CW Negron on “the 2” (47)

(47th in a series of posts about 2 W. Market St.)

CW Negron Dec 4, 2018  “No”

ON speaks from her lived experience as a Southsider over a long period of time, lamenting that it’s not the same anymore. She invites us to share her sadness as we imaginatively drive with her from Hayes to 5 points. She speaks from the other side, as it were, as a kind of victim in soul and spirit, looking back at a dramatic transformation of her neighborhood caused by the change of one word in the zoning ordinance. She has a melancholy “then” and “now” perspective, a fracture caused by a small but non-trivial language change for business reasons. She doesn’t speak long (the shortest of the seven Councilpersons). She speaks with feeling, emotion. She’s been “touched” by Stephen Antalics’ commentary. She’s nostalgic. She’s in a kind of pain. Her voice is withdrawn, restrained, hushed — comes from deep inside. She does not specifically mention the Antalics “cancer” analogy, but the inference is clear that she is projecting what has actually happened on the Southside to what could happen on the Northside and voting “no” out of that fear and concern. Implicitly, this amendment is bad for the city.

1) Antalics as ON’s “heart of the matter”:  Since ON clearly identifies the great impact SA had in her decision, we judge him to judge her.

Here’s SA’s audio clip from Dec. 4:

SA introduced his cancer analogy previously at the Sept 4 City Council meeting in the conversation about Airbnb in the same Northside Historical District. See Sept. 4 minutes, p. 13.

2) The “one-word” zoning change:  Since ON fixes on the “one-word” change in the Zoning Ordinance, we should see if it’s true. Gadfly has not been able to trace all the permutations of the definition of family (finding that first change would be a historian’s dream!) but found these three recent pertinent texts. Gadfly suspects SA’s point is true.

1739.01 B. 20.       Regulated Rental Unit – A DWELLING UNIT occupied by three or more, but not more than five, unrelated PERSONS under one (1) RENTAL AGREEMENT. (Ord. 2017-15. Passed 5/2/2017)

2) 2.19     All OCCUPANTS of REGULATED RENTAL UNITS shall use the PREMISES as a single family dwelling.  There shall be one lease and all OCCUPANTS shall sign said lease.

3) 1302.43 Family. One or more individuals who are “related” to each other by blood, marriage or adoption (including persons receiving formal foster care) or up to 5 unrelated individuals who maintain a common household with common cooking facilities and certain rooms in common, and who live within one dwelling unit. A family shall also expressly include numbers of unrelated persons that may be allowed by the Group Home provision of this Ordinance residing within an approved group home.

3) Transformation of the Southside:  Are ON and SA right about the transformations in the Southside? This might be an important consideration since one other Councilperson has an opposing view. As evidence on the ON/SA position, consider the “A Lost Neighborhood” section of this “Still Looking for you” web project.

4) Argument by analogy: ON argues by analogy. For instance, the Southside was once a good place, but a small zoning change for a commercial reason triggered its degradation. The Northside is a good place, a similar small zoning change for a commercial reason is proposed, and that is likely to cause similar degradation. That is argument by analogy.

First to consider: is analogy a legitimate form of argument? This is pertinent since one other Councilperson seems to hold a negative view, and it’s obvious that the idea of precedent itself is not held in high regard by many supporters of the petition.

Wikipedia isn’t the source you would use in your term paper, but this (quoth the prof) is an accurate statement: “Argument from analogy is a special type of inductive argument, whereby perceived similarities are used as a basis to infer some further similarity that has yet to be observed. Analogical reasoning is one of the most common methods by which human beings attempt to understand the world and make decisions.”

Second, is the ON/SA analogy true or false? Does that analogy work? How do you test an analogy?

You can test an analogy says Wikipedia on these three criteria:

  • The relevance of the known similarities to the similarity inferred in the conclusion [do we know enough about the neighborhoods – susceptibility to decay, power to withstand corrupting forces, etc? Maybe most importantly, is that a reasonable reason why the Southside went downhill?]
  • The degree of relevant similarity between the two objects [are Southside and Northside both neighborhoods? are the zoning changes the same?]
  • The amount and variety of instances that form the basis of the analogy [does it weaken the ON/SA case that they have only one negative example?]


So, has Gadfly given you something to think about? Whether you agree with ON’s vote or not, what do you think of the quality of ON’s thinking. This is crucially important to Gadfly. In assessing my elected officials, I’m as much interested in the quality of their thinking as an outcome, which, in fact, is an outcome I might disagree with. Are my elected officials intelligent? Are they thoughtful?

Do you see where ON is “coming from”?  Can you respect her opinion whether you agree with her or not?

In thinking ON’s supporting statement through, Gadfly has formed an opinion. How about you? He’ll share at the end. Suspense.

In the meantime, comments welcome! Just please note Gadfly’s cautions in the last post.

CM Colon next–

2 thoughts on “CW Negron on “the 2” (47)

  1. I think analogy can be a very good way to make a valid point, partly because it is often clearer than factual arguments that get lost in the details. I think ‘factual’ arguments too often argue a ‘straw man’, a premise that is inserted just because it’s easy to attack. (Although a false analogy serves much the same purpose.)

    To be valid, it’s essential to make sure the analogy is a good one, that the conditions (and, in this case, the proposed change) are truly parallel.

    With either type of argument, getting to a valid conclusion requires attention to details & logical analysis. Unfortunately, what we often see is looking for things that support your starting position instead of real analysis; this is true not only for City Council, we also see it in most business & corporate environments, not to mention other institutions of all sizes.

  2. A Lost Neighborhood recounts how a powerful entity, Lehigh University, muscled its way into the surrounding neighborhood, used questionable maneuvers, and ended up damaging a vibrant community. The home owners fought hard but in the end were no match. Sounds familiar. Stephen Antalics’s remarks regarding both 2 W Market and the airbnb issue are powerful reminders that zoning/land use decisions, even something as seemingly insignificant as changing one word, can have devastating results. Those of us who oppose commercial intrusion in our residential neighborhood prevailed in court, but land use/zoning issues are notoriously susceptible to politics. The Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg was unlikely to be influenced by the fact that Mr. Rij is a well-connected donor to the city. That is not the case here.

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