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Baltimore Confronts Underinvestment in Communities of Color

As part of an interdepartmental effort, the city's planning department is embedding an explicit equity lens into how it considers the distribution of civic resources.
November 29, 2017, 8am PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Baltimore Heritage

In response to a wave of violent crime, as well as racially charged incidents like the death of Freddie Gray, the city of Baltimore has undertaken an interdepartmental effort to understand the roots of urban inequality. 

As Oscar Perry Abello writes, Baltimore "was the first city in the United States to pass an ordinance mandating separate neighborhoods for white and black households." Redlining ensued, resulting in a pattern of underinvestment that underscores today's problems.

After a "two-year internal soul-searching process," the planning department has developed an equity action plan to counter that legacy. Stephanie M. Smith, the planning department’s assistant director for equity, engagement, and communications, remarked, "This was a staff driven effort … acknowledging as staff that we inherited a legacy of decisions that have often been inequitable, often decisions from the planning agency itself, and we are in the present grappling with some of those decisions."

Abello writes, "Leveraging the planning department's role in the capital budget process is one of the five goals of the equity action plan. Using the data they've gathered on where city capital investment dollars have been spent, they can raise the equity question throughout the process."

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Published on Wednesday, November 22, 2017 in Next City
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