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Building a city of 100,000 in rural Central Pennsylvania

Review of US Architectural Aspects: Architectural Column by Joel Solkoff with Frankie Rasole, PA, USA

July 31, 2021


Exclusive: US legislator Glenn Thompson suggests building a city of 100,000 in rural Central Pennsylvania

“Civics as an art has to do, not with imagining an impossible [utopia] where all is well, but with making the most and best of each and every place, and especially of the city in which we live.”

–Patrick Geddes, father of urban planning

Joel Solkoff’s Column Vol. VII, Number 4..Thursday, July 29, 2021. Rural Williamsport, Pennsylvania, population 28,186. {By contrast, New York City’s population is 8.4 million. Distance between them 192 immeasurable miles). Because of an unexpectedly long June 27th interview with Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, Minority Leader US Agriculture Committee, today’s column now begins a new series for global architects on money and political power.

Build a city of 100,000 in rural Central Pennsylvania - Indiana, PA, county seat
photograph of Indiana, PA, county seat. With appreciation to the Indiana County PA Visitors Bureau

Today’s column focuses on building 105 plus cities of 100,000 in the US

“What can you buy with a trillion dollars? With $1 trillion, you could buy a very nice apartment for everybody in San Francisco’s (population close to a million). Or you can think of it as a thousand billion. For $1 billion you could buy the Miami Marlins outright. For $1 trillion, however, you could buy the Marlins one thousand times over.” — USA Today

Money is about to flow like water into the coffers of global architects as the US prepares to build 105 cities with a population of 100, 000 each. Let us start with the basics. There is a shortage of 10.5 million housing units in the US. According to a report last month in The Wall Street Journal, the US middle class housing crisis represents 5.5 million units which need to be built yesterday. Add that to the shortfall of 5 million public housing units, especially needed is low cost disability friendly housing for the physically disabled like me. Hence the US needs 105 cities with a population of 100,000 each. Or. as Williamsport PA architect Anthony H. Visco, Jr. avers, “210 cities housing 50,000 each. ”

The pith of my interview with Rep. Thompson last month is his suggestion that in his Congressional District a city of 100,00 be built in oddly named Indiana County PA. Indiana County PA is located at the Western part of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Indiana County PA has lots of land and relatively few people. Indian County PA has 834,000 square miles and 84.5 thousand people.

You can’t build a city without money

Here are 3 items for understanding the context of these times

Build a city of 100,000 in rural Central Pennsylvania – 1.

“While for much of the pandemic a rush to suburbia made the home and real estate stars of the recovery, the resulting plunge in inventory and dearth of building supplies have launched home prices beyond the grasp of many potential buyers, particularly at the lower end of the market.” Reuters excellent News Service Friday 23, 2021

Soon–by soon I mean this summer–President Biden will sign infrastructure legislation which will have a significant impact on revenue for global architectural firms. The Senate voted voted in favor–with more Republican votes than required– of spending about a trillion dollars to build bridges, fix highways, provide passenger train service, repair entrances to the emergency rooms of hospitals and to repair airports. Especially critical in these pandemic times is broadband. Broadband requires a separate column on how broadband can improve the health of rural Americans.

Breaking news

July 29, 2021

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted on Wednesday to take up a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that would make far-reaching investments in the nation’s public works system, as Republicans joined Democrats in clearing the way for action on a crucial piece of President Biden’s agenda.

“The 67-to-32 vote, which included 17 Republicans in favor, came just hours after centrist senators in both parties and the White House reached a long-sought compromise on the bill, which would provide about $550 billion in new federal money for roads, bridges, rail, transit, water and other physical infrastructure programs.”

See the video clip below. The bipartisan infrastructure bill is the lead story in a very hectic news day. Ignore the “Trump News” head; YouTube thinks Trump is more interesting than Biden.

Film on YouTube

Embedded in accordance with the YouTube licensing agreement

Build a city of 100,000 in rural Central Pennsylvania – 2.

Film on YouTube

Republican Governor of Alabama Kay Ivy, July 23,2021 Embedded in accordance with YouTube licensing.
Montgomery Alabama Advertiser, a Gannett paper

As COVID-19 cases begin to tick upward in Alabama, the state remains last in the country for overall vaccination rates. No county in the state has reached 40% coverage, according to Alabama Department of Public Health data on the percentage of residents who have completed their vaccine.

Build a city of 100,000 in rural Central Pennsylvania – 3.

United States House of Representatives

The United States House of Representatives is the lower house of the United States Congress, with the Senate being the upper house. Together they compose the national bicameral legislature of the United States.

The House’s composition is established by Article One of the United States Constitution. The House is composed of representatives who sit in congressional districts allocated to each state on a basis of population as measured by the U.S. Census, with each district having one representative, provided that each state is entitled to at least one. Since its inception in 1789, all representatives have been directly elected. The number of voting representatives is fixed by law at 435.

The Rep. Thompson e-architect interview

Rep. Thompson Pennsylvania USA representative - Build a city of 100,000 in rural Central Pennsylvania

On June 22nd, Rep. Thompson’s excellent press secretary Madison Stone emailed me the third Zoom link of the day. Until Congress adjourns before Labor Day, busy currently takes on an intensity not easily endured.

I had asked for 10 minutes for Rep. Thompson to answer a simple question. “Does the Congressman favor the restoration of passenger train service to Williamsport?” Williamsport is where Rep. Thompson worked as a physical therapist. GT not only favors passenger service to Williamsport, but for several locations in Central Pennsylvania with special emphasis on critical Johnstown.

Glenn Thompson (politician)

Representative for Pennsylvania’s 15th congressional district since 2019. A member of the Republican Party, he was first elected to Congress in 2008 for the state’s 5th congressional district; Thompson was redistricted to the 15th congressional district in the 2018 election by an order of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Since 2021, he serves as the Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee.

“Thompson was born in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, grew up in Howard, Pennsylvania, and is the son of a Navy veteran. He holds a bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation from Pennsylvania State University and dual master’s degrees in therapeutic recreation and health science from Temple University….

“After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court redrew the congressional district map in February 2018, Thompson’s district was renumbered as the 15th. In May 2018, Susan Boser, a professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, won the Democratic nomination in Thompson’s district. In the general election Thompson defeated Boser 68%–32%.”

In 37 minutes Rep. Thompson and I covered a wide range of subjects

We spoke on a link from his office at the Cannon House Building in Washington DC and e-architect’s US office in Williamsport, PA in the heart of our historic architectural district. We spoke about a wide range of subjects; viz., train service, the US housing crisis, the role of architects in building cities, the vokutality and dependability of lumber and other building materials and of labor at a time of short supply, building a city in Indiana Pennsylvania, the rising power of the disability rights movement.

Indiana County, Pennsylvania, USA:
Indiana County, Pennsylvania, USA
photo : David Benbennick, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Regarding who is to build cities, I mentioned Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM) which designed the Moynihan Train Hall in NYC–wonderfully accessible for those of us in wheelchairs. Surprise,, SOM neglected to put seats in the waiting room for people who can walk.

I also mentioned architect Chris Lepine at Zaha Hadid’s London office who is doing marvelous work with modular housing. Modular housing may be key to alleviating the US housing shortage until plans for future cities are concluded and built.

Film on YouTube
image from e-architect’s first pandemic webinar last year

The interview began with GT congratulating me on the birth of my fourth grandchild. My younger daughter Amelia had recently given birth. I had messaged GT a photograph of me holding two-moth old Jacob. GT had printed out the photo; waving it saying, “Thanks for sending, Joel.”

My rationale for the interview was ongoing fixation on how the US’ inadequate train service adversely affects the disabled. This is a subcategory of the urgent necessity to fix the dreadful state of US road, bridges, tunnels, airports, and sidewalks (those of us in wheelchairs use sidewalks) I had been phoning press secretaries for Republicans in Central PA. The Republican senate members of the bipartisan group who assembled the infrastructure plan were hostile to passenger train service. Perhaps, the House Republicans might have a different perspective.

When I had asked one press secretary whether his Congressman favored train service, he emailed back saying he had written Amtrak. “No, Amtrak does not plan to provide passenger service to Williamsport,” he wrote. I replied, “That does not answer the question, Does your Congressman favor passenger service to Williamsport?” That was months ago. After not receiving follow up phone calls, I decided to ask Rep. Thompson whom I knew would give me a straight answer.

I have known GT for ten years. When we met, he was running for Congress for the first time. Then, I was a partisan Democrat who had been a political appointee in the Carter Administration. I was working for Rep. Thompson’s Democratic opponent.

. As a paraplegic, I am a one-issue disability advocate. Soon, because of GT’s efforts on the part of my people, I had come to decry the reluctance of the Democrats in Center County PA’s State College (where I then lived) to stop mouthing about doing something for the disability and actually doing nothing. Nada..

I can not here enumerate the battles GT and I fought together on behalf of the disabled to obtain wheel chairs, scooters, power chairs and medical oxygen. Nine years ago, I had a lengthy interview (click on link below) with Rep. Thompson on his experiences as a physical therapist helping the disabled, If you listen, you will understand why I trust him:

e-architect interview with Rep. Thompson

Williamsport is a lovely town in danger of extinction in part because it is so difficult for business partners, friends, and family to reach us. Passenger air plane service is a nightmare. When I first moved here, my younger daughter Amelia flew up from an important Southern city egregiously divided between wealthy and down and out poor. As a police officer, Amelia patrolled public housing. Dangerous work.

She flew up to Philadelphia where she waited for four hours for a one hour American Airlines flight to Williamsport. Amelia had been up all night fighting crime and was a wreck when she arrived. To repeat, Williamsport has no passenger train service. There is bus service to the world beyond Lycoming County. I suspect it is a good service. Bottom line: When Amelia comes to see me, she must drive 15 hours each way on highways and roads badly in need of repair.

You cannot build a city without a plan

Just as you cannot build a city without money, you cannot build a city without a plan. Where do plans come from? They come from:

+ Congress’ General Accountability Office (GAO) where I worked happily for two years

+ Think tanks like the CATO Institute, Brookings and foundations like Ford and Rockefeller

White House Conferences specifically designed to address major problems beyond the scope of established bureaucratic protocol.

Meet HUD Secretary Fudge primarily responsible for paying architects

Before October of this year, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Martha Fudge will start transferring funds to architects globally who are working on disability friendly US housing projects. The larger question Secretary Fudge faces is how to post a job description reading “Wanted: An architect to design a city. Please fill out Form xyz and submit your qualifications.”

HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge USA
image : HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge official photo in the public domain

Wikipedia: “Louise Fudge (born October 29, 1952) is an American attorney and politician serving as the 18th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development since 2021. A member of the Democratic Party, she served as the U.S. representative for Ohio’s 11th congressional district from 2008 to 2021.

Requesting city planning help of global architects. please write me at [email protected]

Film on YouTube

Please stay tuned for the continuation of this column. I am hoping Frankie and I will soon be able to visit breathtakingly beautiful Indiana County PA. There I will be meeting with R. Michael Keith. Michael Keith is the highest elected official in Indiana County. We have spoken at length about the necessity to plan on how best to prepare for all the federal infrastructure money soon to come into his county. I am hopeful that Anthony Visco, architect and my ad hoc city planning guru will come along for the ride.

Meet Frankie Rasole, US Assistant Editor e-architect

Frankie Rasole (left), e-architect US Assistant Editor, and Joel Solkoff, e-architect US Editor:
Frankie Rasole and Joel Solkoff
photo by Fred Holland, Esq. Published with permission

Frankie Rasole became permanently disabled while working at Renzo Piano’s Columbia University’s Harlem project in March, 2003. Frankie was working with the Iron Workers. He was dismantling a scaffold in the basement above where it was safe. Frankie fell 12 feet, was taken to hospital, There the doctors inserted a an iron plate in his right foot and eight screws.

Turns out Renzo Piano is my favorite architect. One reason is Piano’s instinctive understanding of disability access. I will write to him in Paris asking him to get in touch with Frankie. Frankie’s email: [email protected]

My editors beckon: “All right, stop writing, Joel.”

Copyright © 2021 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

— Joel Solkoff, US Editor, e-architect, Williamsport, Pennsylvania USA

Covid 19 vaccination record card USA 2021
image courtesy Joel Solkoff

Comments on this Build a city of 100,000 in rural Central Pennsylvania post are welcome


Joel Solkoff, US Editor, e-architect, USA

Please feel free to phone me at US 570-772-4909 or send an e-mail [email protected] Copyright © 2021 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

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