Sunday, July 31, 2016

At EDMC, former Maine governor McKernan had a questionable legacy

I did a deep dive on former Maine Governor John McKernan's legacy as CEO and board chair of Education Management Corporation, or EDMC, the for-profit college network that ran afoul of the US Department of Justice, multiple state attorneys general, and the inspector general of the US Department of Education.

Here's what I learned, in today's Maine Sunday Telegram. There's also a sidebar.

McKernan was governor of Maine from 1987 to 1995 and is married to Sen. Olympia Snowe.

Friday, July 29, 2016

On Obama talking up his Scots-Irish heritage at the DNC

In his speech at the Democratic National Convention this week, President Obama spoke about his Scots-Irish roots and the values of that culture, which includes many on his mother's side. Why talk about the Scots-Irish in a major address in the midst of a critical election year? The Washington Post's Frances Stead Sellers is on it.

I spoke with Sellers yesterday about the Scots-Irish legacy, influence, and importance to our elections, and you can read the article that resulted here. (Thanks to the Post for including the American Nations map.)

I've written on this theme in, of course, American Nations and American Character, but also for Washington Monthly, where I discussed Obama's "Greater Appalachia Problem" ahead of the last election.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Gulenists, accused of orchestrating coup in Turkey, have been very active in Maine

Fehtullah Gulen, an influential imam who has lived in exile in the Poconos of Pennsylvania for decades, stands accused by Turkey's increasingly autocratic president, Recep Erdogan, of masterminding the recent military coup attempt in Turkey. Gulenists -- followers of Gulen and his Hizmet movement -- are being ejected from their jobs or rounded up by the tens of thousands, from journalists and teachers to military officers and police leaders as Erdogan seeks to snuff out what he calls a "tumor" on his nation.

Bizarrely, Gulenists have also been extremely active here in Maine. In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, I have a commentary essay reviewing the vigorous cultural and diplomatic outreach programs Gulen's followers have been engaged in for the past four years in Maine, where they've attempted to open two charter schools and developed a bipartisan group of friends and allies in the legislature, governor's office, and among civic leaders.

The essay is a sequel to and update on this Press Herald story I wrote back in 2013, which revealed the Gulenist connections at the first proposed charter school.

Incidentally, I'm a fan of Turkish culture and the impressive cultural legacy of the Ottoman Empire, whose former territories I lived in for most of the 1990s. My most recent story from Turkey was this 1998 travel piece for the Christian Science Monitor from Cappadocia.

Friday, July 22, 2016

How Philadelphia transformed an abandoned naval base

How did Philadelphia successfully transform a 1200-acre former naval base into a mixed-use district that some are calling a second Center City? That's the topic of my latest installment of Politico's "What Works" series on successful urban innovations. Twenty-one years after it closed, the former Philadelphia Navy Yard complex -- which once included the largest naval shipyard on the planet, a naval seaplane factory, a naval air station, and, in 1944, a top secret Manhattan Project lab -- is now a hive of commercial, industrial, recreational, and academic activity, and the next phase intends to bring residential as well.

Attending the Democratic National Convention this coming week? The convention site is not a mile away from the Navy Yard gates.

This is my fifth full-length "What Works" piece this year. The others were on how Des Moines went from dull to cool; how Manchester, New Hampshire turned its vast 19th century millyard to spinning high-tech gold; on how Denver built its game-changing light rail system, only to discover its most powerful effects were not what they'd expected; and on how Cincinnati transformed "America's most dangerous neighborhood." In addition, last week -- on the occasion of the Republican National Convention -- I had this shorter story on how Cleveland revamped its long-neglected Public Square.

Friday, July 15, 2016

How Cleveland renewed its outdoor civic spaces ahead of the RNC

My latest installment for Politico's "What Works" series on successful urban innovations is a mini-story from Cleveland, Ohio, where a public-private partnership has aimed to renew and reconnect the city's outdoor public spaces, especially Public Square, the one-time New England-style public common at the heart of the city

Cleveland, where the Republican National Convention is about to open, has an incredible legacy in this regard, having been the location of the greatest manifestation of "City Beautiful" era planning outside of Washington, DC. The current investments key off the 1903 Group Plan, developed by a team led by Daniel Burnham (of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair "White City" fame) and modeled on Paris's Place de la Concorde.

Thanks to KCRW, the NPR affiliate in Santa Monica, California, for their interest in the piece. My
interview with their show "dna: Design and Architecture" airs Tuesday. [Update, 7/21/16: here's the interview.]

In addition to this article, I've written four full-length "What Works" pieces this year: on how Des Moines went from dull to cool; how Manchester, New Hampshire turned its vast 19th century millyard to spinning high-tech gold; on how Denver built its game-changing light rail system, only to discover its most powerful effects were not what they'd expected; and on how Cincinnati transformed "America's most dangerous neighborhood."

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Maine: who provides the cash for legislator's personal PACs?

Ever wonder who the biggest contributors are to the personal "leadership" PACs of Maine's legislator? Read about it all in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, where we've crunched the numbers on the 15 biggest donors and who their favorite legislators are. There's also some insight into how legislators raise money from the lobbyists, drug companies, business associations and casinos that make up the lion's share of the supply for these entities, and then some of the things they spend it on.

I last wrote about Maine leadership PACs way back during the last presidential election year, focusing on those controlled by clean elections candidates.

While reporting this story, I became introduced to the Sunlight Foundation's clever crowdsourcing site for political PAC and campaign event invites. It's a nifty tool for journalists trying to make sense of candidate's fundraising filings.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Speaking on American Character, Kennebunkport, July 10

This Sunday, July 10, I'll be speaking about my new book, American Character, at the Kennebunk River Club here in Maine.

The event, which kicks off at 4 pm, is free to KRC members, $20 for others with tickets available at the Graves Library, which is co-hosting the event. It's at the KRC's casino on Ocean Avenue in Kennebunkport. Books will be available for sale and signing after the talk.

Do come if you can. My full event schedule, as always, can be found here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Free Lance-Star, Kennebec Journal reviews of American Character

I'm sharing two recent reviews of my new book, American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good, one from the Virginia Tidewater, the other from Yankee Maine.

The Free Lance-Star, the daily in Fredericksburg, Virginia, had this review of the book recently. "A GPS through our country's political past and into our confounding present," says reviewer Dan Dervin.

The Lance-Star has had a long-standing interest in my previous book, American Nations, publishing my OpEd back in the 2012 presidential cycle and an analysis -- originally written for Washington Monthly's Ten Miles Square blog -- of the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election.

Separately, Bill Bushnell, the books columnist at Maine's Kennebec Journal (Augusta) and Morning Sentinel (Waterville) dailies reviews the book in his latest column. "In American Character," he writes, "Woodard astutely examines the political, economic and social history of the U.S. over four centuries, explaining how the balance between individual freedoms and the common good has shifted dramatically, often with wide swings from one to the other."

Thanks to both papers for their interest in the book.

For those in Maine, I'll be speaking on American Character in Kennebunkport on July 10.