Skip to main content

Posts

2018 Commencement Speech

Graduation speech as delivered to the graduates of the University of Maryland's School of Architecture Planning and Preservation by Dr. Rodney Harrell on December 19, 2018:

Good afternoon graduates, faculty, staff, family and friends.It is my honor to be with you today. They say the best graduation speeches are short, focused and future-oriented, so naturally, I’ll start with something over 200 years ago. I used to work with the Maryland Heritage Areas Program. It was there that I learned about Riversdale, a mansion from the early 1800s located just a couple of miles from here. You don’t see a lot of houses like that - It strikes you as odd to see this Federal period mansion with these great Tuscan columns just a few blocks from Route One, and then you realize the massive scale of the plantation that it belonged to, which includes the ground that we stand on today. It makes me think of how much has changed around here since that time – slavery and tobacco crops no longer exist, and…
Recent posts

The "Boom" in Golden Girls-Style Shared Housing: Where’s the Beef?

NBC, Touchstone Television and their partners should be proud– it has been 22 years since the final episode aired, yet the influence of The Golden Girlsmeans that every year reporters ask about the boom in “Golden Girls Housing.”  This form of shared housing receives a great amount of attention, but we'll miss the big picture if we look for big numbers.
For the last few years, I have looked at data from the Current Population Survey (analyzed by the AARP Public Policy Institute) to count households that are all female (or all male) with at least one non-related housemate or roommate, no spouses, and no one under 50 in the home. This is the classic “Golden Girls” formula.  
The result has become familiar: a very small portion of the population lives in a “golden” situation, around one percent.  The small numbers of people in those situations means that it’s hard to figure out whether it has become more popular.  Though the percentage appears to be holding steady, the number of golden…

What Is a Livable Community, and How Do We Measure One?

Today, I kicked off AARP Public Policy Institute's Livability Index project with a blog and two papers on new project webpage: bi.tly/LivIndex.  The PPI blog, "What Is a Livable Community, and How Do We Measure One?" introduces the project to the world.

You may have wondered why I haven't been writing as much lately, and this project is what has been keeping me busy recently. In a way, this has been keeping me busy for years.

AARP's Media Release for "What Is Livable? Community Preferences of Older Adults"

The AARP media release for one of my most recent reports, "What is Livable? Community Preferences of Older Adults": 

April 25, 2014             Media Contact: Nancy Thompson media@aarp.org (202) 434-2506

NEW AARP REPORT OUTLINES WHAT OLDER AMERICANS WANT IN THEIR COMMUNITIES, HOW MANY ARE THINKING OF MOVING
Washington, D.C. – The vast majority of people age 50 and older plan to remain living independently in their communities, a new report from the AARP Public PolicyInstitute concludes.  The report which surveyed boomers and older adults found that both value secure neighborhoods, safety, good schools, safe streets for walking, access to transportation, parks and affordable housing as community qualities. With these resources in place, communities enhance personal independence and foster resident engagement in community civic, economic and social life, qualities that AARP has traditionally used to describe the livability of a community.  Most importantly, these resources allow re…

Reflections on the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement

On its face, Martin Luther King Day is a holiday dedicated to the memory of one of the key figures in American history. Recently, it has become popular as a "National Day of Service" and an opportunity to give back to the community. For me, its greatest significance is as a day to reflect on the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and how America has changed (and not changed) since Martin Luther King, Jr's time.

As I referenced in an earlier post on the anniversary of the March on Washington, King's "March to Freedom" began with the Emancipation Proclamation 151 years ago during the midst of the Civil War.  Some may say the movement ended at one of several key moments: the passage of the Civil Rights Act 50 years ago, The Voting Rights Act the next year, the creation of the Martin Luther King Day holiday or the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States.

Culturally, Doug Williams' accolades as the first Black quarterback to win the Supe…

Tales from a Condominium Association: Rising fees, the Budget Squeeze and 5 Pieces of Advice

I recently had a conversation with  of the Washington Post as part of her research for "Rising community association fees are squeezing homeowners on tight budgets," the main Metro  section article in Sunday's Washington Post.  I was pleasantly surprised to have this conversation: the article notes that over 63 million are residents in community associations, and relatively little attention has been paid to how they work.

Rising fees can be problematic for many residents - here's the excerpt that came from our conversation: In the past four decades, the number of condominiums, co-op units and houses that are part of homeowners associations has skyrocketed across the nation, from 701,000 in 1970 to 25.9 million in 2012, according to the Foundation for Community Association Research.The foundation does not categorize ownership by age, but an analysis by AARP’s Public Policy Institute in 2003 found that 46 percent of owners in single-family homeowners ass…

Housing Strategies for Veterans (and the rest of us)

"On the 11th hour of the 11th Day of the 11th month" - 95 years ago, the Great War ended and later Veterans Day (originally Armistice Day) was born as a celebration of the outbreak of peace.  I've always enjoyed thinking about the duty of veterans in that context.


Several generations of my family (along with a few friends and classmates) have served in the Armed Forces, and today is a day to thank them and their their fellow service-members for their service. It's also a great American custom to separate celebrations of Memorial Day (for those that have passed on) from Veterans Day to have a special day to celebrate those who are living (countries that celebrate Remembrance Day generally combine both). Since attention is focused on veterans today, this is a time of year that we hear stories about the challenges that veterans face. One can expect to hear about health care problems, the high suicide rate of veterans (22 a day), and the long backlogs of VA claims.

I don…