News and Reaction

Notes from June, 2019

If you’re wondering how I could leave Google after nearly 10 years, here’s this article. Claire Stapleton sent out e-mail every week about the all-hands meeting, and they were erudite and funny and creative and deeply weird. She was a valuable and important part of the old Google, the place I loved to work and would not shut up about. And because management went into the hands of a Wharton MBA, who hobnobs with fellow alums Ivanka and Donny Jr., whose spreadsheets about profitability don’t have any columns for ethics or culture or values…Google is now HP. The company that used to be a great place to work.

Anonymous Friend


Schneider notes that in Chicago, where 80% of the city is off-limits to multifamily housing, downzoning has been heavily concentrated in white, wealthy neighborhoods. Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York’s zoning changes have followed a similar pattern: Poorer neighborhoods get upzoned, allowing for more development, and wealthier ones get downzoned. That means people who are already relatively advantaged have been legally absolved of their responsibility to share their neighborhood’s resources. In DC, Lanier Heights residents organized to ban more housing in their neighborhood by asking the city to downzone it in 2016.

One-size-fits-all solutions are often knocked as ignorant of the concerns of local communities. But localities have a stronger track record of keeping people out—often via zoning—than building enough homes for the people who live there or want to live there. Recent maps from DC’s Office of Planning show how the city’s neighborhoods that are disproportionately zoned single-family are also the neighborhoods that have seen the least amount of new housing.

Plus, as Chicago and New York show, twiddling only particular knobs in certain places says that development is OK in some places (typically disadvantaged neighborhoods) and off-limits in others (typically wealthy ones). Spot or selective upzoning isn’t equitable and won’t make housing more affordable.

A one-size-fits-all upzoning increasingly looks, at this point in time, like a necessary reset button that we will have to push if we are serious about both affordability and climate.

Alex Baca, Why’s everyone talking about upzoning? It’s the foundation of green, equitable cities.

In January, Warren announced what may be the defining idea of her campaign thus far: a proposed wealth tax of two percent on the assets above fifty million dollars of the seventy-five thousand richest families in the country. (There’s a surcharge for billionaires.) She calls this the Ultra-Millionaire Tax, and, during campaign events, she jokes about it in ways that most candidates wouldn’t, for fear of being accused of fomenting a class war. At an event in Salem, New Hampshire, she pointed out that most middle-income voters are already paying a form of wealth tax, through property taxes. “All I want to do that’s different is include the Rembrandt and the diamonds!” she said. A man called out from the audience, “And the yacht!” Warren replied, “And the yacht with the Imax theatre!”

To illustrate how the tax would work, Warren describes a schoolteacher who has no savings and an “heir” who has five hundred million dollars in “yachts, jewelry, and fine art.” If both of them made a fifty-thousand-dollar salary, they would pay the same amount in federal income taxes. Raising income-tax rates would do nothing to fix this disparity, Warren says, and the very wealthy have numerous tax-sheltering strategies to protect them anyway. Based on estimates by two economic advisers, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, of U.C. Berkeley, Warren’s wealth tax would generate $2.75 trillion in revenue over ten years by having the I.R.S., in the words of her plan, chase down “all household assets held anywhere in the world,” including “residences, closely held businesses, assets held in trust, retirement assets, assets held by minor children, and personal property with a value of $50,000 or more.” Warren proposes using the money to fund universal childcare and pre-kindergarten, to forgive student-loan debt, and to finance infrastructure projects. She frequently says that, even after these initiatives are paid for, she’ll have two trillion dollars left over.

In polls, a majority of voters have expressed support for the wealth tax, including half of Republicans. At events, the idea reliably draws cheers from the audience. “Listen, you got a chance to build a great fortune, and good for you—or inherit a great fortune, O.K., it’s O.K. You got a chance to do that. Good for you,” Warren said in Dubuque. “But, remember, you built that fortune in America, where the rest of us helped pay for the education of all your employees, where the rest of us helped pay for the roads and the bridges so you could get your goods to market, where the rest of us helped pay for the police and the firefighters who were there to keep you safe. We were all glad to pay. We understand that’s how America works. But, when you build one of those great fortunes, just take a little and pitch it back in the kitty . . . so every kid gets a chance in this country.”

Unsurprisingly, the demographic least thrilled with the idea of a wealth tax is the one that would have to pay it. Howard Schultz, the former Starbucks C.E.O., who is contemplating a Presidential run, called the proposal “ridiculous” and accused Warren of cynically using a sensational idea to generate headlines. Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire and former New York City mayor, suggested that taxing wealth, as opposed to income, could violate the Constitution.

Sheelah Kolhatkar, Can Elizabeth Warren Win It All?

Filling in the https://a24.asmdc.org/transportation-and-housing-survey
9. Please share any additional concerns not addressed in the survey.

Question 6 makes me feel cheap. “Walk/Bike” like these are the same marginal thing? I spent a bunch of money to get a family bike with e-assist, so that I can drop off my young children and make the 20 mile round trip commute through your district every day. A lot more people would bike, especially thanks to e-bikes, which extend range, but riding on our roads, with no protection, is terrifying.

For a very modest investment, we could build a network of protected bicycle paths, which would allow residents to ditch their cars, substantially drop their CO2 emissions, and enjoy better health. For those who keep driving, the roads will be less congested. It is a win-win for a very light investment.

The greatest thing that is needed is some imagination on the part of our public leaders.

I am not a spandex-clad bike jockey. I am just a father who feels pain at handing my boys a car-dependent suburbia in the face of climate catastrophe, and I want to help them enjoy a better future. Please, Assembly Member Berman, champion the cause of allowing regular folks, young and old and in between, enjoy the possibility of getting around on two wheels and no tailpipe.


Yesterday I was touched by a NextDoor post, entitled “Speedy man, killed all baby animal!” A woman stopped her car for a Mama Duck crossing the street with her babies. She took a short video, which, fortunately, did not capture what happened next. A man drove through at high speed and killed the babies. The woman cried, and shared her story on NextDoor. The man is universally condemned among the comments left by the neighbors. And of course, the next day, I learn of yet another road atrocity.

Meanwhile, in Nebraska, a man hit a kid on a bicycle, backed up, ran over him again, gave the kid a chance to climb out from under the truck, then drove off with the bicycle still stuck under the truck.


We live our lives in boxes: houses, offices, cars, smartphones, TVs … technologies that are supposed to make the world smaller and more connected, but too often we find ourselves disconnected from each other, and isolated. Some of us “act out” our rage …

I feel like cars are helping to make us lonely rage monsters and that it is great to make an effort to get away from the box, and walk or bike or take transit whenever that is a good option. I try to cast my lot with Mama Ducks and bicycle kids.

What happened here is horrible and yet it happens every day. I am glad many of us stopped to take note and commiserate with Veronica. I hope we can all try to be a little kinder.

A comment I left on NextDoor

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