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Posts about Auto Industry


Can blight, or even an auto ad, invoke opportunity?

The ads shown during Super Bowl XLV have generated a great deal of both positive and negative buzz. Chrysler's two-minute spot for its new 200 model proved to be an emotional tour de force for many viewers, not only for Michiganders, but also for those hailing from across the Rust Belt.

The stark, HD cinematography captured both the past glory and current struggle of a former U.S. manufacturing giant. Closing with the caption, "Imported from Detroit," the commercial took a stand. According to L.A. Times columnist Rick Rojas (as quoted in the Detroit Free Press), "Chrysler seems to say that Detroit isn't dead, and maybe the spirit of Americans making things isn't dead either."

While the goal of this blog isn't to ponder the future of auto manufacturing in the US, the underlying message of "coming home" to local manufacturingand perhaps even increasing our export powerhas now hit the mainstream, loud and clear.

Philadelphia has suffered from a decline in manufacturing along with other Rust Belt cities, and Diana Lind points out that today "the number of jobs requiring post-secondary education has grown, while more than 60 percent of Philadelphia's adults read at a sixth grade level or below, creating a miserable mismatch that leaves both employers and the unemployed in need."

Lind notes that blight and vacant lots are scattered across the city; Detroit has shown tremendous growth in urban agriculture as residents have cultivated green space, gardens, and farming out of once vacant parcels.

What Lind calls for, however, is a proactive land use and economic development plan: "...any plan to mitigate the vacant property crisis must not only include innovative urban planning, but also try to restore employment opportunities. We need to literally build jobs on neglected and undeveloped land."

Numerous programs interweave the issues of vacant property and unemployment, like the Job Opportunity Investment Network, West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, and Roots to Re-Entry. Though these, residents in Philadelphia are trained to attain levels of local employment that "help people leave poverty behind" while they remain in the community.

The potential to focus on economic development and education are two topics vital for those invested in cities to understand, not only in Detroit and Philadelphia, but also in the DC region. And we have the opportunity to create an even larger network by bringing local community colleges into the fold. It is on their campuses that many "green" jobs are born, and from where a great part of the foundation of our sustainable development focus may come.


Mikulski fiddles with car tax credits while transit burns

Maryland state lawmakers re-added a $10 million tax break for car purchases at the final stage of their budget negotiations. Legislators had previously decided to remove the credit to help shore up Maryland's finances until Senator Barbara Mikulski pushed to reinstate it. Mikulski inserted a similar provision into the federal stimulus bill earlier this year.

Unsold cars jam ports around the world. Photo original source unknown.

What could Maryland do with $10 million besides further incentivize people to buy new cars that most of them don't need? With just half that money, they could restore transit cuts in the Washington region and Baltimore. Those cuts threaten to cut off vital service to many residents who don't have alternatives, or will drive many Marylanders to commute by car instead of transit, increasing traffic, pollution and parking problems. DC and most Virginia jurisdictions came up with extra money to stave off most of their proposed cuts to Metro service, but Maryland remains $4.8 million behind. The other half of the $10 million could restore previous cuts or improve service in Baltimore.

Instead of preserving this vital transportation choice, Mikulski is intent on propping up an auto industry that has quite simply overproduced cars for the current economy. Americans would do just fine simply keeping their current cars a little longer. Meanwhile, cutting transit service not only destroys jobs, but harms many residents' ability to get to their jobs.

Tonight, Metro will hold the first two of their six hearings on service cuts, in Hyattsville and Vienna. Transit First! is continuing to call on area jurisdictions, especially Maryland, to avoid service cuts. They held a press event this morning at Prince George's Plaza Metro with County Councilmember Eric Olson and PG ACT's Karren Pope-Onwukwe to highlight the impact of the cuts, which hit Prince George's hardest.

Mikulski made an early name for herself in politics by opposing freeways that would have cut through Baltimore and destroyed historic neighborhoods. Sadly, like many freeway warriors of her era, she doesn't realize that the ever-expanding freeways outside Baltimore hurt that city's vitality almost as much as bulldozing a neighborhood, by driving development ever outward and removing jobs from downtown. Nor does she see how other governmental policies, like tax subsidies for car ownership, put cities at a disadvantage by drawing potential riders away from transit and forcing even more service cuts.

The Baltimore-Washington area is one of our nation's greatest metropolitan regions, including some of the best transit systems in the nation and a wide range of walkable, transit-oriented communities in and around two major cities. It's too bad Maryland's senior Senator seems intent on dismantling her state's existing advantages through her policy priorities. Her legacy may well be to bring about the very same form of destruction to Maryland's communities she fought to stop a generation ago.

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