Monthly Archives: January 2008

WPA posters

Just quickly passing on this gallery of posters produced by the WPA during the Great Depression. Strangely, a few of them seem to reflect some of the concerns we talk about lately on our blogs, such as reading and cleaning up the neighborhood.

You can see a bigger collection of posters here at the Library of Congress website.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had public art projects that conveyed messages we should be taking to heart? (Or do we need to wait until the next Depression and the next WPA?)

Remitted tuition for city residents

In the fine print of Spitzer’s new budget is an intriguing proposal to offer free SUNY (or CUNY) tuition to qualified students from the Syracuse City School District. There is a growing discussion of this idea at Sean Kirst’s blog. The appeal of the plan has two sides: (1) it would give disadvantaged city students the security of a guaranteed shot at college, and (2) it might attract tuition-challenged suburbanites back to city neighborhoods — or at least, keep Syracusans from leaving the city.

This is an interesting idea that can be looked at in several ways, but I don’t know if it rises to the level of a plan; it’s unclear where the money for the “free” tuition would really come from. The Post-Standard story about the Spitzer plan contains the now-usual revelation of yet another SU partnership in the works with somebody or something, but especially in economic times like these, one has to reiterate, “Show me the money.” Especially when it concerns making promises that would require a pretty huge leap of faith for some people.

I’m a believer in leaps of faith (I have faith in faith?), but this idea tries to make a Syracuse City School District education attractive by dangling a really big carrot, rather than by making city schools attractive in and of themselves. This is not a flawed strategy in and of itself, but it doesn’t erase the very real perceptual hurdles (“All city schools suck”) or the practical hurdles (lower test scores, chaotic classroom environments, less classroom resources) that “pioneers” from the suburbs would have to overcome, nor does it erase the very real challenges that many inner-city kids face when attending college.

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It’s a beautiful day for a budget

The stock market is about to seriously tank, but what of that? Gov. Spitzer releases his budget today. I just wonder if anyone in Albany will have time to read it while they are on the phone with their brokers.

Updated: Details of the budget. (Think we’ll get a budget passed on time this year?) A quote from the synopsis:

The 2008-09 Executive Budget includes $81.8 billion in State Operating Funds spending, an increase of 5.0 percent compared to 2007-08. This is consistent with Governor Spitzer’s goal of limiting pending growth to below 5.3 percent, which is the average long-term rate of personal income growth in New York – and the best measure of affordability.

What does “long-term rate” mean here, exactly? Five years? Ten years? Twenty? (And is that “personal income growth” adjusted for cost of living increases?) Just saying, this sounds like a nice formula but I’m not sure what it really means. Can anyone explain?

And some thoughts from Simon at Living in Dryden about NYC’s economic situation.

Year in photos

The Albany Times-Union has one of the best (and biggest) collections of “Year’s Best Photos” that I think I’ve ever seen. Every single picture is wonderful. There’s no way to link to it directly, but if you head to their website and scroll down the page to “Year’s Best Photos,” you can click on the gallery.

Unfinished business

This stunning panoramic photo of the famous cathedral at Cologne, Germany prompted me to look it up on Wikipedia and find out when it was built. I assumed it was built in the Middle Ages. Not quite right. It was begun in 1248, worked on for about 200 years (as cathedrals often were in those days)… but work on it stopped in the 15th century. It wasn’t until 1842 that the Prussian government, having discovered the original medieval plans (and for its own nationalistic reasons), decided to finish the work, which was completed in 1880 — 632 years after the project started.

As someone who has a tendency to start projects, drop them, and then return and finally complete them months or even years later, I find this story fascinating. Sadly, I think we live in a particular time and culture where we receive the triumphalist message that “Everything has already been completed and achieved materially and socially; all that remains are just tweaks and minor improvements.” (The ever-quotable Walter Brueggemann has lots to say in response to that.) We tend to talk a lot about “restoring and revitalizing” in Syracuse and other local communities, but this story makes me wonder what unfinished work remains around here. Not just architectural, of course (is there any besides Carousel?) but other kinds. I suppose the recently announced “100% Literacy” effort for Onondaga County is an example of taking up unfinished work.