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Updated: 4 hours 56 min ago

The ‘New’ Urbanism

Fri, 2016-04-22 00:00
Photo: Sanja Gjenero Imagine buying a city. Completed in 2004, the sale of the Rouse Company included the city of Columbia, Maryland, and 37 malls. The cost was $7.2 billion.

Actually, according to the June 19, 2006, Washington Post article, “[The new owner] General Growth owns 246 of the 493 acres that make up Columbia’s town center, including 65 undeveloped acres. It makes money by selling land to builders, collecting rent from offices and restaurants, and redeveloping its properties.

“David Fick, an analyst at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. in Baltimore, said the planned-community division sets General Growth apart from its rivals because few companies build entire cities.

“Fick is so sure that Columbia Town Center will prosper under General Growth, he moved there after selling his house in the county’s priciest neighborhood. His townhouse is on a road that rings the [Columbia] mall, overlooking the Cheesecake Factory.”

Columbia is a planned city that the Rouse Company started in 1967. An early brochure waxed eloquent about the new approach to building a community: “The heart of the city will be the home of art and music schools, theatres, museums and galleries. By day, one edge of the lake will be a park with restaurants, coffee shops, carousels and entertainment; by night, it will be transformed into a gay and playful wonderland for people of every age.”

A Reconfigured Community

That same year, another planned community was begun by a company in northern Virginia: Reston Town Center. Since then Reston Town Center has had four owners as compared to the two owners of Columbia. Each of the owners of Reston Town Center has implemented new concepts, with “new urbanism” shaping the most recent reconfiguration. While it has a mall, restaurants, and some office complexes, Columbia currently is not configured as a high-density town center.

In reaction to suburban sprawl, community development in the 1980s began to follow a model dubbed “new urbanism.” Such communities have a carefully planned mix of high-density residences (such as condos and townhouses) and high-rise office properties linked by pedestrian-friendly areas such as wide sidewalks, fountains, and pocket parks. A mixture of retail, entertainment, and restaurants within walking distance of the homes and offices evokes small-town America during the early 20th century. Each town center has a different density in line with local zoning ordinances.

Is this new concept of urbanism the answer for communities today?

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Center for Metropolitan Ministries. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Cody's Closes

Sat, 2016-04-16 01:04
Photo: Hemera Cody’s Books opened on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California, in 1956. It soon became a neighborhood cultural institution of the type that helps to give a community real character. While many cities are seeking local  businesses of this type to make the kind of ambiance that attracts creative and affluent people to urban neighborhoods, Cody’s is closing and Berkeley leaders are concerned.

This is really a historic shop. It is the place where Allen Ginsberg read his “howl” poem. Mario Savio was a student employee before he led the campus revolution of the 1960s. Salman Rushdie showed up unannounced and read from his work in defiance of a fatwa. Countless other discussion forums, lectures by authors and poetry readings made this more than just a place to buy books.

In recent years big-box stores like Borders have been causing the demise of many small, independent bookstores. The corporate influence has reached all the way to left-wing Berkeley where Cody’s owner—Andy Ross—told the New York Times last week that he has been losing money for years. He simply cannot afford to keep going.

Changing Times

The neighborhood has changed over the years and so has the campus. Today’s students are less interested in political action and social change, and more oriented toward success in business. The “mix of freedom and unpredictable grit” that has always marked Telegraph Avenue is beginning to mellow or at least be out of favor with new generations.

What local businesses shape the character of the neighborhood where you live? How are they impacted by changes in the economy and culture? What important values do they bring to your community, and how can those values be preserved and the character of the neighborhood protected or even strengthened? Those are questions that require neighbors to get together, talk through the issues and then take creative action. If everyone is too busy or too preoccupied with their own individual and family needs to ask these questions, then the day will come when important community institutions, just like Cody’s Books in Berkeley, will close in your neighborhood.

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Center for Metropolitan Ministries. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Bergen Heritage

Sat, 2016-04-16 00:57
Photo: Jouko Rautanen The city of Bergen, Norway, is one of 800 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Bergen was one of the main centers of the Hanseatic League, the powerful trading network that for nearly 400 years linked northern Europe’s major ports in an economic alliance.

Implementation of the UNESCO World Heritage List began in December 1975, three years after the concept was approved by the United Nations. Since then 180 countries have signed the U.N. Convention. As a result, more than 800 cultural and natural properties located in 135 countries are now under protection. This is a list of the treasures of this planet, the legacies of civilizations and natural wonders.

Bergen is one of 400 properties designated an irreplaceable part of the architectural and artistic heritage of humankind. Established by King Olav Kyrre around 1070, Bergen was the only shipping port for Norway, with fish being the only Norwegian product exported for at least four centuries.

By the 13th century, the Bergen wharf was the economic center of the city. About 30 warehouses held imports such as grain, pottery, glass, fabrics and wine from the Rhine Valley and the dried fish for export. In 1360, Bergen was chosen as a trading port (“Kontor”) for the Hanseatic League (along with Novgorod, Bruges, and London), a coalition of German traders that dominated trade throughout Europe for about four centuries.

The Bergen Kontor was a community of German men—women were not allowed in the wharf area except between spring and autumn. For the rest of the year, they returned to their villages. Eventually the population grew to about 1,000. A variety of rules governed life in this community, especially the ban on lighting fires in order to avoid fires sweeping through the closely packed wooden buildings. Periodically, in spite of the rules, fires did destroy some buildings. Because of the pace of shipping, the community followed the same design as it rebuilt the wooden buildings—two or three stories with wood planks serving as walkways between buildings. German control of the wharf began to wane in the early 1600s. By 1754, Norwegians permanently regained control of the wharf; however, they kept the same buildings, regulations, and the common trading language of German.

Today the world’s oldest trading center contains only 58 structures which have been partly rebuilt following the original criteria. They house restaurants, art galleries, and the Museum of the Hanseatic League.

For more details, see “The Great Book of World Heritage Sites,” written by Marco Cattaneo and Jasmina Trifoni, VMB Publishers, White Star, Italy (ISBN:  88-540-0365-4)

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Center for Metropolitan Ministries. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Job Growth Slows

Fri, 2016-03-18 01:15
Photo: Tom Denham Trends in hiring and hourly wages indicate mixed news about the U.S. economy and the possibility of inflation. The U.S. Department of Labor report for May 2006 indicates that the economy is cooling. While unemployment fell from 4.7 percent in April to 4.6 in May, wages stalled and job growth has slowed.

Rising energy prices, lower auto sales, a softening housing market and less manufacturing during May means a loss of momentum for the U.S. economy. While 75,000 jobs were added by employers, this is the lowest number since last fall after several hurricanes devastated the Southern coast of the United States. After a 10-cent gain in April, hourly wages in May only rose one cent. The average hourly rate now stands at $16.62. However, the number of worked hours fell slightly during May.

Airlines, automakers, hotels, and retailers were among those eliminating jobs, with a flattened rate of hiring by the construction industry—a source of about 300,000 jobs each of the previous two years. The education, health care and business services sectors added some jobs.

Not all of it is bad news—the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since 2001. Since the department began collecting data in 1973, the jobless rate among Hispanics and Latinos is at the all-time low of five percent.

It remains to be seen whether or not the Federal Reserve will raise short-term interest rates in an effort to dampen inflation. If this delicate balance cannot be achieved, the U.S. might experience a slow growth-high inflation economy similar to what took place during the 1970s. At this point, many different analysts believe that during the third quarter of 2006 the economy growth will be about 2.5 percent as compared to 5.3 percent registered during the first quarter.

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Center for Metropolitan Ministries. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

St. Louis Blooms

Fri, 2016-03-18 00:50
Photo: Melissa Lien St. Louis is an urban renewal case study in progress. Known as the “Gateway to the West,” St Louis anchors the eastern side of the state of Missouri. Symbolized by the 630-foot-tall Gateway Arch, the city was a center of manufacturing thanks to its location on the Mississippi River.

However, during the latter half of the 20th Century, the city went into a decline, losing more than half of its residents. When the new millennium dawned, the St. Louis population had just a little more than 348,000 as compared with more than 856,800 citizens in 1950. Factories closed, and deteriorating buildings soon dotted the once thriving downtown.

In the past five years, the population has inched up to 352,600. Changes are taking place. While on a visit last summer, I talked with the owner of a small restaurant as I enjoyed freshly prepared food. She talked with pride about her family’s new business venture and shared her enthusiasm for their new (and affordable!) condo just a few blocks away. They were among the first wave of urban pioneers, those who were committed to renewing the vitality of St. Louis.

Her sunny outlook about the future was based on a number of factors such as a new downtown stadium, refurbishment of historic buildings such as the old Post Office building, and restoration strategies that have worked in other cities, including extensive use of federal and state tax credits for rehabilitation of older buildings.

Downtown Renewal

An article in the May 11 issue of USA Today profiled the remarkable restoration taking place in St. Louis. After 50 years of migration to the suburbs and a population exodus due to racial tensions, more young professionals have started moving downtown. According to the article, W. Thomas Reeves, executive director of Downtown Now, “More than $3.5 billion has been poured into the area.” By 2008, nearly 8,000 apartments and condos will be built, along with an increase in new hotels, office towers, restaurants, and services. Several neighborhoods are starting renewal projects, with one being renamed as part of the effort to reverse its reputation as a gritty, violent part of town. Even the international airport has started a $1 billion expansion.

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Center for Metropolitan Ministries. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Dayton's Urban Nights

Sat, 2016-02-20 03:34
Photo: Emre Telci With fuel prices skyrocketing, more people are interested in shorter commutes and communities that have a full range of services within walking distance. On May 19, the Downtown Dayton [Ohio] Partnership will host its spring “Urban Nights” festival. The partnership sponsors another Urban Night in the fall.

During Urban Nights, participants enjoy an introduction to the multiple elements of urban living, including housing, entertainment, arts, and dining. Imagine a balmy spring evening and a walking tour of art galleries, loft apartments/condos, studios, and a variety of restaurants—some offering live entertainment and others, a discount on the evening’s meal. Complimentary transportation will be offered in the event area. Maps and discount cards will be available at most of the participating locations or from www.downtowndayton.org which also has details about the festival.

While the weather cannot be guaranteed, the partnership has lined up more than 50 downtown businesses to participate in the spring Urban Night. These Urban Nights events are an outgrowth of what were formerly known as Downtown Dayton Days and the Downtown Art Hop and Urban Excursion programs.

This year, for the first time, the Oregon District neighborhood will be participating. Other highlights will include:
  • The Dayton Visual Arts Center will hold its spring art sale at its new Jefferson Street location.

 

  • The Wright-Dunbar District (now in its fourth year of participation) will recreate the historic cultural legacy of the Fifth Street Experience, the mecca of entertaintainment for the African-American community during the 30s-50s, when entertainers included Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Ella Fitzgerald.
     
  • An ice cream social at The Christian Bookstore.
 
  • The Cannery Building will offer live jazz and art for sale.
Events such as Urban Nights highlight the benefits of urban communities. For more than half a century a lot of negative things have been associated with city living. Now the cost of suburban sprawl (in more ways than one) renews interest in a way of life that focuses on the activities that build a sense of community. Get to know your neighbor and community—what a great idea!

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Center for Metropolitan Ministries reporting by Kim Ridley. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Farewell to Activist

Sat, 2016-02-20 03:17
Photo: Lindsey Kaiser The headline announced a loss for anyone who cares about the delicate balance necessary for urban areas: 

“Jane Jacobs, 89; Writer, Activist Spoke Out Against Urban Renewal.”

According to her obituary printed in the April 26 Washington Post, Mrs. Jacobs condemned urban renewal because it destroyed inner city neighborhoods “...and, despite an initial reputation as a radical and heretic, was vindicated as an influential thinker on city planning....”

The profile says that during the mid-20th century the urban-renewal movement “spent hundreds of millions of dollars clearing communities that were deemed slums, building low-income housing projects and creating parks and highways. Anyone criticizing the model with its political backing, was not looked on kindly.

“In[to] this atmosphere came Mrs. Jacobs, a middle-aged, self-taught architectural and urban-planning specialist with Architectural Forum magazine. She was an incautious woman, at times disheveled in appearance, who tended to anger very powerful people... in her name-making book, "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" (1961), she recorded what she considered the human toll of urban renewal.

Echoes of Resistance

“She spoke of the displacement of thousands of residents and the destruction of small, if untidy, communities whose diversity she said was crucial to a city’s allure. She maintained that urban renewal worsened the problems it was intended to solve: high crime, architectural conformity and a general dullness infecting life.

“She attacked the arrogance of city planners for making decisions without consulting those affected—stating in a New York Times interview, ‘The planner’s greatest shortcoming, I think, is a lack of intellectual curiosity about how cities work.’

“Decades later, New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger wrote that the book ‘was to urban planning what Rachel Carson’s "Silent Spring" was to the environmental movement, and it is arguably the most important book written about cities in the 20th century.’”

Despite the subsequent popularity of suburbia, Mrs. Jacobs continued to oppose them as well as the soaring high rises in center city. Other books by Mrs. Jacobs include “The Economy of Cities" (1969), “Cities and the Wealth of Nations" (1984), and “Systems of Survival” (1994). To read more about this remarkable visionary, check www.washingtonpost.com.

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Center for Metropolitan Ministries reporting by Kim Ridley. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Christmased Out!

Tue, 2014-12-30 16:00
Photo: George Bosela Another Christmas has come and gone. It seems the Christmas displays went up in stores as soon as the Halloween decorations came down. Holiday parties started before Thanksgiving (they seem to start earlier each year) and continued in a whirl until Christmas Eve. You got all your shopping done and the packages mailed – on time – despite that.

Yesterday was a frenzy of opening presents and feasting. Today it is over – except for paying the bills in the next few months. Time to take down the tree, stash the outdoor display of lights and reindeer back in the attic, and put away the presents. Everyone is bored with them already. It’s over. Merry material Christmas.

Do you notice how quickly Christmas is put behind us? The carols stop at midnight, Christmas Day. We move on to the next thing because we are all Christmased out.

Early Christians observed Christmas differently. December was a month of anticipation, preparation, and prayer. Christmas Day did not signify the end of the holiday – it heralded the beginning of twelve days of celebration. For them – as for us – Christmas brought a gift bigger than any video game system – it brought the promise of redemption, of life eternal.

Preparation and Prayer

The celebration started Christmas Day because their gift was a newborn baby. They held parties after Christmas because families celebrate a child’s arrival after the birth – not before. They spent December in preparation and prayer because that is what families do when expecting a birth.

As for exchanging presents? They did that – on a much smaller scale than we do today. Gifts were exchanged as a symbolic recognition of God’s gift of life, and to commemorate the frankincense, myrrh, and gold given Christ child. It was not the central reason for the holiday.

Our technology is superior to that of those early Christians. Humans orbit the Earth in ninety minutes, and speak to the other side of the world at the speed of light. While physically healthier, and perhaps more knowledgeable today, humans today are the same as humans then. We are born, we live, and die – just as those early Christians did.

A Christmas Carol ends with Ebenezer Scrooge becoming a byword for generosity. Not because Scrooge began partying and gave more gifts than everyone else. It was because he kept the spirit of Christmas throughout the year. Scrooge did not put Christmas back in the box after Christmas Day, to be hauled out after Halloween.

Those early Christians may have been on to something. The key to a meaningful Christmas is not flurries of parties before Christmas Day – or even the presents opened Christmas morning. It is celebrating the promise delivered on Christmas day in the days that follow.

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By Mark N. Lardas. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Christmased Out!

Tue, 2014-12-30 16:00
Photo: George Bosela Another Christmas has come and gone. It seems the Christmas displays went up in stores as soon as the Halloween decorations came down. Holiday parties started before Thanksgiving (they seem to start earlier each year) and continued in a whirl until Christmas Eve. You got all your shopping done and the packages mailed – on time – despite that.

Yesterday was a frenzy of opening presents and feasting. Today it is over – except for paying the bills in the next few months. Time to take down the tree, stash the outdoor display of lights and reindeer back in the attic, and put away the presents. Everyone is bored with them already. It’s over. Merry material Christmas.

Do you notice how quickly Christmas is put behind us? The carols stop at midnight, Christmas Day. We move on to the next thing because we are all Christmased out.

Early Christians observed Christmas differently. December was a month of anticipation, preparation, and prayer. Christmas Day did not signify the end of the holiday – it heralded the beginning of twelve days of celebration. For them – as for us – Christmas brought a gift bigger than any video game system – it brought the promise of redemption, of life eternal.

Preparation and Prayer

The celebration started Christmas Day because their gift was a newborn baby. They held parties after Christmas because families celebrate a child’s arrival after the birth – not before. They spent December in preparation and prayer because that is what families do when expecting a birth.

As for exchanging presents? They did that – on a much smaller scale than we do today. Gifts were exchanged as a symbolic recognition of God’s gift of life, and to commemorate the frankincense, myrrh, and gold given Christ child. It was not the central reason for the holiday.

Our technology is superior to that of those early Christians. Humans orbit the Earth in ninety minutes, and speak to the other side of the world at the speed of light. While physically healthier, and perhaps more knowledgeable today, humans today are the same as humans then. We are born, we live, and die – just as those early Christians did.

A Christmas Carol ends with Ebenezer Scrooge becoming a byword for generosity. Not because Scrooge began partying and gave more gifts than everyone else. It was because he kept the spirit of Christmas throughout the year. Scrooge did not put Christmas back in the box after Christmas Day, to be hauled out after Halloween.

Those early Christians may have been on to something. The key to a meaningful Christmas is not flurries of parties before Christmas Day – or even the presents opened Christmas morning. It is celebrating the promise delivered on Christmas day in the days that follow.

Respond to this article  View Reader Comments
______________________________

By Mark N. Lardas. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Big City Exercise

Tue, 2014-12-23 16:00
Photo: Tommy Johansen Living or working in a big city can make getting enough exercise a challenge. Here are some tips for getting more physical movement into your day:
  • Leave your home early so you can park a little farther away from your work place and enjoy a brisk walk first thing in the morning. If you ride public transportation, try getting off one or two stops earlier than usual and walking to your destination. Just remember to wear comfortable shoes. (This same idea works for shopping.)
     
  • If you have a choice, take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. It may take a little more time, but if you do it consistently your speed and stamina will improve to the point where it might be faster to take the stairs – depending on how many flights you have to go, of course!
     
  • If your job allows, try going for a walk (outside if possible) over your lunch hour. Swing your arms and breathe deeply. If your break is long enough, you could join a nearby health club with a work out room or swim laps in the pool.

    Toe Push Ups
  • When you find yourself standing in line or just hanging around waiting (like at the Laundromat) try doing toe push ups. Lift your heels as far off the floor as you can, then let them slowly back down. You can do sets of five or 10, depending on how much time you have. It may not seem like much exercise, but every little bit helps.
     
  • At home in the evening when it is dark and you may not want to venture outside to exercise, try making use of an exercise bike, bouncer or treadmill. If you get simple versions of equipment they will fit in an apartment or townhouse. Some models even fold up for easy, out-of-the-way storage.
Many people watch TV or read while they exercise. Some experts say your body won’t benefit as much if you’re not paying attention to what you’re doing. But if exercise by itself is too boring for you handle it seems that “passive exercise” would be better than none.

The human body was designed for motion. Staying fit and healthy needs to include an exercise program of some type. Find what works for you and “just do it!”

Respond to this article View Reader Comments
______________________________

By Brenda Dickerson. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Big City Exercise

Tue, 2014-12-23 16:00
Photo: Tommy Johansen Living or working in a big city can make getting enough exercise a challenge. Here are some tips for getting more physical movement into your day:
  • Leave your home early so you can park a little farther away from your work place and enjoy a brisk walk first thing in the morning. If you ride public transportation, try getting off one or two stops earlier than usual and walking to your destination. Just remember to wear comfortable shoes. (This same idea works for shopping.)
     
  • If you have a choice, take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. It may take a little more time, but if you do it consistently your speed and stamina will improve to the point where it might be faster to take the stairs – depending on how many flights you have to go, of course!
     
  • If your job allows, try going for a walk (outside if possible) over your lunch hour. Swing your arms and breathe deeply. If your break is long enough, you could join a nearby health club with a work out room or swim laps in the pool.

    Toe Push Ups
  • When you find yourself standing in line or just hanging around waiting (like at the Laundromat) try doing toe push ups. Lift your heels as far off the floor as you can, then let them slowly back down. You can do sets of five or 10, depending on how much time you have. It may not seem like much exercise, but every little bit helps.
     
  • At home in the evening when it is dark and you may not want to venture outside to exercise, try making use of an exercise bike, bouncer or treadmill. If you get simple versions of equipment they will fit in an apartment or townhouse. Some models even fold up for easy, out-of-the-way storage.
Many people watch TV or read while they exercise. Some experts say your body won’t benefit as much if you’re not paying attention to what you’re doing. But if exercise by itself is too boring for you handle it seems that “passive exercise” would be better than none.

The human body was designed for motion. Staying fit and healthy needs to include an exercise program of some type. Find what works for you and “just do it!”

Respond to this article View Reader Comments
______________________________

By Brenda Dickerson. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Urban Air Pollution

Tue, 2014-12-16 16:00
Photo: Euan Straiton “While Hong Kong still has better air quality than many other cities in Asia, including Beijing, it lags far behind most cities in the developed world with equally sophisticated economies.”

With so much grit in the air, sore throats and respiratory ailments such as asthma are widespread. And that is influencing the exodus of foreign executives “and even some companies. . . .

“A recent survey of American business leaders in the region, conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, found that 79% of executives felt environmental issues are making Hong Kong less attractive to foreign companies.” One recruitment firm advises that a 5% “hardship allowance” should be given to employees because of the air quality.

Change Public Transportation

The article says that the city of 6.9 million has offices for about 1,200 U.S. companies. Hong Kong is an attractive business location due to its proximity to mainline China, “its simple tax structure, transparency and central location.” Officials are aware of the negative impact air pollution and are trying to change public transportation to cleaner-burning fuel. Nonetheless, it will take time to clean up the air.

What is the quality of air in your community? What initiatives are addressing the environment? How can you contribute to cleaner air?

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______________________________

Center for Metropolitan Ministries. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Urban Air Pollution

Tue, 2014-12-16 16:00
Photo: Euan Straiton “While Hong Kong still has better air quality than many other cities in Asia, including Beijing, it lags far behind most cities in the developed world with equally sophisticated economies.”

With so much grit in the air, sore throats and respiratory ailments such as asthma are widespread. And that is influencing the exodus of foreign executives “and even some companies. . . .

“A recent survey of American business leaders in the region, conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, found that 79% of executives felt environmental issues are making Hong Kong less attractive to foreign companies.” One recruitment firm advises that a 5% “hardship allowance” should be given to employees because of the air quality.

Change Public Transportation

The article says that the city of 6.9 million has offices for about 1,200 U.S. companies. Hong Kong is an attractive business location due to its proximity to mainline China, “its simple tax structure, transparency and central location.” Officials are aware of the negative impact air pollution and are trying to change public transportation to cleaner-burning fuel. Nonetheless, it will take time to clean up the air.

What is the quality of air in your community? What initiatives are addressing the environment? How can you contribute to cleaner air?

Respond to this article   View Reader Comments
______________________________

Center for Metropolitan Ministries. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Ordinary Heroes

Tue, 2014-12-09 16:00
Photo: Hemera Gene Autry. Bob Barker. Lassie. Jane Fonda. John Lennon. Mae West. Big Bird.

Not individuals you’d expect to find in the same place. In fact, there’s only one place you can find these stars together—on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, along with more than 2,000 of their peers, stars of the stage, screen and radio. And with an average of two new stars dedicated each month, there is no shortage of Hollywood greats.

Besides a star on a sidewalk and the fondness of fans, what have these individuals really accomplished? Large bank accounts, impressive resumes, and worldwide fame are nice for the moment, but most stars’ proud accomplishments don’t last long.

Humility is a lost art. These days, it seems important to drive the fastest cars, wear the costliest clothing and be seen with the trendiest people. Christ and His definition of true greatness certainly would not be popular with the “in” crowd. Popularity is gauged not by a loving spirit and helpful attitude but by how much we can gain for ourselves.

God asks us to deny our human tendency to seek greatness for ourselves. Colossians 3:12 states, “God loves you dearly and has set you apart as His own, so He wants you to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient.”

Everyday servants

Few individuals worthy of real hero status have ever graced Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Truly great people are not those we cheer on in professional sports arenas, see on television screens or sing along with on the radio. Instead, they are those who put aside gain for themselves and reach for a higher state of being—a more Christ-like way of life.

Jesus took upon Himself “the very nature of a servant” and “humbled Himself.” In an act of true greatness, He lowered Himself to the floor before His disciples and even His betrayer, washing the dust from their feet and the sin from their hearts.

As we face the world, it’s important to remember that we work not for our own glory but for the glory of our Saviour who was not afraid to give until it hurt and was not ashamed to play the noble role of servant. Instead of demanding the best for ourselves, let’s make it our goal to bring others closer to the only One who can make life worth living.

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By Lauren Schwarz. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

Ordinary Heroes

Tue, 2014-12-09 16:00
Photo: Hemera Gene Autry. Bob Barker. Lassie. Jane Fonda. John Lennon. Mae West. Big Bird.

Not individuals you’d expect to find in the same place. In fact, there’s only one place you can find these stars together—on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, along with more than 2,000 of their peers, stars of the stage, screen and radio. And with an average of two new stars dedicated each month, there is no shortage of Hollywood greats.

Besides a star on a sidewalk and the fondness of fans, what have these individuals really accomplished? Large bank accounts, impressive resumes, and worldwide fame are nice for the moment, but most stars’ proud accomplishments don’t last long.

Humility is a lost art. These days, it seems important to drive the fastest cars, wear the costliest clothing and be seen with the trendiest people. Christ and His definition of true greatness certainly would not be popular with the “in” crowd. Popularity is gauged not by a loving spirit and helpful attitude but by how much we can gain for ourselves.

God asks us to deny our human tendency to seek greatness for ourselves. Colossians 3:12 states, “God loves you dearly and has set you apart as His own, so He wants you to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient.”

Everyday servants

Few individuals worthy of real hero status have ever graced Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Truly great people are not those we cheer on in professional sports arenas, see on television screens or sing along with on the radio. Instead, they are those who put aside gain for themselves and reach for a higher state of being—a more Christ-like way of life.

Jesus took upon Himself “the very nature of a servant” and “humbled Himself.” In an act of true greatness, He lowered Himself to the floor before His disciples and even His betrayer, washing the dust from their feet and the sin from their hearts.

As we face the world, it’s important to remember that we work not for our own glory but for the glory of our Saviour who was not afraid to give until it hurt and was not ashamed to play the noble role of servant. Instead of demanding the best for ourselves, let’s make it our goal to bring others closer to the only One who can make life worth living.

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By Lauren Schwarz. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

Out of the Cold

Tue, 2014-12-02 16:00
Photo: Carlos Paes Whether you are a person at risk seeking help or a good neighbor who wants to help at-risk families in your community, there are tools available to you to do something, whether it is for one household or many.

1.There is a web site called LIHEAP that lists all of the available assistance programs:

It briefly describes the specific help available and gives contacts in your area, including the Federal and state programs, and the local utility companies that have set aside money or established special policies to help people in need.

2. Another webpage has information for each state and community regarding the laws that govern homes being disconnected for non-payment of utility bills and the disconnection policy of each utility company.

Emergency Fund

You can use this information to help your own family, an aged relative or a family you know through your church or in your neighborhood. Maybe you should consider doing what many churches and community organizations have done–form an Energy Emergency Committee. If your group or congregation will provide a modest emergency fund, that money can be used to leverage assistance from the utility companies themselves, community action agencies that run LIHEAP programs for the government and county or state agencies. Perhaps your congregation should take a special offering or your civic club or neighborhood council can set aside a percentage of your most recent fund-raiser for immediate needs this winter.

Intervention can save lives! Older people and single mothers often despair as the bills pile up and bureaucrats tell them to call elsewhere when they phone for help. It is easier to just let things take their course. When people freeze to death they just go to sleep and the cold slowly takes them. Don’t be afraid to get involved. This is an important issue in our community.

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______________________________

By Monte Sahlin. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Out of the Cold

Tue, 2014-12-02 16:00
Photo: Carlos Paes Whether you are a person at risk seeking help or a good neighbor who wants to help at-risk families in your community, there are tools available to you to do something, whether it is for one household or many.

1.There is a web site called LIHEAP that lists all of the available assistance programs:

It briefly describes the specific help available and gives contacts in your area, including the Federal and state programs, and the local utility companies that have set aside money or established special policies to help people in need.

2. Another webpage has information for each state and community regarding the laws that govern homes being disconnected for non-payment of utility bills and the disconnection policy of each utility company.

Emergency Fund

You can use this information to help your own family, an aged relative or a family you know through your church or in your neighborhood. Maybe you should consider doing what many churches and community organizations have done–form an Energy Emergency Committee. If your group or congregation will provide a modest emergency fund, that money can be used to leverage assistance from the utility companies themselves, community action agencies that run LIHEAP programs for the government and county or state agencies. Perhaps your congregation should take a special offering or your civic club or neighborhood council can set aside a percentage of your most recent fund-raiser for immediate needs this winter.

Intervention can save lives! Older people and single mothers often despair as the bills pile up and bureaucrats tell them to call elsewhere when they phone for help. It is easier to just let things take their course. When people freeze to death they just go to sleep and the cold slowly takes them. Don’t be afraid to get involved. This is an important issue in our community.

Respond to this article View Reader Comments
______________________________

By Monte Sahlin. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.