Rebuilding East Baltimore: “taking too much”, segregating, and policing

For more than 80 years, as the neighborhoods surrounding the Johns Hopkins Medical Institution in East Baltimore campus changed from white to majority black, the institution has segregated itself, first with walls and then increasing security and off-duty police, and now a K-9 unit. They fear their neighbors and build greater measures to secure themselves from their neighbors. In the 1950s, after displacement of 1000 families and taking the 59 acres they occupied, the institution built physical walls to keep residents out of their newly constructed housing- their “compound”. Displaced residents would have to walk around this compound to get to their destination, previously accessible.

Not unlike the planned exploitation of land for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), the university has taken land and displaced its neighbors in small (one house at a time) and large ways (more than 1000 families at a time), mostly black and low income residents. During the current ceremony to protect the land and water by indigenous peoples and other water protectors at Standing Rock, the emphasis of white colonialism and its greed to take only for itself was emphasized as the way America began and continues:

“The Lakota word for “white man” is Wasi’chu (Wa SHE choo). Wasi’chu means literally, “takes too much.” …[The story goes, at] a time when the Europeans arrived, a starving immigrant showed up in a Lakota camp. Nutrient rich tallow fat from the sacred buffalo was drying on racks in the sun. Without asking, the man seized and consumed all the tallow that he saw hanging there. “He didn’t leave any for anyone else. The Lakota had never observed that behavior before.” So the Lakota word for “white man” describes this takes-too-much behavior and attitude–a manifestation of his thought process–not his skin color. The term Wasi’chu applies to any non-native.

The “takes too much” behavior of the Wasi’chu encapsulates metaphorically what the Standing Rock movement to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is about. As the indigenous peoples of North America come together and pray–creating an historic movement to prevent Wasi’chu’s latest desecration of nature–they illuminate a profound difference between the everyday holistic consciousness that has guided indigenous peoples since Paleolithic times, and the everyday aggressively anthropocentric (human-centered) consciousness that has led to our contemporary world.” (Contemplative Alliance)

This “takes too much” attitude and practice is alive and well in the contemporary leadership of East Baltimore and Baltimore city’s largest employer: The Johns Hopkins Medical institutions. It’s the basis of how rebuilding of the community has occurred for the past 80 years. Similar to the way the DAPL planned its route through indigenous peoples’ land without consulting with them, the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions planned its recent 88-acre Bioscience Park without consultation with the neighbors who would be displaced to make room for the development. After acquiring the land and demolishing buildings through the support of government, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and its proxy East Baltimore Development Inc (EBDI), the shiny new buildings and facilities are slowly being erected- two new biotech buildings, a bioethic institute, a new school, a new hotel, a 7-acre park, luxury and moderate-income ownership housing, and moderate and low-income rental housing.

jhmi-expansion

While the institution expands itself and markets to a different race and class, it ignores the challenges of the historic residents it displaced. The drug dealing, crime, and outcome of decades of abandonment and disenfranchisement were displaced to other neighborhoods. But crime does not stay confined to areas of poverty, crime spreads to areas of resources. And it is spreading into the campuses of Johns Hopkins University and hospital. Instead of digging in and understanding the root cause of the crime-structural inequities- the university again chooses to build greater walls, through increased security. This is reflected in the following excerpt from Johns Hopkins Medicine, Corporate Security, (November 30 2016) in regard patrol strategy, partnership with the Baltimore police department, and security technology:

  • Patrol Strategy

“Our Corporate Security team maintains a robust patrol presence on and in areas immediately adjacent to our campuses. We are continually adjusting our security resources on and around our campuses to best mitigate crime and enhance visibility by increasing our mobile, bike and foot patrols. Over the past year on the East Baltimore campus, Corporate Security has significantly enhanced security coverage with additional protective services officers, who are now posted in the commercial area expansion to the north, with two additional mobile patrols and the assignment of off-duty Baltimore police officers. A new canine program will launch in mid-December. This team of specially trained dogs and their handlers from Corporate Security’s special response unit will patrol parking garages, hospital corridors, the Emergency Departments and other locations throughout the East Baltimore campus to help prevent and defuse volatile confrontations, and to detect explosives. The dogs will also be on call to bolster security at other Johns Hopkins campuses should the need arise. On the Johns Hopkins Bayview campus, Corporate Security has increased patrols on the southeast side adjacent to the residential community where many of our staff members live. Mobile patrols are focused on monitoring staff and community members as they enter and exit the campus.”

  • Partnership with the Baltimore Police Department

“A key partner in our security response is the Baltimore Police Department (BPD). Corporate Security has always had strong relationships with the BPD, including the leadership of the eastern and southeastern districts, where our East Baltimore and Johns Hopkins Bayview campuses are located, and street patrol officers. The BPD and Corporate Security share information and support each other’s work daily, a collaboration that, again, helps in our response as incidents occur. In addition, Johns Hopkins University faculty members are partnering with BPD on the Collaborative for Violence Reduction, a research and practical application initiative informed by the best scientific evidence, by marshalling our academic expertise in public safety, violence prevention and gun control.”

  • Security Technology

“Corporate Security has more than 250 close -circuit television (CCTV) cameras  around  the exterior of the East Baltimore campus. A little over 1,200 cameras in total cover the entire campus (internal and external) of approximately 9.5 million square feet (not including seven garages). The cameras report back to a state-of-the-art communications center. On the Johns Hopkins Bayview campus, Corporate Security has increased our CCTV capabilities to provide video coverage to monitor pedestrian traffic in and out of the adjacent neighborhood and along the public properties that traverse the campus.”

The challenges of East Baltimore are indeed the problems of every one of us who live, work, study, pray, and play in the city of Baltimore. People, and the institutions and systems and structures created by the people, whose value is “taking too much” and “leaving too little” for others, have created the problems we now face in our most disenfranchised and abandoned communities. This value of forging forward while others next door to you are left behind, this rugged individualism is American, white American to be more specific. One can see the jarring result of such individualism in places like East Baltimore where the socioeconomic gap between two geographic neighbors have continued to grow over the years, reflected by the expansion of the institution from one square block to more than seven; and the displacement of historic residents and acquisition of their homes to accommodate these takings. In order to address the root causes we must individually and collectively be willing to identify our role in the cause and our role in the solution. We must acknowledge the structural and individual racism and classism that has built and rebuilt communities of poverty, crime, and drug addiction, diminished life-expectancy, diminished health, diminished housing, education, nutrition, recreation, and transportation. The “taking too much” practice has “left too little” in our communities of color and low income. The resulting crime is a problem of inequity; the greater the inequity the greater the violence.

community-benefit-table

But crime is a problem not only for those behind highly secured spaces like the Johns Hopkins campuses. It is a problem in the same communities that these institutions continue to segregate. And crime is an assault on our freedom and health for those inside these highly secured spaces, and outside. The institution boasts of the number of people it employs and its billion-dollar industry in the state. It publishes regular reports on its community engagement again boasting about its role in being a ‘good’ neighbor, providing economic and social inclusion, etc etc. But what it has not boasted about, in the past or recently, is its perception of the community in which the East Baltimore campus resides and its lack of innovative participation in addressing the decades of disinvestment and exploitation-by itself and the city. It, along with universities nationwide, have attached themselves to the service-learning model of community outreach. This model boasts about the countless hours that students provide to community projects but fails to address the lack of cultural competence, and the colonizing and white supremacist attitudes carried by many of the students who are thrusted upon marginalized communities. These are the same communities that the institution fears, segregates itself from, and demonizes with a police presence.

Race and class segregation has resulted in separate and unequal communities like Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and its neighbors. It has resulted in the increased wealth of the campus and increased poverty of the communities surrounding it through physical expansion of one group and physical removal of another. This continued serial forced displacement of the vulnerable and marginalized communities of low income and color, and its legacy must be addressed to expose the root causes so as to develop effective solutions. Solutions will not come from researchers developing methods unilaterally without advice from those impacted. We must be willing to engage across differences, welcome in discomfort and unfamiliarity of each other, listen to each others stories. Only then can we begin to understand what each other think and why. With these new understanding we can move toward changing our perceptions and heal the wounds of separation and fear and move toward greater understanding and community-informed solutions. Hiding behind guns, walls, cameras, and dogs simply hides the problem and prolongs the trauma and violence of inequity. Many community members fear the institution, this “plantation” presence in their community with so much power to determine whether they will be able to stay in their homes. This is a basic fear for the right to shelter and all that is attached to the human right to housing and health.

Those with power must acknowledge how their power came to be and be humble and wise enough to finally repair the violence enacted by “taking too much”: this has and continues to be a crime against humanity. This requires a recognition that  power enlivened by greed, hatred, and delusion is an abuse of privilege and is oppressive to people everywhere. Those without must challenge the powerful to live into their humanity at the same time living into their own power. Out of this awakening a new value of “taking less and leaving more” must arise and for this to happen, no one can stand aside anymore.

Eminent domain and land takings: private gain, yes; public benefit, no.

As we wait for Governor O’Malley’s promised 8000 jobs to materialize to benefit the public in the Johns Hopkins eminent domain-driven expansion into 88 acres of Middle East Baltimore, a recent publication in regard the benefit of eminent domain is of interest.

“Given the controversy surrounding the Kelo decision and the potential implications for long-run economic growth, it is worth investigating the effects of eminent domain for private
benefit. This paper contributes to the current literature by empirically examining the effects on government revenue and revenue growth. …Ultimately, we find virtually no evidence of a statistically significant positive relationship between eminent domain and the subsequent level of state and local tax revenue. In contrast, we find some limited evidence of a statistically significant negative relationship between eminent domain and the subsequent growth of state and local tax revenue. These results are robust across a variety of specifications.
Our results contradict one of the primary arguments often made by politicians in favor of eminent domain activity (and cited as a constitutionally valid justification by the Supreme Court)—that it will increase revenue. One possible explanation for that contradiction is that economic impact studies of new local developments are often plagued by double counting and the omission of opportunity costs. As a result, the subsequent impact on the local economy, and therefore on government revenue, is often much lower than anticipated. While much further work is needed in this area, one implication of our results is that voters ought to be much more
skeptical about politicians’ and developers’ claims regarding the revenue impact of eminent domain activity for private purposes.”

Takings and Tax Revenues: Fiscal impacts of eminent domain.

While private benefit to private developers is consistently clear in redevelopment in our abandoned communities mediated through tax breaks and credits, loans and grants, and contract favoritism and cronyism, Harvey’s analysis of the dispossession of black and brown communities during the foreclosure crisis provides a necessary comparison. He asserts that the 40-80 billion in assets lost in the African American and Latino/a communities during the foreclosure crisis parallels the 40-80 billion gain for the Wall Street gang during the same time period. These relationships of wealth lost through dispossession of land in black and brown communities and wealth gain in private corporations must be quantitatively confirmed. Because we know such studies will not be initiated by government-who facilitate private capital in wealth dispossession of our most vulnerable-it is up to community-driven organizations, think tanks, and community activists to take it up. Waiting for those who steal from the poor to tell us exactly how much they gained from their thievery does not benefit the poor.

David Harvey

The displacement of the people in Middle East Baltimore was trumpeted by politicians and Johns Hopkins, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and its sister followers as benefiting those impacted by historical segregation and systematic disinvestment. The health of the people would be impacted positively was the consistent media soundbite. Some studies continue to affirm that voluntary relocation of residents during development provides a positive impact on health, greater in some than others. However, a careful analysis of all of the impacted residents in communities targeted for redevelopment shows a different picture. Research by Sabriya Linton and others confirm that drug activity which was previously localized in the Middle East community before displacement/redevelopment was decreased after displacement but correlated with an increase in drug activity in neighborhoods where residents were relocated-shown by number of calls for narcotic services. Such data confirms the historic and current redevelopment practices which intend only to remove the ‘faces of poverty’ but not to help or remediate the causes or social or health consequences of poverty. This study shines light on the disrespect of and lack of benefit to local residents by the powerful stakeholders who ignored the organized efforts of residents of Middle East Baltimore demanding greater benefit for their entire community, social programs to help those in need, and work force development processes which would ready their community to benefit from the redevelopment. This research by Lipton adds to the data showing the intention and result of this redevelopment project of Johns Hopkins and its development proxy, EBDI, to ignore and displace its existing community partner in an attempt to expand to attract a whiter and richer population to be its neighbors-gentrification.
S-1. Linton et al. J Urban Health 2014

These data offers us evidence of the capitalist means of expansion-through dispossession of land and human right to health and safety- mediated by a premier hospital and research and teaching university willing to ignore the health and social needs of its community neighbor. We are offered a glimpse of the definition of what so-called anchor institutions actually intend to carry out in the communities they inhabit.(submitted for publication, From Anchor Institutions to Anchored Communities: Displacement, Ethics, and Countering the Threat to Public Health Lawrence Brown et al). In fact, this pattern of development through displacement dates back more than a century and continues today under new labels: urban redevelopment, community revitalization, RAD, Choice neighborhoods, HOPE VI, Promise zones- mediated not through industrial capital but private:public partnerships and neoliberal practices.

Are we coming home to racial healing or greater separation?

A search for the terms ‘racism’, ‘race relations’, ‘racial discrimination’, ‘bigotry’ and ‘post-racial’ of 6 of the highest circulating newspapers in the US 7 years before Senator Barack Obama made his announcement to run for president and 7 years after that announcement offers some facts for reflection. In the latter 7 years there is a decrease in the number of times the first 4 terms appear either in the title or the content of these newspapers, the last term ‘post-racial’ has shown an increase-from 1 to 9. (1). This is a small glimpse of the silencing of racism as a real phenomena in our society, before and after the first African American took the highest office of the white house. This research shows that during the process of President Obama having to prove his birth in the US, not once did any of these periodicals link race or any permutation of this word to this act of racism. When these major print media collectively and systematically neglect racism and its devastating effect on those who are oppressed and those who perpetuate the systems that allow this to occur, we could interpret this as a society which is well on its way in healing from racism. Another interpretation is that the reality of society is told to us by those with power, and reflects their perception of society. The perception of society, of those with power, is significantly separate and different from the reality of people of color who continue to suffer from a history of racism daily. The perceptions of those with power, are gained through their learning and experience from the lens of white privilege. They have the privilege of deciding and living their perception of reality; one which neglects the history and consequences of a country birthed and grown in racism. But what else would we expect? We can only know what we have experienced and learned from those who gather around us. And here lies the challenges of transitioning from greater racial separation to racial healing: a learning of the experiences of non-white America by white America.

Acknowledging the past and the present racial tensions

The appearance of ‘post-racial’ in these periodicals also supports this sense of a healing reflecting again a lack of understanding of the reality of people of color in America. For those who perceive a ‘post-racial’ society in their daily lives, the shooting and killing of an African American teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, MO this past week may seem like an anomaly. Like the anomaly of Trayvon Martin’s murder and the anomaly of the more than 400 young black men killed by police yearly. This evidences the systematic violence against black men, institutionalized by our legal system. But this evidence of racial separation and oppression is evidenced not only in the legal system with police brutality, we see it within the judicial system with the recent removal of key protections of the voting rights acts, and the systematic challenges to affirmative actions. We see it in the political system by the leadership of the Republican party and their funders in attacking programs and polices of the current administration and the disrespect of President Obama by elected representatives not seen before with other presidents. The educational, housing, labor, and health institutions also perpetuate significant racial inequity evidenced by the gap between whites and people of color in: accessing and completing high school and higher education, living in disinvested and abandoned communities, home values, income and professional accomplishments, health care access and outcomes.
The presence of racial separation and tension of Ferguson, MO plays out in many segregated areas across the US. Such neighborhoods of majority low-income and African Americans or Latinos/as were created by a history of housing segregation supported by the government and private interests. While a majority of white America fled to white enclaves in the suburbs, banks and government discriminated against African Americans for house loans creating segregated communities of blight in the 1950‘s and 1960‘s and the ghettos of today. The disinvestment in infrastructure, schools, recreation, housing, security, sanitation, and health services in these neighborhoods assured continued inequity in health, income, education, and the skill-sets necessary for movement out of poverty. This history assured access to all resources for whites-low income and higher-while black people had to struggle against significant odds to access any resources or opportunity for mobility. (2)  Ferguson is an example of such a neighborhood, scorned by the majority white establishment whose privileged perceptions do not allow them the grace to understand this history of racial segregation and their benefit from it. The way one white colleague describes this is “white people are like the horses running down the track with covers over their eyes”.

Such white-powered privilege sows and reaps a perception that disallows the opportunity for understanding the history and experiences of those without white-skin privilege. It allows a clear separation between ‘us’ and ‘them’ which mandates security and ordering of society based on one group’s ideology and ‘truths’. This privileged existence for those with the power to remain unquestioned is what defines white supremacy. White supremacy is the visible and at times invisible structures built by and fueled by white-powered privileged individuals which formulates clear sets of rules and rights for white-skinned individuals who do not have to consider the other: life according to white America, reality through white America’s eyes. The killing of an African American teenager, unarmed with his hands in the air, running away from a white police officer pleading not to be shot affirms the privilege of white supremacy. And yet this witnessed example of violence, while a tragedy for this teenager, his family, his community and all those who may have been touched by him, is also an opportunity for us to confront the history of racial segregation and violence yet again and direct our energies toward racial healing. Will this be that drop that runs the bucket over and create a new landscape for healing and wholeness?

Acting for healing

Watering truths of our collective past to flourish so we can begin to heal the soil for something beautiful to grow is a step in creating a new landscape of racial healing and equity. Acknowledging the racist practices and policies which built our country, the present day outcome of such practices, and the steps necessary to move toward racial healing are conditions that can bring about truthful dialogue and action to repair its consequences. Delving into the roots of current racial and ethnic inequities-income, educational, housing, health- is a part of this unearthing of the causes and consequences of American racism. There is no indicator whereby African Americans and/or Native American Indians and/or Latinos/as do not lag behind white Americans, none. Such stark evidence is the result of white-powered institutions orchestrated by individuals either ignorant or blinded with their own self-interest to utilize such systems for their and their descendants benefit. The systematic exclusion of non-whites from these benefits are the chronic conditions we are facing today. Racial healing, mediated through truth and reconciliation meetings around the country, city by city, intending to understand and repair this past is a practical step to begin anew together and move forward. They must be consistent and address the acute and chronic issues we face today. The effect on whites and non-whites must be understood, benefit and suffering, with everyone at the table to share and listen. Goals must be set, parameters for evaluating process and outcomes implemented, follow-up to assess changes coordinated, and measurable indicators analyzed and reconfigured for changes necessary along with the funding necessary to assure this occurs. Indeed six meetings or six months of gatherings will not undo and begin the process for changing such systemic belief systems of ‘us’ and ‘them’; we must be committed to the years necessary to undo the more than 300 years of racial myth and reality embedded in our consciousness and hearts.

Johns Hopkins Hospital service workers protest for a livable wage, 2014

Johns Hopkins Hospital service workers protest for a livable wage, 2014

But this is only one step on our path of healing. We must place a priority, a political will, for racial equity. We must fund affordable housing and decrease homelessness; fund health centers to effectively serve our poor and racially disenfranchised; we must educate, in all schools whether in white or non-white neighborhoods, about the true history of racism and segregation so the future generations do not repeat their ancestors mistakes; we must remove ineffective people from offices who perpetuate racial division to benefit those historically in power; we must divest from banks and lenders like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase Bank and other members of the ‘wall street gang’ who prey on black and brown people to assure continued poverty of people and neighborhoods; we must past laws in every city that requires a living wage is paid to all and redistribute unfair incomes given to presidents and top officers of corporations to fund this, private or non-profit; we must tax the rich to fund the path out of poverty and racism which redistributes this wealth assembled through exploiting the poor and people of color; we must invest in our historically disinvested neighborhoods like Ferguson in Missouri and East Baltimore in Maryland which visually continue to affirm the deep racial divides which exist and which must be addressed from the ground up for racial healing to occur. In effect, we must protest the status quo and accepted perception perpetuated by a white-dominated America that the American dream is accessible to all. We must do so in the streets, the board rooms, the class rooms, the halls of justice and the ivory halls of institutions, the press rooms, the bathrooms, the clinics, the employment lines and the unemployment lines, the churches, temples, synagogues, in nursing homes and child-care centers, in solitude, in community, in silence and out loud, we must protest for peace and racial equity now.

The vitality of our communities, our country, is at stake until racial healing occurs. The term ‘superpower’ used by the current president and his predecessors is a farce until we act at home the way we preach abroad. Mainstream media perpetuates the myth of a harmonious USA living an American dream desired by other countries, alternative media provides us too often the grim reality of the effect of racist and classist division. While each provides a glimpse of someone’s reality, having all our realities acknowledged so we can choose and envision change based on truth is critical. The media must help us broadcast truth to the masses. Change must come at all levels and begin with us: what privileged white-determined perceptions do we have of our brothers and sisters of color, whether of color or white? We must challenge those with power to imagine and practice change by stretching their privileged belief systems. Our current administration must increase the chances that this American dream they broadcast abroad is obtained first, by the descendants of the first Americans who slaved and died for this country- the black and brown people of America-even while we invite other vulnerable and privileged  populations from abroad to reach for that dream with us.

Acutely, rebuilding communities such as Ferguson, rife with racial tension, with the voice and presence of community is a step toward healing any disaffected community. In a recent interview President Obama noted that the war-torn countries in the Middle East cannot be rebuilt with the US going in and telling them what is best for them; it must happen from within these countries, led by the affected people. He continued that anything else is simply temporary, an interim period that puts a lid on things, until destruction later erupts. This truth must be brought back home, in America, supported by the powers of this administration. Such wisdom can usher in a new way of community healing, one that respects the experience of those most impacted by the many band aids that placed lids on the racial tensions that exists across America. Ferguson, Missouri is an opportunity for us to heal these tensions and abandon the path of separation we have been on for too long. Acting today for racial healing continues the path of our ancestors and assures that future generations realize freedom from the tyranny of racial oppression.

1. Major news reporting on race*

2. State of America’s children

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Holding Power Accountable: It’s a human rights issue

As privatization in development moves ahead in Baltimore, and government continues to pay tribute to private developers’ bottom line through public:private partnerships and tax subsides to the powerful, Baltimore and Maryland simply reflect a global trend-development which violates the human rights of individual citizens to participate and assure equitable benefit. Recent projects include the plan for privatization of public housing-subsidized by HUD- and transportation in the form of the Red Line in Baltimore and the Purple Line in the International Corridor (1, 2, 3, 4). Both are subsidized by federal and state dollars aimed at appeasing corporate power and threatening displacement and gentrification. This trend of public:private partnerships was highlighted at recent UN meetings on post-2015 sustainable development and the role of private power in drowning the voice of civil society, violating their human rights (4). They brought front and center the critical need to stop continued privatization and public:private partnerships which diminish democracy and minimize citizen participation, in its attempt to grow the profit of corporations.

In Maryland and nationally we continue to witness this same trend in non-sustainable development and public:private deals which drown out democracy and assure political and economic inequity. And just as the international civil sector demands greater accountability and transparency of public:private partnerships, tax subsidies, corporate profiteering, and lack of community participation, we demand the same. Specifically, the criteria offered to the UN to assure sustainable development post-2015 is an insightful framework for us to adapt in our call for public-lead development with a human rights-based ethic (5). Such criteria would investigate the powerful actors negotiating on their behalf while positing themselves as benefiting the local, national, and global economies and communities. The five criteria question:

– whether the private actor has a history or current status of serious allegations of abusing human rights or the environment, including in their cross-border activities;
– whether the private actor has a proven track record (or the potential to) deliver on sustainable development commitments emerging from the post-2015 process;
– whether the private actor has previous involvement in acts of corruption with government officials;
whether the private actor is fully transparent in its financial reporting and fully respecting existing tax responsibilities in all countries it operates, and not undermining sustainable development through tax avoidance;
– any conflicts of interest in order to eliminate potential private donors whose activities are antithetical or contradictory to the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the SDG [sustainable development goals] framework (6).

Locally we can adapt similar criteria in discovering who’s at the table negotiating on their profit-making behalf and the extent to which public dollars subsidize unequal benefit for private developers-growing the health and wealth gap. The future of sustainable development requires an assurance that equitable partnerships exist going forward and previous corrupt corporate entities and their affiliates do not lead development or benefit disproportionately from public contracting or sub-contracting (7).

Baltimore can begin with an analysis of past developments to include amount of tax subsidies and ratio of benefit to developers and local communities, amount of benefit in the form of local hire, economic growth, local business ownership, live-able wages and benefits provided by new developments, affordable products for historic communities, affordable housing, presence of historic communities in revitalized areas, health of communities displaced and in the revitalized areas. An entity exists in Baltimore to conduct such an investigation, the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC). BDC’s mission “is to make doing business in Baltimore, Maryland beneficial for the business community and the workforce so we can support continued economic growth, job creation and revitalization in Baltimore City”. In order to accomplish this mission they must evaluate the way development has occurred to assure future developments benefit all of Baltimore. We would like to see a report card. The departments of housing and community development, economic development, planning, transportation, health, parks and recreation can do similar assessments of impact of past and current development on their benchmarks. Such assessments would benefit from community participation.

Other ways to assure future development is participatory and respecting human rights include realistic community engagement at all levels of planning, implementing, and evaluating. Government funding for community leadership development and community organizing to ensure community leaders are informed and ready to participate would help to guarantee democratic participation. A city planning department with community organizers on staff working directly with neighborhood organizations to increase community engagement and social capital would begin to prepare residents for decision-making roles in current and future developments (8). If the city of Baltimore could do this in the 1960’s with some success, where is the political will to implement such community engagement practices in 2014?

Activism by citizens and community organizations remain key in assuring human rights is front and center of all development. Baltimore and Maryland is waking up to activism. Those still in by-stander activism mode can switch to engaged activism. We can vote elected officials out of office who maintain heads of departments who continue the same tried and true policies that support corporate welfare. We can publicly demand that such department heads who continue policies and practices which results in inequity in housing, economic, and community development, planning, health, transportation, public safety, parks and recreation, and education be placed on notice to show different outcomes in a specific period. We can be updated on these outcomes through annual report cards from these departments. We can call and email our public representatives each time we see the same patterns of development continue with inequitable outcomes.

Such opportunities for organized activism are upon us today. The Maryland Commission on Civil Rights offered a symposium last week on ‘Gentrification and Revitalization’. In regard an investigation of developer Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions’ expansion in East Baltimore over the past 60 years, HUD’s Baltimore office offered the audience direction in pursuing this. In a few weeks Baltimore’s Public Justice Center is hosting a discussion on residents’ demand for inclusion in housing policy and practices being administered through HABC and HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) project-“Democratizing Development” (9, 10). Casa de Maryland continues to seek support to combat displacement of immigrant businesses and residents because of the expansion of the Purple Line in one of Maryland’s most diverse immigrant community (3). It’s Our Economy is hosting a wealth-building conference to address poverty in Baltimore in May (11). Johns Hopkins Hospital service workers will rally for a livable wage on May 10 after the hospital neglects to return to the negotiation table (12). The recent announcement by Baltimore Development Corporation and Housing Authority of Baltimore City inviting proposals for development of a portion of the Old Town neighborhood in East Baltimore offers us an opportunity to practice with the criteria listed above (13). Why? There exists an organized group of local community leaders and stakeholders who have been meeting, organizing residents, and drafting a community-informed master plan for almost 10 years for this area-Change-4-Real (14). They have done the hard work of building a democratic and community participatory model supporting equitable benefit through community-focused economic development. Whether they receive the contract for development of this area will speak volumes to the use of the above mentioned international criteria for sustainable development with human and civil rights agendas. Baltimore and Maryland must begin to hold public:private power accountable through participatory development that respects the dignity of every individual. Anything else is a violation of all our human rights.

1. Privatization of public housing
2. The power of public:private partnerships
3a. Corporate welfare
3b. The greed of power
4. Purple line in the International corridor
5. Post-2015 development criteria
6. Sustainable Development Goals
7. Private developers benefit from public subsidies
8. Baltimore Sun. December 15, 1968. Renewal with a difference
9. Rental Assistance Demonstration project
10. Democratizing Development. Public Justice Center May 6
11. It’s Our Economy
12. Hopkins workers rally for livable wage
fly_mem_201404_Hopkins_May10_Allies_FINAL (1)
13. City announces plan for Old Town development
14. Change-4-Real

The rhetoric of power

After another story glossing over the “truth” of equitable access to the new Hopkins-Henderson Community school in East Baltimore, Father Peter Lyons (St. Wenceslaus Church, East Baltimore) and myself wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times. We decided after two weeks that maybe-just saying- they won’t publish it?

Here’s what we had to say:

In regard “Reading, Writing and Renewal (the Urban Kind)” of March 18 2014. “…We wanted Henderson-Hopkins to be an inspiration and magnet for the neighborhood.” A quote from East Baltimore Development Inc’s CEO. Like a similar urban experiment in West Philadelphia, the results are already in. “Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities” by Maia B Cucchiara (2013) describes the outcomes: “In their zeal to attract more middle-class families to the city, policy makers and educators adopted a stance where (white) middle-class families were seen as more valuable and more worthy than the existing working-class families.” If more evidence is needed to tell us where Baltimore’s experiment in social engineering is heading, an application policy and process for school attendance gives relocated residents three days to apply and no notice to historic residents while ample notice to Hopkins staff and students continues, assuring gentrification. The admission policy favors applicants from outside the redevelopment zone who are employed by Johns Hopkins and new developments, over historic residents of the neighborhood. Community organizations must alert residents of upcoming application deadlines and request meetings with the school’s leadership, knowing that existing neighbors are not the target of the magnets rebuilding this East Baltimore neighborhood.

New York Times article, March 18, 2014

Reading, writing, and renewal (the urban kind)

David and Goliath again: low-wage workers and Johns Hopkins Hospital

The current negotiations for a livable wage between low-wage workers at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and the leadership reminds us of the historical David and Goliath story, again. Putting aside the biblical source and broadening the analogy to a secular world, those without power against those with power is the same ole story here.

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in the backdrop of a typical block in its neighborhood of Middle East Baltimore

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in the backdrop of a typical block in its neighborhood of Middle East Baltimore

Why are we here again? Three years ago I gave a talk at the Fair Development Conference in Baltimore sponsored by United Workers titled “Saving Middle East Baltimore from the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions: David and Goliath”. (1) It was a history of land banking and “negro removal” tactics engineered by the Hopkins Institutions over the last 70 years. The impact of such exploitation on the health of the people and place of Middle East Baltimore was discussed. The question asked of the audience was how can we begin to measure the outcomes of the glaring gap between the growth of this powerful institution and the surrounding community, one of the most fragile, poor, and disinvested neighborhoods in Baltimore, with health indicators described by Johns Hopkins as one of the worst in the nation.

Fast forward to 2014 and today the prestigious institution continues its role of Goliath by exploiting those least vulnerable to assure its continued growth in wealth and health. This time the exploited “David” are none other than their own employees who do not earn a living wage. (2,3) If it was not so ironic it would be a wonderful “dark” comedy, particularly since many of the workers in low wage service jobs at the institution are African Americans. But this is not a comedy, a farce, or anything for anyone to laugh about; it is deadly. It is a story which continues to reveal the reason the gap between the rich and the poor and the effects on their health continue to widen: those with access to resources have better health and live longer lives while those with less resources have more illnesses and die at an earlier age. (4,5,6) Low wage workers seeking fair compensation for their labor cannot afford health insurance while working at the number one ranked health care institution in the world. The stress of not having enough money to make ends meet is consistent and chronic and sets up the body and mind to be vulnerable to acute and chronic illnesses such as infections, allergies, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, mental illness, cancers, addiction. (7,8)

Meanwhile the salary of the CEO of Johns Hopkins Hospital and the president of Johns Hopkins University-each earning more than $1 million / year -certainly assures them access to all the resources that would minimize the stressors of affording food, shelter, clothing, and health care. (2,9) This premier health care institution persuades a vulnerable and gullible public that they are there to save lives and make Baltimore a healthy place to live; but for whom? The president of Johns Hopkins University has spoken eloquently of the new Henderson-Hopkins School it is running in East Baltimore as being a model of , “restoring the city’s east side as a safe, prosperous, and vibrant community”. (3) A vibrant and healthy community begins with the members of the community having employment which allows them to afford their homes, health insurance, healthy food, and time to spend with their children and participate in school activities. Poverty-level wages do not allow a vibrant and healthy community to exist or grow. In fact poverty is the leading cause of poor health according to the World Health Organization, among others. (10) Through these unfair labor practices the institution contributes to health disparity/inequity and is itself a social determinant of poor health. In light of its institutes and programs receiving thousands of dollars to eliminate health disparities/inequities, address the social determinants of health, and rebuild healthy urban neighborhoods, there is grave contradiction in what it says it is doing locally, nationally, and internationally and what it is doing at home within its walls and its neighborhood. (11)

The tools that allow this exploitation of the right to a living wage and access to good health are racism and classism and the power that white-run institutions accumulated from the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, unfair laws, policies, and practices that grew the wealth of the few. The government institutions which rubber-stamped these policies and practices then, continue today as powerful public:private partnerships of neoliberalism. Transparency and accountability to the public remains low and corruption remains high. Large public subsidies, tax-exempt status, grants, and below-market value purchases of land from the government subsidize this private for-profit institution with public dollars and assure continued growth in power of this “Goliath”.

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in the backdrop of land cleared for new housing- will their low-wage workers be able to afford to live here?

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in the backdrop of land cleared for new housing- will
their low-wage workers be able to afford to live here?

But today is a new day and after we confirm the data, what do we do? How can we support the current low-wage workers and their advocates-1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East- negotiating for a living wage that affords them health care and safe and sanitary living conditions? We can contact them through their website below, write letters to the editors of all periodicals in the city and beyond, call and write our public officials who vote on permits, grants, and tax-exemptions to the institution at all government levels, and write letters to the publications of the institution. (3) Students and faculty at the university are particularly helpful in writing and talking about this injustice to their colleagues. They can spread the word to their friends and colleagues at other institutions and learn more about wages at other prestigious hospitals and universities around the country. The institution has declared that if there is a strike it will have an alternative workforce ready to continue to provide services-their identified goals of health care delivery justifies their path of pay-inequity, “the-ends-justifies-the-means’ reality. If workers strike because they have no alternative, we can join in on the strike and show solidarity for our brothers and sisters willing to stand up to power: united we can send a powerful message that it is time for all employees to earn a wage which does not place them at risk of living in poverty and becoming sick. We need all the “Davids” to challenge this “Goliath” of Johns Hopkins and send a powerful message that we are tired of inequitable and non-sustainable wages that do not allow low-wage Baltimore workers to afford living in the very communities the institution is rebuilding.

Solidarity

Solidarity

This thinking and practice are revolutionary acts because it goes against the norm of accepting a powerful institution’s oppression of its employees fueled by its unhindered network of connections with government and corporate America. Today it may be service employees but we do not have to wait until tomorrow to see that this inequity in compensation for labor is widespread and is already affecting higher-waged employees at other hospitals and universities across the US. (12,13) Fair compensation helps to assure equitable and sustainable development in our city, and begins to narrow the income and health gap; anything else is a violation of the human rights and the health of individuals and communities and continues the legacy of race and class inequity. (14)

Source/coverage of Johns Hopkins Hospital employees protest for livable wage.
1199SEIU United Health Care Workers East website
The Real News Network
Baltimore Brew
Baltimore Sun

Speak out about what fair and ethical development means to you!

United Workers and Eastside groups organizing, marching and rallying this coming Saturday, March 29, 10:30 AM:

Raising awareness to the history of abandonment and inviting you to contribute to the solution!!

600 N. Patterson, Tench Tilghman

More information

Gentrification, inequality, and the paths toward housing equity

  

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Luxury apartments replace public housing in East Baltimore

This writing associates gentrification and inequality with the understanding that association is not causation. Further studies are analyzing the relationship between gentrification and inequality and vice versa. In the mean time, glance at the table compiled from two reports: Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank on cities undergoing gentrification through 2009 and Brookings Institute on inequality in cites in 2012. Seven out of the top 10 cities experiencing gentrification and inequality are the same: Boston, NYC, San Francisco, Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles. While the years are not consistent across the reports for a rigorous comparison it suggests a pattern of association. In the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank report on gentrification in cities Baltimore is ranked the highest in cities with low price land tracts (95% of land tracts are low price land tracts). However for the period studied -between 2005 and 2009- only 5% gentrification occurred in these tracts. (1) This is consistent with BNIA (Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance) data showing an increase between 2005 and 2007 but leveling off into 2009 (See June 2013 post on this site for graph of rebabbed houses in Baltimore as a proxy for increased house value).

Top 10 cities gentrified 

2005-2009*

Top 10 cities with largest income inequality 2012#
Boston Atlanta
Seattle San Francisco
New York City Miami
San Francisco Boston
Washington, DC Washington, DC
Atlanta New York City
Chicago Oakland
Portland Chicago
Tampa Los Angeles
Los Angeles Baltimore
*http://www.clevelandfed.org/
research/trends/2013/1113/01regeco.cfm
#Brookings Inst. Rpt

In the Brookings Institute report Baltimore ranked 10th out of 50 big cities in the US for the greatest gap between the rich and the poor in 2012. (2)  This current income inequality may reflect more recent gentrification processes which have occurred subsequent to 2009.

There are two big initiatives of revitalization ongoing in Baltimore, one a legacy of a previous mayor (now governor) and the other of the current mayor: 1)The ‘college town gentrification project”:  the big players are U of Maryland, U of Baltimore, Maryland Institute College of the Arts on the west side and Johns Hopkins on the east side (3) and 2) ‘10,000 families in 10 years’ targeting recent immigrants, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered communities, Washingtonians who want lower-priced water views. One tool for these projects is the ‘Vacants to Value’ program initiated by the current administration which aims to sell vacant  property at low cost to new residents  as an invitation into the city. Several  reports from existing residents reveal they are not given equal opportunity to purchase vacant property through this program. The socially engineering project of constructing a new Baltimore is determined to rebuild it with people of a different race and class and de-concentrate the existing fabric of this inner city. In addition the recent report from Baltimore Brew regarding the city’s plan to sell public housing buildings to private developers/managers with no transparency to the public as to the long term plans for these buildings will add to further displacement and likely gentrification. (4) The Housing Department has the right to negotiate on behalf of current and future residents to assure that these units remain affordable yet the public remains uninformed as to these details. Dispersing housing vouchers to current tenants may allow low-income residents to move to areas with better socioeconomic status but it does not guarantee increased income for them to afford the goods and services of these different neighborhoods. In fact the current data shows no consistent patterns of increased employment for low-income residents forced to move when public housing is planned for demolition. (5) The results of these rebuilding and gentrification processes will be important to track to determine correlation between the changing higher income earners in the city, the predicted 28% increase in housing prices in Baltimore, and the income and housing value of displaced and existing lower income residents-the inequality gap. (6)

7-11 in the Johns Hopkins Rangos Building does not accept food stamps

New 7-11 in the Johns Hopkins Rangos Building in East Baltimore gentrification does not accept food stamps, dictating who is invited into the community

Gentrification results in a different class and often race of people inhabiting a previously disinvested area. (7) This results in increased taxes, better public infrastructure/services, greater investment in education, recreation (bike lanes, human/dog parks) etc with the consistent effect of displacing existing residents who cannot afford the increased taxes, services, and merchandise in the area.Displacement of local businesses occurs secondary to new residents desiring different products, usually more costly. Does this lead to greater inequality/gap between the rich and the poor? It can if people are unable to afford something they previously afforded (home, taxes, products, services) whether in their current neighborhood or neighborhood of displacement. In the current neighborhood the new higher income residents create a market that drives housing prices up, as well as services and products. For a low-income earner moving into a higher income neighborhood because of displacement they still pay a higher percentage of their income for the housing if more affordable housing is not constructed in the area. If existing residents have increased costs to live but no increased income to support these costs, there is less left over after housing expenses.

These initiatives of the past and current mayors seek to increase higher income earners while little has been done to train the existing workforce to be competent to benefit from the projected new jobs and assure increased income that can afford the increased cost for housing, products, services and taxes. Neither has there been affordable housing planned to accommodate the displaced residents unable to afford the rising cost of housing and property taxes. Many of the neighborhoods targeted for revitalization include communities which have been disinvested and under-resourced in education, health care, nutrition, recreation, libraries and all the other assets that support a thriving and healthy community. The outcomes of such disinvestment over time result in the health disparities-including drug and alcohol addiction, development delays, lead poisoning, high incarceration rates, depression, anxiety- we witness in Baltimore and similar urban cities of low income and color. (8) This default of benefit to the higher income residents continues the status quo of growing health and wealth inequality supported by powerful public-private partnerships.

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East Baltimore expansion of 88 acres anchored by Johns Hopkins University

The struggle for equity in housing rights for communities of low income and color  targeted for the negative impacts of gentrification and greater inequality continues. In Baltimore residents in Middle East organized and challenged Johns Hopkins University, the city government, Annie E. Casey Foundation and other powerful stakeholders for fair market value for their homes, equitable relocation costs, and healthy demolition processes after being targeted for displacement by eminent domain. (9) Residents in Washington DC organized and established cooperative housing when their rental building was threatened for developer buy-out (10) In Brooklyn tenants organized and formed a union to assure they can stay in their rental housing after private landlords threaten them to move and increase rent in a quickly gentrifying area. (11)  In California Oakland is addressing workforce development in the creative arts and San Francisco is assuring residents are not further pushed out by gentrification (12). To address the issue of increasing property taxes which force out existing residents Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburg, and New York have introduced or passed legislation either capping or extending payment for property taxes. (13) Legislation to mandate a set target of affordable housing being built in all new housing developments and a set target of local hires, workforce training for eligibility for employment, and social programs to assure eligibility can be tools to assure more equitable housing and employment which will sustain incomes and prevent displacement. (14) There is  more discussion about how to prevent gentrification once revitalization begins in adjacent neighborhoods and online media has served as a platform for raising greater awareness of this issue. (15) Lastly, anti-displacement strategies have and can include city, regional, and federal-sponsored research and planning to assess potential for current affordable housing stock and likelihood of displacement as a result of revitalization and funding for  prevention strategies. (16)  An example of a plan to prevent displacement secondary to planned revitalization in Somerville, MA was recently released by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council of Somerville  suggesting a need for 9,000 new affordable units to assure no displacement occurs (17). Besides organizing at the community level planning and training upcoming leaders to replace current leadership at the city, state, and federal levels, who ignore and support the negative effects of gentrification and inequality through private:public partnerships, is occurring and remains a critical path toward housing equity (18)

‘Arts to gentrification’ in Station North Arts and Entertainment District, Baltimore

The discussion of introducing the arts community as a process to gentrification seems to have taken an intellectual turn in many places in Baltimore. In doing so it misses the practice and process of how urban communities change, and why. The bottom line is that city government and their private partners do not care how they make a profit, just that they do. These partnerships perfectly fulfill the needs of the individual partners: private wants more power and public must appear to be addressing the issues of the city, economic development being a major one as decades of disinvestment in people and place loom large. So choosing ‘arts to gentrification’ as the means to the end of ‘profit and power making’ mixes well, like rice and beans.

Right here in Baltimore we are facing ‘arts to gentrification’ with the Station North Arts and Entertainment district. Similar to other gentrification projects in Baltimore it started with a plan from the powerful stakeholders, Maryland Institute College of Arts and city government more than 10 years ago. I remember when now-deceased long-time activist Dennis Livingston, a resident of the area, tried to organize local community groups about a plan to counteract the un-official talk of a city-wide plan to gentrify the area. The local community had not heard directly from their representatives of this new plan but talk was out there and on the ground people were scared that they would be displaced. This of course was the mostly low-income and of-color communities included in the 90-acre gentrification plan (including Charles North, Greenmount West, and Barclay Communities, Penn station, and MICA). He was already seeing the speculators swarming into the area unchallenged by city government. Besides setting up speculators for future asset growth, such predatory real estate practices only serve to drive a community more into abandonment as they buy and board while waiting for the change in the market forces to come. Still they are not the cause of gentrification but a cog in the wheel. The cause is the hierarchical governmental structures that make plans and deals with universities, developers, non-profits and wealthy friends and colleagues who are assured major profits and greater power from the eventual change in the neighborhood.

Some 10 plus year later, the Station North Arts district continues its slow process of gentrification. Pizza sold on North avenue is not affordable to the historic low-income people, not to mention the new restaurants opened this past year on Charles-but they are affordable to the incoming artists community and the higher-income community the area seeks to attract. While affordable housing for artists have been built, no signs or concrete plans of affordable housing for general residents of the area have materialized. The directing body of the gentrification process has received criticism for this planned gentrification and responded by surveying the existing community and inviting comment on future plans. This is a start to engaging residents and existing businesses even while existing businesses continue to seek opportunities for ownership of historic structures and real control of how development will occur. But what seals the current state of gentrification in the area is the comment from a white gentleman in a wheelchair one recent cold January night. He was sitting slightly aside from a group of mostly white young people standing outside a venue on the first western block of North avenue. As we walked past the crowd and passed in front of him, he looked up at us with fearful eyes and a grimaced mouth saying, “I’m scared of all these white people moving in”. The friend walking next to me responded “me too”. I simply nodded my head acknowledging some understanding. He felt a connection with two people of color who didn’t appear to be new residents or visitors but a part of the old. He did not ask us for money but he asked us for another form of support. He was a white man from the old neighborhood fearful of the new white and other racial/ethnic groups that were moving into his neighborhood. He was fearful of the ‘other’ he perceived as replacing him and others like him. And he thought we would understand his plight. We did.

We understood that he worries about where he will live in the next years; whether he can afford the food and the merchandise that will soon replace what was there. He lived in a community most would consider lacking and disposable. He worries and his health takes a toll. A toll that will not be measured by the late surveys 10 years after the fact. We worry because we know that the stress of his worries will contribute to the unequal illnesses and early death documented for communities of lower income and color.

Not unlike the movement in the Netherlands and Germany where artists refused to be used by the government for gentrification purposes the incoming and existing artist community must organize and take a stand. They must build bridges with the larger existing community and demand that affordable housing for all is built, local businesses can remain, new businesses do not discriminate against them through pricing, and employment is mandated for local residents in all new businesses (perhaps a Community Benefits Agreement with Implementation (CBAwI) may be a working model). If this is not done, like the current John Hopkins gentrification project in East Baltimore (Hopkins/EBDI/Casey East Baltimore redevelopment project), the Station North Arts project will continue to be another development seeking to displace and dispossess our most vulnerable while growing continued wealth and health disparity between the rich and the poor. This is the practical and purposeful outcome of ‘arts to gentrification’.

Hamburg: Jamming the gentrification machine

Rotterdam: Stopping the creative class as gentrifiers

Are you there Lord Baltimore – Olivia Robinson

Eminent domain in the news…

illustration

Governor Christie of NJ hands over eminent domain power to universities’ then pleads ignorance…[not unlike the current governor of Maryland handing over the power of eminent domain to the Johns Hopkins University, a PRIVATE university! to boot]

“Governor forgets law”

The Kelo decision and economic development for the powerful; if overturned can EBDI, Hopkins, Casey, and the city of Baltimore be sued retroactively for outcomes that favor one developer’s economic benefit? Food for mindful munching…

“Kelo today”

“Scalia on Kelo”

“Eminent domain and private rights”

“In-depth story on the effects of eminent domain in New London today”