How could cities benefit from reallocated police budgets?

Issue 140

Hey urbanists,

Instead of writing an essay this week, I decided to include some additional articles that specifically relate to the ongoing Black Lives Matters protests over systemic racism and police brutality that have spread around the world.

I hope you make it out to a protest and support the movement however you can.

Paris Marx

Follow Paris and Radical Urbanist on Twitter.

Critical urbanism

American cities were designed to oppress. NYC’s $6 billion police budget would be much better spend on health, housing, and social supports. Highways ripped apart communities of color; now protesters are taking them over. Vehicle attacks on protesters are becoming more common. Police budgets are already huge, but cities are also forced to pay the settlements for police brutality cases. Protests and the pandemic are showing the necessity of public space. Activists are proposing People’s Budgets which reallocate funding from police departments to services which improve quality of life and care for the community. Delivery couriers are supposed to be exempt from US curfews, but police are arresting them anyway.

The problem isn’t cities; its how unequally they’ve been built. Brooklyn bus drivers refused to choose shifts as service cuts won’t allow for adequate social distancing. In a change from the 1960s, urban protests are hitting rich areas too. Bird-owned Circ is ending service in some cities in the Middle East and scrapping up to 10,000 e-scooters. Alon Levy presents a vision for the future of Paris’ RER system. One-bedroom rents in San Francisco fell 9.2% y/y in May.

For CBC News, I wrote about how St. John’s, Canada needs to rethink how it plans communities.

Tech dystopia

“Can you really stand in solidarity if you rely on child laborers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, have censored Black creators, or empower the police to abuse surveillance powers on your platform, as they do on others?” — Edward Ongweso Jr

Many of the tech companies that issued hypocritical pro-Black Lives Matter statements “generate profit either by exploiting Black labor and/or by amplifying hate and extremism that directly harms Black folks.” Facebook workers have had enough of Mark Zuckerberg. Chicago tweeted out an Uber ad as police were disappearing protesters. Amazon is providing the tech for the Keystone XL pipeline. Amazon runs a fundraising platform that raises money for police. CNBC’s Jim Cramer says the market has no conscience and tech stocks are some of the biggest beneficiaries of social unrest. The ongoing protests are a rejection of Silicon Valley’s technocracy. Amazon tweeted a commitment to racial justice, despite its actions to the contrary. Tips for reducing authorities’ ability to track your phone when you go to a protest (and any other time). A new paper argues the “premature obsession with autonomous vehicles is having a detrimental impact on one of its main selling points: road safety.”

This week on Tech Won’t Save Us, I spoke to Nika Lova Danilova (who performs as Zola Jesus) about how COVID-19 has affected musicians, tech’s “Silicon fascist privilege,” and the impact of AI and streaming on music. Plus, in Horizons, I wrote about how billionaires’ futures would extend their power and wealth into the future.

Climate crisis

The sixth mass extinction is speeding up with 500 species expected to go extinct within 20 years. Defunding the police is also a good climate policy. The pandemic could cause a $25 trillion collapse in the fossil-fuel industry. CO2 concentrations hit a new record in May 2020, despite the pandemic. Spain announced a new plan to limit single-use plastics by July 2021. We can’t allow air pollution to go back to normal.

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