In her new book, After Redlining, The Urban Reinvestment Movement in the Era of Deregulation, Author Rebecca K. Marchiel, tells how a Alinsky style community organization discovered the economic underpinnings of urban disinvestment and developed a series of political strategies to successfully combat the forces that create urban slums. This is where the story begins, with The Organization for a Better Austin (OBA).
OBA's initial steps and mis-steps, eventually leading to effective solutions reveal a process whereby a group of neighborhood leaders, aided by professional community organizers, identified a process that had destroyed urban neighborhoods all over the country and revealed solutions that had stumped professional planners and urbanologists for decades.
Led by an Austin homemaker, Gale Cincotta and an Alinsky trained organizer named Shel Trapp, the peoples' organization expanded first to other Chicago neighborhoods. After determining that the solution required national legislation, organized a coalition of urban neighborhood groups called National People's Action (NPA) and pushed two pieces of legislation through Congress against the opposition of the Savings & Loan industry.
Meticulously researched and well written, Dr. Marachiel has told a story which badly needed telling. It is a story of ordinary people analyzing a problem, developing solutions, taking control of their shared destiny and making significant social change. For decades, experts viewing urban decay saw only what was in front of them; minorities, welfare recipients, municipal neglect, slumlords, blockbusters. They failed to detect the underlying economic conditions that permitted some of these actors to thrive. It shows the extraordinary things that ordinary people can do. I was one of the community organizers, working in Boston, who had a ringside view of this struggle. I highly recommend After Redlining.