Kagan the single urbanite

I’ve found it hard to get particularly exercised by the ongoing debate regarding whether Elena Kagan is a lesbian and whether, if so, she’s obliged to say so.  I think I basically agree with Richard Kim’s take.  I’d also fully endorse Claire Potter’s post on the subject, especially for its invocation of J. Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn.  (This called to mind a provocative question Glenda Gilmore once asked in a seminar: when we talk about queer politics in the 1950s, should those two be part of the conversation?)

What Elena Kagan is not: now-Chief Justice John Roberts and family, and George W. Bush, in 2005.
What Elena Kagan is not: now-Chief Justice John Roberts and family, and George W. Bush, in 2005.

I was frankly more interested by the fact that, with Kagan, Barack Obama has now nominated two single—or, at least, unmarried—women to the Supreme Court in a row.  Mary Dudziak was similarly intrigued, and delved into the apparently considerable history of unmarried male justices.

Marc Ambinder, meanwhile, notes perceptively that both Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor are, like Obama, creatures of the city.

Ultimately, I think, most folks along the progressive spectrum, including LGBT progressives, can agree that it’s a good thing if one doesn’t have to fit into a tableau like the one above in order to ascend to high political office in the United States.  Nominating Kagan—an unmarried, childless, lifelong urban-dweller who lacks a traditionally feminine personal style—advances that agenda.  How it bodes for the future of the Court’s decision making is a separate, and probably more consequential, question.

Retail in New England’s rising star

The Courant has an interesting article, seemingly based on a city report published in January [PDF], on the “retail vibrancy” of Hartford’s Park Street neighborhood, where storefront vacancies are dramatically fewer than in the city’s downtown:

The 2-mile-plus Park Street retail corridor — running from Main Street to Prospect Avenue — has an enviable mix of restaurants, clothing boutiques, bodegas, jewelry shops and grocery stores, partly the result of planning and support by the local merchants association.


Some of the success has to do with the smaller retail spaces and far lower rents on Park Street. Most of the storefronts have apartments above them, with well-populated neighborhoods close by, providing crucial, ready-made foot traffic of the sort that downtown still lacks.

The article then notes the other important factor at play: Park Street’s role as a center of regional Latino community life, which draws visitors from outside the immediate area.

I can’t claim to have explored Park Street much while living in Hartford.  There was a decent amount of  retail and dining on and around Farmington Avenue, another avenue spoking out from downtown, near where we (predictably) lived in the West End.  There, UConn Law School both fostered a high residential population and served to bring in regional visitors.  But it’s useful to remember that knowledge-industry-driven gentrification is not the only process capable of driving a revitalization of New England’s small cities.

The title of this post, by the way, refers to Hartford’s optimistic, and possibly erstwhile, marketing slogan.