Buttigieg’s ‘Reconnecting Communities’ program won’t solve anything: News: The Independent Institute

Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg has come under fire from some Tories for his new ‘Reconnecting Communities’ initiative. He says his goal is to redress the fact that past planners and politicians built highways “straight into the heart of vibrant populated communities” for purposes as vile as “strengthen segregation” or “eliminate black neighborhoods”.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (right) mocked Buttigieg for being ‘woke’, adding he didn’t ‘know how a road’ could be ‘racially discriminatory’. Indeed, the absurd notion of “racist roads” has become a popular meme on the right. It all sounds like a ridiculous parody.

Still, there’s an element of truth to Buttigieg’s claims – it’s just a shame he learned all the wrong lessons from them.

The government’s highway-building spree of the 1950s and 1960s, carried out largely under the aegis of the federal government’s National Interstate Highway and Defense System, had a terrible impact on cities across our nation. . From Seattle to Hazel Crest, Illinois, to the Southwark neighborhood of Philadelphia, property has been seized, homes have been demolished, and people and businesses have been displaced.

Historian Tom Lewis writes that the Interstate Highway System took “more land per eminent domain than had been taken in the entire history of highway construction in the United States”.

It wasn’t just a house here and a house there. From 1947 to 1969, approximately 98,000 homes were razed for highways only in california.

In Camden, New Jersey, Interstate 95 moved 1,289 families. In Cleveland, 19,000 men, women and children were moved to make way for roads. In Milwaukee, the North-South Freeway moved 600 families over 16 blocks in a 70% African-American section. And it wasn’t a slum—most housing was either single-family homes or duplexes, and homeownership rates were higher than typical in urban cores at the time.

The stories of those whose homes, businesses and city blocks have been destroyed by the bulldozer of eminent domain are heartbreaking. A writer from the Newark, New Jersey, ghetto pleaded with Daniel Patrick Moynihan, urban affairs adviser to President Richard Nixon: “They are tearing down our homes and building medical schools and auto clubs and parking lots and we need decent private houses for living. They are destroying our best schools and churches to build a highway.

North Nashville I-40 project razed 234 Africans American companies, 650 houses, 27 apartment buildings and even a number of churches in the capital of Tennessee. It was nothing less than criminal.

A local businessman, Flem B. Otey III, the 31-year-old African The American owner of Otey’s Quality Grocery in North Nashville told a reporter that highwaymen were leading an assault on the source of American prosperity: free enterprise. “No race or group ever got out of the ghetto except through the entrepreneurial route,” Otey said. “But now they are closing this road.”

A “cement octopus,” in the words of folksinger Malvina Reynolds, fueled by gasoline taxes and unleashed from above, has consumed America’s neighborhoods.

In trying to make amends, Buttigieg emphasized the racial angle, which seems de rigueur for Democrats these days. Prioritizing projects that “focus on equity and environmental justice,” he ignores the fact that working-class white neighborhoods have also been devastated by highway robbers. Class, not race, was the real engine of destruction.

Unfortunately, Buttigieg’s awareness of the historic wrongs of highway builders did not translate into enlightened policy. One could look at the sad history of neighborhood demolition transportation projects and conclude that massive government infrastructure undertakings incur enormous human costs. One could also waive review of crimes committed by government highway builders and waive the use of eminent domain.

Certainly, this story cautions against using federal money, which always comes with strings attached, to meet local needs.

Alas, the Reconnecting Communities program is just another federal program that distributes taxpayer money from above to those who jump through the right hoops – as if the same institutions that unplugged communities can now be trusted reconnect their.

Here, government bureaucrats are the problem, not the solution. The revitalization of urban neighborhoods devastated by road construction will be accomplished by the entrepreneurial spirit and spirit of people like Otey, not by grant-making politicians like Buttigieg.

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