We have included the transcript, graphic recording, audio, and video from “Punitive and Cooperative Cities” presented by Stacey Sutton on March 9, 2022.
About the presenter
Stacey Sutton is an Associate Professor in the Department of Urban Planning and Policy and the Director of Applied Research and Strategic Partnerships at UIC’s Social Justice Initiative. She is the recipient of the 2021 Edward Blakely Award given by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning and the Planners of Color Interest Group, in recognition of a scholar’s dedication to the cause of social justice, particularly for communities of color. Stacey’s research and teaching are broadly within the area of community economic development, with a central focus on economic democracy and worker-owned cooperatives; the solidarity economy movement; gentrification and dispossession; neighborhood small business dynamics; and disparate effects of place-based city policy.
Her frameworks for research and community engagement entail advancing “Cooperative Cities” and the solidarity economy and critiquing “Punitive Cities.” She recently completed a study of the distribution, efficacy, and equity effects of Chicago’s automated enforcement red-light and speed camera and ticket fines and fees for Black, Latinx and low-income residents. In Stacey’s newest research project, titled Real Black Utopias, she explores infrastructures, ideologies, and practices of Black-led cooperatives and solidarity economy ecosystems.
About the series
Shareable is partnering with Tufts University on this special series hosted by professor Julian Agyeman (Co-chair of Shareable’s Board) and Cities@Tufts. Initially designed for Tufts students, faculty, and alumni, the colloquium has been opened up to the public with the support of Shareable, and The Kresge Foundation.
Cities@Tufts Lectures explores the impact of urban planning on our communities and the opportunities to design for greater equity and justice.
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“Punitive and Cooperative Cities” Transcript
Stacey Sutton: [00:00:06] Chicago has more residents that have filed for bankruptcy than any city or municipality in the country — and bankruptcy based on tickets. More residents that have filed for bankruptcy because of tickets. Just let that sink in Than any place. That, to me, suggests this is a punitive city.
Tom Llewellyn: [00:00:27] Can a Cooperative Cities framework address the unequal impact of automated traffic fines in Black and Brown communities? How can alternative land governance models help us respond to our climate challenge? Is there an equity measurement scheme that can bring clean energy programs and investments to frontline communities? These are just a few of the questions we’re exploring this season on Cities@Tufts Lectures, a free live event and podcast series where we explore the impact of urban planning on our communities and the opportunities to design for greater equity and justice. I’m your host, Tom Llewellyn.
[00:00:58] Today on the show, we’re featuring Stacey Sutton’s lecture: Punitive and Cooperative Cities. In addition to this audio version, you can watch the video, check out the graphic recording and read the full transcript on Shareable.net. And while you’re there, please take some time to get caught up on all of our past lectures and our ever-expanding library of stories, podcasts, how-to guides and other resources. And now here’s Professor Julian Agyeman, who will welcome you to the Cities@Tufts Spring Colloquium and introduce today’s lecturer.
Julian Agyeman: [00:01:40] Welcome to Cities@Tufts, this is our colloquium, our Wednesday colloquium, and along with our partners, Sharable and the Kresge Foundation and the Barr Foundation. I’m Professor Julian Agyeman and together with my research assistants Caitlin McLennan and Perri Sheinbaum, we organize Cities@Tufts as a cross-disciplinary academic initiative, which recognizes Tufts University as a leader in urban studies, urban planning and sustainability issues. We’d like to acknowledge that Tufts University’s Medford campus is located on colonized Wampanoag and Massachusetts traditional territory.
[00:02:17] Today, we’re really delighted to welcome Dr. Stacey Sutton. Stacey is an Associate Professor in the Department of Urban Planning and Policy, and she’s director of the Applied Research and Strategic Partnerships at the University of Illinois Chicago’s Social Justice Initiative. That’s a very long title. She’s the recipient of the prestigious 2021 Ed Blakely Award, given by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning and the Planners of Color Interest Group in recognition of a scholar’s dedication to the cause of social justice, particularly for communities of color.
[00:02:52] Stacey’s research and teaching are broadly within the area of community economic development, with a central focus on economic democracy and worker-owned cooperatives, the solidarity economy, movement, gentrification and dispossession, neighborhood small business dynamics and the disparate effects of place-based city policy-making. Her framework for research and community engagement fascinates me, and it entails advancing cooperative cities and the solidarity economy and critiquing the notion of punitive cities.
[00:03:24] In Stacey’s latest research projects titled: Real Black Utopias, she explores infrastructures, ideologies and practices of Black-led cooperatives and solidarity economy ecosystems. Stacey’s talk today appropriately, is Punitive and Cooperative cities. Stacey, a zoom-tastic welcome to the Cities@Tufts colloquium, Stacey will speak for about 30 minutes and then we’ll open to questions. Stacey, welcome to Tufts.
Stacey Sutton: [00:03:54] Thank you so much, Julian, and thank the Tufts community. I’m really thrilled to be here. I’m also thrilled that I’m not in Boston in the snow — the Medford area and snow. Although I am in Chicago. And just by way of kind of setting the frame for this conversation, I’m trying to do something today that I haven’t done before, which is bring punitive cities and cooperative cities together. And in terms of the theoretical work that needs to happen to do that, that is not necessarily what I’m offering today. I’m offering some of the empirical work that I’ve done, as well as some of the grounded community engagement and organizing work that’s ongoing in Chicago. So I will use Chicago as the case, noting that I am not a Chicagoan. So I’ve been here six years, but this is not unique. And the things I’ll talk about are not unique to Chicago, especially the punitive aspects.
[00:04:57] And so I start with this quote from [Eleanor] Finley: “Municipalism is distinguished by its insistence that the underlying problem with society is our disempowerment. Capitalism and the state not only cause extraordinary material suffering and inequality, they also rob us of the ability to play a meaningful role in our own lives and communities.” And so while I fully agree with this, I’m also left pondering the role of the city, what is the role of the municipal in our lives and in transformative change, right? As a professor of planning and policy, one would like to believe we have some agency even within the state. But as a resident of the U.S., I realize that that role is somewhat limited and I don’t want to sound too cynical. But let me go forward.
[00:04:57] So just for those who are not as familiar with Chicago, Chicago is known and notorious for its deep — residents’ deep commitment to their areas. And typically, people talk about, they’re from the north side — I mean, those are just broadly defined — from the north side of Chicago, the south side or the west side. And so moving to Chicago, I didn’t fully know what that meant. And although the map on the left is more divided by seven different categories, as I say, the north side, these two areas, as well as what’s called central — that’s all considered north. West and southwest, is west and southeast and far south is south. And that is important to just kind of hold this throughout the presentation.
[00:06:46] On the right, what we see is the racial composition of the city and the population density, right? And so within those broad categories of north, south and west, the city is also divided into these seventy-seven community areas, largely coterminous with neighborhoods, but not fully. And what you see on the right is the population density on the north side, the pink is very dense, it’s disproportionately white with some Latino, on the west side, it’s disproportionate — well, no, it’s a mix of Black and some Latino, far fewer white. On the south side, it’s overwhelmingly Black, although there are some pockets that are not Black, right? And so it’s not even that you see a lot of mixing, it’s that they’re not Black, they’re either white or Latino. Again, that’s important.
[00:07:43] Just a few other contextual facts. And the population and the racialization of this city are aligned with where we see investments, right? No surprise this happens in pretty much every city. So the per capita of investment, if we use new building permits, we see far more — well in the middle, which is the loop. But the overall layout of the city kind of maps on to where we’re seeing investment, less investment and more investment, which is also aligned with the racial landscape and class, right? And then Neighborhood Hardship Index, once again, high hardship or in areas that are disproportionately Black and Latinx and low in areas that are disproportionately white.
[00:08:37] With that, what we’ve been seeing over the, I don’t know, the last four decades or so has been an outmigration of population. So Chicago is one of the shrinking cities. Although we tend to think of Buffalo and Cleveland, much smaller cities, Chicago has been shrinking since its heyday. And although we have 2.7 million people, it’s down from its peak around 1980 or so. And so what you’re seeing in this is the outmigration or white flight starting in 1960 through 1980, white population continued to decline in ’90, 2000, but we’re also seeing a decline of Black population, especially come 2010, and it continues to 2020. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of residents. I think since 1990, it’s been over 400,000 Black residents that have left.
[00:09:39] And this is important because it shifts both the spatial composition in terms of where we’re seeing density and where investment is. And it also shifts the political landscape, of course. And so this is just another rendering of it that brings it to the contemporary moment. So the 2021 to 2020 population change, far left, loss of Black population and their slow growth of white far more in terms of Latinx and Asian. So the landscape of this city is changing.
[00:10:16] And then this is just very quickly like, where are people going? This is what kind of led me to think about the punitive cities because people are not moving far. So this only shows Black and white movers. But people are not moving particularly far. If I showed this in a graph in terms of the areas that are receiving residents, the areas that are receiving the most residents, especially black residents, are within the state of Illinois, the suburbs or a little further out, or neighboring states such as Michigan, well, less so in Michigan, but that would be, we have Wisconsin and Indiana, right?
[00:11:00] And that is important because if you love your home, but you’ve decided it’s time to go, I would think that you’re going somewhere somewhat distant from where you are, right? You’re going to start again. You’re going to look for something very different. That’s assuming you have full agency and choice in that mobility, right? It’s the fact that residents are moving not far from Chicago, sometimes within the same county or neighboring states, suggests that there may be some reticence in terms of moving, but they have to get out of the city for one reason or another.
[00:11:41] So that led me to this punitive city research. In 2018, ProPublica, Illinois and WBEZ, which is our NPR affiliate or NPR syndicate — I don’t know what they’re called — did a brilliant journalistic exposé, essentially, of tickets and the impact of tickets on Chicagoans. And it was brilliant in the research and it was brilliant in the narratives that they were able to unearth, right? And speaking to people that moved to Indiana, that moved to Cook County and asked why. And the debt burden was a major component — which became interesting. This was a couple of years after Ferguson and the Department of Justice report that came out that showed the disparate impact of fines, fees and forfeitures on Black residents of Ferguson relative to their proportion in terms of population.
[00:12:43] So more and more cities started looking at this. A similar investigation happened in Chicago, but it was internal and in terms of the Office of Investigator General, the city of Chicago, and they pointed to fines and fees as something that needed more attention. At the same time, the journalists are doing a brilliant job and other research institutes like Woodstock had started this research as well. What I found interesting in that is that all of these stories, the stories in terms of the debt that was caused because there’s a disparate impact of policing people on their bicycles on the south side and getting tickets, snow removal — the myriad of ways in which people can accumulate tickets or a violation summons, there’s a racial pattern.
[00:13:41] But what I didn’t see in the research was attention to the automated cameras, which are everywhere, and they’re far more — they give far more tickets than any one officer could, possibly. And so they’re often excluded from these large studies because of the presumption that the automation somewhat neutralizes the racial effect. So that led me to thinking, I think we should look at some of these automated tickets.
[00:14:12] And just lastly, in terms of the stories, I was part of a conversation, or part of a panel, which literally brought me to tears. I was trying to cover it up, you know? But the participant — it wasn’t Rachel, but it was a gentleman who worked for the city. He was a fireman, his car that was parked on a lot, received numerous tickets. He thought he only had five, wasn’t in his neighborhood, was next to his aunt’s home and his aunt’s home. You know, you need to come and deal with these tickets. When he went down to the city to pay these five tickets that were sitting on his car, he learned he had 70 tickets received within four months — they were four to six months, let’s say. And they had accumulated more than $30,000 in debt.
[00:15:03] And because of Chicago’s — the various laws, the scofflaws and the anti-scofflaws in Chicago, he was about to lose his job. You cannot work for the city of Chicago if you owe the city money, nor can you drive Lyft or Uber or anything. So what they set up is a very rapid way to file for bankruptcy. Chicago has more residents that have filed for bankruptcy than any city or municipality in the country — and bankruptcy based on tickets. More residents that have filed for bankruptcy because of tickets — just let that sink in, then any place. That, to me, suggests this is a punitive city because if you can’t pay the first a summons, which is often, let’s say, $100, there are $200 fines as well, the next one, 30 days it doubles and it keeps accumulating, doesn’t keep doubling, but it keeps accumulating and there is no statute of limitations.
[00:16:01] So if you couldn’t pay that first summons, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to pay thereafter. So that led me to start to explore specifically the cameras, because I think the other kinds of tickets had been relatively [inaudible]. So I got access to the data set from WBEZ and ProPublica, but the city eventually made it public as well. And I began analyzing the camera tapes. In terms of the descriptions that I found, you know, they look like a very clear racial pattern in the map look very much like the maps I showed and it seemed like ticketing was coterminous with the racial pattern of the city.
[00:16:51] But I knew one thing is that I was probably over my head, and I’m missing a lot of things in that, and so I reached out to my colleague Professor Nebiyou Tilahun who is a transportation planner. And so that first presentation that I did, it just so happened that the Commissioner of Transportation was in the audience and she came up to me and offered me more data, said, you know, would you like to go further into this? And which was surprising because I was very clear in terms of the racial disparity and the punitive nature of the city. And she was offering me and Prof Tilahun, knew who wasn’t there yet, access to more.
[00:17:30] And so with that more meaning, 2014 to 2019, ticket level data with their addresses that could be geocoded, it was a huge dataset that we eventually received. I think it was like 2019 or so. And we were able to ask these primary questions, and so we were analyzing the equity and efficacy of Chicago’s automated camera enforcement program, which is both red light and speeding. And we broke that down into these three questions, and just because of time, I’m not going to be able to go in depth into any of them. I’m going to show you just some of the things that we found. But I think the punch line and what’s particularly important is the city’s response to it.
[00:18:21] So we first started to look at the social and spatial distributional effects of the tickets for households. The economic effects, right? What’s the economic, what I call an economic burden of a ticket? We know people have to file for bankruptcy, but even those who are able to pay their tickets, what does that look like? How burdened are residents that are able to pay? And then Nebiyou really delved into the safety profile of tickets.
[00:18:54] So this is not [inaudible], but this just again shows the number of tickets were about nine million tickets. But we really focused on 2016 to 2019 and on Chicago only and those that could be geocoded. And once we excluded the institutions we were really working with about 2.7 Million tickets. When we looked at the distribution — these maps are very similar to the maps that I showed originally, right? In terms of whatever they’re showing, the patterns are similar. What you see along the lake or along — the lake is here — what you see along the far right side or the east of the city looks very different than what you see on the west side of the city, in the south side, whatever we’re mapping, which is actually quite profound. And here we’re mapping is the spatial patterns of tickets per household between 2016 and 2019. And so the darker areas are more tickets per household and lighter areas are fewer, which also follow the racial and income patterns of this.
[00:20:04] So we did all that you would expect in terms of all the modeling and what we kept coming up with that we couldn’t explain is why is majority Black the strongest and most consistent predictor of tickets? While that to me, initially I thought, Wow, this is great. This is going to get in the journal and wow we’re seeing something. But you realize right away you have to explain that, you know, you can’t just put it out there. And couldn’t really come up with a good explanation initially. So although we received it in 2019, it took us years. This report just came out — and there’s some other explanations for why — to come up with a stronger argument as to both the racial effects.
[00:20:53] And there are many, many models — I’m not going to go into them. I think what’s important here is one just looking at majority Black. But also when we control for — or we factor in, so this is kind of a standardized model estimate, so that means we can compare cost these variables that were all standardized, the variable besides a majority Black, in terms of the number of tickets going up, the number of chain grocery stores, for instance, right, we chose chain because those are typically the larger ones, the proximity to — or the number of grocery stores in a bounded area of — I think we use like two, three miles, as the numbers go up, the ticket numbers go down. So if you have to drive further to a grocery store, you tend to get more tickets, right?
[00:21:45] So we started to focus on exposure. What are the variables that would help us understand exposure to tickets? And what people always ask is, Well, there must be more cameras in Black and Brown neighborhoods. And actually not exactly. And the full report is available. You can find the full report. It’s not so much that there are more cameras if you just count them, but it’s where they’re strategically placed in Black and Brown neighborhoods and disproportionately in Black neighborhoods. They’re proximate to freeways. The disproportionate number of cameras that are proximate to freeways, which give a disproportionate number of tickets are in Black neighborhoods, right?
[00:22:27] And so people that are getting onto the freeway and they may — and it’s often turning right on red, which is not allowed and well, it’s allowed, but you have to come to a full stop. That infraction is the infraction that causes the largest number of tickets. From a safety perspective, that’s a problem. We don’t want to suggest that people should be able to go through lights or speed in any way. But there are also levels of — or severity of harm or severity of probable harm, are very different when you’re turning right on red versus turning left and so forth. This, again, is where the transportation planner was dug in deep.
[00:23:12] And so that was one point that we could show the city and they didn’t know, they didn’t realize that this was happening. And so when we started to look at the distribution of camera tickets by track, what you’re seeing here is both the distribution overall number of tickets per household, but then on the right side, we’re showing the tickets that were paid and the number — the proportion paid, the lighter hues are the lower proportion and the darker hue, or the blue is the greater share of tickets received that actually get paid. And it’s not surprising again, this pattern, this looks like everything else that we tend to map.
[00:23:58] So to think about the economic burden we were trying to get at — well, how do we look at the burden in terms of as a share of income? Relative to the city and relative to the number of tickets people receive. So some people would say, well, they got more tickets, so of course they’re paying more. Well, so the plot on the left is essentially showing this — it’s showing the fines and fees as a percent of income. And so what you’re seeing is that well above this somewhat outlier, 1.5 percent of aggregate income over four years is going toward tickets and for neighborhoods in which the population is majority Black, and we use 60 percent as a majority, and you can use 80 percent in Chicago, and you get a comparable number of census tracts. Because once you’re at 60 percent, Black, you can go to 80 and 90 percent.
[00:24:58] So what we’re seeing again is there’s a racial pattern, there’s a class pattern, and there seems to be an argument for changing the punitive nature of ticketing and not jeopardizing the safety effects. The big takeaway for us in terms of the economic impact is when you separate the fines from the fees, the fine I defined as that first — the first infraction, the hundred dollars, so it’s one hundred dollars speeding tickets, it’s a hundred dollar red light ticket, and it doubles to two hundred dollars if it’s not paid. Those are the fees — and continues to aggregate additional penalties. Those are all fees. The data set allows you to separate those.
[00:25:50] And so on the left, what you’re seeing is the share of paid fines relative to the number of tickets that people receive. And so low-income neighborhoods, middle, upper, are about equal right? And that we could also how the racial pattern, which is quite comparable to low, middle, upper. But they’re quite equal in terms of the median is about — which we would expect.
[00:26:18] But then when you go to the fees, it tells a different story, right? It tells a story that obviously people with more income accrue fewer fees. People that accrue more fees get into this loop that can end in bankruptcy. And before getting there, your car is towed, it’s booted, then towed. It sits in the pound, if it sits there for X number of days, well, I think it’s more the days. I think it’s a few weeks. The pound has the right to turn your vehicle into scrap metal. And that scrap metal — the money they receive from turning your vehicle into scrap metal doesn’t go toward your fee or fines that you owe. That whole cycle suggests the punitive nature of ticking.
[00:27:13] So what do we say — and that was the shortest I’ve ever done that because I think their full report is like 70 pages, so a very detailed analysis and suggestions. And so our overall recommendations to the city are broken down into thinking about where the cameras are located, what we can do about the fines and fees and how should we think about the safety profile and the safety impacts of these cameras, right?
[00:27:41] So you can absorb these, and I’m going to tell you that because the city gave us that data and they paid for some research assistance and so forth, They had more power than I understood when I first took this project on, and that then extended this because they didn’t want us to speak about it for some time, and I’m not going to go down that road either. But once we were able to and we presented this, they had a response because this hit the news, it was a big story, Propublica covered it, and others covered it, and the city had a response, and their response was that they were going to implement means-tested ticketing. They’re going to put thresholds on maximums and so on and so forth. There was going to be some other mechanisms in place that would make it less burdensome for, especially for low-income people.
[00:28:40] So that’s a good thing. That again gets at the contradiction of the city, the city as the holder of these various policies and practices. And it also shows that these are set of decisions that got made at some point. Perhaps the decisions that got made started in 2003 under Daley, when the camera program was implemented, but they’ve been sustained since then. And so it takes planners, policymakers, others to push back and do that kind of work to say we could do this differently. And it also takes the media covering it and really then giving the advocates and organizers the material so that they can make an argument.
[00:29:29] So what does that have to do with cooperative cities? And I would say not a lot, necessarily. And I’m still working through that, theoretically, but I realized around the same time — so I think I started this study around 2017 and that was about the same time that I was working on the other study, that there were a set of cities out there that were somewhat exemplary. With my interest in worker cooperatives, economic democracy, solidarity economy, a number of cities kept coming up. And if you’re in Medford, you know, I imagine that your city is one of those cities in which you have a robust and growing ecosystem.
[00:30:12] And so for this study, I was really just looking at the municipal support. What does that look like? How are cities — so this is essentially a top-down, it’s not, with full understanding that the work is at the grassroots, but what is the role of the city in terms of supporting this? Because cities can create enabling environments or they can be a hindrance? Right. And there’s probably something in between that, but nevertheless, I was trying to identify that. Just because of time. I’ll just go through it very, very quickly. And you know, again, being in Boston, you know, these various heterodox models of economic organizing are becoming more and more prolific, right? And worker-owned cooperatives are a bulwark against the economic instability and dislocation. And as DiFilipo says, it’s the purest form of economic democracy that we currently have.
[00:31:06] And so what I was trying to do is identify examples. So, identify what is legible. And that becomes a metric that I use for identifying cities, what is legible in the legislation, in transcripts from council meetings and other textual — through other textual analyses I was able to identify cities — and focusing on cities that have more than 100,000 residents — that we’re doing something. And then once I identified 12 cities that were doing something, those were the only 12 at the time I was doing this that I could find, I started to then just aggregate that and tried to understand what they were doing.
[00:31:56] And so how are cities creating enabling environments? What constitutes a cooperative city — the term that I was using. What various approaches are cities adopting and what of the limitations of municipal involvement? And that is where my research currently is. What are the limitations — because the cooperative movement is a grassroots movement, and so the work on the solidarity economy movement is very much endogenous — coming from [inaudible].
[00:32:28] So I think it’s easier to just show what I found. So what I did was once I identified the 12 cities Cleveland, Richmond, Virginia, Richmond, California, Rochester, Austin, Berkeley, Boston, Oakland, Philadelphia, Madison, Minneapolis and New York. I realized, okay, they’re not all the same in what they’re doing. Some are working from a top-down perspective, right, in terms of initiating and starting some cooperatives. And there wasn’t a large number of cooperatives that existed in neighborhoods, right? And I call those developer cities. Then there are a set of endorser cities that at that time, I would say Boston is there — and it may still be because again, this is what the city is doing. Not all the wonderful work happening on the ground and the ecosystem and the Center for Economic Democracy and Ujima, and all these wonderful projects and the Solidarity Economy Initiative, all these things that are not led by city, right, or necessarily even supported by. So there are a set of cities that have a culture of cooperatives, but they’re not — they’re supporting them, you know, kind of middling. And I call those endorser cities.
[00:33:43] And then there’s cultivator cities. And I would argue that some of these endorser cities are moving toward cultivator cities and we also have more cities doing things. And those cities, there’s a culture of Cooperatives and the city is doing stuff that’s quite legible, most notably in New York. It was a lot of money they were putting into building an infrastructure, the ecosystem that’s necessary. They were investing in that. And so these are just some of the things that they were doing.
[00:34:19] And why is all of this important? This was important just for my learning. It was important, I think, as a research project, but I learned only after it was published that it was important as a way for cities to look at other cities and say, Oh, OK, well, they’re doing this over there. And literally, I had municipal leaders ask me, Well, why aren’t we on the list? And that’s what happened in Chicago. Why aren’t we on the list? And I said, Well, because you’re not doing anything. I mean, I don’t know how else to say it right? And I’m kind of blunt. So that’s how it came out.
[00:34:55] But I did the same thing in Cincinnati. And Cincinnati has a wonderful ecosystem, but the city wasn’t supporting it. Same thing in Baltimore. And so this became a tool for cities to say, OK, where can I plug in? How do I plug in? Cities are kind of competitive in that way, I’ve learned. And there are a lot of ways they can plug in. And so the biggest announcement, I think one of the things I’m very proud of and supportive of is this community wealth building initiative that the city is launching. The money was inserted into the budget, which the mayor adopted in the City Council sanctioned, so $15 million was going into community wealth-building initiatives.
[00:35:44] Given the broad $168 million dollars for community development. Fifteen million is not a lot, but it is a lot for those of us doing this work. It’s a huge amount as a lump sum. Over five years, New York put $15 million or so, but this lump sum, but it, you know, at the same time, we haven’t seen it yet. It’s been allocated. I mean, yeah, it’s been allocated, but we haven’t seen it. And this is important because the Office of Equity and Racial Justice, we have a champion. We have a champion that came to us and not just me, but what I was able to bring is some of the evidence — the number of community orgs doing work on the ground.My colleague and comrade at the UIC Law School, Renee Hatcher, who’s doing this work in terms of from a legal perspective and helping the cooperatives. And she brought us all together and said, OK, what can the city do?
[00:36:38] And initially, the project was going to be framed as supporting Black and Latinx businesses. And we were like, No, we have that in Chicago and just supporting Black and Latinx businesses, it doesn’t ensure that we’re going to have a more equitable environment, right? And so we inserted language around democratically organized, community-controlled enterprises. And that is important because, well, we tried to get them to adopt solidarity economy and they were like, no. We tried to get them to just focus on worker cooperatives and they, you know, they weren’t as supportive in terms of the language. They didn’t think it would get passed.
[00:37:24] But this initiative is very much for that. So it’s both worker cooperatives and housing. And so this is all from the city. I just cut from one of the PowerPoints that they did — I mean, presentations. So it’s still being launched. But the idea is to essentially use these resources over two or three years to show proof of concept, right? And the power of strong community wealth building ecosystems, and they want to fund new and existing ecosystem organizations. And so that’s the legal advocacy, financial, business development and education. They want to fund worker-owned cooperatives, but also, I think a housing cooperative, and just, you know, see what that does essentially.
[00:38:18] So in that regard, it’s a way — I’m showing this because, especially I don’t know who’s in the audience, but for those of us that see ourselves as scholar-activists or, you know, scholar advocates, it becomes sometimes disheartening that we do this research and it makes it into the journal, which is great if anybody out there or editors of journals, that is a goal. But for me, more importantly, is to have some utility, to actually change things that we’re working on in community, whether I’m directly involved or not. And so but because I’m telling this story, it’s a story in which I am involved, but it still would be quite satisfying to see the way in which research can be used to both redress some of the punitive policies and practices and support the cooperative or the solidarity practices that would help to germinate those in the city.
[00:39:19] This is actually the last slide, and this is a slide that is not necessarily connected to the others, but these are community boards. This is somewhat of an ecosystem of organizations described as PATHS — Partners in Abolition, transformation, healing and Solidarity. And we received a grant from a local foundation for movement building. It was a half a million dollars for movement building, which it was kind of profound. And they really wanted — so the 11 of us had not worked together in this formation before — there were connections in different ways, but we came together to write this grant.
[00:40:03] And so I was part of this and we got the grant. And what they said in terms of why they liked our proposal is we were very explicit in building a framework that focuses on fight and build and heal, right? And it’s not just the resistance, the groups that are doing the base building — Black Lives Matter, etc., nor is it just kind of the solidarity economy, nor is it some of the healers that are involved. It’s all of them. And so we sat together for a year kind of trying to figure out what we were going to do. And we have some really interesting projects that we’re now launching that are — we’ve organized these committees. We’re soon to launch this fellowship that we’ve been working on, BASE Fellowship, which is Black Abolitionist Solidarity Economy Fellowship. We do political education and popular education. And then we have this — we’re doing a development project. So that is it, So thank you for your time. I’m going to stop sharing.
Julian Agyeman: [00:41:31] Well, Stacey, thank you so much for an incredible presentation. I mean, your passion for the work comes through. And rest assured that there are a lot of scholar-activists like you. We wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing — we wouldn’t be doing it well if we weren’t scholar-activists. And we’ve got quite a few questions and points. I’m going to just start with a question from my colleague Pen Loh here at UEP, Stacey, incredible work all around. I’m curious about how the abolitionist aspect of the solidarity movement landscape in Chicago might be connected to the punitive city research.
Stacey Sutton: [00:42:13] Well, that’s interesting. So perhaps not in that particular study, although there’s an org here and they do research. And so I have — there are a number of orgs that are interested in using the findings to make some of their arguments and do some of the advocacy. But I think there are other ways in which they define punitive. And they then reach out to see how, as a researcher, how I might be able to offer either data or either data that’s been refined and offer descriptive statistics or something. So I think to your point, Pen, there’s great opportunity, I think. And so abolition as a concept, I think, is more evident in terms of the way we define abolition, it’s doing away with oppressive institutions and building — so, you know, with abolition, you have to build. It’s not just abolish, it’s building and creating a framework for building institutions that are supportive of and come from the community — address community needs.
[00:43:31] So if this work, punitive cities can at least begin to redress some of the harm, right? It’s just a reform. It’s not — I wouldn’t say it’s a non-reformist reform. It’s a reform to what the city is offering. We need to do away with the punitive nature. I mean, we have studies outside of the U.S. that show you don’t have to monetize tickets. So there are other alternatives, cities are not — some cities are going that route. I should say that because like in Jersey, they are doing away with all cameras, Texas with all cameras. The politics of it is different, but nevertheless the hyper surveillance that then limits the way in which people are surveilled. So I think there are a lot of possibility for overlap, especially in the theoretical.
Julian Agyeman: [00:44:20] And Stacey, great answer. And one thing I’m thinking of is, you know, I was looking at bike citation data from Chicago, from various cities, and it follows the same pattern as the traffic citation. And I’m sure you’re aware of [indaubile]’s work with Equity City.
Stacey Sutton: [00:44:39] Yeah, I work with him.
Julian Agyeman: [00:44:40] Yeah, yeah. You’re really doing some great work there. We’ve got a question here from Miranda Sheffield, who works with the National Center for Youth Law as the Debt Free Justice Campaign Coordinator to abolish all juvenile court fees and fines for youth across all 50 states. She’d love to know how she can build the solidarity economy into other similar campaigns. And Miranda, if you’re around, if I didn’t quite get the spirit of your question, please speak up and speak to Stacey.
Stacey Sutton: [00:45:14] Are you referring to — because they’re separate. Although I spoke quickly and it’s not so much that the solidarity economy is built into the punitive or the fines and fees project. I think there’s an ethos that cuts across, at least for me, right? Why do I take on certain things or why am I interested? But I think to your point in the work that you’re doing, you and many other advocates, I met with the Fines and Fees Justice Center to talk about what’s possible. But maybe you can clarify the question for me in terms of I can better articulate intersections or possibilities.
Miranda Sheffield: [00:45:59] Yes. Yes. Thank you so much for the presentation. It was really helpful. I work with the National Center of Youth Law and our campaign is focused on abolishing all fees and fines related to courts for young folks, or particularly Black and Brown folks who are hit the hardest with this. And while I feel it’s important to get rid of this, I also feel like what you did, which was really lovely, is that you talked about how punitive the cities were. But you also said that there’s a way for addressing policy and what we’re putting out a demand about how this can look alternatively, it was talking about cooperatives, it was talking about, you know, the city putting aside $15 million for wealth building. So like, I would love to know like, wow, we’re trying to, you know, like you said, get rid of this. Like, what’s the way of how we can like, utilize more tools and more things to like, say it’s much bigger than just fines and fees. It’s actually connected to like building, you know, a less of an extractive economy and more of a solidarity economy.
Stacey Sutton: [00:47:09] I see. I see. Yeah. And I wish it was almost a causal relationship there. I mean, as I said, I presented them because they’re both projects I work on, but that’s presenting them almost as contradiction, right? They reside in different parts of the city. And so the demands for the Department of Transportation and the mayor’s office, I guess they come together in the mayor’s office because the mayor’s office was on that committee as well. And they’re doing these reforms, which I think they could put further, but nevertheless is different than the folks I work with the Office of Economic and Racial Justice, although that office is a mayor’s office. You know, it sits within the mayor’s office as well.
[00:47:54] And there the money — the reason we were able, it was just really the moment in terms of how the money is out there. And I think all of these places in which there’s money more so than before and getting cities to see possibility, to see that we don’t. If we keep investing in the same things, we’ll get the same outcome. I know that sounds quite banal, but I said that like we’ve had been investing and I’m not saying disinvestment [inaudible], but we do have to think differently about what that can look like, what the possibilities are.
[00:48:32] So I think working with youth — and we’re trying to start a youth program with the organizers this summer, that’s part of the development project. I think it’s painting that picture, I mean, you can ask Pen Loh, it’s really hard for folks to imagine alternatives at times. So you have to be very explicit in what is possible. And that’s why you then point to other examples — places this is working, this is not a kind of a utopian idea. This is grounded in place in practice and there’s no reason, at least — and one thing I can say, they like the idea of pilot programs. Right. So it’s not a full line item yet, but we’re piloting something. So using that language of piloting a program, I think tends to work better.
Julian Agyeman: [00:49:23] Ok, Stacey, I’m going to have the prerogative of the organizer to ask you, I think what might be the final question — well, there’s two questions, but I’ve got so many questions. I mean, is there a continuum from punitive city to cooperative city? Do you see it as a continuum? And can the cooperative city grow out of what is a punitive city?
[00:49:44] But the more fundamental question I want to ask you is in a recent piece I said, you know, urban planning is the spatial toolkit of white supremacy, and we can do something about it. You fell short in the punitive section of your talk. You describe the phenomenon, but somebody made a call that this should be the way it is. Can you speak a little bit to how this — I mean, both the automation and the person given citations — I mean, that’s a policy decision. Can you speak to it and don’t hold back?
Stacey Sutton: [00:50:20] Okay, and so I thought I mentioned — so the first part is it a continuum? I think it’s more of a duality. I think every city with the myriad of summonses and fees and regulatory kind of apparatus, they tend to be punitive. And so there might be a gradient of punitive. Not all cities have elements of the cooperative at the city level, although I think it happens at the grassroots. But I would love to speak and talk and sit with you longer and think about what that continuum could look like. But I imagine cities can be in both places.
[00:50:55] But to your other question, which I love. I tried to address it by saying, yes, this started — let’s locate it 2004, when Daley, when the ordinance was passed to implement red light cameras, and it was immediately outsourced to a private vendor who maintains and supposedly does these studies and so forth. Where every camera is located as a decision. Absolutely. And I started by showing the racial landscape of Chicago, which is also a set of decisions in terms of where different groups live, and I’m going to be explicit in saying one of the, I think, most ironic components of the punitive cities or at least the camera study is the effect of the highway.
[00:51:59] The highway is particularly pernicious in Black neighborhoods because that’s where cameras are located, right at the on-ramp. Well, that highway was particularly pernicious in terms of dividing these neighbors, so it’s almost this double threat. This highway is dividing the neighborhood, it was part of the urban renewal reconstruction. It’s also the line of demarcation, essentially in terms of where investment gets located and disinvestment on the other side. And on a daily, it’s ticketing residents more than other parts of the city. So the cameras that are proximate to the highways, to me, that is both a structural issue of structural racism. But in some ways it’s an institutional racism in that sense that it could be easily mitigated.
[00:51:59] The structure and the logic that makes this okay again and again through what now are three mayoral administrations since they were first implemented. That’s structural racism. The fact that it doesn’t matter that we have a Black mayor, it’s the unquestioning practice of policymakers, planners, elected officials to reproduce these outcomes that are just woefully inequitable. And yet we have people in offices, both the bureaucrats and administrators that it doesn’t take a lot to think about some of the details. It’s very transparent. And so the fact that you’re not even using all the data that you’re collecting, oh, all of this data-driven governance? Yeah. But what’s the point of having data-driven governance if we’re only producing, reproducing the same thing?
[00:53:50] And that’s why the cameras become interesting, and I didn’t get into the theory of it because it’s at this intersection of the folks that are doing road safety or safety, the transportation folks and the folks that are advocating for criminal justice reform and the woman that just spoke in terms of the punitive nature of fines and fees are highly racialized. And this automation — the reason automated cameras were left out of so many studies, as I said, there’s a presumption that they must be fair because you have full agency to drive. And if you broke the law, you have to pay.
[00:54:29] Well, it’s not that simple. Not only is there a question of exposure, which is a decision that bureaucrats made in terms of where cameras are located. And then when you look at the data, you realize some people have to drive more because if you look at the infrastructure, there is no public transit — or very limited public transit — there’s no train line in many the south side.
[00:54:53] We could go on and on in terms of the ways in which the Black and Brown communities in Chicago are punished again and again and again. It’s hard to find — we talked about health and public health, and it doesn’t matter the issue. That’s why I kept saying, look at the map. It doesn’t matter the variable that you mapped. You get the same pattern — that structural racism. It doesn’t matter if I’m talking about health effects, ticket effects, transportation, it doesn’t matter. And I say that quite emphatically, because it’s mind boggling and so many — so I studied sociology as well as urban planning. And you know, you read about the city and you read about the urban ecologists and so forth and the concentric circles and so many studies, especially because — did neighborhood change…are focused on Chicago. And back in the day it was William Julius Wilson and others. And then when I moved here, it was like, Oh my goodness, it feels like 1920, in many ways, in terms of the socio-spatial dynamic.
Julian Agyeman: [00:56:07] We could talk forever. Thank you for a really, really fantastic talk. You hit on so many of the interest areas of our faculty and students, and you did it in an engaging and passionate way. Thank you so much. Can we give a warm UEP, Cities#Tufts thank you to Stacey.
Stacey Sutton: [00:56:30] Thank you. I appreciate the invitation.
Julian Agyeman: [00:56:32] Absolutely. And on March the 30th, in three weeks, we will have Tamika Butler talking about transportation inequities, what’s data got to do with it? From Cities@Tufts and UEP, thank you for joining us, and we’ll see you in a few weeks. Stay safe.
Tom Llewellyn: [00:56:53] We hope you enjoyed this week’s lecture. You can access the video, transcript, and graphic recordings of Stacey Sutton’s on Shareable.net. There’s a direct link in the show notes. As Julian mentioned, our next live online event is March 30th, when we’ll feature Tamika Butler’s lecture, “Transportation Inequities: What’s Data Got to Do with It?” Click the link in the episode notes or register for a free ticket. If you can’t be there next week, you can always find the recording right here on the podcast.
[00:57:20] Cities@Tufts Lectures is produced by Tufts University and Shareable with support from the Kresge Bar and Shift Foundations. Lectures are moderated by Professor Julian Ageman and organized in partnership with research assistants PerrI Sheinbaum and Caitlin McLennan. “Light Without Dark” by Cultivate Beats is our theme song. Robert Raymond is our Audio Editor. Zanetta Jones manages communications. Alison Huff manages operations. Anke Dregnat illustrated the graphic recording. Caitlin McLennan created the original portrait of Stacey Sutton, and the series is produced and hosted by me, Tom Llewellyn.
[00:57:53] Please hit Subscribe. Leave a rating or review wherever you get your podcasts and share it with others so this knowledge can reach people outside of our collective bubbles. That’s it for this week’s show. Here’s a final thought:
Stacey Sutton: [00:58:05] So what we’re seeing again is there’s a racial pattern, there’s a class pattern, and there seems to be an argument for changing the punitive nature of ticketing and not jeopardizing the safety effects.