The UW Tacoma Urban Studies department held their annual forum in William W. Philip Hall Feb. 21 from 8:45–2:30 p.m. The forum is an annual event that is free and open to the public. This year’s theme was “Learning from other Cities” and included speakers from England, New York and California who discussed their practices of governance and community development.
The event began with introductions from Chancellor Mark Pagano, Victoria Woodards, mayor of the city of Tacoma, and Ali Modarres, director of the Urban Studies program at UWT.
The first session featured counselor Asher Craig, deputy mayor of Bristol, England who presented on Bristol’s first ever One City plan that aims to make Bristol an inclusive, healthy and sustainable city.
“The problem that we have been trying to solve and continue to solve and is something that you are faced with here is that we had hundreds of unaligned city strategies right across the city,” Craig said. “…There was no framework to easily bring together our city leaders and the One City vision and the plan is our attempt to frame and focus the debate and create the citywide leadership model.”
As an inclusive approach to governance, the One City plan encourages collaboration between residents and other city governments. Craig explained the problems Bristol is facing, including an aging population and racism and how Bristol has tried to come up with solutions to these problems through the One City plan’s goals and outcomes.
The second session included Ron Shiffman, Luis Munive and Rosa Scott who discussed the Bushwick Community Plan and the El Puente — a community human rights organization located in several areas in New York, including the neighborhood of Bushwick. Munive and Scott, who both work for El Puente, presented on the history of the organization and on the El Puente Bushwick community plan.
El Puente was founded in 1982 by Luis Garden Acosta in response to violence in the Southside community of Williamsburg. Since its creation, it has been important in leading many initiatives related to human rights, education, community health, immigration and environmental justice. The Bushwick plan aims to make Bushwick a more inclusive neighborhood and tries to accomplish this through planning, community engagement, historic preservation and utilizing open spaces.
Shiffman — an architect, city planner, professor and author — discussed the importance of having community groups participate in planning processes and investing in the role of partnerships between different groups.
Following the second Q&A session and a lunch break, the forum held its keynote address by Dr. Michael J. Rich — a professor of Political Science and Environmental Sciences at Emory University. Rich presented on collaborative city strategies for reducing poverty and inequality and discussed the evolution of place-based initiatives, summarized empirical findings of whether community-based approaches really do make a difference, and explained steps some cities have taken to reduce inequalities.
The last session of the forum featured Andy Lloyd, Head of Children’s Workforce Development in Leeds Children’s Services, UK, which is a city located in West Yorkshire, England. Lloyd discussed what work Leeds has done to make their city more child-friendly, including five outcomes for every child and how children are in the center of Leeds’ growth strategy. Lloyd also stressed the importance of making more cities child-friendly.
At the conclusion of the forum, Modarres thanked attendees for coming and stated that what was discussed at the event is an ongoing work that requires cities to collaborate. He affirmed his commitment to working with other cities and institutions and hopes that UWT will continue to be able to share ideas and learn from others.
“We heard about the role of philanthropy,” Modarres said. “We heard about the role of community based organizations, about governance, [and] local authorities… It is on us to get together and do the work that we need to do and in places like [the] south sound, we need to begin to think about issues regionally, collectively, and persistently, In the end, it’s not about governance, it’s about collaboration, it’s about partnership.”