One of the principal authors of Brookings Institution material on suburban poverty, Elizabeth Kneebone, wrote the piece Poverty In New England: It’s a Suburban Thing for an online publication belonging to the Boston Federal Reserve Bank last year. Normally we wouldn’t expect to find them particularly in touch with the realities of poverty so perhaps this indicates the seriousness of the matter? We’ve been hearing talk about recovery from the United States but the reality might be no more than election-related palaver and gasoline prices are on the rise again. The latter is now fully associated with recessionary activity and the continued blooming of suburban poverty.
Poverty In New England
Economic Inequality held another public forum yesterday at Metropolitan United Church. Three speakers weighed in on the matter, Jim Stanford, an economist with the Canadian Auto Workers was first with an early highlight in which he referred to FOX-style business “journalist” Kevin O’Leary as an asshole. John Ralston Saul, president of PEN International and author made being a serious, history-minded public intellectual look so easy that even we are thinking of applying for such a position.
Tanya Zakrison, a surgeon from Doctors for Fair Taxation also weighed in on the realities of inequality. Her phrase, “trauma is a political disease” will remain with us among our impressions of the two hour event. John Sewell and Liz Rykoff were there to act as hosts and are from the organzation’s steering committee. Mike Ford handled the music.
Suburban-poverty.com attended the last forum, in Etobicoke. Monday’s forum involved a larger crowd and there was less audience participation. We found it educational and were heartened by the brain power on display and by the calibre of the arguments made against the aging bromides of neo-conservatism. John Ralston Saul’s sense of Canadian history and the value he places on the relationship between democracy and the intelligence of the people is so nice to hear.
Metropolitan United Church was a good choice of venue. Its community services efforts in the basement include a drop-in and meal program. Open that day, it fed the homeless, provided referrals and other services to those in deep social difficulty, facing low income, personal problems, social exclusion …the very effects of inequality.
Doctors for Fair Taxation
nb: expired links 🙁
image: Metropolitan Methodist Church, (United), Toronto, 1896
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.
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