Transportation and the environment “are the through line to most — if not all — racial justice issues,” Tamika Butler says.
“When I discovered transportation, I understood that the way we plan and build cities, communities and neighborhoods continues to build in systemic racism. …” Butler said. “Whenever communities talk about how they can be more equitable or how they can serve more communities, I fundamentally believe a lot of folks in public service are really there to serve and to support and uplift the community. You simply cannot do that without thinking about planning.
“If we want folks to be economically mobile,” they added, “they have to be mobile.”
Butler is a national expert on issues surrounding the built environment, equity, anti-racism, and change management, and a planner focusing on all parts of the environment but working mostly on transportation and parks and green space. They currently own their own consulting firm in Los Angeles. Tamika L. Butler Consulting serves transportation and city-centric clients and [works in?]a range of other fields including climate and energy, art, and higher education.
Over the last few years, Butler has worked as a civil rights lawyer in the Bay Area; at a nonprofit in Los Angeles, focusing on public health; with the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust; and was director of equity and inclusion at Toole Design Group, a private consulting firm that primarily focuses on transportation.
As part of the Downtown Partnership’s City Center Series, Butler is speaking on Equity in Transportation on Wednesday, Feb. 17. The local responders will be Susan Davies of the Trails & Open Space Coalition, and Jolie NeSmith of PikeRide. Upcoming events in the series include: How to Retain Your Community’s Soul During Rapid Development with Dan Carmody, president of Detroit Eastern Market Partnership, on March 17; and Public Space Design for Public Health Equity with Dr. Keshia Pollack Porter, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, on April 14.
The City Center Series is a virtual event built around urbanism, innovation and design, with a special emphasis on resiliency and equality. Speakers help highlight the importance of thoughtful planning and design in downtown Colorado Springs.
Butler says a lack of representation is among the major difficulties in urban planning.
“I think there is a challenge of somebody who is in the field as a black, queer, woman,” Butler said. “This is a field that has historically been made up of able-bodied, cisgender, white men. … When we’re talking about access or transportation, the decision-makers around the table aren’t necessarily thinking about how they are going to navigate the space in a wheelchair or blind or with English as a second language.
“Ultimately, one of the largest barriers is a lack of inclusivity.”
People within the community are the primary catalyst for change, Butler said.
“Even as someone who strongly thinks transportation is that through line, what is quality education if you can’t get to it? Quality health care if you can’t get to it? Quality jobs if you can’t get to them?” they said. “I value transportation, but more than I value transportation, I value people. Specifically, I value people’s opinion to self-determine what will get them closer to liberation and justice.”
They add that it’s important to begin the problem-solving process with input from the community itself.
“We have people like me who are experts in this field who come in and offer solutions, but instead we should be saying, ‘What do you think the problem is, and what ideas or solutions do you have so we can work on this together?’” they said.
Focusing on the Springs specifically, Butler believes transportation and planning form the gateway to equity.
“Too often when people talk about equity and anti-racism, they want to focus on education and the criminal justice system. Those things are 100 percent key, but I think just as important is the way we plan our communities,” they said. “That is a major part on how we want to bring people together, or keep them disconnected… the bottom line is if the community cares about equity, they have to care about urban planning.”
All events are free and virtual, via Zoom webinar. Talks begin promptly at 4 p.m. Pre-registration is required via www.DowntownCS.com/CityCenter.
The City Center Series is a program of Downtown Partnership, the lead organization ensuring that Downtown serves as the economic, cultural and civic heart of the city. The series is supported by Colorado Springs Health Foundation, with media sponsor the Colorado Springs Business Journal and event sponsors Trails & Open Space Coalition, Food to Power, and the Council of Neighbors and Organizations.