Time for an agenda for Midtown

More than 40 percent of the residents of this city cannot afford the new market-rate housing that is being developed,” said Larry Newsome

Dear Editor:

Last week The Weekly Challenger ran a series of articles where the candidates in the mayoral race were interviewed and asked about their agenda and plans for the city should they win the race.  All of the candidates took care to use the right buzz words and signal their supporters and constituents on the issues they think their supporters wanted to hear about.

I read about affordable housing, crime, economic development, the environment, progressive values, conservative values, and a host of other things. What I did not read or see is exactly what the candidates really planned to do about any of these issues.

For example, affordable housing: Everybody said they support affordable housing; they should.  Affordable housing is a critical issue that is becoming more critical because the city does not, and has not, had a plan to fix the problem.

At this point, more than 40 percent of the residents of this city cannot afford the new market-rate housing that is being developed here.  Affordable housing is not just a Midtown problem; it is a city-wide problem.

The current administration gathered a bunch of folks to stand behind them on the steps of City Hall when they announced a new affordable housing initiative a couple of years ago. They would build 2,300 units over the next 10 years.

That same administration had a representative tell a group of people who attended a meeting on the subject that the gap between affordable housing in the city and what was needed was 18,000 units.  If the problem is 18,000 units, and you are adopting a plan designed to build 2,300 units, you do NOT have a plan to even put a dent in the problem. You merely have a plan to say you have a plan.

Guess what? They could not even get that plan initiated.

The fact is that this problem has been growing unabated for more than 40 years. Why? The answer to that one is easy. There has been no real desire on the part of city administrations to solve the problem.

The issue has been quietly cast as a Black people, low-income issue. Jordan Park has been vilified as the boogeyman to justify doing as little as possible. Forty percent of the people in this city are not all Black or low-income. However, the issue is still being viewed that way.

Even the Chamber of Commerce — that’s right, the Chamber of Commerce, recognized the magnitude of the problem and recommended a robust plan to at least make a dent in it.  This administration dismissed the chamber’s proposal before coming up with their own insufficient plan, which they still could not get done.  This city has always been interested in talking about affordable housing but not really doing anything significant about it.

Take any of the other issues above.  Crime, economic development, et al. What you will discover is a significant gap between the rhetoric and the action. You will find talk and vague plans but little desire for any substantive action to deal with any of them.

I used to wonder why there was so much apathy in Midtown. As time went on, I came to understand why.  Politicians come, and they go. Many promises are made, a few dollars are thrown at issues, a few people make a few dollars or get jobs, but the underlying circumstances never change in any substantive way.

If ever there was a time to have a community plan and a fight for resources to make that agenda a reality, that time is now. Now that we have heard what the politicians have said, can we hear what the community groups have been working on for several years? Let’s listen to what they have to say?

Larry Newsome

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