Posts Tagged ‘Community’

Participatory Democracy

January 29, 2018

Excerpts from On Prison Democracy: The Politics of Participation in a Maximum Security Prison, an essay by Christopher D. Berk (Critical Inquiry, Winter 2018). March 14, 1973 the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Walpole entered into a protracted strike by its prison officers. Commissioner John Boone decided “Instead of sending in the state police he turned over the management of the prison to the newly formed and elected prisoners’ union (the Walpole chapter of the National Prisoner Reform Association [NPRA]), a skeleton crew of officers and trainees from other institutions, and civilian observers.” “At the time, Walpole was the most violent prison in Massachusetts, perhaps even the most violent in the country.” “The inmates were now running the asylum, so to speak.” “Between 15 March and 19 May, the NPRA was the central force governing the inmates at Walpole. There were no murders and little violence, and the prisoners ran the kitchen and foundry, maintained security, deliberated over policy and action, and negotiated with the prison administration.” To paraphrase Hillary Clinton – “What happened?” Again, Berk writes: “This account usually takes one of two forms, either a call to increase law and order within prisons or a push to reallocate goods and services to the task of treatment. In other words, inmate participation is understood as a symptom of a failed treatment or control regimen. Call this the conventional liberal narrative. However, an alternative account emerges from a close reading of the Walpole episode. In this narrative Walpole is an experiment in participatory democracy and community control. Call this less familiar view the radical narrative.” In a book entitled Not A Crime To Be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America (The New Press 2017) Peter Edelman describes the poverty pipeline to prison that has America leading incarcerations in the world (up through 2017). The first part of the book statistically and factually recounts the various techniques involved with the U.S. system of debtor’s prisons (“Ferguson Is Everywhere”). These include money bail (both private as well as government sourced), criminalization of mental illness, benefit programs and child support, education (“Go Directly To Jail”, see recent Florida handcuffing of a 7 year old), housing ordinances (This blog already wrote about nuisance properties) and homelessness. The second part (Ending Poverty) deals with contemporary efforts to shut off the prison pipeline through not only legal strategies and actions, but also community based initiatives. He narrates actualities of the following programs: Community Action Program Tulsa (OK), Chicago’s Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Minneapolis’ Northside Achievement Zone, Brooklyn’s Community Solutions and The Brownsville Partnership, The New Haven (CT) Moms Partnership, The Alameda Health Consortium (Alameda County CA), and the Youth Policy Institute of Los Angeles. Most of these are centered around supplementing the care and education of pre-school through high school youth through the interaction of their parent or guardian. These in turn receive some tangible benefit for their involvement as well as job training, psychological and economic counseling, including hands on aid in housing, legal concerns etc. The organization’s originating emphasis may be youth, or housing, or physical/psychological health issues brought on by the stress of poverty, but they all treat the concerns holistically – through addressing all the individual’s various interlocking components perpetuating poverty. More importantly, they address this through some full time/part time staff, (some of whom previously were recipients of the organization’s care) as well as a large number of those for whom the service is directed acting on their own behalf providing service to their peers (facilitating, counseling, educating, mentoring). Analysis finds this to be the correlation linking Edelman’s Ending Poverty with Berk’s liberal narrative “call to increase law and order within prisons or a push to reallocate goods and services to the task of treatment” and its alternative account of “an experiment in participatory democracy and community control.”

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Impressions Of The 2018 Newark Women’s March

January 20, 2018

Driving south on Mt. Vernon road to participate in the 2018 Women’s March there was a bottle neck on the brand spankin’ new bridge over 16. Why is all the traffic veering toward the center when there are clearly two south bound lanes? Turns out there was a young man pushing a baby stroller (with small child) walking in the roadway. The sidewalk portion of the brand spankin’ new gateway to Newark was untouched, thickly covered by new fallen snow as well as what the plow pushed off the roadway. Analysis hearkens the reader to the debate over eliminating the pedestrian bridge over 16 just to the west of Mt. Vernon Road’s brand spankin’ new “development.” The justification by the all white, all male Newark City administration (as well as Newark Development Partners) is that pedestrians can use the brand spankin’ new bridge. And who will clear the sidewalk so it is useable by pedestrians (without the danger of sharing the road with cars and trucks)? This was the stuff of the 2018 Newark Women’s March. The large rally was very well attended by a diverse demographic, youth and elderly, female and male, and all in between. It was an active crowd, intently following and vociferously responding to the speakers, not just obligatory applause. The speakers, a small sampling of Newark/Licking County’s vast bounty of women leaders, told it like it was. They spoke truth to power. Since you can’t tell the players without a program, Analysis can’t differentiate individuals with what was said (there was no paper program of speakers/topics). Equity in access to drug rehabilitation, shelters from violence, as well as equity in pay, benefits and health care were just part of the demands. But the demands mainly revolved around the irresponsibility of city, county and state administrators who cater to the private economic power base (through the utilization of public funds) while eschewing human services, such as insuring that a young man and his child can safely cross over State Route 16. It was refreshing to hear speakers plainly articulating what needs to be addressed and is not, and has not been, by the Newark Advocate, by Newark/Licking County’s elected officials, by the businesses who profit from customers not being served by their elected officials. It was an honor to witness and actively participate in this outpouring of peaceful civic action in downtown Newark – something sorely lacking and certainly long overdue. If you missed it, you missed the sound of grass growing under your feet, breaking through the pavement and asphalt, rising up. Did you hear that? It is the sound of women seeking a place on the ballot, and votes being cast by women; the greening of America.

Get Active In 2018

January 18, 2018

Women’s March in downtown Newark Ohio on the courthouse square Saturday January 20, 2-4 PM.

Finally!

What Is A Symbol Worth?

December 18, 2017

No, not what is its symbolic worth, but what is it worth to keep around, to have and to hold? What is the value of the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, the White House, etc. ? The USS Constitution, is it a symbol or a naval vessel? The Navy just spent part of its military budget to refurbish Old Iron Sides, which it still considers as a commissioned naval vessel. Its value as a warship is dubious, as a symbol, priceless. At its 12-18-17 meeting Newark City Council was confronted with this very question, and missed the opportunity to answer it. Curiously, the public comment on the value of the Gazebo was heard only as cost by the council members present. WIKI gives “In mythology, folklore and speculative fiction, shapeshifting is the ability of a being or creature to completely transform its physical form or shape. This is usually achieved through an inherent ability of a mythological creature, divine intervention, or the use of magic.” This would be an apt description of the Marvel Comics’ character of those elected, seated and charged with doing the public’s bidding. In his State of the City address, Mayor Hall touted “due diligence and open dialog” in helping to create the “improved destination” of downtown Newark, thanks in large part to all the business driving these improvements. He was long on praise for the purchase of the Cherry Valley Lodge but lost for words on the Basket Building debacle. It is reassuring to note that Newark is “poised to have another great year in 2018 with growth and improvement.” Several public comments inquired as to where the funding came for the late night massacre of the Gazebo, and what drove the decision. The halls of City Hall reverberated with innuendo regarding Hall’s move, saying the prime contractor for the courthouse renovation had “gifted” the labor, logistics and storage, eventually to be reimbursed with its reconstruction on the East Main Street site. The back story to this was all the closed door, county shapeshifter meetings held within the county annex years ago that awarded the courthouse renovation bid without regard of Ohio’s sunshine laws or competitive bidding. Other myths embraced by the city council shapeshifters were ones promoted by council person Lang regarding who he represents and why he should bother to value some community symbol. His reasoning was that his constituents don’t care. “What’s a gazebo?” he was told by one constituent, “I never go downtown” to the “improved destination.” This is the same myth that promotes publicly funded sports stadiums and convention centers as being of vital interest to the citizens of a community while appealing for those outside the community to partake and journey to the “improved destination” (and don’t forget to bring the plastic). This was another touted myth: “Have to work with private businesses” said the departing Carol Floyd. It seems the emphasis on the importance of business paying for it all (as well as benefitting from it all) by the cost conscious shapeshifters didn’t jibe with the public commenters impassioned pleas for the return of the gazebo. Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville just held a grand (re)opening. The back story is that years ago Stuart’s faced what Mayor Hall describes as “urban rehab” (demolition). Community funds were raised to restore it (and that included much more than the immediate constituency of the City of Nelsonville proper, Council Shapeshifter Lang). Shortly before its opening a fire destroyed the newly refurbished Opera House. Again the community raised funds to rebuild what was destroyed and eventually opened historic Nelsonville’s downtown symbol. Now another fire next door in 2015 almost reached the theater. Again the community was asked for funding to renovate and expand Stuart’s to its original. 12-7-17’s “The Next Stage Curtain Call Grand Opening” includes a new 4,000+ square foot lobby, and an Education and Community Center (The Athens News 12-4 and 12-7-17). Unsubstantiated is the claim that over $4 mil in funding was provided by the Nelsonville community to vitalize this symbol.  Analysis finds that to be the real sadness of the 12-18-17 Newark City Council meeting. The public commenters were saying “Why don’t you include us instead of pushing us out of downtown gentrification?” The shapeshifting council members were hearing “What will it cost in budgeted dollars and cents?” Even “open dialog” proponent, Jeremy Blake, used this as a reason for not offering an amendment (“the numbers just aren’t there”). Analysis finds the real pain to be that both sides are united in overwhelming agreement that the Gazebo most certainly is a symbol. Jefferson Davis monuments disappear because they are deemed divisive. We are unified by the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, the USS Constitution, Stuart’s Opera House and the Newark Gazebo. What is a symbol worth?

Peter Lives In Newark

December 3, 2017

With the previous post (11-25-17 It May Not Be Racial, But It Is Very Real) Analysis continued the relationship of homeownership and politics in Newark with a look at the material effects of redlining, steering and reverse redlining in the area. This was primarily a historic reckoning with comparison to like events in other communities. Headlining “Licking County 911 Center moving to Heath” The Advocate’s Kent Mallett (11-28-17) gives a current materialization of these trends in policy today. “The Licking County Commissioners and the Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority reached agreement on a 10-year lease for use of an 8,500 square foot facility north of the Horton Building.” “The agreement allows the 911 Center to vacate a 25-year-old building that has been settling for years and has structural problems, at 119 East Main St. The 911 Center and Licking County Sheriff’s Office dispatching merged into the new center in 2014. The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission shared concerns about the East Main Street building’s structure with the commissioners in July, citing a report recommending the building be abandoned and demolished due to the probability of excessive settlement, a sudden and abrupt drop and the possibility of a sinkhole.” “Rob Terrill, the 911 Center coordinator, said the new center will allow for 20 dispatch work stations, instead of the current 14. The Emergency Operations Center, now in the basement of the Licking County Sheriff’s Office, will also move into the Heath building.” “”I think we’re saving the taxpayers money by not going to an interim site and then a permanent site,” Commissioner Tim Bubb said. “One move is better than two. We’ve got enough time to do it right the first time. We found a long-term home for the 911 Center that makes sense. This is a very good solution.”” Is it? What is being solved? Analysis reveals more questions than answers, problems than solutions. None of which are being asked (or answered) by Mallett, community “leaders”, or members of Newark’s city council (more interested in raising their standard of pay than the standard of living in their community). There aren’t any vacant 8,500 square foot buildings within Newark City Limits? Another abandoned building/vacant lot to be found on East Main Street? And what of the loss of related city commerce and income tax revenue from the jobs not only moved from the current site, plus the ones from the Emergency Operations Center, but also the added new positions and related business? “”It is a place, even though not an Air Force base, the presence there is very security-minded,” Platt said. “We’ve had a 55-year history of a national security workload. This is a natural fit to continue that legacy. I’m confident our tenants will welcome having them on campus.”” Even though Newark’s champion and number one salesman and promoter justified the late night gazebo demolition with a rational of “Security concerns, Hall said, played into the decision to avoid having people sitting at tables, with backpacks, near the government building.” (Advocate 10-6-17), his silence was deafening when it came to the move of the 911 Center out of Newark and west to Heath. Where were the dump trucks filled with sand during the recent court house lighting that attracted huge crowds on the open streets of Newark’s courthouse square? Do terrorists take a break during the holiday season? Do “security concerns” only arise when there is profit to be made? No, this call center move was just another materialization in the continuing history of redlining and steering in Newark. Mallett et al fail to ask “Who sold them on this move?” As well as “Who benefitted from this long term lease agreement?” After all, Bubb and company all are members of the Port Authority (a public/private partnership). According to past Advocate reports, this is where the hottest commercial real estate is to be had. Why does a tax payer government office need to be located in the high rent district, the area’s version of Trump Tower? Analysis finds it to be a matter of religious belief, a cliché of robbing Peter to pay Paul (see this blog 10-18-17, Steve Bannon Declares Jihad On Infidels). Only in this case Peter lives in Newark, and Paul is anywhere but Newark.

It May Not Be Racial, But It Is Very Real

November 25, 2017

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.

In Defense Of Being Homeless

November 16, 2017

Regular Newark News Analysis readers can’t help but notice that recent posts have swirled around real property ownership and housing, directly or indirectly. “Homeownership doesn’t build wealth, study finds” headlines Diana Olick for CNBC (11-16-17). Intriguing! Analysis required reading. “”On average, renting and reinvesting wins in terms of wealth creation regardless of property appreciation, because property appreciation is highly correlated with gains in the traditional financial asset classes of stocks and bonds,” wrote study co-author Ken Johnson of FAU’s College of Business [Florida Atlantic University], in a release.” This seems to be the keynote quote pursued (for actuality, efficacy) throughout the article. What follows are the pros and cons of renting versus owning with back up insights for the period covering 2008 (when the real estate bubble burst) to the present. “Still, researchers in the study claim the adage of “throwing your money away on rent” doesn’t hold up. That is because it assumes that the extra money a renter saves by not owning a home and not saving for a down payment is simply spent on goods or services and not invested.” Well, that seems clear enough. “In other words, the rent argument works only if the renter invests the rental savings instead of consuming the money.” The article then localizes the theory. “The researchers therefore went city by city, measuring home price appreciation against a portfolio of stocks and bonds that were equal in volatility. “To have a fair race, that reinvestment into stocks and bonds has to be as risky as that particular housing market,” Johnson said.” Put crassly (and simplistically) if a homeowner considers what she pays monthly for principle and balance on her mortgage against how much (percentage wise) her real property investment made (appreciates), that margin would be less than a renter, renting the same size, quality property would have if the difference between the monthly cost of renting and the mortgage amount was invested in “”stocks and bonds.” Gasp! Butt weight, there’s more. The buried lead appears at the end, after a breakdown on the requirement “if the renter invests the rental savings instead of consuming the money.” That buried lead throws shade on the initial quote by Johnson pursued throughout the article. Here it is: “As long as home values don’t fall, which has historically been the case in most markets, with the glaring exception of the last recession, homeowners are building a nest egg. They had also been getting a tax advantage. That is now at risk in the Republican tax plan, which curbs the mortgage deduction and in the Senate version, wipes out the property tax deduction. Real estate can still be a good investment, according to Johnson, but not necessarily living in the home you own. Being a landlord or investing in real estate-related stocks and commodities can be more lucrative that keeping all your capital in the nest.” Not surprising given the “Me first” focus of the apprentice president and his MAGA emphasis, and Wall Street’s insatiable demand for more sources of capital. But “Me first” “landlord[s] or investing in real estate-related stocks and commodities” don’t make neighborhoods (or community). What more, stock and bond ownership doesn’t equate with the quality of life issues associated with community. But investment is touted as the primo path to greatness, success and wealth (the GOP use this line of argument to justify the recent tax bill and its permanent corporate tax cut, etc.) How’s that in actuality? Reporting for The Independent Clark Mindrock headlined “Trump’s top economic adviser can’t contain his surprise after CEOs say his tax plan won’t make them invest more” 11-15-17. “During an event for the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council, an editor at that newspaper turned to ask the room a question: “If the tax reform bill goes through, do you plan to increase investment — your company’s investment, capital investment?” Prompted to raise their hands if so, very few shot their palms into the air. Mr. [Gary] Cohn, the White House Economic Council director, smiled uncomfortably at the response. “Why aren’t the other hands up?” he asked, making a joke out of the spectacle. But experts say that it isn’t hard to figure out why corporations might not want to take savings from cuts to the corporate tax cut and pump it back into their companies — all you have to do is look at who actually benefits financially from the cuts. Citing a recent Moody’s report that estimate that the Trump tax plan would yield just a 0.3 percent economic growth rate for 10 years before a likely decline, Brooking Institute senior fellow William Gale noted that business leaders might be expecting declines in the long term.” Analysis shows there is more to the homeownership’s study than the math provides. The renter’s surplus investment (which will make her wealthy) can only be made with companies that themselves are reluctant to invest. “Being a landlord… can be more lucrative that keeping all your capital in the nest.” “Real estate can still be a good investment, according to Johnson, but not necessarily living in the home you own.”

Newark’s Likely Voters

November 9, 2017

Originally Analysis was going to cover the recent election. Reuters (amongst others) reported “Maine governor says he will not expand Medicaid despite vote” by Gina Cherelus, 11-8-17. Déjà vu all over again with “About 60 percent of voters in Maine approved the ballot proposal in Tuesday’s election, according to the Bangor Daily News, making the state the first in the country to vote to expand Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor and disabled.” GOP Governor LePage refuses to implement it. Sound familiar? Hint: Marijuana. That’s right, a citizens’ initiative approved by the voters of Newark re: marijuana possession in Newark was ditto refused to be implemented by GOP Mayor Hall. More recent is the cavalier late night destruction of the gazebo vociferously opposed by residents, all to no avail. These left Analysis with the question “why is the will, and vote, of the people (citizens) so impotent within a government founded on democracy?” Presently the Democrats are all Broadway musical happy after limited “victories” this just past election but, again, Newark doesn’t reflect that. This blog’s previous post displayed the inadequate attempt by Lesha Farias’s service organization to affect Fred Ernest’s 10 year “vision.” Couple that with the very low turn out Monday (11-6-17) to “protest” the demise of the gazebo and the question gets even thornier – where is the democracy in Newark? And if it’s missing, why? Again, (11-9-17) Reuters headlines “Trump’s low approval rating masks his support among likely voters” by Chris Kahn. Couple this with the actual voting outcomes reported by The Advocate (GEMS Election Results from 11-8-17). For overall county election races (like the muni court judgeship) 29.1% of eligible voters turned out. Now “likely voters” looms large. Analysis finds that though urban precincts encompass more registered voters, rural district issues and races attracted a greater percentage of voters, though lesser in number. Newark precincts involve 4-6 thousand voters each and were turning out roughly 24-25% of them to decide the contest. That’s less than the county actual (likewise likely) voter percentage (29%). Most rural precincts show way less than 2,000 possible voters (many less than 1,000) with turn out being 33-35% (Northridge School’s district precincts turned out over 50%!). Many have repeatedly asked “Why is turnout, interest and active engagement so low in the very urban city of Newark?” That is, why does the description “likely voter” include so few already registered voters in Newark? Those paid to know offer many theoretical possibilities – culture, economics, education, disinterest or even distrust of government. Analysis considers a material actuality. “Landlord doubles rent, evicts nuisance tenants to improve property” by Shelly Schultz for the Zanesville Times Recorder (11-8-17). “Following an abatement warning, the owner of an apartment complex located at 1252 Edwards Lane issued residents a zero tolerance notice for illegal activity and nearly doubled the rent.” The back story to which is “In September, several residents converged on the public safety committee complaining of a sudden increase in prostitution and drug activity in their neighborhood.” Somewhat deeper: “Tenants who have been identified as a nuisance have been evicted, according to Horvath. The rent has increased from $300 to $500 and heading towards $600. The property now mandates a background check on tenants.” (“Eriech Horvath of Newark, owner of Stone Works Development, purchased the 22 unit apartment complex in March and said he has been working diligently to clean it up.”) Back story to the back story would be from WHIZ’s report of “Zanesville Police Dept. cracking down on nuisance homes” by Matthew Herchik 6-30-17. “To be able to move forward with a nuisance abatement, [ZPD Police Chief Tony] Coury says they must prove that the house is in fact a “nuisance,”” “The ZPD has been working in conjunction with the city Law Director as well as the Prosecutor’s Office to make these homes a bigger focus.” And finally, the back story to the whole story is the Ohio Revised Code 3767.01 and .02 which define “nuisance” and “nuisance homes”. All of which sounds pretty sensible when dealing with crime and violence until one makes the connection that Mr. Horvath is using the imminent power (and actions) of the prosecutor/law director/police to justify evicting tenants and upping the rent on his recently acquired property. Given that 48% of Newark’s residential housing is non-owner occupant (rental) and that the census bureau shows over 40% of the US population as having no net worth (living pay check to pay check) it is little wonder that, though greater in numbers, so few registered voters are “likely voters” in Newark, let alone actually voting in elections. Not wanting to rock the boat and potentially be evicted from one’s rented home (for whatever reason, be it the inability to suffer an increase in monthly rent or “nuisance” designation) is a very normal response to being asked to engage in a political process. Analysis shows that having a home to come home to matters a lot.

 

 

A Mighty Fortress Is Our Homeowner

November 3, 2017

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!

How Citizens United Matters In Newark Ohio

October 3, 2017

“Residents rally against move of gazebo from Courthouse Square” headlined today in the Advocate (Kent Mallett, 10-3-17). “Gazebo” will get tagged while “residents” will be taken for granted. After all, residents of a neighborhood association, block watch or school zone will often times coordinate to demand/petition council to address a safety concern, traffic situation, etc. And council will needs be attentive as residents vote, whether they own property or not. They reside in the voting precinct. Who else is there to vote? With Newark City Council’s recent passage of the downtown SID a curious twist has appeared in the neighborhood/council relationship. Essentially, the SID has created a “neighborhood association” which not only can demand/petition council equitably with any other Newark neighborhood, but has the added advantage of being semi-autonomous. The “persons” in this neighborhood are self-governing, something other Newark residential neighborhoods don’t enjoy. Membership has nothing to do with residency, and everything to do with property ownership. The “residents” of this neighborhood are likewise not voters (people with the capacity to vote). They likewise needn’t even reside in Newark (or Licking County for that matter). And yet they can make decisions as to the way their neighborhood is to be. Just as “old MacDonald had a farm” is a complete fabrication of the nature of farms and farming in the US today, so is the sole proprietor, owner-operator “mom and pop” account of business owners and business in downtown Newark. The vast majority of properties owned, businesses owned and conducted are within the structure of corporation (check deed title listings at the county engineers/recorders if you’d like. There is a map that lists who owns which parcel. Few of the names are individual entities). And as we all know, corporations are entities that exist “solely in contemplation of the law.” And thus do not vote. But wait, the highest court in the land ruled that they are “persons” (Citizens United ruling). So, as persons, they can politically organize, be semi-autonomous, and self-govern their neighborhood. What is the cost of admission to this neighborhood association? Well, exactly that. If you have money to spend, you are welcome downtown. Just passing through, keep moving (to another neighborhood). Don’t bring your own picnic to enjoy under the trees, or let the kids run around on the grass, or gather at the Gazebo. Grass, picnic tables and Gazebo are not part of the business plan for these “persons”. From Mallett: “The mayor said the Canal Market Plaza, opened last year just south of the Square, is a better place for concerts and community events, allowing performers and the audience to be under roof, out of the rain or sun. Hall did not attend the council meeting as he was home sick.” “Safety Director Steve Baum explained the gazebo is not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and its presence has become a security issue. “There are problems with homeless people sleeping under it, on it, around it,” Baum said. “Security is not the same for government buildings anymore. Our courthouse lawn is not necessarily the site for certain venues.”” Mallett quotes Carol Floyd, D-7th Ward who inadvertently blurts out what everyone knows but denies: “”I do not want us to become a community of ‘them’ and ‘us.’ I want to be an inclusive community that welcomes everybody, not us — the nice, normal people that don’t want the homeless or those who don’t have very much.” Thanks to the workings of Citizens United, the SID facilitates the downtown neighborhood’s charging admission. Well, OK, no ticket or reservation required. But you’d better bring a credit card or cash.