Sunday, May 24, 2015

Playgrounds are a Priority in Winnetka

Winnetka has 4 other very clean and well-maintained parks, and conveniently there is at least one strategically within a quarter mile of each of the 3 train stations, giving the town a very green and beautiful look. However, many towns don’t even have one safe place for their children to play and their parks are not nearly as well maintained as those in Winnetka. The children of Winnetka have a variety of options- and soon one will include a heating center and a splash pad. This coming summer, the Village of Winnetka plans to spend $2 million on renovating the park on Gage Street in Hubbard woods, which is already very nice.

Above is the renovation plan for the new park. One feature I think is interesting is the rubber safety surfacing, which is not necessary for the park, but will help assure the helicopter-parents of the North Shore that their children will not get injured. Additionally, I think that under park bench it says “typical” in parentheses. What other kind of park bench would it be? Because everything else about the park is so fancy and atypical, the plan for the bench stands out as not fitting in.

The plan for the park includes many new features, which have a strong appeal to
North Shore mothers and their children. However, not everyone is excited about the park. Business owners and employees fear that the park, which will take away space from some of the parking lots, will be detrimental to their businesses. But, the village council voted 4-1 in favor of the renovation, disregarding the complaints of the owners of the downtown businesses.

Is implementing these fancy additions to the park worth loosing business in the downtown stores and restaurants?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

American Conflict

In 2011, about 66% of the American population recognized the class conflict. This is a drastic increase compared to the only 47% that believed this in just 2009. Maybe this is because of technological advances which placed increased value on education. Lower skilled workers are no longer valued, because machines can take their place, so college educated workers are in much higher demand. This is why those with a college degree make on average 98% more than people without one.

Additionally, while 66% of the population believed there was a class conflict, only 38% believed there is a racial conflict. In fact, this percentage went down from 2009 to 2011.

However, with all the police brutality cases like those of Eric Garner, and Michael Brown, racial conflict should be very apparent in society. And it is true, in 2015 the perceived racial issues shot back up, this February the number was still very similar to the 2011 percentage, but in May it skyrocketed to nearly twice as much.

Are racial relations actually getting worse? And if so what is the cause?

Some people believe it is linked to the high class conflict perception. The poorer whites desire superiority and therefore try to be seen as “better” than the African Americans of the same socioeconomic status. But is that the only reason that these issues seem to be getting worse?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Rich vs. The Poor

We have been looking a lot at the indicators of class in Kenilworth, which according to Bloomberg, is the fourth richest town in America. But, I wanted to take this further and contrast the absolute richest town with the poorest. The wealthiest town in America is Brookville, New York. Brookville has an average income of $328,404 and is composed of almost entirely whites and Asians, as seen in the graph below.

When I google searched Brookville, this (on the left) is one of the first houses that came up. This is in starking contrast with the house that came up when I searched a zip code in Detroit, Michigan, one of the poorest in the United states, with 40% of people with an income of less than $15,000. 

Not only do the sizes of the houses differ drastically, the difference in maintenance is very evident as well. The Brookville house has a neatly trimmed yard, whereas the Detroit house has overgrown bushes evading the porch, and not to mention a caving-in roof. Obviously maintaining a house and yard costs a lot of money, and therefore it is easier for the wealthy too do this. Yet, the rich's obsession with perfection may do more for them than just give them style points. 
When I was researching my Junior Theme, a lot of criminologists mentioned the "Broken Window Theory". This states that the more cleaned up and well maintained a neighborhood is, the less crime there will be. Police officers found that fixing a dozen broken windows in a area did more to prevent crime than their constant patrolling. This is because people feel much less comfortable in a neighborhood that seems to be well looked after, because they feel there is increased social control, and less chaos which makes them feel more vulnerable.

How can we help Detroit, and other cities like it do a better job maintaining their city in order to help decrease crime rates as well?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Classy Websites?

After watching the video in class today I decided to take a look at Winnetka’s website to see if the description of the town aligned with the portrayal of the town given by the train station. The website is all green and white, which in itself conveys a message about the community. Green is the color of the environment and the tidy green website mimics the manicured lawns that can be seen around Winnetka.

Additionally, I looked at how the community decided to describe itself. The
descriptors used include “tranquil tree-shaded”,  “family oriented” and “quaint”. The first, tranquil tree-shaded, conveys a similar message to the green and white color scheme. Green is trendy and eco-friendly and Winnetka would like to portray itself in this way. Family orientated seems very sweet and makes it sound very safe without having to outwardly say that. Quaint means marked by beauty or excellence, so saying that Winnetka is quaint marks it as an upper class place, because the wealthy are much more obsessed with perfection of looks.
            After looking at Winnetka’s website, I checked out Berkley’s. Berkley’s website colors are red and blue which are patriotic, but do not convey the same sort of environmentally friendly and clean feeling. Citizens of Berkley described their community as “safe”, “diverse” and “well maintained”.
These adjectives are very different than those of Winnetka’s although the intention seems to be to convey similar things. Saying tranquil and tree shaded, creates a visual that is already very safe, without having to use the word safe, because that seems too obvious. Family orientated conveys something very different than diverse. Diverse means that there are many different ages of people in Berkley, and probably implies that there are apartments as well as houses so that the older and younger adults without kids have a place to live as well. Family-orientated creates the perception that everyone house in the community contains two parents and at least one child, and  also contributes to the safe image of Winnetka. Lastly, quaint is a much stronger word choice than well maintained. If something is quaint it is not only well maintained, but beautiful as well.

The way that different communities portray themselves is clearly affected by class, and I think simply by reading the description a town gives of itself one could determine what class the majority of the residents belong to.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ineffective Incarceration

Does incarceration have an effect on declining crime? Considering that the United States holds only 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prison population, one would hope that incarceration is extremely beneficial to our society in terms of preventing crime. However, studies done by the Brennan Center have shown that incarceration does not play a large role in declining crime rates.
            As a consequence of the high crime rate in the 1990s, the prison population has almost doubled. This has cost the government a ton of money, but it has been proven that putting someone in jail for something like a drug offense is less effective than placing them in a treatment program, which is also cheaper. In fact, holding someone in prison for a year is the equivalent of sending them to Harvard. In addition to being more expensive, putting people in jail is less beneficial to both the individual and society as a whole.

            Over 12 states have decreased incarceration rates, and in doing so also decreased the crime rate. So why don’t other states follow suit? Putting people in jail seems like a good solution. Like locking our houses, it makes us feel secure if criminals are out of sight, but clearly it is time to change our methods.