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

Yes, The Federal Empowerment Zone Program and Its Advocates are Still Fighting.

The federal empowerment zone program and its advocates are alive and well in bringing to the forefront the need for legislation on the reintroduced Empowerment Zone and Renewal Community Enhancement Act of 2007. As the former director of the Cleveland Empowerment Zone, and current member of this coalition, movement, organization, political advocacy on the ground and in the halls of Congress are aggressively lobbying for its expansion and support under the Obama administration.

Below is an except from a letter to the EZ/EC coalition, that describes the public and political education campaign that is being undertaken on behalf of Empowerment Zone program around the country.

Just a reminder that Congress convenes Monday and that contacts with your Senators or Representatives while they are in state/district can be highly effective. We need their support for the reintroduced Empowerment Zone and Renewal Community Enhancement Act of 2007 [Senate: S 1627 and House: HR 2578]--likely title at reintroduction: The Empowerment Zone, Renewal Community, and Enterprise Community Enhancement Act of 2009.

Ask your Senators to make contacts on behalf of the EZRCEC Coalition: 1] Contact Senator Blanche Lincoln [AR] or Senator Olympia Snowe [ME] and to sign on as an original cosponsor of the reintroduced EZRCEC Enhancement Act and to indicate their support for inclusion of the bill in the recovery bill; 2] Contact Senator Herb Kohl, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee and indicate their support for inclusion of the rural enterprise communities and empowerment zones in the omnibus appropriations bill to be considered early in the 111th Congress [Unlike the empowerment zones and renewal communities, the 20 rural ECs were created through an appropriations act and including them in the omnibus bill is a must happen in order to extend the enterprise communities through 2009 and, thus, to keep them eligible for the full extension in the Enhancement ACT; i.e., through 2015; and 3] contact Senator Daniel Inouoye and Senator Thad Cochran, Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate Appropriations Committee in support of the above and appropriations for the urban EZs and RCs.

Ask your Representatives to make contacts on behalf of the EZRCEC Coaliltion: 1] Contact Representative Artur Davis [AL-7] or Representative Rodney Alexander [LA-5] and sign on as an original cosponsor of the reintroduced EZRCEC Enhancement Act and indicate their support for inclusion of the bill in the recovery bill; 2] Contact Representative Rosa DeLauro [CT], Chair of the House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee and indicate their support for inclusion of the rural enterprise communities and empowerment zones in the omnibus appropriations bill to be considered early in the 111th Congress [Unlike the empowerment zones and renewal communities, the 20 rural ECs were created through an appropriations act and including them in the omnibus bill is a must happen in order to extend the enterprise communities through 2009 and, thus, to keep them eligible for the full extension in the Enhancement ACT; i.e., through 2015; and 3] contact Representative David Obey [WI] and Representative Jerry Lewis [CA], Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the House Appropriations Committee in support of the above and appropriations for the urban EZs and RCs.

Also, please make your plans to participate with the Coalition on the HILL the week of January 12. You need to make your appointments as quickly as possible. If you cannot be in DC, make the appointment and Coalition members will meet with the respective offices on your behalf. Let me know as soon as possible whether you will be in DC, when you will be there, and appointments you have made. Also let me know if others will be there on your behalf. I need your [and/or their] email address and telephone # while in DC.

I will be in DC the full week and others will also be there and be available to assist where needed or wanted. It is particularly important that you arrange Coalition briefings for members from your state of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees. The members want to hear it from their home base, as directly as possible. But, even if your EZRCEC is not in the Representative's district but the Representative is from your state and on the Ways and Means Committee, make the contact, set up a briefing appointment.

While our focus remains on members of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees, every Senator and Representative is important to the Coalition. The capital in the capitol is relationship. The wheels do not turn without that lubricant. Do not assume that your freshman member is not able to influence a decision, Do not assume that your Republican Representative cannot influence a House decision. While party and senority are important in DC, the members of Congress are more capable of reaching beyond party and ideology than we give them credit for. Some issues are decided on their own merits. If you look at our primary Senate and House sponsors, I think you will agree that the Coalition's issues are among those of merit. So, let's get talking.

Med-Mart Miscommunications

I will not comment on the following quote from Mayor Frank Jackson in today's Plain Dealer concerning the postponement of the Cleveland Medical Mart. You comment and decide.

A one-month delay isn't a lot of time for a project that has been in the works for two years, but the postponement irked Jackson because he learned of it by reading a story in Thursday's Plain Dealer. The original deadline for deciding on a medical mart site was Jan. 15.

"If someone would have called me and given me the rationale as to why it needed to happen and if in fact it made sense," the mayor said, "I would have done what I have done so far, which is work with them in order to come up with the best solution for the city and the region."

Community-Owned Media

Community-Owned Media: What Does It Mean?

Many people today who work in social change are convinced that the typical 'top down' approach to development, where bureaucrats and international agencies design large-scale social programs and then impose them on millions of poor people, isn't working. Instead, they favor the idea of 'community-led development', in which communities themselves design the social programs, and interventions only arise from the stated needs of the communities. The goals of all these programs is the idea of eventual 'community ownership' of programs themselves and of the social change process. It means that communities won't only participate, but they will be able to drive social change in their area entirely on their own without outside intervention (except perhaps financial support.) This is seen as the most sustainable way to address poverty for millions of people.

For Video Volunteers, this is also the goal of the community video program--that the Community Video Units (CVUs) we set up will be 'owned' by the local communities, the villagers and slumdwellers in whose area the CVU is running. But what exactly does it mean for us? Here's one way to put it: when a CVU is entirely owned and loved by that community, it would mean that if anyone ever attempted to shut it down or the money dried up, local people would be banging on the CVU door saying, 'we will not let this close. This is our media, we need it, and we will do whatever it takes to keep it going.'

As Rehana, a Producer at our Community Video Unit Samvad put it recently, "I got in an auto a while back and the auto driver said, 'hey, I recognize you. You're the Reporter for the films being made for our area. Great job.'" "Right now," she said, "the communities know and recognize us. They know we are from here and we represent them. In time, we want them to need us, to know that this is THEIR media, that's what we are working towards.'

What will a CVU look like when it is owned by the Community? People will be stopping the Producers in the street saying, 'you must tell this story. Come with me now, there is something happening that must be filmed.' People will be offering to contribute financially to the running of the CVU. They will be helping the CVU expand into other geographic areas and other technologies, like running radio stations or setting up internet portals for that community. There will be continuous communication between the CVU and local people that means that the CVU provides the information that is critical to the community, and the community helps them produce the most meaningful journalism for that area, resulting in a much more informed and active local population.

The CVU model is devised to allow that to happen. It works in a tight geographic area of only 25- 50 villages or slums and all research, stories, and screenings happens in that area. The producers are from those 25 slums or villages too. The villagers 'see' the producers constantly and also know that they will be coming back next month, which makes them much more likely to get involved. (this is similar to how we all are much more likely to write 'letters to the editor' of a magazine that you know will appear next month than to the publisher of a book you read.) Our NGO partners, who invest in and manage the CVUs, agree that the goal is to eventually register each CVU as an independent organization. They do not view the CVUs as mouthpieces for their NGOs; they allow the CVUs to address issues their NGO may not work on, and give the CVUs names independent of their NGOs.

As Rehana said above, we are not there yet, but we are getting there. Community members now come more frequently for Editorial Board meetings and give better and more concrete ideas. CVUs have active volunteers in their screening areas, with community members giving electricity for the screenings and even whitewashing the walls of dedicated screening areas so the producers don't have to carry a big screen. Some villages have offered to pay for screenings, and community members are often coming to ask for copies of films they appeared in or would like to show to their neighbors as part of their own activism.

After two years of work, the Producers have understood the key to having their communities 'own' the CVUs: it is only possible when the communities see it is making an impact and delivering results that improve their lives. To date, more than 2000 people have taken action in their local communities as a result of the films, and this is why we believe we will achieve some of the first truly community-owned and led media operations anywhere in the world.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Creative Ways of Utilizing New Market Tax Credits

A friend of mine, sent me this link to an article describing how a coalition of southeast Wisconsin organizations have utilized New Market Tax Credits (NMTC) to redevelop depressed manufacturing neighborhoods. Initiatives of this type, along with an intensive focus on brownfield remediation for business attraction and development, place the importance on cultivating and remapping large scale available land for business, recreation and job creation. We have the resources and know-how here, let's get a coalition together and move forward.