Concluding the third annual Mayors Institute on City Design (MICD) Just City Mayoral Fellowship–a collaboration between the MICD and Harvard GSD’s Just City Lab–the Fellows discuss strategies for using planning and design interventions to address racial injustice in each of their cities.
Mayor Friday Ellis was born in rural Rayville, Louisiana. Friday decided to settle in Monroe and that’s where he met his wife, Ashley. They married in 2001 and like many Americans, their lives were greatly impacted by the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Just two months later, Friday enlisted in the United States Marine Corps to serve his country in its time of need.
With a deep personal commitment, a wealth of experience, and a proven record of leadership, Mayor Tishaura O. Jones started her career as a public servant in 2002 when she was appointed as Democratic Committeewoman of the 8th Ward in the City of St. Louis. She served two terms in the Missouri House of Representatives and became the first African-American woman in state history to hold the position of Assistant Minority Floor Leader. From financial empowerment to the modernizing of services, Jones has worked to make city government easier to navigate, easier to participate in, and easier to understand.
After a successful business career, Mayor Tim Keller refocused his professional life on tackling some of the biggest issues facing Albuquerque and New Mexico. Throughout his public service, from State Senator for the International District to New Mexico State Auditor to Mayor of Albuquerque, Tim has consistently challenged the status quo and developed a track record of real impact. Tim became Mayor in 2017 and was re-elected in 2021. He serves as the city’s 82nd selected leader and 31st Mayor of Albuquerque, dating back to its founding 1706. Mayor Tim focuses on making Albuquerque a more safe, innovative, and inclusive city.
Mayor Quinton Lucas was sworn in on August 1, 2019 as the 55th mayor of Kansas City, the youngest elected Kansas City mayor in more than a generation. Known affectionately as “Mayor Q” to Kansas Citians, he prioritizes making Kansas City’s neighborhoods safer, creating more accessible and affordable housing and public transportation, maintaining efficiency and transparency in governance, and improving basic services.
Mayor D.C. Reeves was sworn in as Mayor of his hometown, Pensacola, on Nov. 22, 2022, becoming the youngest person (38) in 101 years to be elected Mayor. Reeves spent his professional career as a sports journalist, author, community builder and entrepreneur. After a decade covering college football at Florida State University (Warchant.com) and the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa News), D.C. returned home in 2015 to make an impact on his community.
Mayor Jim Ross was elected to the office of Mayor at the City of Arlington in June 2021. Jim Ross has spent decades serving his community and his country. As a proud resident of Arlington for nearly forty years he has witnessed the growth, and growing pains, this community has endured. From 1979 to 1983, Jim served this country as a United States Marine. With assignments at home and abroad, Jim served the Marines in numerous capacities. Having received his Honorable Discharge in 1983, Jim moved to Texas where he was soon hired by the Arlington Police Department.
Mayor Kathy Sheehan is in her third term as Albany’s 75th mayor. Mayor Sheehan has dedicated her administration to creating a city of opportunity, leading with a commitment to equity and responsive government that includes diverse community voices. Under Kathy’s leadership, the City has invested more than $100 million in new parks, streets, sidewalks, and water and sewer infrastructure across the city, with a focus on neighborhoods impacted by redlining and other historically discriminatory practices. Kathy worked with the Common Council to enact groundbreaking equity legislation and policing reform initiatives and has led a multi-year effort to eliminate blight and sub-standard housing in the City.
Mayor Alan Webber serves as Santa Fe’s 43rd Mayor and the City’s first full-time executive. He first elected in March of 2018 to his first term and re-elected to a second four-year term in November of 2021. In his time in office Mayor Webber has put an emphasis on making City government work for all parts of Santa Fe, improving the overall level of service to the city’s 85,000 residents. His policy agenda has focused on meeting the city’s critical need for additional housing in all parts of the housing spectrum and in very part of the community. The housing agenda includes bringing chronic and veteran homelessness to functional zero and addressing the shortage in affordable and workforce housing.
Toni L. Griffin is Professor in Practice of Urban Planning and the founder of Urban Planning and Design for the American City, based in New York. Through the practice, Toni served as Project Director the long range planning initiative of the Detroit Work Project, and in 2013 completed and released Detroit Future City, a comprehensive citywide framework plan for urban transformation. Most recent clients include working with the cities of Memphis, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh.
Ms. Griffin was recently a Professor of Architecture and the founding Director of the J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City at the Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York. Founded in 2011, the Bond Center is dedicated to the advancement of design practice, education, research and advocacy in ways that build and sustain resilient and just communities, cities and regions. Currently the Center is focused on several design research initiatives including the Legacy City Design Initiative, that explores innovative design solutions for cities that have lost greater than 20% population lost since their peak; “Just City Design Indicators Project” that seeks to define the core values of a just city and offer a performance measure tool to assist cities and communities with evaluating how design facilitates urban justice in the built environment; and “Inclusion in Architecture” that examines the participation of people of color in architecture and related design fields. (Read more)
The Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) is a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the United States Conference of Mayors. Since 1986, the Mayors’ Institute has helped transform communities through design by preparing mayors to be the chief urban designers of their cities.
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is the independent federal agency, established by Congress in 1965, whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America.
The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. USCM promotes effective national urban/suburban policy, strengthens federal/city relationships, ensures that federal policy meets urban needs, provides mayors with leadership and management tools, and creates a forum in which mayors can share ideas and information.
At the Just City Lab, we ask: Would we design better places if we put the values of equality, inclusion or equity first? If a community articulated what it stood for, what it believed in, what it aspired to be — as a city, as a neighborhood — would it have a better chance of creating and sustaining more healthy, vibrant place with positive, economic, health, civic, cultural and environmental conditions? Imagine that the issues of race, income, education and unemployment inequality, and the resulting segregation, isolation and fear, could be addressed by planning and designing for greater access, agency, ownership, beauty, diversity or empowerment. Now imagine the Just City: the cities, neighborhoods and public spaces that thrive using a value-based approach to urban stabilization, revitalization and transformation. Imagine a set of values that would define a community’s aspiration for the Just City. Imagine we can assign metrics to measure design’s impact on justice. Imagine we can use these findings to deploy interventions that minimize conditions of injustice.
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