By Cheryl Brown
Change the name of the "Inland Empire" to "Inland Southern California". Take on a regional presence. Stop being limited in your relationship with other cities in the region.
Control who you are and drop the term "sub" (suburbs) out of your vocabulary," said Dr. Ed Blakely, Dean of the New Schools Graduate School of Management and Urban Policy in New York.
He recently spoke at a University of California conference, The Future Growth of Inland Southern California. The topic: Does San Bernardino - Riverside Region have the worst Sprawl in the Country?
The conference participants were well known in their fields: Reid Ewing, Research Professor, Center for Urban Policy Research, Rutgers University; John Husing, President of Economics and Politics; Tom Mullen, former Riverside County Supervisor; Samuel Myers, Roy Wilkins Professor of Human Relations and Social Justice, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota; and featuring Henry Cisneros, Former Secretary of HUD under the Clinton administration.
It is the beginning of a new world class Center for Sustainable Suburban Development, a research center dedicated to studying and creating solutions for social, environmental, political, educational and economic issues related to sustainable growth and development made possible by one of Dr. Blakelys former students, Ali Sahabi and the University of California Riverside.
Blakely, a former UCR student and native of Colton, CA, offered changes in the mindset of the community. The proposed center will be named in his honor with seed money donated by his mentee and former USC student, Ali Sahabi, owner of Sahabi Enterprises, Inc. Blakely is world renown in his field and has consulted with the heads of many nations and has worked under every president since Ronald Reagan.
Blakely was on hand for the first of a series of symposia that will shape our community. The two-day program extended from the campus to Riverside City Hall and covered sustainable growth. "We have a fantastic opportunity here, a junction between a university and a community not just our students," he said.
He warned that public officials should not surrender to the easiest use of land and they should have the ability to understand the relationship of the minerals entrusted to us. "We must be careful about how we use the land," he said.
Blakely said his ideas come from his dreams. He was just a young boy when he knew he would be going to the University of Riverside. He had a dream, he was a good athlete and was able to obtain a scholarship, maintain a 4.0 grade point average, and graduate with honors.
He continued to work his way through graduate school and dreamed of living in Oakland, CA. His dream came true. Recently, he accepted a position in New York. He has also traveled the world, another of his dreams and authored four books.
His family, whom he introduced, was there and he was very proud to say that his dream is also for them. The name of the center will be a family name and it will leave a legacy for them.
"We have to think of the future," he said. "We need to be responsible for every child. We must put kids first in every city in this region," he said. This is an imperative for sustainable growth.
Drop the word sub, and minority. We are not subordinate and the minorities are the majority in this region. We are a new center; we need a new direction in the world. Did you know 1/3 of the worlds trade goes through our region? When do you become the center?" he asked.
We need real growth not the buzz word smart growth that tends to lock people out. We need to make the place where we are a livable place and stop exporting our good talent out of the community. There is not a good mix of jobs and housing. There is no village space like Pasadena and Santa Monica.
We must develop the right atmosphere. Preservation of the environment makes good economic sense. We need places for the old, the young, university community (students and employees) to live. By using only 2% more land we can fill in at the same densities. Replace the abandoned land.
We can make it look good and have an apartment house next to houses it looks good," he said. His charge was to think out of the box and be the center of the universe.
He gave a charge to the Black Voice News and the Press Enterprise that we must arm the citizenry with facts to make the community a more livable place. "Engage the citizenry or they cant engage themselves," said Blakely.
Blakely summed up the issue with several points: Focus on the land and how we can be good stewards of it. People will understand and foot the bill though taxes for a livable community.
Think regionally, a greater region with a regional design, collaborative development. Think global. Think about poverty and race or we will cripple ourselves, use New York as a model. Every week discuss the problems of the region; every week!
The framework of a new generation should begin here for the entire world. He said, "dont put in a lake because someone else has a lake. Stop imitating others." Be a player not an observer; go to city council meetings. Bellingham, Washington is great, they imported people from this community who helped make it a better place to live.
They know what they want to do. Be connected. "If you think education is expensive try ignorance!" said Dr. Blakely.
The city hall work session that followed was to interface with the elected officials and citizens in the region.
However there were no elected officials there. There were only four Blacks out of the 35 or more in attendance and they were involved with the University.
Black Voice raised the question, how can the citizenry get involved if they are not brought to the table and not treated equally once they are there. The Center for Sustainable Growth will help to bridge that gap and this will be one of the most sought after places in America, if not the world, if Dr. Blakely has his way.
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