I want to get this out onto the table at the very front of this article; I am a disenchanted Gen-Xer that does not align with either of the major political parties. I despise the current state of our country’s leadership. I believe Donald Trump to be leadership fraud and don’t believe he will finish his term as President of the United States. He will eventually get in his own way because he simply can’t help himself.
With that being said, I believe that one of Donald Trump’s boldest and, some would say, brainless decisions to appoint former neurosurgeon and presidential rival, Ben Carson, as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has the potential to be one of the brightest decisions Trump makes with the selection of his cabinet.
I remember the day I heard that Trump was putting Ben Carson forward as his Secretary of HUD I rolled my eyes and thought to myself, “Here we go again – another unqualified cabinet member.” His cabinet is littered with disastrous selections (i.e Betsy DeVos and Rick Perry to name a couple), but Ben Carson’s appointment presents both hope and promise. HUD is a $48 billion federal agency that employees around 8,300 employees. HUD is responsible for administering public housing and ensuring low-income families have access to safe homes and neighborhoods. Ben Carson, in his own words, admitted he isn’t qualified like career politicians are to undertake the role he has been handed. In a Washington Post article Carson is quoted as saying, “Having me as a federal bureaucrat would be like a fish out of water, quite frankly.” He is glaringly aware of his shortcomings. To me, this shows humility rather than weakness. A great place to start in my opinion.
As a retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has devoted his professional life to the health, care and welfare of his fellow human beings. He understands what healthy and unhealthy human practices are. He is arguably quite self-aware of the ties between our built environment, the dependency on automobiles that it generates, and the national epidemic of obesity that stems from these relationships. Ben Carson actually sits in a position as Secretary of HUD to have direct impacts on changing policy that outputs poor health conditions for most Americans.
In a recent article in the Chicago Tribune discussing the benefits of walkability in our built environment the article suggested, “The Centers for Disease Control says a shift from auto trips to walking and biking is the No. 1 strategy to reduce diseases related to inactivity, such as heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.” These facts will not be lost on Ben Carson as they have been on many of his predecessors. He should recognize the correlations quickly. The best type of healthcare is preemptive rather than protective. Better for the person and less costly to the system as a whole.
Some of the low hanging fruit opportunities for fixing our broken system for delivering our built environment exist in more urban settings. These opportunities have the potential of impacting, not just the physical, but the social and economic opportunities of the most populated places of every region in the United States. This means the potential reinvestment in already existing infrastructure as opposed to the continuation of investment is sprawling suburbs as current practices seem to dictate. These potential reinvestments also tends to tie to the proximity of job centers and those who are the most economically sensitive to their individual distance to those jobs because of the relationship between housing and transportation costs. Think of what this would potentially mean in our country in places, like the rust belt where the disconnect between people and jobs is disparate.
Ben Carson is also the first Secretary of HUD that is actually a product of the system that HUD oversees – he has lived it! The way in which he lived was different than many, because his mother was not a believer in the dependency that government subsidies have a history of generating. Rather, he was brought up to believe government assistance was more of a temporary helping hand than a permanent crutch. His life experiences will have a shaping influence that may lead to policies favoring inclusive opportunities for housing as opposed to the segregation and exclusionary policies generate today. Why is an eye towards human self-reliance a bad thing?
My initial thoughts of Trump idiocy, with a Ben Carson appointment to HUD Secretary, have now turned into a spirit of hope and promise. Could his appointment prove to be a disaster? Without question – ABSOLUTELY! In this instance, I am choosing instead to see an opportunity that could forever change how HUD functions in an extremely positive way. Ben Carson, this disenchanted Gen-Exer is rooting for you and the associative success you could bring to our country. Best of luck to you!