The first time I tried to work on passenger rail service to Phoenixville (Greenline project), I thought we had a good chance of completing the project, and, at the time, the Citizens for the Train group was in high gear. There was a contribution from Liberty Property Trust to do the initial study, and there was participation from Norfolk Southern as we negotiated for the line.
As I toured America the last month or so, I saw that many cities were ghost towns. If there was a large office concentration, those buildings stood vacant. Corresponding retail was either completely closed and all of the inventory pulled off the shelves or closed without notice of closure with inventory and fixtures remaining inside. It was hard to tell if the stores with inventory remaining would ever open.
I have finished my trip across the country trying to assess public/private space in the cities.
I was gone from May 15 to June 15 and stopped in many cities along the way. I took the southern route to head west and used a northern route to return.
I perceived that the virus has had different outcomes in many of the cities. A common factor was the vacancy rate, and it appeared to be exacerbated by communities that experienced civil unrest. There is considerably less foot traffic in almost all of the towns.
As social mores and values change, so do the programs offered by various agencies of government. Things become popular, and there are buzz words that are used and not fully understood. One of the things that have been given more prominence recently in the news media is the concept of “equity.”
I think that having my basic existence upset at this stage of my life was a surprise. I never thought I would spend a year indoors.
Traveling in Italy looking for a house, I became aware of the virus and just got out in time. Upon arriving back in the U.S., I went to Florida for a while and then again, under emergency action, hightailed it home with one quick stop at a Holiday Inn in Walterboro, South Carolina as at that stage of the virus, the US was putting the clamp on travel.
There are many ways to do things in the public sector, and sometimes proposed programs work, and sometimes they do not. I have made my living using programs that do not necessarily work for everyone. There is usually a substantial discussion on why things work or do not work. Many of these issues are dealt with in planning documents.
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recently provided a passenger rail analysis concerning a one-seat ride from Reading to Philadelphia. The proposed service corridor includes SEPTA's Main Line from Center City Philadelphia, SEPTA's Norristown Line to Norristown, Norfolk Southern’s Schuylkill River Bridge, and the Harrisburg Line to Reading. The proposed station stops are Valley Forge, Phoenixville, Royersford, Pottstown, Birdsboro, and Reading.
My rail project has taken a lot of twists and turns along the way. As you do these kinds of projects, circumstances change regularly and attitudes toward the potential of success are re-evaluated. After much back and forth, Penn DOT completed a study (synopsis article in issue) assessing the potential for the line. Two and a half studies were done previously with the Reading Group creating an AMTRAK operator Plan, the Mayor's Task Force from Phoenixville using SEPTA as the operator, and an AMTRAK ridership and route analysis, which was part of a larger report.
Many of the downtowns in the Delaware Valley have experienced adverse effects on business because of the Covid-19 virus. The lack of access to customers because of various shutdowns has created many landlord-tenant issues that need to be addressed before businesses can get back on track.
The shutdown also impacted the apartment tenants who have been unable to work. Evictions of longer-term tenants would be an unexpected occurrence but with the lack of the ability to earn a living, some of these issues are beginning to surface.
The shutting down of restaurants and bars has had a lethal effect on small towns that have a healthy food and beverage industry as part of their revitalization strategy. The atmosphere, the events, and the areas used as a common gathering space for festive recreation add to why downtowns have been successful.
The Governor issued an order, and it should be obeyed. If the evidence shows a threat, perhaps it is a good action, and I will not go through the dynamics of the spread of the disease. My ideas are not mainstream and not intended to get too Thomas Dolby with everyone.
Recent efforts to change how we feel about sexual identity have caused a stir throughout the hinterland. In a recent article, I explained that I had no problems calling people by their preferred pronoun.
But now, the term motherhood is under attack. You are no longer a mother but a birthing parent. I fail to see how that would mix with the freedom of pronouns, as it does not appear that all people could give birth. But I do not know, as people are having a problem defining what a woman is.
All, all that you dream
Comes to shine in silver lining
And clouds, clouds change the scene
Rain starts washing all these cautions
Right into your life, make you realize
Just what is true, what else can I do
Just follow the rule
Keep your eyes on the road that's ahead of you
I recently changed my pronouns to "It" and "Itself" because pronouns are not something I wish to address in my life. However, I still say "yes sir" and "yes mam" without regard for the nuances in public discourse.
Within days I will be rolling out a new website highlighting to my trip across the country from May 15 to June 15, 2021. I am glad I could make the trip to visit cities across America. Thank my benefactor, Manny DeMutis, for letting me work on creative projects.
I took special care to visit friends along the way as we shared stories of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Hazy memories of hazy times added to the lure of the visits. Being in Charleston, WV, where I went to school, and Memphis, Tennessee, where I was a union organizer, made me a little nostalgic.
Knowledge and technology have a way of inserting themselves to change customs and traditions of the past. What a person believed and spoke about in one era could be accepted as true, only to determine that it was false later because of a deeper understanding of the subject. I still believe Galileo was a heretic.
As I visited cities across America between May 15 and June 15, 2021, I felt very secure walking around 70 towns and cities. I had a couple of incidents but nothing major. Most of my career has been spent working in less than stellar areas and performing community development tasks. I am familiar with the routine of hard-core teenagers and unstable homeless seeking to be aggressive.
As I muddle through the plethora of options on flood recovery and mitigation in Downingtown, I have been struck by the FEMA and PEMA staff's professionalism. We have been able to make inroads in flood recovery due to their involvement and participation.
Recently I was asked to help with the flood relief effort in Downingtown. As in many cases, I am helping at no cost. Unfortunately, the Borough of Downingtown is up against it with the flooding this year. There have been two floods, and the lower-income areas that have typically been located in flood plains and industrial areas were hit hard.
The Borough Building was flooded and the flood mitigation plan was destroyed. My mission was to expedite the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) buyout program.
What I have found interesting is the debate over what is being taught in schools. For example, when I was young, in Fords, New Jersey, school #14, we said the "Lord's Prayer" right after the Pledge of Allegiance. Then someone would be required to read a bible passage in front of the class. It was almost putting you on the spot. You had to be able to read, and if you went up there and stumbled around, it did not reflect well for you.