Just Some Thoughts.. Media Power?

I came across this article when researching some ideas to support my argument for my last reaction paper. I thought it might be an interesting read for some of you. I want to suggest that we all take a step back and think about the role that the media plays in our knowledge of issues such as riots and police brutality that we have discussed in class. The media tells us countless stories and shows us images of violence by law enforcement, but do we ever stop to think about how much POWER the media truly has? The majority of us get all of our information from the news or social media, but with media often comes clear bias which not all members of the public are able to account for. These are just some thoughts I have been wrestling with as we have discussed these topics over the past few weeks. (:



Laura Morris(Section 2; Reaction Paper 2): Public Housing Renovations in San Francisco

Laura Morris

Reaction Paper 2


As you stroll through the hustle and bustle of busy streets in the great city of San Francisco you look to your left and see the Golden Gate Bridge off in the distance. You look to your right and see a cable car wiz past carrying tourists anxious to see the sights. You look behind you and see downtown and all its glory. Okay, your perceptual field probably isn’t that large, but really, you can’t go near downtown in San Francisco without noticing some of its distinct characteristics. One of those main qualities, quite possibly the most well-known in any city, is the eye-sore of public housing developments scattered between run-down businesses and construction. Downtown areas leave a bad taste in the mouth of the elites who barely acknowledge the existence of those parts of the city long enough to remember they are still, in fact, a part of the city. However, San Francisco said, “Enough is enough!” and finally developed a plan to update public housing once and for all.

But how bad can public housing really be? Is it really in such dire need of renovation or destruction as some tend to make it seem? Those living in the public housing system in San Francisco would argue that it might even be worse than you can see strolling by on the sidewalk. From faulty lights to pest infestations, the reality is that public housing in San Francisco isn’t taken care of, nor is it valued by anyone who doesn’t live there. In fact, many residents might even say that it’s time to tell the city what they need and not stop until their voices are heard. Well, on October 14, 2015 the city must have finally decided to listen. On this day, Mayor Edwin M. Lee, U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Democratic leader of the House Nancy Pelosi, and the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco came together to celebrate a plan that was finally enacted to renovate public housing San Francisco once and for all (City of San Francisco 2015). This plan not only helps the tenants but takes into consideration their points of view and what they truly want and need.

The plan was designed to help those who are living in low-income households, well below the poverty line, and in distressed conditions by renovating their homes within public housing. According to the Mayor an important part of this project is that it can be done “without displacing existing tenants” (City of San Francisco 2015). How’s that for an idea? Let’s help people fix their homes without taking them away from them or destroying them completely. We have seen too many times the negative repercussions of empty promises from housing developers who claim they want to help residents, but truly want to help themselves by making money at the expense of thousands of people. Situations of this nature can be seen time and time again in places like St. Thomas, a public housing development in New Orleans, which was destroyed to make room for new developments leaving current residents stranded or crowded into other public housing developments (Arena 2012). Those developments then become the next ‘project’ to be taken on by the next developer. We’ve even seen it on the other side of the country in Brooklyn where Atlantic Yards, a new development, was planned and enacted despite the thousands of residents currently living in housing that stood in the place where the new development was set to take root (Hill 2007). However, with this current plan, San Francisco finally got it right.

The inclusion of a Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) makes this plan different from others who have failed in the past. Rental Assistance Demonstrations, administered under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), requires that residents are entered into a long-term contract that ensures the housing units will remain affordable to those who are currently living in low-income residences. By law, this contract must be renewed (Castro 2015). It even has a policy that protects the homes of tenants who may temporarily have to move during rehabilitation of their units and guarantees they will move back in to their homes following renovation (Castro 2015). In addition, clear rules are set regarding ownership, rights, and payments and are agreed upon by all parties involved. The RAD program also helps HUD and the city because it allows for leverage of many different funds towards one project (City of San Francisco 2015). The current project is estimated to cost 1.692 billion dollars by the end and funds for the project are coming from investors, city funding, and debt financing. This leveraging makes it possible to reinvest public and private equity into revamping public housing and stocks. The initial revamping is said to include pest extermination, improved security, general maintenance of elevators and other technologies, and more. However, in addition to those general improvements, RAD included a list of 18 housing facilities in extreme need of renovation and the plan seeks to assist those developments first giving the residents some much needed relief (City of San Francisco 2015).

The idea of a private-public partnership has proven worrisome in the past when it comes to revamping public housing; however, with RAD on the side of the residents in San Francisco it seems like their cries will finally be answered and answered effectively. While it is still necessary to err on the side of caution, I would argue that as long as promises and contracts don’t lose their value the residents just might get what they have been deserving of for so long. Maybe if the developers in Brooklyn and New Orleans would have enacted plans with more emphasis on respecting the residents instead of feeding their wallets they might not have faced so much push-back from the community. Maybe they should have included a safeguard for residents or provided them with options and allowed them to make their own decisions regarding their homes instead of telling them what was best for them. We will never know what might have happened; however, the moral of the story is that the people that matter are the people that care. The residents care about their homes. The developers, elites, and city officials care about their money and their plans. When these two groups care about each other, things truly start to fall into place.

County of San Francisco,. 2015. Mayor Lee Celebrates Milestone In U.S. Department Of Housing & Urban Development Partnership To Re-Envision, Revitalize & Rebuild City’S Public Housing. Retrieved October 15, 2015 (http://sfmayor.org/index.aspx?recordid=967&page=846).

Arena, John. 2012. Driven From New Orleans: How Non-profits Betray Public Housing and Promote Privatization. University of Minnesota Press. 

Hill, Isabel. 2002. Brooklyn Matters. DVD. New York: Isabel Hill.

Castro, Julian. 2015. “U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development”. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Retrieved October 15, 2015.

Perri McSpadden, SOCG 371, Section 2: Discrimination and Power: College Communities.

What kind of effect does discrimination have on the average college student? Discrimination is a pervasive problem on college campuses that has been around for decades. It effects minority students more than non-minorities, however it casts a dark shadow over the entire campus. Discrimination also represents a power imbalance within a campus community between groups of students. One way to right that balance is for the oppressed students to engage in activism. Scholarly literature suggests that students who experience personal discrimination may then participate in activism as a response. Many use it as a coping mechanism to deal with the experience. A consequence of this discrimination -> activism relationship is the empowerment of the oppressed student group within the community. Discrimination and Power: College Communities

Laura Morris; Section 2: Do You Vote?

Ding- ding! There’s another email from SAE telling you it’s not too late to cast your vote in the next election at UMW. What’s that playing in the background? It’s a presidential debate on TV where the candidates are going on and on about popular issues. If you are like most students at UMW, you are probably consumed with work and have little to no time to think about political issues and how they affect you. However, the reality of the matter is that our generation is affected significantly by the leaders who are chosen to represent us at the national, local, and university levels. In order to see how people around me handle themselves in terms of voting in elections, I administered an online survey asking participants about their socioeconomic status, political affiliation, and voting history. You might not be surprised to find that participants voted most often in presidential elections and least often in UMW elections with local elections falling somewhere in between. This paper suggests some possible causes for this discrepancy in voter turnout and analyzes the details of Winders’ argument in his article about the roller coaster of class conflict we read in class.

Community Power Research Project 1

Laura Morris (SOCG 371,Section 2): Making Connections Between Power and Low Resources

A Critical Synthesis
So far this semester we have laid out a general framework to help us understand the concepts of community and power and how they relate. We have now reached the time where we need to expand on those ideas and increase our knowledge of how to apply this information to the real world outside of hypothetical classroom discussion. However, before we move too far ahead, I think we should step back and draw some connections between a few of our readings and analyze the connections or disconnections that may exist between them. In order to analyze some of these things, I have chosen to focus on Warren “Older and Newer Approaches to Community”, Sadan “Empowerment Spreads/Theories of Community” and Winders “Roller Coaster of Class Conflict”.
Warren outlines the various aspects that make up a community such as people, space, shared institutions and values, and distribution of power. In addition to talking about what physically makes up your community, this article discusses what makes up your sense of community. A sense of community can involve things such as comfort, ownership, and racial and gender patterns. The Sadan article takes a more focused approach and outlines the different dimensions of power within these communities. The author differentiates these dimensions by discussing who the main power players are and who is affected by those in power. The last article, Winders, outlines the various things that affect voter turnout such as social movements, conflict and consolidation between classes, and individual characteristics.
The Warren article stresses the idea that reliance on community differs from person to person. As a general rule of thumb, individuals with less personal resources tend to rely on their community more than others. If the community does not provide for these individuals, they often do not have personal or financial means to get the resources for themselves. When comparing this piece of writing to the Sadan article I found myself drawing an unfortunate connection. Individuals with less resources are generally categorized under Sadan’s second or third dimensions of power. The second dimension is more of a covert power dynamic where individuals do not realize power is being exerted over them. The power dynamic in the third dimension involves group A being dominated by group B, but group B is accepting of this domination because they are convinced it is in their best interests. Individuals with lower resources within a community are members of group B in the previous example. The unfortunate connection I drew was that individuals with less resources are taken advantage of by those in higher power and their lack of resources is used against them. These individuals are, in a sense, punished for having less personal means to survive by elite groups exerting power over them and using that power to make decisions that are in the best interests of the elites and not those who are not in power. As unfortunate as this cycle is, it is almost inevitable that it will occur. Although those with less resources can band together with their shared interests and values or their social system, even a combined effort will never give them enough power to overthrow the elites using this current system.
I drew another connection when reading the Winders article and thinking about all of the things that can affect voter turnout in an area. Upon reading the previous paragraph, one might propose that voter turnout should be higher for groups with less resources because voting is one source of power the group can exert and therefore should use it to their advantage. However, this is not the case. In general, individuals with higher SES and greater mobility are more likely to vote, neither of which are characteristics of lower resource groups. In addition, lower resource groups are often lower class individuals and low class individuals tend to vote less on average. The low voter turnout for low resource groups leads me to draw a connection between the power that is executed over them and the will to vote. Because these groups are subject to a great deal of power from other groups they are not accustomed to using their own voices and votes to gain control. This lack of confidence in your ability to make change leads to non-involvement because of fear or weakness. Being afraid to attempt to make change does nothing but strengthen the cycle that already exists and leave lower resource groups to fend for themselves in a world where elites hold the power.
These articles lack information or advice on how to change these established connections. While they may suggest general guidelines to help more equally distribute power, there is still work to be done to establish a plan that can easily be put into action. Winders gives some suggestions as to how to voter turnout could be affected by changes to policies and regulations, but the problem is there is no universal answer. There is no universal solution. Much more thought and research needs to be put into analyzing these arguments in order to make substantial change.
In order to stop the inevitable, you have to do the unthinkable. To stop the current cycle and more evenly distribute power to all groups, lower resource groups need to reestablish their voices. However, they cannot accomplish this goal alone. Those who hold more power and have greater control over a community need to step back and acknowledge that individuals within communities are becoming more and more reliant on the resources the community provides and that these individuals need to be treated with respect. We should not punish those with less power by taking away what little power they do have. Instead we should help them by reestablishing some of their power and treating them as equal community members.