Archive for February, 2010

February 9, 2010

Toronto Community Partnership Stategy: Councillors get it

An update on a posting in January on the Toronto Community Partnership: Priority Neighbourhood Areas Revised:

On February 22, Toronto City Council will consider a recommendation to adopt a new Toronto Community Partnership Stategy (CSP). The Strategy was approved at the City Committee on Social Development and Recreation at its February 3 meeting. Councillors in attendance were supportive – although perhaps the 100 deputants waiting to speak on the issue of rink time were distracting them.

It’s a system which builds on the work the City has already done in the childcare, homeless, and arts sectors. Acting as a set of indices, the CSP’s goal is to develop “a broadly available, fact-based system for community and political discussions,” according to City staff.

Neighbourhoods which will be prioritized, in planning and resources, are those with low levels of economic security, education⁄ literacy levels and social inclusion. If the CSP’s adopted, the strategy will be piloted in 2011, focusing initially on issues of access and accessibility.

A parallel tool which will facilitate these discussions in the development of an evidence- based, publicly-available, on-line Neighbourhood Wellbeing Index (NWI). The NWI will map out the demographics, local services and “operational metrics” across Toronto neighbourhoods. City staff are pulling together a panel of expert researchers through the summer to determine a structure for the NWI. If all goes well, the NWI may be ready in the fall.

February 9, 2010

Hard journalism

One of the major reasons I keep my subscription to the Toronto Star are its commitment to local reporting, hard investigative journalism, and its mapping/GIS team. It’s the sort of work that print journalism has to do if it’s to survive. According to the Tyee, journalism professor Stephen Ward explains “The future of journalism is investigative, interpretive journalism.”

The Star’s latest work, Race Matters has buttressed my loyalty. It’s a hard-hitting, multi-pronged, multimedia examination of racial profiling in policing.

The series builds earlier work, when the Star’s Jim Rankin won an appeal against the Toronto Police Services to release crime data. The court ordered the TPS to hand it over, and they did, almost twelve months later, in December 2009.

The world of newspaper journalism works on shorter timelines, so, here on this first week-end in February, the new data has formed the foundation of this look at how law enforcement occurs in our neighbourhoods.

The Star’s investigative and mapping teams’ work on issues of social justice has been prodigious. Repeatedly, they prove the adage that the role of the press is to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”

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February 5, 2010

Majora Carter on "greening the ghetto" and gentrification

Majora Carter came to attention of many on TEDtalks. Explaining her connection to her community, she provided a strong voice about reclaiming the Bronx.

Last spring, she made a splash here in Toronto, making the rounds of City Hall, university circuit, and the media. People came to hear how she and her neighbours rebuilt their community so that their environments were healthier and the local economy supported the aspirations of those who lived in these low-income communities of colour.

This week, Travis Smiley interviewed Carter in a radio bit called Greening Harlem.

Like Jane Jacobs, another New Yorker before her, Carter calls for gentrification and the creation of mixed-income neighbourhoods. The riches change the neighbourhoods where she lives and works. It’s an unidealized perspective on a tough issue in urban neighbourhoods.

Explaining the importance of environmentalism and connection to the land in an urban environment, Carter explained straighforwardly, “If you drink…if you eat food, if you walk and breathe, you are an environmentalist.”

If you haven’t heard this Black woman speak, seen what’s she’s done, take a moment.

February 3, 2010

Mixed-income neighbourhoods

Mixed income neighbourhoods carry some cachet. The idea of middle class and poor folk living in harmony together catches us.

However, when looked at more closely, these communities tend to get more mixed reviews.

Whether it’s Martine August’s doctoral work on Regent Park or Canada Research Chair David Ley description of social mix as a transitional stage, Canadian scholars are not giving mixed neighbourhoods the same rave reviews that housing developers are.

Joining the discussion, Christopher Leo, University of Winnipeg political science professor and blogger, has joined the discussion with a recent post on the topic: “Does Mixed Income Housing Ameliorate Poverty?”.

Leo summarizes the research from the Urban Affairs journal which shows the conflicting impacts of mixed income neighbourhoods. He also reminds us about the increasing segregation by housing form by income and punctures some of the positive mythology which surrounds the ideal of these communities. It is a refreshing critical look at what works and what doesn’t.

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