A Strategy to Revitalize Santa Fe & Other US Cities

Revitalization without displacement is, indeed, a challenge, but this post explores how Community Land Trusts can both increase public services and infrastructure without displacing current residents. The post also includes the latest on our Governor and the legislature’s apparent end game.

Click here to get to our Events & Opportunities page which lists details for a very busy week including Town Halls, Public Banking Hearings, and a Retake Our Democracy Research Action Team meeting on Th, 5:30-7pm. The Research Action Team will be discussing developing research on an expanded range of policy issues, including national and international issues, as well as policy strategies relevant to New Mexico’s making an economic transition from reliance on fossil fuels.  In addition, we will be discussing how to develop research in support of the issues about development without displacement that have been raised in this and yesterday’s posts.  Click here for details and to RSVP.

The State of the State

Before discussing strategies for addressing the need for development and infrastructure improvement investments that do not displace existing residents, I provide a quick look at the State budget SNAFU. It occurred to me yesterday that New Mexicans live under two dictators: one at a national level who is far more dangerous since he has the power to wage war and has both chambers of Congress at his beck and call, and our Governor, who is unable to get any of her agenda passed but has dictatorial control over our state budget, and by extension our state.

On Thursday, the University of New Mexico announced that it’s cutting its men’s and women’s ski teams to save $600,000 per year. The Albuquerque Public Schools announced that it’s canceling all middle school sports — volleyball, basketball and track — to save at least $500,000 per year. From a post on Representative Bill McCamley’s Facebook page, more evidence of the impact the budget stalemate is having: The following is an email I [Rep. McCamley] got yesterday and shows how NM is losing our educated young people. This is not acceptable and we must do better.

“My name is ___ and I am a senior at New Mexico State University. I will be graduating in May with a B.S. in Animal Science and minors in chemistry, biochemistry, and biology. After graduation, I will start veterinary school at ____ University. I received support from the WICHE Professional Student Exchange Program through the state of New Mexico. This would allow me to have in-state tuition while attending veterinary school. This is a huge advantage as the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition is over $30,000 per year. Today I received an email that I would no longer be receiving WICHE support due to state budget cuts. I could really use some help because I need the support as veterinary school is very expensive, and veterinary medicine is a profession with a very high debt to income ratio. Additionally, I wanted to come back to New Mexico after receiving my D.V.M., but now I am unsure if I will be able to due to the lower income of veterinarians in the state of New Mexico when compared to neighboring states. The WICHE PSEP is a loan for service program, so the students who are funded through WICHE are guaranteed to return to New Mexico and contribute to the work force after attending veterinary school. It is a great program that is important for the future of the veterinary profession and for students like me. I thought that maybe you could help me with this situation in some way or that you know of someone who can. I hope to hear from you soon.”

There have been many other reports of professors who had accepted positions at UNM/NMSU now looking elsewhere and students reconsidering acceptance to NM schools. While Democratic leadership held face-to-face meetings with the Governor, they appear to have gotten nowhere as each side has not budged and now a lawsuit has been filed by the Legislative Council with Roundhouse leadership seeking to obtain 60% of legislators to sign an order to call a special session. I was told confidentially by one legislator that he was not optimistic at all at the prospects of a budget override, and the outcome from the lawsuit would appear to take some time. In conclusion: What a mess. Best advice I have: Call the Governor daily and tell her to stop the theatrics. There is a simple solution to this. The Governor says she doesn’t want to raise taxes. She can veto all the tax increases in the budget, live with closing some tax loopholes that won’t harm NM families, and we would have a balanced budget. That is called compromise, and the budget sent to the 4th floor was constructed precisely to allow her that latitude. So why jeopardize so much when her budget relies on invading school district reserves and forcing teachers to pay a higher percentage of their retirement package? Don’t teachers have families? Why should teachers pay for this gridlock? Shameless.

Creative Strategies to Prevent Gentrification

Yesterday, we presented a summary of the Chainbreaker Bill of Rights, an excellent ten-policy framework for addressing the huge wealth gap in Santa Fe. The report also included excerpts and data from a Kellogg-funded report. While very important policy advances, in the absence of other more systemic strategies, gentrification could still drive many of our low-income residents out of Santa Fe. If you didn’t catch yesterday’s post, I highly recommend reviewing it before continuing with this summary of Community Land Trusts, which represent a systemic solution to the challenge of preventing gentrification. Click here to review yesterday’s post as it includes an excellent short video explaining how gentrification occurs as well as links to both the Kellogg report and the Bill of Rights.

To create more long-term systemic insulation against gentrification requires bold strategies. But there is solid evidence that these strategies can succeed. The most effective of these strategies is the creation of Community Land Trusts (CLTs).  A Nation Magazine article Can Neighborhoods Be Revitalized Without Gentrifying Them? chronicles how the CLT approach was used to offer a different page toward urban revitalization, one that honored sustaining the culture and the “place” being revitalized. “Historically, urban “renewal” has entailed two contrasting approaches to development: one is using subsidies to move public housing families into middle-class areas with better education and job prospects. But, alternatively, place-based investment, trying to change a neighborhood’s climate and social dynamics, poses a greater challenge than helping people move. Nonetheless, Johns Hopkins sociologist Stefanie DeLuca, author of a forthcoming book on urban inequality, argues that the basic principle is, “neighborhood matters.” While targeted-relocation programs help some families, this policy guts our cities and neighborhoods. Policymakers should prioritize “improving communities in place so that families don’t have to leave them to find opportunity.”  The Nation article goes on to outline how a CLT operates.

“With a CLT, the resident owns the property, while the community retains the land. The resident pays an annual leasing fee, plus other mortgage and maintenance expenses. When the property is sold, price is controlled through a prearranged agreement with a community authority, with representation from neighbors and “public stakeholders” such as local officials or community-development organizations. The homeowner can share in any appreciation of the sales value.  Essentially, owners of commercial property or individual homeowners cede the land to the Trust. While they still can benefit from the appreciation of the value of their home or business, the CLT imposes conditions that ensure that the appreciation is shared with the community. Examples of conditions might include that when selling the property they must either sell to a relative or a current community resident. In Baltimore, there were vast swathes of abandoned tenements that were part of imminent domain and could be incorporated into the CLT without having to convince property owners to trust the CLT system to honor their ownership of existing property. In Santa Fe there are some properties that might qualify for eminent domain or that are owned by the City, but most of the property that would be part of a revitalization effort in, for instance, the Hopewell Mann neighborhood, are owner occupied homes. Many of these are owned by Hispanic families who heard the tales of land theft from their grandparents, when unethical individuals misled families into essentially giving away their land, presenting Spanish-speaking owners with English documents that were described as benefiting the land owner, but in reality gave the property away. With echoes of historic land theft in their family history, a good deal of trust will need to be forged before families will give up rights to their land again. This is a very significant barrier to using the CLT approach in Santa Fe. However, there is abundant evidence of the effectiveness of CLTs in creating an economic environment that allows for development without displacement. For an excellent summary of how this has worked in other communities, click here.

As The Nation article makes clear, however, there are precious few other options for improving low-income communities without displacing current residents. Click here to review The Nation article. What’s more, after only a few hours of online research, it is clear that there are abundant resources available to help educate stakeholders and community members. For an excellent summary of how this has worked in other communities, click here.

Retake’s block-by-block community conversations canvassing, set to launch in late May or June, can initiate conversations with residents throughout the city with a goal of creating a people’s platform that will likely include many, if not most, of the elements found in Chainbreaker’s Residents Bill of Rights. These conversations will also include consideration of the longer-term vision: a community that revitalizes under-resourced, low-income neighborhoods without displacing the historic residents of those neighborhoods. The CLT concept will need to be part of the conversation. Our challenge between now and the initiation of that canvassing and community engagement process is to conduct deeper investigation into the CLT process and how it might be tweaked to work in Santa Fe. But there is an interesting place where perhaps this conversation could begin. In 2018 the Santa Fe University of Art and Design will shut its doors. Owned by the City, the property is already being discussed as a project for redevelopment. Might there be a way to have the CLT concept introduced in this context?  Food for thought. But if we want to advance this as a concept, we need to dig more deeply into the principles of CLT and the examples of where it has been deployed. For an excellent summary of how this has worked in other communities, click here. If there are individuals interested in digging more deeply into this concept and how it might be applied either in relation to the University of Art & Design or other contexts, please write to me at paul@retakeourdemocracy.org. Much to mull. Far better than mulling Trump’s last tweet or next move.

In solidarity,

Paul and Roxanne

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