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#ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014 entry #13: Laura Pulido

Laura Pulido is Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. She’s one of those wonderful scholars I’ve followed long before I ever came to USC because of her work in urban inequality and social justice, but the book I’m going to highlight today is absolutely wonderful:

Pulido, L. 2006. Black, Brown, Yellow and Left: Radical Activism in Los Angeles. University of California Press.

Two of my favorite topics are here: place and political activism. She develops the history of the Black Panthers in Los Angeles, as well as the El Centro de Acción Social y Autonomo and East Wind (a Japanese American Collective). Pulido traces these groups’s histories to help ground theory in the sociological underpinnings of the Third World Left and its organizing in Los Angeles. Her time period is the 1960s through the 1970s, but she follows up on activists who are still alive to see what they are up to and their perceptions of what their groups and activities came to mean to organizing and Los Angeles.

The two key chapters that I really like in the book are

Chapter 6. The Politics of Solidarity: Interethnic Relations in the Third World Left; and

Chapter 7. Patriarchy and Revolution: Gender Relations in the Third World Left

In chapter 6, Pulido demonstrates how groups based in Los Angeles worked around problems that arise around interethnic organizing. Geography influenced the forms and activities these groups took on, but their intentions were to contribute to national and international change. Ultimately, Pulido argues they wound up being primarily nationalistic in the orientation. She discusses the hierarchy and prejudice embodied in the movements themselves: of all the groups that sought to work across race and ethnic lines, East Wind was the most active, and the most likely to be rejected because they were an Asian group and, thus, viewed as more privileged and less ‘real’ as revolutionaries than members of the Black Panther Party.

In chapter 7, she highlights the way in which women worked within organizations where high profile positions were assumed to be male by right but where women did an enormous amount of the work. Here, the research examines how women in each organization struggled with dual demands placed on women within ethnic organizations, between their goals for women’s emancipation and for sharing in the work and goals of the race, class, and ethnic organizations where they were often treated as second class members.

I like this book a great deal. I wish she had cluttered the writing a little more with specific sources, but it’s a wonderful read about an important topic (urban transnational organizing).

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Infrastructure and police as avenues for corruption

via the brilliant Joseph Cordes, we have from Governing “What Corrupt States Spend Their Money On.” it is a summary of a study published in PAR from John Mikesell at IU and Cheol Liu of the University of Hong Kong. Infrastructure in my title is a bit of a misnomer: it’s highways. My favorite story along these lines included a privatization deal a few years back involving the Louisiana governor and his sons in law. Anyway, there are secondary consequences of the leakage:

A quote:

The shakedown culture can also be a deterrent to economic development, with developers who are attempting to play fair getting disenchanted by pay-to-play politics, he added. After all, there’s little incentive to spend time and money on a bid when the winning bidder has already bought political favor. Public confidence in government is also a hidden – and immeasurable – cost of corruption, added Sergio Acosta, a corporate attorney who was the former federal prosecutor for the Northern District of Illinois.

“Illinois officials have taken a real hit in this state as a result of that,” he said.

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On handling negative criticism

Flavorwire compiles a nice listing of what writers do to deal with rejection and criticism. Me? I sulk like Achilles flopping around in his tent, whine like a swarm of gnats on Facebook, and harbor ill feelings forever while pretending not to harbor ill feelings.

But I suspect that’s not healthy.

Today I am trying to write a response to reviewers where I think the reviewer has utterly missed what we meant to do. One should always see that as a challenge to enhance clarity. Yet, let’s not be ridiculous: we know full well that sometimes, reading comprehension isn’t very good, and you find yourself in the middle of responding to reviewers thinking “Hey, I feel no need to dispute your straw man claim of what I said because I never bloody said that.”

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#ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014 entry #12: Deike Peters

Deike Peters is assistant professor of environmental planning and practice at Soka University of America. I first encountered Deike when she very kindly taught a planning studio for us at USC. She has an interest in land development around stations, and she has worked extensively trying to understand the land use conflicts at high speed rail station areas. She co-edited a special issue of Built Environment on the topic, Volume 38 from 2012, Number 2. (As an aside Built Environment is one of those journals that doesn’t get the attention it should.)

This is the paper I’m reading:

Peters, D., with Novy, J. (2012) “Train Station Area Development Mega-Projects in Europe – Towards a Typology” Built Environment, 38:1, 12-30

In this manuscript, Peters and Novy draw a distinction between transit-oriented development (TOD) and train-station area development (TSAD) as they look at the land development resulting from European high speed rail projects, where TSAD is looking to develop an area broader than a general TOD. They discuss the possibilities for TSAD as part of sustainable development, where redevelopment generates higher quality, and more, pedestrian possibilities surrounding the station following changeover in land uses away from industrial use. (This strikes me as interesting; plenty of high speed rail companies are also hauling freight as well as passengers, so at least some of the station areas have to be in warehousing and distribution use. There’s really no reason, other than scale perhaps, that these uses can’t be integrated with pedestrian and other uses, though.) Right along with the intention for sustainable development also come the same same growth machine aspects that development in cities always have, but with a 21st century, neoliberal twist. Peters and Novy place the redevelopment project in the ongoing history of urban place competition. They look at the European projects:

Combing through a list of over 500 rail station sites in 437 cities, the sheer number TSAD projects already built or currently underway proved impressive. We identified 136 projects with investments of €100 million or more, including fifty-two with total investments of €500 million or more. Projects proliferated in cities of varying sizes across a whole range of nations, including countries with comparatively less developed rail networks such as Portugal or Bulgaria. Our inventory recorded both the highest number and the largest investments in Germany and Great Britain.

So they comb through and find the biggest. It’s not clear from the article why they choose the biggest, but I think it’s because those larger projects best mirror their concept of TSAD rather than TOD. From these, they derive four general types of TSAD types: strategic megaprojects, station renaissance projects, transport projects, and urban development projects.

Strategic megaprojects are those that are “big” and “bold”, though, as the authors point out, not necessarily beautiful. These draw on supra-regional rationales (often using “Europe” in project name to signal the elevation of this place within the hierarchy of places) and they usually involve a lot of money, an ambitious plan for multiple transport and land uses, and entail complex, multi-government governance agreements.

Station renaissance projects are just what they sound like: the chance to get an upgrade on existing, historic buildings by putting new services and amenities inside, drawing on the grand style architecture to enhance place experience in commerce.

Transport projects, too, are just what they sound like. They are designed to made an intermodal hub where the transport functions go first and the place functions take on a lower priority.

Urban development projects are the opposite: the main point seems to be to get in and do something with the land and the buildings, and the transport functions are coincident, but less a priority. These strike me as the HSR version of TOD, conducted on a larger scale.

The remainder of the discussion takes on emerging issues, and of those, I think the most interesting is just how large the projects are becoming–Peters refers to “Gigaprojects” and to community opposition that has arisen, particularly to the idea of local area development serving supra-regional interests, and the changes that opposition has enacted on building practices and development ideas.

This is a very nice discussion of the unfolding development of Europe’s HSR development; go read!

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Coates and the case for reparations

Ta-Nehisi Coates published an excellent explanation of the case for reparations to African Americans in the Atlantic. Here is the original article, which is excellent, except for the quote from Deuteronomy (read the quote from Locke instead) and here is a link to Coates discussing the contribution with Bill Moyers.

Something more than moral pressure calls America to reparations. We cannot escape our history. All of our solutions to the great problems of health care, education, housing, and economic inequality are troubled by what must go unspoken. “The reason black people are so far behind now is not because of now,” Clyde Ross told me. “It’s because of then.” In the early 2000s, Charles Ogletree went to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to meet with the survivors of the 1921 race riot that had devastated “Black Wall Street.” The past was not the past to them. “It was amazing seeing these black women and men who were crippled, blind, in wheelchairs,” Ogletree told me. “I had no idea who they were and why they wanted to see me. They said, ‘We want you to represent us in this lawsuit.’ ”

For instances above, there is no real principled objection. I doubt we’ll ever manage to pull ourselves together enough to pay reparations for slavery; there are too many people in America whose families came long after slavery ended, and it’s too easy for people to get sidetracked on–as they have in the comments–the distance between those wrongs and contemporary conditions. But there are survivors and families that remember the many wrongs committed against African Americans that Coates outlines; we aren’t taking about paying money to the 5th generation removed of former slaves. In these instances, we still have people alive and their children who themselves lived through sharecropping, the slave labor of southern prisons, and property seizure; and we still have people alive who participated in those wrongs. There’s no principle of justice that denies them compensation for the real economic loss that these wrongs inflicted.

Blair Kelley over at the Root has collected a nice set of links to prior research on reparations, as well. He finishes with:

After all, how might we account for the cost of the scars Callie House wore on her back, the price of the terror of a lynched son or the value of a mortgage never granted? How could we begin to calculate the costs?

Actually, Randall Robinson attempted to get there with his book, published in 2001 but still in print, called The Debt. The point of reparations is that we can’t ever really compensate for the terror of a lynched son, and we know that. If we were just trying to cover economic loss, the gesture would be compensation–not reparation. The point of reparation is to acknowledge the wrongs have both a social and economic aspect, and that you aren’t walking away from either by a) flinging a check at somebody’s feet and walking off or b) apologizing and walking off…but sticking around, facing the wrong, and trying to recover.

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#ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014 entry #11: Ella Howard

This week’s entry is definitely in the “urban” rather than in the “planning” component of my challenge, as Ella Howard is a historian at Armstrong Atlantic State University. I read and used her book in my class on the Urban Context this year:

Homeless: Poverty and Place in Urban America, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

and I am thinking about using it in my class on urban social policy and planning in the spring. It’s framing in Chapter 1 helps illustrate the social welfare approach to housing: “The institutions that address poverty embody the values of their creators.” For my students thinking about how to state a strong argument you can spend the rest of the book supporting, here it is.

Dr. Howard’s book centers mostly on the Bowery, and I particularly like how the book uses that perspective–i.e., looking at the Bowery–as the place where federal, state, and city institutions attempted to reform and regulate homelessness. Her time period focuses predominately on the Depression onward, though she starts us at around the turn of the city in New York–1890s onward–in their attempts to figure out what to do with homeless men and women. The history deepens from the Depression era onward, and then goes decade by decade as there are important shifts in public policy that, nevertheless, always seem to be motivated by two internal tensions: 1) the desire to be humane to those in need, but not too humane, because, you know, dependency, and 2) the need to deliver services in place with the pressures to make sure the homeless move on, not be there, move somewhere else. Chapter 2 explores the treatment of the transient homeless during the Great Depression. The Depression was a game changer in multiple ways. First, economic hardship meant that more people than ever before struggled to maintain housing, and second, it saw the shift of policy response to homelessness to federal housing programs rather than, simply, local relief.

One major factor in serving those without homes concerned changing perspectives on alcoholism and mental illness, with religious and secular approaches to problem coming more into conflict as the century progressed. Organizations like the Salvation Army downplayed therapy or other, secular solutions, at the same time that homelessness became the object of social scientific study.

In the 1960s, the focus became increasingly spatial with urban renewal and ‘slum clearance.’ Most of my students can recite urban renewal history (more mindlessly than I care for) about how communities of color were destroyed to make way for highway projects, but few people ever think about the homeless men and women targeted by the program. Here is where the federal involvement in urban policy gets even more dicey, as local officials came to the conclusion that while homeless men and women may have to exist ‘somewhere’, skid rows were both unsightly and unhygienic. The feds put $5.4 billion into urban renewal programs from 1949 until 1966. As Howard points out, Eisenhower epitomized the federal problems: many people, like Eisenhower, favored urban renewal projects, believing them tickets to urban growth that would ‘lift all boats’ and yet viewed public housing with extreme suspicion. The result is a whipsaw we still live in: the desire for urban growth and population increase without the commitment to increased supply of affordable shelter, and by the 1980s, more affordable units were being destroyed than created in urban centers. Homelessness became viewed as something to be fixed:

Throughout the twentieth century, urban residents by and large did not want homeless people living in their neighborhood ,nor did they wish to fund residential programs to offer continued housing assistance. The homeless were to be returned to “normal” life rather than being placed in supported living conditions.

p. 122.

The Bowery escaped urban renewal due to widespread resistance to it in New York, including Jane Jacobs and others, who viewed urban renewal for what it was: a state-sponsored real estate development strategy that selected easy political targets for private commercial gain with specious public interest rationales. The plan for Cooper Square would have removed 4,000 beds; the plan failed, but eventually, efforts to redevelop the Bowery will win out. It will just take real estate markets a few more decades to make this happen.

Before we get there, however, Howard treats us to yet another means of dressing up old wine in new bottles in the neotraditional, punitive ways in which social science and media constructed narratives around men and women without homes and the neighborhoods that served homeless populations, like the Bowery. Here you get a strong flavor of American studies in Howard’s background as she connects older, more overly judging frames for impoverished people with the lurid, exoticed narratives constructed in particular media outlets. These are old ideas about danger and lack of hygiene dressed up for the spectator world of mediated imagery. Social science approaches were little better, framing individuals according to mainstream values of functionality and–a shocker–always finding their homeless subjects wanting. Nonetheless, good research conducted out of Columbia also began spending real time and energy with people living in the Bowery to understand how social life functions in homeless districts.

The later chapters of the book, like the earlier ones, are excellent, but they felt like less of a revelation to me as I had lived through many of the policy changes and conflicts of the 1980s and 1990s. I remember the federal and state withdrawal from homeless programs, particularly the deinstutionalization of those with serious mental illnesses. That policy move prompted the very public conflict between New York Mayor Koch and New York Governor Hugh Carey, whereby Koch viewed his city’s increasing number of homeless people as a direct result of the state making homelessness into a city problem. As Howard notes:

The Koch and Reagen administrations and the advocates for the homeless agreed on a single point: each supported the expansion of the private, religious-affiliated homeless shelters. p. 208

And thus nearly a century later, theories about serving homelessness return back to its religious, voluntarist roots. By then, the Bowery had become, like many places where poverty exists, the spatial exemplar of ‘edginess’ that nightclubs, musicians, and other artists exploited as a means to commercial success. In the end, New York’s real estate boom will erase the Bowery, and Mayor Guiliani will capitalize on security narratives as a means to simply regulate homelessness out of New York so that, as in most contemporary cities, homeless people are simply expected to slide through the shadows of the city, in perpetual motion.

I highly recommend this book both for its subject matter and as an exemplar of just how good a dissertation book can be.

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Mark Edmundson on campus rape

I’ve been reading through Mark Edmundson’s Why Teach this week, and this paragraph caught my eye:

Colleges are even leery of disciplining guys who have committed sexual assault, or assault plain and simple. Instead of being punished, these guys frequently stay around, strolling the quad and swilling the libations, an affront (and sometimes a terror) to their victims.

This is a chapter where Edmundson has described the consumer universe of the corporate campus. Grade inflation? Looking the other way for cheaters? Come on. When campuses look the other way for felonies, they aren’t going to worry much about the other contours of character formation.

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“If your reporting is right, tell them to f#*k off.” Ben Bradlee on ire

I’m never really willing to get engaged in outrage over who has been fired from exec positions because you never really know what is going on in an organization from the outside looking in, but I have been enjoying reading through the various entries on how difficult it is to run a major newspaper as a woman. So far, two of my favorites are:

Editing while female by Susan Glasser of Politico:

And that’s the point: The leaders who succeed are the ones who are allowed to make mistakes, who have the time and space and breathing room and support from their bosses to push and prod, experiment and improvise until they get it right.

And from Kara Swisher at re/code Dear Jill: From One Pushy Media Dame to Another, an excellent summary on how you have to be pushy (duh!) to do your job, including this very nice memory about Ben Bradlee of the WashPo who nurtured along a lot of young reporters:

I actually learned that skill when I was a really young reporter at the Washington Post, when the legendary Ben Bradlee still held sway over the newsroom. He was every single fantastic thing people think of him as: Tough, smart, profane, funny, difficult and, yes, often very pushy.

He hardly knew who I was, of course, but one time when I was working in the business section covering the rapidly declining retail landscape in the Washington area, the lifeblood of the Post’s business, he did me a solid I have never forgotten. A major mogul who paid for a lot of the bills for the newspaper was haranguing me — via phone and via peckish lawyers — for being too hard on him in my coverage of the spectacular meltdown of his family business.

It was a mess through and through, and I had not backed off so far, but I had to admit I was scared when the heat from the mogul got a little stifling. Bradlee — who loved my stories of this retail version of “Dallas” and now and then came over and asked, “Whatcha got today, kid?” (he actually said “kid”) — was there when such a call came through and could see I was distressed.

After I explained the situation, he took only one second to give me a piece of advice that I have been following since: “If your reporting is right, tell them to f#*k off.”

Words to live by in scholarship as well.

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Socrates at the end of the Phaedrus

I’m an idiot. Wanna know what makes me an idiot?

I check my email first thing in the morning. That’s why I’m an idiot. Email is annoying. Nobody ever emails with “you’re awesome and we want to give you an award.” At least not to me. To me, it’s always “here’s some work” and “here’s some more work” and “here’s why my ideas are better that yours” and “this is why you can’t get what you want.” It’s never different.

Why I can’t live without seeing that until later in the day is beyond rationality.

Contrast this with the delightful ending of the Phaedrus, which is what I could be reading, instead of crappy snarky emails:

Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who haunt this place, give me beauty in the inward soul; and may the outward and inward man be at one. May I reckon the wise to be the wealthy, and may I have such a quantity of gold as a temperate man and he only can bear and carry.-Anything more? The prayer, I think, is enough for me.

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ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014 entry #11 Kristen Jeffers, the Black Urbanist blog

We’re in the middle of commencement, and my next research entry is a book, so I am a little behind and I thought I was use this week to direct you to the very nice blogging of Kirsten Jeffers of the Black Urbanist. Her writing is accessible, and her relationship with things urban is delightfully personal. Here is the link to the blog so you can get over there and set it up in your feed: The Black Urbanist. And here are some of my favorite recent posts get you started:

Things that should never be in driving distance

Can we let people gentrify themselves?

This breaktakingly sensible post about cars: What Grinds Our Gears About Cars

Whose Suburb Are We Talking About, Again?:

But enough of this kind of snark. Let me get to the real shade. Urban is not a race of people. Suburb is not a race of people. Rural is not a race of people. Say it as many times as you need to. Then, if you write articles like this that either by accident or lack of inclusiveness, imply that only one race of person moves to and from the suburbs, don’t be surprised if they get interpreted as attempts to be nice about labeling races, instead of true analyses of migration patterns.

Go read and share.

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