Let’s say the president of your country is corrupt. Let’s just say.
The legislature is corrupt. The court system, police, and military are all corrupt. The city officials? The big businesses? They’re corrupt, too.
They misuse their power. They thrive on favoritism and get rich on kickbacks while the rest the country slowly starves. What do you do?
Replacing one individual with another doesn’t change the broader system or take away any of the incentives for corruption.
So how do you reduce corruption throughout a given system?
Some of the strategies they use are described in their annual Corruption Fighters’ Tool Kit. The manual is just one of the ways the TI chapters share ideas with each other and offer their experience to the world at large. In addition to the hard work of organizing and building coalitions, many of the corruption-reducing strategies incorporate graphic and interactive design. Some of them include:
The year 1960 marks a turning point in the history of technology and politics. The Kennedy-Nixon presidential debate was the first to be broadcast live on television. Kennedy’s telegenic composure and appeal is credited with tipping the vote in his favor. In 1960 ninety percent of U.S. households owned a television. For the first time, Americans in 1963 say that they get more of their news from television than newspapers. Television becomes an increasingly important source of information and enormous cultural force in the United States marking the assassination of President Kennedy, the rise of the Beatles, landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth, I Love Lucy, Sesame Street, the Olympics, news of the war in Viet Nam, the Watergate hearings, the Watts riot, Star Trek, and the mini-series Roots. [source]
However, it would be at least another decade before millions of deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans could begin to participate.
From the National Captioning Institute:
“The first innovators were not thinking about a captioning system for deaf and hard-of-hearing people. In 1970 the [U.S.] National Bureau of Standards began to investigate the possibility of using a portion of the network television signal to send precise time information on a nationwide basis. The Bureau believed that it could send digitally encoded information in a part of the television signal that is not used for picture information. The ABC-TV network agreed to cooperate. This project didn’t work, but ABC suggested that it might be possible to send captions instead.
This led to a preview of captioning at the First National Conference on Television for the Hearing Impaired in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1971. Two possible technologies for captioning television programs were demonstrated that would display the captions only on specially equipped sets for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers.
A second demonstration of closed captioning was held at Gallaudet College on February 15, 1972. ABC and the National Bureau of Standards presented closed captions embedded within the normal broadcast of Mod Squad.
As a result of the enthusiasm these demonstrations created in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, the National Association of Broadcasters studied the technical and economic factors involved in establishing a captioning service. The Association concluded that this captioning system was technically possible, but certain steps had to be taken before it could become a reality. The federal government then said it would fund the development and testing of this system. The engineering department of the Public Broadcasting System started to work on the project in 1973 under contract to the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW).
While the closed-captioning service was being developed, there were some programs with ‘open’ captions airing on PBS. In 1971, The French Chef became the very first television program that was accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers. The ABC News was rebroadcast on PBS five hours after its broadcast on ABC-TV. From the time the captioned ABC News was first produced in 1973, it was the only timely newscast accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing people until NCI’s real-time captioning service started in 1982....
Toward the end of the technical development project at PBS, it became clear that in order to get the cooperation of the commercial television networks, it would be necessary to establish a nonprofit, single-purpose organization to perform this captioning. And so in 1979, HEW announced the creation of the National Captioning Institute. The mission and importance of NCI was clear from the beginning. It was to promote and provide access to television programs for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community through the technology of closed captioning.
On March 16, 1980, NCI broadcast the first, closed-captioned television series. The captions were seen in households that had the first generation of closed caption decoder.
A silence had been broken. For the first time ever, deaf people across America could turn on their television sets — with a caption decoder — and finally understand what they had been missing on television.
The closed-captioned television service was an overnight sensation. Suddenly, thousands of people who had been living in a world of silence could enjoy television programs along with hearing people....
NCI ensured a bright future for closed-captioned television by partnering with ITT Corporation in 1989 to develop the first caption-decoding microchip, which could be built directly into new television sets at the manufacturing stage. This led to the introduction and subsequent passage of the Television Decoder Circuitry Act, which mandated that, by mid-1993, all new television sets 13 inches or larger manufactured for sale in the U.S. must contain caption-decoding technology. Now, millions of people have access to captions with the push of a button on their remote controls.”
From a more recent Captioning FAQ:
“On August 7, 1997, the FCC unanimously approved new regulations which will mandate captioning on virtually all television programming in the United States. Section 305 of the Telecommunication Act of 1996 is being implemented as a new section (Section 713) of the existing Communications Act. On September 17, 1998, the FCC modified their rules, in what can be considered a victory for caption viewers. The ruling took effect on January 1st, 1998, and it phases in requirements separately for ‘old’ and ‘new’ programming.”
Though numerous studies have shown that mixed-case text is easier to read than all uppercase, virtually all captioning in North America is done in uppercase only. The resolution of NCSA television and caption decoders generally results in ugly and illegible lowercase letters.
“[However,] mixed-case text is often used to indicate whispering, and is also often used for text that needs to be set apart, such as comments by an off-screen announcer (voice-over), or sound effects.
Caption decoders and televisions were not required by law to support lowercase letters at all until just a few years ago. There are, therefore, some televisions that will change mixed-case text to all uppercase.” [source]
Now, with the introduction of digital television, the design of the typeface for subtitling is no longer constrained by the technology of analog television.
This new digital environment provides for larger screens, higher screen resolutions, enhanced closed captions, and higher transmission data rates for closed-captioning.
Enter Tiresias Screenfont, a typeface for television subtitling designed for maximum legibility. Development of the typeface included extensive user testing with viewers that had a wide range of visual abilities and viewing habits.
The Tiresias Screenfont was originally designed by a team led by Dr. John Gill, Chief Scientist for the Royal National Institute for the Blind.
“The typeface Tiresias Screenfont was originally designed for subtitling on UK digital television in 1998.... It has been specifically designed for screen display and has been adopted by the UK Digital Television Group as the resident font for interactive television. Screenfont is now being adopted for European digital television. Its use is also being considered in the USA.
Tiresias Screenfont has been designed to have characters that are easy to distinguish from each other. The design was carried out, with specific reference to persons with visual impairments, on the philosophy that good design for visually impaired persons is good design for everybody.”
Both font and philosophy have been taken from the television screen and applied to the public terminal, the built environment, and the printed page.
Other variations of Tiresias Screenfont have since been designed, each optimized for a specific purpose:
Tiresias PCfont is a typeface designed to display clearly on screen based systems, such the information displayed on TV monitors on public transport, at airports, railways or ferry terminals. Building societies and banks use screens to display information on cash dispensers. Many governments are now introducing screen-based public information systems in libraries and government offices. Tiresias PCfont makes these services and facilities more accessible.
Tiresias Infofont is designed to improve the legibility of information labels on public access terminals, ticket machines, telephone booths. The characters and letterforms have been designed to provide maximum legibility at a reading distance of around 30 to 100 cm. Infofont is not designed for large quantities of text.
Tiresias Signfont is for fixed (not internally illuminated) signage. The recommended usage is white or yellow characters on a dark background. Tiresias Signfont has a different level of boldness than Screenfont and PCfont, and has more open spacing than conventional type. Signfont is designed to provide maximum readability at longer distances.
Tiresias LPfont is designed for use in large print publications, and to be more legible than the standard typefaces that are currently in large print publications.
The Tiresias family of fonts are available for sale from Bitstream.
Update October 1, 2003: A couple of hard-of-hearing friends have brought up the petition campaigns that they, their friends, and parents participated in. The text above does understate the grassroots campaign.
On September 15, 2003, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling and ordered the California gubernatorial recall election postponed.
Whitney Quesenbery, Director of Outreach, of the Usability Professionals’ Association Voting and Usability project has posted some selected excerpts from the text of the decision relating to design, voting systems, effectiveness, and usability:
“In this case, Plaintiffs allege that the fundamental right to have votes counted in the special recall election is infringed because the pre-scored punchcard voting systems used in some California counties are intractably afflicted with technologic dyscalculia. They claim that the propensity for error in these voting systems is at least two and a half times greater than for any other voting technology used in California. The effect is not trivial....
These counties [using the old machines] comprise 44% of the total electorate. They include the most populous county in the State and the county in which the state capitol is located.
Plaintiffs tendered evidence showing that 40,000 voters who cast ballots in these counties would not have their votes counted because of technological defects in the pre-scored punchcard voting system. It is perhaps ironic that the sitting governor could well cast a vote on his own recall that would not be tallied. Many candidates seeking to replace him would face a similar risk. Plaintiffs also allege that the affected counties contain a significantly higher percentage of minority voters than the other counties, causing a disproportionate disenfranchisement of minority voters....
Plaintiffs argue that the use of defective voting systems creates a substantial risk that votes will not be counted. In addition, they claim that the use of defective voting systems in some counties and the employment of far more accurate voting systems in other counties denies equal protection of the laws by impermissibly diluting voting strength of the voters in counties using defective voting systems. In short, the weight given to votes in non-punchcard counties is greater than the weight given to votes in punchcard counties because a higher proportion of the votes from punchcard counties are thrown out. Thus, the effect of using punchcard voting systems in some, but not all, counties, is to discriminate on the basis of geographic residence....
No voting system is foolproof, of course, and the Constitution does not demand the use of the best available technology. However, what the Constitution does require is equal treatment of votes cast in a manner that comports with the Equal Protection Clause. Like the Supreme Court in Bush, “[t]he question before [us] is not whether local entities, in the exercise of their expertise, may develop different systems for implementing elections.” 531 U.S. at 109. Rather, like the Supreme Court in Bush, we face a situation in which the United States Constitution requires “some assurance that the rudimentary requirements of equal treatment and fundamental fairness are satisfied.”...
Independent research confirms the error difference between pre-scored punchcard systems and others in use. The July 2001 Report of the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project (“Caltech-MIT Report”) studied the residual vote rates of different voting systems from 1988-2000 in the entire country, and found that punchcards lose significantly more votes than optically scanned paper ballots.
The district court discounted the impact of voting systems on the special election, relying in part on the Secretary of State’s attestation that he would “be undertaking extensive voter education efforts that could have the effect of lowering the residual rate in the upcoming election.” However, Plaintiffs effectively countered this unsupported assertion with statistical evidence showing that voter education was ineffective in counteracting the error rates inherent in the use of prescored punchcard voting systems....
Further, as we shall discuss later, the Secretary of State has already missed statutory deadlines for submitting educational information to voters concerning the initiatives on the ballot....
The State has an interest in holding a fair election – one trusted by the candidates and the voters to yield an accurate and unbiased result. The high error rate associated with the decertified machines to be used by 44 percent of the voters in October would undermine the public’s confidence in the outcome of the election. The margin of victory could well be less than the margin of error in the use of punchcard technology. This would not be the case in an election held in March 2004, when all the obsolete machines will have been totally withdrawn from use. Avoiding an election that promises to dilute the votes of any particular community – let alone communities with a disproportionately high concentration of minority voters – firmly promotes the public interest in a fair election....
There are also some unique pragmatic problems associated with this election that may be alleviated by a short postponement. For example, because of the short timetable established for this election, approximately a quarter of California’s polling places – 5,000 of 20,000 – will not be ready for use and voters will be forced to vote at a different polling place. This has the potential of creating substantial voter confusion on election day. Further, the sheer number of gubernatorial candidates — there are currently 135 names on the October 2003 ballot — will make operation of the plastic guide substantially more cumbersome to use, potentially compounding the inherent problems in its use....
In addition to the public interest factors we have discussed, we would be remiss if we did not observe that this is a critical time in our nation’s history when we are attempting to persuade the people of other nations of the value of free and open elections. Thus, we are especially mindful of the need to demonstrate our commitment to elections held fairly, free of chaos, with each citizen assured that his or her vote will be counted, and with each vote entitled to equal weight. A short postponement of the election will accomplish those aims and reinforce our national commitment to democracy....
A desire for speed is not a general excuse for ignoring equal protection guarantees.”
From The Miami Herald, August 24, 2003:
Twenty months after it opened as a short-term solution early in America’s war on terrorism, this much-criticized military detention and interrogation camp is evolving from wire mesh to concrete.
The hastily erected Camp Delta for ‘enemy combatants’ will make a significant leap toward permanence with a previously undisclosed fifth phase that will be hard-sided and take a year to build, The Herald has learned.
Workers are also retrofitting a makeshift courtroom in case some of the 660 detainees from 42 countries, most of them suspected al Qaeda members or Taliban soldiers captured in Afghanistan, are tried before a military commission.
The developments suggest that the Bush administration is literally pouring concrete around its controversial policy of indefinitely holding alleged terrorists and supporters in legal limbo, without prisoner-of-war rights.
‘[This] should exist as long as the global war on terrorism is ongoing if it helps our nation and our allies win,’ said camp commander Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller. ‘We are exceptionally good at developing intelligence that will help defeat the scourge of terrorism.’
Many legal scholars and human rights groups continue to argue that the policy unnecessarily bends U.S. law and undermines the stability of the Geneva Conventions when instead the existing legal system could be modified to meet intelligence security needs.
But calls to change the approach seem increasingly moot as workers throw up ever more durable structures, also including dormitory housing for 2,000 soldiers here.
The new ‘Camp Five’ will take three times longer to build than the four existing camps, which are made from wire mesh and metal atop concrete slabs, with chain-link fences and wood towers.
‘It is a hard-sided concrete building,’ Miller said. ‘Unfortunately, we have to ship everything into Guantánamo Bay by sea, and it takes time to get the materials down here.’
The contractor is Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company, Texas-based Halliburton. The watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense says the subsidiary received $1.3 billion in government business last year — much of it, like this, without having to enter a bid.
Halliburton referred questions to Navy public affairs officer John Peters, who said via e-mail that Camp Five will have about 24,000 square feet when completed in mid-2004. It was part of a $25 million task order issued June 6.
Miller said it will increase Camp Delta’s detainee capacity by 100, to 1,100, but its main purpose will be ‘an enlargement of our ability to do interrogations’ — now conducted in trailers at the camp’s edge.
Told of the development, Wendy Patten of Human Rights Watch wondered about the implication of an interrogation facility that included cells.
‘It’s interesting they chose to frame it as an interrogation facility,’ Patten said. ‘Does it become the camp to house the people who are the subject of the more intensive interrogations, or whose cooperation they haven’t been able to obtain?’
Patten also said the news of ‘a commitment to a level of permanence we haven’t seen up to now’ likely means that analysis of detainee releases has been wrong. Some commentators have said the military may have decided to draw down the numbers held here.
Sixty-four have been released and four transferred to Saudi Arabia for continued detention, said Maj. John Smith, a military spokesman.
Yale Law School professor Harold Koh, who represented Cuban and Haitian migrants at the Guantánamo base in 1994-95, said by phone that the construction means ‘we are just getting further and further in’ to an alternative justice system outside the rule of law and unauthorized by Congress.
‘If everyone thought about where this is leading us, they might have doubts about whether this is where we want to go,’ Koh said. ‘We have set up an offshore prison camp in an extrajudicial zone where people have no rights, and we assume no one is going to follow our lead....’
For example, he noted, Indonesia is now building an island detention camp for alleged rebels.
President Bush has named six detainees eligible for trial. None has been charged.
Should the military commission trials go forward, those at Guantánamo would take place in a former control tower once slated for demolition. Its airstrip was left unusably pitted by tents during the last rafter crisis.
Formerly known as ‘the Pink Palace,’ the humble headquarters annex has been repainted yellow in anticipation of intense global scrutiny.
Its windows are blocked, but Smith said the inside has a traditional layout and cherrywood furniture. There has been no order to build an execution chamber, Miller said.
Across the bay, a new media center with 22 Internet ports and two plasma television sets is nearly complete. Smith said that a pool of reporters would be allowed into the commission chamber and that others would watch via closed-circuit TV.
The base can house 174 visiting reporters, diplomats, officials and others in the event of trials. But the numbers may not be swelled much by civilian defense attorneys, who can volunteer to assist the assigned military defense counsel at their own expense.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys has said it would be ‘unethical’ to appear under rules that allow monitoring of attorneys’ conversations with clients and retrials for acquitted defendants.
The American Bar Association has also expressed reservations, singling out a rule that bars civilian lawyers from seeing classified evidence even though they are required to obtain top-secret clearance.
Left unanswered is what will become of those against whom there is insufficient evidence for trial but who may be deemed too dangerous to free.”
See this previous blog entry on Camp Delta.
Found via probelog
Women in Eritrea are spreading a more efficient stove design across the country. The new design requires less fuel, retains more heat, and produces less smoke — dramatically reducing respiratory and eye diseases, conserving the forest, and requiring less time for gathering fuel and for cooking.
“An innovative scheme to convert 500,000 traditional injera stoves across Eritrea will cut thousands of tons of carbon emissions each year and help to conserve the country’s precious supply of firewood.
For centuries, injera — a pancake-like food widely eaten in Eritrea — has been cooked on simple clay stoves, built over an open fire. However, the stoves are smoky, dangerous and require a substantial amount of firewood to burn effectively.
But scientists at the ministry of energy believe they have found a solution. By making a few simple design changes they have increased the efficiency and safety of the stoves — known as mogoggos — by over 100 percent.
‘We have added a chimney, so that smoke no longer fills the kitchen, and an insulated firebox to conserve heat,’ Afeworki Tesfazion, the ministry’s research director, told IRIN. ‘We have also improved ventilation, to allow the fire to burn better, so that it uses 50 percent less fuel.’ He said the new stove also burns a wider range of fuels, such as animal dung, twigs and leaves.
The ministry estimates that each new stove reduces carbon emissions by 0.6 of a ton annually and saves 366 kg of firewood per household each year. The government hopes that every one of the 500,000 households currently thought to own a stove in Eritrea will convert to the new style. If this happens the environmental savings would be enormous.
The health benefits are also significant. Without the thick smoke pouring into their kitchens, women and children are less likely to suffer from the respiratory diseases and eye problems that affected many who used the old stoves.
The new mogoggo is already proving popular. In a scheme run by the government and backed by small grants... dozens are being built in villages around the country every week. More than 5,000 households have already converted.
Under the scheme, village women are taught how to build the stoves themselves. They then teach other women, who teach others and so on. With free labour and free materials — the stoves are made of clay and rocks, which are easily available everywhere — the only cost is the accessories. Metal chimney caps, valves and doors, as well as clay fire grates and cement chimneys, are mostly made locally.
One village taking part is Mehiyaw, in Debub region, close to Eritrea’s southern border. Nearly half of the 160 households in Mehiyaw have already installed new mogoggos. Others in the village hope to do so soon.
Standing in her small, neat kitchen, Miriam Amman, proudly shows off her work. Miriam, a mother of six children, built the stove with help from women from another village one week ago. ‘I love it because there is no smoke in here anymore,’ she says. ‘My clothes are clean and the children can play in here while I cook. Before now nobody would come into the kitchen while the stove was lit. Also we use less wood, so I spend less time gathering it.’
The biggest challenge faced by the government now is to let people know about the new stoves — and persuade them to convert as soon as possible....
The government is setting up a credit plan, to enable families to borrow money to build the stoves now — about US $8 each — and repay the loan when they can afford it. It estimates that the next stage of the project, including training the women and the credit scheme, will cost a further $500,000.
But so far, customers appear satisfied. In Mehiyaw, a group of Miriam Amma’s neighbours and friends crowd into her kitchen to admire her stove . It is larger and more elevated than the old fireplace, which required women — who do all the cooking in traditional Eritrean households — to bend low while preparing food.
In the small outdoor kitchen the stove is alight, but the air is clear. One woman points out the smoke-blackened corrugated tin roof, a reminder of Miriam’s old stove.
‘At first nobody wanted these new mogoggos,’ said Miriam. ‘But now they have seen how well they work, everybody wants one.’”
via the Ashden Awards
Yuri Matrosovich has a collection of 34 anti-alcohol posters from Russia on his Web site. The posters date from the early 1980’s, mostly from a ‘propaganda pack’ one could get when one joined a special anti-alcohol society. In those years, he writes, one was pushed to be a member.
In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev launched a massive anti-alcohol campaign in the Soviet Union. The goal was not just to reduce alcohol consumption by the population, but to sharply decrease state production and sale of alcoholic beverages, to suppress the production of illicit alcohol, and ultimately, to raise worker productivity and buttress the economy.
Though the campaign fizzled out by 1988 and is generally derided today, this study charts the impact on both alcohol consumption and overall mortality in the Soviet Union.
Annual per capita alcohol consumption dropped from 14.2 liters in 1984 to 10.5 liters in 1986. Overall mortality declined from 1161.6 deaths per 100,000 population in 1984 to 1054.0 in 1986.
This was also during the social upheaval brought on by Gorbachev’s reforms, aka perestroika. Following this, in the period of the “market reforms” both alcohol consumption and overall mortality increased sharply. By 1997, per capita consumption had returned to the initial level of the early 1980’s.
The authors of the study estimate that 1.22 million people were spared between 1986 and 1991, 11.4% of the number of deaths expected without the anti-alcohol campaign.
Two more of my favorites:
“The Reason — Drunkenness!”
“Alcohol — Enemy of Production”
From the Boston Review:
“During the nineties the PT built on earlier electoral successes by developing a strong record of administrative competence at the local level. Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, was the PT’s first great administrative acheivement. In 1990 the PT municipal government introduced ‘participatory budgeting,’ a form of public deliberation on budget priorities with more than 20,000 people participating annually, which quickly emerged as an effective approach to distributing basic public goods — roads, sewers, clean water — at the local level. Participatory budgeting was extended to 103 cities in 1997, and it has been adopted as policy by other political parties in Brazil. In 1994 Cristovam Buarque, the newly elected PT governor of the Federal District, introduced a program called Bolsa Escola, a sort of minimum-revenue policy for poor families with children who attend school. In 1996 participatory budgeting won the United Nations Habitat Award, and Bolsa Escola has also won several international awards.”
“Resource allocation through PB [participatory budgeting] is decided by community representatives, generally from low-income districts. Each city adopts different formats to define investment criteria, to select community representatives and deal with the city government, its bureaucracy and the city councilors. In general, community representatives get together to decide on priorities. There are distributive criteria to assure a progressive distribution of the resources so that poorer areas receive more funding than the well off ones, regardless of what the representatives want. PB affects mostly decisions on infrastructure investment, not the entire budget. Moreover, authorization of expenditure on priorities is a function of the executive; PB allocates budget to agreed priorities.”
From the Gotham Gazette:
“The concept of gathering signatures on petitions dates back to the late 19th century. It was supposed to help eliminate the political parties’ control of the ballot, according to Douglas Kellner, a commissioner at the Board of Elections. (See timeline of New York election law )
Before that, there were no printed ballots in New York. Voters simply went to the polls and wrote down the candidates of their choice. To instruct voters on who was running, political parties printed up a slate of candidates, which the voters could take with them to the polls.
This system had many problems, one of which was that political parties often printed counterfeit lists of candidates to deceive supporters of the opposition. "A counterfeit ticket would list a few of the party’s prominent candidates - just enough to fool the unwary - with the rest of the names coming from a rival slate," said Kellner.
To clear up the process, the government began in 1880 to print a uniform ballot that would be presented to voters to fill out at the polls on Election Day. Political parties were allowed to nominate their candidates to be listed on the ballot. But in addition, candidates not selected by the party could get on the ballot anyway if they could submit enough signatures from voters.
To ensure that the signatures were valid, a series of rules were put in place - many of which are still used today.
Ironically, these rules set up over a century ago to assure a more open, honest and democratic process of elections have become just the opposite — a powerful tool for political parties and incumbents to maintain their advantage. To these New York politicos, the best elections are those in which there is only one candidate left on the ballot for voters to choose.
Many incumbents, backed by their political party, have teams of lawyers who will go over a challenger’s signatures, line by line, looking for minor mistakes like missing zip codes, misspellings, and voters who have signed petitions not knowing whether they live in the district or not.
In the past, candidates have been knocked off the ballot for such infractions as writing the abbreviation ‘St.’ instead of ‘Street’ or forgetting to staple a cover sheet.
If the person gathering the signatures - called a petitioner - makes a mistake such as forgetting to write the borough on the bottom of the page, all of the signatures that he collected can be thrown out. If enough signatures are declared invalid, a candidate is eliminated.”
A paper in the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health, “Promoting Safe Walking and Cycling to Improve Public Health: Lessons From The Netherlands and Germany” by a couple of researchers in New Jersey and Brussels examines:
“The public health consequences of unsafe and inconvenient walking and bicycling conditions in American cities to suggest improvements based on successful policies in The Netherlands and Germany.”
What they found:
“Cyclists and pedestrians in the United States were two to six times more likely to be killed than their German or Dutch counterparts. Per kilometer traveled, U.S. pedestrians were 23 times more likely to get killed than the occupants of a car, while bicyclists were 12 times more likely to be killed.” [source]
With this in mind and my previous post on the link between sprawl and obesity, I note that on July 24, the House Appropriations Committee voted a transportation appropriations bill out of committee that eliminates funding for the Transportation Enhancements program.
Since 1991, 10% of federal funds distributed to states through the Surface Transportation Program has been reserved for transportation enhancement activities. This meant roughly $600 million a year of federal funding for locally driven, pedestrian centered projects.
“Congress established the TE program in 1991 as a commitment by Congress to constituents that a small percentage of their gas tax dollars would be targeted to small-scale, community-initiated, locally selected transportation projects such as multi-use paths, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, historic preservation, and improvement of streetscapes and landscapes.” [source]
“Since its inception, the TE program has provided $6 billion to support 16,699 projects nationwide, including thousands of historic preservation projects. Now, Congress is acting to reverse this decade-long community building program and return to a regressive ‘roads-only’ policy.” [source]
H.R. 2989, the Transportation and Treasury Appropriations Bill for 2004, actually increases highway spending to $34.1 billion — $6.1 billion more than 2003 and $4.5 billion more than President Bush’s request.
There is still hope, but we must act now. Before the full House votes on the bill it can still be amended. Congress resumes after Labor Day and is expected to vote on the bill in early September.
An amendment removing section 114 from H.R. 2989 would grant approximately $812 million to the Transportation Enhancements program. Unless reversed, individual states would be allowed to put all funds into highway projects instead of setting aside the 10% now reserved for bicycle and pedestrian projects.
With all that’s going on, the issue is probably not high on everyone’s social justice agenda. But there’s an immediate and brief opportunity to save this great program right now.
UPDATE: On September 4 the House approved an amendment which strikes section 114 from the bill — restoring funding for the Transportation Enhancements program to the appropriations bill. On September 9, the House passed the full appropriations bill and sent it to the Senate. Thanks to everyone for taking action!
Chicken&Egg Public Projects “conceives and develops interpretive environments and interactive strategies that advance public understanding of cultural and social issues.”
“Architecture of Segregation explores how racial attitudes shaped urban, suburban, and rural landscapes that maintain divisions in American society. This multidisciplinary project examines the ways in which forces ranging from violent individuals to institutional practice to government policy embedded racial biases in everyday spaces, places, and structures during the second half of the twentieth century. Through collaboration with a network of scholars and institutions, Architecture of Segregation will comprise a major publication, national traveling exhibition, web site, and educational activities. These products, conceived to engage a broad audience, are intended as a stimulus for public discussion, continued scholarly research, and new directions in public policy.
The Supreme Court’s 1896 approval of separate and ‘equal’ facilities for blacks and whites permitted Americans to build an exclusionary, unequal society. The Civil Rights, Voting Rights, and Fair Housing Acts of the 1960s gave hope but did not lead to the dismantling of the architecture of segregation. Today, Americans do not realize how decisively discriminatory motives guided the construction of everyday landscapes. Scholars in many disciplines have examined segregation but have not provided a broad view of its physical structure, from housing to highways.
Architecture of Segregation asks: How have racial attitudes shaped the built environment? What are the structures of a closed society? How do these keep races apart, even in the absence of prejudice? Architecture of Segregation will encourage the general public, scholars, policy makers, and the media to consider these questions as they reexamine the twentieth-century construction of the American home. By concentrating on familiar spaces and activities, it will encourage the public to understand the forces that shaped the landscape and to recognize how that landscape shapes their behavior and beliefs. With this understanding, they can consider rebuilding a divided United States....
A book, published by The New Press, will take a geographically diverse, cradle-to-grave look at black and white worlds. Essays will be written by leading scholars, such as Jacqueline Jones on work in the rural south, Raymond Mohl on the interstate highway system, and Gwendolyn Wright on housing. Contributors include Mindy Fullilove (birth), Waldo Martin (education), Lise Funderburg (neighborhood), Maurice Berger (leisure), June Manning Thomas (worship), and John Vlach (death). The Graham Foundation has provided a grant to support publication.
A national traveling exhibition is scheduled to open in 2004 at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., which is producing the project in conjunction with Chicken&Egg Public Projects, Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions, and a planned consortium of museums in New York, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Minneapolis, and San Francisco or Los Angeles. Using powerful visual media within a striking spatial configuration, it will include artifacts, photographs, and artworks representing white and black environments from all regions of the United States. The exhibition will serve as a springboard for public programs, including discussions, lectures, workshops, tours, and film series. Architecture of Segregation will engage the public in an exploration of the relationship between race and place in the United States.”
I wonder how the exhibition organizers are working with groups engaged in current struggles, and how those groups can use the event to build some public pressure.