02-19-2017  1:16 pm      •     
gentrification protestors

As President Obama noted in his State of the Union address, economic inequality has reached an epic height in our nation, shutting the doors of opportunity for millions of Americans. In urban centers we see this growing inequality through gentrification.  Too often the “development” of urban centers means the displacement of low and moderate-income long-time residents and new housing and amenities for the rich.  A first step in ending the growing economic inequality, which is deeply tied to ongoing racial inequality, is to stop this displacement. 

The corrosive effect of gentrification can be found throughout the nation even in the “liberal” whitest city of America Portland, Oregon. Portland is known internationally as a leader in urban design with many boasting of its bike-friendly streets, accessible 20-minute neighborhoods and quaint local business culture. In fact, this year, Portland was named the best US city by the real estate company, Movato. 

Unbeknownst to many, however, Portland is also a case study in gentrification, a glaring reminder that urban economic disparities will persist as long as the structural inequalities of our economy remain. 

Other cities riding the cusp of the latest development trends have experienced the same results. In Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, inner city neighborhoods that were once majority black have been inundated with plans for redevelopment.  The upward redistribution of wealth through public-private partnerships, have rewarded real estate speculators, exporting long time black residents and bringing in higher income predominately white residents

To halt this practice a growing community-led movement calls for an end to displacement by promoting policies that dismantle systemic barriers to economic opportunity and prosperity. 

Last November, the City of Portland’s Development Commission (PDC) announced plans to provide a 2.4 million dollar subsidy to develop a long time vacant property with billion-dollar California developer Majestic Realty. The property is in the heart of the city’s historically Black community; which happens to be one of the fastest gentrifying zip codes in America. This decision was announced only weeks after the city committed to including a new network of Black leaders, the Portland African American Leadership Forum (PAALF), in any major development decisions that would impact the Black community, and months after inviting Portland’s NAACP Chapter to a key PDC advisory group– only to later deny their application.

  In a recent open letter, PAALF called into question the cronyistic city policies that continuously funded the rich at the expense of the poor, and then demanding that any further development in the area support the stabilization of its historic Black residents.  A statement released by the Portland NAACP strongly encouraged a stop to the development. 

As more and more Americans find themselves barred from economic opportunity, ideas once considered extreme are becoming mainstream.  Nationally, there are signs that this movement is accumulating political power.  In Seattle, the NAACP is fighting for a $15 minimum wage and collaborating with newly elected City Council Woman Kshama Sawant in an effort to reshape their economy.  In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio successfully ran a “tale-of-two-cities” electoral, declaring economic and social inequality his highest priority. 

 

Nationally there is much to be done that can address the record level of American economic inequality. It is a fight which must occur city by city.  Growing economic inequality will only cease with an end to gentrification. There must be restorative policies that address past wrongdoings, and forward thinking policies that will make our  urban centers as places of opportunity for all racial and income groups.   

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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