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Tag: politics

A’s, Laney, and Gentrification

There’s a lot of interesting politics at Laney right now. The Oakland A’s want to build a new stadium on land owned by the Peralta school district. Much of the faculty and staff at Laney are actively against the project. On it’s face, I don’t really care about the A’s stadium or understand why they need to build a new one when they could easily expand it by getting rid of some of their infinite parking. Most of the opposition to it is about the gentrification it will bring.

I’ve observed that in practice, many people who claim to be anti-gentrification advocates display that not by advocating nuance and care in the implementation of resources, but by outright trying to disallow opportunities, programs, services, and improvements to underserved communities. These same people will come down to city hall to block developments with affordable housing because it will change their view, garden shadow, or because they want to get something out of the deal that winds up killing the project. The way I have seen white people try to avoid gentrification is by segregating – actively avoiding integrating with underserved communities and only living near other people in the same or similar racial/socioeconomic status.

Gentrification as the destruction of underserved communities by the wealthy steamrolling over them is terrible and wrong.

Gentrification as road improvements, better transportation access and options, food, and new housing developments? These are things that improve people’s lives, not decimate them.

Access to these things because I live in an area with them improves my quality of life and chances of success as a poor QTPOC student. Gentrification in this sense is not bad, and is in fact helpful to the community as a whole.

When I hear people talk about gentrification they equate these two. They talk about the addition of new housing, improved transit, and access to opportunity as if these things are the same as literally destroying entire neighborhoods. The flyer that has been circulating campus demonstrates this.

“Construction Noise and Air Pollution”

First thing, is that Laney is known for its trade school. There is a literal construction pit right outside the cafeteria. I spend 4 hours a day in the machine shop or welding lab on campus adjacent to the construction area. A trade school complaining about construction noises seems ridiculous. Additionally, the proposed site isn’t on Laney’s actual campus, it’s on a Peralta District site that consists of warehouses and office space several blocks away. I think our construction site outside the cafeteria may be more disruptive than the proposed ballpark construction several blocks removed.

“…Upscale Restaurants, Shops, and Apartments Expand”

The cafeteria closes before I get out of my classes and I don’t often have time to walk multiple blocks to order lunch between them. As a result my food intake is shit which is terrible for my health in a program that demands a lot of physical activity. I don’t usually have the spoons to figure out dinner, let alone pack a lunch the night before. It seems like people are patting themselves on the back for starving Laney students by disallowing and vilifying restaurants and food trucks in the area adjacent to campus, because avoiding gentrification is more important than student health.

“Displacement of Local Community Residents”

There is currently no housing on the land the A’s would like to acquire – however, part of their proposed plan is to build housing including below market rate homes, and possibly even some dedicated housing for Laney students and faculty. Increased housing supply is something that is desperately needed in Oakland, regardless of who funds it. As far as I’m aware, no people will be removed from their existing homes for the A’s stadium to be built. Displacement is a terrible problem and misrepresenting the causes to further an agenda helps no one.

“Skyrocketing Rents in Surrounding Communities”

It’s a bit disingenuous to say that a stadium with a development plan that includes affordable housing built on land currently containing no homes is going to make us face skyrocketing rents. As if skyrocketing rents are something we don’t already have, and as if the solution to skyrocketing rents is to not increase the supply so we have the ability for those to go down in this capitalist hellscape. This is the one that gets my housing activist goat up in arms, because that’s not how it works.

Influx of Humans Existing Near Me in My Parking Spot

The other points about parking and crowd/traffic noise are problems that I feel are super solvable. Laney is a commuter school and some of my classmates drive hours in the morning just to get to class on time, half of which start at 8am. As much of a transit advocate as I am, I understand that people still do need cars and Laney needs to be able to handle student parking and the students who drive will be sitting in that traffic. We don’t live in a public transit/cyclist/scooter/pedestrian utopia yet, and most of the East Bay is car-centered, so I get that concern.

However, we have more than 6ft available to drill into before we hit water so we can dig underground and like, store cars there without loosing much room for people to exist. What I’m saying is, we can make parking garages. Additionally, it’s not like roads are unchangeable. I am not a traffic scientist, but the topic people are on about the most is roads and traffic so I feel confident in assuming many people are On That Problem Already.

While I’m really ambivalent about where the baseball stadium goes, I do give many shits about how and what the arguments are from my school; I have to say I’m disappointed. If these are the arguments to stop all movement from happening, they are not good enough, compelling enough, or even accurate. They are largely fear tactics, buzz words, and a misrepresentation of facts. The bullet points for being against the stadium just don’t hold water. We do know that the A’s appear willing to pour boatloads of money into our college system and the area surrounding it, however, and more money to the school directly benefits myself and other students.

The way I see the situation is thus: The Peralta Board has already decided at this point so instead of spending all of our energy fighting something that will happen, we should be using it to our advantage. Which means getting as much as we can out of the deal for the Peralta college district and especially Laney.

My thoughts are that Peralta should:

  1. Lease the land to the A’s – This will give the district a constant stream of income which would help all the schools in the district. Especially since funding for community colleges has been getting harder and harder to come by. It just seems to make the most sense and be in the best interest of the longevity of the school.
  2. Have some stipulations about Laney College Student/Faculty/Staff Only Parking – which will eliminate the “game goers are stealing mah parking!” anxiety.
  3. Negotiate creating dedicated BMR Student/Faculty Housing near campus.
  4. Think about some way that the A’s stadium construction and maintenance could be used to advantage Peralta students. i.e. Providing work/job experience/internships to students in relevant departments (like welding) and require prevailing wage.
  5. Some kind of fee or donation that would go to improving the infrastructure on Peralta campuses (bathrooms and elevator maintenance, longer cafeteria hours, etc)
  6. Look into creating a community land trust that protects existing housing nearby

I am not a policy analyst. I’m just a machine student & housing activist who wants to be able to eat between classes, live near school, and learn things.

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I was meant to be an arrow

We would scoff at the idea that people wanted to have well-rounded educated children. I was meant to be an arrow to pierce the darkness and pop all the well-rounded bubbles. << actually a thing that was said.

I watched the news nightly from the time I was 8, I listened to Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingram and Sean Hannity religiously as a teenager. I saw Bill O’reilly speak, Ralph Reed recognized me and said hello at TeenPact. I went to a video conference that Newt Gingrich did, I attend the FRC Action convention with TeenPact twice, I met Bobby Jindal, Zell Miller, and Sonny Perdue knew who I was. I had a name in the Republican circles in GA. I campaigned for countless religious right candidates. My first sign waving venture was during the 2004 election and I caught the bug. I spent time in local campaign offices putting together phone banking scrips that worked really well, I traveled and campaigned for people in Alabama, Florida, Virginia, and New Hampshire – as well as being thoroughly involved in the political scene in Georgia.

My blog was relatively well known – as well known as a teenager’s commentary on politics can be, anyway. I lived and breathed political activism from the time I was 13 until I was just shy of 18 when the burnout set in.

Politics is interesting where it overlaps with religion – and sexism, and gender roles. I’ve talked a bit about TeenPact and the sexism and queerphobia there is just as rampant in the republican party. My political involvement was a bit of a paradox. On one hand it was the only thing that was encouraged besides being a homemaker and I latched on to it for dear life. On the other, we acknowledged that a woman’s place was not in politics unless it was under a man in some way, so my activity was limited to ensure I was always under some kind of male authority – training to be a political helpmeet (my husband or son(s) could be the president someday, after all).

I am keenly aware of the amount of hate and fear of others that runs rampant in the christian conservative-republican communities. I was inundated by messages from all sides that being queer, liberal, compassionate, and seeing The Others as just as human as we are was wrong. Damning, even.

I was told by every authority figure to fear anyone who was different from what I was, what we were. The lack of compassion never set well with me, but I had nothing to compare it to. It was all I knew. I was warned of being too learned, too knowledgeable, too educated lest I become one of those man-hating feminazis. We shunned education in favor of the blissful ignorance paraded as enlightenment by right-wing pundits and preachers.

There wasn’t really a dramatic turning point. The burnout happened when I was close to 18 while my legs were infected and I couldn’t keep up physically or emotionally because life in general was taking it’s toll. I dropped out of politics and into relative obscurity – I was married, so it was expected. Quietly re-evaluating the things that were important to me while working really hard to be the kind of wife I was supposed to be (until self-acceptance became a thing and our relationship was healthier for it).

 

I wasn’t raised to be an independent person. My mother literally said, of my independence and desire for it “what do you think God thinks of that?!” I was 17 and a half and just stared at her blankly, and quietly mumbled something along the lines of “I think he’s probably okay with it?”. I was raised to obey whoever is above me, it’s something I’m still trying to un-learn.

While campaigning, I wasn’t campaigning for things I truly believed in because I wasn’t allowed to have my own beliefs, I was campaigning along the Paulino Party Lines – because that was accepted and encouraged. As long as I followed the rules, campaigned for those my parents approved of, and didn’t get any independent thoughts in my head, I was free to travel for short periods of time and feel like I was making a difference.

Toxic religion and conservatism permeated every fiber of my existence and my very confused and hyper closeted self. Being told day in and day out that you’re wrong for not being X or Y enough, burying all the thoughts and feelings that don’t line up with what you’re supposed to be…ignoring the things that feel wrong because technically they’re right. I learned that politics is corrupt as fuck and the GOP isn’t better than anyone else, and the reason they can organize and come out in droves is because they use hate and fear as their motivators.

Over time I reclaimed my independence, and I couldn’t let fear and hate dictate my actions anymore. I accepted that the person I am and the person I am becoming is the opposite of the person I was supposed to be. I am everything I was supposed to be fighting against.

Here I am, 2016, actively working to make the world better, to be an arrow to pierce the darkness, to bring light and compassion and empathy into the world any way that I can.

They succeeded, I suppose, just not in the way they meant to.

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