The Injured public and the Search for New Civic Imagination:
Teddy Cruz began his presentation speaking about the economic situation and its effect on the public, over the past few years. He spoke of the correlation between inequality of wealth and marginal taxation over the past 80 years and the differences between the political responses to the great depression and the current recession. After the great depression, we had the ‘new deal’ and the second bill of rights, that expressed the political will to reengage the public. There was a mobility of institutions to engage in public spending in public infrastructure, education, and housing. There was a reorganization in resources between 1945 and 1979 that we have not experienced since the recession in 2008. Cruz believes, that the ‘mythology of the American dream’ is hurting the public; “the reality is that the poor are supporting the wealthy.” There is a belief that the wealth of the superrich will trickle down to support the public through taxation, but the reality is that none of that money is used for the public good. He then went on to talk about the three slaps in the face of the American Public: the first slap is the Wall Street bailout as a result of the bubble burst. The second slap was the foreclosures as the result of the lack of accountability of institutions with regards to regulation. The third and final slap was belief that everyone has to sacrifice, resulting in the public spending cuts. These have led to the shrinking relevancy of the public while the top 1% remain untouched. “This is a cultural crisis. This policy of anti-taxes, anti-public, and anti-immigration is injuring the public.” He continued stating that Arizona is the epicenter of anti-immigration. This discrimination is criminalizing individuals. Cruz urges that we must take a position. As leaders, we must ADVOCATE. The defunding of public infrastructure has been occurring for a while, but we’re just now realizing it now that we need it most. As problem solvers, Cruz suggests we must understand what produced the crisis in order to produce a solution. We need to understand the resources available to reorganize them to our benefit. He goes on to talk about unsustainable selfish sprawl. What’s unfortunate is that our solutions are the problems; we camouflage the problem with really getting into the root of the issue. We must move from neutrality of concepts to specificity. We must actually engage the issues rather than simply acknowledging them or addressing them. We must take a stance.
Cruz continues by speaking about his experience working with a community in Anyang, where he worked to design protocols and the rights of the neighborhood. He spoke about coexistence and the conflict between vertical density and horizontal sprawl, where he suggests that developers are destroying neighborhoods with homogeneity. Cruzes process to develop a solution to engage the city in a charrette to discuss issues that affect the policies of the city. They created a model of the community and discovered the intimate ecologies and urban ecosystems that sprout throughout the city. The model was a tool for them to speak with activists about the homogeneity that result in plains or parking lots. The result was a new political language. Using the model allowed them to develop the language to communicate the issues that were difficult to explain. Intervening in the debate is a tool to enter a problem and start a conversation. Cruz and his team was able to produce rights to enable the co-existence of different economics of housing, the right to develop and spread and grow at different rates, the right to share profits of urbanization, and the right to retrofit itself. Cruz asked how does a community participate in new housing?
Teddy moved on to talk about reflect on idea expressed by General Patraeus after his first tour in Iraq; Patraeus stated that the contemporary soldier must transform into a social worker and an anthropologist. Cruz suggested we borrow the procedures of social workers and anthropologists to adapt our process of design. The effects of social networking and the necessity of developed ways of communicating has become necessary.
He then got into the topic of borders and the issues surrounding them. He suggests we must radicalize the local with specificity. He is more interested what happens more inland of borders. Taking an 80 mile section cut along the San Diego/Tijuana border, Cruz spoke about the major issues as you start in the outskirts of San Diego and move south until reaching Tijuana. In San Diego, the issues is the flattening of landscapes for development. Moving south, there is conflict between the large infrastructure overpowering and destroying the watershed. More south, a military base is located within an environmental zone, effecting the natural habitats. There is conflict at the border where the natural ecologies collide with the informal ecology. Moving south into Mexico, there is a conflict between density and sprawl. In Tijuana, there natural and the political are in battle. To create a solution, we must open up and understand these conditions. The border wall exists to transgress. The very notion of citizenship is one dimensional. The concept that a document ties you to a single place is destroying the public. He continues to talk about issues of land use and the problem with density. Right now, density is measured by people per acre. Cruz suggests we measure by the amount of socioeconomic exchanges per acre. He urges us to use this concept when we are designing. In addition, we must understand who owns the territory and the resources. In the real world, the developers run the show. We must rethink ownership. We must design the political and economic process; we must design new social contracts.
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