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currently underway, and our capacity to undertake different organizing methods, and build new alliances.


a starting point for those discussions, this paper will present a set of questions about four key factors:

  • The Complexity of Jurisdictional Issues. How can the fragmented, unrepresentative, often poorly functioning system be reorganized, and what are the viable initial focal points for change? How can such change bring about an increase in civic engagement as well as improvements in the delivery of services and infrastructure?

  • Challenges of Public Finance. The needs of these communities will take substantial new investment, and it will not be sufficient to simply demand improvements without helping to identify the sources of revenue. What are the strategies for finding new public capital and operating funds for facilities and services in unincorporated communities, and how can we emphasize solutions that are more than a “zero-sum game” within local governments?

  • Opportunities to Reframe the Problem. Complicated jurisdictional issues and public finance policy/practices present formidable challenges for small groups of community leaders and their allies to build the organizing capacity and power to hold accountable the complex array of public entities responsible for maintaining basic infrastructure. What are the prospects and possible benefits of reframing the problems faced by residents in the low-income unincorporated communities as planning and development challenges also facing their counties as a whole and the nearby cities? If they are currently seen as primarily problems affecting politically isolated, low-income Latinos, can we recast the racialized disparities in access to infrastructure for healthy community development as a barrier to a goal of broader regional prosperity and equity? For example, would emphasizing the threat posed by the high percentage of Communities of Interest residents that rely on aging and leaking septic tanks to ground water that supplies all city and county residents (and the greater costs associated with cleaning up contamination) serve as a motivation to spend city and county funds to connect Communities of Interest to the sewer system?

  • Alliance-building on Behalf of the Colonias. Efforts to change policy, practice, and investment related to infrastructure development in the Communities of Interest are likely to take place within local and regional policy deliberations about water and other environmental concerns, economic development, transportation, health and human services, and other issues related to urban growth. Given all these dimensions to the issues, what new opportunities exist for alliance building? Or put differently, how can community leaders engage a more diverse and powerful set of constituencies to break through long standing patterns of resistance on the part of local governance structures? Most substantial changes take the combined efforts of many groups. Some coalitions or collaborative arrangements will come naturally, while others might be unexpected.


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