtown area transferred their membership to First Presbyterian, while 87 new members joined Central within two years of Crawford’s arrival. In many was Crawford was a “foundational” pastor for the congregation; he created a number of ministry programs for the church that took strands from the social gospel movement as well as the missionary/organizational movement that swept the Protestantism before the 1914. Under his watch the church building was completed in October 1907, programming for children and summer school began, and financial support for the Norristown Presbyterian Italian Mission began in 1911.

Following Crawford’s retirement in 1936 the congregation continued to grow in membership during the tenures of James Kell (1937-1944) and James Grazier (1945-1959). Under the former the congregation began joint evening services with other Presbyterian churches in Norristown, and with the latter the church built a new educational wing that was completed in 1955, refurbished the main sanctuary in 1957, and reached new heights in membership.

Norristown’s membership numbers began to decline following Grazier’s retirement in 1959, which coincided with the migration of white Protestants from urban centers such as Norristown to newly forming suburban communities. The membership began to decline during the tenure of Joseph MacCarroll (1959-1963), and membership fell from 728 to 509 between 1964 and 1977 during the tenure of MacCaroll’s successor John McConaughy (1963-1977). The western portions of Norristown continued to change during the 1980s, as the white population declined as residents moved to the surrounding suburban communities, and the neighborhoods surrounding Central became increasingly Latino. During Peter Leathersich’s (1980 to 1988) tenure, the congregational membership dropped from 403 to under 200. While the church experienced continued instability in the 1990s, experiencing three short-term pastorates (two of them interim), under the leadership of Frank Amalfitano (1999-2006) the congregation began to increasingly reach out to the growing Latino population, and with funds from the General Assembly, called Pastor Gadiel Gomez-Saravia to serve a new Latino congregation.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Arch Street Presbyterian Church Case Study

(Going through the archive as I get ready to depart from Philadelphia. This is a report I wrote as part of a consulting project on Arch Street Presbyterian Church back in February 2009-pb)

Part I: A Brief History of Arch Street Presbyterian Church

Like many churches in urban centers of the United States, Arch Street Presbyterian Church has a
long history. This history, while similar to the broader Presbyterian story, also has unique 
characteristics that are reflective of demographic changes occurring in center city neighborhoods 
of Philadelphia.

The current congregation at 1724 Arch St is a product of five congregations that merged over the 
past one hundred years. The first congregation known as Arch Street was
established in 1813 as the Fifth Presbyterian Church. Fifth Presbyterian called a few pastors but
 none stayed longer than a few years until Dr. Thomas H. Skinner was called in 1816. Skinner began his tenure at the church by preaching a series of sermons against doctrinal preaching that
 eventually led to a threatened church trial for heresy. While the trial never occurred, the new 
pastor garnered plenty of attention that rapidly increased the size of the growing congregation
 and the building of a new sanctuary that was dedicated on Saturday June 7, 1823. When
 Skinner left to be a Professor at Andover Seminary in 1832 the congregation had 600 members, a
number which fell quickly after his departure. The bitter disputes within the congregation over
 Skinner’s successor led to only 92 remaining members who greeted George Duffield as their new
pastor in 1835. Duffield’s departure in 1837 was likely due to tensions within the church
regarding the New School/Old School split within the national Presbyterian Church, as Fifth
 Presbyterian Church soon was among the leading Old School congregations while Duffield
 became a prominent New School Pastor.

After a decade of decline and waning membership numbers, Fifth Presbyterian was reorganized
 in February 1850 as Arch Street Presbyterian Church and called Charles Wadsworth as its pastor.
 Wadsworth served for thirteen years, and the congregation grew rapidly, often filling the 
sanctuary an hour before services began, causing the session to build a trap door behind the 
pulpit to allow Wadsworth to enter through the basement of the building. While the church
 continued to maintain robust membership figures during the tenures of N. W. Conklin (1863-
1868) and John Withrow (1868-1873), the continued industrialization of the eastern portions of
 Center City led to the removal of many residential units and parishioners from the neighborhood 
surrounding the church by the mid-1870s. Many members moved to the growing suburban
neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city core, causing the church’s membership to decline
under the tenures of Walter Scott (1874-1878) and John Sands (1880-1890). While the church’s 
membership had rejected a merger with Second Presbyterian in March 1868, the Session strongly
 considered merger in March 1894, as the income from pew rents declined drastically under the
leadership of George Wilson (1891-1897). Following Wilson’s retirement in 1897 the 
congregation discussed merger with West Arch Street, and received approval from the
 Philadelphia Presbytery in June 1897.

The West Arch Street congregation that Arch Street members joined in 1897 had been in
existence since 1828 when the congregation was organized as 11th Presbyterian in November
 1828. The new church called John L. Grant as pastor in June 1829, he served until 1850. With 
the arrival of Pastor John Miller in 1850, the church sought a new sanctuary to house the ever-
growing congregation that soon became one of the largest Old School congregations in the 
country. The present-day sanctuary was built between 1853 and 1855, with the cornerstone laid 
on May 21, 1855 in the presence of numerous conservative and southern Presbyterian elites,
 including Princeton Professors A. B. Van Zandt and Robert Breckinridge. The Greek Revival sanctuary was designed by Joseph Hoxie and built to seat 900 on the ground floor and 200 in the galleries at a cost of $103,571.27(or $2.5 million in 2009 dollars). After Miller’s departure (and death while fighting for the Confederacy in 1864), Jonathan Edwards (1857-1866) a descendant of theologian Jonathan Edwards, became pastor and at one point welcomed the Prince of Wales to a service. After Edwards’ tenure Alphonso Willits (1867-1880) and John Hemphill (1882-1893) served the congregation, which soon began experiencing some of the same neighborhood transition that had transformed the Arch Street Congregation seven blocks to the east. Despite merging with Arch Street in 1897 the congregation continued to experience membership 
decline under the tenure of Mervin J. Eckels (1893-1913), as the central portion of the city
 became a growing commercial district for the metropolitan Philadelphia region.

Part II: The Revitalization of Center City Philadelphia

With its location in the heart of Center City, Arch Street Presbyterian was adversely affected by 
its population decline between 1860 and 1960. With the Center City neighborhood rapidly 
becoming an industrial and later commercial center, the residential population declined, resulting 
in many members of the church changing their membership to churches in their new

Yet in the past fifty years the population of Center City rebounded, and since
 1960 has gained population while Philadelphia’s overall population decline, and the metropolitan 
region’s population remained static. The population of Center City
 increased from 43,465 in 1970 to 49,211 in 2000, a 13% increase over the past thirty years. 
While the population of the neighborhoods to the north and south of Center City continued to
 decline until 2000, the median housing values increased along with median income levels. The 
rise in income and population levels is due in part to the development of new residential units
throughout Center City. While new residential unit construction had occurred since the 1970s,
 the passage of a 10 year tax abatement program in 1997 for new housing developments in
 Philadelphia certainly made such ventures more profitable. Between 1997 and 2008 10,316 new
 housing units were constructed in Center City and in the surrounding core neighborhoods to the
 north and south (known as the “Extended Area”). The wave of developments after 1997 further increased the Center City residential population from 49,211 in 2000 to 57,000 in 2008,
 while the total expanded area population rose from 78,902 in 2000 to 90,000 in 2008. Much of this development is high-end condos, lofts, and townhouses that are moving into
 neighborhoods such as Queen Village and Northern Liberties on the outskirts of Center City that 
have historically been working-class or low-income.

A recent Center City District
 publication reports that 41% of the new residents have moved into their new dwellings from
outside the City of Philadelphia. These new arrivals to the neighborhoods around Arch Street Presbyterian are well-educated
(with 47% holding an advanced or professional degree), and are generally between the age of 25
and 34, and generally are “empty-nesters” (married couple without children), although there is a
 sizable number of single residents in the city. While the population of Center City is still largely
 white, a sizable and increasing minority is multi-racial. With the rebirth in the residential
 population of Center City, the population density of the area has increased as well, providing
 increase impetus for mixed use commercial development that further promotes revitalization 
efforts for the city’s core.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Michigan State House and Senate: September 2010

(Cross-posted on WMR, ML, BFM, and SSP-pb)

(photo by Tom Gill of beautiful Lake Michigan)

As we celebrate a beautiful Labor Day weekend, we can also rejoice in the unofficial start date of the 2010 campaign season. While many voters were bombarded with attention from campaigns over the past few months during primary season, the general election season will be upon us now with full vigor. Labor Day weekend also nicely coincides with the post-primary filing date for Michigan’s legislative campaigns. Candidates must report the amount of money they have raised and spent between July 18 and August 23, and must also declare their cash on hand at the end of the reporting period.

Thus we can see the financial condition of candidates entering to the last 61 days before Election Day in the contours of Michigan’s political landscape. As in previous analysis of the State House and Senate candidates, I have collected the reported financial data that can be obtained through a subscription. Please feel free to contact me at

State House

While signs of a Republican edge in the 2010 election have emerged over the past few months, the reality of Michigan’s political geography will reduce the number of competitive seats in the state to no more than fifteen. Using electoral data from the past four cycles, I’ve created a House District matrix that is shown in the linked Google document. Both parties have a number of safe seats that are not going to attract the attention of the opposing party; the Democrats have 31, the Republicans have 25. The filing date backs the electoral data. 22 Republicans have filed financial filing waivers, meaning they will raise no more than $1,000 for the 2010 election cycle, meaning they will most assuredly lose in November. Thirteen other Republican candidates have raised less than $1,000, and are already being heavily outspent by their Democratic opponents. Thus, for all intent and purpose, the Democrats will have at least 35 Representatives in January 2011.

27 Republicans will also most assuredly return to Lansing with these 35 Democrats. 17 Democrats have filed financial waivers, while six Republicans are unchallenged this fall (Peter Lund-36th, Kenneth Kurtz- 58th, Bob Genetski-88th, Joe Haveman-90th, Jim Stamas-98th, Wayne Schmidt, 104th). Say what you will about the Michigan Republican Party, but they ran candidates in every State House District, something that the Democrats didn’t do this cycle. The remaining four Republicans face rather nominal opposition, although Democrat Garry Post has self-financed his campaign against incumbent Republican Cindy Denby in the 47th District (northern Livingston County).

The remaining 48 districts are more competitive. Of these seats, I have classified 18 as Democratic leaning districts and fourteen as leaning Republican. Of the 18 Democratic seats, only 16 are potentially competitive since two Republicans have filed financial waivers. Eleven of these 18 Democrats are incumbents and are generally in a stronger financial position than their Republican opponents. Democratic incumbents Marty Griffin (64th-Jackson County) and Judy Nerat (108th-Menominee County) are the only two incumbents in less than robust financial positions against their opponents. Democrats will be most concerned about the seven open Democratic-leaning districts, six which the Democrats are defending. In the 15th (Dearborn), Republican Suzanne Sareini has double the money that her opponent Democrat George Darany has, which could make this seat one the GOP could put in play. In the 26th (Royal Oak), Democrat James Townsend is fresh off an expensive primary, while his Republican opponent Kenneth Rosen has a significant financial edge due to his self financing. In the 55th (Monroe and Washtenaw Counties) and the 75th (eastern Grand Rapids) the Democratic candidates Michael Smith and Brandon Dillon have significant financial advantages over their opponents, making the likelihood of the GOP House Caucus spending funds in these races much less likely. In the 110th (western Upper Peninsula) Democrat Scott Dianda has a financial edge over Republican Matt Huuki, although both candidates have not raised much money. The 31st District is a Republican-held seat in Macomb County that could be a potential Democratic pickup opportunity, and Marilyn Lane is facing Republican Dan Tolis, who has poured more than $100,000 into his campaign coffers.

Of the fourteen Republican leaning seats, six are held by GOP incumbents, five are open Republican seats, and three were vacated by term-limited Democratic incumbents. Three Democrats have filed financial waivers, meaning that only eleven seats are active elections. All GOP incumbents have a strong financial edge, while in the five open Republican seats, two Democratic candidates has filed a financial waiver (District 79 and 81), and in two races the Republican candidate has a large financial edge (Districts 33 and 61). Only in the 80th District (Van Buren County) does Democrat Tom Erdmann have a narrow financial advantage against Republican Aric Nesbitt, who spent a lot of money in a six-way Republican primary. Of the three Democratic-held district, two (District 83-Sanliac County, District 107-eastern Upper Peninsula) appear to be Republican pickups, as the Democratic candidates in each district have raised very little money in a tough political environment. In the 20th District vacated by Representative Marc Corriveau, Democrat Joan Wadsworth has a significant financial advantage over Republican Kurt Heise, who has largely self-financed his campaign. If Wadsworth can hold the 20th, which covers Plymouth Township and Northville in Wayne County, it will be a testament to her political skill.

The remaining 16 seats are swing districts, with five held by the GOP. The five Democratic incumbents (District 1, Tim Bledsoe; District 21, Dian Slavens; District 24, Sarah Roberts; District 39, Lisa Brown; District 70, Mike Huckleberry) all have large financial advantages over their Republican opponents, an advantage which the Democratic State House caucus will certainly supplement over the next two months. The six open-Democratic held seats are much more open to a Republican takeover. The Republicans look especially competitive in Districts 52 (western Washtenaw County), 65 (Jackson County) and 91 (Muskegon County), thanks to three self-financing candidates in Mark Ouimet, Mike Shirkey and Holly Hughes. While I suspect that Christine Green will be able to benefit from strong institutional support in Washtenaw County, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Shirkey and Hughes win their districts. The 106th also looks like a possible flip, with Republican Peter Pettalia out raising Democrat Casey Viegelahn. The two remaining open Democratic seats seem to be much safer for their party, with Van Sheltrown in the 103rd District (Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, and Iosco Counties), and Harvey Schmidt in the 57th District (Monroe County) each have an active local party, a financial edge and strong support from the departing Democratic incumbents. MDP will likely steer resources towards these two districts.

Of the five Republican held swing seats, all are open seats. Of these, Districts 30 (Sterling Heights), 97 (Clare, Gladwin, and Arenac Counties), and 99 (Isabella and Midland Counties) all look like potential Democratic pickups opportunities in November. Each Democratic candidate has a significant financial edge over their Republican opponent. Districts 71 (Eaton County) and 85 (Shiawassee County) are also potential opportunities, although the Republican candidates might be aided by a better political climate this fall.

With two months to go, I expect the Democrats to lose between four and seven seats in the Michigan State House. While the political environment is not favorable for the Democratic Party this cycle, the Michigan Democratic House caucus has a two to one financial advantage over the Republican House caucus (As of July 20, 2010 the Democratic House Caucus had $850,469 versus the Republican’s $394,231) that will be used to effect over the next few weeks. While a Republican gain might be larger, I suspect the state party will choose instead to focus money on regaining control over the Michigan Supreme Court and retaining the State Senate. For folks interested where these house districts are located, please see the maps below

State Senate

The financial situation in the Michigan State Senate is a 180 degree reversal of the State House. The Republican Senate caucus has a three to one money advantage, with $1,584,502 cash on hand versus the Democratic Senate caucus total of $505,007 (as of July 20). This deep financial advantage, along with the unfavorable political environment will make it difficult, but not impossible, for the Democrats to take control of the State Senate.

Of the 38 seats, 30 are open in the 2010 cycle. While the turnover in senators will be significant, the partisan makeup of the chamber will not be significantly altered. Eleven seats are safe in the hands of the Democratic Party, while the Republicans will assuredly return eight senators in January 2011. Of the eleven Democrats running for safe seats, nine have Republicans who have filed financial waivers, while Republicans Michael Ennis (District 9) and Kyle Haubrich (District 23) have raised insignificant amounts of funds, ensuring that Democrats Steve Bieda and Gretchen Whitmer will be reelected in November. Of the eight safe Republicans, two are incumbents (Mike Nofs in District 19 and Mark Jansen in District 28) and their opponents filed financial waivers. Democratic candidates also filed financial waivers in the 24th and 30th Districts, while none of the remaining four Democratic candidates have raised more than $5,000 against well-financed opponents.

10 seats are leaning Republican for a number of reasons. Republicans Jack Brandenburg (District 11-Macomb County) and Philip Pavlov (Lapeer and St. Clair Counties) face opponents who filed financial waivers, and Jim Marleau in the 12th District (Oakland County) and Mike Kowall in the 15th (northern Oakland) have significant financial advantages over Casandra Ulbrich and Pamela Jackson respectively. Incumbent Republican senators John Pappageorge (13th District-eastern Oakland County), Randy Richardville (17th District-Monroe and Washtenaw Counties), and Roger Kahn (32nd District-Saginaw County) have significant cash on hand advantages over their Democratic challengers. However, Aaron Bailey in the 13th and Debasish Mridha in the 32nd have raised significant funds that would allow them to make a play at these seats in a better political environment. A similar situation exists in the open 16th and 36th district seats, where popular Democrats Douglas Spade and Andy Neumann are running against Bruce Caswell and John Moolenaar. Neumann narrowly lost in 2002 in a bid for a senate seat, and it appears that Moolenaar has a significant financial advantage of more than $200,000 at the beginning of September. Democrats might consider making a play at the 16th District, where Douglas Spade will face Caswell, who provided a personal fortune for his attempt for higher office. Finally, in the 37th District, while Republican Howard Walker’s campaign account was depleted after a bitter primary battle, Democrat Bob Carr hasn’t caught on fire financially.

The four Democratic-leaning seats are a mixed bag for the defending party. Incumbent Glenn Anderson (6th District-Livonia and Westland) and Jeff Mayes (Bay County and the Thumb region) have significant cash on hand advantages, meaning they will avoid being targeted by the Republicans. However, in the 10th (Macomb County) and 38th (Upper Peninsula) Districts, two excellent candidates for each party (Paul Gieleghem versus Tory Rocca in the former and Michael Lahti and Tom Casperson in the latter) mean that there will be a contested race with significant funding from each party. While the Republican candidates are strong, the seats both have historic Democratic leanings, which will be crucial to retaining these seats in November.

The five remaining seats will decide control of the Senate. If the Republicans can hold two of their four seats, they will have a 20 to 18 edge in the chamber. The Democrats need to hold the 26th District (Genesee and Oakland Counties) and pick up three of the Republican seats. The problem for the Democrats is that their candidates in two of the five districts are in at a distinct financial disadvantage. In the 20th District Democrat Robert Jones has just over $10,000 on hand (and has loaned himself an equal amount), and is going up against Tonya Schuitmaker, who is personally wealthy and willing to spend significant sums to hold this Kalamazoo County seat, although she only has $6,000 on hand after an expensive primary. Democrat David LaGrand ($30,648 cash on hand) trails opponent David Hildenbrand ($134,352 cash on hand) by more than $100,000, and edge that the senate Democrats will have to try and overcome to contest this seat. Democratic candidates in the 7th (Kathleen Law with $21,577 cash on hand), 26th (Paula Zelenko with $23,041 cash on hand) and Mary Valentine ($49,231) are at rough financial parity with their Republican opponents Patrick Colbeck ($13,267), David Robertson ($10,648), and Geoff Hansen ($57,371).

Given the number of strong candidates in each party competing in some competitive districts, it seems that the parties will likely exchange some seats. However, given the Republican Senate caucus’ strong financial edge, I suspect the Democratic gain will be limited to a one to two seat gain, keeping the Republicans in control of the upper chamber.

Politics is about candidates and their message competing in a political landscape strongly shaped by partisan boundaries. With two months to go, both parties will be racing to the finish line. So, enjoy the last few weeks of peace and quiet before the robocalls start, and enjoy some beautiful state senate district photos below.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Poorly armed and somewhat dangerous: Tea Party candidates in the 2010 Michigan primary

(Cross-posted at WMR, ML, BFM, and SSP-pb)

Since early 2009, the Tea Party movement has gained an enormous amount of media attention. While claiming to be a non-partisan movement, the Tea Party is remarkably consistent with some of the core constituencies at the heart of Republican Party since the late 1960s. In particular, the themes commonly evoked by Tea Party participants (economic libertarianism, fervent individualism, and deep distrust of any governmental intervention) largely mirror the platform of Republican Representative Ron Paul’s 2008 candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination. Indeed, many organizers of Paul’s campaign and leaders in the Young American for Freedom (YAF) were behind many of the early Tea Party events in 2009.

The rise of the Tea Party movement represents in part a return of many conservative libertarians to the GOP. The candidacy of Barry Goldwater in 1964 did much to bring libertarians into the Republican Party, were they largely remained for following four decades. During his second term, George W. Bush was responsible for driving some libertarians out, as many became extremely disenchanted with the Republican Party’s focus on social issues and increased governmental expansion. While not abandoning the Republican Party entirely, a sizable percentage of libertarians voted from Democratic candidates in 2006 and 2008 for reasons similar to those voiced in blogger Markos Moulitsas’s 2006 Cato Unbound [ article].

Thus, the Tea Party movement should be viewed as a campaign bus returning disenchanted Republicans to an active role in the GOP. As numerous polls show, members of the movement are overwhelming conservative, white, older, well off, and evangelical Protestant in religious identity. The overriding narrative should not be that the Tea Party is a bunch of angry independents ready to forge an independent political movement, but rather that libertarians will be an active participant in the ideological battles within in the Republican Party following the November 2010 elections that will likely last until the end of the 2012 GOP Presidential primary.

Of course, American politics are decided at the ballot box, not at Ron Paul forums. The 2010 Michigan State House and State Senate primaries offer a good perspective on whether the Tea Party movement will be able to translate its message resurgent libertarianism into political success.

I identified the candidates running in the Republican or Democratic primary for the State House (508 total) and the State Senate (164 total), and used the endorsements from the Republican Liberty Caucus (RLC) and the Independence Caucus (IC) to determined if candidates could be considered authentic supporters of the Tea Party Movement. The RLC has long been a libertarian action group within the Republican Party. Founded in 1991, the RLC’s website states that it strongly supports “individual rights, limited government and free enterprise,” hallmarks of conservative libertarianism. The IC was created in 2008 by supporters of Jason Chaffetz, a libertarian Republican who defeated long-time Republican Congressman Chris Cannon in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District. The IC’s website also supports libertarian principles, including “limited government, fiscal responsibility, and constitutional authority.” I used the endorsements from the RLC and IC to determine a candidate’s adherence to the Tea Party movement since many candidates, while stating vague solidarity, at heart want to run away from being associated with the conservative libertarian principles of the movement.

As shown in the [ linked Google document], both the RLC and IC endorsed a number of candidates in the 2010 primary. 25 State House and 12 State Senate candidates were endorsed by either the RLC or the IC, and four (two in the State House and two in the State Senate) were endorsed by both groups. All candidates were Republicans, and two were GOP incumbents in the State House (David Agema-74th and Bob Genetski-88th).

The Tea Party candidates had a lousy record in state house primary races. Of the 25 candidates in State House primaries, five did not face a primary challenge (including Agema and Genteski). However, only Agema and Genteski are likely to head to Lansing after November 2010, as the three challengers are in districts that are either safely Democratic (Bret Allen-29th and Chase Ingersoll-53rd) or have a strong Democratic incumbent (Steven Mobley-62nd). The remaining 20 candidates faced competitive primaries, resulting in only two Tea Party candidates winning the Republican nomination. One winner (Cynthia Kallgren-13th) is a sure loser this November, leaving Lori Levi (District 21) as the only non-incumbent Tea Party candidate who has a legitimate shot at winning.

Why did the remaining 18 Tea Party candidates lose their primaries? One (Dave Ryan-103rd) signed a financial waiver, dooming himself to sure defeat with promising not to raise more than $1,000 for the entire election cycle. While nearly all of the candidates provided personal loans to support their campaigns, many Tea Party candidates were simply unable to raise the money to compete successfully in the primary. Only 10 candidates raised more than $10,000 during the pre-primary filing period, and only five were able to raise more than $10,000 without personal loans to carry them over to the top. Thus, a large number of Tea Party candidates simply starved for a lack of funding.

Three races in Kent County are instructive to the struggle that Tea Party candidates faced in the 2010 primary season. Two of the races (Eric Larson-72nd and Jordan Bush-75th) featured aggressive first-time candidates who ran against more moderate Republicans who raised more traditional GOP themes. While Larson had an overwhelming financial advantage he lost to Ken Yonker by a narrow margin, a defeat that some say was caused by his over-reliance on direct mail and Yonker’s out-hustling him door-to-door. Bush faced a more uphill struggle against Goei, who had a financial advantage and establishment support, and while connecting well in his Alger Heights neighborhood and portions of the 2nd Ward, did not connect with voters in the Calvin Ghetto (east of Plymouth Street, south of Hall Street). In the 86th District, Walker Mayor Rob Ver Heulen lost to Lisa Lyons, daughter of former GOP State Senator Dick Posthumus, in a classic west/east side battle that once again, the more populated east side one. Lyons’ membership in the Posthumus political dynasty did not hurt, nor did the fact that candidates John Schwartz and Kimberly Cummings help divide up the Republican vote outside of Lyons’ political base in Ada Township and Lowell.

In the State Senate, a somewhat more mixed picture appears. The RLC and IC parted ways and endorsed opposing candidates in the 7th and 30th State Senate districts, with the IC supported candidate winning in the 7th (Patrick Colbeck) and the RLC candidate victorious in the 30th (Arlan Meekhof). Meekhof will win easily in November, while Colbeck will likely be in the crosshairs in an extremely competitive swing district. While 7th District Democratic candidate Kathleen Law is flawed in so many ways, the presence of former Republican John Stewart as an independent candidate could steal a large number of moderate Republican votes from Colbeck. This will be a race to watch in November. Kyle Haubrich was unopposed in the 23rd District GOP primary, and will be defeated handily in November by Democratic Senator Gretchen Whitmer.

Of the remaining seven Tea Party candidates with primaries, only David Hildenbrand (District 29) won. Hildenbrand is a sitting State Representative with strong conservative backing from his Lowell-based district, and will face strong general election opponent in former Grand Rapids City Commissioner David LaGrand. The remaining six faced challenges similar to those faced by their state house counterparts: low fundraising numbers and opposition from the GOP establishment.

Will the Tea Party movement have a future in Michigan politics past November 2010? I suspect that there will be no more than two Tea Party-endorsed members in both the Michigan State Senate and State House. However, the ideological battle within the Michigan Republican Party will continue unabated in the coming two years, particularly if GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder is elected. Of all the GOP candidates, Snyder is the one that raised the more ire among Tea Party supporters in Michigan, who seem him as the second coming of William Milliken. It will be fascinating to see how Snyder campaigns as a moderate while keeping the Tea Party movement within the GOP. Regardless, I am sure John Yob will play a role.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

State House Pre-Primary Filing Statements Analysis

(cross-posted at ML and BFM-pb)

As with the State Senate pre-primary filing statements, I’ve performed an analysis of the top fundraisers for the Michigan State House primary races. Again, for those interested in the complete set of financial data, you can request a subscription at

The top fifteen candidates in terms of money raised are listed in the link provided below:

Five of the top 15 fundraisers are incumbents, and five of the 15 are Democrats. Two of the top fundraisers are Mike Shirkley and Mark Ouimet, Republicans running in open swing seats (Districts 65th and 52nd) that the Democrats will be fighting to hold. It is interesting to note that of the top Democratic fundraisers, only one is from metropolitan Detroit (Rashida Tlaib District 12). If the Democrats remain in the majority (which I predict they will), I’d expect to see Scripps, Schmidt, and Tlaib in the running for leadership positions. In good news for the Democrats, Brandon Dillon, who is running for the 75th State House seat vacated by Robert Dean, raised a significant amount of money that leaves him with a comfortable cash on hand advantage for the general election.

The top 15 spenders are listed next (the second tab of the spreadsheet):

Once again, Republicans dominate this list, with self financers like Holly Hughes (District 91-Swing) and Jeff Oesterle (District 67-Safe DEM) repaying a large portion of their loans and thus leading the list. As with the State Senate list, many candidates with heavy spending are in competitive primaries.

Incumbents and candidates personally financing their campaigns dominate the list of candidates with the most cash on hand listed on the third tab of the spreadsheet:

11 of the 15 candidates with the greatest cash on hand advantage are incumbents, and nine of these are Democratic incumbents, three of whom are in swing Districts (Dian Slavens District 21, Sarah Roberts District 24, and Lisa Brown District 39). This financial edge is a heartening sign for continued Democratic control of the House.

Finally, Republicans hold all of the top 15 spots on the fourth spreadsheet listing candidates with the greatest amount of personal debt.

While money can’t buy victory, it sure can help in competitive seats like Districts 21, 52, and 91. As in some State Senate primaries, the candidates are literally locked in a spending arms race in the final weeks until August 3.

Monday, July 26, 2010

State Senate Pre-Primary Filing Statements Analysis

(Cross-posted at ML and BFM-pb)

State Senate Pre-Primary Filing Statements

While I have much more information on my subscription-only database, I figured that please might appreciate some basic information about the top fundraisers for Michigan State Senate primary races. Again, for those interested in the complete set of financial data, you can request a subscription at

Nearly all candidates have reported their financial data (with the glaring exceptions of Rebekah Warren in the 18th and Coleman Young Jr. in the 1st). The top fifteen candidates in terms of money raised are listed in the link provided below:

11 of the top fundraisers of Republicans, and two are in the 20th State Senate District primary. David LaGrand and David Hildenbrand are two other top fundraisers, and are potential opponents in a general election matchup in the 29th State Senate District. The top 15 spenders are listed next (the second tab of the spreadsheet):

Incumbents and candidates personally financing their campaigns dominate the list of candidates with the most cash on hand listed on the third tab of the spreadsheet:

Republicans hold all but two of the top 15 spots on the fourth spreadsheet linked below.

While money can’t buy victory, it sure can help. However, in a couple of primaries, namely the 11th and 20th Republican races, the candidates are literally locked in a spending arms race in the final weeks. Should be interesting to see what happens on August 3.

An analysis of the State House races will be provided later this week.