2016 Plenaries

There will be four plenary sessions at this year’s Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference, featuring some of the top voices in the field. For more information on our other sessions and workshops throughout the conference, please visit our Sessions page.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Seeing Things Differently: A Conversation with Young Baltimore Leaders

Young people are often recognized as the future—but their voices aren’t often at the table when decisions are made about what that future will look like. In this opening plenary, a group of young artists and media-makers from New Lens, a youth-driven social justice organization located in Baltimore’s Reservoir Hill neighborhood, will kick off the conference with their vision for a revitalized city. In this moderated conversation, these young leaders will share how they see things differently and are creating positive change and inspiring others through arts and media, which includes teaching workshops to public school students around the city. In addition, they’ll share how vacant properties affect their neighborhoods and lives, and their call to action for everyone who works on vacant property revitalization. Join this plenary as it sets the tone for three days of exploration into how the work to reclaim vacant properties can best serve people and the places they call home.

Moderator: Rebecca Yenawine, New Lens
Speakers: Daniel Brogden, New Lens; Taylor Evans, New Lens; Evelia Miller, New Lens


Thursday, September 29, 2016

7:30 am – 8:30 am

Our Future Depends on It: A Vision for the Revitalization of American Cities

The Honorable Dan Kildee, US House of Representatives, (MI-05)

When it comes to reclaiming vacant properties, Congressman Dan Kildee is one of the leading experts in the country—and without a doubt the foremost ambassador for the field in Congress. Born and raised in Flint, Congressman Kildee is a powerful force for Michigan and communities across the country facing vacancy, abandonment, and disinvestment. He helped to secure $100 million in federal funding for blight elimination throughout Michigan during his first six months in office. Before being elected to Congress in 2012, Congressman Kildee co-founded and served as the first president of the Center for Community Progress. He also founded Michigan’s first land bank, the Genesee County Land Bank, and helped to secure the passage of state laws enabling land banking and reforming the state’s tax foreclosure systems, all of which have gone on to serve as models for the rest of the nation. In this plenary address, Congressman Kildee shares his vision for urban revitalization – and the future of this work.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Rising to the Challenge: The Mayors’ Exchange on Fostering Equitable Communities

At a time when certain cities and neighborhoods have experienced a housing recovery, other communities are increasingly being left behind, marked by continued disinvestment, vacancy, and abandonment. Fostering the equitable revitalization of these neighborhoods requires vision, strong leadership, and a dedication to understanding the complex and technical processes that contribute to abandonment. Join us to hear from mayors who have made it a priority to rise to the challenge. They have a vision for the future – and an eye for the details that are going to get them there. In this moderated conversation, mayors of cities from different regions, and of different sizes, share their strategies for taking on abandoned and dilapidated properties and building strong neighborhoods of opportunity. They’ll compare notes on hurdles and victories and highlight how they’re shaking up the status quo inside and outside of City Hall. This plenary is a rare opportunity to hear cities’ top elected officials engage with each other on this critical topic.

Moderator: Erika Poethig, Urban Institute
Speakers: The Honorable Tom Barrett, Mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; The Honorable Jamie Mayo, Mayor of Monroe, Louisiana; The Honorable Lester E. Taylor, III, Mayor of East Orange, New Jersey; The Honorable Karen Weaver, Mayor of Flint, Michigan
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Friday, September 30, 2016

12:30 pm – 2:00 pm

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Matthew Desmond, Harvard University 


Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond will discuss his New York Times best-selling book, Evicted: Proverty and Profit in the American City. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship. As Jacob Blumgart of Slate writes, “Desmond’s book manages to be a deeply moral work, a successful nonfiction narrative, and a sweeping academic survey—all while bringing new research to his academic field and to the public’s attention.”

For more information on Matthew Desmond, please visit justshelter.org.

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