Mark Anthony Thomas is the MIT Sloan Fellow working with the city of Los Angeles as Senior Advisor on Livability. The above photoset includes some of Mark’s photos of illegal dumping in LA neighborhoods.

CTZN: You’re a poet, living in one of the world’s creative capitals, and your big focus is on street cleaning. What’s creative about that?

MAT: I’ve met with 70-80 people so far. I haven’t said no to anybody. I was recently looking at the illegal dumping issue with some day laborers, and getting their perspective on why people dump in certain neighborhoods, and that shaped my thinking. And by spending time in the fashion district, that’s when you see the entrepreneurial spirit of the city in an intense way. Manufacturing is so disconnected from so many people who curate conversations. LA has 300,000+ workers in manufacturing. To spend time with them and see the apparel marts, see people selling garments, see how a piece works its way up to the street, to the retail side, it’s an inspiring perspective. I’ve tried to have an open mind. I’ve been on rides with the sanitation workers. I’ve seen all sides of things. There’s things I think people would be really proud of with the city… there are programs that are models for the rest of the world. Then there areas that have room for improvement. 

I actually think that’s where the organic takes over. You don’t necessarily, as the city, want to steer. You don’t want to control where creative artists will take a neighborhood. The city’s role is to make sure they have the minimum platform for success. We all know that the city is not in this place yet, but once we have walkable neighborhoods, clean streets, the creatives will take it from there and make this city more dynamic. That’s the future of LA.

In LA with something to say about livability? Contact Mark Anthony Thomas.

Good news, the Living Walls murals are safe. In fact, the meeting tonight of the City of Decatur Historic Preservation Commission was only discussing the murals so that Lyn Menne, Assistant City Manager, Community & Economic development, could explain the Living Walls project to the commission and to the public. Since the murals are art and not signage, they are not subject to this commission. Also, the murals do not deface any protected historic signage.  Menne wanted the artists of Living Walls to come here to nurture the city of Decatur with public art. The murals will remain up as long as they last or until the owners paint over them. Click on picture for more images and more info.

Stanton should just merge with Garden Grove or Anaheim.  Stanton is an unnecessary city government. Fun fact:  Stanton became a city for the first time in 1911 to thwart a plan by Anaheim to build a sewer farm.  It disincorporated in 1924 to lower taxes for residents.  It became a city again in 1956 for no apparent reason, but I imagine it was because residents were jealous of Garden Grove which incorporated that same year.  Stanton is approximately three square miles – far too small to be a city.

Athens City Roundup for December 29, 2011
  • City approves ‘12 budget (The Athens NEWS)
  • Athens Mayor wants moratorium on fracking process (WOUB)
  • Stimson biz owners concerned about proposed strip club (The Athens Messenger, subscription required)

For other Athens City Roundup posts, click here. For other posts about fracking, click here. For other posts about the proposed Stimson Ave. strip club, click here.

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311 Local Governance Apps

Many cities are using “311 Apps” on mobile devices or on Facebook to let citizens report basic city problems – potholes, graffiti, etc – to their local representatives.  They can supply the details, photos, and requests directly to the city official that should be responding to them.

It also allows citizens a better way to track the progress of their request & keep statistics on the officials’ responses. People can also map where requests are to have a better sense of what areas are better served than others.

The city of San Francisco debuted a 311-Facebook app in February 2011.

New York City has its own NYC 311 mobile app.

Baltimore debuted their Mobile 311 app in August 2011.

Pittsburgh unveiled its iBurgh App in mid 2009.

The council postponed until June 12 a vote on a new permit for organizations that go to parks and other venues to feed the homeless. The measure is designed to ensure that food delivered to the homeless is safe and to address neighborhood concerns about homeless camps. But some people have perceived it as an effort to limit help to the homeless, which advocates of the new rule staunchly denied.

I didn’t see any posts on this when I searched Tumblr for “Kansas City” and “Kansas City homeless,” so I’m making one because this really upset me.

What it is, is Kansas City, Missouri, is considering making it illegal to hand out food to homeless people without having a permit from the city.

You can read the actual ordinance here (via 41 Action News KSHB Kansas City)

I can see a well-meaning public-health rationale for this – the city wants to be able to make sure all food given to the homeless is made in clean kitchens and won’t transmit food-borne illnesses – but 1) I haven’t heard anything about there being much of a problem with food-borne illnesses transmitted that way and 2) it seems like the primary effect of this will be to decrease the number of people offering food to the homeless.

I also know that this isn’t happening in a vacuum, and that there are a ton of cities around the nation adopting ordinances that effectively criminalize homelessness, or that criminalize helping the homeless.

So basically as soon as I saw that, my Class Warfare Alarm started going off, if what I am saying.

NELSONVILLE — The city of Nelsonville will continue to contract with two garbage companies to handle residential and commercial waste this coming year, but one company official disagreed with City Council’s decision not to use its services for both.

Council approved two ordinances Monday — one authorizing a commercial waste removal contract with Farmer’s Refuse and Trucking Inc. and the other authorizing a residential waste removal contract with Rumpke Consolidated Companies Inc. The ordinances were drafted by Council’s Utilities Committee on a recommendation from City Manager Joe Scherer.

Tom Wallace, a representative from Rumpke, assured Council that the company’s residential contract was being renewed at a lower cost than before but that all services would still remain. Wallace then questioned why Rumpke’s bid on the commercial account was not approved, claiming the bid was lower than Farmer’s.

Read more from The Athens Messenger (subscription required).

RELATED: Water meter contract dries up: Nelsonville Council repeals deal, but not before company withdraws from project (The Athens Messenger, subscription required).

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Just your typical Monday

Getting ready for the holiday season, sending out emails and oh yeah, a visit from Philadelphia’s own Mayor Nutter. Earlier this year, Mayor Nutter challenged Philadelphia businesses to create videos explaining why Philadelphia is a Smart City and a Smart Choice for business.

UBB’s video was one of the finalists for “Smart Choice, Smart City” competition and we spent the afternoon discussing the rivers that are the lifeline of our vibrant city.  

The city of Morgantown is apparently repaving High Street. Which is nice. More importantly, it’s apparently doing this work at night. Sorry, wait a second, I’d like to emphasize that last part: AT NIGHT! In other words, it seems as though it finally dawned on somebody that doing road work at night might minimize time spent working and community headaches.

This was a good decision. Good for the city, good for the community, good for project. Let’s have a parade to celebrate.


Indoor Aquatics Center Project Update during a City Council Informational Meeting, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, Carnegie Town Hall, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Read Argus Leader reporter, Steve Young’s story about the meeting and the Indoor Aquatics Center project here.

©Joe Ahlquist / Argus Leader

Monday’s riots in Charm City mark the end of an era where black outrage can be mollified by greater representation while stark inequalities persist. Today Baltimore has a black mayor, black police commissioner, and a police force evenly divided between black and white officers. Baltimore is no Ferguson, Missouri, a majority black city where black residents were inexplicably shut out of the city government, business elite, and police force. Instead of a beacon of hope, black representation has become a bitterly ironic symbol of how little has changed.

Yet Baltimore still erupted this week, a casualty of America’s unearned optimism about our own progress against racism and poverty, and the longstanding strategy of integrating blacks into a power structure that nevertheless upholds stark racial inequalities. In the history of black urban uprisings, Baltimore is one of very few cities that burned despite substantial black representation in the city government and police force. And that bodes ill for the belief that harmony can be achieved by elevating a few blacks to positions of power within a system that leaves so many impoverished. American cities cannot avoid unrest by simply placing black people at the helm, as long as progress for so many is ephemeral. An unjust system remains unjust no matter the ethnicity of its caretakers.