Whole Region Pays the Price for Unhealthy Growth

Friday, January 18, 2008

New York, NY — A new report by the Center for Social Inclusion reveals that Columbia’s booming growth is
leaving Columbia’s Black communities behind. Failure to invest in low-income Black communities has kept
them trapped in poverty and signals larger problems of public disinvestment that is driving unhealthy growth
and hurting the entire region. The report, Growing Together: Thriving People for a Thriving Columbia, finds that
Columbia’s Black communities have not benefited from infrastructure, job creation or other potential
benefits of growth and have even carried many of its burdens, including environmental insults, like toxic
waste sites, landfills, and contaminated water. But as the report also points out, all communities in the region
are paying the price in sprawling development, unnecessary infrastructure costs, fewer opportunities, like
good jobs and quality schools, and harm to the environment.

The cause of unhealthy growth: bad policies. Bad infrastructure investments and economic development
subsidies that favor wealthy suburbs are chief among these policies. Virginia Sanders, a resident of Lower
Richland County for 26 years, a community activist, and former organizer with the Sierra Club, is fed up.
“We don’t have the tools we need to stop sprawl. The Northeast [of Richland County] is growing out of
control. We can’t even make developers pay for the costs they create.” According to the Center’s report,
there is a silver lining: Columbia can create healthy growth through policies to connect poor communities to

Presidential hopefuls need to tell South Carolinians what they will do to make sure investments go to under-
resourced rural and Black communities to strengthen well-being in the State’s metropolitan regions. Half of
the nation’s Black population lives in the South and mostly in poor rural areas. Nationally, 1 in 5 Americans
live in rural areas; 14% (7.5 million) of those Americans live in poverty.

Representative Joseph Neal, who represents Lower Richland and whose family has lived there for
generations, knows all too well the price to be paid if rural and Black communities continue to be left behind.
“Without basic infrastructure, like water and sewer lines, our communities have no way to earn a livelihood
and build an inheritance for future generations. We need investment.”

Brett Bursey, Executive Director of the South Carolina Progressive Network adds, “We have to find ways to
fight poverty and protect our environment. The Center’s report shows we can do both.” In fact, nationwide
research shows that regions with more racial equity have stronger environmental policies. Neal has one
suggestion, “Sustainable agriculture, based on renewable energy and organic farming, can give our
communities a way to make a living, protect Columbia’s natural resources, and build the regional economy.”

The Center for Social Inclusion works to build a fair and just society and opportunities for all by dismantling structural racism.
We partner with communities of color and other allies to create strategies and build policy reform models to end racial disparity
and promote equal opportunity.

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