Choosing one of these three communities from your readings (Allentown, PA [Morse], post-Katrina New Orleans evacuees [Cortes], or Harmony Elementary in CA [Cortes]), describe one way the community was challenged as cited by the text and two ways the struggle positively impacted its growth.
I’m blogging from home instead of my classroom because I have a kiddo who has finally succumbed to the crud, whatever it might be. His chubby cheeks are flushed with fever, but he seems content to lie on the couch beside me and watch PBS Kids this morning.
Let’s talk about the community of Allentown, PA today and their struggle for relevance and viability.
Post-World War 2 Rust Belt was drastically impacted when the U.S. decided it just didn’t need as much steel as it had been using. We saw the steady decline over the decades and then the sharp drop-off during the Great Recession of 2007-2009 when the U.S. government had to bail out the Detroit auto industry. Detroit still hasn’t recovered, but they’re working on it. That’s another commentary for another time.
Few Rust Belt communities were spared this setback, but how they handled it is the topic of this post. The text contrasts Allentown, PA and Youngstown, OH.
When faced with this financial setback of declining demand in the steel industry, Allentown was set up respond positively to the changes. Lehigh University, local businesses, non-profits, and local government were all set up with overlaps to help with a positive response and an actual tightening of the community knitwork. Local communications companies were regularly updating themselves to stay technologically relevant in the wake of a major change. Because of the overlaps in place, these changes that became necessary were feasible.
The community had been purposefully diversified to maintain a wealth of knowledge coming from several areas. When push came to shove, they were all able to come together and form their own think tank to tackle the problems. They supported one another, learned from one another, and used their collective intelligence to overcome the issues that came with the decline in their livelihood.
Youngstown, on the other hand, fought with their government. They pushed back against new ideas, businesses, and companies that might want to come in and revive the area. They suffered as a result.
I know a LOT of people from Youngstown. I lived near Boulder County, Colorado for six years, and there was a pocket of folks from Y-Town who worked with my non-profit. It was apparent to me that they had suffered in some capacity. They were all edgy, vulgar, and had a desperate air about them. I loved them because they were so raw and real as people. Reading about the issues in Youngstown clarifies for me the issues they faced as a community at large. They were fleeing a collapsing infrastructure. Interesting read.
Morse, S. (2014). Smart communities: How citizens and local leaders can use
strategic thinking to build a brighter future (2nd edition). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.