What Urban Advocates Need to Do in Light of the Election

I’ve read a few of the posts lamenting the loss of urban issues (inner city problems as well as transportation and development issues) as the focus of the Congress and many state and local governments. As we are now almost two weeks past election day, what should we do?

1. Start drumming up support from the private sector. Almost every other day I hear about a developer in DC helping to pay for a new metro stop entrance. Also, in Nashville, local businesses have embraced transit as their next growth machine project through the Middle Tennessee Transit Alliance. Years ago here in Greensboro, Duke Power ( now Duke Energy) started our first public transit system to get workers to their facilities. Yonah Freemark in his Next American City blog Grassroutes just addressed how Apple Computer stepped up to re-build a subway stop in Chicago.

2. Get rid of the “Ghetto Mentality”– Veronica O. Davis just finished a great series on Greater Greater Washington from the perspective of a black woman living in a “gentrifying” neighborhood. In the third part of her series, she discusses a community conversation in which consensus was made to get out of the “ghetto victim mentality”. I want to extend this idea to anyone who believes that lack of money means the end of an issue. The root of the ghetto mentality was that  blacks marginalized into ghettos losing the ability to run businesses in their neighborhoods. Then education became the domain of the white man and gangs got bigger and bigger. However, as more time and investment has gone into education across the country, I see more students of all colors valuing the time they spend in the classroom. Black businesses are returning. WE ARE NOT MINORITIES IN OUR SPIRIT. People in the hood, keep moving forward.

3. Remind leaders who are against “new” livability, that nothing about these ideas are new.– Congressman Mica, the soon to be new transportation committee head in the House seems to think that because people are driving cars more and having more kids, that we should continue to invest in roads. However in the next breath, he mentions that his elderly mother regretted the loss of her drivers license the most, due to her in ability to drive places. He also laments the loss of rail service to his small town. Sounds like he’s still a livability advocate. Elements of the new livability, such as walkable streets, are things my parents, even in on their rural roads, had. Streetcar suburbs, nature trails, Main Street storefronts, all these things are at least 50 years old.

4. Keep doing what we already do– As urban advocates (and likewise smart suburb and rural advocates), we all know the benefits of having a better built environment can provide. These movements would not be where they are if it weren’t for the Internet connecting us and allowing us to spread the word. The Internet is not going away so fast. No one is stopping you from starting a Meetup at Starbucks. Yes, so many of our projects cost money we don’t have, but if we keep talking and getting louder, eventually hostile governments will listen.

So advocates, what else should we do to keep the fires burning?