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Modern American cities are changing

Original post made by Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 24, 2010

A report describing how modern American cities are being changed.

This epic injustice is the complete takeover and reengineering of the modern American metropolis by our nation’s wealthiest sectors—the seizure of public parks, public schools and public lands, largely through the use of land use and zoning policies and executive tax breaks, so that the largely black and brown and Asian populations of those cities, along with the officials they elect, get to have only the most minimal say over a city’s most precious resources: the public commons.

From the parks that we have turned over to wealthy private schools and to professional sports teams, to private tennis and golfing concessions, and to luxury restaurant operators, to huge high-income housing and office development projects that spawn special economic districts, that then siphon off payments in lieu of taxes to pay off private bonds, instead of using that money to add to the city’s general funds, to charter schools that spread at breakneck speed, even though they have no real public oversight and no extensive track record of proven success, yet they are encouraged to displace existing public schools, through all of these ways, our public commons is being taken away.

The American city is being reengineered along the European model, with the poor pushed out to the far-off suburbs, and only the wealthy and middle class able to find housing in a central city core protected by thousands of surveillance cameras that track and record all who enter.

Who will stand up against this? Who will say this is the opposite of a democratic society? Who will defend those who have no power? Where are the leaders who will not simply talk about change, but actually fight for it?

Luckily, there are heroic organizations, like AALDEF and the Mirabal Sisters Center and NEDAP and the Chinese Staff Workers’ Association and the Association for Union Democracy, and scores of others, that persevere. And thankfully, there are still a few places in this wasteland of the American news media where your voices can still be heard. A better world is indeed possible, and we will get there. And I want to thank AALDEF for giving me this award.

Web Link

Comments (3)

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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 25, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Where in America has this happened?

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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Resident -- can you be specific about what "seizures" you are referring to?

Also, there has been a push to create low-income housing out in suburbs. We have some in Palo Alto. Are you saying that you think the residents should be relocated to San Francisco? Maybe they prefer it here in our wonderful city?

I'm trying to understand why it is so much better for society in general, and for the poor people in question, to be concentrated in a central city core? Are you sure poor people would rather live in, e.g., the Tenderloin, than in a suburb?

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Nora Charles: You won't see this happen in Atherton or Woodside. You do see it happen in Palo Alto. We used to have a mall before HP moved in. Now we will have dense housing. That mall had inexpensive shops and restaurants and generated taxes for Palo Alto and Mountain View.

Anon: As recently as the 1960's, Palo Alto had a diverse population near California Avenue and existing neighborhoods in South Palo Alto. I lived in South Palo Alto and I'm more familiar with it than I am with North Palo Alto. One of the "seizers" that has happened to Palo Alto over the years is the disappearance of small houses and the appearance of large houses and dense developments. The Palo Alto housing authority could have been buying small homes and apartment building as rentals to low income people. Instead much of the land in Palo Alto is owned by developers and property speculators. If the City owned housing, we would then have a mix of housing instead of the current dangerous levels of traffic, air pollution. We would not have overpopulation in our schools. Owning property is always a good investment, especially in Palo Alto. We all know that the land can only support a finite number of people. The rich are pushing the lie that population has to grow in the Bay Area. This generates money for them. A more truthful statement would be that people need to be able to move in and out of the area, that housing and infrastructure need to be kept in good repair, that open spaces with grass and trees and local small farms are important to the health of the people who live here.

We are extremely fortunate to have our branch libraries, especially in times of economic downturn. If we had put aside line items in the budget for their upkeep, we wouldn't have to be spending so much now. We are extremely fortunate to have the Baylands and Foothill Park and the small Palo Alto parks. Because we are exploding the size of our housing stock, we are decreasing the quality of life of our residents.

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