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November 7, 2017 > Editorial: Separate but Equal?

Editorial: Separate but Equal?

A shameful remnant of the past, the term, separate but equal Ð or equal but separate - refers to a practice in southern states attempting to bypass racial equality. Using a bogus interpretation of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitutions guarantee of equal treatment under the law for all citizens, it was confirmed by the Supreme Court (Plessy v Fergusun) in 1896. However, the concept was finally found unconstitutional in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling of 1954. So-called Jim Crow laws were slow to follow and even today there is controversy about political practices that marginalize minority voter groups. Minorities come in many forms, not just along racial lines.

In another context, we can expand this separation concept to our neighborhoods, especially when referenced to larger political units. When large municipalities are asked to allocate their resources, does the notion of separate but equal prevail? For instance, how are neighborhoods treated, especially when a larger city such as Fremont determines use of its resources? With the advent of district elections, will each part of the city have an equal voice in allocation of funds and/or needs? Until now, attention has focused on developing underutilized land or, until its dissolution, pandering to redevelopmentÕs largesse with talk, but little concrete action to promote connectivity.

A small sliver of concern was raised recently when development of a vacant section of land adjacent to Auto Mall and Pacific Commons was discussed. The issue of connections between transit, services and new office/manufacturing facilities was raised even though separation in some cases was in terms of city blocks. Even so, action items were limited and the matter was left for further study. Will there be any follow-up? When taken in larger context, are there similar concerns?

In the case of intra-city connections, there appears to be little movement. Maybe this is something for the Mobility Task Force to address. Why is there no fixed or flexible transportation system within the City of Fremont? Currently, AC Transit buses are a limited option and reliance on personal or communal automobile only adds to traffic snarls. Focus is, at times, on the last mile between intercity transit (BART) and work places, but what about the first and second mile when employees and customers are beginning their journey? Certainly, traffic congestion is a significant problem and is probably at the top of the Mobility Task Force list, but adding to this topic should be connectivity between districts. While separation may be applicable to some circumstances such as defining a district, ease of travel between them will not only ease congestion, but attract commerce.

Separate silos are fine for grain storage, but have little practical application on our streets. A sensible and comprehensive system to connect our districts Ð and communities Ð as a compliment to the expanding BART system will make movement within our cities and streets more efficient and economical. Following the lead of those who promote safe and complete bicycle and pedestrian thoroughfares, a system of public transportation is necessary to create reliable connections without increasing traffic congestion. We are not separate but equal, rather integral components of a greater community; each should retain distinctive neighborhood character, yet strive for a comprehensive connection with others as well.

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