Here's what happens when cities think they can do without zoning. All's well at upper-crust dinner parties in Houston, and the old-timer with the "God Hates Zoning" sign in the yard plugs along just fine, but for low-income families living in the neighborhood directly across from the petrochemical plant? Leukemia.
The affordable Manchester neighborhood is 90% Hispanic and located near the Houston ship channel. Kids there are 56% more likely to develop leukemia than kids in the rest of the city. Folks are wondering if the industries on the channel should be required to lower their toxin emissions. Duh.
But here's another thought: in addition to mandating that good-'ol-boy industries stop poisoning local children, perhaps Houston can finally get its act together and properly plan its city. Because maybe, just maybe, homes and petrochemical plants shouldn't be right on top of each other. Or, you know, maybe the city can just let the market keep taking care of it for them. Right.
We all know the prevalence of environmental racism even in places with zoning. We see it everywhere. But standing by while your poorest citizens are relegated to areas without even basic protection from cancer-causing activities? The market knows best, it'll all work out in the end? Just unconscionable.
PS to Marjorie and SWOP: Didn't you guys visit this neighborhood during the caravan?
Friday, October 19, 2007