Saturday, August 1, 2009

Unititled Quote

"Intellectuals , it is supposed, have a duty to speak truth to power. But as Orwell’s mellifluously sinister O’Brien in 1984 would no doubt remind us, power doesn’t have to listen to anything it doesn’t want to listen to. You can speak truth at power and you can speak truth about power, but speaking truth to power is a dangerous business".

---Arundhati Roy

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

East Cleveland, Ohio

We're seeding new projects and initiatives in the City of East Cleveland. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


In the pursuit of justice for the convicted, truth is sometimes wrapped in differing shades of gray.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Seeding and Planting Flowers

Sometimes the work of changing cities and neighborhoods require sustained belief and an acknowledgement of identifying locally grown and often overlooked assets. I cannot recall the author, but I recall the quote very well: "what is important is often invisible to the eye".

Monday, April 13, 2009

No Flowers Today

No Flowers Today

The sun is bright,-the air is clear,
The darting swallows soar and sing,
And from the stately elms I hear
The bluebird prophesying Spring. (Longfellow)

Sometimes there’s blood in the Georgia dusk
Left by a streak of sun,
A crimson trickle in the Georgia dusk.
Whose blood?...Everyone’s. (Hughes)

Spring is a time of planting. A season of growth and rebirth. Whether its tulips or lilacs, or daffodils- it’s a time of renewal. A cherished friend of mine sent me beautiful pictures of blooming flowers in upstate New York; the splendor, the fascination and mysteries of life. Whether flowers are blooming in Forest Hills Park, or an urban garden in my friend’s yard in North Collinwood.

As we anticipate the arrival of a full spring in Cleveland, the anticipated splendor of a hopeful spring was shattered last Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday, when someone robbed Jason Cummings as he returned from a neighborhood barbershop.

“Lay it Down,” the gunman said, in street language for “you’re being robbed”.

On a cold Saturday sixteen months ago, Ja-Shaun Richardson and a friend left home to the corner grocery store. Ja-Shaun was robbed, and as he turned to run away, he was shot and killed. In between the murders of Ja-Shaun and Jason’s, there were many, many others. In this season of birth and renewal, we must also remember and do justice in the honor of families forever affected by these terrible crimes.

I’m reminded of a ceremony held in Washington, DC in 1994, to honor the lives of individuals killed and impacted by handgun violence by displaying 38,000 pairs of shoes to represent lives loss, families impacted and neighborhoods held hostage within their homes and in their neighborhoods throughout the country.

I recall the event, and can’t quite remember how I missed the event; I should not have missed it. You see, I lost a brother to handgun violence; another brother has been involved in criminal activity involving guns and my father survived an armed robbery, but lost his grocery business.

Eric Erikson once remarked, “…that the most deadly of all possible sins is the mutilation of a child’s spirit” and I would add, the sin of continuous, death by handgun violence. Handgun violence crosses all boundaries, but within the context of this essay, I agree with The Reverend Dr. Calvin Butts, III, pastor of Abyssinian Church in Harlem, NY when he said: “I am concerned deeply that a GROUP of Americans is fast becoming extinct and I’m one of them. I am an African American man.”

These generational losses represent a collective suffering and profound pain of city residents. It is not just the loss of Ja-shaun and Jason----it is how the loss of their lives, and thousands of others, the impact on their families, communities, and their collective loss of individual potential as well as the perpetrator and their families in our neighborhoods.

Cleveland has always existed in a perpetual state of emergency: poverty, crime, educational failure, neighborhood distress, joblessness, among others. Despite past and present mayoral administrations, this state of emergency is generational; it defies seasons; the inn and box score for the Indians; and the timeline of success for the Cavs from Bingo Smith to Lebron James.

No amounts of “change” have been able to stem the perpetual state of emergency of our children and families in crisis. Whether distinguished speakers fill the City Club dining room or pack conference halls, the state of emergency exists whether no acknowledge it by small blocks of space in the newspaper or a 10 second spot on the news.

Albert Camus, in the Plague, perfectly characterized the context of the situation and environment facing our lack of an adequate response to this crisis—it is as true now, as it is his book of fiction: “…small official notices had been just put up about the town, though in places where they would not attract much attention. It was hard to find in these notices any indication that the authorities were facing the situation squarely. The measures enjoined were far from Draconian and one had the feeling that many concessions had been made to a desire not to alarm the public”.


Everyday, families cautiously maneuver on skating ponds of cracked ice, the crumbing of hope, and on the illusory promises of electoral change. Decades of callous disregard for neighborhoods, a myriad of mental health issues, ineffectual public policy, neighborhood instability, family dysfunction and general lawlessness alongside routine access to guns and the exploitative nature of violence in popular culture and in the media have brought us to the bottom.

At one point, I subscribed to historian Barbara Tuchman’s notion that “wooden headedness” by political leadership often confines one to a singular source of action despite facts and reality as the order of the day. She is right, but I think, Michael Ignatieff is more on point when he uses Shakespeare’s King Lear to argue how we chose to respond to events that happen: “…We never know a thing till we have paid the price to know it, never know how much is enough until we have had much less than enough, never know what we need till we have been dispossessed. We must be blinded before we can see”.


Somehow, someway, today, with a supernatural inspiration for the possible, we must rekindle the crumbled hopes of this current and future generation. We must do this. We have no choice.

We can continue to put smiley faces on media slick campaigns promoting regional economic development initiatives, downtown housing, the Euclid Corridor or Midtown.

Or, we can demand a policy re prioritization of what will not only save lives, but policies and programs that save our people and secure a healthy and sustainable future for all.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

“A Radical Thing”: Educational Perspectives on Race in the Age of Obama

“A Radical Thing”: Educational Perspectives on Race in the Age of Obama by Zoe Burkholder — February 09, 2009

Speaking to a reporter from the Washington Post a few weeks ago, President Obama remarked, "There is an entire generation that will grow up taking for granted that the highest office in the land is filled by an African American." He continued, "I mean, that's a radical thing. It changes how black children look at themselves. It also changes how white children look at black children. And I wouldn't underestimate the force of that.” As an educational historian who studies racial discourse in schools, I can tell you that Obama is absolutely correct. Americans are about to radically alter the way they see, understand, and speak about race on an everyday basis thanks to the presidency of Barack Obama. Especially in places like schools.
Speaking to a reporter from the Washington Post a few weeks ago, President Obama remarked, "There is an entire generation that will grow up taking for granted that the highest office in the land is filled by an African American." He continued, "I mean, that's a radical thing. It changes how black children look at themselves. It also changes how white children look at black children. And I wouldn't underestimate the force of that” (Fletcher, 2008)
As an educational historian who studies racial discourse in schools, I can tell you that Obama is absolutely correct. Americans are about to radically alter the way they see, understand, and speak about race on an everyday basis thanks to the presidency of Barack Obama. Especially in places like schools.
In my forthcoming book, Reconstructing Race: A History of Race, Reform, and Civil Rights in American Schools, 1900-1954, I argue that schools function as powerful racializing institutions in American society. As the largest state institution dedicated to knowledge production and social reproduction, public schools have played a critical role in shaping the way Americans understand not only specific definitions of race, but also the muted rules of racial etiquette. For instance, teachers and textbooks define for students who is “raced”—a shifting category. The fact that teachers in the first half of the twentieth century used to mull over the peculiar racial traits and habits of Italian, Irish, and German kids whereas today all of these students would be viewed as members of the same “Caucasian” race is one good example of the fluidity of racial discourse in American schools.
Besides specifying who is racially distinct from an imagined “white” norm, teachers have also crafted particular messages about just what it means to be raced. For example, a white librarian in 1935 casually observed that African American children were “naturally noisy,” elaborating, “The keen intellectual curiosity of, for instance, the Jewish child, that makes him work so hard on scientific problems, is not found to any marked degree in the colored child” (Bacon, 1935, p. 258). Teachers across the country echoed these racialist sentiments, such as one who explained that in order for “Negro” children to enjoy literature,
Gold and jewels in abundance must sparkle, satin robes must trail through the pages, giants must be very tall and terrible and the fire-breathing dragon must slay his fair quota of minor heroes before (after desperate struggles) his seven horrible heads are hacked off by the intrepid youngest son. (Brunot, 1932, pp. 159-160)
The pages with teaching journals are filled with first-hand accounts of classroom practice like these—vivid illustrations of the way that teachers, like nearly all Americans, viewed race as a determining aspect not only of intelligence but also of more subtle qualities like intellectual curiosity or a preference for sensational tall tales. That such subtle messages about racial difference are still present in American classrooms should come as no surprise, as a host of provocative studies by scholars including Mica Pollock and Amanda Lewis demonstrate (Pollock, 2005; Lewis, 2003).
But even more important than elucidating who is part of a racial minority and what this distinction means, American schools define the racial knowledge of the ideal, “educated” citizen. This is where things get really interesting because it means that no matter what students believe to be the “truth” about race, they learn at a young age what teachers expect them to know. It is not that students readily absorb the lessons on race presented in schools—in fact the opposite seems to be true. The point is that students learn to recognize, and if necessary, to mimic the lessons on race they are taught in school if only to cash in on the cultural capital of performing as educated citizens.
Now consider for a minute my own experiences, not as an historian of race in American schools, but instead as the mother of a kindergartner. My son, Dexter, has absorbed the unrestrained enthusiasm of his parents for Barack Obama over the course of the past year. He has sat through televised debates and read through children’s books on the new President, even enjoying spoofs of Obama on YouTube like the recent “If You Voted For Me” parody of Beyonce’s famous “All the Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” song. Back in November, when Obama was elected, my son came home from school and announced in a solemn voice that Barack Obama was going to be the first African American President of the United States. While this was certainly true, I had not emphasized this point at home in weeks as we had been discussing more pragmatic aspects of Obama’s candidacy. The formal way my son delivered the news tipped me off to the fact that his teacher had made this announcement in school that morning.
As well she should have; the point is that Obama’s presidency is already generating a host of new race talk in our schools. Consider for a minute how things might have been different if John McCain had been elected President. Chances are, Dexter’s teacher would not have pointed out McCain’s racial identity to her kindergarten classroom that morning.
More recently, and well before this became the clarion cry of newscasters during the inauguration, I was astonished when Dexter quietly told me that Barack Obama becoming President was one way that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream had come true. The awkward way he put the words together suggested he did not pick this one up in school. Turning to my son, I asked him where he had heard that idea. He shrugged, and stunned me again by quoting MLK’s most famous speech from memory, carefully articulating: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” To be fair, this was a speech my son and I had read together, and even watched together on the internet, but I had no idea he had committed it to memory.
“And what do you think that means?” I pressed him.
“It means that color doesn’t matter, it’s what you do and who you are that matters.” Dexter said, as he scooted out of the room before I could ask him anything else.
My two young children, who are white, will grow up with a completely revised sense of the meaning of race in America thanks to the presidency of Barack Obama. Racial ideologies, after all, are created and informed through all sorts of processes, from national leaders to popular culture, scientific theories to judicial rulings. As educators, however, it is important to remain vigilant about the one thing we do have the professional capacity to influence: the social production of race in schools. Like Obama, I wouldn’t underestimate the force of that.
Bacon, F.A. (1935). Epaminondas at the library. Elementary English Review, 12(9), 257-259.
Brunot, E. (1932). The negro child and his reading: A public library point of view. Elementary English Review, 9(6), 159-160. Also see, Coolidge, A.E. (1932). Origins of our Negro folk story. Elementary English Review, 9(6), 161-162.
Michael A. Fletcher, M.A. (2008, January 19). President-elect sees his race as an opportunity. Washington Post.
Amanda Lewis, A. (2003). Race in the schoolyard: Negotiating the color line in classrooms and communities. Rutgers, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Pollock, M. (2005). Colormute: Race talk dilemmas in an American school. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Street Scapes

I had a conversation with a friend today about extending the street scape of University Circle, Inc in Cleveland that would extend through East Cleveland to the border of Euclid. Often, change begins on the small things and the easiest to do. Other things like urban gardens, healthy play spaces for children, are on the canvas by the Mayor as well.

The City of East Cleveland and University Circle in Cleveland are neighbors, and share excellent university and health care and transportation options among many other things. In Instructions for the Cook: Recipes for the Cook by George Nemeth and Jack Ricchiuto, they examine small acts---the idea that transformation to be occur its does not need to happen on a grand scale. Small acts help individuals and communities realize the larger dream. As Jack would say," small is the new big".

Monday, March 9, 2009

Where Have All the People Gone?

For the past two days, I have taken pictures of abandoned and foreclosed homes in the City of East Cleveland. Certainly, the houses are not just mere structures, they all tell a story; and in the 2600 abandoned, vacant and foreclosed homes, I wonder, where have all the people gone?

Each house represents a story; a family. Policymakers talk about the structures, but what happens to the people who are forced to leave?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Downtown Excitement, Wonder and Belief in the Power of our Youth

This afternoon, I attended the Robotics Competition at the Wolstein Center at Cleveland State University for High School students throughout the country. A friend of mine, son and his team, built a robot, and believe me, this was a very serious, engaging event---where technology, science, math, and everything else in-between were showcased. The stands were packed, the crowds roared, and robots were everywhere.

Celebrating the multi-faceted gifts of your youth is something to champion everyday. Or own, East Technical High School of the Cleveland Municipal School District was a major team as well. We all know and the challenges of urban schools districts, yet in spite of the challenges, graduates of the CMSD go on, to stellar achievements. Check out the link below.

Monday, February 23, 2009


How do you attempt to answer questions in a public forum for residents that are actually asked in criticism, and pain borne of decades of failed and irresponsible government?

How does one listen to the passion and pleas of making choices over condemned and abandoned homes and neighborhoods where schools are located?

How do we respond to decades of pain-etched faces and hearts broken by neglect of government institutions, and the people that sold the hope and vote of the citizenry decades ago?

Where and when did our failed leadership suck the heart and soul of democracy out of our region?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Kauffman Foundation Launches Entrepreneur-Training Program to Spur Job Creation

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has announced a new $1 million effort to offer entrepreneurial training programs in communities that have been hit hard by layoffs and the recession.

In partnership with the Deluxe Corporation Foundation, which provided $500,000 in funding, Kauffman will roll out its FastTrac LaunchPad business-development program in New York City in March, with cities in other states, including Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, and Minnesota, to follow. The FastTrac program, which was established by the Kauffman Foundation fifteen years ago, provides training and education for individuals who have lost their jobs and entrepreneurs whose businesses are struggling in a tough economy. To help emerging and struggling entrepreneurs get a quicker start, the ten-week program will be offered on a truncated schedule.

According to a recent Kauffman-funded Census Bureau study, startup companies are a major contributor to job creation, and although the number of business startups tends to decline slightly during cyclical downturns, the number of existing startups remains robust even in the most severe recessions.

"Entrepreneurs will be the foundation of our nation's economic recovery because they start and grow businesses that create jobs," said Kauffman Foundation president and CEO Carl Schramm. "The Kauffman Foundation is dedicated to providing practical tools for entrepreneur training and development to fuel this recovery. The FastTrac LaunchPad initiative offers an incredible opportunity for communities across the nation, local entrepreneurs, and small business owners to build businesses and create jobs."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Small, Green and Good by Catherine Tumber

Small, Green, and Good

The role of neglected cities in a sustainable future

Growing up in a small town, I regularly took bus trips with my mom and little sister into “the city”: Syracuse. Like most middle-class families in the 1960s, we had only one car, which my dad drove to work. So we would buy our tickets at the village pharmacy, board the Big Dog, and barrel though miles of farms and sparsely developed land until we reached the highway. Nearing the final stretch, we had to endure the stench of the Solvay chemical works to our right, and the creepy mint green of polluted Onondaga Lake on our left. But we would disembark in Syracuse’s vibrant downtown, all glittering lights and vertical planes, filled with department stores, jewelry and candy shops, theaters and movie palaces, “ethnic” food, and people who were interestingly not like us.

Smaller American cities, places like Syracuse—and Decatur, New Bedford, Kalamazoo, Buffalo, Trenton, Erie, and Youngstown—were once bustling centers of industry and downtown commerce, with wealthy local patrons committed to civic improvements and the arts. In the ’70s they began a decline from which they have not recovered. Today, most are scanted as doleful sites of low–paying service jobs, with shrinking tax bases and little appeal to young professionals or to what urban theorist Richard Florida calls the “creative class.” In Syracuse itself the center of gravity has shifted northward, toward Carousel Mall, leaving a ghostly downtown where Rite–Aid, now the largest store, presides over parking lots and abandoned buildings.

Historians and economic demographers generally attribute the decline of small–to–mid–size cities of 50,000 to 500,000 souls to deindustrialization, since many sit in the Midwestern Rust Belt or the Northeast. But the history of smaller–city decline is more complex than that. Smaller cities were also victims of post–war development policies better suited to large cities—or rather, that were painful, but less disastrous, for large metropolitan areas.

Extraordinary mid–twentieth century changes in transportation, zoning, housing construction, mortgage financing, and domestic taste facilitated the creation of wide swathes of “bourgeois utopias” that now ring our cities far out into the exurbs. They are the products of a radical transformation of land–use policy that extended supply chains with vast highway systems, further separating people from their workplaces, energy producers from consumers, and farmers from their markets. Large cities survived the changes and the resulting onslaught of suburban shopping malls—itself a reaction to extended supply–chains—in the late ’70s. In smaller cities, malls decimated what was left of retail districts already damaged by massive downtown highway systems that choked off commercial centers from surrounding urban neighborhoods.

Neglect of the smaller city, as both place and idea, continued through the rest of the century. As large–metropolitan real estate values skyrocketed in the 1990s, big cities attracted millions of dollars in capital improvements and large–scale development. “New Urbanism” among designers and architects, though not in theory intended only for big cities, attracted funding for pedestrian–friendly thoroughfares, mixed–use building, open spaces, and the preservation of historic architecture that enhanced the metropolitan boom. Now, with the call for reducing the urban carbon footprint, cosmopolitan living is going green. Two recent books proposing models for a low–carbon economy—Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded, and Jay Inslee and Bracken Hendricks’s Apollo’s Fire—speak throughout of “villages” and “large cities.” Not a word for the distinctive role smaller cities might play in a low–carbon world.

That is too bad. Smaller cities have idiosyncratic charms of their own–worthy of sustained attention and renewal. And, fortuitously, they have a distinctive and vital role to play in the work of the new century: small cities will be critical in the move to local agriculture and the development of renewable energy industries. These tasks will almost certainly require a dramatic rethinking of land–use policy, and small cities have assets that large cities lack. Their underused or vacant industrial space and surrounding tracts of farmland make them ideal sites for sustainable land-use policies, or “smart growth.”

Yet current urban planning models offer little guidance on how we might begin to make those changes. Nor, until recently, has there been a national forum that matches smaller–city renewal initiatives to national needs. The Revitalizing Older Cities Congressional Task Force, formed just last year, held its first national summit (organized by the Northeast–Midwest Institute) in mid–February. Local governments and advocates of eco–sustainability must build on this new conversation for they have a shared stake in the future.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Jewel on Euclid Avenue

The next time you are driving past 140th and Euclid; please stop at one of the most exciting library facilities, I have visited--and believe me, I have been in tens of libraries across the country.

The East Cleveland Public library cannot be compared to anything because it is unique--imagine the meeting space at the Cleveland Clinic--that seats over 200 combined with the New Jersey Arts Performance Center or the Oberlin College Conservatory Hall--you get the picture.

Now envision hundreds of books, new computers, meeting spaces, children's room, and much, much more.

While you are visiting, say hi to the Executive Director, Greg Reece, a champion and torchbearer for African Americans in the library industry, who raised close to 3.9 million dollars by himself to achieve a spectacular community space.

All that happens, and is happening in the City of East Cleveland is not poverty, crime, single moms or grandmothers.

What is happening in the City is the illumination of bright minds, inquisitive souls, and hungry people, sharing and appreciating, a treasured community asset.

I'll let you in on a secret, the Great Lakes Theater plans a series of performances at the library, and guess what, the Cleveland orchestra has performed in this space that has a cutting edge concert space and 50,000 Steinway piano.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cisco's Intelligent Urbanisation Initiative

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Our Greatest National Shame- Nicholas Kristof

Our Greatest National Shame

Published: February 14, 2009

So maybe I was wrong. I used to consider health care our greatest national shame, considering that we spend twice as much on medical care as many European nations, yet American children are twice as likely to die before the age of 5 as Czech children — and American women are 11 times as likely to die in childbirth as Irish women.

Skip to next paragraph
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof

On the Ground

Yet I’m coming to think that our No. 1 priority actually must be education. That makes the new fiscal stimulus package a landmark, for it takes a few wobbly steps toward reform and allocates more than $100 billion toward education.

That’s a hefty sum — by comparison, the Education Department’s entire discretionary budget for the year was $59 billion — and it will save America’s schools from the catastrophe that they were facing. A University of Washington study had calculated that the recession would lead to cuts of 574,000 school jobs without a stimulus.

“We dodged a bullet the size of a freight train,” notes Amy Wilkins of the Education Trust, an advocacy group in Washington.

So for those who oppose education spending in the stimulus, a question: Do you really believe that slashing half a million teaching jobs would be fine for the economy, for our children and for our future?

Education Secretary Arne Duncan describes the stimulus as a “staggering opportunity,” the kind that comes once in a lifetime. He argues: “We have to educate our way to a better economy, that’s the only way long term to get there.”

That’s exactly right, and it’s partly why I shifted my views of the relative importance of education and health. One of last year’s smartest books was “The Race Between Education and Technology,” by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz, both Harvard professors. They offer a wealth of evidence to argue that America became the world’s leading nation largely because of its emphasis on mass education at a time when other countries educated only elites (often, only male elites).

They show that America’s educational edge created prosperity and equality alike — but that this edge was eclipsed in about the 1970s, and since then one country after another has surpassed us in education.

Perhaps we should have fought the “war on poverty” with schools — or, as we’ll see in a moment, with teachers.

Some education programs have done remarkably well in overcoming the pathologies of poverty. Children who went through the Perry Preschool program in Michigan, for example, were 25 percent less likely to drop out of high school years later than their peers in a control group, and committed half as many violent felonies. They were one-third less likely to become teenage parents or addicts, and half as likely to get abortions.

Likewise, the KIPP program, the subject of a fine book by Jay Mathews, has attracted rave reviews for schools that turn low-income students’ lives around.

There are legitimate questions about whether such programs are scalable and would succeed if introduced more broadly. But we do know that the existing national school system is broken, and that we’re not trying hard enough to fix it.

“We have a good sense from the data where there are big opportunities,” notes Douglas Staiger, an economist at Dartmouth College who studies education.

The hardest nut to crack is high schools — we don’t have a strong sense yet how to rescue them. But there’s a real excitement at what we are learning about K-8 education.

First, good teachers matter more than anything; they are astonishingly important. It turns out that having a great teacher is far more important than being in a small class, or going to a good school with a mediocre teacher. A Los Angeles study suggested that four consecutive years of having a teacher from the top 25 percent of the pool would erase the black-white testing gap.

Second, our methods to screen potential teachers, or determine which ones are good, don’t work. The latest Department of Education study, published this month, showed again that there is no correlation between teacher certification and teacher effectiveness. Particularly in lower grades, it also doesn’t seem to matter if a teacher has a graduate degree or went to a better college or had higher SATs.

The implication is that throwing money at a broken system won’t fix it, but that resources are necessary as part of a package that involves scrapping certification, measuring better through testing which teachers are effective, and then paying them significantly more — with special bonuses to those who teach in “bad” schools.

One of the greatest injustices is that America’s best teachers overwhelmingly teach America’s most privileged students. In contrast, the most disadvantaged students invariably get the least effective teachers, year after year — until they drop out.

This stimulus package offers a new hope that we may begin to reform our greatest national shame, education.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity: Reweaving Communities

Yesterday, I had the unique and inspiring blessing to have met Jeff Bowen, the Executive Director of the Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity (HFH).

HFH, describes itself as a "Christian-based organization, that develops opportunities for all of God's people to act out their faith. By working in partnerships to eliminate substandard housing, we enable families and volunteers to improve lives. We create hope building homes, strengthening neighborhoods and reweaving communities".

Jeff is an inspirational, passionate, and living witness to partnering with community residents who are low-income, but whose spirits sing powerful songs. HFH provides the opportunity through housing and home ownership, to eliminate impoverished spirits and assists individuals to identify personal and community assets to enrich themselves and the communities in which they live.

Over the course of decades of work in urban and rural communities across the country, rarely have I heard someone describe a process of "reweaving communities". When I think about weaving I think about people I know that weave baskets, blankets, and other fabrics into gloves, blankets, hats, and socks.

Maybe, creating the context for community change involves "reweaving" the assets within neighborhoods; taking different, disparate, and dissimilar pieces of a community and bringing them together. Maybe, its remapping how we think and act, and how we engage, people on the ground. Or, better yet, maybe its how the people on the ground; neighborhood residents engage us.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Envisioning A Futurist City

By envisioning and working towards cultivating the assets; ground and physical space, people and their ingenuity; imagination, hope, and experimentation with the unseen, and untested, but, willing to be wrong, and occasionally right, but still trying.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

FIghting Home Foreclosure

End Homelessness

Join the Fight Against Foreclosure

Published February 04, 2009 @ 09:09PM PST

If you're like me, this foreclosure crisis makes you sick. Every time I read a story about a family losing their home or see pictures of piles of possessions on the side of the road, my stomach aches.

Not only is the foreclosure process inhumane, it's bad for the economic health of our communities. Vacant properties, neighborhood blight, increased homelessness, and declining property values are just a few of the problems we're left with after the onslaught of sub-prime lending.

Indeed, bearing witness to the decaying of our neighborhoods and the suffering of our neighbors can conjure up some serious feelings of being, well, powerless to the foreclosure storm. Not to mention downright furious about how irresponsible and illogical our nation's response has been to this housing mess.

Now don't start slumping and/or seething in your seat just yet. This week, ACORN is rolling out Home Defenders, a program that uses the power of people like you and me to keep people off the streets and in their homes:

ACORN members are launching a Homesteading effort as part of ACORN's comprehensive foreclosure campaign. ACORN is working with its membership and activists around the country to build "Home Defender Teams." These teams will be prepared to mobilize on short notice to peacefully help defend a family's right to stay in their homes until a fair solution to the crisis is put into place by the new Administration. We are recruiting allies and elected officials to support our efforts and call for a full and comprehensive solution to this crisis.

Ah, peaceful disobedience... grassroots organizing... defending a family's right to their home. It's like music to my ears.

Fellow blogger and poverty guru Leigh Graham highlighted this movement earlier today. Together, we'll be bringing you lots of info and updates from ACORN and the Home Defenders program.

Just think: here we have the power to stand up for people in our communities. To prevent foreclosure displacement before it happens while making banks and government officials pay attention.

Here's the game plan:

The Home Defenders program is rolling out in two stages. The first stage will include eight "Tier 1" metro areas: Baltimore, MD; Contra Costa County, CA; Los Angeles, CA; New York, NY; Oakland, CA; Orlando, FL and Tucson, AZ. Initial trainings for people located in these metro areas will take place during the second week in February, with kick-off events scheduled to occur during the 3rd week of the month.

The second stage will include 16 "Tier 2" metro areas: Albany, NY; Boston, MA; Bridgeport, CT; Broward County, FL; Cincinnati, OH; Cleveland, OH; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; Detroit, MI; Durham, NC; Flint, MI; Minneapolis, MN; Pittsburgh, PA; Raleigh, NC; San Mateo County, CA; and Wilmington, DE. Trainings and kick-off events will occur a few weeks after those in the Tier 1 cities.

New cities are continuing to join this campaign, so if you do not live near any of the metro areas listed above, you can still participate in actions to save the homes of families in your community as they come on-board. For people who live in areas that will not have local organizers helping drive this program, ACORN is creating Home Defender Tool-Kits that help you fight back against the crisis in your neighborhood.

I urge you: sign up to become a Home Defender today. Ask 10 friends to do the same. The effects of the foreclosure crisis are devastating to our neighbors and our neighborhoods to sit idly by.

A $10 Laptop

A $10 Laptop In India?

Published February 03, 2009 @ 07:54AM PST

The tech blogosophere is aflutter with news that Indian government officials are planning to announce a new $10 laptop as the centerpiece of an ambitious e-learning campaign to connect thousands of colleges around the country.

From the Guardian:

The computer, known as Sakshat, which translates as "before your eyes", will be launched as part of a new Rs46bn "national mission for education". This envisages a network of laptops from which students can access lectures, coursework and specialist help from anywhere in India, triggering a revolution in education. A number of publishers have reportedly agreed to upload portions of their textbooks on to the system.

The only specs they've released suggest that the laptop will have Wi-Fi and about 2GB RAM. Although Indian companies has a history of launching super cheap products (such as the Tato Nano $2,500 car) there are many who are skeptical that the computer can actually be produced as cheaply as is being suggested:

Rajesh Jain, managing director of Netcore Solutions and a pioneer of low-cost computing in India, said: "You cannot even [make] a computer screen for $20. And India does not build much computer hardware. So where will the savings come from?"

I hope that the Indian government is actually able to deliver on this. They only have a prototype and no manufacturing partner right now, but regardless, the downward pressure on the computer industry is a good thing. One Laptop Per Child hasn't been the magic bullet it intended, but it's certainly opened a conversation about cheap computing that is incredibly important. There need to be financially viable computing options for the developing world. And even though I think mobiles will get people online faster than computers, there are still serious advantages for people having a cheap, capable laptop.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Envisioning New City Blocks: Block by Block

Fact: Out of just three streets in East Cleveland, at least 60+ homes are abandoned and foreclosed. By the way, a few families live on these blocks.

Question: How would you envision and arrive at transforming these blocks into neighborhoods of prosperity?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Power of Asking in Turning Around City Government

Today, about 35 local and regional organizations, foundations, companies and banks came together to support and actively engage the City of East Cleveland in its strategy for revitalization and transformation. No, not three, but 35. It began with an extremely simple concept, but often hard to do. We asked. We invited individuals to attend. We asked for engagement and questions. We asked for people to envision new partnerships, not based on previous relationships, but new ones. We invited individuals in a personal way to participate in a discussion.

I am not implying that "asking" by itself, is a remedy or endpoint. I think it is a constant and often gets over shadowed by the need to get the results, and not as a primary method of authentic networks, and allowing potential partners to respond in a manner that allows for dialogue, shared points of view, and connection/collaboration.

Also, I am not arguing that asking can itself turnaround our nation's cities, but far too often, government operates without asking, without invitations, and just does. Whether in a cloak room or boardroom, under the glare of lights or behind closed doors, creating new visions for our region, demand asking, questions, challenging points of view, and ensuring that, as we create new democratic networks, that the people participate and lead. There is just no other way.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

How we talk about Distressed and Challenged Cities

In the past two days, people have asked me about the extend of poverty and inequality in East Cleveland. All have been well-intentioned, honest and reflective in their questioning. One thing that has come to mind, is the need to re-map how we speak about, and the language we use to describe economically challenged rural and urban neighborhoods. Most of the research literature on "poverty and inequality" mention defecits, the lack of, whether its housing, jobs, education, health care, etc.

Rarely, does the language speak of assets, assets of the people, the physical space, the neighborhoods, access to water, rail, and the overwhelming odds of its children who maintain and achieve despite daunting circumstances. We just put President Obama in the White House, can we not, envision and tackle a new language that speaks addressing the challenges, while using a language that is defeatist and not focused on what we need to solve, rather than on what is wrong?

In Instructions for the Cook, Recipes for New Conversations, my friend, George Nemeth and Jack Ricchiuto, engage in a language and practice of gifts, invitations, dreamspace and small acts.

Stanford Report, January 23, 2009 New center tackles poverty, inequality

Stanford and Harvard are launching a project to develop and evaluate a national policy on poverty and inequality in America.

The Collaboration for Poverty Research will tap the intellectual resources of both institutions to focus attention and garner public support for new measures to attack and solve one of the most significant public problems of our time.

The program links the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality with Harvard Kennedy School's Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy. The partnership will offer a national stage for renewed awareness and action in hopes of improving the lives of the 37 million Americans living below the poverty line.

The Elfenworks Foundation is funding the project with $1.5 million given to Stanford and $2.4 million to Harvard.

"This initiative will help us fight a new smart war on poverty backed by the very best science," said David Grusky, director of the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality. "Good intentions alone are not enough, but when good intentions are combined with the best science then great things can happen."

The collaboration will support four interrelated programs: national task forces to investigate pressing problems pertaining to American poverty and social inequality; a social policy laboratory that promotes science-based evaluations and policy innovations that expand economic opportunity and social mobility; a program of graduate and undergraduate internships that support the national task forces and the social policy laboratory while also training new policymakers; and a series of executive roundtables to foster exchanges between researchers, policymakers and opinion leaders.

"The tentacles of poverty and inequality reach far and deep throughout our society—from our most crowded cities to our farthest rural corners," said Bruce Western, director of Harvard's Program in Inequality and Social Policy. "The challenge for policymakers is to recognize the complexity of the challenge, and to confront it in effective new ways. The collaboration is intended to help bridge the gap between theory and practice, between ideas and impact. We hope to make a significant difference in this effort."

The topics expected to be addressed by the work of the collaboration include urban violence, housing and the poor, immigration and the labor market, economic insecurity, education and the poor, democratizing political participation, unplanned pregnancies, and healthcare reform. Additional topics may also be developed over time.

"America is in the midst of some of the most difficult financial, economic and market conditions we have seen since the 1930s," said Lauren Speeth, chief executive officer of the Elfenworks Foundation. "In light of the times, I feel a profound sense of gratitude that Harvard Kennedy School and Stanford University would join together to address our country's most urgent needs with this initiative."


Saturday, January 24, 2009

More than Charisma

In NYT columnist Bob Herbert's column today, he touches upon President Obama's commitment to the rule and application of law while underscoring its importance with a reference to a quote by Judge Keith.

“Transparency and rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency,” he said. It was a commitment to responsible behavior, and a challenge to the public to hold the Obama administration accountable. It reminded me of the wonderful line written into a federal appeals court ruling in 2002 by Judge Damon Keith:

“Democracies die behind closed doors.”

Imagine what true civic engagement and open democratic networks look and feel like, under a revitalized system in our region. The doors of a new democracy are being organized.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Blessing

"Godspeed and know you take all our best wishes and hopes with you," captures perfectly the sentiment, joy, excitement, anticipation, combined with a knowledge of history was the first comment a friend of mine from Oberlin College sent me this morning when I commented on Facebook about my trip tomorrow to attend the inauguration.

Its a blessing to have the opportunity to witness the inauguration; and to have participated in the campaign for the past year and meet so many positive and uplifting people--inspired by a candidate with not only a message of change; but one who has worked throughout the cities of our country, with visionary leadership and the tools to restore and renew the best ideals of America.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How To Reverse the Trend of Concentrated Poverty

Somehow I missed this article in the Plain Dealer, but thought it relevant to the discussion of urban policy. Comments later.

How to Reverse the Trend of Concentrated Poverty

Concentrated Poverty, Unemployment, Children & Families, Earned Income Tax Credit, Economic Mobility

Alan Berube, Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program

Cleveland Plain Dealer

December 28, 2008 —
One of Cleveland's neighborhoods made the Washington scene earlier this month.

Alas, it wasn't up for a multibillion-dollar bailout.

Instead, the Central neighborhood and 15 other communities across the United States were the centerpiece of a new report published by the Federal Reserve System and the Brookings Institution.

These communities share a simple, disappointing characteristic. In 2000 - the peak of the last economic boom - at least 40 percent of their residents lived below the federal poverty line. That was about three times the national average.

No American needs to look very far to find places like these. Concentrated poverty affects manufacturing cities like Cleveland, and Albany, Ga.; immigrant gateways like Miami, Fla., and Fresno, Calif.; and rural areas like eastern Kentucky and northern Montana. About 4 million poor Americans live in these areas of extremely high poverty.

How did this happen? Policy decisions made decades ago - like clustering thousands of the Cleveland region's public housing units in the Central neighborhood - helped shape their trajectory. So too did economic changes, like the long-run loss of decent-paying manufacturing jobs, or - in rural areas - mining and agricultural jobs.

By allowing poverty to concentrate in these places, we've magnified the problems their poor residents face. For instance, many low-income children in these communities start school not yet "ready to learn." On top of that, though, they attend schools burdened with lots of other poor kids who face similar challenges, and deal with higher levels of neighborhood crime that affect their mental health and educational performance.

The challenges of concentrated poverty extend to many other areas: low adult work-force skills and employment, poor-quality housing and a lack of investment by mainstream businesses.

And that's in a good economy. Today, Central - and thousands of other high-poverty communities like it across the nation - faces even more significant challenges as the United States enters what may be its worst recession in decades.

So what should Washington do for these places and their residents in the face of such difficult circumstances?

First, we must not lose sight of them in the economic turmoil. That's especially true because the roots of this crisis, in the subprime mortgage market, grew in many very poor neighborhoods like Central. As a result, home foreclosure rates in high-poverty communities are more than double the national average.

To stabilize these hard-hit communities, Washington must adopt new measures to prevent foreclosure and provide additional resources and guidance for state and local governments to help them cope with the rising numbers of vacant properties.

Second, a forthcoming economic stimulus package from Washington that could amount to half a trillion dollars or more should not bypass these neighborhoods and their residents.

That implies the need for immediate federal aid to sustain basic public services in states like Ohio, where the deficit for this year already tops $1 billion. It also suggests providing direct assistance to struggling workers and their families, through enhanced unemployment benefits and tax credits.

At the same time, the infrastructure dollars in the package - which could amount to more than $100 billion - must be spent strategically. States should not be permitted to go on expanding highway capacity at the metropolitan fringe, to the detriment of poor communities near the urban core. Cities like Cleveland, and metropolitan organizations like the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, should get their fair share of new transportation funds. And funds should be set aside for training programs that provide low-income residents with a pathway to decent jobs.

Third, we have to rethink neighborhood policy over the longer term.

For too long, government has funded housing, schools and economic development in these communities as though they were islands unto themselves.

That's not how the real economy works. These neighborhoods are part of larger regional labor and housing markets. Decisions made across the Cleveland region, such as where firms locate new jobs, or where families buy homes and send their kids to school, ultimately dictate whether neighborhoods like Central can become real neighborhoods of choice and better connected to economic opportunity.

Public policy must leverage that real economy for the benefit of lower-income residents, by building on smart regional strategies like the Fund for Our Economic Future and WIRE-Net in Northeast Ohio. It should diversify housing in poor communities, but also encourage affordable housing development in wealthier parts of metropolitan areas.

Cleveland's Central neighborhood, like other high-poverty communities across the United States, faces a tough road ahead. Short-term opportunities, and long-term strategies, are needed to help its next generation of residents overcome the challenges of concentrated poverty.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Relevant Quote from Frank Rich

A quote from NYT columnist Frank Rich in a 1/11/09 article:

In the old Pat Moynihan phrase, the Bush years have “defined deviancy down” in terms of how low a standard of ethical behavior we now tolerate as the norm from public officials.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Supreme Court Takes Voting Rights Case

A case with profound historical,constitutional and voting implications, particularly for African American and communities of color whose access to, and passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a true legal achievement. Despite the fact of the Bush administrations policies on voting rights law and civil rights legislation.

In cities like Cleveland, and Cuyahoga County were the process and results for "counting one's vote" has been a constant problem, the possible result in a Roberts Court overturning the Voting Rights Act would have widespread implications for all of us who believe the right to vote is one of the most sacred and personal expressions of being a free people.

Published: January 9, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would decide whether Congress overstepped its constitutional authority in 2006 by extending a central provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The plaintiff in the case, a Texas municipal utility district, has argued that Congress did not take sufficient account of more than four decades of progress toward racial equality that culminated in the recent election of the nation’s first black president.

The court’s decision, expected by June, will help define the Roberts court. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. opposed efforts to expand the voting rights law in 1982 as a young lawyer in the Reagan administration and has expressed skepticism on the court about racial classifications made by the government. The decision will also have significant practical consequences for elections in 16 states.

“This could be the biggest election-law case on the court’s docket since Bush v. Gore,” said Richard L. Hasen, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

The case concerns the requirement in Section 5 of the law that certain state and local governments, mostly in the South, must obtain permission, or “preclearance,” from the Justice Department or a federal court before making changes that affect voting.

The requirement applies to all of nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — and to scores of counties and municipalities in other states that Congress found had a history of discrimination at the polls.

Critics of the law call the preclearance requirement a unique federal intrusion on state sovereignty and a badge of shame for the affected jurisdictions that is no longer justified.

The preclearance requirement, originally set to expire in five years, was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1966 as a rational response to the often flagrantly lawless conduct of Southern officials intent on “perpetuating voting discrimination in the face of adverse federal court decrees.”

Congress has repeatedly extended the requirement: for five years in 1970, seven years in 1975, and 25 years in 1982. Congress renewed the act in 2006 after holding extensive hearings on the persistence of racial discrimination at the polls, again extending the preclearance requirement for 25 years.

The lawsuit challenging the requirement was brought by a municipal utility district in Austin, Tex., established on undeveloped land there in the late 1980s. The district said it had never been accused of voting discrimination and should not be made to seek federal permission to, say, move the location of polling places or consolidate voting for its five-member board with the larger county ballot.

A special three-judge court here upheld the constitutionality of the preclearance requirement in May, saying Congress had acted reasonably in making the judgment that voting discrimination persisted.

The utility district argued to the Supreme Court that Congress had given insufficient weight to social and political changes since the civil rights era. It added that the applicable legal standards had changed since 1966.

There is no reason, the district’s lawyers told the justices, to presume “that jurisdictions first identified four decades ago as needing extraordinary federal oversight” today remain “uniformly incapable or unwilling to fulfill their obligations to faithfully protect the voting rights of all citizens in those parts of the country.”

In addition, the district argued, a 1997 Supreme Court decision, City of Boerne v. Flores, imposed a more demanding standard for deciding whether Congress exceeded its authority than mere rationality by requiring “congruence and proportionality” between the harm in question and the means used to prevent it.

The special court had ruled that the more relaxed level of scrutiny used by the Supreme Court to uphold the law in the 1966 case, South Carolina v. Katzenbach, should apply. But it added that the recent extension of the preclearance requirement passed the more demanding “congruence and proportionality” test, too.

The Supreme Court can avoid the larger issue in the new case, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Mukasey, No. 08-322, if it chooses to accept the utility district’s argument on a subsidiary point. The district says it should be entitled to relief under a provision in the voting rights law that allows political subdivisions with clean discrimination records for 10 years to “bail out” from the preclearance requirement with court approval.

The special court said the provision was available only to government units that register voters, and the utility district does not.

In November the Bush administration filed a brief defending the law that urged the Supreme Court to affirm the lower court’s decision without further briefing and argument. (The Voting Rights Act contains unusual jurisdictional provisions, which account for the special lower court and which allow a direct appeal to the Supreme Court.)

The Supreme Court also agreed on Friday to hear three other cases, two of them involving the combustible issue of how the government treats racial and other minorities.

One of them, Ricci v. DeStefano, No. 07-1428, arose from a test given to firefighters who sought promotions in New Haven. White candidates passed the test at a much higher rate than minority candidates, and very few Hispanics and no blacks qualified for the available positions. A civil service board threw out the test, and no one was promoted.

A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in New York rejected a lawsuit brought by white and Hispanic firefighters claiming race discrimination. The full appeals court, by a vote of 7 to 6, declined to hear the case.

Dissenting from that decision, Judge Jose A. Cabranes wrote that the case “presented a straightforward question: May a municipal employer disregard the results of a qualifying examination, which was carefully constructed to ensure race-neutrality, on the ground that the results of that examination yielded too many qualified applicants of one race and not enough of another?”

The court will also hear Horne v. Flores, No. 08-289, concerning whether lower courts were correct in ruling that Arizona is not spending enough money to help students there overcome language barriers.

Finally, the court agreed to hear Iraq v. Beaty, No. 07-1090, concerning whether people who were mistreated in Iraq under the government of Saddam Hussein may recover damages from the nation’s current government. The Justice Department had urged the court to hear the case and rule that the current government of Iraq enjoyed sovereign immunity from such claims.

Whatever It Takes

As a young outreach worker in Central Harlem in the late 80's, I learned the model of grassroots neighborhood empowerment and advocacy on behalf of low income families and children.

I recall, Louis, among many African American and Latino/a children given more than hope, rather, an after school program of wrap-around educational, social service, and enrichment initiatives--sometimes 24/7. I witnessed the public school system, take the air out of the spirits and souls of children; similar to Jonathan Kozol's book title: Death At An Early Age.

I had the opportunity to work at Rheedlen Foundation, (as it was back then), and knew Geoff, Joe, and Richard Murphy.

In so many respects, I owe them and the families much gratitude for the opportunity to work alongside them, and more importantly, to have witnessed what Harlem Children Zone has become and will continue to do, on behalf of children and families in NYC.

If you can, purchase the book by Paul Tough about Geoffrey Canada's work, or read a few of Canada's books.

But, by all means, read one.

Whatever It Takes

Written by New York Times editor Paul Tough, "Whatever It Takes," is a compelling, in-depth look at the ground-breaking work of the Harlem Children's Zone and its leader, Geoffrey Canada.

Tough spent five years researching the work of HCZ, interviewing staff, students and parents. In addition, Tough surveys the theoretical underpinnings of HCZ's work, talking to national experts in education and poverty. "Whatever It Takes" was named one of the "Best Books of 2008" by the editors of The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

[pdf] Read excerpts here

Mayor Frank Jackson's Urban Policy Agenda

Below is a link to Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's Urban Policy (campaign) agenda for the City of Cleveland in 2009.

During the presidential campaign, Senator Hillary Clinton and then, Senator Barack Obama responded to Mayor Jackson's policy paper, with broad outlines of each of their plans for our cities.

Missing from Jackson's paper is the role and funding from the federal empowerment zone. More on the specifics of this "agenda" and comments later.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Judge A. Leon Higginbotham

Eating Crow at a Dinner for Wall St.

A great post by NYT business columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin. Even though, it is focused on the Wall Street titans of the "downtown's," their actions have resulted in an unprecedented financial and foreclosure crisis that has directly resulted in the financial mess in cities like Cleveland and many others.

| January 06, 2009
DealBook Column: Eating Crow at a Dinner for Wall St.
Many heavy hitters on Wall Street, even those who did not get burned badly, should be glad that 2008 is history.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Council of Development Finance Agencies Briefing to Obama Transition

Below is a link to the Council of Development Finance Agencies press release discussing their recent briefing to the Obama Transition Team on economic development finance agencies. Actually, this membership organization is located in downtown Cleveland.$FILE/CDFA%20Legislative%20Release%2012-18%20revised.pdf

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Putting the Inner City First-Making the Case For an Inner City Policy

Below is a link to a September 2008 presentation by Michael Porter, professor of business at Harvard Business School and President/CEO of the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City.
Interesting and provocative presentation. Others have referred to inner cities as places of emerging markets; markets that are underutilized, undervalued, but possess tremendous asset markers for reinvestment and community wealth potential. In other blog posts, I'll explain why.

Initiative for a Competitive Inner City Forum-Focus on Inner City Economies

Spotlight: The Inner City Policy Unit

Inner City Economies: Distinct in Analysis, Distinct for Federal Policy

The Summit’s opening session set the framework for the overall event. Dr. Michael E. Porter, ICIC’s CEO and Founder, set the agenda by arguing that inner city economies, while closely linked to the growth and vitality of the regions and metropolitan areas that they belong to, merit distinct and targeted analysis and policy making to account for their unique assets and challenges. Bruce Katz, Director of the Metropolitan Policy program at the Brookings Institution then outlined the “Blueprint for American Prosperity,” advocating that the health of the US economy hinges on the economic strength of America’s metropolitan areas, the areas in which two-thirds of the US population lives and three-quarters of the US’s gross domestic product is created.

Both presenters situated the discussion within the context of the federal policies and programs most critical to America’s urban areas.

Dr. Michael Porter

Dr. Porter began by reminding the audience about the troubling and complicated macroeconomic situation in US financial markets. He also reminded the audience of the importance of the presidential election; the election of 2008 was the first national election since 1952 without an incumbent, and represented a real opportunity to make inroads and move beyond the failed narratives of both parties. Porter explained that ICIC and Brookings have formed a partnership with the very specific goal of having a concrete, actionable, deeply thought-out federal policy agenda for inner cities ready to present to the new administration in the spring.

Porter asked the audience to consider why the US actually needs to have a federal policy that focuses on inner cities. Even in times when the national economy does well, there are chronic deficits in inner city performance. The 100 largest inner cities as of 2000 consisted of 0.1% of US land area; 8% of US population; 19% of US poverty; and 32% of US Minority poverty. Obviously, poverty is more prevalent in inner cities. It is not, however, intractable. Porter posited that the US needs not only a national economic policy, but an economic policy focused on regions and metropolitan areas.

The national economy is a collection of regional economies, Porter reminded the audience. Many of the advantages and strengths and weaknesses that affect economic growth are actually contained and controlled at the metropolitan level. Metropolitan or regional growth helps inner cities. If metropolitan areas are healthy, that health makes an impact on the economically distressed census tracks contiguous within the urban area. The inner city does better in a rapidly growing metropolitan area, but a gap remains; metropolitan growth accounts for only about 30% of inner city growth.

How do we determine priorities for what really needs to be done? How should we change skills training as it impacts distressed communities? How do we change and improve in other policy buckets? Healthy regional economies are necessary but not sufficient. Federal policies can and should strengthen the inherent competitive advantages of the inner city: strategic location; underutilized workforce; unmet demand; and linkage to regional growth clusters

Four policy areas are of clear and unambiguous impact on inner cities and their economies: workforce training, infrastructure, capital access, and cluster development.

Wages are lower in inner cities than in the rest of the US for all demographic groups. For each 1% growth in central city job creation, there is a 0.9% decline in central city poverty. Between 1998 and 2006, the 100 largest inner cities added 10,000 jobs while their regions added over 6 million. Inner city growth in business formation also lags in the region. Workers with a high school degree or less have seen their wages essentially stagnate since the 1970s; most of the gains have gone to workers with higher education. Workforce training has a huge impact on the wages of workers without a college degree. Within the next 20 years, 40 percent of the US workforce will be African-American and Hispanic, yet only about 13 percent of Hispanics and 18 percent of African-Americans have a bachelor's degree. There are huge racial and ethnic disparities in education, Porter said, which affects not just an individual ability to compete, but the country's ability to compete.

Porter then moved on to discuss inner city infrastructure investments. Transportation and logistics used to be the most concentrated cluster in inner cities in America, but have dropped to the ninth-ranked cluster. The inner city has lost position in clusters that used to be really critical clusters for inner city locations. Inner city infrastructure has also improved more slowly than rural infrastructure. Porter suggested that the US should base its investments on economic impact rather than politics.

He also recommended that the federal government look at inner city infrastructure investments as not just isolated to the inner city. Instead, they affect the efficiency of the overall region's infrastructure.

In terms of capital flow, Porter reiterated the need for business investment in inner cities. Many of the capital projects and federal capital programs that relate to inner cities are not focused on business; they tend to be heavily focused on real estate. Although real estate can affect business success, the US needs a policy more focused on funds that invest in business.

Porter also suggested that federal policy must be leveraged to benefit multiple clusters. The largest inner city clusters are in local health, local commercial services, and local hospitality. Anchor clusters are in construction, transportation and knowledge creation and education; and there is emerging strength in inner cities in entertainment, hospitality, and tourism.

The question that remains is how to craft federal programs and incentives that will encourage regions to focus their attention on these clusters. Porter ended by encouraging investments to revitalize and improve some of these clusters. The opportunity is now, he said, and the need is great to understand what inner city policies look like.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Can Cities Save the Planet? Article from Slate

Can Cities Save the Planet?Scientists are skeptical. Planners are hopeful. The Dutch are pragmatic.

Still from a promotional movie called “Winning with Water” from Innovation Platform.According to Timothy Beatley, an urban-planning professor at the University of Virginia and the author of Green Urbanism, the per-capita carbon dioxide emissions of American cities are almost twice as high as those of their European counterparts. Hardly surprising, since European cities are denser and more compact, homes are smaller, and people rely to a far greater extent on mass transit. So if Americans are to significantly reduce their carbon footprint, we will have to do a lot more than switch to reusable shopping bags and recycle our soda cans. But as a recent conference on "urban design after the age of oil" at the University of Pennsylvania (where I teach) demonstrated, there is something of a disconnect between the global-warming problem and the available solutions.

The problem is easily stated. In 1950, the global emission of carbon dioxide was 6 billion tons a year. Thanks to population growth, urbanization, the expansion of wealth, and massive industrialization around the world, by 2008 this has increased fivefold to 30 billion tons a year. Assuming that nothing is done to reduce emissions, by 2058, they will be 60 billion tons a year. Thus, to reduce global warming, whose effects are already beginning to be felt, it will be necessary to take drastic measures just to stay at the present level, never mind actually making real progress. For example, to reduce the number of coal-fired generating plants, nuclear capacity in the United States will have to be doubled. To reduce car emissions, either Americans will have to drive half as many miles per year or cars will have to be twice as efficient. Buildings will have to use 25 percent less electricity.

The Penn conference featured many speakers proposing changes, large and small, as to how buildings and cities should be designed. The scientists were hard-nosed and slightly scary. Planning consultants were authoritative and self-assured—as planning consultants tend to be. They described new carbon-neutral cities, with wind farms and solar arrays, green roofs and urban farms, far-ranging mass transit, and large-scale water recycling. The Power Point images were mesmerizing. Most of the projects appear to be in the Gulf states. In the present economy, most are, I suspect, on hold.

A word that came up frequently was holistic, the implication being that we shouldn't change one thing until we know how it affects everything else. But that is not the way cities develop. The technologies that improved urban life in the past—gas lighting, pressurized water, electricity, streetcars, elevators—were developed separately, each according to its own technological schedule. This autonomy accounted, in large part, for the success of the industrial age. The other implication of holistic is that, by taking everything into account, we can control the future. But technologies have always had unintended consequences. Streetcars, for example, which replaced horse-drawn omnibuses and were not only faster but considerably cleaner, also encouraged suburban growth, enabled commercial strips to develop along rights of way, and created amusement parks (Coney Island in New York, Natatorium Park in Spokane, Wash.) as end-of-line destinations. One would expect green technologies to similarly produce unforeseen side effects.

Another thing strikes me about green urbanism. Even assuming that anything at all gets built in the coming economic depression—during the Great Depression of the 1930s, building construction virtually halted—creating new cities and reconfiguring old ones will take many decades. We don't have that much time. On the other hand, Americans' rapid change in driving habits during the gas-price run-up of summer 2008 suggests that people can quickly alter the ways they behave: driving less, walking more, turning down the thermostat, turning off the lights. Yes, we should eventually change the way we build and plan cities, but it might be more effective in the short run to change the way we live in them.

Most of the planners at the Penn conference emphasized technological fixes, but if the point of no return has already been passed in global warming, as some of the scientists at the conference suggested, protective measures are at least as important, not least against the anticipated rise in sea levels. In that regard, I note an interesting news item from the Netherlands. The Dutch Parliament has asked a commission on coastal development to examine the idea of building a massive man-made island in the North Sea. The 31-mile-long island will provide 274,000 acres for housing and farming. Not coincidentally, the so-called Tulip Island (named because of its shape) will also act as a storm-surge barrier. The Dutch, who have managed water in their low-lying country for centuries, are the canaries in the coal mine as far as rising sea levels are concerned. Other coastal cities—and most large cities are on the water—should take note.

Politics of Indignation Book Review

Pedagogy of Indignation

reviewed by Peter Lucas — 2006

coverTitle: Pedagogy of Indignation
Author(s): Paulo Freire
Publisher: Paradigm Publishers, Boulder
ISBN: 1594510512, Pages: 129, Year: 2004
Search for book at

In the last years of his life, the Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire was a prolific writer. He wrote books, published letters, and several of his extended conversations were transcribed into “talking books.” Although Freire will always be known for his early works such as Pedagogy of the Oppressed, published in 1970, his later work also deserves attention (Freire, 1970). Many people, myself included, actually prefer his later work because Freire’s writing was more poetic, more sensitive to gender, and more expansive.

When Teachers College Record asked me to review Freire’s Pedagogy of Indignation, I was filled with both a sense of wonder and loss knowing that this was Freire’s final book. While there may still be more Freire books in the future once all of his collected papers and interviews are translated, this title will undoubtedly become an important study for the simple but profound reason that these chapters were his final thoughts before he died on May 2, 1997. Freire was without a doubt one of the most important educational philosophers since John Dewey and as was the case with other great international writers who have recently passed on, such as Edward Said, Susan Sontag, or Jacques Derrida, we’re curious as to what he was thinking about in his final days.

I also wanted to write about Freire as a means of exploring the connection between Freire and peace education/human rights. Freire’s insistence that education must lead to critical consciousness and social transformation has inspired an international movement for transformational education. Freire’s themes of critical literacy, the analysis of power and systemic oppression, desocialization of regressive social values, advocacy and research, and self-education/self mobilization have supported the most progressive forms of human rights and peace.

As a professor of peace education and human rights, I’ve always used Freire’s books to help build the theoretical scaffolding for my students. My favorite book to use is We Make the Road By Walking, Freire’s thoughtful fireside chat with Myles Horton about their respective lives as grassroots adult educators (Horton and Freire, 1995). The students are just as impressed with Horton’s literacy projects in the American South as with Freire’s international career. Two ideas from this book seem to resonate for first time readers, Freire’s conviction that all education is political and Horton’s radical call that one has to “bootleg” progressive education.

Many of my students are studying to become peace educators in the third sector, and these days, most NGOs have educational projects. In order to experience these non-official spaces where transformative education happens, I take my students to Brazil every summer to study the everyday practice of human rights in the favela communities in Rio. It’s not a surprise that workers inside the NGOs in Rio relate to Freire much more than teachers in the schools. In fact, many of the human rights educators we meet were once school teachers who eventually left the formal school system in order to practice more progressive educational ideas in the informal system.

Pedagogy of Indignation opens with the long-time champion of Freire’s theories, Donaldo Macedo, lamenting the exclusion of Freire from mainstream teacher training programs. Macedo, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, vents his own frustration about the exclusion of Freire at elite schools such as Harvard. On one hand, I find Macedo’s shaming of certain professors by name a bit distasteful, but this is not the first time Macedo has named people for their inconsistent and partial understanding of Freire’s project (Freire, 1998). On the other hand, I share Macedo’s fury as I look around at my closest colleagues in the academy, and I am shocked at the absence of ethics behind the facade of progressive education.

In his last book, Freire wanted to recover the politics of anger. Comprised of what Freire calls “pedagogical letters,” his final handwritten essays were a means of reflecting on the world in order to denounce and call attention to injustice and systematic oppression. For Freire, this critical “reading the world” should be the educator’s ontological vocation. There is nothing neutral about our presence in the world, according to Freire, and before we can begin to change the world, we have to name it, critically understand it, and develop an ethical relationship with the world. This need for testimony is the first part of Freire’s universal ethics.

In Pedagogy of Indignation, Freire’s “just ire” focuses on themes that one would expect such as poverty and the struggle for literacy, globalization and power, democracy and the ethics of the market. Freire also introduces and amplifies a few new issues such as agrarian reform in Brazil, the tension between parental control and permissiveness, Freire’s personal battle with tobacco addiction, and the five hundredth anniversary of the “discovery of America.”

In the middle of the book, there is a small letter about the shocking murder of Galdino Jesus Do Santos, a Native Pataxo Brazilian who was set on fire while sleeping in Brasilia. The fact that his body was burned by a group of teenage boys as a cruel prank perplexed Freire to no end. His response was to reflect and denounce the violence inflicted on those who are perceived to be “lesser shadows” in the world - the poor, the beggars, Blacks, women, rural workers, factory workers, and Indians (p. 46). Freire likened this “tragic transgression of ethics” to the abuse of animals and to the endless ecological violence in Brazil. Many of Freire’s generative themes are distilled in these three pages: violence, dehumanization, the holistic connection between one tragedy and a larger culture of violence, and the need for tolerance and education to change this kind of world. I read this letter several times, and I’ll most likely return to it again and again for its clarity, indignation, and the fact that these were the final words that Freire wrote just before he died.

Reading the world and denouncing violence for Freire was but only one part of the critical dialectic needed for social change. Freire’s letters stress resistance, struggle, hope, and the dream of utopia. Every Freire book revolves around the notion of praxis, the merger of critical reflection and action. “Denouncing and announcing, when part of the process of critically reading the world, give birth to the dream for which one fights” (p. 18). Before Freire talks about this dream, it’s important to recognize the importance of reflecting and giving testimony:

What I mean to say is this: To the extent that we become capable of transforming our world, of naming our own surroundings, of apprehending, of making sense of things, of deciding, of choosing, of valuing, and finally, of ethicizing the world, our mobility within it and through history necessarily comes to involve dreams toward whose realization we struggle (p. 7).

For long-time students of Freire this quote is a variation on a theme from any number of books. But everyday, people are reading Freire for the first time, young students are discovering him, and seasoned educators still re-read Freire to retool their transformative capacities. I chose this sentence because of the two italicized words - ethicizing and dreams. It’s here that we can feel Freire’s influence on the human rights and peace education movement.

Unlike the majority of teacher training programs, which still espouse that schooling is somehow neutral, peace education is necessarily value-based. For me, the main values that are needed while ethicizing the world are the normative standards of human rights. One senses that had Freire lived a few years more, he would have written more directly about the human rights movement. But his theories about critically reading and reflecting on the world, denouncing violence in all of its various manifestations, and choosing a value system in order to guide the change process, are right in line with comprehensive peace education.

In Pedagogy of Indignation, Freire writes about one of the most dynamic social movements in the world, the Landless Movement in Brazil, otherwise popularly known as the MST (Movimento Sem Terra). For Freire, the MST reflects the vitality of popular mobilization, where people who dream take political action and begin to generate real change. Having visited a couple of MST camps with my students, and having talked at length with MST educators, I found that their adult education programs and schooling for children are rooted in Freirian pedagogy of problematizing local generative themes in order to merge reflection and action into an ethical system of transformative education for life.

The themes of denouncing, reflection, and announcing woven throughout Pedagogy of Indignation directly correlate to the fundamental tenets of the international human rights movement. Someone has to denounce the widespread inequality inherent to land ownership, use the normative standards of human rights as a means of ethical reflection, and announce a response through social action in order to change oppressive conditions. That, in essence, is the same strategy as the human rights movement.

But Freire was an educator at heart. His teachings also bespoke of comprehensive peace education. In the peace education movement, strategies for peace are often conceptualized as “negative peace” and “positive peace.” Negative peace refers to the practices to stop violence in its various forms. Most human rights work is carried out in the classic tradition of negative peace. Positive peace is more pedagogical, future-oriented, and transformational. How can we create the social conditions in the future to establish a culture of peace? That is the fundamental question for peace education.

Positive peace relies on education initiatives and Freire’s vision and dreams have influenced human rights and peace educators around the world. I should clarify that peace education serves as a larger conceptual umbrella for human rights education. Basically, there are three models of human rights education, those programs that serve to raise awareness of human rights situations and values such as most school-based initiatives; human rights training for specific professions such as human rights education for police or journalists; and transformative human rights education which seeks to effect lasting social change. It is this last model that combines Freire’s themes and links human rights education to comprehensive peace education.

Positive peace education draws on the normative human rights standards as the underlying values needed to support a culture of peace. Human rights function as conceptual frameworks for peace education in the sense that the normative standards are a core set of ethicizing ideas which emphasize the process of understanding the value of these rights and the inter-relationship between all human rights standards in a holistic way. In the long run, this process perspective is more important than any specific generative themes inherent to, for example, agrarian reform in Brazil, because of the many potential human rights themes one has to negotiate in everyday life. This sense of struggle to attain one’s dreams is ingrained in Freirian pedagogy, and it is why human rights and peace workers are so passionate about Freire’s role in their praxis.

In Pedagogy of Indignation, Freire contrasts the “dark cloud” of fatalism with hope, and his anger with love. Fatalism in the human rights and peace movement (not to mention education) is a constant refrain. Dreams, envisioning change, and struggling for liberation are Freire’s strategies for refusing to submit to the pessimistic mind set which endlessly reproduces itself. Freire writes that: “Tomorrow is neither a necessary repetition of today, as the dominant would like it to be, nor something predetermined. Tomorrow is a possibility we need to work out, and, above all, one we must fight to build” (p. 75).

A constant refrain in Freire’s final thoughts was that as difficult as change is, there’s always possibility for transformation. Freire ends his book with two stunning essays on education, dreams, hope, and utopia. Denouncing for Freire announces a better world. Freire is writing in the spirit of human rights here when he reiterates that announcing is not possible without denouncing. The possibility of reinventing the world dovetails with the ultimate goals of transformative positive peace education. This matrix of hope for Freire is about being in the existential world, experiencing life with all the senses, achieving critical consciousness - not just of the problems of the world but also about the self’s presence in the world - realizing that historical

conditions always construct the self in space and time, intervening in the name of ethical standards, and striving for the utopia of a just world.

In his final book, Freire laments the tragic transgressions of ethics in the world. There is no shortage of transgressions. And as much as we denounce and respond to violence, we must also look to the future. In his lifetime, Freire played a major role in providing the theoretical scaffolding for the human rights and peace education movement. The struggle continues. Recovering an ethical relationship involves education and the resolve that one is capable of transforming the world. Freire never lost sight of that vision. At the end of his life, he reflexively wrote: “While a presence in history and in the world and filled with hope, I fight for the dream, for the utopia, for the hope itself, in a critical pedagogical perspective. And that is not a vain struggle” (p. 102).


Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum Publishing Company.

Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of freedom: Ethics, democracy, and civic courage. Forward by Dolaldo Macedo. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Horton, M., and Freire, P. (1991). We make the road by walking: Conversations on education and social change. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 1, 2006, p. 17-22 ID Number: 11884, Date Accessed: 1/2/2009 4:07:00 PM