For the alternative research project I went to help out at Micah. More specifically, I helped out at one of the many dinners they put on every single evening for the homeless. I didn’t really know much about Micah or anything about the homeless population within Fredericksburg so it was very much a learning experience for me. Just about the experience in general, each dinner is ran differently by each church that puts them on each night. It can either be buffet style or the folks who show up get served while they sit down. The atmosphere of the dinner is to make the people who go feel relaxed and just be more of a social setting. It seemed that a lot of people knew each other. One thing that was interesting were the interactions between those at the dinner. There were clear lines of who sat where and who knew who. I observed and socialized and just helped out at the dinner. One thing I noticed is that I have never felt more like an outsider than when I walked into the dinner at first. It felt like there was this social stigma that I was extremely privileged and that I didn’t belong there. However, since I stood near the pastor and trash can and helped people throw away their trash they opened up more to the idea of talking to me and I got to hear a lot of stories and learn a lot more.
The pastor was also very helpful on giving facts that I would’ve never really thought of such as how not everyone that attends is homeless. There are regulars and then there are people who the workers never see again so that was interesting. The people who attend may not own their own home but they have a shelter to go to for the night. Most are more on the margins and go just for the food, they don’t necessarily utilize the programs Micah provides which can be seen as a sense of independence. Also a decent amount of those who I talked to had jobs so not all are jobless as well. Also another thing I noticed was how many people utilize public transportation which just shows that Fredericksburg tax dollars are going to use.
How this relates to class is that I was, clearly, active in my community and I could see how power was at play. We had the ability to give our services to people who needed them. I know in class we related money to power and I could see that is how people viewed me. I just felt like me being able to college meant that I had the money and people who didn’t know really know who I was made them uncomfortable. I do hope that by me interacting and socializing that those interactions do resonate with the people I talk to. That hopefully just because I “have money” that they don’t feel uncomfortable by college students or anyone who may be hire on the socioeconomic ladder. I also know that the interactions I had with the people I met will definitely resonate with me.
Reaction Paper #3
This case study is about a town called Leesburg in Virginia and their issue with an adult boutique called La Tache (The Spot in French) and how it is similar to Georgina Hickey’s article The Geography of Pornography. Hickey’s article is about a Not in My Backyard, or NIMBY, movement and its goal of getting rid of an adult store located in town. Feminism is also incorporated into Hickey’ article but is not a main focus in this reaction paper. Hickey talked about how the adult store left women feeling vulnerable and having to have their children look the other way when passing to avoid awkward questions.
In Leesburg, there is a similar issue going on. On 1 South King Street, right across the town’s court house and among various antique shops and cafes is where this little boutique is situated. It opened in 2011 and has caused downtown unrest since then. The biggest issue with La Tache is the way its mannequins are displayed in the windows. They are very busty plastic figures in lace or leather lingerie with various toys being held. The windows are enough to cause an uproar from families that live in that area. Like residents in Hickey’s article, they got down to business to try and bring an end to the store. At first it was just comments on the new businesses Facebook page. Some were for the business and it bringing in money and some were against it and thought of it as a disturbance. These comments even told people not to give the boutique any business so it could be shut down that way. Some went as far as trying to picket the business however, that may lead to more publicity and curiosity to the shop so it never happened.
It is now 2015 and La Tache is still up and running. However, it has now been put under legal scrutiny. It seems as though the business is not going anywhere anytime soon yet residents have been pushing to make the store a little better looking via the scandalous mannequins. On September 21, 2015 at Leesburg’s Town Council meeting residents claimed that the windows were illegal. “The legal analysis conducted by town staff examined the Code of Virginia which outlaws the sale and display of obscenity to juveniles, as outlined in Sec. 24-280 under unlawful acts.” (Loudoun Times Mirror, 2015) In the end, the windows were not illegal and La Tache is free to do their business. Concerns are still shown via emails from mostly Mothers of young children and the more conservative but shown through social media the shop is seen as amusing.
Now this issue in Leesburg was not as extensive as Hickey’s article was but it is still relevant. It shows how one thing can bring people together to try and make change right in their backyard. Although the outcome of this was not what was hoped for it still shows how NIMBY movements can happen even at a very micro scale. It is also interesting to see how different social movements occur today compared to back in the 70’s and 80’s. Shown in the various articles about Leesburg it seems that social media is the main platform for taking action whereas in Hickey’s article it was meetings at homes or community centers or restaurants.
Disney films are known for their themes of family, romance and humor. The films always seem to have a good lesson involved for younger children however, when you take a critical eye to these fun, sing a long movies one can observe underlying themes within. For my research project I did a cultural content analysis with three popular movies, Over the Hedge, Avatar and WALL-E. I aimed to summarize how this environmental theme is played throughout all three films, who was causing the issue, who was to deal with the issue and what can be done about it.
research project #1
Just a reminder in case you were not in class Wednesday that Ashley and I (Tierra) will be covering mainly chapter 5 tomorrow! Obviously skim 6 but our discussion is chapter 5 based!
For this second reaction paper I decided to go with a critical synthesis of two readings we have read, Ronald Kramer’s Moral Panics and Urban Growth Machines: Official Reactions to Graffiti in New York City, 1990-2005 and Aaron Bartley’s The Green Development Zone as a Model for a New Neighborhood Economy as well as the Brooklyn Matters film we watched. One similarity all of these share is the fact that they talk of growth machines in neighborhoods. Now how/what each machine helps/benefits is where some similarities and some differences come into play.
In Brooklyn Matters, the main point of the film was to show how one big league developer was going to change the town for the “better” and what citizens’ different viewpoints were about the project. The project was run by a wealthy elitist who wanted to commercialize what seemed to be a “run down” part of town. He promised jobs and affordable housing in which was not all true. The affordable housing came at a cost and the jobs were only temporary. In Kramer’s article he writes of how graffiti is viewed in New York and what was to be done about it. The graffiti was said to “be understood as a moral panic, which can be said to occur when the reaction to a pattern of behavior that is seen as violating accepted norms or laws is disproportional to the threat posed by the behavior in question.”(Kramer, 299) This was a reason money and organizations grew to prevent graffiti. In class however, we determined that what was done was more an overreaction to the actual offense. Bartley’s article talks of how a Green Development Zone growth machine comes into a neighborhood and how/who it helps. If was an organization that was very community oriented and that had goals everyone in the neighborhood agreed on. The similarity between all these growth machines is that they all had a goal to make an area better – whether communally/morally or economically is a different matter
Brooklyn Matters and Kramer’s article were similar in their reasons as to why a growth machine was present, it was present because of economic matters. The film showed how a huge developer named Ratner wanted to make money off a huge city development. Ratner wanted to knock down private homes and separating the streets with a wall of massive skyscrapers to build businesses. Kramer’s article talks of how graffiti was driving away business (when it really wasn’t) so groups were organized to combat this issue to have business benefit. Both of these articles were also to benefit more elite interests rather than the whole city or neighborhood. Ratner has plenty of people against him but his promise of jobs, affordable housing and basketball won out. The graffiti article said how businesses who had graffiti on them were now forced to clean it up themselves. However at the end of Kramer’s piece it says that business and tourism were booming and nothing really came out of the graffiti initiative. Ratner and his project did go through however and is still causing issues to this day.
The Green Development zone was similar to Kramer by being a growth machine but it related more so to the film. In class we talked about how they both had community support (different levels however), promise of jobs, green space and affordable housing. However some of the differences were in the similarities. Community support for Ratner was split between the people who wanted the jobs and people who wanted to preserve their street. For the GDZ, it was a communal agreement to help the neighborhood with rising gas bills. The promise of jobs by Ratner were only temporary construction ones, the GDZ jobs, from what I could tell, were more long term jobs within the community. The green space Ratner was providing was only for people who could navigate the complicated complex to get to it. The GDZ green space was made on vacant lots where sustainable housing wasn’t built so gardens for the community were put there for everyone to have access to. Affordable housing for Ratner’s project didn’t really benefit anyone whereas the GDZ built houses that were very affordable and efficient.
These two articles and one film all wanted the quality of life to improve for communities however two benefitted the elite interests and one actually helped an entire neighborhood and not just one group. In class we also touched on different types of capital, Kramer and the film relate more toward economic capital while the GDZ is more human capital oriented. I feel like that seeing more hard data on graffiti effecting businesses would help the article make a more solid point at if the growth machine was helpful or not. An updated film of Ratner’s project would also be helpful to see how the citizens feel about it. For the GDZ, it would be nice to see more studies done in different places as well as see if the jobs provided were temporary or not.
For this first reaction paper I decided to do a community plan analysis of Purcellville, Virginia. The plan I focused on for this town was the Purcellville Downtown Master Plan. The plan starts off on what Purcellville is like and where about the town is situated, and then goes into the process and approach of what it is aiming to do. The plan then discusses what to preserve as the town grows and what buildings could use some more modern renovations in the downtown area. Said plan also shows who helped in the making of what is to be preserved and what buildings needed more upkeep. There are a few weaknesses within this plan, first, mostly prominent business owners and town coordinators choose what the decisions are, even then there are options given and not all of the decisions are brought to the table and this is all seen as the first dimension of power. Second, from the ending of the plan it also seems that it is attempting to benefit the growth of businesses which may be a potential problem.
One of the weaknesses is that this plan is formed mostly business owners and town coordinators. This means that not the entire community’s viewpoint on what the downtown area should look like and what should be preserved is on the table. The plan suggests that the top things that need to be preserved are the small town feel, the W&OD Trail, the train station, the orchards and farms and the baseball/football field (Downtown Master Plan, 2005). The rest is up for change which may be an issue for residents in the area who may have deep ties with particular buildings or streets downtown. The plan also gives options as to how things may end up looking/moving. This could potentially end small businesses that aren’t deemed necessary or protected. The options are given however the decision is not the public’s it is the towns. This ties into our course readings by being the first dimension of power (Sadan, 1997, 40). How, is that the decisions are not open to the public however the town decides that they have everyone’s interest in mind by using small businesses ideas. This can also be seen as pluralism which we talked about in class from the Ferman reading. Everyone has potential power to make decisions, just not everyone utilizes it to their full potential or will be heard in a greater manner. The second weakness is that the majority of this plan seems to be based on the growth of the town via businesses. This can possibly lead to the growth of a machine causing a small town to expand just for profit. The reason that I say there is potential for a machine to grow is because, from what I gathered in class discussion, a growth machine is the things within a city that increases economy and which is the most important thing of all. Although it seems unlikely that Purcellville will become large like New York City, there is still a potential of a machine popping up.
The strength of this plan is the plan itself. The plan to keep downtown Purcellville charming and busy as it has always been even though the town itself is growing constantly into a larger city and less of a farm town. Also, the broadness of the subjects to be preserved helps the community have multiple options. Within keeping the old town charm it will be much harder for machines to form if everyone wants the past to stay as well as the central community power. Since I started living in the town around 2008 I personally have not really seen much of a drastic change downtown. They may have renovated a building here or there and moved the farmers market and town hall but nothing as big as they were planning. This plan wants to keep the historic charm of Purcellville however, the barns they have knocked down are now homes to a large shopping center, equipped with a Harris Teeter, Starbucks and soon-to-be Chik-Fil-A. As well as cutting through an orchard for a new road to be paved to make commuting through town quicker. This plan may have done some good at protecting the downtown area and keeping the small town feel however, it seems like the more populated the town is getting, the more businesses are coming in and the “feel” seems to be threatened. It would be interesting to see a new and more updated plan of what is to be preserved and what isn’t.
Purcellville Downtown Master Plan, 2005: http://www.purcellvilleva.com/index.aspx?nid=608