Detroit started its process by identifying the needs of African American women & then the City went to those women and talked. What if Santa Fe had started with a similar premise on SFUAD? Also included a list of 7 terrible Trujillo votes.
Lessons to be Learned from Detroit
There are some striking similarities between Detroit’s current efforts to revive Detroit’s inner city and Santa Fe’s efforts to develop a plan for SFUAD and more broadly to address neighborhood gentrification and displacement of low-income communities:
- A huge proportion of Detroit’s workforce lives outside the City;
- The ‘downtown’ area of Detroit is well developed and comfortable, not so for many neighborhoods distant from the city center;
- Gentrification of the inner downtown of Detroit has resulted in extraordinary levels of displacement of the African American population; and
- There is a food desert in low-income parts of Detroit.
Sound familiar? What is somewhat different is how Detroit is going about attempting to address these issues.
I want to be clear: I do not see a nefarious plot behind what I and others view as Santa Fe’s flawed outreach strategy for engaging low-income and Hispano communities to get their input into the Santa Fe University Art & Design planning process. I spoke with Matt Brown, the relatively new Economic Development Director for Santa Fe and he quickly ticked off a list of commendable efforts to engage communities of color and low-income people: ads on bus signs, radio ads in Spanish, efforts to engage Chainbreaker, Somos, Earth Care and others. All commendable efforts. But it was Brown himself that opened the Santa Fe Institute of Art input session with a comment acknowledging that the room was jammed with the usual suspects.
With only six Spanish-language surveys completed and a reported 17% of Hispano individuals completing the online survey, no matter what strategies were employed, they did not sufficiently engage many important stakeholders and populations in the City. Rather than pick apart what was done, let’s look at a Next City report on Detroit to see what could still be done.
First, Detroit did not begin with a group of urban innovators developing solutions designed in architectural or developer offices. Instead of huddling in conference rooms, members of Detroit’s planning department conducted face-to-face meetings and workshops with only one question: What is the change you’d like to see?
They did not just invite impacted communities to large public meetings, but proactively sought opportunities to engage these communities on their terms, in their meetings. From Next Cities: “What’s more, in January, Maurice Cox, director of planning and development, and his central district director, R. Steven Lewis, attended a jam-packed workshop at the University of Michigan titled “The Other Detroit,” a forum devoted to the concerns of African-American women. (For more on Cox and Lewis, see Next City’s profile of the pair.) ‘The existing residents, and their history, and being a promoter for them, is where all this begins,’ says Walker. ‘They just want simple things, like to be able to walk out of the house, go down to the main street, and have a nice meal.’ ”
Imagine if instead of an online survey and a series of 3 hour input sessions, Santa Fe had worked with low-income stakeholders and held small meetings in the southside in Spanish and English with the focus being: “What should we do with this property that would best meet your needs?” What if the results of those meetings then became the City’s guiding principles: Whatever we do at SFUAD, we need to focus on these three priorities identified through our authentic engagement with these communities? In Detroit, neighborhood residents found the approach new and refreshing: “It was the kind of conversation you would have in your living room,” says Lewis, who watched his colleague make his way through the crowd. And it was confirming for us to hear so many say how ‘unusually refreshing’ it was to have a partner on the municipal side, for the neighborhood residents who’ve been here, through the thick and thin.”
Detroit & Santa Fe: Former Residents Now Commuters. In Detroit, the local workforce does not align with the region’s job opportunities. Not only do two-thirds of Detroit residents commute to work outside the city each day, but according to Deputy Planning Director Janet Attarian, two-thirds of Detroit’s downtown workforce commutes from outside the city limits to work each day. Sound familiar? Perhaps another missed opportunity for Santa Fe would have been to have worked with low-income stakeholders and together organized a meeting with displaced former Santa Fe residents who now commute to Santa Fe to work. We may have found out how SFUAD could have lured those workers back to their former home town.
Detroit & Santa Fe Plagued by Urban Food Deserts. In many outlying sectors, the Detroit feels pre-industrial once more. Urban agriculture — the appearance of small plot farmers and larger operations such as apple orchards and cider makers — reflects a burst of energy that has emerged since the great recession, when you could buy houses and land for less than $100. From Next Cities: “Kimberly Driggins, director of strategic planning for arts and culture, sees these land-based businesses as rich assets that could be amplified for broader renewal in Detroit’s less dense areas. ‘Interestingly, urban agriculture, historic preservation, and arts and culture are three elements that are often intertwined,’ she says.”
“At the center of this neighborhood, we proposed to cluster together several parcels of land to make a two-and-a-half acre park that would extend across streets and across alleys,” Cox says. “This is the first time we’ve ever tried this, to see if you could make a central, neighborhood park wholly out of formerly residential parcels adjacent to each other. We tried hard to figure out how to make this park culturally meaningful to the neighborhood,” he says. “And to our delight, in one of our community meetings, residents said ‘We’ve decided to name this Ella Fitzgerald Park.’”
The story continues. “Not only did the community figure out how to rescue the meaning and the memories from a school they could not rename, but the residents told us ‘We also want a way to put the handprints of kids, all over the park.’ Cox calls this a type of cultural tagging. For change to endure, locals must take ownership of those changes. What was the solution? To partner with a local African American artist, Hubert Massey, who will create a ceramic tile mural in two 80-foot segments — 160 feet long in total. The mural contains the handprints of children, another level of tagging that also taps the memories of children who once attended the Ella Fitzgerald School. ‘The fingerprints of the neighborhood will literally be all over that park,’ Cox says.”
Detroit and Santa Fe have surprising similarities, but Detroit launched its neighborhood revival with a different approach to outreach and engagement with the result being that the current residents quite literally have their fingerprints all over the ultimate design. It is not too late to learn from Detroit. The City could convene southside stakeholders and initiate a series of conversations with residents living in trailer parks and Section 8 housing with the starting point to the conversation: What could we do with SFUAD that would significantly improve your lives? If the starting point to planning were a clear social purpose, initiated and endorsed by our low-income communities, the design thinking that followed might be significantly different. Decades of Santa Fe development has led to the displacement of thousands of largely Hispanic Santa Feans, perhaps it is time to ask them how we might construct intentional strategies to bring them back.
Again, I want to stress that the City had the best of intentions in conducting its outreach efforts and in seeking community input. But to authentically engage low-income communities is extremely challenging. So why not learn from another community that has been successful at engaging their impacted community.
Click here to read the full Next City report. You can bet that when Roxanne and I go on our Listening Tour, we will meet with these folks.
Trujillo Claims Romero and Others Are Distorting His Voting Record. No Need for Distortion. Here It Is
- Trujillo voted to prevent women from accessing abortion (HB 390),
- He voted to ease concealed cover regulations (HB 106);
- He voted for Lea-Eddy that would to allow New Mexico to be the Nation’s dump for spent uranium fuel rods (HM 40);
- He voted to enable gas and oil industry to export crude oil HM 105);
- He voted to expand the three strike law (HB5);
- He voted to prevent slowing the privatization of education (HB 46);
- He voted to prevent health insurers from curbing overcharges by big pharma (HB 244); and
- He joined a suit with a Libertarian lawyer and the Bail Bonds Association to challenge Sen. Wirth’s Bail Reform Amendment, approved by 82% of the voters.
Those are his votes and actions. They are not the votes of good Democrats; they are the votes of Democrats In Name Only. They are the votes of a Republican. Andrea Romero has the temerity to point out those votes. That isn’t distorting anything, it is speaking truth to power. And Carl Trujillo does not appreciate being called out, so when called out for bad votes, he makes claims that others are distorting his record. Those votes speak for themselves.
Fair is Fair. In a letter dated April 30, the office of the Secretary of State reported completion of an investigation of five charges of incorrectly reporting campaign contributions or exceeding campaign limits. The SOS found that there had been no violations. Retake reported on the filing of these charges and feels it only fair to report that the charges have been dismissed. Thanks to Heather Nordquist for pointing out that we had failed to report this.
Paul & Roxanne