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Letters: Gentrification clarification; comment on race & police
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Gentrification clarification


I attended the same lecture by Kristopher Monroe that Jessica Leigh Lebos covered in her Jan. 21st article, “Schoolin’ the old school,” but I came away with a different take on the loaded subject of gentrification.

Mr. Monroe intentionally and effectively used examples from Houston to Detroit to provoke the audience into thinking about the complementary roles of art and preservation in revitalizing urban areas, but I think he inadvertently fell into the trap of apologizing for gentrification.

Too quickly and too often, efforts to revitalize neighborhoods and bring them back from the brink are pegged as sponsoring gentrification. While that’s often a convenient and politically safe claim to make, it’s a myth that needs debunking and a perspective that needs correcting.

At the most basic level, we should understand what gentrification is and separate the definition from the negative connotation. An amalgamated definition is: investing in an area and raising property values which sometimes results in the displacement of poorer residents.

Sometimes, yes. But it’s not necessarily the case, it’s not always bad and the alternative is rarely—if ever—good.

Displacement happens just as easily when things get so bad that everyone moves out or is forced to move out from wholesale takeover by private or public interests. What should we call that? Slumification? Is that what we want?

Regardless of the tag, it is the scourge of poverty, hopelessness, crime, disinvestment and the inability or unwillingness of local government to intervene in creative and constructive ways.

Preservation is not a panacea and it does not fly solo. It’s an integral part of an overall strategy that must be led by public and private interests.

Preservation does in fact work and its success is documented beyond Savannah’s Landmark Historic District. Take a look at the Victorian District, Thomas Square, Baldwin Park, Daffin Park, etc.

Now take a look at the City’s tax rolls and see what used to be and what is now...and how that increase in value translates into more public services. These neighborhoods have significant history and architectural heritage that was identified as worthy of preservation by the very people who live there and who thought it was important enough to petition for designation.

As a result—and due to tax incentives connected with designation—those areas are in the process of being revitalized and, importantly to remember, in such a way that allows for mixed use, a variety of incomes and a great diversity of people.

Panning any of those areas as ‘gentrified’ misses the mark. They are evolving—just like areas in cities across this country...a country whose very principles were grounded on capitalism.

We appreciate the article’s nod to the spirited women who saved the Davenport House, but as HSF enters its Diamond Jubilee (60th year) we should recognize that their response to a crisis in 1955 has matured into a sophisticated program known as HSF’s Revolving Fund.

Every time we use the Revolving Fund to save a vacant, blighted, endangered historic property, we are creating opportunity for revitalization instead of guaranteeing weed lots and further decay. In doing so, we preserve Savannah’s unique and beautiful canvas.

Daniel G. Carey, President & CEOHistoric Savannah Foundation

On 'white privilege' and crime


Regarding your Jan. 14 column, “To Call Police? Or not?”

Wow, what a refreshing new version of white guilt regarding your piece on your reaction and thoughts when you saw a young black man with a gun in his pocket. As you ran down your checklist of possibilities to decide if the police should be called, you might have added that this might be a good chance to maybe save another young black man’s life and stop the continually high level of black on black crime.

Or, perhaps the idea of helping to stop violent crime in general would have made up your mind. For God’s sake, who cares what color they are? A teenager of any color with a hand gun hidden in a back pocket doesn’t sound like the local neighborhood watch, does it? Of course you call the police.

Disadvantaged youth? Social justice? They’re the symptoms, not the cause. The real problem, and everyone knows it -- in the process of leveling the playing field we destroyed the one institution that is the key to anyone’s success—the family, especially black families.

Fifty years ago Senator Daniel Moynihan predicted this would happen. At that time over 70 percent of black households were married. When all the social programs of the Great Society took root, the marriage rate went down as the poverty rate of children went up. Now the marriage rate is around 30 percent.

We took away the responsibility that  parents are supposed to do—instill values, especially what a decent education can lead too. We told people to quit trying, you’re incapable of taking care of yourself, or a family. Stay home and we’ll take care of you.

We told men that they have nothing to give to children and to forget about being a real father. We stopped holding people accountable and started making excuses for them. We stopped their progression and allowed them to stagnate. This not unique to one race, it’s everywhere.

There have been long term studies on why children succeed or fail in school and they all prove it’s not rocket science. Two things will just about guarantee a child will finish school and be independent: at least one parent who is stable financially and instills in their child the importance of an education.

You cannot build financially stable adults if we continue the poverty cycle that we created.

We can’t blame our schools—we’ve poured millions into our school system. What good is a new school if no one values it?

Where I work we have a diversity of people. Talk with them and you will discover that they all had someone at home who was able to back them all the way.

We are doing an injustice to our youth if we don’t stop this insanity and break this poverty cycle. It is not cold-hearted, indifferent, uncaring or racist to hold everyone to the same standard, and again, this is happening across the racial spectrum.

Of course we will help any and all who need help and want to succeed, everyone wins when this happens. In our country you are free to go as far as your abilities can take you. But you are also responsible to everyone else to be responsible for yourself. 

Until we stop dancing around the real problem and finally admit that after fifty years our own government caused this, and spending more money on the same programs will only perpetuate it, we will continue to have the same results. Which, as you know, is a good definition of insanity.

By the way, please stop apologizing for the fact that you were born white. It’s not a crime. White privilege: Does that mean you were raised by two people? 

William O’Donnell