UPDATED: City Leaders, Economic Development, & South Cape

Today, a colleague asked if I have read the article in the Southeast Missourian about south Cape.  I found two things equally infuriating when I read “City officials, neighborhood leaders look to improve south Cape, but when and how?” The premise of the article rests on areas of concern in south Cape including parks, housing, education, and crime, and the solutions-oriented debate about “how to do it and what should happen first.”

First, the idea of when and how. In general, Cape Girardeau is covered by TWO economic development plans. The 20 year City of Cape Girardeau Comprehensive Plan was set forth in 2007 and identified needs of recreation, transportation linkages, walkability, jobs centers, and affordable housing stock. The second economic development plan is the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) created in 2013. Among its five-year goals are affordable housing, and “access to health care, improved recreational opportunities, and quality education facilities.” In our area, we also have a Downtown Comprehensive Plan under the DREAM Initiative and a Neighborhood Development Initiative (NDI).

Although the plans are all separate and were created by different entities, they all in some way cover or touch the area known as south Cape. According to the site Nextdoor, the south Cape boundaries appear to be Independence to Southern Expressway (crossing over 74) and East/West Minnesota to Spanish.

Second, the phrase “we are kind of looking for leaders to emerge…” quoted in the Southeast Missourian article. The City of Cape Girardeau Comprehensive Plan was put forth in a collaborative effort between the Mayor, the Council members, plan steering committee, the Planning Commission, City officials, and Arcturis Architecture and Design. Page 1 of the City of Cape plan shows the names of leaders who came forward to help. Page 105 shows the public engagement process that included a community survey, focus groups, workshops, and stakeholder and city staff interviews. The six focus group sessions (including a Southside group) contained 6-10 members identified in distinct areas (pg 118).  In addition, Arcturis identified 23 stakeholders “In order to improve the comprehensive planning process and heighten the likelihood of implementation” of the plan, and an oversight committee was created to govern the plan. You can see the names of those individuals here.

The CEDS was created by Southeast Missouri Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission (SEMO RPC). The CEDS committee was comprised of SEMO RPC members throughout the planning district. You can see the names of the individuals and the planning process involved in Southeast Missouri on page 125 of the CEDS plan.  All of the plans were reliant on community stakeholders and public input.

As a side note, in June our city council authorized $80,000 in funds for Teska Associates, Inc. to update our City of Cape Comprehensive Plan.  There was also $50,000 in funds authorized last year for a Downtown Cape Comprehensive Plan.  In the Southeast Missourian article, we are told that “city and community leaders have traveled to Atlanta twice since 2016” to learn about Purpose Built redevelopment.

We have spent money and time identifying the needs of the community. We have identified the city and civic leaders, community members, and organizations that can help with the effort.  Mayor Rediger says that city officials can’t be the “quarterback”  and that they hope to have leaders come forward by the end of the year. My question is why we are not looking within the plans we have developed and contacting the individuals who took the time to come forward and identify the problems. At the very least we should be relying on the oversight committee for the comprehensive plan – especially considering it is in re-write at this moment.

In my next post on this topic, I will discuss the issue of housing. There are many examples of how housing goals are achieved in ways other than philanthropy.

 

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Public Problems, Your Story or Mine?

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An example of a public problem is the proliferation of crime in housing projects. It is almost impossible to describe the problem without referencing social constructs.

Social Constructs

According to the book, Theories of the Policy Process, social constructs are created by policy makers to cast beneficiaries or recipients in either a positive or negative light. In turn, the distribution of benefits or encumbrances reflects and further defines the perception of the target population. The book further delineates target groups into four classifications: advantaged, contenders, dependents, and deviants (Sabatier, Paul 2007, p 101-103).

In this view, people living in housing projects could easily vacillate between being defined as dependent (mothers, poor) or deviant (welfare mothers, criminals) depending on who is defining them. Unfortunately, the social construct surrounding housing projects is often the deviant construct.

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Frederick Douglas

I read a short bio on Frederick Douglas today.  He definitely did not choose the easy path of just taking his lumps. It reminds me that my struggle is hard, but nothing like what his must have been to fight for freedom and rights for both minorities and women during that time when to do so must have been terrifying and infuriating.
I feel beat down most days by my decision to fight for the rights of the impoverished in housing, but I come from a place of privilege, unlike Douglas. Isn’t it then my responsibility to do something with that??