September: Death and Taxes

August was a month for two major anniversaries: One year since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, and the 10-year mark since President Clinton signed “welfare reform” into law. Thanks to my Extra! article on poverty coverage in the wake of the storm I’ve been on the radio talking about the former a bunch (see links at the bottom of this item); on the latter, stay tuned for future media analysis.

It was also the 58th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s death – who says anniversaries have to be in multiples of ten? – and the Yankees celebrated by walling off a public park and holding an invitation-only stadium groundbreaking while community members protested outside. I celebrated by poring through more city documents, which revealed that not only had the Yankees billed taxpayers for their stadium lobbying costs (as I reported last month), but also for the salaries of several of George Steinbrenner’s relatives, and for the lawyers who drew up the lease that let them do all this in the first place. Plus, the city could have gotten this money back, but tore up the Yanks’ (and Mets’) IOUs as part of new stadium deals, adding an extra $46 million in subsidies to what’s previously been divulged. Happy deathday, Babe!

Elsewhere for the rapidly shrinking Village Voice, I reported on the raucous public hearing over Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards development project for Brooklyn; with hundreds of people still waiting to testify as the clock neared midnight, the state told everyone left out to come to another hearing next month – on primary day. And then there was the “Roots Reggae Family Festival” in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park that preached of revolution but charged $40 a head for an event in a public park – leading to the odd spectacle of a concert where the vast majority of spectators were outside the gates, with a near-empty circle of lawn inside.

Finally, I’m extremely happy to announce that a newly expanded edition of Field of Schemes will be coming out in early 2008, from University of Nebraska Press. Expect both new chapters on recent events (the Yankee Stadium battle absolutely included), and updates on the stories in the original edition. And thanks to everyone who helped make this project a reality – you know who you are.

Until next week, I’m me. Send healthy thoughts (and cash if you like) to Kirk.

LATE ADDITION: Hear my radio appearances discussing post-Katrina poverty coverage on KCSB, WCCO, and the online Guy James Show.

Also, so long as you’re grabbing MP3 files, check out this one on PBS’ “Waging A Living” documentary – it’s with Barbara Ehrenreich, not me, but it’s one of the best discussions of poverty in America you’re likely to hear all year.

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