Placebook: When Our Services Become Our Factories

Abandoned Factory by Flickr user mutrock

From the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, until the dawn of outsourcing, America was a country that made things at work and made a decent living doing so. Yet, America no longer makes as many things. Well, we still make things. We make cappuccinos, we make spreadsheets, we make cash registers sing with the sound of fruit and non-perishable food running across them, we make recommendations on what books to buy, and in some cases we still make cars, spin yarn on industrial machines and make fancy furniture.

Yet, only some of these people get paid what I think is a makers due. I know this blog tends to steer away from the political issue du jour of the day, in this case a higher minimum wage, but I want to take a moment and steer us there today, because this does affect the quality of our places.

It affects the amount of home we can afford and whether we can afford a home at all. It affects whether driving a car is a luxury, a burden, a choice or both. It also affects the greater American psyche, which in turn affects how we see ourselves as people and in turn as neighbors and friends. Also, the abandoned factories become blights to otherwise prosperous communities. The new “factories,” i.e. the fast food joints and big box stores of the world, are the gears that turn our new, hyper driven, work world that is less about assembling and more about thinking about assembling something. This is how not having enough money even though you work an honest job affects the sense of place.

So much of the old and some of the new version of this conversation centers around “good jobs” and “willingness to work.” Yet, I honestly believe that if anyone gets up in the morning and provides a service of some kind to some person, then they have value and that value should be at least enough to get an apartment or have transportation or pay for clothing or healthcare. There’s a lot of nuance in this issue, but I just want you to think about what it really means to earn an honest wage and to have the dignity and respect of your neighbors, no matter what that job is.

(And please call your Senators and ask them for a higher minimum wage)

Now, the rest of the news:

News from North Carolina

Another reminder to count our blessings and be positive about what’s next for Greensboro.

Another nice essay about the state of our politics by Charlotte magazine editor Michael Graff in Politico.

Addam’s Bookstore is closing.

Biscuitville is adding a lunch menu. This is part of a greater push to represent “New South” values. However, they will still only operate from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., because they value family time.

More on the proposed art initiative that could bring life back to the house on the corner of Edgeworth and Washington.

Form-based code proposal is drawing criticism in Chapel Hill. And an whole new city could be built in Chatham County, just between Pittsboro and Cary.

A Raleigh business is helping farmers make money through the shallow months of winter.

News and Lessons from Elsewhere

President Obama announced a major push for transportation spending yesterday.

Tesla’s bringing domestic factories back; it’s looking to employ 6,500 people at a battery factory in one of several states.

Jackson, MI is mourning the death of their mayor, who had risen from being a radical civil rights activist to becoming the establishment and taking concrete steps at progressive policy.

Spike Lee goes in on the gentrifiers in the  Fort Lee section of Brooklyn. However, he helped the with financial piece of gentrification by selling his old Fort Greene home for $1 million long before the neighborhood became the magnet it is today.

Amsterdam is paying alcoholics in beer to clean the streets.

And finally, it has clickbait written all over it, but it’s always good to debate the merits of cities vs. suburbs, especially when someone feels they have a valid defense of the latter.

About Kristen Jeffers

I'm Kristen. Almost five years ago, I got tired of not seeing black women as nerded out about trains, better streets, riding bikes, walking not just out of necessity, tall buildings, old buildings and honestly a lot of other things. I was in grad school for community and economic development (ok, it’s actually an MPA), and I wanted to make sure people knew I existed and that I could help them do this thing called placemaking better. Five years later, I’m still doing that, although not from my hometown of Greensboro, NC, but from Kansas City, MO. I spend most of my time in Kansas City promoting better biking and walking infrastructure metro-wide with BikeWalk KC and the Kansas City B-cycle. But I also wrote a book A Black Urbanist (you can grab that over on the right) and sometimes I give speeches and help other communities tell their stories at design charrettes and public meetings. I’ve also written or appeared in all of the major “urbanist” publications, either as a subject or as a writer, as well as most of my hometown papers as subject or writer as well.