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ON THE QT

Everything You Always Suspected
Plus Some Frequently Asked Questions

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
Publisher and Editor

WELCOME

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.

HAPPY HUNTING

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..."
Karen Carpenter

"Calgon Calgon, Take me away!"
Lil Bow-Wow

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Crumpling HUD bux blowing in the wind.
updated 1/13/2002