Moving Beyond Schoolhouse Rock and Understanding Regulatory Processes

This week in North Philly Notes, Sara Rinfret, editor of Who Really Makes Environmental Policy?, writes about why regulations do matter.

Former President Trump often used slogans on the campaign trail to “end bad regulations” or to halt the “war on coal.” These soundbites assisted the Trump administration’s efforts to rollback more than 100 environmental regulations in the United States during his presidency. But, why? Are regulations bad?

Teaching courses on U.S. government to high school or college students often only covers the Schoolhouse Rock‘s version of “How a Bill Becomes a Law.” Unfortunately, we do not spend enough time examining in our curriculum what occurs after a piece of legislation becomes law.

Who Really Makes Environmental Policy?, urges that we must increase our understanding of regulatory processes to document policymaking in the United States less complex, with a myriad of access points for public participation. The book uses illustrative environmental policy case studies to guide the reader through the stages of administrative rulemaking. Unpacking these regulatory stages moves us beyond our Schoolhouse Rock mindset and illustrates how and why Congress delegates its decision-making authority to administrative agencies.

Congress delegates the implementation of policy to administrative agencies because it does not have the time or expertise to do so. This delegation of authority provides administrative agencies the ability to create law through the administrative rulemaking process. The stages of this process can be best understood by learning from the case studies that examine each of the distinct steps, such as rule development, public comment, to post-rulemaking activities. Our regulatory adventure does not stop after the stages of the rulemaking, but it is monitored and carried out by state environmental inspectors who ensure compliance with environmental law. These individuals, for example, ensure a nearby company is not improperly disposing of waste.

Unfortunately, the regulatory process is not discussed enough and often depicted as detrimental to business. Who Really Makes Environmental Policy? dispels this myth by inviting and encouraging the opportunity for students, practitioners and the general public to engage in a clear, step-by-step guide about the stages of the process. Specifically, we argue environmental policymaking is not made in a black hole. Instead, taking the time to understand regulatory processes is another access point for the American public to directly engage in providing input by using electronic platforms such as Regulations.gov.  

Regulations are not bad in general; they protect the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. The heavy lifters of environmental policy are career civil servants, your next-door neighbor who works for agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, or the National Park Service, to name a few. We just need to do a better job of understanding the process, which is the goal of Who Really Makes Environmental Policy? As Regulations.gov clearly states, “Make a difference. Submit your comments, and let your voice be heard!”

What will work eventually look like?

This week in North Philly Notes, we focus on our new and forthcoming Labor Studies titles in honor of Labor Day.

 Workforce Development 

The Many Futures of Work reframes the conversation about contemporary workplace experience by providing both “top down” and “bottom up” analyses.  

America in the 20thcentury

Becoming Entitled examines Americans’ shift in thinking about government social insurance programs during the Great Depression.

Communists and Community shows what role Communists played in the advancement of social democracy. 

Elaine Black Yoneda (forthcoming) presents a critical biography of the Jewish labor activist and feminist pioneer. 

Industrial histories

“A Road to Peace and Freedom recounts the history of the International Workers Order.

From Collective Bargaining to Collective Begging analyzes the expansion and restriction of collective bargaining rights for public employees.

Social justice and social welfare 

Motherlands challenges preconceived notions of the states that support working mothers. 

Labor economics 

Daily Labors and its examination of Black and Latino day laborers’ experience on an NYC street corner.

Sociology of work 

A Collective Pursuit argues that teachers’ unions are working in community to reinvigorate the collective pursuit of reforms beneficial to both educators and public education.

Policing in Natural Disasters shows how disaster work impacts law enforcement officers and first responders.

Making Their Days Happen (forthcoming) explores the complexities of the interpersonal dynamics and policy implications affecting personal assistance service consumers and providers.

For all of our Labor Studies

Celebrating Pennsylvania Day!

July 20 is National Pennsylvania Day. (Yes, historians, Pennsylvania was admitted to the Union December 12, 1787, the National Day Calendar is honoring each state, in order, each week following July 4). As such, Temple University Press is preparing to celebrate with our books that focus on the Keystone State.

A compilation of a dozen of his fascinating articles showcasing the Keystone State, Pennsylvania Stories—Well Told, by William Ecenbarger, observes that in the quirky state of Pennsylvania, the town of Mauch Chunk changed its name to Jim Thorpe—even though the famous American-Indian athlete never set foot in it. He goes driving with Pennsylvania native John Updike in rural Berks County, Pennsylvania. And he highlights just what makes Pennsylvania both eccentric and great, providing a delightfully intriguing read for natives and curious outsiders alike.

Want to take the state’s temperature before there was COVID? The Health of the Commonwealth:A Brief History of Medicine, Public Health, and Disease in Pennsylvania, by James E. Higgins, provides an overview of medicine and public health in the state. Covering the outbreak of yellow fever in 1793 through the 1976 Legionnaires’ Disease epidemic, and the challenges of the present day, Higgins shows how Pennsylvania has played a central role in humanity’s understanding of—and progress against—disease. The Health of the Commonwealth places Pennsylvania’s unique contribution to the history of public health and medicine in a larger narrative of health and disease throughout the United States and the world.

Pennsylvania Politics and Policy: A Commonwealth Reader, Volume 1, edited by J. Wesley Leckrone and Michelle J. Atherton, contains updated chapters from recent issues of Commonwealth: A Journal of Pennsylvania Politics and Policy on education, health care, public finance, tax policy, environmental policy, alcohol policy and more. Pennsylvania Politics and Policy: A Commonwealth Reader, Volume 2, edited by Michelle J. Atherton and J. Wesley Leckrone, focuses on government institutions, election laws, the judiciary, government finance and budgeting, the opioid crisis, childcare, property taxes, environmental policy, demographics, and more. In both volumes, each chapter is supplemented by discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and forums with arguments in support of or opposed to contested elements of state policy.

The Scots Irish were one of early Pennsylvania’s largest non-English immigrant groups. They were stereotyped as frontier ruffians and Indian haters. In The Scots Irish of Early Pennsylvania, historian Judith Ridner insists that this immigrant group was socio-economically diverse. Servants and free people, individuals and families, and political exiles and refugees from Ulster, they not only pioneered new frontier settlements, but also populated the state’s cities—Philadelphia and Pittsburgh—and its towns, such as Lancaster, Easton, and Carlisle.

Undocumented Fears, by Jamie Longazel shows how the local politics of immigration pit working people against one another. The Illegal Immigration Relief Act (IIRA), passed in the small Rustbelt city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania in 2006, was a local ordinance that laid out penalties for renting to or hiring undocumented immigrants and declared English the city’s official language. The notorious IIRA gained national prominence and kicked off a parade of local and state-level legislative initiatives designed to crack down on undocumented immigrants. Longazel uses the debate around Hazleton’s controversial ordinance as a case study that reveals the mechanics of contemporary divide and conquer politics. He shows how neoliberal ideology, misconceptions about Latina/o immigrants, and nostalgic imagery of “Small Town, America” led to a racialized account of an undocumented immigrant “invasion,” masking the real story of a city beset by large-scale loss of manufacturing jobs.

And forthcoming this fall, Slavery and Abolition in Pennsylvania, by Beverly Tomek, corrects the long-held notion that slavery in the North was “not so bad” as, or somehow “more humane” than, in the South due to the presence of abolitionists. While the Quaker presence focused on moral and practical opposition to bondage, slavery was ubiquitous. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania was the first state to pass an abolition law in the United States. Slavery and Abolition in Pennsylvania traces this movement from its beginning to the years immediately following the American Civil War. Discussions of the complexities of the state’s antislavery movement illustrate how different groups of Pennsylvanians followed different paths in an effort to achieve their goal. Tomek also examines the backlash abolitionists and Black Americans faced. In addition, she considers the civil rights movement from the period of state reconstruction through the national reconstruction that occurred after the Civil War.

Announcing Temple University Press’ Fall Catalog

This week in North Philly Notes we showcase the titles forthcoming this Fall from Temple University Press

“Beyond the Law”: The Politics of Ending the Death Penalty for Sodomy in Britain, by Charles Upchurch, provides a major reexamination of the earliest British parliamentary efforts to abolish capital punishment for consensual sex acts between men.

Are You Two Sisters?: The Journey of a Lesbian Couple, by Susan Krieger, authored by one of the most respected figures in the field of personal ethnographic narrative, this book serves as both a memoir and a sociological study, telling the story of one lesbian couple’s lifelong journey together.

Asian American Connective Action in the Age of Social Media: Civic Engagement, Contested Issues, and Emerging Identities, by James S. Lai, examines how social media has changed the way Asian Americans participate in politics.

The Civil Rights Lobby: The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Second Reconstruction, by Shamira Gelbman, investigates how minority group, labor, religious, and other organizations worked together to lobby for civil rights reform during the 1950s and ’60s.

Elaine Black Yoneda: Jewish Immigration, Labor Activism, and Japanese American Exclusion and Incarceration, by Rachel Schreiber, tells the remarkable story of a Jewish activist who joined her imprisoned Japanese American husband and son in an American concentration camp.

Fitting the Facts of Crime: An Invitation to Biopsychosocial Criminology, by Chad Posick, Michael Rocque, and J.C. Barnes, presents a biopsychosocial perspective to explain the most common findings in criminology—and to guide future research and public policy.

From Improvement to City Planning: Spatial Management in Cincinnati from the Early Republic through the Civil War Decade, by Henry C. Binford, offers a “pre-history” of urban planning in the United States.

Gangs on Trial: Challenging Stereotypes and Demonization in the Courts, by John M. Hagedorn
, exposes biases in trials when the defendant is a gang member.

Invisible People: Stories of Lives at the Margins, by Alex Tizon, now in paperback, an anthology of richly reported and beautifully written stories about marginalized people.

Islam, Justice, and Democracy, by Sabri Ciftci, explores the connection between Muslim conceptions of justice and democratic orientations.

The Italian Legacy in Philadelphia: History, Culture, People, and Ideas, edited by Andrea Canepari and Judith Goode, provides essays and images showcasing the rich contribution of Italians and Italian Americans to Global Philadelphia.

Making a Scene: Urban Landscapes, Gentrification, and Social Movements in Sweden, by Kimberly A. Creasap, examines how autonomous social movements respond to gentrification by creating their own cultural landscape in cities and suburbs.

Making Their Days Happen: Paid Personal Assistance Services Supporting People with Disability Living in Their Homes and Communities, by Lisa I. Iezzoni, explores the complexities of the interpersonal dynamics and policy implications affecting personal assistance service consumers and providers.

The Many Futures of Work: Rethinking Expectations and Breaking Molds, edited by Peter A. Creticos, Larry Bennett, Laura Owen, Costas Spirou, and Maxine Morphis-Riesbeck, reframes the conversation about contemporary workplace experience by providing both “top down” and “bottom up” analyses.

On Gangs, by Scott H. Decker, David C. Pyrooz, and James A. Densley, a comprehensive review of what is known about gangs—from their origins through their evolution and outcomes.

Pack the Court!: A Defense of Supreme Court Expansion, by Stephen M. Feldman, provides a historical and analytical argument for court-packing.

Passing for Perfect: College Impostors and Other Model Minorities, by erin Khuê Ninh, considers how it feels to be model minority—and why would that drive one to live a lie?

Pedagogies of Woundedness: Illness, Memoir, and the Ends of the Model Minority, by James Kyung-Jin Lee, asks what happens when illness betrays Asian American fantasies of indefinite progress?

Slavery and Abolition in Pennsylvania, by Beverly C. Tomek, highlights the complexities of emancipation and the “First Reconstruction” in the antebellum North.

Vehicles of Decolonization: Public Transit in the Palestinian West Bank, by Maryam S. Griffin, considers collective Palestinian movement via public transportation as a site of social struggle.

Who Really Makes Environmental Policy?: Creating and Implementing Environmental Rules and Regulations, edited by Sara R. Rinfret, provides a clear understanding of regulatory policy and rulemaking processes, and their centrality in U.S. environmental policymaking.

Examining our fraught relationship with food

This week in North Philly Notes, Jeffrey Haydu, author of Upsetting Food, writes about how food is ethically identified—and why that matters.

On May 28, 2021, the New York Times reported a lawsuit against Vital Farms. Plaintiffs charged that Vital Farms misled consumers by advertising its eggs as, “‘delicious, ethical food you don’t have to question.'” Three years earlier, a leading proponent of alternative agriculture, The Cornucopia Institute, rounded up different egg labels (ranging from “All Natural” to “Omega-3”). Of eleven examined, the Institute found five to be meaningless, misleading or “seriously flawed.”

These disputes testify to our fraught relationship with food. Concerns about the safety, nutritional value, and ethical virtues of what we eat are pervasive. Increasingly, consumers rely on third-party programs to certify a food as “good,” whether for body or soul, local community or planet. Upsetting Food: Three Eras of Food Protest in the United States, shows that such doubts about commercial food date back to the early 19th century. But the ways in which conscientious consumers sought to resolve those doubts have changed. Consumers have looked to quite different markers of trustworthy food from one era to another.

In the 1830s, Sylvester Graham warned his followers of the dangers of meat, commercial bread, and spices. What were the hallmarks of trustworthy foods? Those sanctified by the Bible, but also those prepared at home with the loving hands of wives and mothers. Such food, wrapped in piety, family, and tradition, was good for the body. It also met ethical goals by quieting men’s and women’s baser impulses.

Food reformers of the 1890s and 1900s voiced some similar concerns over suspect bread, contaminated meat, “unnatural” preservatives, and adulterated beverages. In this era, however, consumers were told to trust food that had been vetted by the federal government; that conformed to the new science of nutrition; and that had been prepared in modern, “hygienic” factories. Here too, more than health was at stake. The new regulatory and educational regime would restore honesty to markets and expertise to tradition-bound homemakers.

In the 1960s, some additional concerns emerged: “artificial” foods and pesticides joined fluffy white bread and preservatives on the list of anxieties. But now, food untainted by modern technology and nutritional science—”natural” food—represented the gold standard. And food acquired through alternative institutions like small farms, natural food stores, and neighborhood co-ops was deemed more reliable. By patronizing these alternatives, moreover, consumers were joining a virtuous conspiracy against Big Ag, corporate capital, and a servile state.

These differences among the three eras mostly reflect the larger movement cultures in which food reformers moved. Graham applied to diet a more general evangelical template for social uplift, one already in use to address the problems of slavery, intemperance, and “fallen women.” Proponents of pure food legislation and nutritional science applied to food the standard Progressive playbook: modern science can identify solutions for social ills, and government regulation can implement those solutions. Early organic advocates shared with a wider counterculture a deep suspicion of organized politics and modern technology. They shared, too, its belief that by living our lives differently we could bit by bit build a better society. Nowadays, many activists retain doubts about government as a lever for change. And partly for that reason, we have more faith in our ability to achieve social justice through concerted consumer choices. For a better food system, vote with your fork!

But there is more to the story than that. Upsetting Food also shows how reformers’ ideals of trustworthy food built on—or deliberately repudiated—the efforts of their predecessors. Progressive reformers were deeply skeptical of religion and tradition as guides to social practices, whether in managing factories or cooking food. Early organic advocates, in turn, explicitly rejected modern science and government—the Progressive stalwarts—for being little more than shills for big business. And contemporary food reformers are often guided by the perceived failures of the organic movement. Its eventual embrace of minimalist government standards and its cooptation by large food companies, we hear, doomed organic as a genuinely alternative food system. Hence the appeal both of labels less easily coopted by global corporations (“local”) and of third-party certifiers (Non-GMO Project, Certified C.L.E.A.N.) who, we hope, can themselves be trusted. And thus the outrage (channeled through legal action) when the virtues proclaimed by labels (“delicious, ethical food”) prove illusory.

Listen Up: Temple University Press Podcast Episode 2

This week in North Philly Notes, we debut the latest episode of the Temple University Press Podcast, which features host Sam Cohn interviewing author Jim Murphy about his new book Real Philly History, Real Fast.

The Temple University Press Podcast is where you can hear about all the books you’ll want to read next.

Click here to listen

The Temple University Press Podcast is available wherever you find your podcasts, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Overcast, among other outlets.


About this episode

Jim Murphy, a certified tour guide, provides a quick and easy way to learn about Philadelphia’s heroes and historic sites in Real Philly History, Real Fast. His book provides an amusing and informative insider’s guide to the Philadelphia history you don’t know. Sure, Philadelphia is known as the home of vibrant colonial history: the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House, and Independence Hall. But the City of Brotherly Love is also home to—and less well known for—having the country’s first quarantine station, and a clock whose face is larger than Big Ben’s in London. And yes, the Rocky statue is the most photographed, but do you know whose statue comes in second? Jim Murphy’s Real Philly History, Real Fast has the answer to these burning questions—and more. This is Philly history in bites that are as digestible as a soft pretzel with mustard.

Real Philly History, Real Fast is available through the Temple University Press website, and your favorite booksellers, both online and local.

Gender Politics in Brazil

This week in North Philly Notes, Pedro A. G. dos Santos and Farida Jalalzai, coauthors of Women’s Empowerment and Disempowerment in Brazil, address how the election of the first female president of Brazil triggered a gendered backlash culminating in her impeachment and ushered in a new era of male political dominance.  

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva recently had several criminal cases against him dropped, positioning him to possibly run against President Jair Bolsonaro in 2022. Lula’s immense popularity and support helped Brazil elect its first female president in 2010, Dilma Rousseff. Rousseff’s presidency is noted for three years of high popularity and a strong economy followed by three years of economic and political chaos and eventual impeachment in 2016. While she was never found guilty of corruption in a criminal court, the political crisis ensnared several politicians: Lula was arrested in 2018, and President of the Chamber of Deputies Eduardo Cunha was impeached and arrested. Since Rousseff’s impeachment, the country is facing its worst economic recession, elected far-right populist Bolsonaro, and has been recognized as one of the countries hit hardest by the pandemic.

Bolsonaro’s election and Lula’s possible presidential run are the latest developments in Brazil’s male-dominated presidential history. Women’s Empowerment and Disempowerment in Brazil: The Rise and Fall of President Dilma Rousseff, examines the six years a woman led the country. Based on a decade of fieldwork and over 150 original interviews with politicians and political experts in Brazil, findings suggest that the ascension of a woman to a powerful and historically masculine institution can affect women in various ways, including triggering vicious backlash against women’s empowerment.

Technically speaking, Rousseff was impeached over a common but questionable budgetary procedure used by previous presidents such as Lula (2003-2010) and Cardoso (1994-2002). Currently, Bolsonaro’s presidency has been riddled with political scandals and possibly impeachable offenses, including a disastrously incompetent response to COVID-19. And while Rousseff is now out of the political spotlight, Lula is being welcomed back to politics with open arms.

As we think about 2022 and the electoral fight between two “strong men,” we must remember the role gender played throughout Rousseff’s presidency. While misogyny was not the sole reason why President Rousseff was ousted, it was an important element in attempting to disempower the Presidenta and consequently disempower women seeking to enter masculine spaces in Brazilian society. 

The economic crisis that deepened significantly in 2013 was a consequence of falling commodity prices and questionable polices from both Lula’s and Rousseff’s administrations. Yet most blamed only Rousseff for the country’s current history-setting recession. As the institutional crisis intensified in 2014 and 2015, questions regarding Rousseff’s intelligence and leadership became a common thread. Many interviewees saw these intensifying at the height of the crisis and an “incompetence” narrative with an overtly gendered tone took hold. Some recalled Rousseff opponents argued that, as a woman, she needed to be removed from power and that this was a cautionary tale about what happens when women are in charge.

Misogyny was present in the impeachment process in both covert and overt ways. In the ten-hour long Chamber of Deputies session voting to start the impeachment process, very few references were made to the actual fiscal crime Rousseff allegedly committed; other reasons proved far more salient. Deputies said they cast their vote to impeach because they wanted to protect Brazil, their constituents, and their families or even to serve God. Many held green and yellow signs stamped with the expression Tchau Querida, which means “goodbye dear.” The condescending use of the word querida goes beyond mere political satire and into the world of misogynistic tropes against women in power.

Sexism and misogyny went beyond subtle jokes. One Deputy called Rousseff a jararaca, a venomous snake. In Brazil, this is a sexist term to describe women. Making no attempt to hide its misogyny, the speech met applause on the floor. The use of this derogatory expression, combined with the expression Tchau Querida shows that the deputy and his supporters were not just interested in Rousseff’s alleged impeachable offenses, but in degrading the President because of her gender.

Attempts to disempower Rousseff occurred long before the impeachment. The most infamous example was a car decal popularized the year the proceedings. It simulated sexual assault against the president. The decal was meant to protest another increase in gas prices. Such protests have happened before and after Rousseff’s presidency, with the difference being that male presidents such as Michel Temer or Jair Bolsonaro never saw their faces featured on a car decal simulating a sexual act.

The current conversation surrounding the 2022 presidential election feature as front-runners two men: one a former president who can still have his political rights stripped if the decision to drop charges against him is reversed; the other is the current president whose administration is marred by political scandals and a complete failure to protect the country from the pandemic. At least they can rest assure that their gender identity will not be used as a weapon against them.

Celebrating Women’s History Month

This week in North Philly Notes, we celebrate Women’s History Month. Use promo code TWHM21 for 30% off all our Women’s Studies titles. Sale ends April 15, 2021.

Anna May Wong: Performing the Modern, by Shirley Jennifer Lim, shows how Anna May Wong’s work shaped racial modernity and made her one of the most significant actresses of the twentieth century.

The Cost of Being a Girl: Working Teens and the Origins of the Gender Wage Gap, by Yasemin Besen-Cassino, traces the origins of the gender wage gap to part-time teenage work, which sets up a dynamic that persists into adulthood.

Feminist Post-Liberalism, by Judith Baer, reconciles liberalism and feminist theory.

Feminist Reflections on Childhood: A History and Call to Action, by Penny A. Weiss, recovers a history of feminist thought and activism that demands greater voice and respect for young people.

Good Reasons to Run: Women and Political Candidacy, edited by Shauna L. Shames, Rachel I. Bernhard, Mirya R. Holman, and Dawn Langan Teele, how and why women run for office.

Gross Misbehavior and Wickedness: A Notorious Divorce in Early Twentieth-Century America, by Jean Elson, a fascinating story of the troubled marriage and acrimonious divorce of Nina and James Walker elucidates early twentieth-century gender and family mores.

Motherlands: How States Push Mothers Out of Employment, by Leah Ruppanner challenges preconceived notions of the states that support working mothers.

Savoring the Salt: The Legacy of Toni Cade Bambara, edited by Linda Janet Holmes and Cheryl A. Wall, an anthology that celebrates the life and work of a major African American writer.

Their Day in the Sun: Women in the Manhattan Project, by Ruth H. Howes and Caroline C. Herzenberg, tells the hidden story of the contribution of women in the effort to develop the atomic bomb.

Undermining Intersectionality: The Perils of Powerblind Feminism, by Barbara Tomlinson, a sustained critique of the ways in which scholars have engaged with and deployed intersectionality.

Women Take Their Place in State Legislature: The Creation of Women’s Caucuses, by Anna Mitchell Mahoney, investigates the opportunities, resources, and frames that women utilize to create legislative caucuses.

Women’s Empowerment and Disempowerment in Brazil: The Rise and Fall of President Dilma Rousseff, by Pedro A.G. dos Santos and Farida Jalalzai, explains what the rise and fall of Brazil’s first and only female president can teach us about women’s empowerment.

Urban renewal began back in 1915?

This week in North Philly Notes, Dennis Gale, author of The Misunderstood History of Gentrification, recounts the history of gentrification (you probably don’t know).

Gentrification—the physical, economic, and social transformation of poor and working class neighborhoods primarily by middle- and upper-income people—remains one of the most controversial topics in urban studies today. A simple Google search of the term turned up nearly ten million hits. By the time that I began researching gentrification in Washington, D.C. in the late 1970s, I had already witnessed its unfolding in Boston. Like most observers, I thought that a new trend was underway. At that time, America’s cities were in crisis and millions of middle-class people were leaving them for the leafy suburbs. The conventional wisdom was that poverty, racial strife, and crime were undermining American urban life.

Although gentrification was far outweighed nationwide by neighborhood decline, it raised hopes that not all middle-class households were abandoning cities. With more research, I learned that gentrification was not a new phenomenon. In fact, its earliest U.S. origins date to about 1915. The Misunderstood History of Gentrification, reframes our understanding of this trend’s origins, its interaction with public policies, and its evolution from “embryonic” to “advanced” gentrification. The critical role played by a burgeoning national historic preservation movement is also documented.  

What we now know as gentrification first gained momentum in Boston, New York, Charleston, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C. a century ago. In each city, an older neighborhood experiencing disinvestment began attracting newcomers who renovated aging housing and generated renewed interest in inner city living. Perhaps believing that this trend was a mere flash in the pan, observers referred to it variously by terms such as “remodeling,” “regeneration” or “revitalization.” Since the late 1970s, when it became widely known as “gentrification,” online searches of that word have misled people into assuming that the phenomenon itself first appeared at that time. In fact, it dates back sixty years earlier.

Gentrification confounded conventional wisdom—i.e. that once physical neglect, economic decline, and poor and minority residents appeared, older neighborhoods would inevitably spiral downward to the status of “slums.” As official thinking went, only by tearing down slums, relocating their residents and businesses, and building anew, could such places become viable communities. But early gentrification demonstrated that renovation and reuse was not only a feasible alternative, it helped create one of the most desirable neighborhoods in each of the five cities in which it first appeared. And with time, it spread to other neighborhoods in those communities. Moreover, wherever it emerged, the process evolved with little, if any, government financing or bureaucratic administration.

But there’s more. By the late 1940s Congress grappled with the urban crisis by enacting the Urban Redevelopment program. It stipulated that cities could receive federal funds if they completely demolished and cleared older neighborhoods, displaced most existing residents and businesses, and rebuilt with modern architecture and infrastructure. The subtext was clear: only by destroying a neighborhood, could it be “saved.” Gentrification’s lessons—rehabilitating older structures, retaining their historic architecture and scale, and developing a diverse mix of existing and new residents—were written off as a recipe for failure.  

Even after Congress revised Redevelopment, renaming it Urban Renewal, the insights gained from early gentrification were largely ignored. Meanwhile, over the 1950s and 1960s, gentrification was gradually spreading. And opposition to Urban Renewal and other issues led to civil unrest in dozens of cities. Reacting, Congress scrapped the program in the mid-1970s and federal funds were targeted for housing rehabilitation, neighborhood reuse, and greater socioeconomic and racial diversity in declining areas. The new policies rejected large-scale demolition and adopted others that were more compatible with the “reuse and rehabilitate” dynamics of gentrification.

The first American cities in which gentrification surfaced were all located on the East or Gulf coasts. By the 1960s and 1970s though, the trend was metastasizing to San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Toronto, and Vancouver. Public officials were realizing that gentrification posed one essential part of a new strategy to revitalize the nation’s cities. By that time, hundreds of millions of dollars had been misspent on Urban Renewal—money that could have been used to rehabilitate neighborhoods for a combination of new and existing residents and businesses. As The Misunderstood History of Gentrification shows, the relationship between gentrification and Urban Renewal is widely misunderstood today.  

Gentrification demonstrated that not all middle-class people were fleeing cities. It showed that some were eager to live in mixed income and culturally diverse areas. The challenge for public policy has been to find ways to build and maintain socially and economically vibrant communities. Gentrification is a necessary, but not sufficient, ingredient in the revitalization of America’s cities. President Biden, his domestic policy advisor, Susan Rice, and his nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Marcia Fudge, are well advised to heed the lessons about urban growth and change evolving over the past century. Avoid policy myopia at all costs. The story of the nation’s cities didn’t begin in 2021. In short, history (still) matters.

Considering electric vehicle initiatives

This week in North Philly Notes, Rachel Krause and Christopher Hawkins, coauthors of Implementing City Sustainability, consider the administrative complexity that local governments face to implement sustainability efforts.

Between President Biden’s announcement about replacing the federal government fleet with US-made electric vehicles, General Motors’ recent plans to eliminate the production of light-duty cars and trucks with tail-pipe emissions by 2035, and a few well-placed super bowl ads, electric vehicles are experiencing an upswing in popular attention.

This timing, which parallels the United States’ recommitment to international climate protection goals, is not a coincidence. An estimated 17% of the country’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions come from light-duty passenger vehicles, making their decarbonization essential to achieving larger mitigation efforts. A transition away from gas-powered cars and trucks, along with a simultaneous transition towards clean electricity, is considered by many to be the most feasible route to decarbonizing the transportation sector.

Articles on the future of electric vehicles frequently lead with statements of imperative and possibility only to follow with a litany of challenges that need to be overcome prior to meaningful progress. To a degree, this post follows that typical format, but focuses on a single under-examined consideration: the administrative complexity that local governments face during efforts to implement policies and integrate infrastructure supporting the widespread use of electric vehicles. For example, the setup of a relatively standard city-wide vehicle charging system would likely require on-going collaboration from members of local planning, transportation, and public works departments, not to mention the elected and top managerial leadership who establish general priorities and allocate resources accordingly. The scope of actors and complexity of their interactions would be significantly greater in cities aiming to facilitate electric vehicle integration in a manner that is broadly inclusive and equitable.

In Implementing City Sustainability, we examine the administrative challenges associated with implementing initiatives that necessitate the active input of multiple semi-independent units across an organization. Electric vehicle initiatives are one example (of many) where fuzzy boundaries of responsibility, the presence of externalities, and a potential lack of departmental buy-in can stymie progress on organization-wide goals.

In the book, a case study of the City of Oakland, California provides relevant insight around the implementation of a broad electric vehicles initiative. From the outset, it is worth noting that sustainability efforts in Oakland prioritize equity. Led by “Sustainable Oakland,” a small unit within the City’s Public Works department, programmatic priorities aim to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in ways that also address the city’s historic and racial inequities. This approach is explicitly spelled out in the city’s Equitable Climate Action Plan (ECAP). In this context, the city’s vehicle electrification policies have focused on ensuring that the approximately 60% of Oakland residents who live in rented multi-family units will have convenient access to charging infrastructure. This availability can in turn facilitate a locally robust used car market for electric vehicles, making them a financially and logistically viable option for a much larger segment of the population. 

In 2017, Oakland’s city council passed an ordinance requiring that all newly constructed multi-family and non-residential buildings include charging infrastructure for plug-in electric vehicles. Extensive conversations were held with renters, property owners, developers, and utility company representatives prior to this ordinance’s final drafting and passage. Its successful implementation, guided by the ECAP, will rely on the active cooperation of multiple city departments. Although implementation logistics and cross-departmental collaboration are often not headline-grabbing topics–at least not when they are working correctly—they are key to the achievement of many sustainability initiatives, including those related a wide-spread transition to electric vehicles.

Implementing City Sustainability delineates four paths forward that cities can use to successfully chart their way through the adoption and implementation of integrative sustainability strategies. Whether it is designing and implementing a plan to make electric vehicle charging stations available to apartment dwellers in Oakland, improving the energy efficiency of large commercial buildings in Orlando, or establishing green infrastructure in Kansas City, how cities organize their sustainability efforts to obtain cooperation from the range of involved partners is integral to success.

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