Thursday, May 18, 2006

Gentrification With Justice

The area I live in (downtown Santa Ana, CA) is embarking on a Specific Plan for the downtown area. Last week, the consultants to the city conducted a weeklong "Design Charrette" down here. They solicited input from citizens and interested groups, conducted seminars and at the end of the week, presented their preliminary recommendations. It was an extremely interesting process to watch.

Many urban cores in the past 50 years have experienced the injustice of gentrification. As upper-income folks move back to an area of the city, land values, retail prices and rents begin to skyrocket. The end result; people with limited financial means are forced to leave, some of them residents of that area for generations.

Now, even more people are beginning to return to the city. This presents challenges. Bob Lupton, in his book "Renewing the City," is an advocate for "gentrification with justice." Lupton writes, "We need gentry who will use their compentencies and connections to ensure that their lower-income neighbors have a stake in their revitalizing neighborhood." Innovative housing policies, tax ordinances that offer relief to residents who own homes, loan funds that give down-payment assistance all are strategies that can ensure that the poor share in the benefits of urban redevelopment.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Verdict

I'm pretty proud of the jury and the verdict they've handed down in the Zacarias Moussoui sentencing phase. Despite a full-court press by our government and no shortage of media coverage, they came to the right decision. Moussoui wasn't on any of the planes, and his level of involvement in the intimate details of the 9/11 plot is completely suspect. The people who did it are dead...or hiding in the hills of god-knows-where.

I was struck by two very different perspectives from relatives of victims in reaction to the verdict;

Carie Lemack, whose mother, Judy Larocque, died on hijacked American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the World Trade Center, said "This man was an al-Qaida wannabe who could never put together the 9/11 attacks," Lemack said. "He's a wannabe who deserves to rot in jail."

But Patricia Reilly, who lost her sister Lorraine Lee in the New York attacks, was deflated. "I guess in this country you can kill 3,000 people and not pay with your life," she said. "I feel very much let down by this country."

I feel for Ms. Reilly's loss, but Zacarias Moussoui didn't kill 3,000 people. Her statement is factually wrong.

The sentence of life in prison, however, was exactly right.