Here’s why we should Build More Bloody Offices in Liverpool

Moorfields: the new Whitehall? Image: Geograph.co.uk/creative commons.

I recently saw an excellent slogan which mainly speaks to a particularly difficult issue for our friends in London: “BUILD MORE BLOODY HOUSES”. Me, being creative, I made up a Liverpool version: “BUILD MORE BLOODY OFFICES”.

Good, eh? Is there a correlation here? Could Liverpool and London help each other out? Is it time for a ‘radical’ idea, again? Oh, and did you know that Liverpool is geographically at the centre of the UK?

According to the Office for National Statistics, as at 31 March 2017, there were 78,070 civil servants working in London, plus nearly as many again working in the neighbouring East or South East regions.

Now, we are not greedy around here, so if we helpfully volunteered to move about a third of these, which is about 40,000 jobs, to the eminently suitable, and massively cheaper, Liverpool city centre then we could help to cool down the overheating London and South East economy and, indeed, spread the love to Liverpool City Region.

I have even identified the perfect location in Liverpool’s Central Business District (CBD), along Pall Mall (yes, Liverpool has got one too). This picture shows that it is crying out for, say, eight state-of-the-art purpose built Grade ‘A’ office blocks to be built there.

Image: Google.

Moorfields underground station is less than five minutes’ walk from here and is a hub station of the Liverpool Underground; what’s not to like?

We just need the City of Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson or the Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram to incentivise the building of the required office blocks, like other cities have done. Or better still, they could collaborate to achieve the goal together given that it would enormously benefit the whole of the Liverpool City Region and our residents.

From Moorfields station our new Liverpolitan Civil Servants could commute easily and quickly to almost anywhere within Greater Liverpool, which alone has a population of towards 3m people, and where there is a very wide variety of housing, locations and lifestyles available. For example, if some employees wanted to live adjacent to one of our many golden beaches, the Liverpool u derground runs alongside many of them, like: Birkdale, where the links hosting the 2017 Open Golf Championship, Royal Birkdale Golf Club is; or Hoylake, where the host of the 2014 host Open Golf Championship, Royal Liverpool Golf Club, is; or Crosby beach, pictured here:

 

Another Place, by Anthony Gormley, on Crosby Beach. Image: Chris Howells/Wikimedia Commons.

Birkdale is currently 38 minutes from Moorfields station on the Liverpool Underground; Hoylake is 27 minutes; and Crosby Beach 15 minutes, for example. And these travel times will be reduced when the brand new train fleet is rolled out across the network in 2020. 

Or maybe some employees would prefer to live in the city centre’s Georgian Quarter, which I expect a few would be able to afford to, despite it being quite expensive. It will be only four minutes from Moorfields station on the Liverpool Underground when St James station re-opens; or about five minutes on a City Bike; or about a 20 minute walk to Pall Mall.

Hope Street is a past winner of the Academy of Urbanism ‘Best Street’ Award. It connects our two cathedrals and is the High Street for the Georgian Quarter. It is a sought after place to live and there are some fine old pubs, restaurants and theatres in the beautiful streets around there, if you like that sort of thing.

Some employees could even choose to live in Liverpool Marina, which is also in the city centre, adjacent to the Arena and Conference Centre, and is just six minutes on the Liverpool Underground from Moorfields station; or about 10 minutes on a City Bike; or about a 30 minute scenic walk along the waterfront to Pall Mall.

Or, if anyone wants an epic lifestyle in a loft-style apartment, it would be hard to beat the gigantic and dramatic Grade II listed Tobacco Warehouse, at Stanley Dock, the largest brick building in the world when it was built in 1901. There are 12 trains per hour on the Liverpool underground in each direction here, and it will be just three minutes from Moorfields station when Vauxhall station opens; about five minutes on a City Bike; or about a 15 minute walk to Pall Mall. 

So, there is certainly something for everyone around here, including lots of high calibre cultural attractions; Liverpool was the 2008 European Capital of Culture after all, and there is even some top class sport, if you are that way inclined.


The official Liverpool City Region is also home to about 60,000 students, across three universities (more, in Greater Liverpool), including the Russell Group University of Liverpool, one of the country’s original “red brick” universities, founded in 1881. That’s not to mention our other Higher Education institutions, such as the magnificent and world renowned Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine , as supported by Bill Gates, who even went to the trouble of visiting what is the world’s oldest such institution, to show his support, with the then chancellor George Osborne, back in 2016. So there are plenty of future potential Civil Service employees to choose from too, and it would save them the trouble of having to move to London to get a job.

We just need a few very influential people to adopt and implement this idea, or at the very least a watered down version of it. It could be transformational for Liverpool City Region and would definitely save the taxpayer a ton of money. They could even employ some local people.

Having said all that, maybe we should be greedy after all, as other places are, and lobby hard to become our country’s new political capital. Liverpool is certainly a beautiful enough city to comfortably fulfil such a role, and the Peel-owned £5.5bn Liverpool Waters development, adjacent to the city centre’s Central Business District, would be a very suitable, stunning setting. It’s inherently secure too, as there is already an enormous dock wall surrounding the site. ‘Government City’, anyone? A 21st century capital, both literally and symbolically facing out to the wide world.

One last thing. May I draw your attention to this enlightening 2011 report titled “Rebalancing Britain: Policy or slogan? Liverpool City Region - Building on its Strengths”, written by Lord Heseltine and Sir Terry Leahy

Dave Mail has declared himself CityMetric’s Liverpool City Region correspondent. He will be updating us on the brave new world of Liverpool City Region, mostly monthly, in ‘E-mail from Liverpool City Region’ and he is on twitter @davemail2017.

 
 
 
 

How the rise of anti-crime politics caused lasting harm to Black Americans

"I see an awareness that has developed in the Black community in the last 10 years or so about how deeply racist the criminal justice system has become," James Forman Jr. says. (David McNew/Getty Images)

The police killing of George Floyd, and the protest movement that emerged from it, has reinvigorated a national conversation around reinventing criminal justice policy in the United States.

At the same time, reports that violent crime is rising in many US cities have resurrected talk of the much-disputed “Ferguson effect,” a theory put forward by law enforcement professionals, and some researchers, who argued that police slowdowns in the wake of the first wave of Black Lives Matter protests resulted in elevated rates of violent crime. President Donald Trump is trying to weaponise this narrative, paired with images of federal officers clashing with protesters in the streets of Portland, to wage a 1968-style backlash election campaign.

“People who want to mobilise a lock-them-up style of either policing or prosecution have tried to weaponise those short-term increases,” says James Forman Jr., professor of law at Yale Law School. “Criminologists will say you have to be very, very cautious about short-term movement [in crime statistics]. We don't know whether or not what we're seeing right now [with violent crime increasing] is going to sustain itself. But the fact is, it's here and people are talking about it.”

In 2018, Forman won the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction for his book Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America. Drawing on his experience as a public defender in Washington, DC, he traced the emergence of anti-crime politics in late 20th century Black communities. Forman showed how newly empowered Black politicians fought for policies they believed would protect and uplift Black Americans, but inadvertently contributed to mass incarceration. 


CityMetric recently caught up with Forman to discuss crime trends, where he sees reason for hope in this moment and how the Black political class’s attitude toward crime and punishment has shifted since the latter part of the 20th century. 

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

There is talk right now about a resurgence of crime and violence in American cities. We saw similar, more localised concerns after the initial 2015 Black Lives Matter protests in Ferguson and Baltimore. Do you fear this could reinvigorate the kind of politics you describe in your book among segments of the Black community and political class?

I fear that it could be reinvigorated nationally and also in the Black political class. Look at the political conversations that are happening in Atlanta right now, for example, a city that also has seen a short-term uptick in crime as it is a site of a lot of protests about George Floyd and Breonna Taylor on the national level, as well as Rayshard Brooks and Ahmaud Arbery more locally in Georgia.

I think that you can already see in some of the language of the local elected officials this idea that we have to be very careful about pulling back. [They are saying] “while the protesters may make some valid points, we can't risk returning to the ‘80s and ‘90s.” Those decades really traumatised the United States, and particularly traumatised Black communities. There's a deep fear about returning to the levels of the violence that we saw in the crack years.

You write a lot about class divides among Black Americans, where middle income and elite Black people don't suffer as much from extremely punitive policies. They also have closer ties to the politicians who are creating these policies. There are very specific groups of people, even in marginalised communities, whose voices are heard.  As a result of these dynamics, you write about Black politicians fighting for things like mandatory minimum prison sentences or against decriminalising marijuana. Is there still that disconnect between those who suffer the most from criminal justice policies and those who are actually heard in political discourse?  

Let me just say a caveat, that when we talk about class divisions in the Black community it's important to hold two truths in our head at the same time. Bruce Western and others have shown the way in which class, educational status, income can dramatically reduce the likelihood of being hardest hit by the criminal system – namely incarcerated. Middle class and upper middle class Black people get some measure of protection. It's also true at the same time that Black people of all classes are worse off relative to their class counterparts in the white community. 

One area where class is least protective is policing and police stops. The police do not know how many degrees you have. They don't know how much money you have in your bank account. I want to be very clear that in making this point about class, I'm not making the argument that race or racism don't matter in this context. 

In terms of how it plays out now, I see an awareness that has developed in the Black community in the last 10 years or so about how deeply racist the criminal justice system has become. Twenty or 30 years ago they had a consciousness, but there's levels of understanding. Many of the people I write about in the book wanted to promote the interests of the Black community. They weren't motivated by indifference or callousness. When presented with mounting evidence of how awful this system has been in Black lives, they're reconsidering and recalibrating. 

Lots of former elected officials have said to me some version of “I didn't know at the time and I appreciate that you showed us in our full complexity. I appreciate that you showed the pressures we were under. If I had known then what I know now, maybe I would have been less quick to go along with some of these harsh measures.” 

The second thing that has affected the Black political class has been the emerging movements, led by Black people in particular and led by young people. They not only educated leaders, but pressured them and made them understand that there is a political cost. If you're not moved by the moral argument, then you'll be moved by the political argument. You'll be moved by the people protesting outside the office of District Attorney Jackie Lacey in Los Angeles, for example, where Black Lives Matter LA has held, I believe, a year of consecutive protests against a Black district attorney who has had really some of the worst practices.

From what I can tell, she's been pressured by the movement to change some of her positions on important issues like prosecution of low-level drug offenders, for example, and the aggressiveness with which she prosecutes police officers for acts of violence.

What do you make of the calls to defend or even abolish the police?

What I find so compelling about abolition, initially in the prison context and extended to the police as well, is that it shifts the conversation and forces us to go through experiments in which we imagine what it would take to build that world. I think that exercise is very important, because it pushes us further than we are naturally inclined to go. Cultivating a broader imagination is an incredibly important part of this work, because as you know from my book, often it was lack of imagination that caused people to fall back on [punitive policies]. 

That's what caused D.C. Councilmember David Clarke to call the police rather than public health experts when he was overwhelmed with letters about heroin addicts in public space. He was anti-drug war, but he couldn't imagine responding to a call for help with heroin addicts with anything other than police. That's a very common move from even really good and progressive people. 

People who are for defunding, for abolition, are absolutely right about reinvesting that money into alternative structures that support communities. But the reinvestment part doesn't follow naturally from the terms. We might want to come up with a term that captures the new stuff we want to do. I think that's particularly important because one of the reasons Black communities have ended up supporting more police is that Black communities have always wanted their fair share of the resources.

Then, the evidence suggests the United States has too many police officers doing prophylactic, preventative, or stop-and-frisk style policing. The style of policing that leads to district level harassment, pulling people over for no reason. But we have too little investment in the parts of police departments that investigate unsolved crimes. I'm talking about the investigator or the detective who comes to your house after there's been a robbery, an assault, a rape, or homicide. 

As compared to European countries, in the United States we actually underinvest in those parts of our police departments. Jill Leovy’s book Ghettoside shows this in dramatic detail. She describes an LAPD that's stopping and frisking Black drivers wantonly and yet the homicide detectives are still relying on a fax machine and the fax machine is broken. They have to go with their own money to Staples to buy a printer. Meanwhile, other aspects of the department are kitted out in this ridiculous riot gear that makes them look like they're in Fallujah. 

That under investment is particularly damaging to Black communities because we're disproportionately victimised by crime. Because of racism and this allocation of resources, the police are less likely to respond in Black communities. The kids I used to work with in the charter schools in DC, we talk about no snitching, but one of the reasons they would never call the police after they'd been victimised by crime is they would say, “They're not even going to come. You're wasting time.” 

I did a Q&A with Jill Leovy too and her argument is one I've struggled to articulate in our present moment. She argues the state doesn't have a monopoly on violence in low-income Black neighbourhoods, because investigations of violence are deemphasised and crime victims or their loved ones often take retribution into their own hands.  But right now, establishing or preserving the state's monopoly on violence isn't an appealing talking point. 

Yes, this is another thing nobody's talking about. Whatever we're going to do instead of the police has to be accountable to the public. The best, most direct way to have accountability is to have the individuals be public employees. As long as we have 300 million guns in this country at least some of those state employees are going to themselves be armed. It's unreasonable to ask them to do the job without it. Not as many need to be armed as are armed now, but some of them need to be. But they can't be hiding behind union contracts or civil service protections which make it impossible to remove even the worst performing, most abusive officers. 

We can not call them police if we want to. That's semantic, but maybe symbolism matters. But those people have to be state employees. They can work with community-based nonprofits, but there are also communities that don't have as robust of a nonprofit network, and they deserve protection too. These [community] groups have to be accountable to the state and, when they don't exist, the state has to be there. 

Progressives get all the points I just made when it's applied to education. The notion that things be public and accountable to the state is understood when it comes to schools. It's exactly why so many people on the left are opposed to charter schools, because they say they don't have public accountability. They want these things to be a state function. But this point about the difficulty in removing this entirely from the hands of the state is, I think, one that liberals and progressives understand from other contexts.

Jake Blumgart is a staff writer at CityMetric.