Talking Points Memo explores how what cities are learning from the COVID-19 response can inform efforts to address climate change, from fare-free public transit to more responsive civic engagement: “As it turns out, what’s good in a pandemic is often good for the climate, particularly in cities. Policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions also increase social resilience. There are important lessons to be learned from how city officials have approached past emissions reduction policies, as well as how they’re navigating COVID-19 policy and will one day craft climate policy post-virus. Here’s a look at how cities are juggling the intersection of these three areas. … Flattening the curve requires massive collective action, and city officials are required now more than ever to be responsive to their citizens in real time. For example, residents of many dense cities complained they were unable to keep six feet of distance from others on narrow sidewalks and in crowded parks. In response, a movement developed to close some streets to cars, leaving them open to walkers and bikers. Philadelphia closed Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive to traffic, and Oakland, California, closed a whopping 74 miles of roadway. New York City is considering doing the same. These street closures might act as pilots for opening up streets to pedestrians in the future, both as a public space amenity and to alleviate vehicle emissions — a double-win for climate and virus response. More importantly, city leaders must listen to vulnerable populations when they respond to both COVID-19 and climate change. We’ve long known that lower income and minority communities bear the brunt of environmental injustice and of the impacts of climate change. It’s now clear that there is also a connection between these factors and COVID-19, and people who have had high rates of exposure to air pollution are at a higher risk of death from the virus. City policies to address these twin harms must take the input of vulnerable communities into account. And closing streets to cars does — so long as those closed streets aren’t found primarily in wealthy neighborhoods. Essential workers who need safe commuting options are disproportionately black and Latino, and neighborhoods with poor park access have disproportionately high poverty rates.”
An op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle expounds the benefits of opening streets to pedestrians: “On slow streets, Bay Area residents can safely walk, wheelchair roll and jog in traffic lanes, as well as on narrow sidewalks, providing enough space to safely socially distance. Slow streets remove the need for those of us cooped up in our homes to rush to crowded parks and beaches on weekends to get outside. They start to equalize the opportunity to be safely outside for disadvantaged communities that lack parks and other open space.”
More than 80 New York City transit workers have died from COVID-19, NPR reports, sharing a conversation between two drivers. "Every day that we step foot on that bus we come home with the possibility of not infecting ourselves only, but our loved ones."
The New York Times covers efforts of protesters to get their message out when traditional protest tactics aren’t possible: “For weeks, civil rights activists around the country have grappled with a conundrum. With the economy shut down and tens of millions out of work, the energy for protest is high. Many are angry that black and Latino people are being disproportionately killed by the virus. They’re angry that service workers already struggling with bills were the first to lose their jobs. They’re angry that corporations are getting bailouts while small businesses wither… “Direct action is so much about people putting their bodies on the line,” said John Washington, an organizer in Buffalo with People’s Action, a national network of local advocacy organizations. “In a way, Covid has stolen that.” … “How do we continue to bring up our issues and speak truth to power if we can’t actually do anything?” she asked. “We’re trying to keep a safe distance, we’re trying to follow the regulations for Covid-19 and the stay-at-home order, and yet that’s still not enough.”
Literary Hub marks a “big week for literacy advocates all around the country in light of a federal appeals court ruling that enshrines the constitutional right “to a basic minimum education.” The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals handed its precedent-making decision down in a 2-1 ruling on Thursday after lawyers in Michigan successfully argued that the state was denying education to Detroit Public School students, in violation of the 14th Amendment. When the civil lawsuit was introduced last fall (Gary B v. Whitmer), a number of stories ran about the subpar conditions that have long-plagued Detroit’s public school system: books and teachers all but absent in some classrooms, awful building conditions, untenable temperatures, actual vermin running wild. Legal experts have said what made this case unique was the argument that a state itself—in this case, Michigan—was violating the Equal Protection Clause by excluding students from a free public education system… Speaking to the Detroit Free Press, Detroit Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said, “This decision does something that even the U.S. Supreme Court has not done. It finds that there is an inherent right to a minimum education. And, the decision says that the state of Michigan can be held liable for violating such constitutional right.”