As community organizers in Reno are prepping for a week of events against gentrification, Our Town Reno wanted to find out more about some of the undercurrents of this initiative and what to expect.
A Week of Events
Events will kick off with a public conference Monday, September 12th, followed by a noon rally on Tuesday on the UNR campus. A morning potluck and protest will take place at City Council on Wednesday morning. Thursday, back at UNR, there will be an evening public assembly to discuss affordable housing, with displaced people and experts in socially equitable development among those taking part. Saturday the 17th, the action week will conclude with a “Leader Learning Circle” in Sparks to teach methods of community organizing to current and future activists.
Coordinators Aria Overli and Mike Thornton from ACTIONN - Acting in Community Together in Organizing Northern Nevada, accepted to answer a few extra questions over the phone.
Q: Why was this upcoming action week organized, and why is now a good time for this stop gentrification movement to ramp up in Reno?
AO: This is a really pivotal issue in Reno right now. We have a chance to ensure the priorities of the city are in the right place but we need to do it early before things get out of hand, in terms of rental prices, people being displaced. While we are already seeing that happening, I think we still have an opportunity to get to it before it gets really out of control. For a long time, these issues haven’t been a huge priority for the city council. This is a way to make it a priority for the people of the city and also for our city council.
MT: We have a real opportunity to raise these issues in the public awareness. So the public, including those who are not impacted can actually begin to call on our elected and community leaders and say ‘let’s do development right from the start rather than having to go back and try to fix things on the back end’. Many communities around the country are now using 21st century community development practices and policies so that development brings with it truly affordable housing for a broad range of people, also jobs and creates thriving, sustainable communities along the way. It’s really an opportunity to get in on the front end of development as compared to try to fix problems after they’ve already been put in concrete, so to speak.
Q: A special meeting on affordable housing was supposed to take place at City Council this summer, but was abruptly cancelled two days before it was scheduled. Was that a disappointment?
AO: It was very disappointing. There are so many people in this city who need to have their voices heard. This was an opportunity for them to have their voices heard by the city council and unfortunately that didn’t happen. We’re not likely to have the opportunity to organize people to go to another meeting like that if it ever happens, in the way we had originally planned.
MT: We had organized about 50 residents primarily from the weeklies. We had had a meeting and had talked about how we could get people to come. A lot of people were rearranging their schedules and then it was cancelled very abruptly. It was a disappointment not so much for us but for the people who are living at the tip of the spear who were working and struggling to rearrange their schedule in order to be at this meeting so they could have input into these issues that so directly affect them.
Q: How do you feel mainstream media is covering gentrification in Reno?
MT: I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I recently did a program on Channel 2 (KTVN) with council member Jenny Brekhus and also there was another short piece (on the same channel). This is a complicated issue which is sometimes difficult, particularly for television, to cover. But I think they are really starting to understand how important it is and making a good faith effort. We’re really going to be promoting the week of actions starting (today) and I’m expecting decent coverage at least that’s our hope. It really is an issuethat is important to everyone in Reno, whether they know it or not.