The Best Reason South Bend Should Become Famous
It’s a stroke of luck when your small city has national exposure because a hometown guy becomes a plausible Presidential candidate.
But frankly I’d rather we became famous for a different reason: let’s be the community that finally figured out how to manage gentrification. That would be huge, pretty close to curing cancer, according to most economic development folks.
And if you haven’t been noticing, a coalition of South Bend people from a variety of neighborhoods have been meeting, planning, and developing over the last few months with a new anti-gentrification framework in mind. …
The election is on top of us now and Covid dominates the news as well. But I’m trying to think about the long game here for a minute.
The title of this post is the question for lots of lovely, small, seemingly livable Rustbelt places whose populations have declined to a point of no return. (They are sometimes called “Main Street towns.”) What’s the fatal low number here, below which you’re not coming back? 20,000? 10,000? Fewer? Indiana, like quite a few states, has literally dozens of such places.
I know this because I read the columns of my friend Morton Marcus, a retired Indiana University economist who writes perceptively about this state’s business and demographic conditions with (for an economist!) …
Early this year, before the COVID crisis had really emerged, a new documentary film about life in South Bend called Big Enough, Small Enough was released. It’s a mix of great drone footage, interviews, and street-level scenes of this grungy-hip town which several of the interviewees describe as “just right” — i.e., large enough to have some big-city amenities, small enough to still feel homey.
The film also captures the saga of a place that bustled with post-World War II industrial prosperity until its key employer, Studebaker, shut down in 1963, shedding 28,000 well-paying jobs.
Even South Bend’s string of good mayors thereafter — including Pete Buttigieg’s predecessors, Steve Luecke and Joe Kernan — couldn’t entirely hold off the decline that comes when a city loses 25% of its population. …
Some thoughts on our upcoming city elections here in my town…
A few years ago, I heard that our Valpo Mayor Jon Costas was recommending a book called Community, by Peter Block. I got myself a copy and found it full of great, even inspiring ideas toward a goal of community transformation, partly by pushing back on our terrible social isolation.
Here’s one of Block’s nuggets: Our goal in politics and civic life should be to transform citizen entitlement into citizen accountability.
Meaning: voluntary, enthusiastic accountability — another way of saying commitment to the community. …
What Does a Healthy Downtown Look Like?
This post is about defining a town’s success in terms of its small businesses and their ability to start up and then thrive. Specifically, it’s asking: how many local families is this downtown supporting? Is that number growing or declining?
It is also about the visual connection — which is not always an obvious one — between the health of small businesses and your town’s philosophy of economic development/redevelopment. After all, that’s what determines what your downtown looks like. …
A Cold War Memoir in the Form of a Travelogue
“We [Russians] are an exception among people. We belong to those who are not an integral part of humanity but exist only to teach the world some type of great lesson.”
— Pyotr Chaadayev, Philosophical Letters (1836)
My old passport is a small, dark blue album of blotchy visa stamps from perhaps a dozen or more different points of entry and exit. Gazing back from the photo inside is a much younger, longer-haired me, wearing a look which border guards probably read as a mix of confusion and subversion.
Artistically speaking, my little collection of visa stamps ranges widely: from the dullish boxes and rectangles of the U.K., Denmark and Sweden (in sober capitalistic shades of grey and green), to the filigreed crests and seals of the U.S.S.R., …
Review of Nathan Schneider, Everything for Everyone (Nation Books, 2018)
If I were in charge of the world — or at least in charge of Nation Books — I would probably keep the slightly mysterious title of Nathan Schneider’s remarkable new book, Everything for Everyone. (It’s a reference to the immemorial Catholic teaching on the universal destination of goods, as he explains in the text.)
On the other hand, I might choose to replace the cover image (a graphic of a network of assorted icons) with a reproduction of a famous painting — Millet’s The Gleaners (1857) — simply because of the way the author spends several striking paragraphs on this familiar scene of rural life as an image of our social condition…
Solidarity Hall was born out of a post-2008 yearning to find a third way, some vision of social and civil reconstruction which could lead us out of the mental and literal prisons of past systems.
Our watchword was a mix of the wisdom of the elders and a newfound radicalism, that of Dorothy Day, E.F. Schumacher, Wendell Berry, Cornel West, Rebecca Solnit, and many others.
With the ghost of the visionary William Morris hovering somewhere in the background, The Politics of Virtue is nothing short of a brilliant, sometimes quirky, compendium of political, economic, and theological perceptions and insights. It is perhaps something only gifted artists such as John Milbank and Adrian Pabst could have produced. As a former classicist and something of a Dorothy Day Catholic, I am drawn by instinct to visions such as this. Even as I have some mental reservations. Divided into five major sections (Politics, Economy, Polity, Culture, and World), the book reads something like an extended position paper for a human-scale future utopia. …