STOP THE GENTRIFICATION:

HERE'S HOW

This is a letter I sent to 438 people in Allston-Brighton.

---------- Original Message ----------
From: JOHN SPRITZLER <spritzler@comcast.net>
To: John Spritzler <spritzler@comcast.net>
Date: June 9, 2019 at 8:20 PM
Subject: Dear signer of the NO RICH AND NO POOR STATEMENT: What will it take to get affordable housing for all?

 

Dear signer of the NO RICH AND NO POOR statement,

 

To refresh your memory, here is the wonderful statement you signed when I showed it to you sometime in February, March or April of this year:

 

NO RICH AND NO POOR

We the undersigned joined (or are hereby joining) the Brighton Allston Community Coalition (BACC) because its goals, including adequate affordable housing and good public transportation and an end to gentrification, are part of our larger goal: removing the rich from power to have real, not fake, democracy with no rich and no poor. We hope that the BACC will declare that it also aims for this larger goal; that would make us be even more enthusiastic members of it.

 

I am sending this email to all of the 1021 signers of the statement who provided their email address. I know that when you gave me your email address it was just to receive BACC communications, not emails from me. But the reason I'm communicating directly with you will be evident from what I say below about the BACC prohibiting discussion on its email group of our larger goal, and I trust you will agree with me that it is an important reason.

 

WE ARE NOT ALONE!

 

Before collecting signatures for this statement, I did person-on-the-street interviews (and made a video of them online here) in five neighborhoods of Boston (including Brighton) in which I asked random people on the street if they thought what the statement calls our larger goal, "removing the rich from power to have real, not fake, democracy, with no rich and no poor," was a good idea or a bad idea. Of 68 random individuals, 91% said it was a good (or a great!) idea. I and others have asked random people (not just in Boston but in rural New Hampshire and Chicago and Pittsburgh) the same question and always the response is similar. Even at a pro-Trump rally in 2016 in front of the Massachusetts State House, where hundreds of people, virtually all wearing the Trump MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN cap, were opposing the Attorney General's restriction on what kind of guns could be purchased, 86% of the 50 random people I asked answered the same question by saying it was a good (or a great!) idea. 

 

WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO GET AFFORDABLE HOUSING FOR ALL?

 

As we all know, the reason there is far too little affordable housing not only in Allston-Brighton but throughout the nation, is very simple. Big Money developers know that they can make big profits by building luxury housing, not affordable housing, and the rich and powerful who rule over us give these developers a green light. Near where I live, where the Circle Cinema theater in Cleveland Circle used to be, there is now Waterstone at the Circle "luxury senior living apartments" that is not assisted living (it only has "experienced staff to navigate health care needs") but where "monthly rates start [for a studio] at $6800."  I took the tour and saw that it is indeed extremely luxurious, with amenities such as an indoor pool and workout room and theater, etc. Clearly this housing was not built for the likes of you and me!

 

Here is a video of a CBS report titled, "High rents create a new class of hidden homeless in Los Angeles" about how people with jobs are nonetheless forced to live in their cars. A Los Angeles Times article is headlined, "Homelessness in L.A. is a catastrophe in motion, and our leaders are largely to blame." It reports:

 

"California’s wealth, in a way, is driving its poverty. The coastal city empires of commerce can’t function without the support of those who teach our children, take our blood pressure, deliver our mail and fix our cars, but those hard-working folks are barely hanging on in this housing market while tech execs count bonuses and drive the cost of shacks into the millions.

"One-third of the county’s residents are paying half or more of their household income on rent as the distance between an apartment and a tent continues to narrow. And we can’t pass a housing bill or deliver more protection to renters?"

 

Increasing numbers of people in the United States, even those with jobs, today are homeless or living in tents, as you can see in this video and this video and this video and this video.

 

Clearly the rich and powerful, and the politicians beholden to them, do not want to stop what is happening: the gentrification of neighborhoods, i.e., the transformation of neighborhoods into ones where only the richest people can afford to live. Rich people benefit from having more luxurious neighborhoods to live in, and Big Money developers benefit from making big profits. Who cares, say these folks, if ordinary people have to start living in cars or tents?

 

The question is, How can we make this gentrification stop? This is what my article, "Credibility, But In Whose Eyes?" is about. I hope you will read it and I know you will find it very interesting if you do. Here is how it starts:

 

"There are two opposite views about how an organization can win a demand (such as providing affordable housing for all and thus ending gentrification) that the rich and powerful don't want to grant.

 

"The first view is that the way to do it is for the organization's leaders to maintain credibility in the eyes of the rich and powerful. This means the organization's leaders must make it clear that they consider the rich and powerful to be reasonable and good people, not unjust rulers who should be removed from power. It means doing what is necessary to ensure there is a friendly, positive, mutually respectful working relationship between the organization's leaders and the rich and powerful people they hope to persuade to grant some demand.

"The second view is that the way to win a demand that the rich and powerful don't want to grant is to 1) throw credibility (in the eyes of the rich and powerful) out the window and instead denounce the rich and powerful as unjust rulers who are not at all on the "side of the angels" and who should be removed from power, and 2) do all that is possible to make the rulers afraid of what will (or might) happen if they don't grant the demand.

"The current leaders of the Brighton Allston Community Coalition (BACC) think the first view is the obviously correct view.

"​A PERSONAL STORY

"I want to tell a personal story about how I learned the first view is not the way to win a demand." [The article continues here.]

 

You may, as a BACC member, be receiving emails via the BACC email group (see the post script below if you are not.) But, unfortunately, the BACC leadership prohibits me or anybody else from posting to that email group anything that even hints at or mentions our larger goal of removing the rich from power to have real, not fake, democracy with no rich and no poor, the goal you said you hoped the BACC would enlarge its mission to include. You can read the emails in which this prohibition is asserted by the Vice Chair of the BACC, Joanne D'Alcomo, at the end of the web page where all of the communications between me and the BACC leadership are posted here; this web page begins with the email I sent to the Founders and Steering Committee members of the BACC giving many reasons why it would be both wise and wonderful for the BACC to enlarge its mission to include our larger goal, and also responding to the two main arguments against doing that. I discuss below why the BACC leadership is prohibiting any discussion of our larger goal, why it is so important to have that discussion, and what you can do to make that possible.

 

The reason I stood on the streets of Allston-Brighton for three months collecting your signatures (from 1021 of you!) for the NO RICH AND NO POOR statement is because I know that if the BACC enlarged its mission to include our larger goal it would make it enormously more likely that we could actually make the rich and powerful cause substantially more affordable housing to be built so that more people living in our neighborhood of Allston Brighton could afford to remain living here AND more of the huge number of people who work in our neighborhood but who cannot afford to live here would be able to live here as well. And it would make it enormously more likely that we could make the rich and powerful cause more affordable FAMILY-FRIENDLY homes to be built so that our neighborhood can include long term working class families with children, which is sadly not the case presently.

 

The reason advocating for our larger goal is key to winning our affordable and family-friendly housing demands is that only a movement that explicitly advocates for our larger goal will make the rich and powerful afraid of what might happen (losing power one day!) if they don't grant us some of the housing demands we are asking for. Only a movement that boldly aims for NO RICH AND NO POOR, and thus rejects as immoral the entire "for profit" logic (a logic of greed) that legitimizes whatever Big Money does at our expense, can effectively counter the "profit makes me do it" arguments of the developers and their friendly politicians and thus seriously challenge the power of the rich and powerful. (I discuss how it is indeed possible to reject this "for profit" logic with a very desirable and practical alternative to it here.)

 

The BACC leadership disagrees. It thinks that the way to win our housing demands is to reassure the rich and powerful that we have no desire to remove them from power, or to challenge the moral legitimacy of their actions, or even to expose their obedient politicians, such as Boston Mayor Walsh, as people acting in behalf of the rich and not in behalf of the ordinary people they theoretically represent. The BACC leadership thinks it should do nothing to frighten the rich and powerful so that it (the BACC leadership) remains "credible" in the eyes of the rich and powerful. The BACC leadership thinks, or at least acts as if it thinks, that being "credible" this way is how they will persuade the rich and powerful to be nice to us.

 

The BACC leadership thus thinks (or pretends to think) that, in order to win our housing demands, we must act as if we believe what nobody really does believe--that we live in a genuine democracy in which our elected representatives truly act in our behalf. In this vein, the Chair of the BACC, Kevin Carragee, wrote to Allston-Brighton residents on neighborhood email groups, on June 3, 2019 just before a "Mayor Walsh Coffee Hour,"  “I applaud Mayor Walsh and his administration for continuing the tradition of these coffee hours as an opportunity to hear the concerns of community residents.”  In truth the Mayor should be sharply criticized, not applauded, for years of ignoring the concerns of Allston-Brighton residents and giving developers a green light to make gentrification rampant.

 

The BACC leadership says we should make it clear that we have only a very modest goal--just 20% of new developments being affordable and family-friendly, says the BACC mission statement--a goal that doesn't seriously threaten the rich and powerful. Somerville passed a "20%" law in 2016 and in 2019 Commonwealth Magazine published an article showing that gentrification was still horrible in Somerville, as I discuss near the end of my article here.

 

This "be credible at all costs" strategy of the BACC leadership has failed to stop gentrification in the past and will only fail in the future, for obvious reasons: it doesn't make the rich and powerful fear what might happen if they just keep gentrifying.

 

The question is, are we going to build a movement that makes the rich and powerful afraid of what will (or might) happen if they don't grant our housing demands, or are we going to persist with the strategy of the current BACC leaders of reassuring the rich and powerful that they have nothing to fear from our movement--a strategy that requires the BACC leadership to prevent the membership from expanding its mission to include our larger goal and requires the BACC leadership even to prohibit discussing this question on the BACC email group.

 

The key to making the ruling elite afraid of us is to build a movement that openly rejects the lie that we are living in a real democracy and declares that we know it is a fake democracy and that we aim to remove the rich from power to win real democracy with no rich and no poor. Doing this does not entail being "uncivil" or even doing anything that is illegal. (The BACC mission statement ends with the sentence, "The Brighton Allston Community Coalition will act in a democratic and civil manner"; this sentence a) implies that its "be credible in the eyes of the rich and powerful" strategy is the only way to be "civil" and b) seems intended to reassure the rich and powerful, including the Mayor, that the BACC will do nothing to make them uncomfortable.) 

 

Making the ruling elite afraid of us does, however, mean rejecting the strategy of the current BACC leadership of a) pretending to believe what we don't really believe about our fake democracy being a real democracy, and b) avoiding even hinting that we aim to remove the rich from power to have real, not fake, democracy with no rich and no poor. It means telling the general public our true beliefs and aspirations, and doing things to encourage yet more people to join us in this effort and to thereby learn from the positive response of the general public that they are not alone in agreeing with us. It means building the kind of movement that the rich and powerful absolutely do not want to see growing larger, the growth of which will make them think more than twice about continuing to give a green light to gentrification.

 

The strategy that I propose is one that most people say is a "no brainer." There is no reason we should allow a small set of BACC leaders to prevent this winning strategy from even being discussed in the BACC email group.

 

It would be optimal if we could discuss how to implement this winning strategy as BACC members using the BACC email group. But we are presently prohibited from doing that. On June 3, I met with the BACC Chair, Kevin Carragee, and he told me that after Stop & Shop's "Allston Yards" development issue is "settled" (whatever that means), which he said could take two or three months or even more, he would propose to the BACC Steering Committee that it conduct an open and democratic debate about expanding the BACC's mission as I have requested it to do and as 1021 of us clearly hope it will do. But he also said he could not guarantee that a majority of the Steering Committee would agree to do this. So there is no guarantee that there will ever be this open and democratic debate in the BACC's email group (or other meetings) or, therefore, that the BACC will ever adopt the winning strategy instead of its current losing strategy.

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

 

Therefore, we need to be able to converse with each other about implementing the winning strategy independently of the BACC. To make that possible I have created a new email group for people who agree with our larger goal. This email group is called NO RICH & NO POOR and if you reply to this email asking me to subscribe you to it I will; alternatively you can subscribe to it as  decribed here. Joining this email group is how you can change from being an essentially powerless individual when it comes to gentrification, to becoming part of an organized force with real power to slow it down and one day stop it. Even if you don't intend to say anything in this email group, it is valuable if those who do post to it are heard by those who don't. A movement requires this kind of internal communication. I cannot stress too much how important it is to join this email group. Please do it.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE MEDIA?

 

The Boston Bulletin Newspaper ran a nice article about us signing the NO RICH AND NO POOR statement. It was in the print version and also online here (page 1 below the fold). I sent an email about us signing the statement to Kevin Cullen, the Boston Globe columnist, suggesting that whether he thought it was a good thing or a bad thing it was certainly a newsworthy thing, if only as a sign of the times, and asking him to write about it or perhaps ask another person at the paper to do that. I haven't heard back from him though.

 

What are your thoughts about all of this?

 

All the best,

 

John Spritzler

114 Strathmore Rd. #101, Brighton MA 02135

(617) 566-9637 (Feel free to call me to discuss any of this.)

 

P.S. You should be receiving messages on the BACC email group. If you are not, the reason may be that your handwritten email address was not properly read by the person at the BACC who has your signup sheet with your signature, etc. I got your email address independently from copies of the signup sheets that I made. If you email the BACC at bacommunitycoalition@gmail.com and ask to be put on the BACC email group and tell them you signed up with the NO RICH AND NO POOR statement, I think they will add you to the group. If they say they need your signature on a BACC membership form you can ask them to send you a form to sign I suppose.

 

P.P.S. Feel free to forward this email to others.  

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