March 25, 2007

Kelo-New London Update: When Will the National Press Cover the Project’s Lack of Progress?

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:48 pm

The New London Development Corp. (NLDC) is the government agency charged with redeveloping that Connecticut city’s Fort Trumbull neighborhood. Its actions in the mid-1990s gave rise to the now-infamous Kelo vs. New London eminent domain case, which resulted a 5-4 US Supreme Court decision that overturned two centuries of interpretation of the Fifth Amendment’s definition of “public use.” That decision enabled the NLDC to complete the process of evicting the neighborhood’s former homeowners.

Having spent over $75 million so far, with, as far as I can tell, not a single new brick in a single new structure to show for its efforts, the NLDC has just told the state of Connecticut it needs more money (New London Day articles require registration after a short while, and a paid subscription after a week; HT New London Calling).

A second New London Day article notes that “The state’s investment in the Fort Trumbull area in the past decade totals roughly $125 million, including the Fort Trumbull redevelopment effort and funding that brought Pfizer to the city.”

Going back to the first article — The state is, on balance, not pleased:

The president of the New London Development Corp. has said in recent days that the organization will require about $13 million from the state over the next few years for the Fort Trumbull project, over and above the nearly $75 million already invested since the late 1990s.

But questions about the NLDC’s strategy — as well as the fact that state officials and legislators were apparently not notified of the agency’s intention to request more money — have led to a polite but cool reception in Hartford.

The funds, NLDC President Michael Joplin said in an interview last week, would be used largely for infrastructure improvements and other work around the 90-acre redevelopment site at Fort Trumbull.

But the agency’s ability to attract those funds from the state is still in doubt.

“The state is continuing to work hard, along with the NLDC and the city of New London, to prepare the remainder of the site,” said Ronald Angelo, deputy commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, which has directed the state’s involvement in the project. “There is a significant amount of opportunity on the site right now, and there should be a lot of effort made to begin to bring businesses and entities to these parcels.”

….. A state official who spoke on condition of anonymity, because of the sensitivity of negotiations surrounding the project, was more blunt: “Don’t start asking for more. Show some results in the fruits of all our labors over the years. Then ask for more if you need it.”

….. (Joplin) said the $13 million the agency will request would be used for remaining infrastructure improvements and environmental remediation, as well as work on the now vacant Miner & Alexander lumber yard on Howard Street.

But those ambitions are troubling to others involved in the project, who believe the NLDC should focus on marketing and developing the parcels that have already been cleared and prepared in hopes of attracting private investment — the ultimate goal, they said, of the state’s involvement in the project.

“You’ve got magnificent parcels ready to go,” one individual involved in the project said, an argument that echoes that of some of the NLDC’s fiercest opponents, who had urged the agency to forgo seizure of the final private properties at Fort Trumbull and begin developing the vacant majority of the peninsula.

I have a sinking feeling that the area — the one where the homes (pictures are here; scroll down) of Susette Kelo, the Cristofaros, and others used to be until they were ultimately taken by the NLDC — is simply not as desirable as the NLDC claims it is, and that the now-empty lots where well cared for homes once stood before they were seized will still be vacant 5 years, and even 10 years, from now.

The national press, during over a year of on-and-off coverage of the New London situation, never bothered to tell readers that one property in the area was allowed to remain — namely the high-powered, politically-connected Italian Dramatic Club (go to the map here to see how outrageous this exception really was; the Club is literally next door the Cristofaro property that was ultimately taken and leveled).

How many years will it be until the Formerly Mainstream Media takes note of the fact that the properties that were taken in New London as the result of a horrid Supreme Court decision nearly two years ago are still undeveloped? Will they ever notice?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Jeb Bush Denied University of Florida Honorary Degree; He Really Deserves a Statue from Taxpayers and Parents

In discussing this controversy, it’s important for the sake of perspective to remember what Henry Kissinger said:

“University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.”

While the University of Florida Faculty Senate’s decision to deny former Governor Jeb Bush an honorary degree is, in the big picture, an unimportant kerfuffle, it is nonetheless a cheap and gratuitous insult by a group of malcontented profs who clearly don’t appreciate what an objectively outstanding governor the President’s younger brother was (previous posts on Jeb Bush’s tenure are here, here, and here).

The linked Associated Press story about the honorary degree denial, and others I’ve seen, fail to mention how low Florida university tuitions are compared to much of the rest of the country. A quick look at that unreported part of the story indicates that what Jeb Bush may really deserve is a statue in his honor from Florida’s taxpayers and parents.

Just one example: Biz Weak rated the top undergraduate business schools a few weeks ago (link appears to be free). Here are the rankings of the Ohio and Florida public universities listed, followed by their respective annual tuition bills:

#35 – Miami (Oxford, OH); $9,911
#41 – Ohio State; $9,426
#43 – Florida; $2,968
#62 – Ohio University; $8,845
#77 – Florida State; $3,300
#79 – University of Cincinnati; $9,399
#80 – Florida International; $2,496
#90 – Central Florida; $3,492
#93 – South Florida; $3,340

Listed Ohio school average: $9,395
Listed Florida school average: $3,119
Difference: $6,276

The Ohio school average is over triple the Florida school average.

The Florida schools above take up five of the seven least expensive slots on Business Week’s list.

Florida’s parents and/or students are, on average, paying or borrowing just over $25,000 less than Ohio’s parents and/or students to get in-state students through four years of college. Floridians also live in a state with no income tax and the 12th lowest/39th highest state tax burden in the country. Yet “somehow,” according to the Biz Weak rankings, Florida’s B-Schools are essentially as good as Ohio’s. How does that happen?

…..

(brief pause to allow Ohioans to recover from becoming ill at what they’ve just read)

…..

Floridians contemplating the performance of Jeb Bush during his eight years as the Sunshine State’s chief executive should be asking themselves, “So where’s that bronze smelter?”

And I’m wondering how long it will be until the well-documented exodus of Ohioans to Florida becomes a stampede.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: Not everyone associated with the University of Florida is snubbing Jeb Bush –

Former Gov. Jeb Bush was snubbed for an honorary degree at the University of Florida – but he can still call himself an honorary alumnus.

The university’s Alumni Association’s Board of Directors passed a resolution Saturday to make Bush an honorary alumnus.

….. (Leonard Spearman, president of the University of Florida Alumni Association) said the association selected Bush because he supported research at the University of Florida, and because of his efforts to provide funding for more faculty and create a statewide scholarship program. He said the association’s selection had nothing to do with the faculty’s vote.

“What we did was in our own rights, not in our reaction to the Senate,” he said.

Positivity: Nun, raised as an atheist, blogs about life and faith

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:00 am

From Duluth, MN (HT Good News Blog):

DULUTH, Minn. – If you’d like a glimpse into the life of a Benedictine sister who was raised as an atheist, deepened her Christian faith through English historical dance and teaches sociology at the College of St. Scholastica, check out Sister Edith Bogue’s blog.

Monastic Musings,” an online diary that she began in July, is a blend of her thoughts on faith and her view of the world from a social science perspective.

“Welcome to the interior of my brain, vaguely censored,” said Sister Bogue, a member of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth.

Her life and her blog are rooted in the values of the Order of St. Benedict. She believes God can be found everywhere, whether it’s in teaching, writing, praying or knitting, which she considers a spiritual practice.

Sister Bogue, 54, embraces blogging as a ministry. She doesn’t write about Catholic dogma, and she’s not trying to convert people.

“I write about (the Catholic faith) as a way of life, a way of looking at the world,” Sister Bogue said. “Here’s how a faithful Catholic interacts with the world.”

Sister Bogue’s parents were atheists. “It was the religion in our household,” she said. “Dad’s creed was that no intelligent person believes in God.”

She was an atheist until she was called into the principal’s office for some misdeed as a third-grader. With the naive thinking of a child, she told herself that if the principal didn’t call her parents, she’d know God exists. When there was no call, she followed through with her vow and looked into religion. In fourth grade, she started attending Sunday school with a neighbor. In high school, she’d get up early on Sundays to visit churches in her Chicago neighborhood.

While attending Carleton College in Northfield, she met regularly with a priest to learn about Catholicism. She was baptized the month before she graduated. She went on to graduate school in Chicago and became a hospital social worker before deciding to teach in college. She spent 14 years at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor working on a doctorate in social work and sociology.

While living in Chicago and Ann Arbor, Sister Bogue became heavily involved in English historical dance and was hired as a caller to lead dances all over the country.

“I got into the notion of building community through dancing. Some callers like flashy moments or thrilling moments. I liked the times when the music and the dancers all sort of merge into an experience that is a joy for everyone,” she said.

In Ann Arbor, she was active in a vibrant Catholic parish. Dancing and her faith life started to merge, and dance became her image of prayer and community, she said.

“My faith life affected my dancing and my dancing affected my faith life. There was a synergy,” Sister Bogue said.

One day a counselor asked her if she could pick what she wanted to do, what would it be? “Oh, I’d be a nun,” she replied and then wondered where that thought came from. The counselor advised that such a quick answer must mean something.

When she got home, Sister Bogue found a magazine for people considering a Catholic religious vocation that she had picked up earlier. She filled out a postcard requesting information and got responses from more than 150 religious communities. Then vocation directors began calling her. “I almost gave up because it was so overwhelming,” she said.

During a prayer retreat at a Benedictine monastery, she was invited to stay for dinner and evening prayers. The experience of being with about 100 sisters praying out loud together in liturgical prayer touched her deeply. “I felt like I walked into my own home for the first time,” Sister Bogue said.

She narrowed her search to Benedictine monasteries and started what she jokingly referred to as her “bed and breakfast tour.” In 1996-97, she visited seven or eight and went to at least four of them three times.

In 1998, Sister Bogue became an affiliate of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth and visited every six weeks. In 1999, she became a postulant and moved into the monastery. She made her final vows on Jan. 15, 2006.

Sister Bogue has worked at the College of St. Scholastica since 2002. She’s an assistant professor and teaches family sociology, statistics, social issues and honors courses on such topics as the death penalty, conspicuous consumption and environmental sociology.

Her wide-ranging interests show in her blog. She has written entries about the gender gap in education and how boys have problems in school, movies she sees such as “Supersize Me” and “Lilies of the Field,” and books she reads.

She also includes links to Web sites she finds interesting. She posts photos and artwork to enhance her blog.

Ada Igoe, a 21-year-old St. Scholastica senior from Grand Marais who took a conspicuous consumption class from Sister Bogue, described her as calm and nice. “You can talk to her about anything,” Igoe said. “… She forms a relationship with her students that continues outside the classroom.”

The Rev. William Graham, director of the Braegelman Catholic Studies Program and a theology professor, led the class trip to Italy. He thought the trip blog was an extraordinary way to share the class with others.

Graham also has read Sister Bogue’s personal blog, which gets comments from people as far away as Brazil.

“I find it just remarkable that she spends so much time and so much effort communicating about things that are very important and involve people in conversation from disparate viewpoints,” he said. “… She seems to attract people who want real conversation.”

Sister Bogue said writing for her blog helps her clarify her thinking on topics. She usually gets about 75 to 80 readers a day and her site has registered users from six continents.

Sister Bogue tries to write a blog entry about every other day. “If you don’t blog fairly often, you lose readers. I want to keep my readers in Peru happy,” she said…..