The Urban Institute has published a mid-October interview conducted by Erica C. Poethig with former Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.
In the article “How local philanthropy is addressing Fresno, California’s severe economic inequities,” Poethig, who is the institute’s vice president and chief innovation officer, asks Swearengin: “What led to Fresno’s social and economic inequities?”
For 60 years, leapfrog development has been driving wealth to the outer edges of the city, building single-family homes on the very farmland that is meant to power our economy. What feels to some like growth and progress is “white flight” that is undermining our economy and destroying the stability of our neighborhoods.
While we have begun to move the needle on some of our most persistent economic, environmental, and social challenges, these conditions are a direct result of decades of discriminatory policies and redlining followed by land-use policies that further isolated and segregated our community.
Honor the Voice of Disenfranchised Neighborhoods
In regard to solutions, Swearengin, who is the CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation, says:
Conversations about inequality are difficult — both to initiate and to carry through — but they are the necessary first step to addressing the challenge of inequality. It requires civic leaders to be vulnerable, which is not always a comfortable space to be in. As mayor, I found that the best outcomes came from being willing to challenge the status quo and honoring and valuing the voice of Fresno’s disenfranchised neighborhoods.