GM’s Barra meets Michigan lawmakers about factory closings
Thursday, December 6
DETROIT (AP) — Members of the Michigan congressional delegation have met with the chief executive of General Motors for the first time since the automaker said it wants to close a Detroit-area factory that makes the Volt.
Mary Barra emerged from the Washington meeting Thursday, saying it was “very productive.” She says GM has made “tremendous investment” in the United States and wants to help workers whose jobs are at stake. She didn’t offer details.
Democratic lawmakers told reporters that they focused the meeting on workers. Rep. Dan Kildee says GM has a “special obligation” to build vehicles in the U.S., especially after the government bailed out the company in 2008.
Rep. Brenda Lawrence, whose district includes the Detroit-Hamtramck factory, says GM “didn’t show any compassion” for workers in its announcement last week.
Chicago’s Safe Passage program costs a lot, but it may provide students safer routes to school
December 5, 2018
F. Chris Curran
Assistant Professor of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
F. Chris Curran does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of Maryland, Baltimore County provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
While walking to school last month, a 15-year-old Chicago girl was confronted by two masked men in a van with tinted windows in an attempted kidnapping. Fortunately, the girl escaped and ran to a nearby adult. The men drove off.
As it turns out, the presence of this adult was more than a fortunate coincidence. For the past decade, Chicago Public Schools has been placing hundreds of adult monitors on streets around schools as part of a program called Safe Passage.
Every morning and afternoon, Safe Passage monitors take up position along designated routes near a quarter of Chicago’s schools in neighborhoods with some of the highest rates of crime.
Chicago is not alone in this approach. Philadelphia has a similar program called WalkSafePHL. Los Angeles has a program called Safe Passage for children who live in gang violence “hot zones.” Other cities, such as Washington D.C., where at least two high school students were stabbed to death in separate incidents in recent years on the way home from school, are in the midst of scaling up such efforts.
As a researcher who studies school safety, I recently examined whether the Safe Passage program in Chicago is making a difference and worth the cost. But first, a little history.
Began after fatal beating
Chicago’s Safe Passage program began in 2009 after a 16-year-old student, Derrion Albert, was beaten to death with a railroad tie after leaving his high school on the city’s south side. The fatal beating was captured on cellphone video that was shown worldwide and prompted then-President Barack Obama to dispatch top cabinet officials to the city to find ways to end such violence. Albert – an honor roll student – had been an innocent bystander caught in the fight between two rival gangs.
Enter Chicago’s Safe Passage program. Wearing yellow vests and carrying radios to connect them to emergency personnel, the street monitors who work for the program seek to provide safe routes for students to commute to and from school. Safe Passage workers are stationed on designated routes where they work to be a friendly face to students, engage in conflict deescalation, and, if needed, report instances of crime to authorities.
The attempted kidnapping of the 15-year-old female student represents a prime example of Safe Passage in action.
Having so many monitors on the streets of Chicago, however, comes at no small cost. Workers are paid US$10.50 an hour and work for 5 hours per day. With 1,350 workers deployed at the start of this school year, the program costs about $354,000 dollars per week in workers’ wages alone, a cost that has been covered by the school district, city and state.
Given the cost, it is important to know the impacts of Safe Passage.
Chicago Public Schools has touted that Safe Passage routes have experienced a 32 percent decline in crime since 2012. Yet, over the same years, crime across Chicago as a whole has declined, dropping by 15 percent from 2012 to 2017.
In examining Safe Passage, one of the things I sought to do was figure out the impacts of Safe Passage in isolation from other crime trends occurring at the same time. I recently published the first peer-reviewed study that examines Safe Passage’s impact on crime.
The study drew on three years of crime data from Chicago along with detailed mappings of Safe Passage routes and nearby streets. It examines what happened to reported crime when Chicago Public Schools expanded the Safe Passage program to 53 schools in 2013 in the wake of a number of school closures. Given concerns at the time about displaced students having to travel through unfamiliar neighborhoods to new schools, Safe Passage was implemented at a number of “welcoming schools.” These schools were designated to receive students from schools that were closed.
Gauging the impact
The findings of my study suggest that Safe Passage reduced reported crime on the Safe Passage routes. Safe Passage appears to have contributed to 6 to 17 percent less reported crime relative to other nearby streets. The biggest reductions in crime appeared for crimes occurring outdoors and during school hours. This suggests that the program has increased the safety of students’ routes to school.
Unpublished work by other researchers has found similar results. Some of that work suggests that impacts may be bigger around high schools.
Interestingly, however, I found that crime was also reduced on these streets on weekends, suggesting that Safe Passage may deter crime even when workers are not present, perhaps through other aspects of the program that involved addressing vacant homes, graffiti and other signs of neglect. Alternatively, it could be that some of the effect is attributable to changing patterns of crime that would have occurred regardless of Safe Passage.
Despite apparent impacts on the routes themselves, my study did not find impacts on the areas around the schools more broadly. For schools that were designated to receive students from the schools that were closed in 2013, Safe Passage did not reduce reported crime in the quarter mile around the schools as a whole.
Is Safe Passage worth the cost?
The Safe Passage program is expensive, but so is crime. The cost of crimes such as robbery and assault can range from $42,000 to over $100,000 per incident. These costs include lost property or earnings by the victim, court and corrections costs, as well as pain and suffering on the part of the victim. Of course, when the crime is a homicide, as it was in the fatal beating of Derrion Albert, the cost is exponentially more. No dollar amount can be placed on a human life.
But speaking strictly in terms of dollars and cents, if Safe Passage was to reduce crime on routes by about 6 percent, a conservative estimate in my study, then each crime deterred would need to save about $23,000 to cover the costs of the program. This is because a 6 percent reduction in crime on Safe Passage routes in 2013 equated to 6.5 fewer reported crimes per week across Safe Passage routes in the city. At the 2013 staffing cost of $150,000 per week, each deterred crime needed to save, on average, $23,000 – a figure derived from $150,000 divided by 6.5 crimes. Covering the costs of the program, then, is certainly possible if the crimes prevented are of a serious or violent nature.
The benefits of Safe Passage may extend well beyond deterred crime. Some qualitative research suggests that teachers and students view Safe Passage favorably. A working paper by other researchers finds that the program may reduce student absenteeism. If students feel safer, attend school more and perform better academically as a result of Safe Passage, the program’s costs may well be justified for reasons beyond crime reduction. If this is the case, efforts by other cities to implement and expand Safe Passage programs could be worthwhile.
Designing cities to counter loneliness? Let’s explore the possibilities
November 22, 2018
Loneliness has become a global epidemic, and urban design can be either part of the problem or the solution. Melbourne School of Design, Author provided (No reuse)
PhD Researcher in Urban Design, University of Melbourne
Tanzil Shafique co-directs Estudio Abierto / Open Studio.
University of Melbourne provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation AU. Victoria State Government provides funding as a strategic partner of The Conversation AU.
Do you feel lonely? If you do, you are not alone. While you may think it’s a personal mental health issue, the collective social impact is an epidemic.
You may also underestimate the effects of loneliness. The health impact of chronic social isolation is as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Loneliness is a global issue. Half-a-million Japanese are suffering from social isolation. The UK recently appointed a minister for loneliness, the first in the world. In Australia, Victorian state MP Fiona Patten is calling for the same here. Federal MP Andrew Giles, in a recent speech, said:
I’m convinced we need to consider responding to loneliness as a responsibility of government.
What do cities have to do with loneliness?
“The way we build and organise our cities can help or hinder social connection,” reads a Grattan Institute report.
Think of the awkward silence in a lift full of passengers who never communicate. Now think of a playground where parents often begin chatting. It’s not that the built environment “causes” interaction, but it can certainly either enable or constrain potential interaction.
Winston Churchill once observed that we shape the buildings and then the buildings shape us. I have written elsewhere about how architects and planners, albeit unwittingly, are complicit in producing an urban landscape that contributes to an unhealthy mental landscape.
Can we think of different ways to be in the city, of a different architecture that can “cure” loneliness?
Taking this question as a point of departure, I recently conducted a graduate design studio at the Melbourne School of Design. The students, using design as a research methodology, came up with potential architectural and urban responses to loneliness.
Have you ever waited at a rail station, killing time without engaging with the person next to you? Diana Ong retrofitted the Ascot Vale rail station with multiple “social engagement paraphernalia” to promote conversations and activity. Michelle Curnow proposed to convert railway carriages into “sensory experience cabins” that attract people to explore the in-built gallery spaces and listen to other people’s stories while commuting. Who said commuting had to be boring?
Having a pet is one of the most effective ways to tackle loneliness, but often people don’t have enough time to care for one. Zi Ye came up with “Puppy Society”, an app that connects a pet with multiple owners. The dogs are housed in a shared facility where the owners come to pet the dog.
Denise Chan studied the Melbourne CBD laneways and found many of them are quite dead, despite being an icon of Melburnian liveliness. She reimagined the laneways revitalised with community plant gardens, book nooks and furniture to entice people to enter them and connect, say, during office lunch hours.
Are you one of those people who have a hard time eating alone? Fanhui Ding is, and she came up with a student-run restaurant for the University of Melbourne. Students get credit working on the aquaponic farms that supply the restaurant, which can be used to pay for a meal. People also get discounts for dining at the same table, encouraging students to interact over food. Given the many international students who suffer from loneliness, her concept used cooking, food and farming as therapeutic activity.
Beverley Wang looked at loneliness in the ageing population. She came up with a project called “Nurture”, for which she designed a kindergarten co-housed with a nursing home. Designing spaces for storytelling, she brought the elderly into the kindergarten as informal learning aides, giving them a sense of purpose.
There is an utterly different kind of loneliness that accompanies the loss of a loved one. Malak Moussaoui, taking note of this, designed an installation that grows flowers on itself to be inserted into cemeteries. Instead of just buying some flowers on the way, Malak’s design is meant to bring people together, introduce flower gardening as a therapeutic measure and give people spaces to mourn together. They might then meet other people who share similar stories of loss and connect.
Other students tackled more familiar cases, such as designing more social interaction spaces in high-rise apartment buildings and redesigning supermarkets to make them places for people to visit on a Sunday morning. The student work can be viewed here.
Moving beyond merely analysing the problems, the research output shows that an alternative, less lonely future is indeed possible. Without claiming to solve loneliness, design can be a important tool in response to it.
Trump prods McConnell on sentencing bill: ‘Go for it Mitch!’
By LISA MASCARO and KEVIN FREKING
Sunday, December 9
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s reluctance to hold a vote on a popular criminal justice bill has angered top Republican senators and created an unusual rift with a longtime GOP ally, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa. And on Friday, it also brought on a tweet from President Donald Trump.
“Hopefully Mitch McConnell will ask for a VOTE on Criminal Justice Reform,” Trump tweeted. “It is extremely popular and has strong bipartisan support. It will also help a lot of people, save taxpayer dollars, and keep our communities safe. Go for it Mitch!”
Minutes later Grassley tweeted that he and the president had spoken about “the growing support” for the legislation.
“Pres Trump told me he wants it done THIS CONGRESS,” Grassley tweeted.
Grassley has spent years working to build a coalition around the bill and is pushing for a year-end vote. Grassley says more than two-thirds of the Senate supports it. But McConnell is refusing to bring the legislation forward in a standoff that’s dividing the Republican majority and putting President Donald Trump on the spot.
“We’ve done what needs to be done,” Grassley said about the overwhelming support for the bill. “So what’s holding it up?”
For the 85-year-old chairman of the Judiciary Committee, this is not the way the Senate is supposed to operate. Grassley was expecting some deference from McConnell after delivering on Trump’s judicial nominees — including two now on the Supreme Court. Despite Trump’s support for the measure, McConnell says it’s divisive. His reluctance to take up Grassley’s priority shows the limits of the Senate’s old-fashioned customs in an era of heightened partisan politics.
“What’s so irritating about this is, first of all, he and I have been hand-in-glove working to get the judiciary vacancies filled,” Grassley told Iowa reporters.
“I think I ought to have some consideration for delivering on tough Supreme Court nominees, and a lot of tough circuit court nominees and maybe even once in a while you get a tough district court nominee,” Grassley went on.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., intervened Friday, talking directly to Trump about attaching the criminal justice legislation to the must-pass year-end spending bill, which is already tangled in a separate fight over funds for the border wall with Mexico.
“Just talked with President,” Graham tweeted. “He strongly believes criminal justice reform bill must pass now. He also indicated he supports putting criminal justice reform bill on year-end spending bill which must include MORE wall funding.”
Trump has called senators about the bill and spoke briefly about it Friday at an event on safe neighborhoods in Kansas City.
The bill is a project of Trump’s son-in-law, White House adviser Jared Kushner, and would be the biggest sentencing overhaul in decades. It would reduce mandatory prison terms for certain drug crimes and give judges in some cases more discretion on punishments. It would allow about 2,600 federal prisoners sentenced for crack cocaine offenses before August 2010 the opportunity to petition for a reduced penalty. It also includes provisions to encourage education and workforce training in prisons.
Roughly 90 percent of prison inmates are held in state facilities and would not be affected by the legislation.
While Kushner has been meeting with senators on Capitol Hill, Trump is also hearing from allies who are against the legislation. Chief among them is Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who is warning senators that Republicans will be blamed if criminals are released and commit new crimes.
“Only thing worse than early release from prison of thousands of serious, violent, & repeat felons is to do that in a spending bill with no debate or amendments, forcing senators to either shut down government or let felons out of prison,” Cotton tweeted Friday. The spending bill will need approval by Dec. 21 to avoid a funding lapse days before Christmas.
Cotton and others, including Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, No. 2 Senate Republican, insist there is not as much support for the bill as Grassley claims. Cotton says senators may tell the chairman they’re in favor of it when actually they’re not.
The bill has support from several conservative and liberal advocacy groups, uniting such disparate partners as the influential Koch network and the American Civil Liberties Union, but it splits law enforcement groups. It is backed by the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police but opposed by the National Sheriff’s Association.
Amid this divide, McConnell has been choosing caution, saying there’s just not enough time to push the bill forward in the remaining days of the Congress.
“The question is, can you shoe-horn something that’s extremely controversial into the remaining time?” he said Monday in an interview at a Wall Street Journal forum.
Criminal justice reform has traditionally been a Democratic priority, as Republicans prefer a more tough-on-crime approach. And McConnell acknowledges it’s “extremely divisive” among Senate Republicans. Leaders tend to protect senators from taking tough votes that could have political blowback.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Thursday that bill backers are making a last-push to attach it to the spending measure and picking up new supporters. But he acknowledged the package’s chances are slipping with each passing day. “We’re still lobbying Sen. McConnell — he has all the power to allow it or not allow it,” said Paul.
McConnell and Grassley have worked side by side for decades. When then-President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in early 2016, Grassley stood by McConnell’s decision to keep the seat open during the election year for the new president to decide. He’s ushered in 84 Trump judicial nominees, including a record number of circuit court judges.
But their split over criminal justice reform is testing not just their partnership but also the longstanding norms of the Senate.
“What’s holding it up is our leader, the majority leader,” Grassley said. “There’s no reason it shouldn’t come up.”
Associated Press writer David Pitt in Iowa contributed to this report.
On Twitter follow Lisa Mascaro at https://twitter.com/lisamascaro and Kevin Freking at https://twitter.com/kfreking
Trump looking at several candidates for chief of staff
By ZEKE MILLER, JILL COLVIN and CATHERINE LUCEY
Monday, December 10
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is weighing at least four people to serve as his next chief of staff, after plans for an orderly succession for departing John Kelly fell through.
The high-profile hiring search comes at a pivotal time as the Republican president looks to prepare his White House for the twin challenges of securing his re-election and fending off inquiries once Democrats gain control of the House next year.
Trump’s top pick for the job, Nick Ayers, announced Sunday that he would instead be leaving the White House, surprising even senior staffers who believed the move was a done deal. Trump is now soliciting input on at least four people, including Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
Ayers, who is chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, was seen as the favorite for the job when Trump announced Saturday that Kelly would leave around year’s end. But a White House official said Sunday that Trump and Ayers could not reach agreement on Ayers’ length of service and that he would instead assist the president from outside the administration. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive personnel matters.
Ayers confirmed the decision in a tweet Sunday, thanking Trump and Pence for giving him the opportunity to work in the White House.
“I will be departing at the end of the year but will work with the #MAGA team to advance the cause,” he said.
Trump offered his own take on the development: “I am in the process of interviewing some really great people for the position of White House Chief of Staff. Fake News has been saying with certainty it was Nick Ayers, a spectacular person who will always be with our #MAGA agenda. I will be making a decision soon!”
Even senior White House officials were caught off guard Sunday by the news of Ayers’ departure. No obvious successor to Kelly was in sight, and there was some fretting that Trump may not be able to fill the job by the time Kelly leaves.
Ayers and Trump had discussed the job for months, making the breakdown Sunday all the more surprising. Trump said Saturday that he expected to announce a replacement for Kelly in a day or two. But with Ayers no longer waiting in the wings, Trump may now take until the end of the year, according to a person familiar with the president’s thinking.
And it remains unclear who wants the job.
Mulvaney, the budget director, was not interested in becoming chief of staff, according to a person close to him who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Mulvaney has been saying for almost two months now that he would be more interested in becoming commerce or treasury secretary if that would be helpful to the president, the person said.
Also among those thought to be in the mix were Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who said in a CBS interview that he hadn’t spoken to anyone at the White House about the job and was “entirely focused” on his position.
The White House official said that, while the president likes Lighthizer, he is reluctant to move him from his current post because of the ongoing high-stakes trade negotiations with China and others.
And a person familiar with Mnuchin’s thinking said he, too, was happy with his work at Treasury and had not sought the job of chief of staff.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Trump’s former deputy campaign manager David Bossie were also among the names being floated by some close to the White House Sunday.
Trump’s administration has set records for staff turnover, and he has often struggled to attract experienced political professionals, a challenge that has grown more difficult by the upcoming threat of costly Democratic oversight investigations and an uncertain political environment.
In any administration, the role of White House chief of staff is split between the responsibilities of supervising the White House and managing the man sitting in the Oval Office. Striking that balance in the turbulent times of Trump has bedeviled Kelly and his predecessor, Reince Priebus, and will be the defining challenge for whoever is selected next.
Kelly, whose last day on the job is set to be Jan. 2, had been credited with imposing order on a chaotic West Wing after his arrival in June 2017 from his post as homeland security secretary. But his iron fist also alienated some longtime Trump allies, and over time he grew increasingly isolated.
Trump wants his next chief of staff to hold the job through the 2020 election, the officials said. Ayers, who has young triplets, had long planned to leave the administration at the end of the year and had only agreed to serve in an interim basis through next spring.
Ayers had earned the backing of the president’s influential daughter and son-in-law, White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, but was viewed warily by other aides.
Ayers will run a pro-Trump super PAC, according to a person familiar with his plans who was not authorized to discuss them by name.
Pence’s deputy chief of staff, Jarrod Agen, is expected to assume Ayers’ role for the vice president.
Follow Miller on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ZekeJMiller