February 25, 2017
by cablackmar@yahoo.com

More Buildings (Closer Together) = Fewer Cars

NoOnSYesOnLABuildingsI’m taking a quick break from resisting our national political situation to focus on some local, Los Angeles-based issues.  Though I don’t tend to write about it much here on the blog, I have my master’s degree in City Planning, and am a committed urbanist.   I’m a big believer in the idea that we need to re-build our cities to make them work for humans (rather than our cars).  As things are now, in almost every city, town, and suburb in America, most people have no transportation choices.  This is because most places in America have been built expressly for cars, with distances between destinations (home and work, home and school, school and shopping) so vast, that they cannot be affordably or reasonably served by any other form of transportation.

The only way to give people options– the option to walk and bike, the option to take the bus, is to ‘fill in’ our very spread out cities with more destinations.  Most importantly, in many places, this means building more affordable housing within the existing urban footprint, as a way to address the quickly increasing costs of cities, and ensure that it’s not just the wealthy that benefit from the density of opportunities that they offer.

And here is where we run into problems.  In cities and neighborhoods all across the country, even here in ostensibly ‘liberal’ California, owners of low-rise, single family homes in residential neighborhoods have worked to make it almost impossible to build more affordable, multi-story housing within the existing urban fabric of communities.  While there is certainly some back-door racism involved, (concern that ‘those people’ will potentially lower housing prices), I think the genuine source of most NIMBY-ism is traffic.

Traffic has certainly become worse over the past 30 years in all of our ‘healthy’ cities.  More people, with more destinations vastly spread out from one another mean more and longer car trips.  And because destinations have largely continued to sprawl further and further, there continue to be few other transportation options for people to move into when they decide that traffic is too bad.  When infill development starts to happen in cities, it creates ‘blips’ in this already untenable flow of vehicular traffic, which quickly turn into gridlock.  Sadly, this means that the ultimate solution to traffic (more destinations, more transportation options) is mis-identified as the cause of problem (because it does exacerbate traffic in the short term).  So long as we continue to mis-identify the cause of the problem, we will continue to deny ourselves the solution.

Here in Los Angeles, we have a ballot measure S that will go to a vote on March 7 that is designed to shut down infill development, and preserve the gridlocked status quo.  The backers of this initiative are playing off exactly this loathing of traffic to make their case, saying that infill development destroys quality of life and the “integrity of our neighborhoods.”  It’s easy to want to believe them.  But the truth is that the only way out for our cities is to make driving more expensive, more difficult, and slower. The he way to do that and provide better options for people  is to build multi-story, affordable, infill housing development.  Yes, traffic will become worse. But what we get on the other side of this period of gridlock is a city that works better for everyone.

For a long time, I’ve worked on these issues only within the scope of my professional life.  I’ve sat on the sidelines and watched as many good initiatives and projects were killed by the selfishness and misunderstanding of NIMBY communities.   LA’s Measure S has forced me into the game.   Thanks to a well-funded ad campaign, it looks like it will pass, and will likely undermine the progressive, transit and local-hire supporting measures that LA voters approved just four months ago in November.

Part of the reason for my silence is the difficulty of communicating these issues.  But as the stakes get higher (climate change, obesity crisis), the cost of not trying to explain how we can save ourselves become very high.  I’m going to commit to working harder to be an advocate for these issues, to do the heavy lift of explaining how it works.  I just hope I’m not getting into the game too late.

February 20, 2017
by cablackmar@yahoo.com


As my family learned in our recent power outage, doing without is a great way to challenge the status quo in our lives.  This past week’s wake-up call came on Thursday and Friday.  Without really planning it out in advance, we decided we’d do a 2 day spending fast (aka boycott) in solidarity with the 2/16 #DiaSinInmigrantes/ Day Without Immigrants and then on 2/17 in solidarity with the General Strike.  We didn’t go all the way with either of these events.  Given the nature of our work, ‘walking off the job’ would probably do more harm than good to the cause.  And we can’t work if we don’t send our kid to school.  So we didn’t fully ‘drop out’ of the economy. Participating by not buying things was the protest-‘lite’ that we could manage.

On Wednesday night, I realized it had been a while since I’d bought any food, and that if I didn’t go out and buy milk for the kids, that we wouldn’t have any– so I walked to the liquor store and bought half a gallon. From there, we had to rely on what we had lying around the house, and then, what we had lying around in the school garden (lots of greens, some very bizarre kiwano melons), and what we could find in the neighborhood (oranges knocked out of trees by the storm.)  2 days wasn’t that long to go, and we had a fair amount of random stuff squirreled away, but it still made me think… Even though we eat a lot of homegrown stuff, I wonder if we could do more?  And what about the amazing amount of street tree fruit in our neighborhood that goes uneaten (though, especially in loquat season, we do a lot of gleaning also)?  I just realized that it wouldn’t be hard to have non-purchased food make up a larger part of our diet than it currently does, and that, by extension, we could be doing a better job on reducing the CO2 from our diet.

This will certainly be something to consider as we move into the next big event for the Women’s March, the #DayWithoutAWoman, which appears to primarily be focused on ‘voting with our dollars’ and making our message known financially.




February 19, 2017
by cablackmar@yahoo.com

#IdesOfTrump Printable Postcards and Mailing Guidelines

DJT Termination of Employment DIY Text_Page_1
I’m encouraged by the high level of interest in the #IdesOfTrump campaign–the idea that everyone will send a postcard to #45 with the goal of the postcards arriving on March 15, and burying the White House in outcry.

In my prior post on the topic, I included an image of these amazing “Pink Slip” postcards that may have been devleoped by @Gitana_East, but which also seem to be circulating in the ether in various forms.  I want to give major props to whomever originally developed this idea and executed it so stylishly.  (My apologies that I have not been able to discover who you are in order to provide you proper credit, let me know if you read this and I will be glad to credit you!)  You can buy these postcards pre-made from this warehouse site called Zazzle.com–it appears that designers post their ideas here and then the 3rd party (Zazzle) handles printing and sending.

For those of you with a more DIY-bent, I’ve also created some printable versions (print instructions here), by borrowing the design that’s out there on the web.

Both have the sign-able ‘pink slip’ front pictured above, but I made two different versions of the back:

This one has pre-written text, which reads “We the People do hereby serve you, Donald J. Trump, with notice of termination for your failure to keep your oath and uphold and defend the United States Constitution.  You have failed in your role as a civil servant to all Americans, and so effective today, we will not rest until you’re fired.”

DJT Termination of Employment_Page_2

This one has a blank text area for those who may wish to customize with their own, hand-written message.

DJT Termination of Employment DIY Text_Page_2

Finally, someone had a question about when we should send the postcards so that they all arrive on 3/15.  After some research on this topic, I found the following map:IdesOfTrump

Based on my understanding of this map, I would provide the following guidance:

  • Mid-Atlantic States (shown in orange, above) send on Monday 3/13.
  • All other lower 48 + Puerto Rico (shown in yellow, above) send on Saturday, 3/11.
  • Alaska, Hawaii, send on Friday, 3/10.
  • Guam, send on Thursday, 3/9.

Remember, you can design your own postcard, or print one of the ones we’ve put up here that is on a topic close to your heart– I can imagine that a diversity of themes mixed in with pink slips could be highly effective.  And remember, his address is:

President Donald J. Trump, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20500

February 13, 2017
by cablackmar@yahoo.com

Postcards for Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Last night I finally got around to watching Ava DuVernay’s film 13th on Netflix.  It chronicles the rise of mass incarceration in the United States since the 1960s, and makes the argument that the the “except for punishment of a crime” exemption of the 13th amendment of the Constitution has created a de-facto modern slavery for people of color.  I highly recommend watching this important film.

This past week Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama was confirmed as Attorney General. In his confirmation hearings, he vowed to uphold our laws, even ones he disagreed with, and even if it meant disagreement with the President.  He specifically distanced himself from a voter fraud case he brought against three black civil rights workers in the 1980s  (as detailed in the letter that Senator Warren would have read from Coretta Scott King had she not been silenced), and promised to uphold the rights of all citizens.  Given his concerning track record, one has to hope that these commitments are genuine.

I know he’s no longer an elected representative, but after watching 13th, I felt compelled to write a few postcards to the Department of Justice on the topic of two groups of people who I am concerned could suffer greatly under his term as Attorney General.  As a supporter of Trump’s take on “Law and Order”, I think we can be pretty well assured that Sessions won’t do much to reduce racially-biased mass incarceration.  But it still seemed worth mentioning.  I tried to keep my comments focused on actionable collaborations between the DOJ and other agencies (i.e., not legislative action).

I’m also deeply concerned about Attorney General Sessions’ expected hard-line approach to immigration enforcement.  13th suggests that Immigrant Detention centers are likely the profitable market for corporations that run jails.  I wrote a postcard to this point also.

I’m not sure this an effective tactic, but in case anyone else would feel better trying to reinforce the priorities of social justice with our new Attorney General, here are some printable postcards:

Postcards to Jeff Sessions

Special thanks to the Amplifier Foundation and the artists whose work they have supported for the downloadable art. Shepard Fairey did the poster on the bottom left, Mata Ruda did the poster in the top right.

Send to:

U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

February 9, 2017
by cablackmar@yahoo.com

#TheIdesOfTrump: Send Postcards March 15

Someone had the brilliant idea that everyone in the resistance should send DJT a postcard that will arrive March 15, expressing their dissatisfaction with his policies. The vision is to essentially bury the White House in paper. Not exactly a zero waste concept– but at least postcards have a lower carbon footprint than a letter. At this point, I’m willing to suspend my Zero Waste beliefs for our broader political gain.

As readers will know, I’ve created a bunch of issue-based postcards and some detailed instructions on how to print them. I would be happy to create more easy printables. I’m loving the ‘pink slip’ concept I found on Twitter. Please see this post for printable versions of these cards.

Remember to send the postcards, too!
President (for now) Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

And you might want to get out there and buy yourself some postcards stamps to share with your friends, because I’m guessing USPS is going to run out.

February 8, 2017
by cablackmar@yahoo.com

Monday Sabbath (Forced and Fair)

After years of drought and an El Nino year last year when ocean temperatures were so warm that a wall of heat prevented expected rains from reaching California, we have been blessed with water this year. The whole land is sighing and softening, with lush green weeds falling off hillsides like freshly washed hair. After a disturbingly warm fall, it feels like a new lease on life, like we still have a chance against climate change.

But as the southern hemisphere tips toward the sun, critical pieces of the southern ice sheets are cracking under the rising temperatures. We accelerate toward a challenging time for humanity.

Last night as dusk was falling, the power in our apartment went out. Without internet, the work day was forced to end early. We had to remember how to light the stove with a match, how to cook dinner without our bright halogen kitchen lights. Our 2 year old sat in front of the darkened TV screen, demanding first his favorite TV delights (Twinkle Twinkle!), then bargaining for so-so options (basketball!) and finally trying to get us to turn the TV on by appealing to our self-interest. He suggested “TV Funny!”– which probably means some adult show that we laugh at but which he doesn’t understand—as a final resort. It took an hour of bargaining, and then some sitting in the quiet, for him to realize that the TV would not come on.

Our 8-year old had come home with a ‘get out of homework’ pass, had harbored grand dreams of building a computer server so he could play Minecraft with his friends. When the power went out, he crumpled into bed in a deep funk which did not lift until the power went on again three hours later.
My husband and I, who had been somewhat frantically calling representatives to try to get more ‘no’ votes on Betsy DeVos realized that If we kept going, our phone batteries would run out before the power came back on. There was no radio to hear the news. The toxic gutter of information that has been seeping into our hearts and eyeballs these past weeks had been cut. I was three thousand miles away from Washington D.C., and with the power down, completely off limits—safe in my own community. Out on the street, I looked at the sky and realized how far away all of that is. Here were my neighbors, out with their dogs, smoking a cigarette, walking to get dinner. These were the people who were proximate to me. My neighbors are from all over the world, and are cordial, friendly, lovely people. I felt a great weight lift.

And it made me wonder. At the toll that our digital connectedness has taken on my family, on my children, on my presence with the people in my neighborhood. And it made me remember my own promise to anchor my activism locally. When the lights came back on, we had a serious conversation as a family about limits. We know its unrealistic (and possibly a disservice) to our children to ban their use of technology. But we need to cut it back. We know that at this moment, we can’t duck out of our activism against DJT and the Republican Congress, but that at the very least we need to stop our obsessive checking of the news and spend time with our kids. We want them to learn activism, and why we care. But we should do that in-person, and as part of our community (again, Women’s March Organizers are totally on it with their second action that calls us to “Huddle” with our communities. After our talk we rough-housed and wrestled, read a book, and went to bed happier than we’ve been in two weeks.

And I wonder if we can’t make this into a Monday Sabbath. A few hours on that first, busy, traumatic day of each week, to turn off everything. Light the stove with a match. Take down the wifi signal. Teach our kids that there is meaning in life without electricity, because if we keep going the way we’re going, surviving without it is something they may have to learn.

February 6, 2017
by cablackmar@yahoo.com

Postcards for Keeping Up the Pressure on Cabinet Confirmation Hearings/ Votes

Thanks to some brave action by Democrats (thanks Senator Feinstein), there is still a chance that some of Trump’s problematic cabinet picks could be voted down. Here are some printable postcards to send to your (hopefully Republican, hopefully swing state) representatives:

Cabinet + Bannon

I am slightly reassured to hear (I think) that Trump was not fully briefed on the Executive Order he signed to re-structure the National Security Council to include Trump Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.   While it suggests that his oversight is just as poor as we suspected it might be, it also leaves open the possibility that this horrible decision could be expediently rescinded.  I believe we need to run a parallel strategy to support new legislation to remove him from the NSC.  To that point, here are some more printable postcards:

Bannon Cannot be on the NSC

January 31, 2017
by cablackmar@yahoo.com

Action 1: Day 10, Republican Special

On the final day of first action in the Women’s March 10 actions/ 100 days Campaign, I’m afraid that Action 1 “Send A Postcard” is already feeling quaintly out-of-touch with our political reality. I hosted a postcard party over the weekend. It was probably all I could muster, given my family commitments, but I still wish I’d been at LAX protesting instead. My parents and aunts and uncles and cousins all protested, and I am grateful to them for publicly representing my feelings about EO 13768.

At the postcard party, several people asked me if I thought writing to our solidly blue, democratic, and profoundly disempowered representatives would accomplish anything. While the word on the street is that every little bit counts, and that Feinstein needs to be able to say she’s been ‘avalanched’ when she does something like vote “no” on Jeff Sessions,  it’s still not much more than a stall tactic. To Feinstein’s credit, she authored two bills over the weekend to address the executive order, and to limit presidential power i this area. But it’s likely these bills will never even be heard on the senate floor, since it’s republicans that control the agenda.

It’s dawned on us in the last few days that if we’re going to have any check on the insanity of Trump and Bannon, that it’s going to need to come from the courts, and from Republicans. Some articles suggest that Republicans are unhappy with how things are going. We need to encourage them to stand up to Trump, especially in the face of un-vetted policies that run the risk of instigating international violence like EO 13768.

So for the last day of postcards, I will not be writing to my own electeds. Instead I’m going to work through this list of republicans that are on the fence about Trump’s EO 13768.  I will be printing and sending them respectful postcards, asking them to please stand up to Trump on this matter, and on his re-structuring of the Security Council to include Steve Bannon.  (I seriously considered putting the illustration above on the cards– let me know if you think I should).  I hope you’ll join me.

Republican Special

January 28, 2017
by cablackmar@yahoo.com
1 Comment

Action 1: Postcards Against the #MuslimBan

Credit to this gentleman for summing up my sentiments this am perfectly:

Here are some more printable postcards:
Muslim Ban

In case you are wondering, EO 13768 is the official number for the illegal Executive Order banning immigration from 7 Muslim-majority nations signed yesterday by Donald Trump. You can access the full text of all Executive Orders at the Federal Register. https://www.federalregister.gov/executive-orders/

For anyone who wants the individual images, here they are:
Please Explain
Love Not Hate