‘Regional Connection’ Work Groups Meet; Training Set

by Alice Cherbonnier
       FOLLOWING UP on a well-attended conference called “The Regional Connection” on April 30, the Campaign for Regional Solutions offers work group meetings and a training workshop this month.
       Interested citizens and representatives of nonprofit organizations and government agencies will be meeting in Issue Work Groups on housing, transportation and land use, and sharing regional resources. They will be developing “action agendas” to be presented to the region’s elected leaders on October 18.
        In addition, The Campaign for Regional Solutions, a project of Citizens Planning and Housing Association (CPHA), will hold a free training workshop on Saturday, June 24 from 9 a.m. to noon at the church hall of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Govans, 5502 York Road. The workshop will be conducted by staff of the Gamaliel Foundation of Chicago, which specializes in organizing coalitions focusing on regional policy issues.
       The training will be appropriate both for experienced community organizers and those who are new to regional issues and organizing.


       In the report on the Regional Connection conference that appeared in the May Chronicle, readers might have concluded that the keynote speaker, John A. Powell, executive director of the Institute on Race and Poverty and University of Minnesota law professor, believed minorities might have to accept giving up political power in return for accepting a regional focus for solving problems. In fact, Mr. Powell believes political clout can be fostered in a regional scenario, so long as minorities get involved in the decision-making processes.
       In an interview in the Fall 1999 issue of Colorlines (Vol. 2, No. 3), he was asked, “Why do you think many activists are reluctant to take on regional issues?”
       Mr. Powell responded, “Many urban social activists are legitimately concerned that regionalism will weaken the political and cultural ties of minority communities that are centered in the cities.
       “Certainly this is a real issue. But the answer is not to avoid participation in regional discussions, but to participate in such a way that we protect those concerns. With or without us, regional development is occurring and undermining our communities. The corporations, developers, and suburban whites who drive this regional development are not likely to put racial issues on the table. If we don’t come to the table, wealthy and middle class whites will simply continue to set the regional agenda according to their own interests, and we will suffer the consequences.”
       He suggests that regional discussions begin with “race neutral” issues like tax base revenue sharing, transportation, the environment, and infrastructure. “The core issues,” he said in the interview, “are really jobs, housing, and education. But they are the hardest issues to get political unity on, given the class and racial differentiation of the metropolitan populations.”
       He concludes the interview with, “I believe that fighting for regional resources and participating in regional planning are crucial to a successful racial justice agenda. Currently, regionalism is aggravating racial inequality and injustice. People from Al Gore to big corporations to your county boards of supervisors to your regional transit boards make regional decisions every day, and people of color are basically absent from these decisions.
       “I think that bringing issues of race into regionalism is crucial to a progressive agenda that can cut away at racialized concentrated poverty and inequities in education. In fact, I believe bringing racial justice awareness to regionalism is the single most important civil rights task facing us today.”

FHA’s Role in Segregation

       The article in the May issue also oversimplified Mr. Powell’s statement about the FHA’s role in creating segregated suburbs. The FHA programs were not created in response to the Brown v. Board of Education decision, but were instituted under Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s. The FHA continued its discriminatory loan practices following the Brown decision, thereby making it affordable and practicable for white non-Jewish people to move to new housing. There will be more about this topic in the July issue of the Chronicle.

       Upcoming Issue Work Group sessions include Housing on Wed., June 21 at 6 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, Charles St. at University Parkway; Transportation and Land Use on Sat., June 3 at 10 a.m. at CPHA, 218 West Saratoga St.; and Sharing Regional Resources on Tues., June 13 at 6 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, Charles St. at University Parkway. Call CPHA to confirm, or for more information: 410-539-1369.

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This story was published on June 1, 2000.