By Jim Erkel - MCEA Attorney & Director, Land Use & Transportation Program
In MCEA’s land use and development program, I argue for policy platforms and funding mechanisms that will support more compact and mixed-use forms of development and a transit system that will allow residents to access all of the social, economic, and environmental assets the region affords. The strategies MCEA supports will improve the air we breathe and the water we drink, protect our region’s remaining natural areas, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and make the region more resilient as it confronts the effects of a changing climate.
If properly implemented, the strategies will also help reduce the region’s problem with some of the nation’s worst racial disparities in housing, health, education, and employment. This summer, I’m planning to read two books that explore the role of the law in creating the kind of racial disparities the region confronts, assess how the disparities exacerbate economic inequalities, and consider solutions that will help make the economic engines that regions represent work for all of their residents.
Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law:
A Forgotten History of how Our Government Segregated America
This book catalogs the legal mechanisms that were used to establish and reinforce neighborhood segregation. In particular, it considers the use of racially restrictive covenants. In a recent report, MCEA assessed the role such covenants played in the history of intentional racism, economic neglect, and geographic isolation that still burdens the Near North neighborhoods of Minneapolis.
Richard Florida’s The New Urban Crisis:
How Our Cities are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation,
and Failing the Middle Class – And What We Can Do About It
In previous books, Florida argued that human capital, particularly the creative class, would determine success in regional economic competition. Following the Great Recession, Florida saw that attracting and building the creative class was having the effect of worsening economic inequalities. He argues for a set of policies that will lead to an ‘urbanism for all.’ The solutions Florida sets out reflect many of the strategies MCEA supports such as transit access, local business opportunities, and neighborhood preservation. Working with its allies, MCEA helped to include these kinds of policy threads in the Saint Paul’s Central Corridor Development Strategy.
I will probably run through several yellow highlighters when I read the books this summer so that I can come back to them for ideas and inspiration as MCEA moves forward in advocating for policies and funding that will advance regional equity the definition of which I take from a past summer’s reading recommendation, a book by Manuel Pastor, Jr., Chris Benner, and Martha Matsuoka entitled This Could Be the Start of Something Big: How Social Movements for Regional Equity are Reshaping Metropolitan America –
“(R)egional equity means considering both people and place. A competitive and inclusive region is one in which members of all racial, ethnic, and income groups have opportunities to live and work in all parts of the region, have access to living wage jobs and are included in the mainstream of regional life. It is also one in which all neighborhoods are supported to be vibrant places with choices for affordable housing, good schools, access to open space, decent transit that connects people to jobs, and healthy and sustainable environments.”
What are you reading this summer? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.