That’s a crazy blog name! Am I losing my mind, you wonder? It’s possible.
The name derives from the oyster bar my husband and I fantasize about opening one day, a place with fresh oysters, good beer, books, conversation: a neighborhood place to relax. We love Cape Cod, and the name “Early Onset” is a riff on the town Onset near Buzzards Bay, one place where your delicious, briny and sweet New England oysters might come from. Also, we’re not getting any younger, and this fantasy oyster bar is certainly a second or third career.
I stole the name from myself for this blog because I’ve loved politics from a young age; at 12, I was hanging Silence = Death posters in my room from the early days of AIDS activism, and well-worn cassette tapes included 10,000 Maniacs’ In My Tribe and a Greenpeace collection (Pretenders, Eurythmics, come to mind). My mom worked at urban public hospitals most of my childhood, and took my friends and I annually to help out at the holiday party for patients and kids at Boston City Hospital. She also took my best friend and I to see the AIDS Quilt when it came to Boston, and just generally introduced us all to the city of Boston and the politics of public health, urban diversity, and difference. I’ve never held office outside of school or work, but I follow politics passionately and am always happy sitting in on a public meeting, watching and observing carefully in the tedium, waiting for the guaranteed outburst or fraught argument or general spike of excitement about an issue until procedure takes over and subdues everyone once again.
I’m now a professor of urban affairs and policy and teach graduate M.P.A. candidates policy analysis and policy advocacy. I write about and study the contentious politics of (i.e., fights over) of urban development – what gets built where, for whom, by whom, and at what social, economic and political cost – and who bears the costs and benefits. What’s the role of the government (especially city and state governments) in spurring or blocking development? How does race, class, and other differences factor in to who benefits and who loses in development conflicts? Who participates in policymaking? Who has elected officials’ ears? Who is protesting in front of City Hall? Who votes? Who is shut out from the meeting? I am interested in all these questions and more, and work with students to consider these questions and how to create fair, inclusive and just processes and distributional outcomes in their careers in public service.
I live in Massachusetts and work in NYC, one of the greatest cities in the world and a place where one can know their City Council member directly. I have spent most of my career in NYC, with extended periods in New Orleans and Boston. But NYC is my political/intellectual home, and pretty much holds it own for my affection up against Massachusetts too.
Perhaps the final twist on the Early of Early Onset Politics is that I blogged voraciously from 2006 to 2010, and then shut the whole damn thing down. In 2006, at the urging of a tech-minded friend, I began keeping a blog about my work in post-Katrina New Orleans, a mix of emotional anguish at the unjust recovery and political advocacy around the same. There was also a bunch of junk in there about Grey’s Anatomy and my budding relationship with the man who is now my husband. By 2008, the blog grew to cover the unforgettable Democratic Presidential primary race between Obama and Clinton; even now, I joke I took 2008 off from graduate school to blog about the election. I connected with some amazing folks online, all of whom have gone off to write professionally full-time. (Jealous!) In 2009 I blogged for a year for Change.org, back when it had issue-oriented blogs to encourage activism. I was the founding Editor for the Poverty in America blog. Finally, spending most of my time on that for measly pay, I realized I’d never finish my dissertation and get the h*ll on with my life unless I quit blogging. So I did. Not regretfully from Change.org, but somewhat regretfully from writing for pleasure and political mobilization, more broadly.
I’ve got two young kids now and a job 160 miles away from my home, plus tenure-track stress and tomfoolery to keep me busy, busy, busy. Rather than rebuild my creaky writing muscle I just linkbomb my Facebook peeps; many of whom tell me they love it, others who certainly wish I’d just stick to the kid photos. But no more. Even if this blog exists mostly as a link dump in its infancy, it’s a step towards getting back to the writing life. For me. As a repository for my interests, curriculum materials, thoughts, research links, and lit reviews. May I flex my writing muscle again, finally, here. Please join me, for conversation. Oysters and crisp, ice-cold beer sold separately.