Like most Canadians, we at suburban-poverty.com watch developments south of the border with more than a little interest, alternating between horror, fascination, jealousy and disgust frequently, sometimes by the hour. With the election cycle grinding into gear and lumbering forward like some First World War tank we have been on the watch for evidence that the social phenomenon of suburban poverty is on any candidate’s radar. No luck with the various Republican critters at large and Obama is biding his time it would seem.
Still, we were pleased to see an item yesterday on the New York Times opinion page called The New Suburban Poverty. A nice piece it is, from the author of a book called, steady yourselves dear readers, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right. With historical elements and some thought for the the new suburban poverty and its effect on America’s political life the author can see change coming.
“It is not likely that the 2012 election will be the terrain of the bold, although President Obama’s proposal for tax increases on the wealthy is a step in the right direction. At this point, the festering pain in suburbia may not translate into suburban support for increased public revenues and spending. But as suburbs redefine themselves to grapple with the reality of poverty in their midst, public solutions will likely find growing appeal in places whose voters have historically favored fiscal conservatism.”
The New Suburban Poverty by Lisa McGirr
LAMP has been a social services presence in Etobicoke for some time now and so it makes sense that they would help bring an Economic Inequality forum to Toronto’s west end. The forum, one of three so far, is designed to get dialogue and action going in regard to the way societies like this one have just become giant machines for making the rich richer. This is the considered, brainy, indoors, post-Occupy response I think a lot of us have been looking forward to seeing for a while now. The suburban character of poverty, everything from aging highrises to the need for public transit spending, was fully acknowledged. Kay Blair, John Sewell and David Hulchanski spoke on behalf of the need to develop a broad popular agenda in favour of changing inequality. The event was quite audience friendly and the reasonable array of ideas, the well-considered social awareness in evidence was a lovely contrast to the kind of reactive nonsense we hear from right wing critters in public office and in the media too often.
We told them so on their Facebook page! They gave out some literature about inequality, gathered suggestions and the Etobicoke Guardian covered the event. Hopefully this is going somewhere.
The next related event is at Metropolitan United Church on March 26.
Economic Inequality home page
Economic Inequality Facebook
One of suburban-poverty’s interns came to the office looking rather the worse for the wear today. Apparently they could not sleep because of a night terror. She was being driven across the suburbs by an octogenarian relative with very poor eyesight in a twenty-year-old old Nissan Pathfinder with a rusted out frame. The driver couldn’t remember where anything was, and began mashing the gas and brakes on his V-6 engined nag in equal parts frustration with himself and rage at the price of gas. Pothole after pothole battered our poor intern into a queasy terror as the Pathfinder caromed off rotting curbs, felled a rusty lamp post and mangled a disused mailbox before arriving at the half dead mall beside the tent city.
What are we all to do when this nightmare becames reality? Getting around is among the top one or two issues for suburbanites. How old age improves on that issue we don’t know. Readers may share our intern’s concern about the future of motorized suburban living. Indeed, right now, a threat to the ability to drive about at whim would undermine the entire quality of life of possibly tens of millions of North Americans. Particularly for the elderly, we worry about the future of car-dependent living arrangements.
On top of the weird economics of suburbia and the shortage of public transit out there in Toofartowalkland comes the aging of physical infrastructure interacting with the aging human bodily infrastructure of suburbia. …assume the crash position, people!
Aging in the American suburbs: a changing population Aging Well Magazine
photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
…the super elites are selfish, more likely to lie, cheat, steal from work, not stop at cross-walks for pedestrians, you name it. Great piece from the Guardian for suburban-poverty.com’s readership. We enjoyed this item just for the phrase “withering critique.”
Upper class people more likely to behave selfishly, studies suggest
A two-part film documentary about America`s aging “inner ring” or “first” suburbs as they are called was released recently. The piece is called The New Metropolis and was intended to get dialogue going about the future of these places. A lot of these older suburbs have been losing population and economic viability at a time when the economy is not great and their physical infrastructure, public and private alike, is aging and in need of major investment, or even outright replacement. The link below provides more information on the film and supporting video from its website. Well worth a look. The second and third links are from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area where the older suburbs are experiencing exactly the kind of change described in the movie.
New Metropolis site
Declining suburbs: Twin Cities-area project focuses on how to revitalize these communities Daily Planet
Twin Cities suburb growth becomes thing of the past StarTribune Local
They say trust is the most important single thing in any economy, more than precious metals, cash, land, technology …anything really. A trust also can be an actual financial mechanism and here we see a nice example from the US and Britain. Community land trusts offer a tool for keeping people in neighbourhoods they are attached to but cannot afford due to wild price increases. The idea is to keep balance in urban areas where working people would like to stay but cannot afford, or even find, appropriate homes especially when they are ready to have a family. CLTs work, it seems, by detaching property from price speculation by individuals. What a wildly fantastical notion! The idea that a house is a thing you own and represents your relationship to a place as if you cared about it for some reason other than the fantastic amount of dollars or pounds you think you might pocket down the road. Surely this kind of thing will grow and help us keep cities balanced places. We wish this would catch on in Canada! If this intrigues you read on…
A revolution in affordable housing Guardian
We aren’t saying that older, centralized urban hubs should be ossified on behalf of the poor. But these ideas to manipulate and reposition socio-economic groups are no better than deliberate neighbourhood busting via highway projects or gentrification, are they? Where’s the balance? Linked here is an item from the Guardian for just such a scheme that would see people incentivized from London to the much smaller community of Hull on the North Sea.
photo credit: MichaelMaggs via Wikimedia Commons
Here are links to two mainstream internet video journalism pieces on suburban poverty. One is from Fresno, CA. The other is from North Bergen, NJ. The North Bergen piece is pretty shallow stuff, hit-and-run, low cost journalism. A reporter talks to a food bank user who has seen her aspirations to be middle class evaporate over the last few years and, my goodness, it apparently sucks for that person.
The California piece is a little better, takes in the problem and goes for a bit of a walkabout with people capable of analysing the big picture and involved with activist responses. Either way…
The New Poor of Fresno Time Video
America’s New Poor CNNMoney
We used to think the future would be about flying space cars more than about people living in their cars …but that’s how it goes, apparently. If you find your own self unable to pay off student loans or cover rent and end up living in what used to be a symbol of middle class aspiration, the item linked below is for you. It’s a depressingly long wiki article with a dozen-and-a-half citations and over 40 contributors.
Gosh, but there’s a lot of little details to get down pat when it comes to living in a metal box! Our favourite tip is to never sleep in the driver’s seat of your castle. Apparently if you do your body and brain may closely associate that location with sleep and cause you to have a collision, …assuming you actually have somewhere to drive to.
How to live in your car
Latest US numbers for job creation are actually pretty good according to mainstream media. Seen against the oft-mentioned-around-here 2010 US Census the Americans still have an ordeal ahead of them in regard to people and the economy. Here is a piece from Chicago with nothing missing from the picture of suburban poverty.
Lack of jobs leaves more suburban, middle class sliding into poverty