FAILING THE EQUITABLE DEVELOPMENT TEST

FAILING THE EQUITABLE DEVELOPMENT TEST

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt

FDR Memorial

I think I’ve attended all the annual conferences of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition [NCRC] since 1992. This year’s theme was again “Creating a Just Economy” — an appropriate and timely admonition. FDR’s test surely is not being pursued in the first 100 days of the Trump Presidency.

After my countless trips to DC, I finally made time to visit the memorials for Dr. King, FDR and Jefferson. A very reflective hike on which I found particularly relevant quotes at each stop – none using the word “huge.”

The above FDR quote was etched by a sculpture of Americans forgotten in the Great Depression. Not sure those Americans who suffered the injustice of our most recent Great Recession haven’t already been not only forgotten but abandoned by the White House and Congress despite their votes.

But “creating a just economy” is not just a matter of federal policy or tax reform. A just economy is threatened locally by every decision in our communities to forsake those who have too little affordable housing and insufficient employment to raise a family. Equitable development is imperative for a just economy.

Given the challenges confronting Chicago’s Uptown community, where I now work as CEO of the Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA]-USA, I volunteered to moderate the workshop at this year’s NCRC conference, entitled Equitable Development in Gentrifying Communities. The four panelists shared similar stories from Portland, OR; Roxbury, MA; New York City; and Washington, DC.

Empower DC’s mission is to enhance, improve and promote the self-advocacy of low and moderate income DC residents in order to bring about sustained improvements in their quality of life. The presentation by its Executive Director, Parisa Norouzi, included a historical ICA surprise for me. The historic Ivy City community is re-establishing a strong Civic Association around several issues including the restoration of the Alexander Crummell School. Named for abolitionist, educator and clergyman Rev. Doctor Alexander Crummell whose life’s mission was the uplift of Black people, it was the first public school for African Americans in DC when it opened in 1911.

Ivy City was chosen in 1976 as a site for one of the Human Development Projects initiated by the Institute for Cultural Affairs (ICA) along with other such initiatives across all 24 global time zones that became known as the “Band of 24.” Two ICA organizers moved into the Ivy City community who, following ICA’s participation model, assisted the community with developing and carrying out a four year Human Development plan. From 1976-1980, ICA and neighborhood residents created the Ivy City Preschool and the Ivy City Corporation (ICCO), which promoted commerce in the community. All activities were centered at the Crummell School, which had been closed in the ‘70s, and were documented in the Ivy City Voice, a newsletter which was published during that time.

More recently, the school building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 and listed as one of DC’s Most Endangered Places by the DC Preservation League in 2013. Crummell abandonedResidents of Ivy City have long been on record asking that the school be turned into a multi-use center to serve youth and elders. They have endured years of testifying at hearings, participating in city planning meetings, and mobilizing community participation. They experienced many broken promises, and even had to file a lawsuit to block attempts to turn Crummell into a bus parking lot.

Last year, Empower DC worked with Ivy City residents and partners to submit a proposal that would turn the historic Crummell School and 1 acre of the site into a Community Land Trust, keeping the grounds open for community recreational use (with a playground/splash park, basketball court, walking trail, and garden) and opening the school as a nonprofit Community Center with a mix of programming to meet the needs of youth, adults and seniors. The school building would become a community square surrounded by new affordable housing. Alexander Crummell SchoolUnfortunately, local government is forsaking Ivy City’s community dream and choosing another high-end development striving to be DC’s newest “hot” real estate.

When President Trump tells us in seven days how “huge” his accomplishments have been in his first 100 days, let’s ponder the “huge” decisions being made in Planning Departments and Mayors’ Offices across our country to not provide enough [housing & jobs] for those who have too little. Many politicians are failing the equitable development test. Our civic duty is to grade accordingly.

MAKING PEACE…RESPECTING DIVERSITY

MAKING PEACE…RESPECTING DIVERSITY

“When I first came here, people on both sides of what is ironically called the peace line told me, without any rehearsal, exactly the same thing – that there was direct correlation between the level of violence and unemployment.” – Senator George Mitchell, June 25, 1996

Mitchell & Ted Belfast 1996That was former U.S. Senator Mitchell’s welcoming comment, as Special Advisor to President Clinton and Secretary of State for Economic Initiatives in Ireland, to our delegation in Belfast at a three-day conference on Work, Education & Training for which the US State Department had invited us as participants. As CEO then of the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations [CANDO], that quote resonated with me and I shared it in for my article entitled, “Rainbow Over Belfast,” in CANDO’s 1996-97 Annual Report.

Now over 20 years later, there remains a direct correlation between the level of violence and unemployment in Chicago. A lesson repeatedly revealed in every morning’s news headlines.

Senator Mitchell was in Chicago this past St. Patrick’s week as the narrator for Old St. Patrick’s Church’s 21st Annual Siamsa na nGael. This year’s theme was “A Bridge Over the Troubles: The Peacemakers.”

Yes, the choir did sing that Simon & Garfunkel song; but they also sang my favorite hymn, Canticle of the Turning, and my favorite Broadway tune, Make Them Hear You from Ragtime. I have used lyrics from both for previous blog posts.

Senator Mitchell’s narration shared many stories from his “few months” assignment that became five years. I had already read some of them in his memoir, The Negotiator, and look forward to more as I start his book, Making Peace. I particularly appreciated his reflections on John Hume, who not only won the Nobel Peace Prize but also the Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards; the only person to have earned all three.

When the audience entered Chicago’s Symphony Center for the concert, there was a large screen hanging over the orchestra with a quote from Hume’s Nobel acceptance speech. Hume quoteAgain, a lesson learned 20 years ago in Northern Ireland that the US remains in dire need of remembering today: “most fundamental principle of peace: respect for diversity.”

Composer Scott Stevenson was commissioned to write the “Hymn of Unity” from Hume speeches with lyrics that ring out as a call even more acute today for us.

In this land, this land of ours, by difference torn apart
We pray for strength and wisdom to discern our common heart.
A heart with ample space for many different minds,
A heart that is open to the whole of human kind.
A heart that breaks down ancient walls,
because we share the same bright sun
by which we walk together towards tomorrow.
From many, we are one!

 

ENABLING CITIZENS COMES NEXT

ENABLING CITIZENS COMES NEXT

Do you know how hard it is to lead?
You’re on your own
Awesome…wow
Do you have a clue what happens now?
Oceans rise
Empires fall
It’s much harder when it’s all your call
“What Comes Next” from Hamilton as performed by King George

I finally saw Hamilton this month and couldn’t help but reflect on our current politics in light of our country’s founding politics. I also was interviewed this month for a book on redlining that sent me back to the ‘70s going thru my file of the national newsletter, DISCLOSURE, which I edited for Gale Cincotta starting in July 1974 thru July 1984.

Government has always required challenging by its citizens. In fact, you can say that’s our job description as citizens. A robust media is essential for enabling citizens to exercise their rights.

Disclosure remains our right to know today as it was as a national demand in 1975 for Congress to pass the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act [HMDA]. As we all start preparing to file our 2016 tax returns, what’s the betting pool on whether the President ever discloses his?

disclosure-oct-1976I still wonder why the US Senate couldn’t have waited a week to see what Scott Pruitt’s emails to the fossil fuel industry disclosed before confirming him as the USEPA chief. Maybe they were afraid for us to know before putting him in charge of policing industries that helped his career.

I’m not even going to speculate on the spy novels and Putin films being written in the absence of full disclosure of what Michael Flynn was up to before he resigned as national security adviser. Congress used to insist on their own right to know as our elected representatives. It should be interesting mid-term elections in 2018 if members of Congress don’t get over their self-imposed “don’t ask the emperor about his clothes.”

Then there is the forthcoming effort to repeal protecting consumers as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is under siege. 2017 marks 40 years since Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) to ensure fair and responsive investment. Yet, redlining is alive and will become rampant again if the Trump Administration and Congress collude to deregulate financial services. Our country won’t be great again; it will be broke again by Wall Street greed.

ncrc-2017-conferenceThat’s why I’m looking forward to convening with other community development colleagues in DC at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition [NCRC] 2017 Annual Conference, Creating a Just Economy, starting on Tuesday March 28 thru Thursday March 30, 2017. It may be “last call” to hear from responsive bank regulators such as keynote speakers: Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve; Thomas Curry, Comptroller of the Currency; and Richard Cordray, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It’s not clear who President Trump would nominate to these crucial positions; perhaps the highest bidder?

The effectiveness of CRA has always been subject to vigorous enforcement by its regulators. Not sure those 77,000 voters across three states fully understood that investments in their communities’ futures were at risk in a Trump administration.

Hope your Presidents Day was “HUGE.” The next three may be “TITANIC.”

REBUILDING COMMUNITIES REMAINS THE ANTIDOTE

REBUILDING COMMUNITIES REMAINS THE ANTIDOTE

“If President-elect Trump has his way, we will be standing still on a melting planet. Are we really going to let that happen?” — Sigourney Weaver, Years of Living Dangerously, National Geographic Channel

I finally found time to watch YLD’s season closing episode, “UPRISING,” which weaved Weaver’s exploration of China’s explosive economic growth and its impact on the waukegan-coal-plantenvironment, not only locally but on a massive global scale with America Ferrera’s visit to Waukegan, Illinois. There a still-functioning coal plant, owned by NRG, is creating tension between the community leaders who want to shut it down for the sake of their health and those, including the mayor, who want to keep it open for the jobs. Together the stories connected how climate action requires global attention but must start with local steps.

For over 40 years, SHELTERFORCE has covered the work of practitioners, advocates, and activists for social justice and community development. Some of my November U2Cando blog and some of this month’s blog were posted December 22nd on its ROOFLINES blog website under the title: “You’ve Seen This Movie Before. You Know What to Do.”

I shared how hearing Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, on November 9th served me well as a post-election group therapy. I recalled how his remarks generated flashback memories to my organizing roots with Gale Cincotta, who spoke truth to the imperative of Reclaiming America from big oil and big banks in the Reagan years of deregulation for profits. Yes, the Reagan Years: when the early days of the Community Reinvestment Act were intentionally stifled; when a promising national investigation and organizing campaign on insurance redlining was suppressed by cancelling one of the final contracts of the Carter Administration.

But then I shared how my community development career started when Nixon was President. Yes, the Nixon Years: when redlining was prevalent as “wise” investing for cities-destroyed-for-cashprofit; when under the watch of HUD Secretary George Romney (yes, Mitt’s dad) Cities Destroyed for Cash was the outcome. That is the title of the 1973 book by journalist Brian Boyer, which documented how the federal government itself had become the predatory lender that fueled redlining and the withdrawal of private capital from America’s communities. I’ll refrain from reminding us about the George W Years; except to observe that our communities are still hemorrhaging from an economy destroyed by greed.

Yes, we have seen this new Trump movie before. But I don’t remember the CEO of Exxon Mobil being cast as Secretary of State. Personally, I prefer CBS’ Madam Secretary, Téa Leoni. Her TV experience is better than the President-Elect. She’s been saving the world; not firing people.

The reality of the current previews for the Trump Years is that this is shaping up to be one of those horror movie sequels with more violence and blood than the earlier ones in the franchise. There is a reason to be scared, horrified in fact. But we cannot retreat.

Thanks to an obstructionist Congress eight years after Wall Street crashed our economy and devastated our communities, government officials still can’t figure out how to employ community residents in rebuilding their own neighborhoods by rehabbing vacant foreclosed homes at affordable prices. The potential for green jobs was never really pursued when the demand for residential energy-efficiency was minimized by a Bush-appointee’s blockage of an innovative financing tool, Property Assessed Clean Energy [PACE]. The expansion of solar has been curtailed by public utilities duplicitously working to negate its expansion for residential, commercial and publicly-owned properties; all of which are significant job creating markets.

Our best recourse is to re-engage with our municipal governments to further locally-generated solutions. We must advance the rebuilding of our communities as a core economic strategy to create jobs and assure affordable housing to raise families. It is the antidote to the current plague of hatred. It remains the healing cure for a just and equitable society. We must persevere at the community level, at our roots.

America Ferrera concludes her segment on THE COAL WARS observing:

“The fight against climate change and the transition to clean energy is messy and difficult. But there is so much to be hopeful about. Ordinary people in Waukegan are doing what they can to take on climate change in their corner of the world.”

That’s a theme we should all consider for our New Year’s resolution for 2017 action in our corners of the world.

CONFRONTING ECONOMIC EXPLOITATION THEN & NOW

CONFRONTING ECONOMIC EXPLOITATION THEN & NOW

”The Chicago problem is simply a matter of economic exploitation. Every condition exists because someone profits by its existence. This economic exploitation is crystallized in the slum.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The MLK Fair Housing Exhibit Center at 1558 S Hamlin details Dr. King’s time in Chicago in 1966 and speaks to his influence on the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Dr. King ApartmentsRemembering this 50th Anniversary, the Center’s goal is to build community awareness of the legacy that Dr. King left in the Chicago area during his residency in North Lawndale.

Six months after the Selma to Montgomery marches and just weeks after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a group from Martin Luther King Jr.’s staff arrived in Chicago, eager to apply his nonviolent approach to social change in a northern city. Once Dr. King 1966there, King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) joined the locally based Coordinating Council of Community Organizations (CCCO) to form the Chicago Freedom Movement.

My wife & I participated in Old St. Patrick’s Kinship Initiative promotion of the Center’s “Continuing the Dream” weekend by attending two book discussions there on Saturday morning July 23rd. One covered the past exploitation of North Lawndale through the battle waged by the Contract Buyers League as told by Beryl Satter, author of “Family Properties: How the Struggle Over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America”. Beryl’s account of Chicago in crisis over 50 years ago, with religious leaders and community organizers battling slumlords and speculators, is also the story of her father Mark Satter, an impassioned attorney who launched a crusade against the profiteers.

The second book addresses the urgency of today as told by Ta-Nehisi Coates in his message to his son in “Between the World & Me” of the perils of living in a country where unarmed black men and boys are dying at the hands of police officers. The discussion was co-led by Xavier Ramey, whose day job as Senior Assistant Director for Social Innovation and Philanthropy at University of Chicago, is complemented by his social justice passions. It turns out that I knew his father Paul as an impassioned activist and advocate for North Lawndale from my CANDO days in the ‘90s.

During this past month of political conventions, I can’t help but ponder this continuing link between racial injustice and economic exploitation and remember the martyrs we lost in 1968. RFKIn the words of solace that Robert Kennedy offered April 4, 1968 on the assassination of Dr. King:

“What we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness but is love, and wisdom and compassion toward one another and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”

 

 

REFRESHING MILWAUKEE

What makes ReFresh Milwaukee unique, and the recommendations quite poignant, is the fact that residents set the direction of this planning effort. — Mayor Tom Barrett

ReFresh Milwaukee is the official Sustainability Plan for the City of Milwaukee.ReFresh_MKE_cover It provides a vision for community sustainability over the next 10 years as it seeks to make Milwaukee a world class eco-city and the Fresh Coast Capital of North America. The City of Milwaukee Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO) is charged with implementing the plan in partnership with other city agencies and community partners.

On my May visit to Milwaukee, I had the opportunity to meet with ECO director Erick Shambarger, community leaders and my longstanding colleague and friend, Howard Snyder. As I have been exploring sustainability initiatives in other US cities, Milwaukee stands out not only for innovative diverse strategies but also for its strong community building approaches.

Groundwork Milwaukee is part of the Groundwork USA network of independent, not-for-profit, environmental businesses called Groundwork Trusts. I first encountered Goundwork Denver last year.

The US programs evolved from a model developed in the UK, where the first Groundwork Trust was founded in 1982 to revitalize abandoned industrial sites in northern England. Since then, Groundwork UK has grown into a network of fifty-two locally based groups.

In 1996, the National Park Service imported this successful program into three pilot communities: Bridgeport, CT; Lawrence, MA; and Providence, RI. Milwaukee was designated a Groundwork USA Pilot Community in 2003. Today there are 19 Groundwork sites in the US and another 9 underdevelopment.

MUG2In 2014, Groundwork Milwaukee merged with Milwaukee Urban Gardens, a non-profit that manages dozens of community gardens throughout the City. Today, they have grown to over 90 gardens that are exclusively run by community leaders and volunteers. Since 2006, Groundwork Milwaukee has worked on 284 projects benefiting 203,163 people and actively involving 2,558 adults (over 18 years) and 1,765 youth (under 18 years) thru partnerships with 30 schools.

The Northwest Side Community Development Corporation (NWSCDC) has served the economic development needs of Milwaukee’s low-income communities since 1983. It has assisted neighborhood strategic planning to improve safety, land use planning, development to spur retail growth, and numerous business and workforce development programs.

Under the leadership of Howard Snyder, NWSCDC has received 15 Office of Community Services (OCS) awards from 1986 to 2015; making it one of the most successful CDC manager of these impactful federal Community Economic Development (CED) funds. The 12 most recent OCS projects since the year 2000 have all been business expansion loans, totaling $7,545,981 lent. These 12 projects created 985 total jobs (including low-income and non-low-income) during the project periods, and 826 of these new jobs were filled by low-income job-seekers. Two active projects (awards from 2014 and 2015) are still generating new jobs.

On February 15th, 2012, President Barack Obama recognized the innovative efforts of Diamond Precision, a manufacturing plant that received a loan from Northwest Side CDC to expand its operations and create jobs for low-income people in Milwaukee. In his speech, President Obama stressed the importance of “insourcing” for America’s recovery, praised Milwaukee’s impressive job-creation projects and commended Diamond Precision on bringing work previously done overseas back to the US.

In 2008, the NWSCDC lent $580,000 to DRS Technologies as part of an $11 million facility upgrade that created 51 new manufacturing positions for low-income workers. DRSDRS is a high-tech manufacturer of power and control systems for US Navy ships and submarines. The NWSCDC loan also fostered the creation of a business incubator within the DRS facility, which supported 22 jobs for low-income individuals at Universal Housing Systems (a tenant of the incubator).

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago highlighted the DRS project and the Northwest Side Community Development Corporation as “transforming the approach to creating positive economic impact in distressed communities,” and an unique collaboration that could serve as a national template for community-corporate relations.

In 2012, NWSCDC won a $728,750 OCS grant award to assist in financing the purchase of the former Eaton Corporation headquarters, a seven-story 184,309 square-foot tower. Rebranded as Century City Tower, Century City Towerthe building was transitioned from a single-user R&D office building into a multi-disciplinary job accelerator, comprising a multi-tenant facility.

Partnering with the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC) was key to saving Century City Tower and turning it into the Energy Innovation Center, an accelerator for businesses in the Energy, Power, and Controls Technology industry cluster. The offices of the NWSCDC and M-WERC are both housed in Century City Tower, further cementing their ongoing economic development partnership.

M-WERC is a consortium of 90 firms and 4 universities. Its Energy Innovation Center creates, tests, and licenses new technologies with lab space for collaborative research, advanced prototyping center, and large scale product piloting space. Current research is focused on: Distributed Energy Resources & Systems (DERS) and Conversion Architecture for Microgrids and Integrations of Renewable Energy Sources as the next big wave to accelerate growth of the building energy efficiency (BEE) market. NWSCDC is partnering with M-WERC to plan and design advanced Microgrid facilities at pilot sites in their community.

In the community development field, we often use “Re” words of reinvest and revitalize. As we now explore sustainability strategies for our communities we can also consider “restoring” vacant land to community gardens and “recharging” our power sources with renewable energy as a viable alternative to fossil fuels. But as we do so, we must keep focused that to really “rejuvenate” our communities we need to “revive” our local economies.

There are a lot “Re” words to be found in the Thesaurus for “refresh.” Many of them are being deployed in Milwaukee where they should be: in the community and by the community. That’s a “reality” to be remembered across the country in this political season.

REMEMBERING & REIMAGINING

REMEMBERING & REIMAGINING

These monthly blogs are getting harder to write. You expect as you get older that there will be colleagues and friends who are passing on before you. They still come in threes; but now it’s even more surprising.

This past month I heard that a friend from my organizing days in the ‘70s died late last year. Then there was an email regarding a Chicago community development colleague from the ‘80s who had passed. Most recently, the LA Times ran a stirring obit on Marva Smith Battle-Bey, another “Champion for Justice” my wife and I both met in the ‘90s. Lynne served with Marva on the board of the National Congress for Community Economic Development [NCCED]. I also had the privilege to know Marva as a fellow director of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

Marva & Jesse

Rev. Jesse Jackson & Marva Smith Battle-Bey, March 2004

She was CEO of the Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation, which she founded in 1979. The LA Times highlighted that “Smith Battle-Bey was at the center of efforts to rebuild damaged stretches of the city after the 1992 riots. But unlike other revitalization enthusiasts of the period, she was already there, working for redevelopment, years before the riots broke out — and would stick to the work for decades afterward.”

The obit included a spot-on Marva quote that The Times ran in 1997:

“People have the right to an opportunity to work, have the right to contribute back to society, have the right to a safe home. But you can’t have these things if people aren’t gainfully employed.”

Marva’s funeral was held in the LA City Council Chamber room, first time ever for a non-elected official. Bob Zdenek, former CEO of NCCED, remembers:

“In addition to her warmth and kindness, Marva was one of the wisest people I ever met. I often went to her for advice and counsel, and usually Marva would tell me to ‘take the high road.’ To me and I know many others, Marva personified the high road in community development.”

Remembering decades of community development efforts raises today’s challenge of reimagining a future where Marva’s vision of rights has become a reality of opportunities for all because others have finally seen the wisdom of taking the high road journey.

The first weekend of April, the Institute of Cultural Affairs (only my 4th job in my 40+ years of community development) convened its board, staff and volunteers to launch a strategic planning process to propel us forward into the future. Together, we are aiming to answer the question: “What do we need to do to create a unified movement for the work of ICA-USA that allows us to reimagine who we are, maximize our potential, increase our impact, and better serve our constituencies?” That’s a relevant question for us all to consider, especially those running for elected office.

Forty years ago, ICA assembled Bicentennial Town Meetings in every US county. Our Archive Volunteers are uncovering that in 1976 citizens found government to be unresponsive and poorly communicating. Current Presidential campaigns are not improving that picture. Solidarity around American core values and a commitment to community building remain fuzzy.

When we remember Earth Day once a year, we now need to reimagine every day as a Climate Action Day if we want a future in harmony with our planet’s health. When we remember our “Champions for Justice” who have departed, let us reimagine how we get to that just and equitable society for which they dedicated their lives. Marva2

Ave Atque Vale, Marva. Hail & Farewell.