Category: student papers
Flint crisis a tale of democracy hijacked
| January 10, 2017 | 5:38 pm | student papers, Tufts, Tufts Environmental Studies Department, UEP | Comments closed

This post was adapted from an assignment UEP student Elijah Romulus wrote for the Cities in Space, Place, and Time class. The assignment was an analysis of a policy created after 1950.

Flint Water Advisory Task Force Final Report

Credit: Jake May/AP Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards shows the difference in quality between Detroit and Flint water after testing.

Credit: Jake May/AP
Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards shows the difference in quality between Detroit and Flint water after testing.


Close to a century after the first city plan of Flint, Michigan was released, the city went from a growing metropolis to a declining city facing disaster. On December 14, 2015, Mayor Karen Weaver declared the city of Flint in a State of Emergency. An environmental and public health disaster that was traced to the city switching its water source to the Flint River in 2014, a manmade disaster. Flint, once a bustling satellite of the Motor City, Detroit, was now in the headlines for municipal water contamination and lead poisoning in its community. To this date there is still lead in the Flint water despite efforts to fix the problem. The governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder appointed a Flint Water Advisory Task Force to report on the situation. This paper will analyze the Task Force’s 116-page report, which proposed reforms and policies through 44 recommendations that stretch across 10 different local, state, and federal institutions and agencies. The paper focuses on five recommendations in particular.


1) Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS): Ensure that MDHHS is transparent and timely in reporting and analysis of aggregate data regarding children’s blood lead levels. MDHHS data regarding lead levels shall be provided to individuals and organizations, based on their expertise, upon request and in cases when the interpretation of data by MDHHS is questioned.

The MDHHS recommendation stated above follows one finding by the taskforce that the department was slow to analyze the data it had on children’s blood lead levels. Furthermore, there was reluctance to share the data it had with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician who was investigating lead poisoning among her patients. Likewise, MDHHS did not cooperate with Professor Marc Edwards, who was helping residents test the city’s water. Based on the Task Force’s introduction as well as the remainder of the executive summary, they found failure of state government at all departments and this recommendation reflects that. The MDHHS was found to be non-transparent and even defensive in its handling of the water crisis.

2) State-Appointed Emergency Managers: Review Michigan’s Emergency Manager Law (PA 436) and its implementation, and identify measures to compensate for the loss of the checks and balances that are provided by representative government.

On December 26th 2012 Michigan Governor Rick Snyder approved senate Bill No. 865,  introduced by state senator Phil Pavlov. This bill was later named the Local Financial Stability and Choice Act, Act 436 of 2012. This bill in essence installs emergency managers, EMs, in cities, municipalities, and school districts deemed in a financial crises by the state, in lieu of the elected governance, granting the EM full executive power. The topic of emergency management was one of great tension before and after the Flint Water Crisis. Act 436, though passed in 2012, comes from a long line of similar acts dating back to 1990. The Task Force found in that the state’s EM law could improve to ensure protection of public health and safety not be lost in the name of financial urgency.

3) United States Environmental Protection Agency: Exercise more vigor, and act more promptly, in addressing compliance violations that endanger public health.

In another case of an agency waiting too long to take action, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was also responsible in the Flint Water Crisis. As early as June 2015, EPA officials were relaying concerns for the drinking water in Flint but upper management was hesitant to take action.

4) Environmental Injustice: Issue an Executive Order mandating guidance and training on Environmental Justice across all state agencies in Michigan, highlighting the Flint water crisis as an example of environmental injustice. The state should reinvigorate and update implementation of an Environmental Justice Plan for the State of Michigan.

Since the environmental disaster occurred, many journalists, academics, and citizens alike have equated this to an issue of environmental racism. The city of Flint is a majority-minority city with 57% of the population reported to be African American according to the 2010 census. While there is nothing that points directly to environmental racism, there is a lack of environmental justice laws to protect citizens as noted by the Task Force. It urged the governor to pass an executive order to be proactive in the face of environmental injustices and not be reactive in the event of another crisis.

Credit: Jake May/AP Gov. Snyder apologized, promising to fix the problem, but critics call the effort "too little, too late."

Credit: Jake May/AP
Gov. Snyder apologized, promising to fix the problem, but critics call the effort “too little, too late.”

5) State-wide: Use the occasion of the Flint water crisis to prompt local and state re-investment in critical water infrastructure, while providing mechanisms to advance affordability and universal access to water services.

According to the Detroit news: Elevated blood-lead levels are seen in a higher percentage of children in parts of Grand Rapids, Jackson, Detroit, Saginaw, Muskegon, Holland and several other cities, this plays right into the Task Force’s recommendation to update all of Michigan’s water infrastructure. It was not only that the city of Flint switched to a corrosive water source, but the pipes were filled with lead and city employees were not properly equipped or trained to deal with the conversion of water sources. All these factor into the inadequate water infrastructure that the Task Force described in its report.  

The five recommendations above best speak to how the state and federal governments failed the city of Flint according the Task Force’s report. The Task Force did a good job of putting the state and federal governments’ front and center of who is to blame for this environmental disaster. The authors interviewed 63 people from the governor, to doctors, to the ACLU, to citizens of Flint. Notably, they concluded in one finding that ultimate accountability for Michigan executive branch decisions rests with the Governor.  

In context

The events that followed the report’s early-2016 release suggest it was indeed influential. In the months following the release of the report, six state employees were charged with criminal offenses from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The employees were originally suspended without pay during the process but a few months later the state reversed its decision and resumed their pay, costing taxpayers up to $500,000 in addition to granting them legal defense by the state’s attorney general. While the report holds the state responsible for the crisis, and likely catalyzed legal action against the state employees, it appears to the writer that government officials and state employees are above the law and rarely if ever face prison sentences.  

One issue that seems to be lacking in the conversation of the Flint Water Crisis, however, is the Flint river itself. While there are many calls for environmental justice, it is the writer’s opinion that there should be space for environmentalism as well. The Flint River became so corrosive that it was able to eat through pipes. But without the Flint River, the city would not have experienced its boom in the early 20th century, much like Los Angeles’ dependence on the LA River for its success that Jenny Price described in her essay. Currently, the Flint River is in bad shape and needs attention. Some argue environmentalism is a “white cause” while environmental justice is a so-called “minority cause.” This may factor into the lack of environmentalism work  in the majority-minority city of Flint.

While the story of Flint is one of tragedy, there is a positive aspect and it is the citizens of Flint. The citizens took matters into their own hands when the government failed them. While children and adults alike were falling victim to lead poisoning at the hands of state sponsored austerity measures, citizens fought for justice. This was with the help of organizations like the ACLU, doctors and professors, and select state and federal employees with righteous indignation to speak up against injustice. Most recently the fight for justice continued as the groups such as Concerned Pastors for Social Change, Flint Activist Melissa Mays, the ACLU, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit against the state of Michigan to deliver clean water to households in the city of Flint that don’t have access. Even after the state was found responsible for the crisis, it is still fighting against the suit.

Lessons Learned

Flint, Michigan is a wakeup call for various reasons whether it be environmental justice issues, environmentalism, human rights issues, the harmful effects of austerity, and more. There are citizens in the city of Flint still without reliable drinking water. People will be dealing with the lead poisoning for the rest of their lives and there are more public health issues that have arisen in the midst of the crisis. Flint is an example of what happens when democracy is snatched and technocrats and bureaucrats take control. Flint is an example of big business and profits over people. Flint is an example of what happens to cities that are either poor or poor and majority-minority. As planners, policy makers, and change agents it is important to see what went wrong and what went right with Flint. The question that must be asked is: How can one use his or her position to make positive change even if a particular department or agency moves in a negative direction? Flint cannot be forgotten and the citizens of Flint deserve justice because water is life.  

Read the full paper here: Elijah Romulus – Analysis of Flint Water Advisory Task Force Final Report


Works Cited

“Flint Doctor Mona Hanna-Attisha on How She Fought Gov’t Denials to Expose Poisoning of City’s Kids.” Democracy Now! January 15, 2016. Accessed November 27, 2016.

“What Did GM & the Governor Know? GM Stopped Using Flint Water Over a Year Before Emergency Declared.” Democracy Now! February 17, 2016. Accessed November 27, 2016.

Aldridge, Chris. “Pavlov Named Most Conservative, Nominated Michigan Senator of the Year.” Huron Daily Tribune. April 20, 2016. Accessed November 19, 2016.

Allen, Robert. “6 state employees criminally charged in Flint water crisis” Detroit Free Press. July 30, 2016. Accessed November 28, 2016.

Bosman, Julie. “E.P.A. Waited Too Long to Warn of Flint Water Danger, Report Says.” The New York Times. October 20, 2016. Accessed November 28, 2016.

Carmody, Steve. “State of Michigan Fighting Federal Court Order to Deliver Water to Flint Homes.” Michigan Radio. November 17, 2016. Accessed November 28, 2016.

Davis, Matthew, Chris Kolb, Lawrence Reynolds, Eric Rothstein, and Ken Sikkema. Flint Water Advisory Task Force – Final Report. Report. Office of Governor Rick Snyder, State of Michigan. 2016.

Egan, Paul. “Federal Judge Orders Delivery of Bottled Water in Flint.” Detroit Free Press. November 10, 2016. Accessed November 28, 2016.

Eligon, John. “A Question of Environmental Racism in Flint.” The New York Times. January 21, 2016. Accessed November 28, 2016.

Emery, Amanda. “Police confirm body inside vehicle submerged in Flint River.” April 1, 2016. Accessed November 28, 2016.   

Fonger, Ron. “Flint water crisis prosecutors tell Appeals Court more criminal charges expected.” September 6, 2016. Accessed November 28, 2016.

Fonger, Ron. “State reinstates pay for employees charged with crimes in Flint water crisis.” August 18, 2016. Accessed November 28, 2016.

Graham, David. “Who is to Blame for Flint’s Lead Crisis?” The Atlantic. March 24, 2016. Accessed November 27, 2016.

Helms, Matt. “Canadians Deliver Water to Protest Detroit Shutoffs.” USA Today. July 24, 2014. Accessed November 28, 2016.

Hohn, Donovan. “Flint’s Water Crisis and the ‘Troublemaker’ Scientist.” The New York Times. August 21, 2016. Accessed November 27, 2016.

Johnson, Jiquanda. “State Oversight Board Restores Power to Flint City Council despite Concerns.” May 26, 2016. Accessed November 28, 2016.

Lewis, Chris. “Does Michigan’s Emergency-Manager Law Disenfranchise Black Citizens?” The Atlantic. May 09, 2013. Accessed November 19, 2016.

Mock, Brentin. “Are There Two Different Versions of Environmentalism, One ‘white,’ One ‘black’?” Mother Jones. July 31, 2014. Accessed November 28, 2016.

Mostafavi, Beata. “What Happened Last Time? A Look Back at Flint’s 2002 State Takeover.” November 10, 2011. Accessed November 19, 2016.

Oosting, Jonathan. “Michigan Proposal 1: Voters Reject Measure, Repeal Controversial Emergency Manager Law.” November 07, 2012. Accessed November 19, 2016.

Oosting, Jonathan. “Snyder Signs Replacement Emergency Manager Law: We ‘heard, Recognized and Respected’ Will of Voters.” December 27, 2012. Accessed November 19, 2016.

Patrick, Deval. 2014. Executive Order 552. Massachusetts: Office of the Governor.

Price, Jenny. “Remaking American Environmentalism: On the Banks of the L.A. River.” Environmental History, November 12, 2007, 536-55.

Savage, Chris. “The Scandal of Michigan’s Emergency Managers.” The Nation. February 15, 2012. Accessed November 19, 2016.

Senate Bill No. 865, Sess. of 2012 (Mic. 2012),

U.S. Census Bureau, “Quick Facts. Flint city, Michigan” People. Accessed November 28, 2016.

Vasilogambros, Matt. “Upholding Michigan’s Emergency Manager Law.” The Atlantic. September 12, 2016. Accessed November 27, 2016.  

Woods, Ashley. “Michigan Proposal 1 Results: State Emergency Manager Law Fails.” The Huffington Post. November 07, 2012. Accessed November 28, 2016.

Wilkinson, Mike, Bridge Magazine. “Kids’ lead levels high in many Michigan cities.” The Detroit News. January 28, 2016. Accessed November 28, 2016.


UEP helps launch Greater Boston Community Land Trust Network
| May 11, 2016 | 12:34 pm | Events, student papers | Comments closed
Greater Boston Community Land Trust Launch Event, April 27, 2016

Greater Boston Community Land Trust Launch Event, April 27, 2016

UEP Lecturer Penn Loh and UEP Field Project students have been partnering to support the Greater Boston Community Land Trust Network. Loh was interviewed about community land trusts on Boston Neighborhood Network News on April 20, 2016. A report by a UEP Field Project student team was released at the Network’s launch on April 27, 2016. The report outlines the potential benefits of community land trusts in Boston and policy recommendations for the City. The Network is facilitated by the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and includes Chinatown Community Land Trust, City Life/Vida Urbana, The Coalition for Occupied Homes in Foreclosure (COHIF), Dudley Neighbors, Inc., Mattapan United, New England United for Justice, The Urban Farming Institute, Greater Bowdoin/Geneva Neighborhood Association, Alternatives for Community and Environment and Boston Tenant Coalition.

Community Development Student Project: Cleveland, OH
| January 15, 2016 | 3:36 pm | student papers | Comments closed

More Than A Utopian Vision: Cooperative Business Models That Work

This post is an adaptation of a project by UEP student Lylee Rauch-Kacenski for Professor Lorlene Hoyt’s course on Community Development, Planning and Politics.

You like shopping at food cooperatives and have heard of housing cooperatives, but how much of a difference can a single laundry facility, greenhouse or solar company really make? The reality is that a cooperative business is more than just revenue; it is a vote for what an alternative reality can look like; a living example of who benefits when we work together towards a common goal and vision. The problems we face as a society are daunting. Poverty, crime, unemployment and lack of safe affordable housing are all too common in many of our communities. Change can feel impossible when the problems are complicated and ingrained by years of policy, divestment in neighborhoods, and changes in economics. Through cooperatives, businesses that are owned and run by their workers, we can start to chip away at some of the problems affecting our neighborhoods and cities.


One particularly interesting case study of how key players in a community can come together to work on any issue from all sides is Greater University Circle in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland represents a typical post-industrial city. Once thriving with steel mills and the oil industry, it has been steadily declining since its peak in the1950’s and is searching for a new economic vision and place in the country. In this blog, we will dive in to the story of the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland. Community developers and anchor institutions, nonprofits who are established in an area and likely will not leave such as hospitals and universities, came together to envision how they could help their city and residents thrive. One of the areas they focused on was developing high paying, quality jobs for the residents of the neighborhoods surrounding their institutions.

The area of Cleveland known as Greater University Circle is home to three anchor institutions: Case Western Reserve University, University hospitals and the Cleveland Clinic, 5 neighborhoods, and cultural institutions including the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Orchestra. Despite these institutions and hub of culture, Greater University Circle (henceforth referred to as The Circle) remains an impoverished area with an average salary of $18,500 a year. In 2005 the anchor institutions of The Circle, the Cleveland Foundation and other key advocates for community development came together to strategize how they could use their influence to help transform the area.

The Greater University Circle Initiative (GUCI) was formed to address challenges in the area and determine steps to improve the greater community of the Circle. The two basic values of the initiative were that “by working together, anchor institutions can achieve more than any single institution working on its own” and “while physical development is important to revitalization, neighborhoods cannot succeed unless the people living there are valued and empowered.”[1] The four strategy areas include institutional partnership, physical development, economic inclusion and community engagement. I will focus specifically on how GUIC addressed the issue of economic inclusion.

Together the three anchor institutions have a purchasing power of $3 billion a year, the majority of which is used to purchase goods produced outside the city. Together they devised a plan to create mutually beneficial industries in the neighborhood, creating jobs in the immediate area and keeping the money expended by the institutions within The Circle. An innovation that came from that plan is the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative. Created in 2008 as a way to build wealth as well as jobs in the community, the Cooperative network has three employee-owned, for-profit, green business in the area.

The Evergreen Cooperative Laundry was started to provide laundry services for the hospitals, nursing homes, hotels and restaurants in the area that had been sending their laundry to outside providers outside the area. The Cooperative is certified as highly sustainable by the Green building Council and implements an environmentally friendly approach and uses less heat and water than conventional laundry methods. Evergreen Energy Solutions is a solar company that designs, installs, and develops solar panel arrays in the Cleveland area. The newest Cooperative, Green City Growers is a 3.25-acre hydroponic greenhouse that will produce about three million heads of lettuce and three hundred thousand pounds of herbs a year. Hydroponic vegetables are grown without soil, using water and mineral nutrients. The method helps to eliminate soil erosion and runoff typical of industrial agriculture. Green City Growers focus is on growing lettuce and herbs primarily for the institutions in the Circle area.

As always, there are gaps between the ideals, values, and long-term vision of a business and the day to day realities. Many studies on Evergreen were completed after the first year and there have been some fundamental changes since then. The Evergreen Cooperative Corporation (ECC) governs the cooperatives and the Evergreen Business Services (EBS) maintains functionality through everyday support services. The cooperatives have made substantial management changes since they first started because of challenges balancing the businesses. There have been significant accomplishments credited to plans developed in 2013 when the ECC actively worked to identify gaps and weaknesses (Austrian, Ziona 14).

According to the 2014 Greater University Circle Initiative “Year 4 Report,” the cooperatives employ 84 people, 41 of which are employee owners. When the cooperatives started, each worker was hired for a six-month trial period, after which they could become a part owner of the business. Due to the request of employees there has been a shift from using the term “worker-owner” to “member” in order to better reflect the members’ rights and responsibilities in the organization. The trial period to become a member has shifted from six months to a year per request of the members. In 2014, two of the co-ops were able to distribute profits to their employees for the first time. By vote, the members decided “to distribute profits to all workers, not only those that are already owner-workers, which boosted employee morale significantly” (Austrian, Ziona 16). New support programs have also been initiated to help employees purchase automobiles and homes in the area.

The cooperatives have made vast strides in each of their businesses since their founding. I will briefly discuss some of the highlights in each company. The Evergreen Cooperative Laundry (ECL) has 39 employees and had its first profitable year in 2014. One highlight included the acquisition of University Hospitals as a new client, increasing the cooperative’s profitability. The Evergreen Energy Solutions had 8 employees in 2013 and is now up to 14. It expanded from installing solar panels to converting older lighting systems to LED lighting, doing general construction and housing rehabilitation. Green City Growers, the newest cooperative, has 31 employees. The Cooperative has started selling directly to grocery stores and restaurants in addition to its wholesale accounts, and has a booth at a local market. Green City Growers is not yet a profitable business, but is tweaking its model to achieve that goal. One shift includes using 60% of the space to grow basil, a more profitable crop than lettuce.

The current Minimum wage in Cleveland is $8.10. In 2013 the average hourly wage for the Growers was $10.64, Laundry was $11.34 and Energy Solutions was $15.65. According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, the hourly living wage for one adult is $9.61 and for one adult and one child is $20.17. In 2014 statistics the wages had decreased slightly but are still higher than the living wage calculation. According to videos on Evergreen’s websites, employees generally seem positive about being a part of the cooperatives, grateful to have jobs in the area and be invested in the cooperative model.

Cooperatives are not utopia, a fantasy land where everything is perfect. They take a lot of hard work, but it’s that kind of investment in a model that supports people, and includes many voices and input from all owners, that moves forward the ideas of how a job can be more than just a paycheck, and a neighborhood can be more than just a collection of people. No business or approach to solving problems in our communities is 100% successful, but the Evergreen Cooperatives is an encouraging model of what the future of business could look like.


Austrian, Ziona; Hexter, Kathryn W.; Clouse, Candi; and Kalynchuk, Kenneth, “Greater University Circle Initiative: Year 4 Evaluation Report” (2015). Urban Publications. Paper 1288.

Evergreen Cooperatives. Accessed October 1, 2015. Available from

Living Wage Calculator for Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Accessed October 1, 2015. Available from

The Cleveland Foundation. Accessed October 1, 2015. Available from

Wright, Walter; Hexter, Kathryn; and Clouse, Candi, “Lessons From the Cleveland Integration Initiative” (2014). Urban Publications. Paper 1242.

Other Resources:

Community Development Student Project: Sibu Malaba on Lawrence, MA
| December 14, 2015 | 2:55 pm | student papers | Comments closed

Emerging from the Shadows of the “City of the Damned”

This post is an adaptation of a project by UEP student Sibu Malaba for Professor Lorlene Hoyt’s course on Community Development, Planning and Politics.

Located approximately 30 minutes north of Boston, nestled between the Essex County towns of Methuen and Andover, sits the city of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Established in the 1840s, Lawrence is known for many historical contributions including the early American textile industries, which set the stage for the labor movement (Bread and Roses Strike of 1912), and for being home to Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Robert Frost.

Lawrence, also known as the “Immigrant City”, maintains a unique history as “a multi-ethnic and multicultural gateway city for foreign-born residents, including the Irish, French Canadians, Englishmen, and German factory workers in the late 1800s; Italians, Poles, Lithuanians, and Syrians in the early 1900s; and Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in the mid to late 1900s; and the city’s newest arrivals of Vietnamese and Cambodians residents”[1].

Lawrence Mills (Photo credit: Essex County Community Foundation)

Lawrence Mills (Photo credit: Essex County Community Foundation)

After World War II, the departure of the city’s manufacturers resulted in the city’s transition from a former thriving region to one of the most marginalized municipalities in Massachusetts. As more and more factories closed, the former economic epicenter would be confronted with the loss of major employers, limited city resources, and stigmatism from neighboring towns, as characterized in Lorlene Hoyt and Andre Leroux’s, Voices of Forgotten Cities:

“The centripetal forces that once pulled people, resources, and businesses in [to the city] and created a rich density of urban civic life weakened over decades against a backdrop of national economic restructuring, changing technologies, and shifting government policy”[2].

Reflecting on Lawrence’s highs and lows remains personal for me, because it is the city I called home for the first 20 years of my life. My family moved to Lawrence in 1990 shortly after my sister and I were born. My mother and father, who immigrated to the United States from Kenya and Zimbabwe respectively, attended the nearby University of Massachusetts at Lowell campus. Like many other young, immigrant families, they sought Lawrence because of the affordable housing opportunities the city had to offer. Growing up in Lawrence was normal for me, despite being enveloped by many of the environmental impacts commonly associated with low-income cities.

Friends and I during my Arlington School graduation

Friends and I during my Arlington School graduation


Lawrence High School Pep Rally

Lawrence High School Pep Rally

From the 1990s to early 2000s, Lawrence’s trajectory seemed stagnant. The Lawrence Public Schools system was underperforming, teen pregnancy and youth violence remained high, city resources were low and local government faced growing accusations of corruption. All of these outcomes pushed my family to move from Lawrence in 2004. Though we were no longer residents, we remained affected by the unforgiving accounts of the city we loved. For example, in 2012, Boston Magazine profiled Lawrence in a piece titled, “City of the Damned”. In it, author Jay Atkinson wrote:

“Times  are hard in the state’s poorest city. The mayor is under federal and state investigation for campaign-finance improprieties and other questionable behavior, while a state-appointed overseer is managing the city’s municipal budget. Lawrence’s public school system is in receivership — the former superintendent, Wilfredo Laboy, is under criminal indictment for fraud and embezzlement, and the high school dropout rate is more than 50 percent. Public-safety cuts have been drastic, and felony crimes have skyrocketed from 1,777 in 2009 to 2,597 during the first 11 months of 2011. Unemployment is as high as 18 percent, compared with the state average of less than 7 percent. With 76,000 people squeezed into 6.93 square miles, violent crime on the rise, and a public school system that’s the worst in the state, the once-proud “Immigrant City” has become an object lesson in how to screw things up”[3].

Lawrence residents protest Boston Magazine headquarters following  “The City of the Damned” publication (Photo credit: WBUR)

Lawrence residents protest Boston Magazine headquarters following “The City of the Damned” publication (Photo credit: WBUR)

But even in Lawrence’s most trying time, hope remained. Over the past decade or so, residents who stayed in the city or made their way back would go on to lead a series of successful community development initiatives aimed at redefining what it means to come from Lawrence. Hoyt and Leroux describe this shift, “In changing dysfunction to function, the collective, cumulative impact of hundreds of small but better decisions are revealed to be ultimately more powerful than the big project, the big investment, or the ‘silver bullet’ strategy”, which they dub “innovative revitalization coalitions”[4].

Real community development was beginning to happen in the city. As Lawrence native and former executive director of Lawrence CommunityWorks, William “Bill” Traynor illustrates, “I would describe our network in Lawrence not as an organization but as a bundle of thinking language habits, value propositions space and practice all designed to comprise an environment that effectively meet people where they are and offers myriad opportunities and levels of engagement”[5].

Examples of this type of community building include:

  • Community development corporations (CDC), Lawrence CommunityWorks, Inc. and Groundwork Lawrence teamed up to launch “The Reviviendo Gateway Initiative (RGI)”, which was a neighborhood-based planning group which combined both organizations’ planning and organizing expertise to create a 15-year large-scale development master plan with the backing of local residents. Today, many aspects of the RGI visionary plan have been implanted or underway.
  • With the assistance of federal Community Service Block Grants, the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, Inc. has launched a 3-year Community Action Plan that aims to fill service gaps in Lawrence as identified by community-driven needs assessments. Through the Community Action Plan, GLCACI is incrementally addressing issues of immigration, underemployment, and affordable housing access in Lawrence.
  • Arlington Community Trabajando (ACT) is a CDC created following the 1995 Malden Mills factory fire in Lawrence’s Arlington neighborhood, which resulted in the loss of 3,000 local jobs. ACT works to revitalize the 11-block neighborhood, which maintains the “highest concentration of residents living in poverty in the city”. Since its launch, ACT has helped improve opportunities for more than 900 families through business development, financial literacy education, foreclosure prevention counseling, and homeownership education.

    The former Malden Mills factory  (Photo credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

    The former Malden Mills factory (Photo credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

  • Located in the center of downtown Lawrence, El Taller Café and Bookstore provides residents with an open space for creativity and community building. El Taller provides an environment for residents to exchange ideas and build community through neighborhood discussions, workshops, and art showcases.
  • The Greater Lawrence Young Professionals Network (GLYPN) is a membership organization created “to attract, retain, and engage young professionals in the Greater Lawrence area”. After graduating college, a group of young professionals returned to Lawrence and were alarmed by the lack of social and professional development opportunities that exist in the city. GLYPN addresses this need by offering leadership development training, networking opportunities, and fun social activities that help support businesses in the greater Lawrence area.

In Lawrence, community development means “accepting the city’s new reality while fully recognizing the potential [its] many assets (proximity to larger cities, walkable downtowns and neighborhoods, historic mills and churches, affordable housing opportunities and cultural amenities)”[6]. Lawrence residents are embodying the principles of community development by working together to organize around pressing neighborhood issues. Lawrencians are becoming empowered citizens and demonstrating such by buying homes, opening small businesses, leading neighborhood projects, and seeking public office.

Today, the city is steadily moving beyond its turbulent past and rebranding itself as a city of opportunity. Lawrence’s rebirth is a great example of how communities can work collectively to change their realities. I could not be more proud of my city and look forward to its future as the community development work continues. I am also confident in the new Lawrence leaders who remain resilient in their efforts towards progress. Fellow Lawrencians like Mayor Dan Rivera, Pavel Payano, Marcos Devers, Luisa Pena, Wilnelia Rivera, Lydia and Flor Maldonado, Jessica Valentin, Frank Moran, Kendrys Vasquez, Abel Varges, and countless others make me excited for what is to come in Lawrence.

“If Lawrence is a city of the damned, it is the damned hardworking, the damned hopeful and the damned resilient” –Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera (then Lawrence City Council President)

[1] City of Lawrence,

[2] Lorlene Hoyt and Andre Leroux, Voices of Forgotten Cities (Cambridge, 2007), 23

[3] Jay Atkinson, “City of the Damned,” Boston Magazine

[4] Lorlene Hoyt and Andre Leroux, Voices of Forgotten Cities (Cambridge, 2007), 17

[5] Bill Traynor, “The Community Builder” The Community Development Reader (New York, 2005), 217

[6] Lorlene Hoyt and Andre Leroux, Voices of Forgotten Cities (Cambridge, 2007), 46

“Making College Square” Field Project 2015 Wins APA MA Award
| December 10, 2015 | 2:47 pm | Student Awards, student papers, Tufts | Comments closed

UEP Students Betsy Byrum, Nathaniel Fink, Rayn Riel, and Xiang Yu were awarded the APA-MA Chapter Student Project Award for their 2015 Field Project. The project, “Making College Square: Leveraging Public Transportation for a Safer and Greener Campus,” undertakes a study of the opportunities for transit oriented development associated with the MBTA’s Green Line Extension through Somerville and Medford. The team conducted an on campus planning charrette, which was covered in a previous blog post last year.

Proposed Green Line Extension

Proposed Green Line Extension

The report focuses on planning the College Ave stop, located on Tufts Campus:

Site of College Ave Station

Site of College Ave Station

The team made recommendations to the Tufts Campus Planning Office and Office of Sustainability on strategies for shifting to sustainable transportation, improving safety, and building a sense of place in this new public space. The report features photos of the area to provide context and the engagement process with students and faculty.

Congratulations to the team! Next semester will see the next round of potentially award-winning Field Projects for 2016!

Giving What You Have: Community Development in the Washington Neighborhood, San Jose, California
| November 27, 2015 | 1:47 pm | student papers | Comments closed

This post is an adaptation of a project by students Ashley Clark and Mason Wells for Professor Lorlene Hoyt’s course on Community Development, Planning and Politics

Maria Hernandez stood up from her seat and scanned the room full of senior year Berkeley planning students. Maria’s presence was magnetic. She was the kind of person you never forget meeting and everyone in the drafty classroom was captivated by her presence. Unimpressed by these students’ presentation and first findings, she spoke passionately about her community and family. Her heartfelt dedication to Washington was immediately apparent and it became an inspiration for the students. Acutely aware of the resources and legitimacy Berkeley planning students could provide, Maria successfully rallied the group to rededicate themselves to the project. For the rest of 2014, the energized students would continue working alongside the network of neighborhood mothers known as Madre a Madre.

The Washington Neighborhood is 0.236 square miles and has a population of just over 4,000 people (City Data). Two major freeways intersect at its northwesterly corner, cutting it off from the downtown and surrounding communities. Central to the neighborhood is Washington Elementary School. It is a gathering place for not only students, but also parents and siblings. Parents view it as a safer place than nearby parks (Burga, 2015). The neighborhood is in an old part of San Jose and its housing stock is primarily single-family homes built before 1939. 59.6% of residents have less than a high school level of education.

Map Credit: City Data

Map Credit: City Data

Washington is largely a Latin@ immigrant community and many residents are undocumented.  The county’s current deportation policy reflects its history with immigrants, who have been around since at least the 1940s. (San Jose Mercury News 1948). It has declared itself a sanctuary and will not turn those who are undocumented over to the federal government. The role of the school has changed in the neighborhood from a place that instills American beliefs and culture, to one that embraces diversity. For example, the school has made it a priority to include the mothers by issuing all correspondence in Spanish and English. The school also plays a large role as public space that creates opportunities for organizations and institutions to connect with families that live and work in the neighborhood.

James DeFilippis and Susan Saegert argue that “communities are places of interdependence, even if that interdependence can be limited and not always beneficial to everyone involved” (1). In Washington this interdependence can be found in the connections between local universities, nonprofits and community-based organizations that are working as community developers. The school plays a strategic role in the coordination of these connections. For example, Santa Clara University has two programs that focus on Washington Elementary and the surrounding neighborhood. The Leavey School of Business has a program called the Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative and the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education has its Thriving Neighborhoods program. Both programs are designed so students can gain valuable field experience while providing resources for the community . As it stands, the university, the students and the community all gain from these relationships and programs. There are not only institutions working from outside the neighborhood, but from within Washington Elementary School as well.

Photo Credit: The Friend of Washington

Photo Credit: The Friend of Washington

Madre a Madre

Madre a Madre, a weekly discussion group for mothers at Washington Elementary School, covered topics from helping students in school to working on issues of self-esteem and stress. Beronica, one of more than 40 mothers in the group, describes the many benefits she derives from her participation in this community:

Yo me siento muy contenta de tener estos programas en la Escuela Washington porque nos sirven de mucho. A mí en lo personal me ha servido asistir a las juntas de Madre a Madre porque he aprendido a como ayudar a mis hijos en sus estudios y como ser con ellos.  Todos los programas que nos han ofrecido son de mucha ayuda para saber sobre nuestros derechos.  A saber que todos los niños tienen sentimientos y que hay que saber escucharlos sobre lo que les pasa. También me ha ayudado a estar informada sobre todo lo que pasa en la escuela y mientras pueda voy a seguir viniendo para aprender y poder lograr a que mis hijos salgan adelante ya que siempre los voy a apoyar.

I feel very fortunate to have a program like this in Washington elementary because it is giving me a lot. Personally, to come to the (?) Madre a Madre meeting has helped me because I have learned how to help my kids in their studies and how to be more with them. All the programs that have been offered to us are of a great help to understand our rights. It has helped me to understand that all kids have feelings and that we need to learn to listen to them about what is happening in their lives. It has also helped me to inform myself about everything that is happening at school, and while I can, I will keep coming to learn how to help my children move forward because I will always be by their side. (translated from Spanish by Carlos Iñigo)

Photo Credit: The Friend of Washington

Photo Credit: The Friend of Washington

Yet, out of this network of mothers emerged something more than a parent support group. The women began to develop and share a deep collective understanding of their communities’ assets, as well as potential areas for community development and growth. Madre a Madre instilled confidence in the mothers to expand their work into the community. Through their collaboration with students at Berkeley, this network of deeply embedded community members would break out of a community development framework centered on education and what seemed like increasingly restrictive roles at Washington Elementary School.

The school and Madre a Madre were safe spaces that provided an outlet for the mothers to grow in their capacity and ability to define what a better Washington community meant on their own terms. It was not a university saying “We are going to conduct a workshop and help you identify your needs.” The mothers already know what they need.

DeFilippis and Saegert refer to this as collective and aggregate power, or a network. The mothers aggregated their voices and power by organizing and agreeing on a common set of goals. Currently they are in the process of starting their own organization outside of the school called Mamas Unidas. They feel this would legitimize their claims and place in the community. They built their model based on what they outlined as their common goals: creating a safe and vibrant neighborhood with access to healthy food, parks and schools.

Unlike the other organizations currently working in the neighborhood, Mamas Unidas is the only grassroots organization that puts members of the community first. The knowledge the mothers have of the neighborhood and its families is incredibly valuable and an important asset for any program that seeks to be a change agent in the community. We suggest that for community development strategies in Washington to be most effective, the mothers must partner with other active organizations .

The failure in this case is that these different pieces of the community development puzzle are not talking to each other. Democratically organized community groups growing out of community directed capacity building could leverage assets and strengthen institutional networks in coordinated support of community defined and centered development. This type of strategy centers on the voices of Washington Neighborhood residents and more specifically on the collective power of these mothers. The organizations have access the mothers’ intimate knowledge of the community, while the mothers can access programs and financial resources.


At the heart of this story is a group of mothers who care deeply about their children and community. And from that experience we learn that community development can begin by drawing connections between groups with shared interests at various levels of organization and size. The school was able to find leaders within the community and, through its association with universities and other nonprofits, became a hub for interaction and recognition that the other even exists. The next step is to develop connections and forge partnerships. This is a lesson from which other communities can learn. Understanding the fractured nature of the communication between the mothers group and outside organizations exposes areas of opportunity. There are always ways to improve communication between various groups and ways to center community development efforts around those who will be most impacted by these decisions. As one of the mothers told me, “damos lo que somos,” or “we give what we have”.


Burga, Fernando. Lecture, UC Berkeley, 2015.

Burke, Brian J., and Boone Shear. “Engaged Scholarship for Non-capitalist Political Ecologies.” Journal of Political Ecology21 (2014): 127-44. Accessed October 1, 2015.

DeFilippis, James. “Communities Develop.” In The Community Development Reader, 1-7. New York, New York: Routledge, 2008.

DeFilippis, James. “Community Building Limitations and Promise.” In The Community Development Reader, 209-219. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Noguchi, Sharon, and Patrick May. “California Won’t Turn Arrested Illegal Immigrants over to Feds.” San Jose Mercury News, October 5, 2013. Accessed October 1, 2015.

“Washington (Guadalupe) Neighborhood in San Jose, California (CA), 95110 Detailed Profile.” Washington (Guadalupe) Neighborhood in San Jose, California (CA), 95110 Subdivision Profile. Accessed October 1, 2015.

Rebecca Schofield’s Competition Winning Proposal
| February 24, 2014 | 1:27 am | student papers | Comments closed

Last November, Rebecca Schofield, a second year UEP student, was named the winner of the Welcoming Communities Student Ideas competition, sponsored by the Expanding Opportunities Committee (EOC) of the Commonwealth Housing Task Force (CHTF). The competition was designed to generate ideas from students about how to make communities in Massachusetts more welcoming to people of color, people of low-income, and people with disabilities. Her research proposal is copied below:


This project will build on my previous research on fair housing issues and tenants’ rights with the City of Somerville’s Fair Housing Commission (2012-2013) and research on models for preserving affordable housing and empowering residents for the Coalition for Occupied Homes in Foreclosure (COHIF) (summer-fall 2013).  Working with these partners to remove barriers and explore opportunities for more inclusive communities in Somerville and Dorchester has been an important step in the development of my research idea for this competition.

COHIF is currently working with community and nonprofit partners and a developer to acquire and rehabilitate owner-occupied properties that have been foreclosed in the Greater Four Corners neighborhood. The majority of residents whose homes have been foreclosed are low-income and/or people of color; we have been researching housing models that will better enable these populations to stay in their neighborhood and avoid foreclosure.

When residents are displaced (due to the expiration of affordability restrictions, housing redevelopment, and high market costs), where can they go? If we’re aiming to empower residents and preserve the affordability and diversity of Boston’s neighborhoods, it is important to address both barriers to staying-in-place and barriers to movement.  The COHIF project addresses housing inequities at the site of displacement, but we must also consider housing policy options that 1) help displaced residents find quality housing and community resources and 2) support residents’ freedom of movement and neighborhood choice.

Research Proposal

Framework Development

I believe that we need a clear framework for identifying the needs, interests, and capabilities of people of color, people of low-income, and people with disabilities. This framework will allow us to better evaluate housing models and policies that address these needs, interests, and capabilities.  The concept of a “bundle of interests” (Davis 1996) is a useful place to start: this bundle includes our rights to use and exchange property and our obligations and resources related to property ownership and management. It also includes our core interests in property, which is linked to broader goals we have for our housing and our communities (e.g. protecting our family’s well-being, identifying with a city, town, or neighborhood, participating in civil society, etc.).  The bundle of interests (rights, obligations, resources, and core interests) that a given household has is quite different than the bundle of interests a private developer has. Community groups, community development corporations (CDCs), community development financial institutions (CDFIs), and policy makers are additional examples of the actors who shape housing options and accessibility in our cities and towns. Each of these groups has a different bundle of interests.

It is hard to identify reasons that communities throughout Massachusetts put up barriers for certain populations, but it is clear that these communities only meet a narrow bundle of interests. The purpose of this framework is to better identify the differences and similarities in each actor’s bundle, then consider housing options that will best suit the needs, interests, and capabilities of people of low-income, people of color, and/or people with disabilities.

Evaluating Housing Models

In order to advocate for people of low-income, people of color, and/or people with disabilities in Massachusetts’ communities, we must develop and implement strategies for effective resident control of housing. There is a broad range of options for community- or resident-based property ownership, management, and control, but each housing development must select the model that best suits the needs, interests, and capabilities of its residents.

Some examples of models for owning and/or financing housing that support more inclusive communities include: community land trusts (CLTs), mutual housing associations, cooperatives and limited equity cooperatives (LECs), individual development accounts (IDAs). Municipal support for resident control and community-based housing is also important: New York City and Washington, D.C. provide strong examples of legislative protection for tenants and low-income residents. Looking at case studies and interviewing experts will help determine which housing models will best protect a given population in a given community.

Crisis mapping at UEP
| August 18, 2011 | 12:00 am | student papers | Comments closed

Beyond the introductory GIS class, there are several other classes available to UEP students in different areas of spatial analysis. Remote Sensing is popular among those interested in natural sciences, while some of the offerings from Fletcher School bring students to the forefront of current events. A list of all Tufts GIS classes can be found here.

Two posters from last spring demonstrate some of the up-to-the-minute possibilities of crisis mapping. First, undergrad Ray Kameda mapped actual tsunami damage in Miyagi Prefecture in Japan. That crisis was unfolding during the semester, and Ray took live data to evaluate actual damage against projected damage.

The second poster, created by a Fletcher School student, examined routes of travel for protesters in Cairo on their way to Tahrir Square during the revolution there. As those protests were unfolding in the midst of the semester, the poster uses up-to-the-minute data in its least-cost path analysis.

Lydia Rainville ’12: Regional Visioning in Virginia
| August 11, 2011 | 12:00 am | student papers | Comments closed

In another paper from Justin Hollander’s Regional Planning class, Lydia Rainville ’12 makes recommendations for regional planning to two regional organizations in the Virginia Beach & Newport News metropolitan area in southeast Virginia.

In addition to her full-time studies and part-time employment at the Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center in Cambridge, Lydia helps run the Student Policy and Planning Association (SPPA) at UEP. SPPA is the department’s student organization, which hosts weekly socials, liaises with faculty and professional groups, and organizes welcome activities for admitted and first-year students. To learn more about SPPA (or regional visioning in southeast Virginia), email lydia [dot] rainville [at] tufts [dot] edu.

Gabriel Holbrow ’12 won awards for his GIS poster
| August 4, 2011 | 12:00 am | student papers | Comments closed

Last fall, Gabriel Holbrow ’12 took Introduction to GIS (Geographic Information Systems) taught by Barbara Parmenter. The final assignment for that class is to make a poster using the mapping and spatial analysis skills you’ve learned. Gabe was interested in walkability and metrics for measuring it. He took the wealth of data provided in the District of Columbia, and made a beautiful poster on the topic. Since that time, the poster has won multiple awards.

UEP is blessed with fantastic GIS resources. Barbara Parmenter spends half her time as a UEP core faculty member, and the other half providing GIS support for the whole Tufts community. She puts extensive energy into her teaching, and her classes are widely enjoyed. GIS classes are taught in the state-of-the-art Spatial Analysis Lab, tucked behind the circulation desk area in Tisch Library, to the left of the main stairs. Somewhere between the formality of Tisch’s Tower Cafe and the rest of the library, the lab is primarily used and overseen by UEP students, though students from other programs also work there.

Introduction to GIS is always a popular course for UEP students, but it is offered every semester. Barbara often encourages UEP students to wait until their second year to take it, at which point they are guaranteed a spot. It is quite difficult to get into the class during one’s first semester, due to first-years’ late registration date. But some do take the class in the fall, like Gabe Holbrow, and many first-year UEPers take it in the spring of their first year.