Jane Harrison submitted a Letter to the Editor of INDYWeek with her thoughts on their coverage of Downtown South. We are reprinting here what INDYWeek published as a piece titled:
Backtalk: Convenient Scapegoat
Raleigh resident JANE HARRISON, who plans to run for the District D council seat, objected to the fact we didn’t fault the council for approving the rezoning for the Downtown South development.
“In your writeup of what you’re watching for 2021, you mention NIMBY opposition to Downtown South—a convenient scapegoat to dismiss authentic and varied community concerns,” HARRISON writes. “ONE Wake, a multi-ethnic coalition comprised of 43 faith-based and civic organizations and 50,000 households in Wake County, made their values clear. They insisted on affordable housing and living wage jobs including contracts with minority owned businesses, neither of which were adequately addressed. Similarly Partners for Environmental Justice was seminal in pushing the developer to commit to funding stormwater improvement projects to assist downstream neighbors.
Unfortunately, gentrification and displacement of nearby residents are a given without more stringent affordable housing requirements—the type of requirements that City Council could have asked for. Instead, they instructed city staff to craft a ~$200 million TIG (tax increment grant) for consideration in 2021—more public tax dollars to ensure affordable housing and other community benefits. This goes beyond the $80 million affordable housing bond that Raleigh residents voted for in November. Why didn’t Council put the onus on the developer with a project of this scale?
I wish that City Council had crafted an innovative community benefit agreement with [developer John] Kane—why not at least require a master plan so that we know what’s coming? And next time, insist on an equity analysis, a recommendation by Planning Commissioner Nicole Bennett. As developers knock on our door, let us have robust community conversations and negotiate to our fullest—in the public’s interest.”
What follows are excerpts from The Only Thing Worse than a NIMBY Is A YIMBY by Nathan J. Robinson, recently published in Current Affairs, A magazine of Politics and Culture.
Pro-development activists try to trick you into thinking it helps the poor to destroy neighborhoods to make way for luxury condos. We need a radically democratic preservationism.
When you think of the villainous NIMBY, you might imagine someone like billionaire Bill Koch, who waged a 12-year campaign to stop a wind farm being built near his house on the Nantucket Sound that he thought would spoil his view.
The YIMBY pitch is generally quite simple: everyone knows there is a housing crisis in many of America’s cities, and that the rent is too damn high. Thus we need more housing. Increased supply will reduce prices. Unfortunately, the dastardly NIMBYs, those sticks-in-the-mud who don’t believe in change, try to prevent new housing from being built.
The idea, generally, is that the problem of affordable housing is a problem of supply. Thus zoning restrictions should be rewritten to allow for more development. There is little interest in having the government build new public housing. Instead, when YIMBYs say “we need more housing,” they mean “we need to allow developers to build what sells.” And even though they talk a lot about the need for affordable housing, they tend to be opposed to requiring developers to make housing affordable, assuming that the Invisible Hand of the free market will take care of that.
Q: By “build more housing,” do you mean affordable housing?
A: We want more construction of both affordable and market-rate housing. Both are good and both are urgently needed. The city should focus on providing affordable housing for those who need it most. If we allow more construction, fewer people will need help finding housing, and the city’s resources for affordable housing would go further. We can’t subsidize our way out of a shortage.
There’s no reason why good public housing can’t be built. It is done elsewhere successfully. (See, e.g., the remarkable Vienna model or the public housing success of Singapore.) Even the article cited by Open New York concedes that it takes decades for luxury housing to “filter down”—in the meantime it just displaces people through the horrific process of eviction. The theory of trickle down economics is not necessarily wrong that if you make the rich rich enough, some benefits will accrue to the poor. But it is a vastly inefficient way to help the poor. Instead of building condos for the people who don’t need houses, and hoping that eventually market forces will slowly reduce prices at every level, it’s possible to build for the people who do need houses. There is also no need for progress to involve bulldozing beloved historic places.
The rich NIMBY is an odious character. But it is the YIMBYs who are most insidious, because they manage to look like the allies of affordable housing and social justice while actually helping to reshape cities into the lifeless playgrounds of the super-rich exemplified by New York’s Hudson Yards development. Fernando Marti of Shelterforce explains well the ugliness of the YIMBY worldview:
according to the YIMBY leaders, now we equity advocates are the problem too, little different from the NIMBYs, rabid progressives who are too naïve or ideological to understand how the market really works. In this story line, in the name of fighting evictions and displacement, we progressives, we communities of color, we poor people and immigrants, we working-class queers stupidly don’t realize that luxury development now will eventually become the affordable housing of the future! … It’s simple supply-and-demand they say, Econ 101, and we obviously didn’t go to college if we don’t understand that simple truth. They say we foolish activists abuse environmental regulations and planning processes that allow for democratic participation to stop or slow development. So the answer to the problem is to do away with those pesky regulations, limit public input, and give up on any attempt to get real estate developers to mitigate their impacts on our neighborhoods
This is the viciousness of the YIMBY argument: It tells people who want our homes that they deserve, by virtue of their whiteness and their status as part of a young college-educated elite, to get them. And there lies the genius of this narrative. An agenda for building up the power base of the neoliberal right is not going to get too far in liberal beachheads like San Francisco or New York using the traditional Republican platform. It needs a new story that appeals to young millennials, and it has found it in the “pro-housing” language of the YIMBYs. But in the end, it’s pushing the same underlying principles: the way to a more efficient future is to destroy belief in regulation, public investment, and democratic participation, whether the arena is charter schools or health care or housing affordability.
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Monday, Jan 11 the Board of Commissioners in Hillsborough, North Carolina voted to pass an ordinance broadly protecting members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination. The vote makes Hillsborough, a town with a population of 7,000 people, the first municipality in the state to pass LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections in recent years; from 2016 until December 1, 2020, the state laws HB2 and HB142 banned municipalities from protecting their residents from discrimination.
On Tuesday, Jan 12, the town of Carrboro became the second municipality to pass a new LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance after a state ban on such ordinances expired last month.
On Wednesday, Jan 13, Chapel Hill became the third local town in North Carolina to approve a policy that protects LGBTQ residents from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations, including stores and restaurants.
On Tuesday, January 19, elected officials from the Orange County Commission and Durham City Council will consider similar protections.
Conspicuously absent from this list of municipalities advancing protections for the LGBTQ community is Raleigh, NC, the capital city. At the Jan 5 City Council meeting the only move made was to reaffirm existing protections with a statement saying Raleigh will not tolerate ILLEGAL discrimination. Of course, the problem there is that it leaves LEGAL discrimination tolerated. And, it is still legal in NC to discriminate against the LGBTQ community in housing, healthcare, and public spaces. The City Council took no action to provide any added protections.
At-Large Councilor Jonathan Melton, himself a member of the LGBTQ community, mentioned in his council concerns that he would work to improve Raleigh’s HRC Municipal Equality Index score. This council was given a guide to improving that score by Equality NC in December 2019. Melton thanked Councilor Cox for bringing the proposal from ENC forward and expressed his excitement in getting it done. Every proposal in that guide was legal to implement even while HB142 was still in place. Yet Melton and the council have taken no action on that proposal to this day. INDYWeek noted in their reporting that Raleigh lost the most points on their HRC report card for failing to create an LGBTQ Task Force for law enforcement, as well as not having an LGBTQ liaison in the mayor’s office. Ironically, had they just been willing to publish the contact information for the existing LGBTQ police liaison on the city’s website, where it could be accessed by the community, (one of the recommendations made by ENC in 2019 ) their score would have jumped 10 points to 74. Now that election season is getting started and Melton has announced he is staying in Raleigh and not relocating to NYC, he’s making promises to burnish his image one more time.
Click on this image to see what you can do
Equality NC has joined with Campaign For Southern Equality to launch a new digital portal, NC IS READY, to help connect you with your local elected officials and easily voice your support! Click on this image to see what you can do to help.
Does Raleigh’s African-American community deserve an Affairs Board similar to the board recently created for the Hispanic and immigrant community?
At the Jan 5 City Council meeting, two residents spoke eloquently asking the city to create an African-American Affairs Board. Watch the clip to hear these comments and Mayor Baldwin’s denial of their reasonable request. Why did this Council approve a Hispanic and Immigrant Affairs Board in the last year, but won’t create one for the African-American community? Similarly, why did this Council set up a Police Advisory Board with designated slots for representatives of the LGBTQ+ and Hispanic communities, but not initially an African-American representative?
Ms. Quanta Monique Edwards:
Hello my name is Quanta Monique Edwards.
I am a graduate of Enloe High School. I’m definitely a Raleigh native and I’m also a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill. I run a very successful real estate firm in the Raleigh city limits. I want to thank everyone on the City Council today for allowing me to speak. I am here to talk about me wanting you to support the formation and the creation of an African-American Affairs Board.
I believe that this board is necessary because the city of Raleigh maintains a consistent amount of disengagement as it relates to the Black community. I feel like there are a number of opportunities for Black people to get involved in matters throughout this city and it does not happen. And, since the city of Raleigh does not fully engage the Black community on a multitude of levels and those levels very specifically would be Black home ownership, Black business, Black engagement, and Black discourse. Very specifically Black citizens make up 29 percent of the entire population according to the U.S Census as of July 2019 for the city of Raleigh.
I believe that Black people contribute a lot to this city and it is not something that is readily put forth in our community and it’s definitely not enough discourse and engagement as it relates to Black citizens. Many times we do see Black citizens engaged with the city on many government affairs levels but they’re not engaged in a way that actually brings about what I would consider positive outcomes for the Black community as a whole. Right now you do have a Hispanic or Latin American board which of course makes a lot of sense because the city of Raleigh has a population that supports that at 11 percent. But with the Black community being at 29 percent, this is something that the city of Raleigh again fails to engage. When it comes to the growth and improvement of African Americans.
When the City of Raleigh does engage Black citizens around Black issues, the discourse occurs mostly with Black people who have “ perceived power and influence”. Or some sort of “ black blessing”. What Black residents see are singular individuals or those linked to those individuals being advanced in the name of blackness. However, those individual moves don’t lead to the advancement of thousands. Just one or two, every now and then. This is a sloppy strategy that can be improved with the creation of this board. The African American Affairs Board would improve circumstances of the Black community as a whole and lift up the voices of Black residents from all levels of economics and education about the things that are truly happening to Black people.
So I am here today to ask all of the members from the City Council to support the creation of an African-American Affairs Board and to support that happening in the year 2021 prior to the October 2021 election. Thank you very much for your time and I hope you will firmly consider that.
Dr. Kimberly Muktarian:
Good afternoon to the city of Raleigh’s council members as well as the city of Raleigh residents.
My name is Dr. Kimberly Muktarian, president of Save Our Sons and I am a Raleigh resident.
Today I am addressing the issue for the need of the creation of an African-American Affairs Board. As you well know in the city of Raleigh Black African-Americans are struggling significantly in numerous areas and many of those areas overlap from poverty to homelessness to unemployment to Covid-19 to police brutality to racism. We are lacking in so many areas and our issues are scattered abroad.
Prior to Covid-19 the CACs were dismantled. The CACs were an avenue used to inform citizens across the city of Raleigh and it was very essential for Blacks to have such a mechanism to reach our communities. We no longer have that.
In the meantime our young people have died in various murders across the city. And, when one of our people died there are at least three to four people attached to that murder. There is a crisis and the city of Raleigh has not yet rebuilt or addressed those crises. Instead they have chosen to look at things from a national perspective and ignore the things that are going on right here in our own backyard. We had 31 murders last year during the 10-year tenure of our own Mayor Baldwin. We have four Black murders by police officers and no one publicly said anything about them.
Those murders also are attached to drugs, homelessness, unemployment. All of the issues that we are still talking about today and again with an African-American Affairs Board we can bring all these issues into one centralized location. Just like you have an affairs board for the Hispanic population.
I don’t think at this point that we can do without an African-American Affairs Board. And I think with this in place it brings us the solidarity that makes Blacks feel welcome and a part of the city of Raleigh once again as we see little by little our existence has been erased, We are still fighting for our existence from Downtown South to the edges of the city and I would like to see that when we talk about social justice that it is reflected in our lifestyle it is reflected beyond murals on a wall. When I go downtown I do not see our population represented.
Click on the image to watch the video
Click on the image here to watch the clip and then ask yourself why Mayor Baldwin denied the request for an on-going, permanent board and instead offered the Human Relations Commission and a special series of meetings? Also note how she dismisses the speakers by referring to them as “Whatnot”. This is the same mayor who insists on the use of honorifics at the council table. But, she can’t manage to show the same respect to members of the public speaking to the council.