Lynn Todman was shocked by what she saw when she returned to her old neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.
Having left decades earlier, Ms. Todman returned to see the area where she grew up decaying – and completely at odds with the world-class city she saw downtown in the Loop.
On Saturday morning, GLUE Conference attendees heard from Ms. Todman, director of the Adler Institute on Social Exclusion. She urged listeners to think about how to create more economically, socially, and politically inclusive cities. A more inclusive city is a more sustainable city, she said.
Income inequality leads to political inequality, and eventual marginalization and social exclusion. This is a process that, in the long-term, leads to instability and is harmful to our cities, and society as a whole.
Ms. Todman showed maps and data outlining changes in levels of poverty in a number of Chicago neighborhoods, showing how the southern and western-most parts of the city have experienced more decline in recent decades.
“Poor folks are being shifted away from the central part of the city,” through gentrification, she said.
This special marginalization leads to further social exclusion, such as fewer job opportunities, less public transit, poorer health care, and public services and other problems for the city’s low-income residents.
Additionally, the deconcentration of public housing and diffusion of residents throughout city caused has caused that community to loose any small amount of political power it had, she explained, using data on voter registration in Chicago public housing.
This is unsustainable for our cities, she said.
We also heard from John Austin, executive director of the New Economy Initiative.
He urged attendees to not be afraid of change; and said our region must engage the world, not fear it. Use new technologies, green ideas, emerging ways of communicating, be involved politically in your communities and bring other people with you, Austin advised.
(I apologize for the lateness of my post. It was quite a conference!)