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Cities

Diesel Emissions In Major US Cities Disproportionately Harm Communities Of Color

Studies have long pointed to air pollution in the United States disproportionately harming poor and minority communities. But a pair of recent studies that examined tailpipe pollution in major urban hubs suggest policymakers could craft regulations more effectively to reduce air pollution disparities by targeting emissions from diesel vehicles. One of the studies, published by University of Virginia researchers earlier this month, used satellites to measure the near-daily emissions of nitrogen dioxide in 52 major U.S. cities, including Phoenix, Los Angeles and Newark, New Jersey. It found that low-income neighborhoods and communities of color experience an average of 28 percent more nitrogen dioxide pollution than higher-income and majority-white neighborhoods.

Food As A Spearhead For Gentrification

I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts. In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city’s low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided. This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food — including what’s seen as “ethnic,” “authentic” or “alternative” — often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.

It’s Time To Democratize City Budgets

Porto Alegre’s famous PB experiment put the city’s budget in the hands of its citizens (and included a sophisticated process to ensure broad participation), but more usually, PB has been implemented to make decisions within just a single agency or a local district. And unless robust outreach is built into the process, PB can become the domain of neighborhood busybodies already adept at advocating for themselves through local politics. That could be why it’s not better known!  But PB does have benefits regardless. It’s one way to include people unable to vote in a decision-making process, such as undocumented immigrants and teens. And research shows PB increases voter engagement during formal elections. The process also lifts the veil on public finances, even if just to show how unequal they are.

Are Urban Schools A Site of Occupation?

In the third season of Black Lightning, the fictional Black city of Freeland was living under a military occupation by the ASA (the quasi governmental organization occupying Freeland). Not only did the city have heavily armed troopers patrolling the streets, but also had troopers patrolling the schools– detaining anyone they deemed a threat – using violence if necessary.  In episode four, students are in a classroom discussing similar military occupations in multiple countries around the world and their harmful effects on the people being occupied.  Some students agree, but then others claim the ASA occupying their city might be a good thing, suggesting that the ASA’s presence comes with safety.  As they are discussing, the ASA comes into the classroom to detain (and abduct) a student named Tavon, under the suspicion of having powers. 

Emergency Urbanism

Los Angeles is on the brink of one of the largest mass displacements in the history of the region. As eviction courts reopen, nearly half a million renter households, concentrated in Black and Latinx neighborhoods, are at risk of expulsion through unlawful detainers, or eviction filings—UD Day is here. In a deal struck with the landlord and banker lobbies, the California legislature has put forward tenant protections that postpone some evictions, keeping tenants in a state of permanent displaceability. In a cruel hoax, such protections convert unpaid rent into debt, turning the small-claims court into yet another arena of violence against working-class communities of color.

World Mayors Call For Car-Free Streets And More

Mayors from some of the world's major cities have unveiled their vision for how the world can recover from the coronavirus pandemic while encouraging environmental justice and fighting the climate crisis. The C40 Mayors' Agenda for a Green and Just Recovery, announced Wednesday, includes measures already being adopted in many cities to recover from the pandemic in a way that addresses inequalities and keeps global heating to the Paris agreement goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. As part of their vision, the mayors are calling on national governments to end all subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.

The Fed Is Bailing Out Polluters While Cities Struggle

Ever since bailout talk began this spring, climate campaigners have worried funds would be funneled to Big Oil and other polluting giants. Now it seems that fear was more than justified. While economic recovery money is being disbursed through multiple channels, including the Main Street Lending Program and various tax breaks, on Sunday the Federal Reserve released the list of bonds it has purchased so far through its BlackRock-managed Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility, in its attempt to prop up the investment-grade corporate bond market. The Fed’s disclosures show the institution is making it easier for fossil fuel corporations to get relief than it is for struggling state and local governments, some of which are facing unemployment rates north of 40 percent.

Poor Neighborhoods Are Only Getting Poorer

The latest maps of coronavirus cases in the U.S. confirm much of what we already know about the economics of location: People in poor neighborhoods have it worse. Health care isn’t as accessible, the ability to socially distance is less, and many residents fall into the role of essential workers, unable to work from home. What new research shows is that number of poor neighborhoods in metropolitan areas has actually doubled from 1980 — and most existing low-income areas only fell deeper into poverty.   In two reports released by the Economic Innovation Group this month, researchers Kenan Fikri and August Benzow analyze poverty data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau between 1980 and 2018.

Solidarity Cities In Europe: A New Urban Policy Approach

Across Europe, urban solidarity movements are gaining momentum. Under the label of “Welcoming Cities,” “Cities of Refuge” or “Solidarity Cities,” civil society groups, local politicians and city administrations are defying the growing restrictions of border regimes and migration policies on the European and national level. At the same time, these movements develop specific municipal policies for the protection or social inclusion of people with precarious status.

Cities In The Crosshairs Are Pushing Back Against Nuclear Weapons

Two years after a mistakenly sent text alert warning of an inbound ballistic missile threat caused widespread panic and confusion across Hawaii, cities remain potential targets and nuclear jitters continue to grow around the world. Panicked responses to the erroneous text alert — which read “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL” and was accidentally issued on January 13, 2018, to Hawaii residents via the Emergency Alert System and Commercial Mobile Alert System — revealed how believably close nuclear fears hover to our everyday life.

Who Are Extinction Rebellion, The UK-Born Activist Group Holding Cities To Ransom?

With many major London thoroughfares brought to a standstill for the third day running, activist group Extinction Rebellion have succeeded in making a statement it’s impossible to ignore. Oxford Circus is blocked off, Waterloo Bridge has become a makeshift bunkhouse, and countless similar protests are popping up across the city, country and planet. But who are Extinction Rebellion, and what do they want? How have they organised so quickly, and what’s that symbol all about? We’ve rounded up everything you need to know about the group currently holding the country to ransom.

You Can’t Design Bike-Friendly Cities Without Considering Race And Class

Designing for bikes has become a hallmark of forward-looking modern cities worldwide. Bike-friendly city ratings abound, and advocates promote cycling as a way to reduce problems ranging from air pollution to traffic deaths. But urban cycling investments tend to focus on the needs of wealthy riders and neglect lower-income residents and people of color. This happens even though the single biggest group of Americans who bike to work live in households that earn less than US$10,000 yearly, and studies in lower-income neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Boston have found that the majority of bicyclists were non-white.

How Struggling Dayton, Ohio, Reveals The Chasm Among American Cities

“Left Behind America,” a ProPublica/Frontline collaboration, premieres on PBS on Sept. 11 and can also be streamed. The news this past year has been full of the tribulations facing the cities at the vanguard of the great urban rebirth. There are fights over Uber limits in New York, cash-free purchasing in Washington, D.C., and extreme housing costs in San Francisco. Dayton, Ohio, has been grappling with a different set of concerns. For example, there was a spate of disturbing, unexplained deaths in a formerly middle-class neighborhood just northwest of downtown. Over the span of seven months, five women’s bodies were found scattered around the area, at least three of them the victims of homicides, the others likely dead by overdose. Three had gone undiscovered for so long that they’d been partly eaten by animals.

Guerrilla Grafting: Public Trees Spliced To Bear Edible Fruit

A subversive urban agricultural group in San Francisco is turning ornamental trees into fruit-producing surprises for the local population but while technically breaking the law. A simple incision allows industrious grafters to add living branches to the mix; these scions heal in place then effectively become part of the existing tree. A fresher form of guerilla gardening, traditionally carried out through seed bombs and other surreptitious planting techniques, this approach makes existing plants yield free produce.

The Curfew Myth

It’s a summer ritual in many American cities — declaring a juvenile curfew to keep troublemaking teenagers off the streets. This summer at least one city—Austin—has decided not to sound the alarm. The Austin Police Department’s assistant chief, Troy Gay, told The Marshall Project, “We looked at the evidence and decided it was time to discard the curfew law; it wasn't making an impact on juvenile victimization.” The evidence was a report drafted by a consortium of community groups that banded together to challenge Austin’s curfew law in 2017. Police Chief Brian Manley was persuaded, and asked the City Council to rescind the juvenile curfew law. Juvenile curfew laws are ubiquitous and deeply entrenched. The Clinton Administration issued a report recommending the use of juvenile curfew laws to address the “rising juvenile delinquency and victimization rates” of the 1990s.
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