The Navy Yard Shootings Expose D.C.'s Deep Divides: Best #Cityreads of the Week

Our weekly roundup of the most intriguing articles about cities and urbanism.

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A round-up of the best stories on cities and urbanism. Share your favorites on Twitter with #cityreads, or email them to aerickson@theatlantic.com.

"How Detroit Went Broke: The Answers May Surprise You," Nathan Bomey and John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press

Detroit is broke, but it didn’t have to be. An in-depth Free Press analysis of the city’s financial history back to the 1950s shows that its elected officials and others charged with managing its finances repeatedly failed — or refused — to make the tough economic and political decisions that might have saved the city from financial ruin.

Instead, amid a huge exodus of residents, plummeting tax revenues and skyrocketing home abandonment, Detroit’s leaders engaged in a billion-dollar borrowing binge, created new taxes and failed to cut expenses when they needed to. Simultaneously, they gifted workers and retirees with generous bonuses. And under pressure from unions and, sometimes, arbitrators, they failed to cut health care benefits — saddling the city with staggering costs that today threaten the safety and quality of life of people who live here.

"This Other Town," John Feehery, Slate 

Mark Leibovich wrote This Town, a memorable book about official Washington, its fancy parties, its self-absorbed culture, the incestuous nature of lobbyists, journalists, pundits, strategists, party planners, and socialites.
 

But there’s a whole other town out there, right under the nose of This Town, and you could see the face of that town in the obituaries of those who died on Monday. Twelve people were gunned down at the Naval Yard, and I can pretty much guarantee that nobody from This Town had ever met them.

"The Two Faces of American Education," Andrew Delbanco, New York Review of Books

To read Rhee and Ravitch in sequence is like hearing a too-good-to-be-true sales pitch followed by the report of an auditor who discloses mistakes and outright falsehoods in the accounts of the firm that’s trying to make the sale. Both books are driven by hot indignation. Rhee is indignant at the forces that have resisted her efforts to rescue children from incompetent and indifferent teachers. She has little to say about the setting in which many teachers work—the desperate circumstances into which roughly a quarter of American children (a higher percentage in the school district she led) are born—except to say, in passing, that poverty ought not to be invoked as an excuse for poor academic performance.

"The Invisible Faces of Hunger," Nancy Christy and Neil Heinen, Madison Magazine

This is a story about everyday Madisonians who struggle to get enough to eat. It starts with Mikko, a thirteen-year-old boy—too young for his real name to be used here—who has endured days without a meal. Frequently in trouble at school, Mikko was arrested twice for shoplifting food before he enrolled in an after-school program he once stole food from. When he first came to the Goodman Community Center, the only fruit he had ever eaten was an apple, and all the veggies he’d consumed—corn, beans and peas—came from a can. Now he enjoys healthy and nutritious meals at the center and is always given food to take home to eat later with his family. Unfortunately, there are countless Mikkos—Madisonians who go to bed hungry.

"Draining the Life From 'Community'," Anand Giridharadasktk, New York Times

If you don’t belong to a community these days, you’re really on your own.

But never fear. “Community” has become one of those words that should always have quotation marks around it. Words get hijacked all the time, but this is one of those really violent, eight-country, stop-for-refueling hijackings.

Actual communities in which people know each other, do things for each other and act in concert may be on the decline. But new meanings of community are rushing to fill the void.

"Why We Don't Need Parking Day Anymore," Alissa Walker, Gizmodo

Parking Day has been very successful in launching a global conversation about the lack of parks in our cities. It has even lead to some permanent parks inspired by the Parking Day movement. But I think designers, architects and public space advocates should spend today doing something else for their city—and here's why.

About the Author

  • Amanda Erickson is a former senior associate editor at CityLab.