2-1-2019: Housing Justice/Injustice

Housing Justice/Injustice

Today we look at a couple of articles about another Midwestern state: Minnesota. Continue reading “2-1-2019: Housing Justice/Injustice”


Education 10-16-18

Persistent segregation in the Charlottesville, Virginia public schools

“The debate over the city’s statue of Robert E. Lee and the white supremacist march last year set Charlottesville apart and spurred it to confront its Confederate past. But the city hasn’t fully come to terms with another aspect of its Jim Crow legacy: a school system that segregates students from the time they start and steers them into separate and unequal tracks.

“‘Charlottesville is ‘beautiful physically and aesthetically pleasing, but a very ugly-in-the-soul place,’ said Nikuyah Walker, who became its first black female mayor during the self-recrimination that swept the city after last year’s white nationalist rallies. ‘No one has ever attempted to undo that and that affects whether our children can learn here.’”

A joint reporting project by Pro Publica and the NYT, this piece by Annie Waldman and Erica Green looks at the public schools of Charlottesville. Continue reading “Education 10-16-18”

Public Transport and Segregation 10-14-18


Ta-Nehisi Coates: “The American real-estate industry believed segregation to be a moral principle.”

The public transportation system of Baltimore, MD

Alec MacGillis writes about Baltimore’s public transport history – which is, simultaneously, a history of the city itself in the 20th – 21st centuries.

During the past year, as we’ve treated ourselves to a crash course in American policy-making (and necessarily, politics, although it’s policy we’re keen on), it’s become obvious that the policy areas Deeds Speak Out covers are actually closely related – they feed into, loop back around, each other.

Thus, for example: we discovered that the poor live, on average, much closer to environmentally toxic sites than the not-poor or the rich (who live far from toxicity).

We found that opening charter schools (and vouchers) which were touted as offering “choice,” all too often went hand in hand with shuttering public schools – “anchor schools” in traditional neighborhoods which had been attended by 2 or more generations of poor black families.

And once those public neighborhood schools – poor, under-resourced, under-staffed, under-performing by “ed reform” metrics shut down, other services – mental health clinics, community centers, e.g. – also shut down.

And then what happened? People moved out, thanks to brand-new shiny suburbs and federally-funded highways to same.

And that left entire neighborhoods in land-hungry, up-and-coming technology-driven cities available at fire-sale prices for redevelopment – for gentrification, as we call it.

Inner-city schools are largely minority schools, that is, in today’s America, black and Hispanic. And these are the schools most often deemed to be “failing” and condemned to closure/replacement by a “portfolio” of charters – vouchers.

(If you think “charters” are about choice, you should ask charter school pros and advocates why they don’t concentrate their efforts in middle- and upper-middle class suburbs, where choice tends to be limited to a well-funded, well-resourced, high performing … neighborhood school.)

It occurred to me that in segregated cities – and let’s face it, every large city in America is segregated, and some of the most segregated of all are in the North (we’re looking at you, Chicago and you, Detroit, and you, NYC) – we see, over and over again in varying patterns due to specific urban histories and geography: segregated high-poverty neighborhoods and chronically under-funded schools (due to an insufficient property tax base.

The landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education (1954) sounded good in theory but in practice proved extremely hard to enforce. And this difficulty was most closely related to already-existing residential segregation. Many large cities’ housing stock was so segregated that busing children for an hour or more a day each way was necessary to take them to a school that wasn’t 80% – 90% black.

Clearly the solution was not integrated schools, but integrated neighborhoods and cities: each neighborhood with a full range of housing stock extending from public housing (what would today be Section 8) extending through multi-residential to single family homes, with abundant public services (schools, playgrounds, parks, community centers, health centers) available to all residents scattered throughout.

But no.

MacGillis writes in great depth and with intimate knowledge of Baltimore and its neighborhoods, with a focus on the construction of two train lines (one a heavy-gauge, the other a light rail) that ended up connecting downtown (the Harbor area and surrounding) to some Baltimore County suburbs, enabling white flight with only a small “funnel-shaped” smattering of neighborhoods in the city itself remaining white (including the heavily-gentrified Harbor area, with its neighborhoods of Fells Point and Federal Hill).

And then there was the third line, the “Red Line,” that  after decades of lobbying, persuasion, local activism,  and engagement didn’t get built because it connected West Baltimore (poor, segregated) to East Baltimore (poor also, and where the poor of West Baltimore work). Nobody well off was directly benefiting, so the Republican Governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan (who’s from Anne Arundel County), just up and canceled the project in 2015. That cancellation included returning $900 million – yes, just $100 million short of a billion dollars (total est. cost: $2.9 bn) – to the Fed government, which had given the city money towards the Red Line, a third line (also light rail) which would have passed underground in the center of the city to avoid traffic congestion.

Those white suburbs that got built by the hundreds and thousands in the 1960s and 1970s? Well, they had to be accessible: cities/states built highways with federal money linking suburbs to urban centers. If you couldn’t afford to buy a house in the suburbs – if you couldn’t afford to own a car – you were just out of luck. But your tax dollars were still paying for the roads built to reach those suburbs, and for the federal home loans new residents were entitled to take out.

One interesting historical detail: Maryland and Baltimore are barely on speaking terms. The state and the city were founded/settled at different times and by different populations, and the original divide between slave-owning, tobacco-growing state resident-farmers and the more business-oriented (due to the harbor), liberal Baltimore continues to this day. There’s an almost amazing level of callous indifference towards the city’s poverty and suffering by those who live outside its boundaries.





SCOTUS redux + other 9-10-18

It’s (Another) One of Those Days

In which we summarize and comment on: the new SCOTUS member’s record on labor; homelessness in Portland, Oregon, and billionaires and their ed “reforms.”  In other words, our usual depressing roster of topics with some extra-special depressing thrown in. Continue reading “SCOTUS redux + other 9-10-18”

“Boys Will Be Boys” 9-24-18

“Boys Will Be Boys”


We cover Justice on this blog, and wrote a good deal about the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia last year. Our comments related to Judge Gorsuch’s background and jurisprudence. We were particularly concerned that his anti-labor stance would lead to his voting to strike down “fair share” fees in the case Janus v. AFSCME (which, of course, it did). Continue reading ““Boys Will Be Boys” 9-24-18″

What we’re following 9-22-18



  • Coal ash pits and effluents from industrial hog farms threaten freshwater in North  Carolina

“As of Friday, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has reported that more than 50 hog-waste pits, known as lagoons, have been inundated with floodwaters, spilling their toxic, bacteria-laden contents into flooded fields and beyond; six more have structural damage. In eastern North Carolina, environmental activist Kemp Burdette discovered many of these compromised lagoons in the Cape Fear River Basin. “These contaminated waters will flow through communities downstream, threatening homes, churches, schools, and anything else in their path,” she told the environmental group Waterkeeper Alliance. The floodwaters have also killed 5,500 pigs and millions of chickens, the News Observer reports. Continue reading “What we’re following 9-22-18”