Is Gentrification Fueling Gang Crime In North Denver?

Denver has seen a dramatic surge in gang killings and violence in North Denver this year, after a lull in the many years of the Great Recession and the slow recovery from it.

Yet, now, Denver’s economy it hitting on all cylinders and North Denver.  These neighborhoods were historically black and except for Park Hill, which was a rare black middle class to mixed race middle class neighborhood (from North to South), poor to working class.  When I first moved to Denver from Grand Junction in 1999 and looked at census data from 1990 while I was investigating neighborhoods to move into in the city, about 50% of the African-American population of the State of Colorado lived within five miles of the intersection of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Colorado Boulevard.

This shifted in two ways in my first decade of living in Denver.  First, Hispanics, who had historically lived on Denver’s West side, gradually migrated east into historically black neighborhoods like Five Points and North Capital Hill (now called “Uptown”).  Second, young lower middle class white families and gay couples started snapping up inexpensive houses close to downtown and the hospital complexes in these neighborhoods despite historically racial divides in the city.  Since that decade, full fledged gentrification which has reached critical mass has taken hold.

Why should an area that is becoming more affluent also be seeing more crime?  A short but thoughtful 9News story explores this question.

Recent incidents of gang violence in northeast Denver may have many causes, but a noted anti-gang activist says urban renewal may be one of them. Rev. Leon Kelly says as more wealthy people are revitalizing neighborhoods, it is pushing gangs into smaller territories. “When you’ve got folks sitting on top of each other, gangs sitting on top of each other, it’s causing tension,” he said. . . .

The city has already seen more gang-related murders this year than it did all of last year. “We’ve had 17 murders this year. Twelve of them have been gang-related,” Denver Police Chief Robert White said in a press conference Wednesday. “That number is relatively high.” . . . White blames incidents at a rap concert in November for some of the violence seen so far this year. He says in most cases, shootings are retaliatory and other gang members are the intended target. . . . 

Rev. Leon Kelly says as more wealthy people are revitalizing neighborhoods, it is pushing gangs into smaller territories. . . . Kelly says gang members are more aggressive these days than they were 30 years ago. He says there is still more of a need for alternative programs to get them off the street. But he also says gentrification is playing a role in this. “When the gangs used to coexist over in the hood, over in the east side, Park Hill they had room to expand,” he said.

Rev. Leon Kelly’s thirty year ministry to North Denver’s gangs is a Denver institution that has frequently played a critical role in quelling outbreaks of gang violence like this one, and in helping gang members turn their lives around. He has been a rare figure who is able to bridge the gap between the city’s establishment leadership and gang member’s in the city’s poor minority communities.

Everyone is worried about what will happen this summer, when gang violence usually peaks.  Some fear we will see a summer rivaling the gang warfare fueled carnage of 1992’s “Summer of Violence”.

Of course, it is one thing to identify a cause, even if Kelly’s analysis is correct, and quite another to devise a solution.

Overall, the Denver metropolitan area desegregated more than almost any other metropolitan area in the country between 1990 and 2010 as blacks and Hispanics moved into new, affordable mixed race suburbs fueled by eased underwriting of mortgage loans to people with less strong credit scores, lower incomes, and smaller down payments in places like the Green Valley Ranch neighborhood in Denver near DIA, in Westminster, and in Aurora.  The migration has also been aided by the cash windfalls that minority homeowners in those neighborhoods received when their homes were sold to would be gentrifiers for far more than the purchased their homes for years ago when the area was considered to be an irredeemable ghetto.

But, this invisible mass migration was largely limited to very stable working class and middle class black and Hispanic families.  Minority families that are truly poor, or are unstable working class families where unemployment is a regular occurrence or other family dramas disrupt family stability, who have always rented rather than owned their homes, have largely remained in Denver’s older neighborhoods.  Now, however, they struggle with rising rents, and the windfalls of gentrification have gone to their slumlord landlords, rather than to them.  These people remain in the same neighborhoods that now lack the old pillars of their communities who have moved to the suburbs, and can have uneasy relationships with their new gentrifying neighbors for whom the feeling is mutual.

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via Denver News

Why Are We Still Waiting For FasTracks?

According to 9News:

We are now a year away from the commuter rail running from Denver Union Station to Denver International Airport. The tracks are done and ready to go, but it is still going to take some time for passengers to be able to the rail out to DIA. The 56 cars that will be running on the commuter rail all need to be tested for 1,000 hours. RTD also has to determine how the bus routes along the East Rail line will be affected and changed. 

When the commuter rail opens the first train will run at 3 a.m. and the last train will leave at 1 a.m. It will run every 15 minutes during peak times and 30 minutes during other times. The proposed cost is a flat rate of $9 to the airport, and the same $9 fee for if you are traveling round trip to the airport in the same day. 

The promised trip time from DIA to Union Station on the East Line is 35 minutes, comparable with cars in light traffic (excluding time to park and get to the terminal from a parking space), and quite a bit faster in rush hour gridlock, particularly when construction is intense or there are accidents on the route.

Meanwhile, the line along I-225 from the existing 9 mile station to I-70 at Peoria, which will open in 2016 is also well underway.

The line is nearly 60 percent complete. . . . design work on the entire project [is] 99 percent complete and all seven light rail bridges are nearing completion. All eight stations are currently under construction and an overhead wire has been strung to just north of the Iliff Bridge.

It sounds like the DIA line will open before the I-225 line does, despite the fact that the I-225 line won’t need to test the cars because it will be a light rail line, rather than a commuter rail line like the one to DIA that uses a different kind of cars than those currently in use in Denver’s transit system.

The 9News story intimates that the East Line might open in the spring of 2016, rather than near year end, as the cynic/pessimist in you is inclined to assume.

The line from Union Station to Wheat Ridge (the Gold Line) and commuter rail from Union Station to Westminster (the Northwest Rail Line), which will basically be a one stop spur from the Gold Line at first, will also open in 2016 as well, as will bus rapid transit service to Boulder.

Analysis

A Natural Experiment

The new lines will provide an interesting natural experiment in transportation economics.  The nearest real competition to DIA is about an hour and a half away to the South in Colorado Springs from DIA, and there are no real competitors to DIA in any other direction.

Some people drive to DIA.  There is a premium priced express bus service already offered by RTD to the airport from various stops around the metro area called “Sky Ride.”, as well as non-express bus service to some nearby destinations.  Taxis, van services, limos, hotel shuttles, and Uber all serve the airport, and so do friends and family dropping people off, and people taking their own cars to airport parking and shuttle parking.  The total traffic in and out of DIA is unlikely to be seriously impacted by the transit service, so it boils down to market share.

Which means of transportation to the airport will decline when some people choose to take commuter rail to DIA instead?

Will friends and family that previously provided kiss and ride service to the terminal now do the same with a light rail stop?  Will taxi, van and limo service suffer?  Will SkyRide traffic decrease?  Will hotel shuttle traffic fall off?  Or will it free up spaces in shuttle parking?

Surely, all of these modes will take hits.

Sky Ride Impact

“Sky Ride” may be almost completely replaced.  Commuter rail isn’t subject to the perennial highway gridlock that slows down buses, the price will be comparable, and rail offers more convenient entry points that the limited number of Sky Ride stations.  All but a handful of light rail stations will offer direct access to Union Station or another DIA commuter rail line.

Shuttle Parking Impact

Impact on shuttle parking may have a lot to do with the availability of cheap, long term parking options at light rail stops.  If one could get long term parking within walking distance of a light rail stop for $2 a day, this would make it an attractive alternative to shuttle parking economically for trips of three days of more, and shuttle parking customers already accept rubbing shoulders with fellow travelers and a certainly amount of delay, and have also proven that they are price conscious.  It is probably faster to drive to a long term parking light near a light rail stop and take it to the airport (often with one transfer between rail lines), than it is to drive from home to a shuttle parking lot, await pickup by a shuttle bus, and then take the shuttle bus to the airport.  But, if long term parking isn’t available at light rail stops, this won’t happen.

I suspect that premium parking trips right next to the airport will take a smaller hit, and that the impact will be intermediate for terminal economy parking.

Kiss and Ride Dropoff Impact

It is an hour and a half to two hour round trip for a friend or family member in the area served by light rail to drive someone to the airport, drop them off, and return home, while it would often be a ten or fifteen minute trip to take the same person to a local light rail stop.  Will this shift trips?  It depends.

Kiss and ride directly to the airport is probably a little bit faster than taking the train, and many people see the drive to the airport, at least, as quality time to catch up with a friend or family member, rather than a pure chore.  It will be interesting to see how many people spring for an extra $9 round trip DIA ticket to accompany a traveler all of the way to the airport, even though they aren’t going themselves.  I suspect that few will, except in the case of unaccompanied minors, even though it makes quite a bit of sense.

Different Kinds of Visitors and Hotel Shuttle Impact

Travelers from the eastern seaboard, Chicago, San Francisco, Europe and Japan headed for a downtown hotel may find it perfectly natural to take a train from the airport to the city, and college students are always eager to be a bit adventurous and to pinch pennies.  On the other hand, visitors from major American cities who aren’t used to using transit may be more reluctant to use it in Denver.

But, hotel shuttles, because they are free and provide a fairly direct trip to a destination in a strange city may still be competitive with rail, at least on days when traffic isn’t too bad.  It will be interesting to see if hotels start to offer East Line voucher options to replace hotel shuttles until guests reach Union Station.

Taxi, Limo, Van Service and Uber Impact

Taxi, limo and van service and Uber all offer point to point travel that rail cannot, and both taxi and limo service serve the least price conscious customers.  I suspect that these services will see little decline from destinations outside downtown, but may take a hit on the DIA to downtown route is the service makes a good impression in terms of cleanliness and safety, and good shuttle service from Union Station directly to downtown hotels is implemented.

Ski Travel Impact

In its present form, the 2016 expansion of FasTracks is unlikely to have any material impact on what people flying into the DIA for ski trips in the mountains do.  There is no avoiding going from plane to a shuttle bus to ski resorts eventually (assuming that affluent ski travels continue not to choose slow and dirty Greyhound service from downtown Denver, or Amtrak to Glenwood Springs (and then bus on to Aspen and Beaver Creek or perhaps Vail) from Union Station which is slow, unreliable and infrequent.

The norm of taking a shuttle bus directly from the airport to resort on I-70 will probably continue to be the norm for these travelers for the foreseeable future.  And, realistically, even if the state legislature or initiative petitioners got a high speed rail to the mountains proposition in the ballot in 2016 and were swiftly approved for federal funding while Congress was controlled at least in part by Republicans, it would probably take until 2030 or so to complete.  More realistically, it would take until 2018 for the political forces to align for that kind of proposal, and probably longer, if that ever happens.

Economically, high speed rail makes much more sense from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs (where it is cheaper to build and there is greater population density to support the traffic) than it does from Denver to the mountain ski resorts.

Real Estate – At New Light Rail Stops

Meanwhile, real estate near stops, particularly “luxury apartments” are springing up near almost every stop in the system as the system expansion makes these apartments effectively closer to everywhere in the system, particularly to downtown and the airport.

Real Estate – Downtown, The Tech Center and Cherry Creek

Metropolitan Denver has basically three “downtown” areas where people go to work in professional offices.  One is the true downtown, one is the Cherry Creek mall area which is rapidly becoming a financial center that is home to investment firms and small business loan oriented banks as well as high end retail, and one is the Denver Tech Center.

The 2016 expansions in RTD should be to make downtown offices and entertainment options much more attractive to almost everyone in the metro area, while reducing the number of commuters and entertainment customers who drive to downtown and park their cars there, possibly leading to a shift in land use from parking which will have a somewhat diminished demand, to office and entertainment uses which will have greater value.  As a result, every kind of downtown real estate use, from parking to office space to commercial space to residential space will probably increase, probably with spillover property value surges for neighboring areas that have recently gentrified into thriving, high rent apartments for yuppies.

The Cherry Creek mall area is very pedestrian friendly once you get there, but isn’t close to light rail or to reliable, frequent bus service that makes it unnecessary to consult bus schedules.  It won’t be impacted much at all by the 2016 FasTracks expansion.  The expansion of office space in the Cherry Creek area, due mostly to zoning changes, however, has brought new housing to the Cherry Creek area as well, and the increased population density of urban oriented people may increase demand for transit options to link Cherry Creek by high frequency bus service to light rail stations and downtown.  Previous attempts to do this have repeatedly flopped due to insufficient demand, but the growth in this secondary downtown area may have finally reached a tipping point.

In principle, the 2016 FasTracks expansion could also greatly impact the Denver Tech Center, which has a rail stop at every major arterial street connected directly to the metro area wide rail and bus rapid transit grid (although it is quite inconvenient to reach by bus).

But, DTC is on a spoke, rather than a hub, which means that many commuters will still need to transfer at Union Station to get their by rail, and DTC is, by design in order to keep out the riff raff and to prevent workers from being distracted, very unfriendly for pedestrians and anyone else who is bus service dependent travelers once you get there.  If you’ve taken the bus to work, which is feasible in DTC, if awkward, so long as you keep a standard 9 to 5 schedule for your work day, your prospects for leaving the office for lunch or an errand during the day is almost nil,  Also, DTC doesn’t have a shortage of free parking for shoppers and office workers who go there now, so there is no less economic pressure to switch to rail to avoid parking expenses and inconvenience.

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Arbitrary Executions Of Senior Officials In North Korea’s Monarchy

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took office following the death of his father Kim Jong Il in December of 2011, and has ruled like a hereditary monarch. North Korea has a population of about 24.9 million people, just a little under the 26.96 million people who live in Texas.

He had 17 senior officials executed in 2012, 10 in 2013, and 41 in 2014. So far in 2015, he has had 15 senior officials executed on his say so with no judicial process. One of the senior officials executed in 2013 was his uncle by marriage.  Thus, he has ordered the executions of 83 senior officials since he took office 40 months ago.

No country in the world has had such a blood-thirsty and arbitrary run of monarch ordered executions of senior officials for a very long time, probably a couple of centuries, at least.  Its neighbor China, does routinely execute senior officials and business executives for corruption offenses other than murder following trials that do not meet international standards for due process, but does not do so merely at the whim of its supreme leader.

Indonesia, executed eight people (seven of them foreigners) for drug trafficking, but after trials typical for criminal proceedings in that country pursuant to legislatively adopted laws and with a ten year delay between arrest and execution to allow for the legal process to play out (although some legal appeals were not concluded at the time the execution was carried out, something that has also happened within the last year in the United States when the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiori in a death penalty case but did not stay execution of the judgment).

North Korean executions of senior officials alone, without regard to other executions, exceeds the total executions carried out in all but a handful of nations in the world, and in every one of the other nations, there was at least some semblance of due process before almost all executions were ordered,. Executions of senior governmental officials is almost unheard of outside North Korean and China.

North Korea has averaged more than 20 executions per year since gaining independence (see also here). But, there are no reliable official figures and that estimate is almost surely understated, and is currently worse than the historical average. For example:

On November 3, 2013, according to a JoongAng Ilbo report, at least 80 people were publicly executed for minor offenses. The executions were said to be carried out simultaneously in Wonsan, Chongjin, Sariwon, Pyongsong and three other North Korean cities for crimes such as watching South Korean movies, distributing pornography or possessing a Bible.

No other country in the world executes people for such minor offenses.

from Wash Park Prophet http://ift.tt/1IoNIIn
via Denver News

Arbitrary Executions Of Senior Officials In North Korea’s Monarchy

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took office following the death of his father Kim Jong Il in December of 2011, and has ruled like a hereditary monarch.  North Korea has a population of about 24.9 million people, just a little under the 26.96 million people who live in Texas.

He had 17 senior officials executed in 2012, 10 in 2013, and 41 in 2014.  So far in 2015, he has had 15 senior officials executed on his say so with no judicial process.  Thus, he has ordered the executions of 83 senior officials since he took office 40 months ago.

No country in the world has had such a blood-thirsty and arbitrary run of monarch ordered executions of senior officials for a very long time, probably a couple of centuries, at least.  Its neighbor China, does routinely execute senior officials and business executives for corruption offenses other than murder following trials that do not meet international standards for due process, but does not do so merely at the whim of its supreme leader.

Indonesia, executed eight people (seven of them foreigners) for drug trafficking, but after trials typical for criminal proceedings in that country pursuant to legislatively adopted laws and with a ten year delay between arrest and execution to allow for the legal process to play out (although some legal appeals were not concluded at the time the execution was carried out, something that has also happened within the last year in the United States when the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiori in a death penalty case but did not stay execution of the judgment).

North Korean executions of senior officials alone, without regard to other executions, exceeds the total executions carried out in all but a handful of nations in the world, and in every one of the other nations, there was at least some semblance of due process before almost all executions were ordered,. Executions of senior governmental officials is almost unheard of outside North Korean and China.

from Wash Park Prophet http://ift.tt/1IoNIIn
via Denver News

Federal Circuit Gutless

While some may think that it is a display of restraint and respect for the rule of law for a federal appellate court to honor a precedent that it then proceeds to explain is a clearly unconstitutional application of the First Amendment as the law of the First Amendment has developed since then, I personally, am inclined to think that deliberating following what is now a clearly unconstitutional precedent, and forcing the party losing on appeal to seek review en banc or from the United States Supreme Court, is merely gutless.

In this case, it involves the Federal Circuit’s decision to affirm the Patent and Trademark Office’s right to deny registration of a trademark because it is disparaging, supported by a 1981 precedent called In re McGinley that is clearly bad law today as the author of the Court’s unanimous opinion explains in a separate opinion on the subject.

Presumably, the party losing the appeal will now take it to the next level, but there is no guaranty that the en banc Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, or the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the issue, or that the party winning the appeal (the United States Government) will not concede the case on its individual facts in order to keep an unconstitutional law in force.

Also, for that matter, why in the world is the Justice Department in a Democratic Presidential administration fighting this case, rather than conceding it and refusing to defend what is now a clearly unconstitutional law?

We don’t have to make the business of vindicating federal constitutional rights harder than it needs to be, particularly in such a straightforward case.

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I voted.

I voted today in Denver’s 2015 municipal elections.  NOTWITHSTANDING A TYPO ON MANY BALLOTS, they are due MAY 5 NOT IN JUNE.

There were no ballot issues.  There were citywide elections for Mayor (with a strong incumbent Mayor Hancock and a few weak challengers running), Auditor (an open seat with two strong candidates running), Clerk and Recorder (with a strong incumbent and a weak challenger running), and city council at large (vote for two, with two incumbents running, but a large field including a number of other strong candidates).

There were also races in each single member city council district, of which there are many, a great number of which are flooded with candidates because term limits have left the seats open.

In all, I cast votes for six different candidates.  This took a fair amount of research (the seats are officially non-partisan, so there are few easy hints about how to vote), which I owe a post for the world on, but may or may not have time to actually write.

In all races except city council at large, if no candidate receives a majority, the top two candidates will face off in a run off election for which ballots are due in June.

Most of the candidates were very underwhelming on the issues.

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The Great Filter

Charlies Diary recently took on the issue of the “Great Filter“, which is a corollary of Fermi’s Paradox.

In a nutshell, Fermi’s paradox asks why in such a huge universe as old as ours, we haven’t yet encountered interstellar life yet.  One possible answer is the “Great Filter”, i.e. some systemic mechanism by which intelligent life usually crashes and burns before it can generate interstellar civilization.

Charlie explores the concept of “Griefers”, an early interstellar civilization that systematically stamps out would be interstellar civilizations.  But, his suggested mechanism, involving technological exotica like Von Neumann probes, Matrioshka brains, Dyson spheres and Nicoll-Dyson beams are way over the top.

My own inclination is for narratives that are more prosaic and more inevitable, along the lines of historical examples of the smallpox and Columbus,of  kudzu, and of megafauna extinction upon first contact with modern humans scenarios.

1. Assume that there is some ecological envelope in which planets, or at least parts of planets and moons, are “habitable” by living beings.

2. Assume that some forms of life are more robust than others.  One kind of organism may be able to survive almost anywhere, while another may require ideal Goldilocks conditions.

3. It follows that out of all of the different kinds of life that evolve independently on billions and billions of worlds over billions and billions of years, that there must be some species that is maximally robust, i.e. that is capable of living in a broader range of conditions than anything else.  Interstellar cockroaches, if you will.  This might even be something very much like humans.

4. Suppose further that you select not just for a species that is maximally robust (humans might qualify) but also for maximal efficiency (humans definitely don’t qualify).  This species is so efficient over such a broad range of habitable environments that it is very prone to outcompeting all other forms of life in most of that range, like kudzu in the American South.  Species that co-evolve with it might be able to keep it in check (just as African predators that co-evolved with humans did not experience megafauna extinction), but in the absence of very specific adaptations this species becomes ubiquitous on almost all habitable planets.

Also note that ecological dominance in a new habitat need not happen quickly.  This species can be perfectly effective as a Great Filter even if it takes ten million years, on average, for example, to come into its own within an ecosystem from a starter colony beginning.

Let us call this species, without loss of generality, “griefers”.  Griefers could be a nano-scale species akin to viruses and bacteria.  Indeed, very small individual griefers are rather favored, because it takes much less energy to send a probe with a colony of nano-griefers to another star, than it does to do the same with a larger organism.

5. Assume that this species selected for its maximal robustness and efficiency has a dormant spore stage that can endure prolonged periods in non-habitable environments such as the exterior of interstellar space craft.

6. Assume that some species on the griefer home world attains the ability to send out interstellar probes that can identify habitable worlds, self-replicate, and send new small probates to newly identified habitable worlds around new stars.  This may very well not be the griefers themselves.

7. Assume that the interstellar griefer delivery species, unaware of the havoc griefers can wreck on species that have not co-evolved with it, do not sanitize their first batch of probes and that self-replication of probes requires a habitable environment.

If the griefer delivery species manages to reach a level where it can send out self-replicating probes on this model contaminated with griefers just once, with a single probe launch from the home world, in the entire history of the universe, then the entire universe will be sterilized by griefers in due course and a Great Filter has come into being.

8.  Note that griefers and their companion species on the griefer homeworld need not be perfect to give rise to a Great Filter sufficient to explain Fermi’s paradox.  A Great Filter with 99% or 99.9% efficiency would be hard to distinguish in practice, from a perfect one.

9.  Also, even if a griefer is incapable of destroying a well established advanced technological species, it could perhaps, make all other potentially habitable worlds within a few parsecs of the well established species, uninhabitable going forward, making the bridge that must be crossed to transition from being a mono-stellar species to an interstellar species insurmountable.  Indeed, there is no need for the companion species that inadvertently hurls probes infected with griefers to other habitable worlds to ever manage to get any of their own kind to another planet.

10.  This is also a phenomena that can play out in parallel, with multiple independent source worlds that each wipe out a different part of the range of habitable worlds.  For example, one kind of griefer could destroy life on nearly frozen ice/methane worlds, while another kind of griefer could wipe out Venus-like very hot and toxic worlds.

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Props To Chief Justice John Roberts

Last week, Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts (the title is not, “Chief of the United States Supreme Court,” by the way), the highest ranking judge in the land, showed up for jury duty.

Unsurprisingly, the trial court judge and lawyers in the case did not select him to serve from the jury panel.  But, his example is inspiring.  If he shows up to jury duty, what excuse do I have not to show when I my date (in mid-May) comes up.  Sometimes, a leader has to lead by example, and in the case of jury duty, the right thing to do is all about showing up and Justice Roberts was a fine example for us all and doing just that.

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