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Sixth annual "Law and the City" discussion panel addresses race, class issues in urban planning projects

February 22, 2013 | By Nick Alexopulos

As part of Loyola University Maryland's Ethics Week 2013—an annual series of speakers and presentations on ethical business and social issues—Loyola held a panel discussion on Wednesday, Feb. 13, examining the intersection of race and class within Baltimore City’s urban planning and transportation projects, with a particular focus on the city's proposed Red Line.

Panelists for the discussion were Antero Pietla, author of Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City; Tamika Gauvin, community outreach specialist, Baltimore Red Line project; and Gerald Neily, former Baltimore City transportation planner and author of "Baltimore InnerSpace," which has been named "Best Urban Planning Blog" by the Baltimore City Paper.

An audience of students, faculty, community residents, and members of the media listened as the panel responded to questions pertaining to the degree of interaction between law and ethics in urban planning. Following the panel, an open forum discussed racial, socio-economic, and class issues as they related to the proposed Red Line.

Michael B. Runnels, J.D., assistant professor of law and social responsibility and co-moderator of the event, said the discussion developed into a positive vs. negative weighing of how gentrification affects the culture of the city, and whether the Red Line will add value to Baltimore through hard tax dollars and creating a more cohesive city.

"While many of my neighbors in Canton base their opposition to the Red Line on their fear of 'certain undesirable elements and people' being brought into our neighborhood, I always respond that such racial, socio-economic, and cultural diversity is what separates cities from suburbs," said Runnels, who teaches in Loyola's Sellinger School of Business and Management. "Indeed, I often understand Baltimore as a series of self-segregated neighborhoods loosely connected by a less than efficient public transportation system. This project appears consistent with the cultivation of a more diverse city, rather than a city apparently designed to reinforce segregation along racial, socio-economic, and cultural lines."

Runnels added that he was particularly encouraged by the level of student involvement and the sophistication of their questions.

"At one point, I noted how many students were using their smartphones. After walking around the room during the Q&A, I realized that these students were actually using their phones to review neighborhood maps of Baltimore City. Awesome."

Ethics Week is a collaborative effort across the University to inspire intellectual curiosity, support thoughtful discussion, and raise awareness about topical ethical issues. Other events this year included lectures on ethical foreign direct investment in emerging economies and the concept of social justice in the writings of economist Adam Smith, plus a screening and discussion of the film The Devil Wears Prada.

The week is sponsored by the department of law and social responsibility in the Sellinger School; the department of philosophy in Loyola College; the national business honor society Beta Gamma Sigma; the national Jesuit honor society Alpha Sigma Nu; and the office of mission integration.

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