Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Old News

The right wing noise machine is trying to stir up controversy over a speech Barack Obama gave at Hampton University in 2007, in which then-Senator Obama called attention to the differences in our responses to the natural and man-made disasters in New Orleans as opposed to similar events occurring in Florida or New York. Apart from the fact that this speech was hardly unknown, and was in fact covered during the 2007-08 presidential campaign, these points hardly seem controversial--unless you are outraged by hearing someone point out the disparate treatment that poor and minority communities sometimes receive. Or as Josh Marshall said, this wouldn't be a story at all unless "there’s a big chunk of rightwing America living in a cocoon in which black people even talking about racism or race at all is ipso facto shocking."

One quote struck me from the  reports on this ancient speech.  That was where candidate Obama said:
We need additional federal public transportation dollars flowing to the highest-need communities. We don’t need to build more highways out in the suburbs. If we have people in the cities right now who want to work but have no way to get into those jobs, we've got to help connect them to the jobs that exist. We should be investing in minority-owned businesses, in our neighborhoods, so people don’t have to travel from miles away.
What's wrong with building more highways out in the suburbs? Check out this story in the LA Times  making the connection between municipal bankruptcies filed by the cities of San Bernardino and Stockton, and suburban sprawl. City leaders in these cities were seduced by the promises of speculative real estate developers to generate up front fees and increased property tax revenue when they build sprawling new subdivisions. Later on, however, these same cities find that the increased costs of maintaining the roads to those new subdivisions, as well as the greater cost of fire protection, police, ambulances, school buses and other costs, gradually bleeds the municipality dry. The only way out is to attract even more new subdivisions, in a Ponzi scheme of development that eventually bankrupts the city when demand for new housing is tapped out, as happened in a big way in San Bernardino and Stockton and elsewhere. The outskirts of these cities now contain many empty monuments to the promise of easy development.

Urban infill development is not only more fair to the poor and minorities; it also makes good financial sense. Building more highways out to the suburbs invites financial disaster. And that should make conservatives who are supposedly against wasteful government spending applaud the prescience of candidate Obama's 2007 warning against the pitfalls of excessive suburban development.

1 comment:

  1. There are a number of things in this speech that were not covered or barely covered back in 2007.

    You and Josh Marshall saying this is not a story means it absolutely is a story.