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Manuel Pastor visits with Coordinating Council

Professor Manuel Pastor talks to Mid-City  CAN Coordinating Council members

Photos by Adam Ward

Professor Manuel Pastor talks to Mid-City CAN Coordinating Council members Michelle Zive (left) and Becky
Modesto (right) during a dinner on Jan. 6.

By Adam Ward

 

Manuel Pastor, an advisory committee member for The California Endowment, as well as an author and professor, spoke at the University of San Diego's Seventh Annual Nonprofit Governance Symposium on Jan. 7, but was kind enough to take a few hours out of his busy schedule the night before to have dinner with the Mid-City CAN Coordinating Council. The Professor of Geography and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California discussed a wide-range of topics, including why The California Endowment wanted Mid-City CAN to be part of its Building Healthy Communities Initiative and how social justice goals can include economic development. These are selected excerpts of some of that conversation:

 

 

 

 

 

Mid-City CAN: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Professor Pastor: I do a lot of work with The California Endowment and was part of the original team trying to figure out - not which communities they would select - but rather the regional context for the communities they were selecting. We were hoping that the communities they selected were ones that either could be emblematic of change and therefore ripple out to other communities, or have particular ties with regional larger dynamics. So [City Heights] is one of those ones where some of the pressures of gentrification are actually common to many other places in San Diego. Whatever you guys learn there is actually replicable to other locations.

Mid-City CAN: The vision is that Mid-City CAN will be a catalyst?

Professor Pastor: The hope is that what happens in these communities doesn't stay in these communities. Because if what the Endowment does is a set of one-off activities in 14 different communities, that's not really going to change the needle on the statistics in California. So we were part of helping them think through, 'How do you think about community change and community development?' ...

The idea behind the Building Healthy Communities Initiative is you can demonstrate in 14 different areas, 'What does it mean to do comprehensive community development and community change?' And then how do you articulate that and say, 'Therefore, we now know that we need a healthy food financing initiative - that we need to be thinking about where our food is?' We need to be thinking about the big policy level.

Mid-City CAN: In your new book "This Could Be the Start of Something Big," you talked about how social justice and economic development can work together. Can you talk about that?

Professor Pastor: For the last couple of - maybe four or five - years, we've been doing a series of studies on how more equitable regions actually have faster economic growth and more sustainable economic growth. That sort of work has also been done by the [Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland]. It did a study for Cleveland, looking at Cleveland's possibilities, and so they looked at 120 metropolitan regions about the same size as Cleveland. And they found out the factors that predict economic growth are things we expect: university presence, whether or not your industry is really old. They also found out that regions that were more segregated racially, that have more pockets of poverty and that also have more inequality actually grew slower. Those things are drags on economic growth, presumably, because when you have a lot of segregation people are not investing in the public school system. When you have a lot of inequality, you fight a lot about the pie, rather than how to grow it. Or how to burden-share it when it starts to slow down. So if you think about it long enough it starts to make sense. It makes sense as a nation. We kind of got into our economic problems, in part, because we have so much inequality as a country. Wealthy people basically were forced to speculate with their excess money. While low-income people were forced to borrow, either to stay alive or to buy that one last home. And so that kind of inequality churned through a financial system gave us derivatives on the one hand and subprime mortgages on the other. And the whole thing blew up, right? So at the root of this, though, is really the inequality as well as the deregulation. So we really need to address that.

Mid-City CAN: What about those fighting for social justice?

Professor Pastor:

Social justice people need to think a little bit more not just about fairness and the moral side of things, but how to generate economic development and economic opportunity and make a business case. So around this gentrification thing in particular, people often think about 'How do we protect our communities and prevent housing prices from rising?' Well another strategy is 'How do you get people jobs, so that they can afford the higher prices and benefit?' You actually don't need the jobs to be in the community, because a lot of wealthy people don't actually work where they live. I mean you need mass transit. You need connections to job opportunities. It's a different way to think about doing economic development. So there are some of the things that we've been thinking about, certainly in the book that you were taking a look at "This Could Be the Start of Something Big."

Professor Manuel Pastor talks to Mid-City CAN Coordinating Council members

(From left, back row) Kevin O'Neill, Michelle Zive, Kristi Evans, Armando Catano, Professor Manuel Pastor, (second row) Diana Ross, Becky Modesto, Jen Henry, Jeanette Neeley, Yasmin Hamud, (front row) Jose Cervantes, Ramla Sahid and Evie Kosower.

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