Braverman Exit Likely Not a Shift Away from Neo-Liberal Development

Posted: August 22, 2020 in Uncategorized

If the firing of DHCD chief Michael Braverman indicates that Baltimore City is going to move away from the traditional neo-liberal (and structural racist) model of housing and community development, I applaud.  If not, I’m scratching my head. 

Braverman’s time at HCD, from tackling vacant properties to heading a new agency that was once combined with the federal Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC), was shaped by neoliberal dogma on development—that concentration of poverty is an evil, not an opportunity; that private investment and banks should carry the financing load of City redevelopment and government’s role was to identify and incentivize neighborhoods that might be attractive to them rather than prioritize long neglected neighborhoods; and that development’s ultimate goal was to produce a post-racial, white liberal vision of neighborhood utopia with rainbow colors and mixed-income portfolios, rather than allowing neighborhood’s to determine their own preferences and vision.   While Braverman (and Catherine Pugh) claimed to usher in a New Era of Neighborhood Investment, only the rhetoric was new.  Market forces operating in the footprint of structural racism already had determined which neighborhoods were “winners” and deserving of creative city investment, and which were losers, deserving of demolition.  

But with Baltimore’s long embrace of this neoliberal development model and its likely continuation with a new Mayor, it’s hard to see Braverman’s exit as any progressive shift in ideology or approach.  

Most likely, Braverman’s exit is the result of petty politics, and personal affronts that have never been forgotten.  In short, payback for something that will look silly if and when it comes to public light.  

I do know that Braverman was respected by many across the spectrum of competing city visions of development, and he worked with all to incorporate those visions within today’s dominant development framework.  He will be missed by those of us, like me, who believed he truly listened and respected us, and by those who appreciated his pragmatism and willingness to accommodate the many groups that contest the development terrain.  Given the current state of politics in Baltimore, perhaps that’s the most we can ask for in a public servant.  

But let’s work to change the current political-economic paradigm.  

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