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Inequality Chronicles,’ panel focus on inequities in urban transit, housing

American Cities

The Kresge Foundation’s American Cities Practice recently hosted a panel discussion entitled “Inequality in America’s Cities” to further dialogue about how cities are changing and how to combat growing inequality in our urban communities. The conversation focused on racial, economic, and social inequities — from historical roots to contemporary effects — in major U.S. cities, particularly Detroit, Baltimore, Houston and Memphis, and what can be done to improve conditions for all who live in America’s cities.

Kresge provided Places Journal with grant support to develop a three-part series focused on pressing policy questions through the lens of what’s happening in three American cities: Baltimore and its transit system; Memphis and housing; and Houston and an emerging settlement-housing movement. This panel discussion relied on the long-form journalism pieces as a jumping off point to discuss the seemingly intractable, difficult problems facing urban America and how to solve for them.

American Cities Practice and Detroit Program Managing Director Benjy Kennedy asked each panelist to reflect on inequality and solutions in each of their respective communities. Here are some highlights of what each panelist shared:

  • Alec MacGillis, reporter with ProPublica: “Gentrification (like what is being seen in “hot cities” like San Francisco) is dominating the conversation about cities. How do we save cities from getting too hot? And that’s not really the issue in Baltimore. The issue in Baltimore is what you have in most cities: Broad swaths of parts of the city are really suffering and the contrast is not with other neighborhoods found in the city, but the contrast is with the suburbs.”
  • Eric Robertson, president, Community LIFT: “Like Detroit, we’re having a renaissance. And like Baltimore, we’re having discussions about who’s benefiting.”
  • Angela Blanchard, president and CEO, Neighborhood Centers, Inc.: “What we have in common is that none of us have a shared past (in Houston). We have a shared future in Houston.”
  • Keith Owens, senior editor, The Michigan Chronicle: “In Detroit, what is different is that the city is more than 80 percent black and has more than 30 percent poverty. What this says about Detroit, in a perverse way, is that Detroit has to confront its problems because you cannot urban remove 80 percent of the population. You need to deal with the issues here.”

You can read the full Inequality Chronicles long-form series here.

You can watch the full event video here. [hyperlink to the video. Nate to post to YouTube.]