Saturday, November 04, 2006

19: Some responses to Michigan endorsements: Eminent Domain and Affirmative Action.

EVENT

I've been fortunate to receive several responses to my endorsements yesterday.

First, and most convincingly, my friend Thad from Flushing disagrees with me on Proposal 3. Here's what he wrote:

I agree with you on most of your positions. The only exception is that I am a strong defender of eminent domain in certain cases, which in my opinion is the best tool for urban renewal availabe at the moment. At least until the upper crust of Flint make like the Van Andel, Devos, Weed, or Kellogg, et al. families in the West Side and start investing more in the community (Mott is very much the exception to the Flint status quo).

Untill that happens, I would like to see the city seize the majority of the vacant industrial land in Flint, set up a joint HUD/Environmental Services department, and use massive quantities of EPA brownsfield grants to remediate and place back into production within the next ten years.

I would also like to see the city seize all the properties of the owner of Genesee Towers (his name escapes me at the moment). I do know that he owns in excess of twenty five vacant properties, including the Towers, in the Flint area and is using them as a tax shelter.

The exception to eminent domain, I believe comes when the property has obvious or immediate potential use or reuse. For example, the City claimed four beautiful houses on Manley Street (?) to make a parking lot for FIM. Though FIM really needs a parking lot, these properties were able to be used today and quite frankly, were quite beautiful. The historical council's vote split 4 to 3 in favor of seizure. There are plenty of eyesores in Flint...we don't need to target useable properties for destruction.


While I conceded in my comments that we must be wary of any proposal that too stringently binds eminent domain, Thad admitted that acconutable and competent governance is necessary to prevent defrauding property owners. Still, it appears our votes will cancel each other out in this case (in any event, I mailed in my absentee ballot yesterday).




I also received a defense of Proposal 2 in my comments from Steve Sutton, a Michigan blogger. While I believe he is well intentioned, his argument does not address my most pressing concerns.

First, he says "contrary to what you wrote, Proposal 2 does NOT ban all forms of affirmative action. Only those that give preferential treatment based on race and gender. It still allows programs to benefit underrepresented minorities."

I would reply that consideration of race and gender are the two fields that require most pressing concern. Multiple studies of classrooms around the country have demonstrated that male students receive preferential treatment (even if the teacher is female) and not only are minorities most often concentrated in under-funded districts with a lack of extracurricular opportunities, overcrowded classrooms, and a host of other internal and infrastrucutral problems, but there are still underlying discriminatory attitudes in terms of expectations of academic aptitude and experience. Just because a preferential action is socialized does not mean it is ethically defensible. The answer, then, is to compensate for preference as long as it is measurable, and as best as possible. Affirmative action programs were created for this purpose.

Now as I said, I agree that affirmative action is flawed; it does, in effect punish, for example, poor whites in disenfranchised rural districts, for example, and rewards, for example, affluent minorities. Neverthess, the result is a more balanced field on the whole. The result is not blind preferential treatment, but policies that can and do mitigate unresolved preference socially imposed on the level of the home, community, district, and culture as a whole.

Finally, I said in my original argument that "it is regressive and unethical to repeal affirmative action with any measure that does not provide an energetic and effective alternative." Mr. Sutton writes that "the alternative you seek is to stop giving preferential consideration to minorities when they apply to college and get them ready years before the get to college." I would respond that this is all speculative; the educational dilemmas of minorities and women have not been addressed in the last fifty years, and solutions to date are neither "energetic" nor "effective." If there are educational reforms with demonstrable evidence that minorities and women are equally prepared for college and given equal consideration in the admissions process, then it is appropriate, perhaps, to begin evaluating affirmative action. But repealing affirmative action programs and launching a speculative and hazy educational reform is putting the cart before the horse; in this case a horse that we have not even purchased yet.

I appreciate the thought that went into this response, but I remain thoroughly unconvinced.

END OF POST.

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