It May Not Be Racial, But It Is Very Real

Analysis has found itself considering the close relationship of home ownership and politics in Newark Ohio. Many statistics and definitions must be borne in mind for insights, some of which have been covered extensively in past posts. Some, such as the near 50% of residential housing being non-owner occupant or the low rate of voter turnout, are essential to continuously bear in mind. Others, such as the existence of polarization, gerrymandering or redlining, are a little more difficult to grasp. The interrelationship of all of these does not materialize trippingly on the tongue. Redlining is described readily enough on Wikipedia. However, it is generally associated with racial segregation. According to the census bureau, Newark’s racial diversity is way below the national ratio. As mentioned in the previous posts, polarization appears non-existent within the workings of Newark City Council. And with at large council representation, gerrymandering would be difficult to ascribe to the city’s ward/at large governance. But the recent late night gazebo move brings polarity to the fore (ranks closed tightly along party lines) And past Newark Advocate reporting that has questioned why so many of Newark’s representatives, government administrators and “leaders” all reside in the 5th ward makes gerrymandering more than real for Newark voters. Redlining? In Newark? Naaa. Redlining, steering and reverse redlining have primarily been associated with racist dispositions and denial of access to opportunities. The recent T Day week end Columbus On The Record featured a rerun of a Chasing The Dream panel. One of the panelists, Beth Gifford of Columbus Works, described a recent drive through the streets of her childhood neighborhood, the south side of Columbus. She said it doesn’t look much different today than a half century ago, except the places of employment are gone (manufacturing base) and the stores have disappeared along with it. Only the residences remain, more of which become rentals with each passing year. The south end of her youth was a vibrant mix of restaurants, bars, department stores, large and small employers and church/community identity, etc. Sounds a bit like what currently comprises Newark’s 1st, 2nd, and 7th ward, doesn’t it? Like the south side Columbus of Gifford’s youth, the east side of Newark was an equally vibrant mix of employment, residences, stores, restaurants and church/community identity. For reason’s beyond the scope of one page posts, Newark’s “leaders” decided (a half century ago) to relocate the hospital from its east side home to the farm fields of the west side, on West Main Street. This was accompanied by development of employment facilities as well as housing, schools, churches, etc. (all the ingredients needed to form “community” according to Chasing The Dream). Ditto the north side, all of which currently comprise Newark’s 3rd, 5th and 6th wards. While these political districts flourished, the 3 on the east side languished. “Well, it’s where people want to be” we are told. Analysis finds this a cliché way of avoiding the answer to the more pressing question of who sold them on this end of town? And who financed it?  Just as today all the “commercial development” and places of employment magically appear outside the Newark City limits (for reasons only known to Grow Licking County and Newark Development Partners), so half a century ago Newark began expanding away from the east end. Not that there wasn’t open farmland or highway access on the east side. And someone thought it was a “safe bet”, “good investment”, “progressive thinking” to provide residential loans as well as underwrite business/commercial ones. Now it may have nothing to do with race, but providing mortgages for one area and eschewing another defines redlining. Aggressively selling one area while disparaging another likewise approximates steering. Saying it’s “too costly” or “risky” to finance maintaining properties in a designated area is akin to reverse redlining (driving up the cost for residents who own these properties). So redlining has history in Newark. The relationship to gerrymandering (and polarization) is apparent when one considers what areas comprise the wards and where the boundaries are drawn. It may not be racial, but it is very real.

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