In case you missed it: The week’s good reads about Pennsylvania cities

     A man walks past a mural the day before Earth Day, in Philadelphia, Friday, April 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

    A man walks past a mural the day before Earth Day, in Philadelphia, Friday, April 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

    Richard Florida imagines an urban future; judge gives immigrant mothers and children a reprieve; Allentown teen sues over climate change and more.

    Urbanist and author Richard Florida has spent more than 30 years observing the life of cities, and coming up with solutions on how to make them work.  In his new book, The New Urban Crisis, Florida argues that cities will have to depend on themselves to help themselves and to make them more inclusive for all.

    Florida recently gave a talk at the Prince Theater in Philadelphia, and shared some evocative ideas, including how older cities can revitalize themselves (think high speed rail); the creation of Mayor’s schools; and ways in which neighbors can build bipartisan coalitions to improve their communities.

    Florida says local urban centers should oversee their own economic development, especially in the age of President Donald Trump.

    High demand, high supply 

    In Pennsylvania, the demand for new apartments in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and the construction of new buildings is giving the two cities more luxury apartments than they know what to do with.  But it that a reason to fret?

    Not really.

    Vacancy rates declined in Philadelphia between 2015 and 2016, from 4 to 3.6 percent. But experts project vacancies will rise to more than 4 percent this year, because of an increase in construction. On the other side of the state, Pittsbugh’s rate rose from 4.7 to 5 percent — still a very low number, experts say.

    They say even though supply is high, vacancy will still be relatively low. Not only that, units are being snapped up quickly because of pent-up demand generated by years of low development.

    Preservationists vs. developers: An age-old story

    Since 1992, Preservation Pennsylvania has listed 200 historic buildings that are endangered. Of those, about a quarter have been lost or demolished. But about half have been saved.

    Right now, a battle is underway between a developer’s plan and local preservationists over the Corson Homestead in Plymouth Meeting,  The homestead consists of Abolition Hall, regarded as one of the most important sites related to the Underground Railroad.

    No motherless children — at least for now

    Last week, U.S. Judge Lawrence Stengel ruled that the government can not transfer or deport four Central American women and their children detained in the Berks Family Residential Center if the children have earned legal status and the parents have not.

    Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a petition on behalf of these and other Central American mothers and children seeking to have their asylum claims heard before a judge. That case had held up other forms of immigration enforcement or relief the families were seeking. 

    The law’s intention is to protect children who could be harmed in their home countries, so attorneys argue they should not be deported.

    “l’m happy because of the visa my son has — but, at the end of the day, there’s nothing for me,” one of the mothers told WHYY/NewsWorks reporter Laura Benshoff. The mother and her 4-year-old son fled Honduras in 2015 to escape gang and gender violence in her country. 

    Legislature hashes out school debates

    Speaking of children, the debate over overhauling charter schools grinds on in Pennsylvania’s legislature.

    Among the newest provisions laid out on the House floor: a standardized application process for schools seeking charters; more consistent school performance rubrics; and an extension of the charter review period from five to 10 years.

    As expected, traditional public school and charter school advocates are divided on it.

    Another controversial bill that has divided support in Harrisburg involves Pennsylvania teachers being able to pack heat.

    The Senate Education Committee has advanced a bill that would give teachers in Pennsylvania the option to carry concealed guns.

    Supporters say it’s a matter of safety. But opponents call it irresponsible and unnecessary.

    The proposal heads to the full House after a failed motion to table it for more hearings.

    Suing over the Earth’s future

    Sophie Kivlehan, 18, says it’s time for the government to act on climate change. So Kivlehan, of Allentown, along with her grandfather, astro-physicist Jim Hansen, and 20 other young people from across the nation are suing the federal government.

    The suit was originally filed during the Obama Administration, but it now faces a battle with President Donald Trump.

    Care about cities? Join us May 10

    You’re invited to join Keystone Crossroads at the second annual Urban Ideas Worth Stealing conference. The day-long conference includes breakfast and lunch, a networking cocktail hour, and admission to the museum’s galleries and exhibits. People with all levels of knowledge about urban issues are encouraged to attend.

    Keynote speaker will be  Jennifer Van Hook, Penn State Population Research Institute, Professor of Sociology and Demography.

    Editor’s note: In a previous version of this story the number of endangered building announced by Preservation Pennsylvania was misstated.  There have been 200 endangered historic buildings listed over the last 25 years. 

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