ON THE QT
Everything You Always Suspected
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
Plus Some Frequently Asked Questions
Publisher and Editor
to On The QT #18. The FAQ issue, part one. Like Criswell the
seer-- trusted confidant of Poughkeepsie New York's own film
auteur, the late Ed Wood Jr.-- QT will be taking questions
from the audience. The ones that most frequently arise about
On The QT. Starting with:
WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?
On The QT was started in 2001. One of its premises was that
the inner life of American cities is a compelling and important
subject deserving greater attention. Particularly the inner life
of the small and medium sized ones. There are a kazillion naked
cities out there. Each embodies the spirit of its particular
region and acts as either a center to which local citizens are
drawn or as the symbol of something they hope to leave behind.
Sometimes both simultaneously. If aliens beamed up all of
America's small and medium sized cities imagine how boring
the country would be without its tapestry of
SECOND TIER TOWNS.
The term is not a put down. Such places are now more vivid than
their more prominent siblings. Even New York City has become
sadly blandified. Take bookstores. Ones that sell second hand
or rare volumes. Such establishments are a good measure of
a community's intellectual life, something that has long been
an attraction of cities. Lower Broadway below 14th Street in
Manhattan was once a bustling book heaven. Temples of tomes could
be found up and down the main drag and on radiating side streets.
Each store had its own specialty. But as NYC real estate prices
climbed the book stores folded one by one leaving only the mighty
Strand. An admirable establishment but not able to take up the
slack for a lost, dedicated neighborhood. Other second hand
bookstores are still scattered throughout Manhattan, but NYC
as booklover's mecca never reestablished itself. Many of its
bookdealers migrated to points west and north. The Internet
acted as a helpful tool-- not the oft predicted death knell.
Turned out most bookhunters like browsing through actual, not
virtual, teetering shelves of potential treasure.
for bibliophiles can be found in the section of upstate New York
where Albany, Troy and Schenectady form a string of cities in
what's called the Capital Region. Its various bookstores,
though a bit more far flung, offer the kind of scope once found
in Manhattan. Each store is unique and each owner has their
own field of expertise. In singing the praises of these
establishments, as well as other idiosyncratic small urban
businesses, On The QT weighs in with New Urbanists. QT also
believes information technology developments and related
industries, post 9/11 reconsideration of centralization and
a taste for the architectural charm of older neighborhoods
could bring new life to smaller cities. Ones where
manufacturing once flourished.
FLIES IN THE OINTMENT
But On The QT is not a booster rag. Nor is it published by the
Ministry Of Information. Many small and middlesize cities have
big big problems that impact their hopes for the future. Such
as a mired underclass, drugs, crime and political corruption.
Subjects on which QT often focuses. Stories about corrupt
politicians and drug thugs make people ask
WHY HARP ON HEELS?
Smaller cities often lack the checks and balance scrutiny of
a larger city's competitive media scene. Local media has local
interests. Some economic and some born from generalized booster
sentiment. Nationally, the number of independently owned media
sources are shrinking. The Internet increasingly serves as the
voice for citizens in media stagnant ponds who desire more up
front and yes, opionated coverage of the dealings of their local
croakers. On The QT is one of a burgeoning number of online neo
muckrakers. QT follows the development of this phenomena, gives
coverage to its practioners and addresses Internet freedom of
speech and freedom of information issues.
WHAT THEY DO: THE SMILING FACES
Many in America's political class have sunk so low they look
up to read the "Made in China" imprint on the underside of their
constituents' shoes. Though 9/11 resulted in an understandable
desire to trust leaders, some things can't and shouldn't be
forgotten. Clinton's cut rate capers and the last presidential
"election" made the rot impossible to ignore. As did the totally
partisan defense lineups. The common good is seldom considered.
And increasingly difficult to define. Then there's the trend
towards billionaires (recent examples being Senator Jon Corzine
in New Jersey and Mayor Michael Bloomberg in NYC) spending their
way into public office. The massive cost of political campaigns
increasingly rules out limited term representation by fellow
citizens and helps fix in place a political class who spend
their long years in office chasing special interest dollars
and funneling public money to their backers. Also consider the
number of mayors and other local level officials, who on the
Northeast coast alone, were indicted or convicted on corruption
charges over the last year. A few, such as Camden, New Jersey
Mayor Miltan Milan (now serving time for, among other things,
laundering drug profits ) and Waterbury, Connecticut Mayor
Phil Giordano (sitting in a federal jail awaiting trial after
allegedly having "sexual contact" with two little girls he
bought from a drug addicted prostitute) have dropped to a level
unreachable by sonar probe.
WHAT THEY DO: THE BACK STABBERS
Corruption, crime, and/or lack of political will take a worse
toll on second tier cities which have limited employment
opportunities and generally lack the "trendy-slum-worth-any-
price" real estate dynamic. There's less room for failure:
improve or die. It really wounds small cities when public
funds bankroll cronies and don't dislodge slums and when
drug crime keeps going and going and going. Mayors in cities
that never quite get over consistently fall back on certain
mantras. Such as:
GONNA BUILD ME A MOUNTAIN
Aka a gargantuan, government funded, development project.
Stadiums and hotel complexes are ever popular regardless of
economic forecasts or reports that such projects are overbuilt.
Forget the many tourist Meccas that don't lift their attached
inner cities. Local construction industries are always
supportive. And if a consulting firm gets paid for a feasibility
study and the payer has a stake in the outcome and more
consulting studies for the payee may ensue, how likely is
it the project will be declared a hog wallow?
NEW HOMES FOR THE DEAD
To be paid for with low or no interest loans. The risk to be
footed elsewhere. Poor families don't take advantage of this
one as often as hoped. They know their neighborhoods too well.
But political cronies stuck with real estate millstones,
flippers, slumlords and drug dealers sit up and bark. There
are decided benefits for drug dealers in home ownership. Money
laundering in the initial purchase and later transfers, the
advantages of a private home re police entry and the political
favoritism shown property owners. Who cares if giving one guy
a no interest loan while his neighbor sweats it, is the stuff
social tension is made of? Or if evidence mounts that fire sale
home ownership doesn't stabilize neighborhoods? Like those
rising rates of foreclosures...
COUNTING SHADOWS ON THE WALL
As in: the crime that drives people out of cities is naught but
an erroneous "perception". The latest mayor to use this word was
Kwame Kilpatrick of Detroit who was recently shocked! shocked!
shocked! when someone on national TV said you'd be safer flying
to Cairo, Egypt than staying in Detroit. Kilpatrick says he plans
to erase the image of the city as crime ridden. Given that
Detroit was just rated the most dangerous city in the USA by an
independent Kansas research firm, wouldn't erasing crime rather
than images make more sense? An extensive Internet search turns
up no instances of images committing murder, dealing drugs,
mugging people, siccing tortured pit bulls on seeing eye dogs,
robbing banks for drug money or boosting cars in any city
anywhere. The "perception" line is so common to U.S. mayors,
one wonders if they're holding their national conferences
in Plato's cave.
IS QT SECRETLY PUBLISHED IN JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY?
An oft asked question. But the answer will have to wait till
the next issue of On The QT. Also upcoming: Do Buffalo HUD
homes flip like pancakes? Neighborhood Associations: The Good,
The Bad & The Ugly. Would Legal Drugs Work For Cities? Whatever
Happened to Terror Broker Kevin Ingram? Millennium Towers Comes
Tumbling Down. And that old question, once so frequently shouted
out in London's Hyde Park: "Wot About The Workers?"
"We've only just begun..."
"Calgon Calgon, Take me away!"
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