Richfield Commoners United Responds to Criticism
Barry LeBlanc clarifies the group's position on the proposed Pillsbury Commons project.
Editor's Note: The following letter was submitted in response to Camillo DeSantis' letter to the city, which Richfield Patch ran on Thursday, April 26, 2012.
Dear Patch Readers,
My name is Barry LeBlanc and I am a member of the Richfield Commoners United (RCU). Thank you for the opportunity to respond to Mr. DeSantis’ recent letter. While my immediate reaction was to slump against my desk and beat my head on my monitor, deeper reflection has made me realize that Camillo is right—for him. When he reads the flyers and our Facebook postings and all he sees are "examples of fear mongering, distortions, innuendos, misinformation, wild and misguided speculation, falsehoods and confusion to name some.” I can’t argue with his perceptions because they are his, formed from a life lived fighting racism—that’s what he knows, that’s what he’s familiar with so that’s what he sees—but that’s not why we’re fighting this project. We’re fighting this project (and NOT the Lyndale Gardens development) because THIS project, not affordable housing, not income-restricted housing, THIS project is bad for our city and our community because it does not adhere to best practices as defined by HUD or MHFA and it contributes to residential segregation (see Gautreaux v. Chicago Housing Authority and Shannon v. HUD).
If we were living in Maple Grove or Edina, and we were talking about a project that was not high-density (quick note to Ron Clark—spreading out the units over more area so that it’s not ‘technically’ high-density is insulting) AND 100% affordable/low-income/income-restricted (whatever term you're comfortable with) I would be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Mr. DeSantis and Ms. Rosenberg. But we’re not, and that is THE critical distinction. Ron Clark’s proposed Pillsbury Commons project is 70 units of 100% income-restricted housing in a neighborhood that is already supporting 943 units of affordable/low-income/income-restricted apartments AND a significant number of affordable/low-income homes. There’s nothing diverse or integrated about that and I do not see how pointing out this appalling social injustice is either racist or misguided.
Members of RCU have, on several occasions, tried to have a dialogue with Mr. DeSantis on our shared views that we as a community need to protect and support the members of our society who are struggling but where we diverge is in how we propose to tactically respond to the need. Sadly, as we see so often these days in both the state and national arenas—rigid adherence to ideology too often takes the place of critical reasoning.
As the root data of the recent Stantec report shows—Richfield has a dearth of affordable/low-income (but not income-restricted) housing, desperately in need of rehabilitation—far more than any of our neighboring cities in the south metro. Richfield Commoners United has two primary goals:
#1 – we will fight every proposed development that does not follow best practices as defined by HUD or MHFA and we will fight any project that reinforces residential segregation.
#2 – we are fighting for a meaningful, regional approach to planning that does not concentrate affordable/low-income into one area. Diversity and integration are good things but when one community either takes on the responsibility or has that responsibility foisted upon them the long-term result is neither socially or economically healthy nor is it sustainable. Edina is an example we use to show the other side because it is just so unapologetic and transparent in how it circumvents its social responsibility.
Please visit our Facebook page to review the research that we’ve compiled and we encourage everyone to respectfully participate in the dialogue.
But more importantly I want you to form your own opinion and then share that opinion with the city council.