A Mighty Fortress Is Our Homeowner

A weird news coverage article appeared out of thin air in The Advocate 11-3-17. Maria DeVito headlined Group thinks Newark vision plan didn’t account for whole city. The article primarily covered the 10 year “vision plan” currently in play with Newark Development Partners and what transpired at their recent meeting (11-2-17). There is little grounding for Analysis in the world of dreams and visions. A 10 year “vision” differs little from a 5 (or 10) year Stalin era “plan,” except in the execution – who does what and how. As mentioned in this journal’s previous post, the current political administrations of Mr. Hall and Mr. Bubb, along with Grow Licking County and Newark Development Partners, couch everything in terms of “the economy versus…” Fred Ernest’s development franchise engages in an ethereal dance in sync and lock step with the team on this “vision” quest as well (could Dancing With The Stars be far off?). Besides, the best laid plans of mice and men can change in a heartbeat if PNB should opt to relocate to New Albany (happens all the time. Meritor is still sitting vacant). One thing in the article jumped out, primarily in terms of its lack or absence. That lack or absence spoke volumes in terms of what Lesha Farias and The Newark Think Tank on Poverty were attempting to convey (but failed according to DeVito’s reporting). “”It’s not the community’s plan,” she [Lesha Farias] said. “It’s the people that they wanted to make the plan making the plan.”” Who is “they”? The article (or Farias) never makes “their” identity apparent. What is apparent though, and does give direction as to what Farias was trying to express, is the glaring lack within the “Seven Pillars” envisioned by the “vision.” Sounds almost biblical, doesn’t it? “Seven pillars are identified in the plan: image and brand; public safety; mobility and transportation; neighborhood revitalization; vibrant downtown; arts and recreation; and quality education.” Notice anything absent? Hint: you can probably buy the Basket on the edge of town for what it costs to make a McMansion on an out of town rural acreage. That’s it, housing! What never figures into the celestial fluff of the “10 year vision” is the actuality of the preponderance of non-owner occupied residential housing that IS Newark, not some pie in the sky “image and brand(ed)” “neighborhood(s).” Remember “Welcome to Old Town West” along West Church Street? Does it look different today than it did 25 years ago during the heyday of its promotion? What makes the difference answers the “Who is the “they”?” The current ongoing conversation/debate nationally is the new GOP tax overhaul, the central pillar being slashing the corporate tax rate by over 40% of the present. The GOP claims corporations will “reinvest” that windfall in higher wages and new jobs. In the 1980’s and 90’s it was established policy that corporate America’s first allegiance is to the share holder evidenced by the resulting consolidations, mergers resulting in plants being padlocked and wages remaining stagnant to this day. But with Newark Development Partners’ “vision” the actuality of that experience becomes unmentionable – it lacks presence. The last time The Advocate cited non-owner occupant housing in the city of Newark it was around 48%. An underlying principle of “neighborhood revitalization” in almost all urban areas is the emphasis on those who live in a neighborhood having “ownership” of that neighborhood (and yes, Virginia, Newark is urban). Like corporations, landlords’ allegiance is not with the neighborhood, but with a return on investment. Recently it was revealed that the second most segregated city in the US, segregated in terms of income disparity, is Columbus Ohio. On the basis of this finding WOSU has been running a series entitled “Chasing the Dream” (wosu.org/chasingthedream). As pointed out in this series people living paycheck to paycheck, as well as red lining, planned development and gentrification (with its higher tax valuation) make home ownership out of reach for most. Along with public transportation (the number 1 issue for sustainable jobs), affordable housing is essential for any kind of sustainable development. Of course that would mean disruption with regard the sacred cash cow. Of course that would mean a disruption in who could own a piece of Newark. Lending institutions (like PNB) would need to create financial instruments making homeownership possible (like low interest or subsidized loans, inclusive lending practices, low or no down payments, etc.) and the city/county would need to create abatements and tax breaks for individual home buyers (versus developers!). The “they” that Farias was alluding to becomes very apparent when the glaring lack of the “Seven Pillars vision” manifests itself. A mighty fortress is our home owner!

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