Articles

These are not all my articles, just the ones I like the best:

What’s the Matter With Portland?,” Slate, May 17, 2013. Most major cities in the United States fluoridate their water supplies and have done so for decades. Portland, Oregon is one of the few exceptions and this year the issue was put on the ballot for the fourth time since the 1950s–and voted down again. I look at the contentious history of water fluoridation in Portland and why the measure’s opponents were able to win despite having less money, less institutional support, and the weight of scientific evidence against them.

As Libraries Cut Back, Residents Seek Out a New Type of Commons,” Philadelphia City Paper, May 16, 2013. I need to leave the house to get a lot of productive work done and I often end up working late in weird little nooks of my neighborhood (which is right next to the University of Pennsylvania). A lot of people spend time in the lounges and coffee shops run by the university, or for students, and I wrote this short piece about the communities that have been created in these pseudo-public spaces.

Has Atlantic City Reached the End?,” Next City, May 6, 2013. America’s Playground hasn’t been a real resort town in a long while. Its just a gaming destination. But with increasing competition in surrounding states, especially in Pennsylvania, Atlantic City is struggling. I take a look at the casino monopoly’s devastating effect on the local economy, the thousands of good, unionized jobs the industry created, and whether local elites have a plan to save the town.

It’s All Too Easy to Get Fired in America: In 49 of 50 States, You Can Be Fired for Any Reason,” AlterNet, April 30, 2013. Employment-at-will reigns in America. Unless you have a union, your boss can fire you for pretty much any reason–not based on race, gender, or a few other protected categories (not sexuality, in most states). Montana is the only state where an employer must have a “just cause” for firing you. How did the workers manage that? Easy! They didn’t. It was a business-side idea.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, Stealth Tea Partier,” Vice, April 10, 2013. Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett’s reign has been marked by sweeping austerity measures that have decimated the state’s safety net and public education, especially in urban areas. But no one outside Pennsylvania seems to pay him much attention. I try to explain (without vitroil) why they should.

As SEPTA Looks Forward, a Few Suggestions for Improving Its Regional Rail,” Next City, April 2, 2013. SEPTA’s regional rail system used to be much cheaper and much easier for city residents to access. I look into why the agency’s attention has shifted towards the suburbs, to the determinant of Philadelphia residents.

Sweatshops still make your clothes,” Salon, March 21, 2013. The student anti-sweatshop movement and other committed activists, like Charles Kernaghan, brought the issue of workplace abuse and wage theft in the international garment industry to the attention of Americans. In recent years the issue has fallen out of the news, but that doesn’t mean the abuses have ended. My update and the glimmer of hope represented by the still active student movement.

Last Public Transit System Using Tokens to Give Up the Clink,” Next City, February 20, 2013. After years of awkward delays, this year the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) announced that it was really, actually going to get rid of tokens and phase in a smart payment technology system. Seriously, guys. The article got a ridiculous amount of attention in the region, most of it from those who strongly disputed the idea that SEPTA would ever join the 21st century.

The Fight for the Mount Laurel Doctrine,” Next City, February 4, 2013. The postwar history of New Jersey is defined, in large part, by the booming suburbs and the withering cities. In the midst of of one of the densest and most urbanized states, actual cities aren’t doing so well. And that’s largely because of the policy choices made by predominantly white communities and their policymakers. The Mount Laurel Doctrine is meant to combat these tendencies,  but Chris Christie seems determined to destroy it.

Why Do Murder Rates Spike in Some Cities and Plummet In Others?,” Next City, January 9, 2013. In 2012 New York City and Washington D.C. saw their murder rates plunge to new lows after years of declines. Both cities used to be infamous for their violence. Cities like Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia have seen declines too, but they’ve mostly flattened out now and all are still subject to spikes in homicide numbers. I try to figure out what explains why.

Urgent Care: Recovering from the Urban Hospital Addiction,” Next City, December 10, 2012. This 4,000 word piece explores the innovative strategies being used to improve healthcare outcomes and reduce costs in poor urban areas–Trenton, New Jersey specifically. But the article is also about why it will be so much harder to bring similar models to cities that rely on an “eds and meds” economic model to fuel their urban recoveries.

“‘Once Upon a Time Machine’ and its Philadelphia roots,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 11, 2012. A bunch of comic book nerds started hanging out in the stairwell of their apartment building (the better to shield slumbering partners from their beer-fueled chatter) and now, a few years later, they’ve been published by one of the leading comic book companies and have their own store. This is how Phillybrought them together.

How Much Drinking Is Too Much Drinking?,” Slate, October 12, 2012. What is the best measure for problem drinking? The number of beers you had on a weekend? In a year? Or is it whether your drinking is interfering with your ability to function professionally, socially, or lovingly? Definitions of problem drinking tend to shift over time and depending on who is asking the question. This article looks at our relationship with booze, through a cinematic lens.

Guys, Go to the Doctor,” Slate, October 9, 2012.  There is no male equivalent of a gynecologist and no regularized sexual health care for those with a Y chromosome. But here’s why men should be getting annual sexual health checks ups: Because, honestly  why wouldn’t that make sense?

Practices of teacher-placement agency, personal-care-home operator raise concerns,” Philadelphia City Paper (co-written with Samantha Melamed), September 13, 2012. An expose of a shadowy network of businesses in the Philadelphia region, and their owner’s history of non-payment of wages and rents. This unethical conduct is particularly troubling because of the vulnerable populations that the owner claims to be serving: children, the elderly, and the disabled.

The Crime That Pays,” Philadelphia City Paper,  August 9, 2012. As labor’s power in America declines, and low-paying jobs comprise a greater portion of our economy, wage theft has been on the rise. Unlike Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, Philadelphia does not have the non-union worker infrastructure to confront the problem, nor does it have the specific laws targeting the practice like Seattle or Miami. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Viral Marketing: What’s Stopping Men From Getting the HPV Vaccine,” GOOD, July 6, 2012. Only one percent of American men are vaccinated against HPV. This is largely because most young men are grotesquely misinformed about both the disease and its vaccines. (Oral cancer, caused by HPV, is on the rise among men.) This is the story of how we got to this sorry state.

Young People Are Driving Less—And Not Just Because They’re Broke,” GOOD, June 11, 2012. Americans seem to be driving less than ever before. Is this outlier data or the rise of a new paradigm? And if it is the latter, do we have room for everyone who wants to live a less car-dependent lifestyle?

Not Caring Enough,” Philadelphia City Paper, May 17, 2012. Philadelphia’s community health centers provide a much needed, and very strained, safety net for a city with a 25 percent poverty rate. But Republican theatrics in D.C. could have dire consequences  for  these underserved patients.

The last true stop for trolleys,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April  8, 2012. Streetcars have long since vanished from the streets of most American neighborhoods. But West Philadelphia is still home to six trolley lines, the most comprehensive system left in the United States. Here’s how they survived.

Fired for Wearing the Wrong Color Shirt: The Scary Truth About Our Lack of Workplace Protections,” AlterNet, April 3, 2012.  Many people don’t fully understand how few rights most Americans have at work. In most cases, barring a unionized workplace or overt employer discrimination covered by Title VII, you can be fired for any reason, at any time.

Should Joining A Union be a Civil Right?,” AlterNet, March 9, 2012. Cory Ballard was fired for supporting the unionization of Sugarhouse Casino. The National Labor Relations Act technically protects him, but management ignored the toothless law. Is it time to expand the Civil Rights Act’s Title VII to labor rights as well?

Eastern Europe’s Conservative Crackdown on Reproductive Freedom,” Towards Freedom, February 3, 2012.  The economic crisis has empowered extremist right-wing forces throughout Eastern Europe. International coverage usually focuses on broad questions of democratic norms. But the consequences for reproductive freedom have been unreported, and devastating.

Happy Birthday, Welfare Reform,” The American Prospect, August 19, 2011. Bill Clinton’s signature legislation from his second term was passed at the height of the 1990s boom. Fifteen years later, in the midst of an ongoing economic crisis, it isn’t working so well for struggling families.

Supreme Ironies,” The Stranger, May 4, 2010. Antonin Scalia emerges as the hero in this bizarre Supreme Court case, which originated in Washington State, pitting nervous religious zealots against LGBT activists.

Why Labor Law Reform Always Fails,” Campus Progress, February 10, 2010. As it became clear that the Employee Free Choice Act would never get through the Senate, I look back on the history of labor law reform and find that the upper chamber has never been kind to such legislation.

The Weakest Link: Seattle’s Port Truckers Are Getting Screwed in the Global Supply Chain,” The Stranger, December 22, 2009. The port truckers of Seattle are fed up. To avoid payroll taxes and avoid unionization their employers misclassify them as independent contractors. Their rigs are old and emit noxious fumes that that poison the low-income portside communities. Not they are teaming up with the Teamsters and the Sierra Club to fight back.

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