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Democracy Works: Celebrating democracy's small victories

Michelle Wilde Anderson
Stanford Law School
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Michelle Wilde Anderson, author of "The Fight to Save the Town: Reimagining Discarded America"

Amid election deniers and political polarization, it's easy to overlook the times when democracy is actually working. We do that this week in a hopeful conversation about resident-centered government. Elected officials and administrative staff like city planners often have the best intentions when it comes to development and redevelopment, but political and professional incentives push them to pursue projects that lure in outsiders rather than serving people who live in their communities.

Our guest this week is Michelle Wilde Anderson, a professor of property, local government, and environmental justice at Stanford Law School and the author of "The Fight to Save the Town: Reimagining Discarded America."

The book tells the stories of revitalization efforts in Stockton, California, Josephine, Oregon, Lawrence, Massachusetts, and Detroit, Michigan. In each instance, residents organized to fix small problems that turned into large-scale change. It's a model that anyone can replicate and our democracy will be stronger for it.

Episode Transcript
Chris Beem
From the McCourtney Institute for Democracy on the campus of Penn State University, I'm Chris Beem.

Candis Watts Smith 
I'm Candis Watts Smith.

Jenna Spinelle
I'm Jenna Spinelle and welcome to Democracy Works. This week we are talking with Michelle Wilde Anderson who is a professor of property, local government and environmental justice at Stanford Law School. And the author of the book The fight to Save the Town: Reimagining Discarded America. This book came onto my radar through James Fallows in his newsletter, both James and Michelle write a lot about revitalization efforts happening in cities and towns across the country. And, you know, one of the things that we said when we were planning out this season on the show was that we wanted to feature more local success stories, more examples of democracy working across the country. And I think that this book is is a great example of that. And the four cities and communities that Michelle focuses on,

Candis Watts Smith 
I am really glad that we brought on Michelle, because I think her work really kind of highlights this idea that there's a patchwork of inequality in the United States. And it reminded me of this research that shows that your zip code can predict your life expectancy better than your genetic code. And so here, Michelle kind of focuses on the geography of opportunity across US cities and towns. And she notes and makes really clear that they're just large swathes of the country that are being discarded. And I think one thing that is important to note is that these places are diverse in their demography and their geography. So they're rural places, urban, suburban places, they're racially homogenous, you know, all white, black, Latino places. They're also racially diverse places, and then it's bipartisan. Right. So it's not just so called Democrat cities that have been, you know, driven to the ground. But there are also, you know, conservative and Republican leaning places, as well as purple places that are have been dis invested in and have gone broke and, you know, reproduces poverty, and further entrenches inequality. The good thing about this book is that it's not just a book about reporting a problem. I think she does well, to kind of make clear the scope of the problem. But more importantly, and as you pointed to earlier, Jenna, she she makes a really great effort to highlight areas of progress and potential solutions.

Chris Beem
Yeah, I mean, and you're right, that is absolutely the point of the book is to kind of highlight those, those achievements and achievements that come against some daunting circumstances. It's really remarkable. I mean, I think all of us have seen examples of this, but how these negative conditions spiral down, right? Politics isn't working, government isn't working, which makes the economy not work, which makes social conditions and communities break down, which makes the economy worse, which makes politics worse. And, you know, it's it's easy for, especially, you know, people making loans or people who have the, the resources and the wherewithal to, to move to just give up.

Candis Watts Smith 
One of the things that stood out to me is that it kind of brings us back to a conversation that we had last week with Rihanna Gunn-Wright, about, you know, focusing on people who are proximate to the problem, that people who are experiencing the problem may have creative solutions that speak to the specificities of that place. And so, sure, there's, you know, I think she would make an argument that there certainly is room for federal and state intervention. But ultimately, the way that those interventions kind of go all the way to the finish line, requires durable partnership with local folks and trust to pull it all the way through.

Chris Beem
So every one of these places, especially Stockton, invested a lot of money to kind of restore the downtown. But a because they didn't listen to the local people that ended up with a downtown that wasn't helpful, wasn't useful to the people who live there. And it also didn't address the big problems, you know, the problems that were really undermining the community. And you know, like I said, Say there's, there's reasons for that the incentives for government, for, you know, government officials are not the same as they are for the individuals. And when you when they're going for re election, they need a big shiny win, and they need it now. And so it makes a lot of sense for them to invest in, you know, a downtown that they can point to and say, or some renovated or new building downtown and say, look, what I did, this is going to help our community. And it may or may not really work out that way, certainly not in terms of the problems that are in many of these communities. But those kinds of problems. Don't, don't lend themselves to the same kind of shiny new thing you can point to.

Jenna Spinelle
And I think that Michelle has a really smart take on this idea of incentives. And you know, what are the the intentions of, you know, local government administrators and these sorts of things. As you're here. This also brought to mind some of my experiences when I was writing about local government as a newspaper reporter. So we talked about that. But I'm very excited for everyone to hear this conversation with Michelle Wilde Anderson. So let's get to it.

Jenna Spinelle
Michelle Wilde Anderson, welcome to Democracy Works. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Michelle Wilde Anderson 
Thank you. I'm delighted to be here.

Jenna Spinelle
So lots to talk about your new book, The Fight to Save the Town. And you know, the subtitle of the book is reimagining discarded America, I think we're going to spend a lot of time talking about that idea of reimagining and who does it and what that looks like. But before we get to that, I'd like to just spend a minute thinking through this idea of what it means for a place to be discarded, I would love to know how you arrived at your definition and sort of some of the criteria for how you selected the places that you feature in the book, and maybe how that might differ from, say, the ways that you know, the media, or politicians or anybody else talking about these places might describe what it means to be discarded, left behind, etc.

Michelle Wilde Anderson 
Great, I'm so glad you asked about that word, sort of quoting the title because I thought so much about that idea of discarded, like as an active thing that we've chosen as a society. But to answer your question, the book is really focused on the problem that huge parts of most states, including my own in California, and certainly Pennsylvania, have not found a foothold in the 21st century service economy. So they have a workforce that largely commutes out if they can, often at very long distances. And if youth make it to college, there's not a good path for them to come home and bring their educations back. So college attainment rates sync. And if that problem sits around for long enough, a town or a county can go can not only become very poor, but also go broke. And that's the heart of what this whole project is about. It's about towns and in cities that are both poor and broke. And being poor makes it reinforces this problem of fiscal decline and a broke government and the broke government reinforces the problem of poverty. So to me, that's the problem that discarded America and the policy challenge that we have in bringing jobs and civic vitality back to these places.

Jenna Spinelle
Yeah. So are there then, you know, places that still have that kind of brain drain you were describing and the problems of education and jobs and those sorts of things, but don't have the broke? Government's? And is it possible to kind of separate those two things, I suppose?

Michelle Wilde Anderson 
Yes, for sure. That's also a great question. So, you know, for let's rewind to the 1970s for a minute, which was really the last decade when American States took tons of revenues up to the central government in the states and then redistributed them aggressively back down to cities and counties and other local governments. And since the 80s, we've been doing less of that. We still do lots of it, but we've been doing less of it, which means that we have rising inequality among local governments, we have sort of local government haves and have nots, but in any state that still does higher levels of redistribution, like for instance, Massachusetts, there is you know, this problem of inequality among their governments is is softer So you get, you know, really exaggerated patterns of inequality in the south, which does very little of this redistribution and slightly flatter levels of inequality among governments in places like Massachusetts. But this is, like I said, a nationwide problem even, you know, since the 1980s. It's a nationwide problem, even in states that are doing more to reduce the differences among their places.

Jenna Spinelle
Right. And you, I think, a theme throughout your book is that they're the the solution to what to do about this, how to do this, this reimagining, fixing the, you know, fiscal and educational and trust issues, it seems like it often kind of starts from the outside looking to an external force to do that. And you have some some wonderful examples throughout the four cities and communities that you focus on, I want to kind of go through a few of those and start with Stockton, California, you write about their kind of failed, redevelopment efforts to, you know, bring in what ultimately you say is a place that served, you know, $27 steaks and hosted Neil Diamond concerts, which was, which was out of step with what the, you know, residents there wanted and needed. And, and I have to say that when I was a local newspaper reporter, I wrote endless stories about things like redevelopment block grants and these these sorts of programs. And it was much the same thing. It was money going to projects that residents neither asked for, nor really used once they were put into place. So can you talk about where this impulse comes from to go after these like big, shiny projects that really don't ultimately seem to end up serving the people who live in these communities?

Michelle Wilde Anderson 
Yeah, no, I think that's so well said. And I'll come back to that. In one minute. I'll just say Stockton, I chose Stockton as one of the four places in the book. And in part because all of the places I chose in the book are really different from each other. They range from very liberal to very conservative from very rural to very big city, from they range racially vary dramatically, from all white to all black to mostly Latino to Stockton, which is the most diverse city in the United States, which is just an incredible position to have in a city I think we can learn a lot from but Stockton is also just emblematic of this pattern you describe that has taken place so many times where we see, you know, where a city government looks out at a problem of concentrated poverty and stigma and declining downtown. And really tries to fix that problem through redevelopment and physical investment in the downtown. And I should be clear that I believe in redevelopment. I think people deserve a need and benefit from, you know, nice healthy downtown's. I'm certainly not an opponent to Riverwalk walks and you know, sort of decontamination projects and all kinds of other things that are trying to improve the built environment. But in a place like Stockton with very, very high rates of poverty, and also gun violence, you can't build your way out of that problem. You can't, you know, renovate the city's physical environment, and leave its social environment neglected and untouched. And to me, that's the lesson of that you would have seen, you know, reporting on these. And, you know, frankly, we've all many of your listeners have been seeing that kind of response to concentrated poverty for 50 years. And there's a museum of cities that have invested in downtown's that are where it doesn't actually bring back the kind of vitality that the planners were hoping for, because the underlying social problems, you know, corrode the the ability of the redevelopment to be successful. And Stockton was a paradigmatic case of that because it has had the downtown is beautiful and really, you know, has made a difference. But the underlying problems of gun violence in in near the downtown are unaffected by that and eventually that gun violence holds the city back on every dimension.

Jenna Spinelle
Yeah, and you know, I should also say that every city planner I've ever talked to anybody who's involved in these projects, they're very well meaning I feel like they do, at least in their mind, have the best interests of the city, the town, what have you at at heart? And I guess I wonder, is it an impulse to? Or is it that, you know, these folks are ignoring these underlying issues? You talked about this notion of trauma and community trauma, I think that's maybe some of what you're trying to get out here is it that they're, they're ignoring it, or maybe they just don't realize the extent to which it exists. Because oftentimes, a lot of the folks doing this are, you know, more affluent, or in a in a higher socio economic status than, you know, people who are living in poverty and these sorts of things.

Michelle Wilde Anderson 
I totally agree that it's not a cynical impulse. And I think there can be, you know, really virtuous motivations to redevelopment. And so that's, I think, very important to highlight. I'm not saying that physical redevelopment is bad for cities. But I think that I think that it comes from some pragmatic pressures on local government officials, which you're alluding to, which are the sort of short term pressure on them to turn around gains within an electoral cycle. And, you know, fancy plans and renderings by architects and ribbon cuttings on construction, and just signs of construction life in an area that's been, you know, underutilized or whatever, are gains that a politician can book when they run for reelection. And, and so I think those, you know, there's a very natural tendency to gravitate toward those kinds of short term deliverables. But meanwhile, well, I should say one other thing, there's one unfortunate secondary reality, which is also a result of just political life, which is that local officials want to bring up their averages, meaning, you know, improve the poverty rate in town, improve the median income, improve the high school graduation rate, whatever it is, those are also. So deliverables, in some sense for a for local officials. And really, this book is about that this book is about how you invest in your existing people, not because they are bound to remain in your town forever, we want them to never move. On the contrary, the whole premise of my work, and my book is that these places have to be safe enough and good enough and opportunity rich enough that they're not poverty traps, that people actually can leave, they can decide to stay, they can decide to leave, but the city is not going to break them along the way. And to me, that means, you know, really investing in the social environment, and going toward those third rail problems, those things that are most that are most damaging.

Jenna Spinelle
Yeah, and if we leave Stockton and travel up the coast, a little bit to Oregon, you focus on the community of Josephine, Oregon, which, which in many ways is is very, very different from Stockton in terms of its its racial demographics, and just the kind of culture there. Can you just tell us a little bit about Josephine and you know, what, what you saw there that that stood out to you to to include in this project?

Michelle Wilde Anderson 
Yeah, they are so different. And I mean, just on a personal level, I loved that about reporting on these four places that are all deeply American and really remind me of sort of who we are as a country and the kind of differences that we hold. And so so just as you said, Josephine is politically very different. It's a rural county in Southern Oregon, it's actually the size of Rhode Island. So it's a big territory. So at some level, Josephine stands to me, for the many counties in the country right now who have a thin local government services profile, a profile of local government services that is so thin, that, you know, people in more prosperous areas would just not even recognize it. It's it's a dramatic difference from the kinds of services we take for granted in more prosperous places.

Jenna Spinelle
All right, and you know, where you you write about this kind of libertarian ethos that that is is common and prevalent in Josephine I think we're seeing in these in these places a move toward you know, more far right. Governments and, you know, everything from from election deniers and you know, people who really want to do as much as they can to dismantle the local government. But you you tell the story about how how Joseph and kind of turn this around. And to the point you were saying about investing in people. And you and I were chatting before about the importance of rebuilding trust in in local government, it seems like this is as steep a hill to climb in that regard as as any, given the, you know, existing ideologies and the fact that the government had lost its ability to demonstrate what it could do for for the communities residents. So, you know, tell me about what that process looked like that kind of long, winding road that that the residents of Josephine took toward making some of these these reinvestments and rebuilding trust in the local government.

Michelle Wilde Anderson 
Yeah, a steep hill is a good way of Josephine, I think, related to its roots in the spotted owl wars, and also just antagonism with the State Capitol, and a long history of libertarian political and thought leadership in Southern Oregon. Josephine, I think does have on on the whole, very low levels of trust in government all the way from the top to the bottom. So, you know, a lot of antagonism with the federal government, overwhelmingly, but also with the state of Oregon, and, and on and off real sense that local leaders were not delivering on what people needed, and a kind of skepticism and mistrust of local officials as capable stewards of public money and so forth. So, you know, it was a really steep hill to rebuild trust, and that and that's the story that I focused on in the book that was so breathtaking to me to look at a truly grassroots pro tax campaign in one of the most anti government places in America. Like that's, that's what the story of Josephine tummy is about is how you run a campaign to gather up some new taxes to reopen the library, which had been closed for a long time, the entire library system which had been closed and functioned as a tiny nonprofit, and to restore emergency services. This, you know, local officials had to go to the people and rebuild open dialogue with them really allow a certain amount of venting of people's anger and scar tissue, I guess, with the local government. So it's really a story of transparency in town halls, and, you know, honest leaders, who are kind of straight shooters going to the people and and, you know, earning back their their trust. And at that, in that way, Josephine, just like you suggested, is an amazing window, I think into, into how you do that. If for any other government, sort of how you earn back the trust of people who have become, you know, really hardened to your requests for new tax revenue.

Jenna Spinelle
And I believe it's in Josephine that we meet Kate Lasky, the librarian, she had just, I thought, a really insightful quote about democracy and the role that that citizens should play. Can you set that up for us what what is what is her philosophy? And and how did that come in to practice in Josephine, and maybe some of the other places that you write about as well?

Michelle Wilde Anderson 
Yeah, Kate, that's so lovely. You mentioned her. Yes, Kate Lasky is an extraordinary leader. She was the so so quick, super quick chronology. Josephine County lost its library system, like many rural counties, by the way, this is not super unusual, all the places that I worked at such devastating cuts to their library system that they were at risk of closing branches, if not the whole system. So Josephine closed its system gathered all of its books back up, which meant by the way, libraries aren't meant to hold all of their collections, those books are supposed to be in people's homes. And in a very low income community when a library closes and it gathers all of its books back up. That means as a practical matter, that in that county, people don't have books in their homes, you know, the average low income American doesn't own a library or a private library. So anyway, they close it down, they gather all that stuff back together. Kate Lasky was brought in after a hearty and just relentlessly dedicated group of volunteers decided that they were going to reopen the library as a private nonprofit and just gather together dollar by dollar through private fundraising. And Kate Lasky, was brought in as a nonprofit director of the new library. Fast forward and she She and these same dedicated volunteer leaders really tried to go back to the public and request the funding that would allow them to reopen as a public system. So they'd have some level of tax dollars to fund their operations. And, and Lasky. The, the reason that I tell her story early in the book is that she got to see the kind of rot and our levels of, you know, our relationship with government. And she really came to believe that the way you turn that around, is by celebrating the strengths of public institutions. She said, You know, we can't go around saying save us we're dying, like, these are all the problems the library has, and we have our hours are too short, and we can't afford to fix the lighting and you know, sort of a parade of, you know, problems that they were facing without money. Instead, they had to really put forward the things that made the library vibrant and valuable in the community and really sort of tell that story. And I think that the quote that you're referring to Jennifer, I can read your mind is, is Kate's amazing insight, where she said, democracy is supposed to serve us, if we tear it down, you know, what is it say about what we expect for ourselves and what we want for ourselves? And she says, you know, aren't we the government? So, you know, there's just beautiful leadership out there in the country. And people really thinking about building positive narratives and social movement narratives around around reinvestment and, you know, fighting to save the town, as the book title says, and not just kind of hope.

Jenna Spinelle
There is as as you know, this, this notion of increasing political polarization and how that makes it harder for people to work together and to get things done. So I'm most commonly hear it as you know, that is true at the kind of national level, but But local governments and you know, things at the town level are not as bad, right? It's not, you know, polarization maybe doesn't exist as much or as not as severe on this level. And so I just wonder if, if that holds true based on on your work in these places, or kind of what you what you make of that polarization narrative, or you know, how you think about polarization in this space?

Michelle Wilde Anderson 
I think that does hold true. I think that the problems of degraded trust in government and a need to really reclaim and rebuild local government are really not partisan questions. And when local officials really try to work on those thorny issues, you know, ideology kind of doesn't belong in the conversation in at some level, it's not even relevant to the way I think this kind of trust building work takes place. So I think generally, that's right. I will say that it was important to me, as I mentioned at the outset, to hold in this book, very conservative places, very liberal places, and also purple places that swing, you know, red and blue based on, you know, any given election season. And I think and the reason that was important to me is really to recognize that these challenges of poor and broke places don't belong to either party. They're not made by, you know, the right and they're not made by the left. And I think we it's too easy from a national partisan polarized point of view to write off a city like Detroit, you know, Glenn Beck, famously, you know, pillar at you sort of had this story that Detroit was this disaster of mismanagement, and then all of its problems sort of led to that. And then you get, you know, similarly, this story from the left, the real problem with a place like Josephine is that they're local people object to taxes. And both of those stories are really too simple. They wash away the fact that Josephine and Detroit share these massive underlying structural challenges. And those you know, and we have to face those and blaming, you know, management or politics for every problem in places like that gives us an excuse for inaction.

Jenna Spinelle
Last question here for you, Michelle. So as we As we think about how to continue this, this good momentum and you know, forward progress at the four communities that you write about, and and certainly lots and lots of others that you didn't fit into this book have made, but what do we what? What motivates the leaders of these movements, that kind of Kate Lasky is of the world and all the other wonderful leaders that that that you write about? And what do we need to do to create more of them or to inspire more people to step up and make this this investment in their communities?

Michelle Wilde Anderson 
I love that question. And I think the answer is rooted in democracy works and other efforts and communications efforts and strategies and podcasts and so far, that really focus not just on what's going wrong, but what's going right. And this again, comes back to last keys insight that you can't build social progress only based on decline, you have to build social progress based on momentum and, and you know, belonging, of people sort of wanting to be part of something. And I think when there's a story, when there's a sense that a place is doing better, and that the forces are gathering around participation and engagement, and it's fun and not tedious, and it's, then you start to attract leaders that are better at their jobs, and get some level like, in the same way that you know, it takes a special kind of person to want to show up and take over a company that is in freefall, and is in bankruptcy and so forth. You know, there are fewer people who want to take over a public library or a, you know, city government or run for city council when a place is truly in freefall. And there's a lot of stigma against it. So when we tell different stories, when we notice, gains, and give local people credit for them, I think that has a virtuous cycle where that gathers more people to the work and to turn out at elections and to put themselves up for local office. So I think this comes back to the larger you know, I really believe that stories matter. And and when we tell stories only of decline and pathology, it makes it that much harder for places to dig themselves out of the structural problems of concentrated poverty and financial, financial collapse.

Jenna Spinelle
Well, Michelle, thank you for collecting these stories and for sharing them with us in your book, we will link to it in the show notes. And thank you for joining us today to talk about it.

Michelle Wilde Anderson 
Thank you so much, Jenna, those were wonderful questions. This was fun.

Chris Beem
Well, thanks, Jenna that was really great. And she's obviously a really smart and charming person and fun to listen to. I wanted to get back to this issue of incentives, and how I think she rightly identifies a kind of common problem with democracy. And that is the problem of this focus on the short term, and inability, or the lack of incentives for any politician to look at problems as requiring, you know, a solution that needs that's going to take 10 years or more, to really turn the needle on. And, and so because every elected official has an election, every two years, or maybe every four years there, they're interested in solutions that they can or means for addressing the problem that are immediate and that are shiny, but because of the power associated with those ratings, administrators have very little choice but to chase them, even though they don't necessarily improve the quality of the education. It's, again, it's an endemic problem of adverse incentives, not solving the real problem.

Candis Watts Smith 
There's a lot to unpack there, Chris. You know, one of the things that you point out is this kind of other side of democracy and every American politics. You know, political science graduate student can cite chapter and verse from this book, written by David Mayhew, that, you know, politicians are single minded seekers of reelection. And that's what you're highlighting here that you know, democracy requires elections and ALEKS election shape, the incentive structure for elected officials, incumbents and potential candidates, you know, people feel like they have to do something and people want something done now, and they want it fast. And so that often means that people are incentivized to focus on short term projects, rather than long term solutions. Yes, we value democracy so much, but there are these kind of ways in which we can undermine our kind of long term well being by looking at the short term problems. What I appreciate, though, about what Michelle has presented, is that local there are like, these kinds of local success stories that she showing is that people are actually more savvy about long term solutions. So you know, like people coming together to bring back their library, that's a that's a long term investment, you know, or like the journalists in Detroit who are talking about home ownership, you know, folks, I do think are interested in long term solutions. It's just that it's really hard to kind of, you know, hold, you know, mobilize and hold people's patience to pinch potentially see those. But I do think that we see, again, that local folks are really interested in long in long term investments, maybe that's a little that they have a different incentive structure than elected officials.

Chris Beem
I think that's true. I also think that the people that she is highlighting, and the work they've done is, is really impressive, and borders on heroic. I don't, you know, I think, you know, yes, democracy has these short term incentives. But that's how most people think, right. And we know that in politics as well that people have this like six month window in terms of evaluating, you know, before elections, they don't think about how things were two years ago, or whatever, they just think about now. And the the biggest quote for me in the book is in the chapter on Stockton, where this guy says, Dear Stockton, I won't give up on you ever. And it strikes me as just what an impressive thing that is to say, and, and for that matter unusual that you are so committed to a place and to the people who occupy that place with you, that you simply will not give up. And you are willing to, you know, fight against all those incentives that are pushing for short term solutions or for giving up, you're just gonna stay there, and you're gonna keep fighting. And, you know, that's, that's a hard thing to ask of people. But if you're going to turn around some of these very hard problems, right, if you're going to restore people's trust in government, when they have so many, so much experience of having that trust, broken or mistreated.

Candis Watts Smith 
So you're talking about building community. And one of the points that Michelle brings up is this idea that instead of kind of reinvesting in the existing community, people, you know, the powers that be would rather just would rather bring in new people. And, you know, the thing is, is that cities in town need tax bases. And so, you know, I really appreciate just kind of the way that this project and Michelle's work kind of helps us to kind of grapple through the paradox of gentrification, that, you know, on the one hand, you know, it feels, it seems like it's obvious, you just bring in group of people who can pay more for their homes and you build nice homes, on large lawns, etc. But there, but that often means that you disinvest and the people who are already living there, and that's not fair there, you know, I live in Durham and 20 years ago, I lived in Durham, and I've lived in Durham 20 years ago, when, like, Durham was like the murder capital of North Carolina. And now it's like food Ville, you know, like, everybody wants to be here, there's a performing arts center. And you know, downtown is nice, and there's no restaurant you can't go into that isn't really excellent. And, you know, I was, there's like a co op that got built on the street from where I live, and I just was like, why is this Co Op right here? Because it's really expensive in the people who live around it. cannot afford to buy food from this place. But I was talking with a colleague about and she's like, I stand for that. Co Op because you it hires people at a living wage. But then on the other side, the people who work there now can't afford to live near the Co Op, they have to drive an hour from from home, right. And so I, you know, really appreciate it kind of just thinking through the issues that Michelle lays out, because it's like, what do we make of this? You know, it's good for people like, you know, gentrification is good for people like me, who like is well educated and well paid. And I'm a home owner. And I like fancy cashews, and like organic cheese add ons, it provides jobs, but the people who who work at these kinds of new places can't afford to live there. Right. And so Durham is building million dollar condos. And I have yet to see kind of one new affordable housing project. And so the city is both revitalizing and also becoming an eviction capital. And so what we see here is that rather than investing in Durham, and the people who've been living here their whole lives, we just have like another iteration of bringing in, you know, wealthy folks, and investing in their entertainment, and where, you know, more taste, rather than rather than reinvesting in the people who make the place, the kind of place people want to be.

Chris Beem
And, you know, I also think that goes again to the incentives of the people in power, right. I mean, the people who are educated, and have a lot of good incomes are more likely to be organized and politically astute and, and able to get their will accomplished. And if you don't have money, and if you're not organized, it's very, it's very much more difficult to have that happen. I mean, it is easy to understate the difficulties here, easy to understate the challenge associated with that, those individual choices. And Michelle is right to celebrate them. But it's also kind of the only game in town, right? If you want things to get better. It is only going to happen through listening to the local local community leaders, identifying them, raising them up bringing together to talk to each other, respecting their opinion, and enabling them to make the choices that are going to make a difference. And for those people to step up as well. So lots of chew on here, and really striking how much these this book and the issues it raises speaks to some fundamental issues in democracy. And it's good for us to once again focus on the local. So thanks to Michelle Wilde Anderson for a great interview and for Jenna as well. I'm Chris Beem.

Candis Watts Smith 
And I'm Candis Watts Smith. For Democracy Works, thanks for listening.