GIS Data, Social Justice and the Bill “Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act of 2017″

My original intent of this blog was to write about the professional issues–training, project development, data and project management, thoughtful critical analysis on the digital humanities, etc. as they pertain to academic librarianship. I feel compelled to expand that scope to include political issues. Below is an announcement that appeared on the Humanist list January 31st that I believe is worth sharing.
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Dear Geographers,

We are writing to bring your attention to the US HR 482 and SB 103, which are an attack on the collection, storage, and distribution of geospatial information, antiracism work, and affordable housing (see below). The text of the bill <https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/482>, “Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act of 2017,” will nullify HUD’s 2015 “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” report to “have no force or effect,” and does so by eliminating the data to support social change.

In other words, the bill stands at odds with the pursuit of knowledge about human geography, including census data. The bill would prohibit a significant amount of the work we do on race, racism, and fair housing in the US, as well as GIS research more broadly, all of which thwart work towards social justice. A key section reads as follows:

SEC. 3. PROHIBITION ON USE OF FEDERAL FUNDS.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds may be used to design, build, maintain, utilize, or provide access to a Federal database of geospatial information on community racial disparities or disparities in access to affordable housing.

We encourage feedback, wisdom, and action among our respective lists, AAG specialty groups, other collectives and collegial relationships, and the AAG leadership. We ask you to share word about this bill with colleagues in other disciplines and on social media, using the hashtags #datarefuge and #datarescue when doing so to connect this issue to larger issues of public data and public data collection erasure, obfuscation, and elimination. We also encourage US citizens to reach out to your congressional representatives or to organize from afar in solidarity to stop this bill. Full links to the Senate and House bills are below.

Thanks to Euan Hague for bringing this to the CRIT-GEOG list’s attention, and for Reed Underwood’s response.

Onward together,
Jack Gieseking, Trinity College
Emily Mitchell-Eaton, USCS
Hector Agredano, CUNY Graduate Center
Elizabeth R. Johnson, Hobart & William Smith Colleges
Naomi Adiv, Portland State University
Ryan Burns, University of Calgary


Jen Jack Gieseking
Assistant Professor of Public Humanities
American Studies Program, Trinity College
300 Summit Street, Hartford, CT  06106
www.jgieseking.org

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